We are excited to begin a new Stepping Stones series with you. We journeyed through Genesis a number of months ago, and now we will blog our way through the story of Exodus. The book of Exodus begins right where Genesis leaves off: Jacob’s sons settle in Egypt and the family grows from a small clan to an innumerable nation. We are told that a new Pharaoh came to power in Egypt who “did not remember Joseph” and who crafted a plan to enslave the Hebrews. “Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens… And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage-in mortar, in brick, and in all manner of service in the field” (Exodus 1:11-14, NKJV).
Of course, we know that God had a plan for Israel’s deliverance, and that plan began with the miraculous protection of Moses as an infant. Moses grew up knowing that there was a special purpose for his life. He knew that he was destined to play a critical role in Israel’s liberation. Acts 7:20-25 tells us, “At that time Moses was born-a beautiful child in God’s eyes… Moses was taught all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was powerful in both speech and action… Moses assumed his fellow Israelites would realize that God had sent him to rescue them…” Clearly, Moses was the guy for the job, right? He was a skilled statesman, a natural military leader. If anyone was going to mobilize the Hebrew masses into an organized revolt, there was no question that it would be Moses! And yet, we then read, “Moses assumed his fellow Israelites would realize that God had sent him to rescue them, but they didn’t… [They] pushed Moses aside. ‘Who made you a ruler and judge over us?'” Moses expected the Hebrews to recognize him as their hero and rally to his ranks. Moses thought he could make all this deliverance business happen in his own way and in his own timing. Moses was even ready to commit murder in order to get his plan rolling. But God was going to have to teach and “unteach” Moses a great many lessons before he was really ready to lead. And so, God sends Moses through a radical paradigm shift. Having fled Egypt, Moses eventually finds himself in a remote wilderness shepherding sheep. (Apparently, shepherding is one of God’s favorite training programs.) During this time, God will need to unteach Moses just about everything he had ever learned. Moses will have to give up his pride for humility, his impulsiveness for patience, his self-sufficiency for dependence on God.
As we come to the end of Exodus chapter 2, however, our attention is drawn away from Moses and back to the enslaved Hebrews:
But the Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act. (Exodus 2:23-25, New Living Translation)
Every one of us has (or will) find ourselves in some sort of “bitter bondage” at one point or another in our lives, some kind of “dark night of the soul” experience. During those trying times, it may seem like God is distant and silent. We may wonder if He really cares at all. But in those difficult seasons, we must remember that God hears, God sees, God knows, and God remembers… “He remembered his covenant promise.” God didn’t decide it was time to help the Israelites because they were such a wonderful group of people, did He? He didn’t choose to deliver them because of their good behavior or virtuous actions, but, rather, because He “remembered his covenant…” God chose to deliver Israel because He is a Promise Keeper. He did it because of who He was – not because of who they were.
God “knew it was time to act.” God’s timing can seem to be delayed and overdue. But that doesn’t mean that He isn’t working in the background to accomplish His plan. For one thing, we must remember that God chooses to do His work through people. Yes, God could have miraculously delivered Israel through an angel, but, instead, His “M.O.” is always to use people. The problem with that is… people are messy, people are stubborn, people are dysfunctional, and people take time, don’t they? But if God chooses to use people like Moses–sinful and dysfunctional–that must mean that he can also use people like you and me. I find that reality encouraging this morning, and I hope you do as well.