Exodus 2:11-15 ~ 20100516 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
5/16 Exodus 2:11-15 A Deliverer Rejected
We're in the second book of the bible, Exodus. In Exodus, we've seen God at work keeping his promises to his people. God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that he would bless them and make their name great and multiply them abundantly. Exodus begins by seeing the blessing of God in the multiplication of the people of Israel in Egypt. But the blessing of God often comes at a cost. God's blessing on the people of Israel was perceived as an internal threat to the national security of Egypt. The Pharaoh took action to get this threat under control. He appointed taskmasters to oppress the people severely to break their spirits and reduce their population. But instead, “1:12 ...the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they were spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel.” So the Pharaoh took the head midwives into his confidence and commanded them to kill all the boys that were born to the Hebrews. But these two women, Shiphrah and Puah, feared God and disobeyed the Pharaoh.
So, rather than reducing the population as planned, the population continued to increase, with even these barren women now having children of their own.
God moves in mysterious ways. The response we see to this decree is that an unnamed Hebrew family from the tribe of Levi have a baby boy. The mother recognizes the creative goodness of God in this new life, and hides him for three months, then, in faith, she throws him into the Nile herself – in his own personal ark waterproofed with pitch, and sets her daughter to watch over him. The daughter of the wicked Pharaoh happened to come down to the Nile to bathe just at that place, and happened to see the ark, and she just happened to have pity on him and chose to disobey her father rather than drown this Hebrew boy in the river. She adopted him to be her own son, and hired his own mother to nurse him for her. So this evil Pharaoh is foiled in his plan by two God-fearing Hebrew midwives, a Hebrew mother and her young daughter, and his very own disobedient daughter. So this mother who walked by faith in God ends up being payed out of the evil Pharaoh's treasury to nurse and train and care for her own condemned baby boy during the formative first years of his life. After three or four years of pouring herself and her faith and her history and her God into this boy, she brought him to the Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. Maybe we should all have that mindset when we train our children. We have but a short time before we must turn them over to the pagan world empire, so it is urgent that we do everything within our power to train them up in the way that they should go.
I'm sure that when she entrusted him to the Pharaoh's house, she entrusted him to God, and never ceased to pray for him. Now the narrative jumps ahead forty years.
In this passage, we see Moses transition from favored position of prince in the royal courts of the greatest nation in his world to condemned criminal exile hiding in the wilderness. Twice in verse 11 Moses identifies himself with 'his people', the Hebrews. He went out to his people... he saw and Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. There is no question where Moses' allegiance lies. Stephen fills in some background details for us in his sermon in Acts 7:
He was highly educated in the most advanced center of education in his day. He was mighty in words and deeds. He had a promising career ahead of him. Josephus was a Jewish historian that lived AD37-100. If what Josephus records is accurate, the princess who adopted him was Thermuthis, who had no children of her own and hoped that Moses might one day ascend to the throne. Josephus also records an story of Moses as an Egyptian military leader, leading a victorious attack on the Ethiopians. Whatever the true details of these unknown forty years, Moses could easily have embraced his life as Egyptian royalty and ignored his connection with the slave people. He could have turned a blind eye to the sufferings of his people and held on to his position of power and his life of ease. But a mother's training leaves a lasting impression. Forty years later he takes action to identify himself with his people and alienate himself from the Egyptians who raised him. Understand, Moses personally had nothing to gain and everything to lose by this move. The writer of Hebrews attributes his actions to faith:
It was by faith he chose to identify himself with the people of God. He abandoned the wealth of Egypt as 'fleeting pleasures of sin'. We can imagine what kind of sinful pleasure might have been available to him, but it could be as simple as what James tells us:
Moses knew what was right. He knew what the Egyptians did was wrong. For him to turn a blind eye to unjust suffering and continue to enjoy the benefits of Egypt would have been sin. So in faith, he acts. Faith is trust in the promises of God. God had made promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Maybe Moses studied the prophecies of his people and did the math and knew that the time of their slavery was coming to a close. So in dependence on God who is always faithful to keep his promises, he acts.
He went out, he looked, and he saw. The verb 'he went out' ( auy yatsa') is the verb that is used throughout the Old Testament to describe how God brought out the Israelites from Egypt. Here Moses in his own exodus goes out from the Egyptians to his people. “He went out to his own people”.
The verb for 'he looked' and 'he saw' ( har ra'ah) is the same one that is used in 2:25 and 3:7, 9 of God looking on or seeing the affliction of his people. Just as God would look on his people with compassion and act, so now Moses was looking on the burdens of his people and acting out of compassion. He was not disinterestedly observing from a safe distance. He was investing himself in the situation of his people and doing so at great personal risk to himself.
