Exodus 2:15-22 ~ 20100523 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
5/23 Exodus 2:15-22 A Savior to the Gentiles
We're in Exodus, with the Hebrew people, 400 years in Egypt, slaves, cruelly oppressed and under threat of extermination. We've seen God raise up for Israel a deliverer – Moses – under official threat of death at his birth, spared by the midwives, protected by his mother, entrusted to God in an ark on the Nile, drawn out of the water by the Pharaoh's daughter, his own mother hired to nurse him at the suggestion of his sister, then again entrusted to God and handed over to the Egyptians. He was educated in Pharaoh's house, became mighty in word and deed, and had a promising future. He had nothing to gain and his whole life to lose by embracing his heritage. But still, he chose to identify with his own people, the oppressed Hebrew slaves. He went out to his people, he looked, and he saw. In a daring act of faith he took action to alienate himself from the Egyptians and invest his own future with the slave people.
Instead, he was rejected by the people he was sent to save. His intentions were thoroughly misunderstood.
So salvation through Moses is rejected and he is again under sentence of death, and flees into the wilderness.
Moses spends his exile in the land of Midian. Where is Midian? Who were the Midianites?
God promised Abraham a son. At 100 years old, God gave Abraham and his wife Sarah the promised son Isaac. Sarah lived to be 127 years old (Gen.32:1). In Genesis 25, we learn that after Sarah's death Abraham remarried.
So Midian was one of the sons of Abraham and Keturah. The descendants of Midian apparently intermarried with the Ishmaelites, descended from Abraham's first son by his wife's servant Hagar, so that the names became interchangeable (see Judges 8:24). Midianites were a nomadic group that ranged anywhere from the Sinai Peninsula all the way north of the Dead Sea. It was Midianite traders who bought Joseph as a slave from his brothers and sold him in Egypt (Gen.37:28,36). Interesting that Midianites brought Joseph down to Egypt, and now Moses running from Egypt ends up with the Midianites. Later on as the Israelites approached the promised land, it was the Midianites who along with the Moabites conspired to hire the prophet Balaam to curse the Israelites (Num.22:7), and then the women of Moab and Midian tempted Israel to sin and worship Baal of Peor (Num.25) and brought God's judgment. In the time of the Judges, God raised up Gideon to defeat the idolatrous Midianites (Jud.6-8). It is into the land of Midian that our rejected deliverer runs for his life, and he sits down by a well.
If we have been paying attention to the narrative in Genesis, this should peak our curiosity. Wells were an essential part of life in the desert. The local watering hole was the place for a traveler to find someone to show hospitality. It was by a well that Abraham's servant found Rebekah, to be the wife of the promised son Isaac (Gen.24). It was by a well that Jacob met the beautiful Rachel and it was love at first sight (Gen.29). In fact Jacob was also fleeing for his life – running from his brother who wanted to kill him. So we have our fugitive sitting by a well in a foreign land.
The priest of Midian, Reuel, who we will find out also goes by Jethro. Some have tried to make him out to be a priest of the true God, but that seems to be a stretch, seeing that we have the narrative of his conversion in Exodus 18.
