Category: ark

Freed to Follow – an exodus Journey Week 1

Sermon, Pentecost 10A
Sunday August 21st, 2011.
Ocean Forest
the exodus journey week 1

So, we begin this exodus journey and yet this journey comes from what has happened before. We know from the account of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph that God’s presence and promise has been under huge threat because of human weakness, idolatry and sin, and yet, by God’s determination and grace, has prevailed – at least for now.

We hear in the opening verses of this Exodus…..



1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob, each with his family: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; 3 Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; 4 Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher. 5 The descendants of Jacob numbered seventy[a] in all; Joseph was already in Egypt.

6 Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, 7 but the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them.

God’s blessing of his people; his promise to Abraham of a great nation of descendants, a great name among the nations and a land of blessing in which to live is happening despite generations living and dying in between the life of Jacob and Joseph and this new beginning about to happen.


The Israelites are a minority group within Egypt. They have bred like rabbits! Verse 8, “Now there arose a new king in Egypt….” may jump as much four centuries. It seems the blessed nation have been fruitful and multiplied as God had originally commanded the first human beings to do (Genesis 1 and 2). This new King see a threat in this now huge ethnic minority group. They look like they might soon take over the country!


This is a fear-filled thing. I hear people saying things about what is happening in Australia that betray this kind of fear of foreigners. “The Chinese will take us over. The Indonesians will take over one day. The boat people will flood us and use up our valuable resources……”. Was it Pauline Hansen who gave voice to that fear a decade ago when she said “the Asians are taking us over….Asians out….”? A quick look at history will tell you that these kinds of fears have always been around. They have often led to great evil. Fear does that.

In this scene, the Israelites are almost like a plague! “They became exceedingly numerous so that the land was filled with them”, we hear. They are like mosquitoes at a BBQ, flies at a picnic, Fremantle Dockers supporters at the footy!

The Egyptian monarchy is worried for another reason besides being taken over from within. What if one of their competing neighbours like the Babylonians, Syrians, Assyrians etc… decide to take us on and enlist the support of this huge group of people who may or may not have any loyalty to us when push comes to shove? Egypt would be serious peril.

So, the king decides to deal “shrewdly” with this problem people. The plan is to oppress a whole people – to force them into slavery and use them as objects for the building of a kingdom. People become objects to be bought, sold, used, abused and treated much lower than the pinnacle of all creation – human beings.

Of course, those us who live in the top 10% of the wealthiest people in the world have little idea about what this really is. However, for anyone who has come close to poverty and/or any oppressive regime, the full force of this oppression will make more sense. The rest of us can only imagine…… no status, no job, no goals, no control over my day, no point thinking beyond today because it may be your last. Seeing your family brutalised on a daily basis. Seeing the places that you used to enjoy now out of reach and watching all the people you used to know carry on as if you were not even there. This is a complete removal of privilege and plunge into abuse, hatred, racial vilification, death and fear.

It is interesting though. Egypt is also full of fear (1:10). As the oppressors dehumanise others and violate their family and communal life, they themselves become sub human. Once this pattern of fear and oppression has been established, it brings in an entire way of life and behaviour for those caught up in it. Both become lost.


That terrible human descent into death now shows itself again. Just as it was for Joseph and his brothers, fear, then jealousy, then hatred and then physical and communal violence takes shape in this now fearful country. The Egyptians fear the Israelite’s capacity to threaten their way of life. They are very jealous of the apparent unstoppable blessing they seem to have as they “fill the land”. This “shrewd” plan to stop their increase and snuff out their blessed life does not work. Even though the Israelites were mistreated, their families grew larger, and they took over more land. “Because of this, the Egyptians hated them worse than before…”(Exod 1:12). Jealousy has given way to hatred – not just in theory but now actually done on a daily basis across the country – wherever Egyptians and Israelites live in the same place.

We can tell what is next; violence and death. “Kill all the baby boys” commands the fearful and inhumane Pharaoh. This has been a final step in the snuffing out a minority group for many a regime. It is a final desperate measure to kill off a threat. We have a very well known account of such a measure in the New Testament, as the paranoid King Herod the Great command the same when he suspects the promised Jewish Messiah has been born. We hear that every Christmas.

