emilynisch

“my first born son” cont.

In Uncategorized on March 31, 2009 at 1:42 am

part 2 (from where we left off)

So, God is teaching Moses who he is, and he’s doing it by teaching Moses that he’s God, and what that means.

I’ve been wondering just how much Moses knew about this God of his fathers. I wonder if he picked up stories from his mother who posed as his wet nurse in in the Egyptian palace. Moses certainly wasn’t circumcised as we find out from the strange story of God suddenly showing up to kill him – even after God has told Moses that he’s chosen him to save his people. It’s like God is saying “That’s it. Are you going to be one of mine? It’s going to mean more than you thought it would mean when you heard stories as a child. It will be remarkably like and remarkably unlike those stories. Here is my holiness. This is what it looks like for you. It’s something that can’t mingle with what is unclean, but I am also the God who is all-powerful, and I will make you what you need to be to do everything I’ve asked you to do. Just trust me, and commit yourself to me.” Moses says yes. I think his heart especially says a deep yes.

I haven’t reread the stories of their wanderings in the desert yet, but from what I remember, Moses is one of the few people who stay faithful to God. Many of the Israelites essentially say “no” to God. They long for Egypt: the place of their oppression, yes, but also the place of their comfort. Just like Esau, they would give their birthright for a bowl of soup. What’s the difference?

Moses and the Israelites are both hurt in their upbringing – but Moses finds a God and a lineage. I wonder if the Israelites are just too hurt and hardened for God to really convince them that they’re his. Here’s where I’m getting this: “Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and their cruel bondage.” (Ex 6:9). Let’s look at what God had Moses report to them: “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.’ ” God tells the Israelites some really good things here. He’s already told those things to Moses – who believes him, with a little insecurity about himself that leads to a God-given crutch in the form of Aaron. But the Israelites don’t even listen to Moses. Moses knows that the Israelites are going to be a hard sell, as he told God earlier. (He probably thinks it’s crazy that they would listen to him, not really a full blow Israelite in his own mind). When God tells Moses to go talk to Pharoah, he responds back that the Israelites (God’s own people) wouldn’t even listen to him, why would Pharoah. We see how that works out: God forces Pharoah’s hand thorugh punishment. If Israel keeps refusing to recognize God, what would save them from the same fate? Only their status as God’s first born, whom he loves and – here’s the difference – disciplines. Briefly – God says that his treatment of Pharoah is so that everyone in Egypt would know who God is. His treatment of Israel is to save them and care for them, and let them know who’s child they are.

I think the generation of Israelites that wandered in the desert for the most part never learned who they were and who God was – that God loved them, provided for them, and worked for them all-powerfully. Moses knew. He still had trouble trusting God, but I think that trouble came from distrusting that God is bigger than his failures – God tells him early on the he can make Moses speak well because he created his mouth; later Moses refuses to speak to a rock to cause water to come from it, instead choosing to tap it with his staff, thereby trusting in the thing that he was used to God working miracles through. Thus he forfeits his entry into the promised land as God says, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites” (Numb 20:12). (This part still confuses me!)

Moses really loved God. As the bible says, he and God spoke face to face as friends. I think God probably had to initiate this kind of relationship with Moses. Otherwise he would never have been able to follow God as unwaveringly as he did (not perfectly, but impressively anyway) in the midst of a people who kept rejecting them both. I’ve always wondered why Moses was one of the people with Jesus during the transfiguration. Moses was certainly God’s friend, but he also led Israel during a time of redefinition for them, a time when they were becoming God’s nation and set apart from the world. They had ceased to deeply follow the God of their fathers, and need to be pulled out of the dark place they’re in. Moses even looks a little bit like Jesus to them when he comes to rescue them (by God’s power, etc) out of this darkness, and lead them into a place of refinement and preparation for they’re new home – and Jesus looks a bit like Moses to James, Peter and John. He tells them, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Mat 17:5).

It’s like God is reassuring them that Jesus is in the same sort of line as Moses – who God had declared himself the God of, reminding him that he is in the same line as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The transfiguration happens as if to say, “Don’t worry Israel. What I’ve done before I’m doing again. Look, here are Moses and Elijah. Remember how I saved you through them? Now follow Jesus, he’s my son. What he is pleases me, so trust him, follow him, listen to him.” Of course, Jesus is the leader of a lot more. But God is being kind to Israel, and showing them exactly where to follow, by reminding them of exactly what he did in the past in his goodness and power. 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  1. Freya & I have really has some good times digging into Exodus too; especially with that burning bush part.

    About Moses’ rock-tapping: Moses may have been pretty worn down at this point. He’s well over 100 and has been leading a bunch of grumblers through the scorching, dusty desert for 38 years.

    I imagine he didn’t tap the rock so much as whack it. Just before he does so, he says, “Listen, you rebels, do we have to bring water out of this rock for you?” He sounds angry.

    I’m surprised, though, that God still had it work; he disqualified Moses for it afterwards, but he still turned the sin into a miracle.

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