In Acts 7, Stephen gives us a helpful summary of the Exodus history and even some insight into the thoughts of Moses in this event:
Moses understands that God has raised him up to bring salvation to his people. He is defending the oppressed and standing up for slaves who are being wronged that have no voice. Later in Exodus when God gives Moses his laws he says this:
Moses is acting as avenger and bringing justice to a cruel and hopeless situation. I'm not saying that what Moses does here is without fault, or that it was the wisest action, but it was right for him to take action and defend the oppressed. (cf. Isaiah 59:14-16)
There is something in these verses that doesn't come through very well in our English translations. The word describing what the Egyptian was doing to the Hebrew slave is the exact word that describes what Moses did to the brutal Egyptian taskmaster. Moses saw an Egyptian beating to death a slave, so he beat to death the Egyptian. He saw an Egyptian striking down a Hebrew, so he struck down the Egyptian. What was being done to the helpless slave, he, coming to his rescue, did to the taskmaster. God was giving salvation to the Israelites by his hand. This was indeed a huge act of faith, a David against Goliath move, as he was one man against a powerful nation. I'm not sure what Moses was expecting to be the next step. Maybe the Israelites would rally behind him as their leader and they would fight against the Egyptians. Maybe he expected that God would do a miracle as he stepped out in faith. I don't think he was planning on what happened.
Again Moses uses the same word that was used in verses 11 and 12. Why are you striking down or beating to death your brother? To Moses it was not an ethnic thing. It was not the Israelites against the Egyptians. It was right against wrong. When an Israelite mistreated another Israelite, that was just as wrong as when an Egyptian mistreated an Israelite. Moses here acts as judge – one of the roles in which he will serve Israel in the wilderness - and he makes a determination of who was in the wrong and confronts him about it. Moses was seeking to make peace between his people. Moses knew that killing an Egyptian would not win him any points with the Egyptians. But he was not expecting the response that he got from his own people.
Moses expected that his people would see what God was doing and embrace him as their deliverer. Stephen tells us:
Instead of welcoming their deliverer, the Hebrews reject his rule over them. Their question is rhetorical – who made you a prince and a judge over us? But the answer is God. God was giving them salvation by his hand. But they did not understand. Moses came to do good to his people. Instead, they accuse him of intending them harm. Moses is afraid, probably very confused. As he expected, Pharaoh heard and was after his head. This is the second time Moses was under sentence of death from this Pharaoh. The first time he was protected by his parents, then adopted by the Pharaoh's daughter. Now he runs, a condemned criminal exiled in a strange land. Born of the Hebrews, raised by the Egyptians, now rejected by both. He had nowhere to lay his head. He flees to the wilderness.
I've often heard it said that Moses missed his cue and jumped the gun. He was not supposed to do what he did and that's why it turned out so bad. But throughout this passage, God is persistently keeping his promises, and from our perspective, things seem to be going from bad to worse. But God has his good purposes and is moving things according to his plan. Moses spent four years under the training of his mother, then 36 years under the training of Egypt, and God wanted him to spend the next 40 years of his life under his schooling in the desert. Moses needed to understand that to lead God's people does not mean glory and praise, but often rejection and criticism and a wilderness experience. Moses needed to feel what it felt like to be an alien and stranger looking for a home. He needed to learn what it meant to lean not on his own strength and wisdom, but entirely on God who guides and gives strength. Moses needed to learn humility and dependence and patience and God taught him those things and more in the next forty years seemingly on the shelf. We can take heart when we end up in the wilderness, because God does have a purpose and he makes no mistakes.
But we can't miss the connection with Jesus. Moses was another sign to point us to Jesus. Moses himself pointed to this:
Moses, like Jesus, was preserved from a maniacal tyrant who was afraid of any threat to his power and had all the baby boys executed. Moses tried to make peace among his brothers. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, came to bring peace. Moses came to his own people and was rejected as their leader. John's gospel says of Jesus:
This is exactly the point Stephen is making to the Jews in his farewell sermon. There is a historical pattern that Israel rejects the deliverers that God sends. Stephen continues:
Stephen began with Joseph, who was rejected by the patriarchs and sold, moves through Moses rejected by his people, and on to the prophets, where he makes application to those who are about to stone him:
The whole story of Moses is meant to point us to Jesus. Just like Moses' rejection by his people was not a surprise to God, So the rejection of Jesus by the Jewish people and his reception by a people who were outside the covenant community was all part of God's plan. It was foretold by the prophet Isaiah that Jesus would be:
But we do not have to reject him. John goes on:
We can receive him. We can believe. We can become children of God. We can be born of God.