Day 29: Moses Returns to Egypt
Exodus 4:21-23 God’s relationship with his people would be that of a father who guides his firstborn son. This identification would help preserve the way for a radically fuller revelation of himself through his Only-Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Through Baptism, we share in Christ’s Sonship, thereby becoming adopted children of God the Father. (CCC 238, 441, 2779-2782)
Ch 5:1-23 Moses was tested by the stubbornness not only of Pharaoh, who, in reprisal for Moses’ demands, punished the Israelites further, but also of his own people, who blamed Moses for their worsened condition. Moses served as their intercessor with Pharaoh in his role as mediator between God and his people. His prayer here is a perfect model: SIMPLE, HONEST, AND RESPECTFUL OF GOD. NOte how the people of Israel are recognized by their Twelve Tribes, which are the descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob/Israel. Christ would select his TWELVE APOSTLES as a sign that his Church is the FULFILLMENT OF THE PROMISE given to Israel. (CCC 2574-2575)
Leviticus 4:1-35 A Levitical priest, who was responsible for knowing the Law, was considered more culpable for his wrongdoings, even more so because of possible scandal. The major sin offerings of Chapters 1-3 had to be performed by the high priest, whereas the lesser sin offerings could be accomplished by any priest. (CCC 433, 578, 604, 615-616, 1854-1864, 1992, 2284-2286, 2326)
Psalm 46 The title of this psalm refers to God as our refuge and our strength. These descriptions emphasize the guaranteed assurance of God’s constant availability and grace. Given God’s steadfast love for us, no evil or danger can ever hinder us from fulfilling his plan. This psalm is another reminder that God is the Lord of history and NOTHING can occur without the consent of his will. In these verses, the image of water as a fearful storm representing evil is contrasted to the saving effects of water, which signify purification through GRACE.
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
Haggling was a part of life in the ancient Middle East, and in Exodus 4:1-17, Moses attempts to haggle with God about his mission to return to Egypt.
To Moses’ objection that the Israelites will not believe him, the Lord gives three incredible signs:
First, GOD TURNS MOSES’ STAFF INTO A SERPENT (in Hebrew, nahash, the identical word used to describe the tempter in Genesis 3). God commands Moses to seize the serpent by the tail, which then stiffens back into his staff, SHOWING THAT MOSES CAN TRIUMPH OVER EVIL IN GOD’S NAME.
Next, GOD TURNS MOSES’ HAND LEPROUS AND THEN HEALS THE LEPROSY, SHOWING HOW HE WILL SOON HEAL HIS PEOPLE OF THEIR MISERY.
Finally, GOD TURNS WATER FROM THE NILE TO BLOOD, SUGGESTING THAT GOD HAS NOT FORGOTTEN THE BLOOD OF ISRAEL’S CHILDREN SHED IN THE NILE.
God will soon act on Israel’s behalf. Moses is still not persuaded and puts forward a second objection: “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent … I am slow of speech and of tongue” (Ex 4:10).
Moses tries to get out of the mission by claiming that he is not sufficiently gifted.
The Lord responds: “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be your mouth and teach you what you shall speak” (Ex 4:11-12).
The Lord wants Moses to know that even though Moses does not feel suited to this monumental task, God has prepared him and given him the necessary gifts to do his will.
Moses has been preserved from an early death, educated in Pharaoh’s court, and even directed to Midian, where he has learned the paths to and around God’s holy mountain while shepherding Jethro’s flocks.
GOD TELLS MOSES WHAT HE TELLS US: HE USES EVERYTHING IN OUR LIVES FOR HIS PLAN…..EVERYTHING
Like the stories in the book of Genesis, the story of the Exodus is very familiar to many people.
Between children’s picture books and Hollywood movies, we can find ourselves overconfident of the details of this epic tale.
So it comes as a shock to many to realize that the first request made to Pharaoh was NOT total freedom from slavery and Egypt.
At God’s command, Moses requests of Pharaoh, “Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness” (Ex 5:1).
Moses reiterates, “Let us go, we beg, a three days’ journey into the wilderness, and sacrifice to the Lord our God” (Ex 5:3).
Moses does not ask Pharaoh to release the captives and let them leave Egypt forever, but only for a three-day retreat!
This often overlooked detail underscores what is the heart of God’s deliverance of his people.
God wanted to take the Israelites out of Egypt, to which they had assimilated in culture and belief, to get Egypt out of his people.