This man, like much of his culture around him, would believe in many gods. The Midianites throughout the biblical narrative worshiped the Baals and the other pagan deities. This man was an idolater. After Moses recounts how God delivered them from Egypt, Jethro says 'now I know that the LORD (YHWH) is greater than all gods'. In chapter 18 when he comes to believe the YHWH is greater than all the gods he has been worshiping, he offers sacrifice to this his new God. But that's jumping ahead of our story. Here, his seven daughters show up to water the sheep at the local watering hole. They draw the water, which in that culture was only the woman's job, then after they do all the work, they get bullied away from the watering hole by the local shepherds. It seems this may have been routine for them. Show up, draw the water, get driven away so the shepherds can use up all the water, wait around 'till they are done, come back and draw more water and water our father's flocks. But this day Moses stood up for them. Wherever Moses saw oppression, he had to do something about it. Whether it was an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, a Hebrew beating another Hebrew, or some mean shepherds taking advantage of some Midianite women in the desert, it didn't matter. Moses wasn't sitting around pouting over his own misfortune. Moses stood up and acted on behalf of the oppressed. At no time was he acting out of a motive of personal gain. The first two times he had stood up for the oppressed, it had cost him dearly. But that didn't discourage him from doing it again. Our text says Moses saved them. This is the first occurrence of this word saved [evy yasha‘] in the bible. The next time this word is used, it is describing what God did for the Israelites in the exodus:
He preserved them from injury, harm or evil, he rescued them from danger. Moses, who thought the Israelites would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, now ends up in the desert saving some women from a bunch of mean shepherds. Not only does he rescue them, but he blesses them. He was the guest, and could have expected to be shown hospitality. In the case of Abraham's servant at the well, he asked Rebekah for a drink, and she gave him a drink and volunteered to water his camels also. After all, it was a woman's job to draw the water. But Moses, raised by the Pharaoh's daughter, draws water for the women and waters their flocks.
It was not normal for them to accomplish their task so quickly. That makes me think this was an every day ordeal that these women went through. They bring the report to their father – 'an Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds and even drew water for us and watered the flock'. They assume Moses is Egyptian because of his appearance. He delivered us. The next time this word is used it is used of God:
So Jethro scolds his daughters for their lack of hospitality to this kind stranger.
The priest of Midian extends hospitality to this stranger. He invites him for a meal and gives him his daughter as a wife. So Moses, who alienated himself from the Egyptians, was rejected by his own people, now finds hospitality and welcome in the wilderness with gentile shepherds. He is given a gentile bride. His firstborn son is named as a constant reminder of his status – Gershom; “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land”. Honey, what should we name our son? Let's call him 'Alien'; how about 'Outcast'. That should go over really well with the other kids at school. What's your name? Well, my dad calls me 'Reject'. For Moses, this would be a constant reminder of his lack of belonging. He was a wanted criminal in Egypt, now he had settled down with a group of people who did not share his belief in the one true God, and the one group he had tried to identify with – the Hebrew slaves - had rejected him. He was a man without a sense of belonging.
The author of Hebrews describes this well:
Moses was not at home. By naming his son 'Gershom', he was reminding himself and those around him that he didn't belong. He was surrounded by a culture that did not worship the true God, but he did not adopt their ways. He was content to be an alien there.
Peter highlights our alien status on this earth. He addresses us as elect exiles (1Pet.1:1). He says;
He exhorts us to follow Jesus' example to endure sorrows while suffering unjustly (1Pet.2:19). Moses embraces his exile status and even names his kid that.
But there's more to this story than just what we see on the surface. Moses comes to bring salvation to his people, but he is rejected. He is exiled into the wilderness, and becomes savior and deliverer to some non-Jewish women at a well. Remember, Moses is a pointer to direct our attention to another, The Savior, The Deliverer. The word 'saved' in this text is the Hebrew word [evy yasha‘] from which we get the name Joshua or Jehoshua [ewvwhy Yehowshuwa] which means YHWH is salvation. The Greek equivalent of Yeshua or Yehoshua is [Ihsouv Iesous] – Jesus. YHWH is salvation.
Jesus was rejected by his own people:
Jesus was exiled because people wanted to kill him:
Jesus knew what is was to not belong
Jesus sat down by a well outside Jewish territory. He said to the Samaritan woman who came to draw water:
And he told her that he was the promised Messiah, the deliverer, and even claimed to be the great I AM.
After Jesus was rejected by his people, he brought salvation to the Gentiles:
So Jesus, in his exile, has taken a Gentile bride – the church.
We are part of that church:
Moses spent the next 40 years of his life tending sheep in the back side of the desert. Jesus said:
Jesus – Yeshua – YHWH is salvation.