God’s spokesman (Exodus 4:13-20)

Open Exodus 4:13-20.

Delivering ultimatums to a powerful kingdom is high-risk business. Moses has no desire to serve as spokesman of the heavenly sovereign.

Moses sought exemption because he had no power in his hand. Now he claims he has no power in his voice. Continue reading “God’s spokesman (Exodus 4:13-20)”

Who establishes God’s kingdom? (Exodus 4:1-12)

Open Exodus 4:1-12.

Is the kingdom of God something we establish, or something God brings into being? That’s an important question. Exodus says it comes from God, and yet he acts in partnership with his people.

Continue reading “Who establishes God’s kingdom? (Exodus 4:1-12)”

Does the church have a future?

Movies reflect culture. If that’s true, the church doesn’t have a future.

Think back over the movies you’ve watched recently. What part did the church play?

If it’s there at all, it might be complicit with evil. Or it could be a symbol of something we’ve left behind, an artefact of the past. Continue reading “Does the church have a future?”

Helping God’s people find their identity (Exodus 3:16-22)

Open Exodus 3:16-22.

It’s a terrifying assignment. Moses is commissioned as ambassador for the heavenly king. He must confront Pharaoh with YHWH’s demand to release the Hebrew people.

But first, Moses must convince Israel of their identity as YHWH’s people, not Pharaoh’s. Moses is instructed to do this in partnership with the elders of Israel (3:16).

That implies that the descendants of Jacob have some level of self-understanding and organization. Christian preachers who care only about theology (and not history) sometimes characterize the Hebrews as slaves who’ve been oppressed so long they have little sense of their identity as descendants of Abraham. That’s a caricature: Continue reading “Helping God’s people find their identity (Exodus 3:16-22)”

Partnering with God (Exodus 3:11-15)

Open Exodus 3:11-15.

All power rests in the hands of the heavenly sovereign. Yet he exercises his power in partnership with his people: “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the descendants of Israel out of Egypt” (3:10). Continue reading “Partnering with God (Exodus 3:11-15)”

A royal encounter (Exodus 3:1-10)

God shows up where we don’t expect him. For good reason.

Open Exodus 3:1-10.

A fire in the wild can consume hundreds of acres in just a few hours. No experienced bushman ignores a fire. Moses was no exception.

Moses was out in the wild to escape Pharaoh. If he ever had aspirations of ruling people, he’d given them up, taking a job shepherding animals. He led his flock to the edge of the wilderness. He feels safer in land that supports life sparsely, where human rulers have little interest.

Far from the cities of human administration, in a part of creation no one cares about, Moses discovers something astounding: God’s mountain (3:1). The king of creation is in residence here. Several times throughout the Bible’s narrative, God’s servants return to this mountain that lies south of the Promised Land. Each time we learn more about the Sovereign, his law, how he rescues his people, and how he rules the earth.

The fire Moses sees on God’s mountain is unlike any he’s ever seen. Fire consumes combustible materials, releasing energy as heat. A flame that does not consume is a different kind of flame: its energy comes from another place, a realm that does not destroy this one.

So Moses turns aside to investigate. The flame in the bush is an angel:

Continue reading “A royal encounter (Exodus 3:1-10)”

Your kingdom identifies you (Exodus 2:15-25)

Open Exodus 2:15-25.

Who is Moses? A Hebrew by birth? An Egyptian by nationality? He tried to take a stand with the Hebrews against the injustice of Egypt, but it didn’t work. Now he’s a nobody. Far from the Hebrews and Egyptians. In no man’s land.

Even in the wilderness, injustice reigns. Seven Midianite sisters try to water their father’s flock, only to have male shepherds push in. It’s just like God said: women face gender conflict in a world where rebellion rules (see on Genesis 3:16).

Moses stands up for them, so they return home early with their sheep. Their father’s surprise indicates that this sexist injustice was their daily experience (2:18). Is it only Moses who cares about gender inequality? Or does every form of injustice need to be set right for the kingdom of God to operate as our heavenly ruler intends?

