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Exodus 2:23-25; 3:1-15; 4:10-17
Our story continues in the second book of the Hebrew Bible – Exodus – telling the story of the people of God. Abraham and Sarah had a son Isaac, who then had a son Jacob. He was renamed Israel after wrestling with God. His many children staged the death of their brother, Joseph because of their jealousy of how he was the spoiled favorite son of their father. They sold their brother to traffickers who then sold him into slavery in Egypt. Miraculously there Joseph rose to great power and was able to save his family from famine by inviting them to find shelter (and food) in Egypt. The growing family of Israel stayed for many generations in the plenty of Egypt.
They prospered and increased in population so much that the King of Egypt (the Pharaoh) fears some sort of replacement theory. He enslaves them before they might outnumber and take over Egypt. Still afraid, Pharaoh implements, a gender-based genocide intended to cull the Hebrew population and bring them under control. Yet the Pharaoh is thwarted by the faithful deviousness of the Hebrew midwives (as seems to be often the case in history) who act so that many boys will survive, Moses among them. He is found by the Pharaoh’s daughter who adopts and raises him as her own. Bi-cultural in a hierarchical world of Egyptian supremacy, Moses eventually discovers his true identity. This leads him to to stand and fight for his birth-people, but is rejected by both them and the Egyptian powers. He has to flee Egypt. He finds refuge in the foreign land of Midian, with Jethro.
Today’s story covers the way in which God hears the Hebrew cries for help and deliverance. God shows up but in unexpected ways (have you noticed a developing theme?). God sends the murder Moses back to Egypt to lead the people to freedom. God comes to Moses on Mount Horeb (which means Mount desolate – “no-where-special”) while he’s doing his ordinary life: shepherding. Yet God comes into the ordinary in an extraordinary way, revealing a bit more about God’s nature, power and purpose through the giving of the Divine Name – I am who I am” or “I will be who I will be.” A weird name it points not to the past but to the future. It lifts up the way in which God is understood but not mastered, identified but impossible-to-put-into-a-box.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION & EXAMEN:
• What engaged you, enraged you, or surprised you in the text?
• The story of the Exodus is about freedom and formation. In the section that we read today we hear of how the Israelites seem to have forgotten who they really are when enticed, or enslaved by their shelter in Egypt. Moses begins to learn who he actually is as he learns the name and identity of God. Thinking of your own life how are you enticed or enslaved so that you forget who you really are (not just what you do, what you own, or where you live)?
• The very name of God transcends time and location. It’s like you can’t put your finger on who God is or what God will do. How does that bring you hope? How does that make you anxious?
• Do you have a particular name that you use when you talk to God? What is it? Why do you use that name in particular?
• Moses is the most famous leader of the Jewish people, yet in today’s scripture he’s quite a sniveling, scaredy-cat; too afraid to speak in public because of his stutter and fearful of both the power of Pharaoh and the potential rejection by his people. Why would YHWH choose him to lead the people? How does his story bring you hope, or clarity about your own life?
• What invitation do you heard the Spirit of God speaking to you – or to us, as a church – to act, speak, be or change through this word of scripture?
CLICK HERE to Download the PDF Study Sheet that we’ll use for our class discussion at @capcoakland