Saturday, March 24, 2012

I want my baby back, baby back…Exodus 2

In case you've ever wondered, the chapters are not natural to the original text of Scripture. So, taking a chapter-by-chapter approach is somewhat artificial and tends to cause certain parts to be overlooked while other parts are overdone. Exodus 2 (link) is a good example of that: 40 years of Moses' life are present here. I can't cover them all and keep this post a reasonable length. Read it and study it on your own as well to see what gets left out.

The Hebrew people in Egypt have multiplied into a fairly intimidating group of foreigners, leading Pharaoh to install taskmasters to oppress them. Finding that this will not slow down their growth or reduce their cultural identity, he then goes into a policy of population control: the undesirable Hebrews will be killed. The baby boys are the most undesirable, so they are to be thrown into the river.

Why the boys? If you eliminate the males and leave the females, then the rising generation has to intermarry with other cultures and assimilate. Also, you begin a generation that will be somewhat light on warriors. Pharaoh has simply ordered a policy that benefits his kingdom. All people are not equal in Pharaoh's eyes, so he sees no problem with his policies destroying some lives for the sake of the greater good.

In the midst of this, though, a Hebrew couple has a baby boy. They've already got a son, born before the population control orders, and a daughter. Amram and Jochebed could not simply throw their baby into the river, though, so they borrowed an idea from earlier Hebrew tradition and built an ark. Really.

Here's your Bible nerd note for the day: the Hebrew word translated as "basket" here is the same word used in Genesis of the big boat Noah built. In fact, it's only used of Noah's boat and Moses' basket. Interesting, right?

Jochebed puts Moses in the ark and then follows Pharaoh's orders to put the baby boy in the river. Fortunately, he floats. He floats right on down the river to Pharaoh's daughter, who rescues him from the river. Then, thanks to Miriam, Jochebed gets her baby back: she is given charge of the young baby as his nurse.

After a few years, though, Pharaoh's daughter gets her baby back, and raises Moses in the court of Pharaoh. He is taught the learning of the Egyptians and is expected, likely, to take his appropriate place among Egyptian nobility. There is no clear reason why Pharaoh's daughter rescued the baby from the river. Certainly we see the work of God in it, but what was she thinking? We don't know, but it might make a good story to invent.

One day, though, Moses goes out to where the Hebrews are working. He sees their situation, and sees an Egyptian beating a Hebrew. Moses kills the Egyptian and hides his body. That's not quite the way an Egyptian prince should act, neither is it the way that God will deliver Israel from their bondage.

Moses then has to flee from the land of Egypt. He cannot go to the Hebrews, for Pharaoh wants him dead. He flees to somewhere in Sinai or Arabia, and settles in with a man named Jethro. Considering this, he was likely somewhere in the southern areas.

He settles in, marries, and begins to perhaps think he will live in Midian for the rest of his days. He won't, but we see his story looking back.

What is here for us? Certainly a narrative of how God worked then, and since God is unchanging in His goodness and righteousness, it's good to know how He has done. How He has done will give us insight into how He will do.

Then there are a few things to consider:

1. Obedience to God trumps obedience to man.

2. The purposes of God will work, even if the efforts of man are to unravel those purposes. Think about it: the needed deliverer is protected, basketed, and floated down the river, right into the arms of the one person who can save him. Really? What are the odds?

3. Methods matter. You can save a people one life at a time, but you likely cannot deliver a people by picking the guards off one-by-one.

4. Lives matter. Small lives, big lives, Egyptian lives, not-Egyptian lives—matter. Any philosophy, theology, political structure, economic model that is based on the idea that some lives are more important than others is in trouble. It goes from in trouble to wicked when it allows the "important lives" to extinguish, either actively or passively, the ones it deems "less-important."

That's critical: in forty more years, Egypt is going down, hard. Repentance now could have avoided it, but that wasn't in their hearts.

What's in ours?

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