We then hear this account of very crafty mid-wives who commit an act of civil disobedience by directly disobeying the law of the land (1:15-21). The reason given for their act of rebellion in an oppressive regime is faithfulness to God (v17). They took their life in their own hands as they delivered new life everyday for the sake of obeying the God of life who gives life. He is also the God who alone has the authority as creator and giver of life to take life away.

This gets me thinking about Christian civil disobedience. When is it faithful to the Lord to directly disobey civil law? In the 70’s in Latin America a whole movement and theology came into being called “Liberation theology” where many Christians even went to the extent of taking up arms against brutal military regimes with leaders like Pinochet.

Here in comfortable and peaceful Western democracy, we hope it never comes to this. All we can do is thank God for his gift of justice and legal system and a shared will to keep it that way; even to actively support and work for justice and “pray for kings and others in power, so that we may live quiet and peaceful lives as we worship and honour God as St Paul urges us” (1Timothy 2:2).

All through this descent into human hatred, oppression and murder, all driven by fear, God is at work. It is so ironic that Pharaoh is actually being an instrument of God’s creative work. The blessing, multiplying and fruitfulness does not stop. Now God’s saving work is taking shape. We come to this most famous and wonderful little account of God’s man for the moment – Moses.

Again the Israelite midwives, who are actually experts in handling God’s fruitful blessing when you think about it, outdo the murderous Pharaoh by keeping another one of their precious baby boys and ensuring that he lives through this horrible time.

How poignant it is to read that this desperate woman who somehow managed to have her son and then hide him for a few months as soldiers come house to house on a daily basis and take boys from their mothers arms and murder them, now places her precious boy in an ark. This word is so seldom used in the entire Old Testament. Here we are meant to remember that other “ark” of Noah and God’s saving work in those days. Humanity was so lost. We had descended even further into sin and chaos that God acts to bring order and life back to his creation. he does this my placing Noah and the remnant of his creation in that ark.

Later on in Exodus, we will hear that those foundational directives on how to faithfully live with the Lord and his community – the 10 Commandments – will also be placed in an “ark” – the Ark of the Covenant. Precious things go inside arks. Saving things go inside arks. Moses is now inside an ark. The hope of God’s saving love is in that ark.

And then we really come to the crescendo of this whole beginning account. It is amazing that of all people to give a sign of what God is going to do it should be an Egyptian – and Pharaoh’s own daughter at that! What does she do?

“…….she saw the baby and felt sorry for him because he was crying…”(2:6). Pharaoh’s daughter does three things in response to one thing. The one thing is crying. The three things are “seeing” and hearing (implied) and “feeling sorry” for this one crying.

“Feeling sorry” for him? In English that seems a bit week. The word for a woman’s womb in Hebrew is the root of this verb. This woman who has a womb experiences a womb wrenching compassion for this child who has just come from another woman’s womb. The compassion is of the deepest kind – from the womb. it is that compassion that comes from the human spirit – that women experience in pregnancy, childbirth and when new life is in infancy.

This “gutted” woman is a precursor to more words from God that will come next week. Here, Pharaoh’s daughter “sees” and hears and has deep compassion because the boy is crying.

 

“Crying”: This is the situation of God’s people, according to God. They are “crying”. They are weeping in this terror in which they live. Labour, hard labour, misery, cruelty, mistreated – this is what is creating this weeping and crying out for salvation, for hope, for and end to it all.

Friends, as we leave it there, we can journey on knowing that we travel with a God who sees, hears and has compassion on our crying – whatever it is.

We can also trust that our God creates good out of evil and frustrated the working of fear, oppression and hatred.

We can also trust that our God is very happy to work with little things and little people – people like midwives, daughters, grieving mothers, crying babies and little “arks”. God works through these things to deal with the fear and trouble we as his people and we as part of his troubled world face.

In this little ark is the hope of God’s people and his promises acting in the world. His fellow Hebrew babies were thrown into the water of the Nile. But God ensured that this child of promise was “drawn out of the water” of the Nile. God undoes this horrible command of a king who thinks he is bigger than God.


His people will soon be “drawn out of the water” as they pass through that Sea of Reeds on dry ground and be born again as God’s people of blessing.

We have been drawn out of the water at baptism. Baptism was our Red Sea. It was us being drawn out of certain death to new life and blessing in Christ.

We walk this journey as God’s water people – people of hope. people in the ark or the boat of the church. We sit in the Nave of the church – we travel in God’s presence into the desert way of Jesus – the way of his cross, the way of God’s power revealed in the ordinary and seemingly weak things of the world.

