Miniature Moses

Scripture: Exodus 1:22 – 2:10

Title: Miniature Moses

 

Structure:

  • Introduction – Exodus means leaving
  • Moses infancy tells the story of Israel’s deliverance
  • When God is silent we wait in hope
  • Conclusion – Moses points to Jesus

Introduction:

On the wall here is a picture of an Exit sign

  • It’s one of the new ones with a stylised person running out of a door
  • I guess many of our signs are in picture format now to overcome any language barriers in our increasingly global environment

Please turn with me to Exodus chapter 2, page 60 near the beginning of your pew Bibles

  • Today we begin a new sermon series on Moses in the book of Exodus
  • Exodus basically means to leave or to exit
  • Moses is sort of like Israel’s exit sign
  • He is the one God chose to lead Israel out of Egypt

 

We will begin our reading from verse 22 of Exodus chapter 1 and continue to verse 10 of Exodus chapter 2…

Read Exodus 1:22 – 2:10

 

May the Spirit of Jesus illuminate this reading for us

 

Moses’ infancy tells the story of Israel’s deliverance:

On the wall here is a picture of a Russian doll – also known as a nested doll, because the little dolls nest inside the larger dolls

  • There is a technique sometimes used in story telling where the writer nests a smaller story inside a larger story as a way of reinforcing or explaining the larger story
  • If people aren’t able to grasp the bigger picture then the same story on a smaller scale helps them to access the meaning of the larger story
  • Exodus 2 is a nested story – a smaller story inside a larger history
  • In this passage three daughters deliver one son who, in turn, grows up to deliver a whole nation

 

The King of Egypt (also known as Pharaoh) was afraid of the Israelites

  • They had grown in number and he was concerned they might take over the country so he oppressed them with slave labour
  • This strategy didn’t really work so he ordered the Jewish midwives to kill the male babies when they were born
  • The midwives managed to avoid doing this so Pharaoh issued a command to throw every new born  Hebrew boy into the River Nile
  • Pharaoh was basically instigating a policy of genocide or ‘ethnic cleansing’ against the Israelites

It is in this context that Moses’ mum took a basket made of reeds, covered it with tar to make it watertight and set it out on the waters of the Nile with her baby in it

  • She was obeying the letter of Pharaoh’s law, but not the spirit
  • She couldn’t hide her baby any longer – his growing and his crying would soon give him away and some Egyptian soldier might kill the boy
  • But nor could she simply throw her precious child into the river to drown
  • So she found a way to keep hope alive
  • She gave her son a chance to live and she gave God an opportunity to act
  • This is what faith does – it leaves room for God

It’s interesting that the Hebrew word used for basket in verse 3 is the same as the word used for Noah’s ark

  • Moses is parallel to Noah [1]
  • A little story nested within a larger story
  • Just as God used Noah to save a remnant of creation from drowning in the chaos of the great flood
  • So too God would use Moses to save the people of Israel from being overwhelmed by the chaos of Pharaoh
  • Moses is the new Noah
  • And baby Moses is also a miniature Israel

 

On the wall here we have three pictures

  • One of a model train set
  • Another of a dolls house
  • And a third of a miniature dentist’s surgery made out of a shoe box

What seven letter word could we use to describe all of these things?

  • Wait for people to respond
  • Do you need a clue? It begins with ‘D’ – Wait
  • Yes – that’s right, ‘Diorama’

A diorama is a miniature (or a model) of something

  • Like a smaller story nested inside a bigger story

 

Moses’ life is a diorama of Israel

The name ‘Moses’ is actually an Egyptian name probably meaning ‘son’

  • But it sounds like the Hebrew word, ‘to draw out’
  • Just as Pharaoh’s daughter drew Moses out of the Nile, so too God will draw Israel out of Egypt
  • The smaller story of Moses helps people to grasp the bigger story of God

It’s interesting that in the story of baby Moses, God is parallel to Pharaoh’s daughter – an Egyptian princess

  • Now I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t naturally associate God Almighty with a princess – much less a princess who’s Dad is a homicidal maniac
  • And yet this is exactly what the book of Exodus does

Verse 6 tells us that when the princess opened the basket (or the miniature ark) and saw the baby crying, she felt sorry for him

  • This ‘feeling sorry for him’ goes deeper than superficial sentimentality
  • There is a depth to this princess’ feelings
  • Her feelings are actually grounded in compassion, justice and courage
  • For she takes the risk of going against her father’s command and makes a long term commitment to care for Moses
  • Not all the Egyptians were as bad as Pharaoh