Continue reading “Your kingdom identifies you (Exodus 2:15-25)”

Fighting violence with violence (Exodus 2:11-14)

Open Exodus 2:11-14.

Moses grows up in Pharaoh’s house. He sees how human government operates. The Hebrew slaves weighed down with burdens (2:11, the same word as 1:11).

He identifies with them: the Hebrews are his brothers. Moses feels a responsibility to act against the injustice. He sees an Egyptian striking a Hebrew, so Moses strikes the Egyptian. The same Hebrew word (nā·ḵāh) is used to describe both actions. Moses has fallen into the trap of trying to resolve violence through violence. We have already seen how destructive this approach is (compare Genesis 4:23; 6:11).

This temptation will dog God’s people throughout their history. It still does. By responding to oppression with oppression, Moses has become the agent of death rather than the agent of YHWH. He is using his power the way Pharaoh uses it. Killing is not the path to saving. Moses knows his actions are wrong: furtively checking that no one is watching, and hiding the body in the sand (2:12). Continue reading “Fighting violence with violence (Exodus 2:11-14)”

Strong women of Exodus (Exodus 2:1-10)

Open Exodus 2:1-10.

In the opening chapters of Exodus, it’s the women who are the heroes:

  • Shiphrah and Puah (midwives) feared God rather than Pharaoh, disobeying the king of Egypt (1:17).
  • Jochebed (Moses’ mother) dared to disobey Pharaoh by floating her baby in a basket on the Nile (2:1-3).
  • Miriam (Moses’ sister) watched over the baby to guard his life. She approached the princess, and negotiated for their mother to raise Moses (2:7-8).
  • Pharaoh’s daughter changed the course of history by defying her father and rescuing a helpless Hebrew baby from his water-borne basket.
  • Zipporah (Moses’ wife) later recognized his life was under threat, and took action to save him (4:24-26).

Continue reading “Strong women of Exodus (Exodus 2:1-10)”

What do you fear? (Exodus 1:12-22)

What you fear, you serve.

Open Exodus 1:12-22.

Exodus 1 provides real insight into what’s wrong with the powers in the world. To keep people under their control, rulers afflict them with heavy burdens (1:11 ESV). But you can’t squash people so easily: the heavy burdens Pharaoh placed on the Hebrews only made them stronger (1:12). And that’s why rulers become progressively more brutal (pě·rěḵ in 1:13, 14). Continue reading “What do you fear? (Exodus 1:12-22)”

How human rule goes bad (Exodus 1:1-11)

Open Exodus 1:1-11.

By the end of Genesis, one of Abraham’s descendants was bringing divine wisdom to the greatest ruler of his day. In Joseph, Pharaoh saw the spirit of the heavenly sovereign (Genesis 41:38). He followed Joseph’s advice, and many lives were saved.

So is there hope in human rule? After all, human rulers are God’s servants, to limit violence on the earth.

Unfortunately, our human rulers always end up as self-serving. Four centuries later, Egypt has a new king, one who does not know Joseph (Ex 1:8). That means this Pharaoh does not know YHWH either.

The Exodus is not just about the heavenly ruler releasing his people from Pharaoh: it is about the heavenly ruler revealing himself to Pharaoh. The goal is that Pharaoh will know YHWH as earth’s true ruler (5:2; 6:7; 7:5, 17; 8:10 and so on). Exodus 1–15 is a confrontation between rulers, a kind of war—a challenge over who rules. It is a kingdom conflict—the paradigmatic kingdom confrontation of the Old Testament. Continue reading “How human rule goes bad (Exodus 1:1-11)”

Exodus: the setting

What do we know from history about the exodus?

Please don’t believe everything you find in the Internet about the exodus. There are some outlandish claims. Some claim to have found the ark of the covenant, Noah’s ark, and everything in between. Some claim to have evidence of the exodus in the wrong time period. The truth is that there is no indisputable archaeological evidence to corroborate the narrative of the exodus.

Continue reading “Exodus: the setting”