God is on the move. He see, he hears, he is compassion and he is drawing us out into new hope and life in these weeks ahead. See him. Hear him. Cry out to him. Amen



Week 1 Exodus 1:8-2:10

WEEK 1 Exodus 1:8-2:10 (TNIV)

8 Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. 9 “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. 10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.”

11 So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labour, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites 13 and worked them ruthlessly. 14 They made their lives bitter with harsh labour in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labour the Egyptians used them ruthlessly.
15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, 16 “When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” 17 The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. 18 Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?”
19 The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.”
20 So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.
22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”
THOUGHTS
1. God’s blessing of the Israelites is uncontrollable. Pharaoh cannot control it and is threatened by their obvious blessed status. They are breeding like rabbits! This for ancient people is the sign of blessing – children, population growth, and fertility.

 

2. Fertility is the goal of worshipping the gods of Egypt. Pharaoh carries out his rituals and exercises his divine reign to secure the blessing of fertility for the people. But here, the God of the Hebrews is already outdoing the gods of Egypt. They are more blessed than the local Egyptians. This is a major threat – economic, security and religious.

 

3. There is a double meaning of all this talk of “labour” or work” In Hebrew, this word can also be used for the “work” or worshipping God (liturgy). Israel’s labour here is hard, destructive and unjust because it is done for a foreign god. God will turn their hard labour into rest, joy and blessing when they “work” for him and with him in their worship (working) life.

 

4. Interesting that the Hebrew midwives enact civil disobedience. They deliberately defy the law of the land. When is it OK to do this Christians?

 

5. Pharaoh has to act in every increasing violence – killing baby boys – halting this divine power the Hebrews seem to posses – but God is on to it. A war is brewing of cosmic proportions.

 

The Birth of Moses (Ch 2)

1 Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, 2 and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. 3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. 4 His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

5 Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket (“ark”) among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. 6 She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.

7 Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”
8 “Yes, go,” she answered. And the girl went and got the baby’s mother. 9 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”

 

THOUGHTS
1. God is doing something new. A new hope rises in the carnage of dead baby boys. A baby boy escapes the evil of Pharaoh. This boy will the first of a new age. He is from the tribe of Levi – the priestly tribe. He will be the priest of Israel who will have direct access to God on the people’s behalf and vice-versa.
2. The baby is placed in an ark. Genesis 6:14 and Noah’s ark comes to mind. Just as God saved a remnant of humanity and living things in an ark, now he is doing the same with his promise to Abraham. Later the guidelines for knowing God as a community (10 Commandments) will also be places in the ark of the covenant. Through his Word he will continually save people so they can know him and live with him.

3. Pharaoh’s daughter is a pre-cursor to God himself here. She hears the cry of this baby. She is moved with pity and shows mercy and compassion in saving the baby from annihilation. God will also see and feel the pain of his people an act (next week).

 

4. Moses is a forward sign of this new nation of God who will also be drawn from the water and even a sign of the promised Messiah who will be baptised by John and command his church to baptise the world in his name (Matthew 28)

REFLECTIONS
  • We are drawn out of the water in baptism.
  • We have been snatched from the hand of the evil one and our own sinfulness and places in the ark – the place of God’s presence and protection and life.
  • Christians have often used this boat kind of imagery to name places of worship. Where the people gather is the nave – the body of the ship. Often church architecture has included vaulted ceiling of stone or timber – depicting an upside down boat or ark. What does all that mean for you?
  • Pharaoh kills the sons of the Israelite, thereby picking a fight with the God of the Israelites. The final “plague” or sign will be the undoing of Pharaoh. God the Warrior will fight for his covenant with Abraham – blessing of a nation, a name and a land of blessing.
  • Interesting that God uses another Egyptian to rescue his chosen special leader, Moses. Is this a show of God’s craftiness and intelligence and power?
  • This new nation will not be founded with a land, known leader, political system. It will be founded by the direct action of a holy and all-powerful God and so, be a unique, specially chosen and formed community of God in the world with a special task – to be the means through which God deals with the sin of human beings and gives his blessing of life to all nations.
How have you been snatched from hard labour to idols and entered the rest and blessing of living in God’s blessing?
 

Would there ever be a reason why you would practice civil disobedience?

Has God heard your cries and acted to save you in a situation?

What is your life founded on: a world view, a family, a teaching, ……?