At the end of Exodus 2 we read how the Israelites cried out to God under their slavery and the Lord heard their cry and was concerned for them

  • Just as the princess was moved with compassion by the cry of the Hebrew baby so too God is moved with compassion by the cry of his people
  • And just as Pharaoh’s daughter was faithful in protecting & providing for Moses as he grew up, so too God will protect and provide for Israel
  • Baby Moses’ deliverance by the hand of Pharaoh’s daughter is nested in the larger history of Israel’s deliverance by the hand of Yahweh

Of course, it isn’t just Pharaoh’s daughter who delivers Moses – his mother and his sister also had a hand in saving him

  • And so we actually have two women and a girl standing in parallel with God Almighty

So often in history ‘The courage of women is the beginning of liberation’ [2]

On the wall here is a picture of Harriet Tubman

  • Born a slave in the 19th Century in the southern states of America, she endured the harsh existence of a field hand, including brutal beatings.
  • In 1849 she fled slavery, leaving her husband and family behind in order to escape.
  • Despite a bounty on her head, she returned to the South at least 19 times to lead her family and hundreds of other slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad.
  • People nicknamed her ‘Moses’  [3]

The courage of women is the beginning of liberation

Who can tell me the name of this first lady?      [Wait]

  • Yes – that’s right. Eleanor Roosevelt – wife of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt
  • Eleanor was vocal in her support of the African-American civil rights movement
  • She opposed her husband on this issue by becoming one of the only voices in the Roosevelt administration insisting that benefits be equally extended to Americans of all races.
  • She also broke with precedent by inviting hundreds of African American guests to the White House.

 

God’s deliverance often comes from unexpected quarters

  • And, from a human perspective at least, God’s deliverance is often a slow train coming

 

When God is silent, we wait in hope:

There are times when God is silent

  • Evil seems to have the upper hand and God appears to be doing nothing
  • This was Israel’s experience in ancient Egypt
  • We can’t be sure how many baby boys were killed but whatever the number it is awful stuff – Pharaoh’s policy was genocide
  • But it wasn’t quick and clean – it is was slow and agonising

By killing the sons, Pharaoh was crushing the people’s hope

  • With no Hebrew boys to marry, the Hebrew daughters would be assimilated into Egyptian culture
  • Pharaoh was taking away Israel’s ability to imagine any future for themselves
  • He was making their lives so miserable they would prefer death to life

We might ask, ‘why did God allow this to happen in the first place?’

  • Wouldn’t it have been easier if God had arranged for someone to throw Pharaoh in the Nile as a baby?

Well, Yahweh doesn’t give the Israelites any explanation for their suffering

  • Like Job they suffer without knowing why
  • As Alex Motyer puts it, “Experience without explanation, adversity without purpose, hostility without protection – that is how life will always appear for the earthly people of God” [4]     

After the death of his wife, C.S. Lewis wrote a book called, ‘A Grief Observed’ in which he says…

 

“Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.”

When it feels like God is absent – when we really want to hear from God but all we get is silence, our faith is not a consolation – it is a burden (something we feel we must prop up – something we feel obliged to carry)

  • It is extremely difficult to maintain a belief in the goodness of God when bad things are happening to you and God doesn’t appear to be doing anything about it

This feeling that God is absent or has abandoned us is actually common for most Christians

  • It won’t happen all the time but it will probably happen at some point
  • We need to accept (without blame or guilt) that a feeling of God’s absence is part of the journey

As Eugene Peterson puts it…

  • …this seemingly unending stretch of the experience of the absence of God is reproduced in most of our lives, and most of us don’t know what to make of it. We need this ‘Exodus’ validation – that a sense of the absence of God is part of the story, and that it is neither exceptional nor preventable nor a judgment on the way we are living our lives.  [5]

In other words, if you feel like God is absent or silent then it’s not necessarily a reflection on you

  • God doesn’t give people the silent treatment as a punishment

Sometimes we suffer without explanation

  • Not everything in this life gets resolved
  • Not everything has an answer
  • God is not obligated to explain himself
  • Sometimes we must simply wait in hope – without answers

To wait in hope means to remain faithful to God – not to give up on Him, even if it feels like he has given up on us

  • When he was on the cross Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”
  • In doing this he was not only describing his own personal experience but also giving voice to the collective experience of God’s people through the ages

