Exodus 1:8—2:10 (2014)
Over the past weeks we have discussed family situations based on the story of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, how within this large family they struggled with issues of jealousy, of competing for birthright and wives, and squabbles around their place in the family. – now – today we move on to the story of Moses.
But as we discussed and agreed – today in NZ we see similar issues appearing. Issues affecting ordinary families and blended families, – Issues around separation and divorce and the effects of children born into these situations (out of wedlock).
Not that all people caught in these types of relationships have issues, – but for me it is about identity – knowing who belongs to who and children knowing who they ARE.
For example if I was to ask you who ARE YOU – what would you say?
ANYONE WILLING TO chip in?
(Maori culture – speech – son of Lawrence of the Gibbs family tribe of Nelson)
OK – we know our names, most of us know who our parents are and because of our ages we have mostly come to know who we are in ourselves.
For Example – if I was to describe some of you I would use words like; caring, generous, and strong willed, comedian, supportive, a fantastic mum/dad and so on.
I’m not sure where today’s theme fits in because after reading the set readings through again and again one theme truly stuck out for me – and it was that of “lost identity”.
We are firstly told in our story that a new pharaoh (king) had come to power in Egypt – and this new king does not know Joseph (v. 8).
Why we may ask? And the answer to that is probably simply time.
Time had elapsed since Joseph was in power. As the saying goes – people come and they go. Joseph was no longer in his position – probably due to age, maybe he had retired.
We also know that the Hebrew people had become a significant ethnic group, and the pharaoh sees them as a threat to Egypt’s security. He knew his identity and these Hebrews were different and they appeared threatening to him.
He therefore embarks on a three prong attack:
- enforced and severe hard labour,
- and finally the order that all Hebrew infant boys are to be killed.
Our story also details the midwives’ courage and Moses’ infancy.
They are all part of the broader story of the relationship between God and Israel as presented in the book of Exodus.
While it doesn’t say straight out that the Hebrews – known as Israel – have been in Egypt for so long that they have forgotten who they truly are, what it implies is that the Egyptian culture and lifestyle has meant that the stories of their past have nearly been forgotten. – Especially in their relationship to God.
Maybe their difference from the Egyptian is in the colour of their skin, in their language and the maybe the odd custom. Maybe there are still the few who are seen on their roof-tops praying or practising customs foreign to Egyptians?
Like many people who struggle but rely on God for help, as God ministers to them and they become self reliant, it can be easy to forget about God, as if you don’t need him anymore.
Throughout the early chapters of Exodus, Moses will wrestle with his dual identity as a Hebrew and an Egyptian.
The beginning of chapter 2 establishes Moses’ Hebrew parentage for us the reader: but there should be no doubt that, as the child of two Levites, Moses is a Hebrew and, more specifically, a Hebrew from the priestly lineage of Levi.
But today’s story isn’t just about Moses and his start in life and how he will become the leader of Israel. It is very much a story about identifying who these currently lost people are – That they are Gods people.
Through Moses – Israel will learn who God is, and they will learn that their identity is rooted in belonging to God.
In Exodus 3, God will reveal God’s name to Moses, declaring that this God YHWH is the God of Moses’ ancestors: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
God will refer to the Israelites time and time again as “my people,”
claiming them, hearing their cries, and delivering them.
While Pharaoh will ask, “Who is YHWH – that I should heed him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and I will not let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2).
Like the Pharaoh who did not know Joseph, this Pharaoh does not know YHWH.
Pharaoh, like the Israelites, will need some convincing about who this God is and to whom the Israelites belong.
Lifting up the theme of identity in Exodus fits well with Jesus’ questions to the disciples about his own identity in this week’s appointed gospel reading from Matthew 16:13-20: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
And that same question applies to us and our identity.
As Jesus asked – “But who do you say that I am?”
The book of Exodus and the Gospel reading alike show that even if questions of identity can be boiled down to pithy answers, the phrase of “who we are and whose we are” is understood most fully when accompanied by the careful interpretation of the rich stories that have shaped our understanding of ourselves and our God.
Later – Moses’ dual identity will reach a crisis point when he kills an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew (2:11-15).
Until then his vocational identity, as God’s prophet- chosen to lead God’s people out of bondage, will continue to be tested as the book of Exodus progresses.
So what is the message for us?
Well it goes back to that very first question I asked at the beginning – of WHO ARE YOU/WE?
Can we answer and do we answer – I’m a child of the risen Lord, a follower of Christ?
Then too we can identify reasons as to how people lose their identity.
They stop praying, they stop reading their bibles, and they stop relying on God to work in and through their lives.
People stop going/coming to church, they stop fellowshipping, studying in a small group, doing regular bible reading/devotions – they become an indifferent people by no longer seeing themselves as followers of Christ, or worse still – they no longer see a need for God.
They lose confidence in the promises of God – that all who believe and confess Jesus Christ as Lord become children of God.
Next time someone asks about your life – can you confidently say – Im a believer in Jesus Christ?
That is the challenge for us today – to acknowledge to ourselves and to others that Jesus is an important part, or even an essential part of our lives.