ISRAEL WASN’T SIMPLY PHYSICALLY ENSLAVED, THEY WERE ALSO SPIRITUALLY ENSLAVED
Mere political liberation would not overcome this problem.
Recognizing the intent of this original request redirects the whole focus of the Exodus from simply political freedom from Egypt, to freedom’s goal: FREEDOM FOR A RELATIONSHIP WITH THE ONE TRUE GOD.
Pharaoh’s response to this request is revealing: “I do not know the Lord, and moreover, I will not let Israel go” (Ex 5:2; emphasis added).
In Pharaoh’s mind, the God of the Hebrews was obviously not a powerful God or the Israelites would not be enslaved.
Exodus began with a Pharaoh who refused to “know” Joseph, and thus disregarded the rights of Israel.
Now there is a Pharaoh who refuses to “know” Yahweh, and disregards his right to have his firstborn son, Israel, serve him.
Pharaoh increases Israel’s work, denying the people rest and worship.
Here we encounter the THIRD THEME of the Exodus narrative: “serve.” The words “work” and “serve” are translated from the Hebrew verb avad (as a noun, avodah).
(What are the 3 THEMES of the Exodus narrative? Anyone? Bueller? They are NAME, KNOW, and SERVE. God reveals his “NAME” so that both Pharaoh and God’s people will come to “KNOW” the Lord. In coming to “KNOW” the Lord, God’s people discover the true nature of service and worship, as well as Whom they are called to “SERVE.”.......mic drop)
In the Hebrew, avad has two meanings: it means “TO WORK” as in “LABOR AT A TASK,” as well as “TO WORSHIP” in reference to God; so avad means both “to work” and “to worship.”
The question is will Israel serve Pharaoh or Yahweh?
The God of the Hebrews challenges Pharaoh, “Israel is my first-born son, and I say to you, ‘Let my son go that he may serve me’; if you refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay your first-born son” (Ex 4:22-23).
God’s challenge strikes us as harsh, but it MUST be read in light of the narrative.
Exodus opened with Pharaoh killing God’s firstborn son, throwing Israel’s male children into the Nile.
Now God is telling Pharaoh, “Let my people go or you will reap in your own family what you have sown in my family.”
Pharaoh obstinately responds, “Let heavier work be laid upon the men that they may labor at it and pay no regard to lying words” (Ex 5:9; emphasis added).
Pharaoh accuses Moses, and thus Moses’ God, of lying.
THE SERPENT (SATAN) USED THIS SAME TRICK WHEN HE IMPLIED THAT GOD LIED TO ADAM AND EVE!!!!
AND NOW PHARAOH TAKES HIS PLACE AS THE ENEMY OF GOD.
TWENTY TIMES in the opening chapters of Exodus we are told of PHARAOH’S HARDENING HEART.
TEN TIMES God hardens Pharaoh’s heart, TEN TIMES it is Pharaoh himself.
The Hebrew word translated “harden” is kaved, “to make heavy,” and a heavy heart had a particular significance for ancient Egyptians.
Among the tombs and temples in ancient Egypt it was common to find inscriptions depicting the final judgment of the dead as carried out by the weighing of a person’s heart on a scale.
Each heart was weighed against a feather representing truth and justice.
If someone’s heart was heavy, that person was condemned.
In the Exodus narrative, Pharaoh’s heart is being weighed against the scales of truth and justice.
Each time he refuses to follow God’s command and acts against God and justice, his heart becomes heavier.
God is making Pharaoh’s heart heavy inasmuch as he gives a just command that Pharaoh refuses to follow.
In the end, the heaviness of Pharaoh’s heart will condemn him—not because God forced him to harden his heart but because he was found wanting in his response to the demands of justice and truth.
(*Walking With God: A Journey Through the Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)
Here is God calling Moses
He has revealed His Sacred Name
Whenever we see THE LORD in Scripture, it is a reverent way to indicate that the word isn’t simply “lord”
“Elohim” is originally the Sacred Name of God, “I AM WHO I AM”
This is also known as the TETRAGRAMMATON….YHWH
Whenever we see LORD, that is God being referred to by His proper name that he revealed to Moses
Why is this important?