Waiting in hope is not the same as sitting in depressed silence

  • Waiting in hope may well involve crying out to God in anger
  • Letting God know how we feel – showing him our anguish
  • That’s what many of the psalms are about
  • If God is not speaking then he must be listening
  • And if God is listening then we should pour out our heart to Him – even if the contents of our heart aren’t all that pretty

Quite often God’s deliverance is only recognisable in hindsight

  • This was Israel’s experience
  • Although they had not heard from God, Yahweh was actually very present and very active, quietly sowing the seeds of their salvation
  • Seeds which (in Israel’s case) grew and bore fruit at just the right time

Many wild plants have seeds that can remain dormant for years before birthing a plant

  • For example a 2000 year old date palm seed, found in Israel, actually sprouted when it was planted back in 2005  [6]

 

As for why some seeds can lie dormant before sprouting, scientists reckon it’s mainly a survival technique

  • If a plant’s seeds sprout as soon as there is a little rain and warm weather, then a late frost or subsequent lack of rain will kill it
  • You sometimes hear farmers complaining about this – they get a bit of rain (enough to germinate the grass seed) but then there is no follow up rain so the grass dies before it gets established
  • Plants whose seeds lie in wait until conditions are more stable have a better chance of surviving and of colonizing new territory

Perhaps this is what God was doing with Israel – waiting for the time to be right before drawing his people out of Egypt and planting them in the Promised Land

  • Perhaps this is also what God is doing in your life when He seems absent

The Lord begins his work of redemption quietly, unobtrusively, under the radar, often through the courage of those we least expect

  • In Israel’s case, God sowed his seeds of salvation through women
  • I guess this proves God has a sense of humour for there is considerable irony in Pharaoh’s policy of killing the sons and preserving the daughters
  • As it turned out the daughters were more dangerous than the sons

For those who can’t see, this is a picture of irony – a crocodile eating a pair of crocs (the shoes)

What about this one – a picture of people using an elevator (and not the stairs) to go to the gym

 

And then we have the ultimate irony – a fire hydrant on fire

There is quite a bit of cosmic irony in the book of Exodus, the seeds of which are sown in chapter 2

  • Cosmic irony feeds on the notion that people cannot see the effects of their actions, and sometimes the outcome of a person’s actions may be out of their control

A classic example of cosmic irony is the Titanic, which was promoted as being 100% unsinkable; but, in 1912 the ship sank on its maiden voyage.

  • Or at a ceremony celebrating the rehabilitation of seals after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, two seals were released back into the wild only to be eaten within a minute by an orca whale

Pharaoh is the butt of cosmic irony in Exodus

  • As Terence Fretheim points out, although Pharaoh had ordered the Hebrew sons to be thrown into the Nile, “the river provides the very setting for the rescue of the baby Moses. Again Pharaoh provides for the defeat of his own policy in its formulation. He ends up becoming an instrument for God’s saving purposes [when he didn’t intend to]…
  • The policy is ironic in that it [predicts] the way in which Pharaoh’s successor and his armies will meet their end, namely by drowning
  • Pharaoh’s own decree sets a chain of events in motion that, in effect, have him signing his own family’s death warrant.” [7]

It’s like Jesus said, ‘The measure you use for others is the measure God will use for you’

  • Cosmic irony, a smaller story nested inside the bigger story of God’s justice

Conclusion:

This morning we have heard how Moses’ story of deliverance anticipates Israel’s deliverance

  • Moses’ story also anticipates the Jesus story – the biggest story of all
  • Like Moses, Jesus was born to save God’s people
  • And just as Pharaoh tried to destroy all the Hebrew sons
  • So too Herod slaughtered Hebrew babies in a vain attempt to kill the Christ
  • But neither Pharaoh nor Herod succeeded – you can’t win in a fight against God

After Jesus’ death and resurrection he ascended to heaven with the promise of returning in glory one day

  • Like the Israelites, we Christians sometimes suffer without explanation
  • And when God is silent, we wait in hope for Christ to return, at just the right moment, to complete our deliverance

Let us pray…

[1] Refer Terence Fretheim, Interpretation Commentary on Exodus, page 38.

[2] Refer J.C. Exum, “You Shall Let Every Daughter Live: A Study f Ex. 1:8-2:10” Semeia 28:63-82 (1983).

[3] http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/harriet-tubman

[4] Alex Motyer, BST Exodus, page 28.

[5] From Eugene Peterson’s book, ‘Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places’, page 153.

[6] http://indianapublicmedia.org/amomentofscience/dormant-seeds/

[7] Quoted in Fretheim’s Interpretation commentary on Exodus, page 35.

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