In the ancient world, they had a deeper appreciation for PROPER NAMES
In the ancient world, to know someone’s name was understood as BEING IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH THEM
It was understood as there now being a certain vulnerability in knowing another person’s name and their name being revealed to you
Here is God who is DISTANT
Here is God who is OMNIPOTENT
Here is God who is OMNIPRESENT
And now God is making Himself INTIMATE
He is REVEALING HIMSELF in a PERSONAL WAY
This personal God has now called on Moses to go to Pharaoh
It is interesting to see Moses is still unconvinced that this LORD GOD will be with him and be enough, even though he witnessed THREE MIRACLES
Moses defers and asks for his brother Aaron to speak instead
God is basically saying, “Yo, Moses, you don’t even actually know me yet. I’ve revealed my NAME to you, but you don’t yet know the depth to which you can TRUST ME. I am the God of your fathers. I am largely unknown to you.”
Remember, the family of Israel has been living in slavery for almost 400 YEARS.
They have held onto the stories of the LORD GOD revealing HImself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
You can imagine the degree to which God would still be largely UNKNOWN to them
You can understand how Moses would be hesitant, and even has reason to be hesitant in trusting God because Pharaoh could destroy his life with a snap of his fingers.
When Moses and Aaron tell the people of Israel that the Lord God wants to set them free, Pharaoh wonders why they want to be set free.
They want to be set free to SERVE
In this context TO SERVE means TO WORSHIP (ALWAYS KEEP THIS IN MIND)
The goal of freedom is not just simply freedom for freedom’s sake
Not just FREEDOM FROM
But FREEDOM FOR
Freedom for WHAT?
FREEDOM FOR WORSHIP, TO BE ABLE TO WORSHIP THE LORD GOD
Pharaoh basically says that if you have enough time to devote to things other than work, then he will give them more work.
The people of Israel are now angry at Moses and Aaron
They say Moses and Aaron have interrupted their lives
Moses and Aaron are incredulous
The Israelites would rather be left alone to remain slaves.
There is a weird paradox here (Sort of reminds me of Brooks from The Shawshank Redemption who would rather remain in prison than be set free)
There is also something remarkable here that we can apply to our lives
Many of us are Pharaohs to ourselves
We make ourselves SO BUSY that we don’t have time to think about God
We have made ourselves into SLAVES by saying, “I HAVE TO DO THIS” or “I HAVE TO DO THAT”.
“I’VE SET UP A PACE OF LIFE FOR MYSELF THAT IS UNMANAGEABLE IF I EVEN TAKE A BREAK.”
“I’VE SET UP A PACE FOR MY LIFE THAT NECESSITATES THAT I CANNOT STOP GOING.”
We don’t have time in our lives for WORSHIP
WE HAVE MADE OURSELVES INTO SLAVES, SO MANY OF US
One of the things the LORD GOD reveals today is that His people ARE NEVER MEANT TO BE SLAVES
NOT A SLAVE TO PHARAOH
NOT A SLAVE TO THE PHARAOHS THAT LIVE INSIDE OF US
We are meant to be FREE
Free to truly BELONG to God
Free to truly WORSHIP
As we move forward into this day, let’s find time in our lives TO WORSHIP
To not be a slavemaster to ourselves
To allow ourselves to have that freedom to be able to stop
The freedom to SEEK THE LORD’S VOICE
The freedom to BE STILL AND KNOW THAT HE IS GOD
The freedom to PRAY FOR EACH OTHER
Prayer by Fr. Mike: "Lord God in Heaven, we give you praise. We thank you so much. We give you praise and glory for who you are. You are the one God. Living and true you are the one who has come and visited your people. You are with us right now. God, you are in our midst. You are in our midst. And so what you invite us to do is to be still, and to know that you are in our midst. To be still and know you. To be still and to know that you are our God. So help us. Help us this day in the midst of our business to be still. In the midst of our tumult, in the midst of our slavery, in the midst of our redemption, in the midst of our being set free, our liberation, in the midst of our vocation, help us to take this time to be still and to know that you are God. We make this prayer in Jesus’ mighty name. Amen."
Moses' hesitation to take the call, because he is not well spoken, calls to mind Christ's instruction to his disciples to not worry about that so much. Any of us can evangelize by putting our trust in the Lord to guide us to live and speak as witnesses to Christ.
Pharoah serves as a type for Satan, and how often we act as the Israelites when our lives become more burdened, particularly when we desire to turn away from our sins and grow closer to God. Very often when we try to repent, Satan intensifies his attack on our spirituality, increasing the temptations and burdens, trying to convince us that "all will be well and back to normal if we just give up and give in."
Side-by-side comparisons between the Sin Offering and the Eucharist (and also in certain ways the Sacrament of Reconciliation).