Many of us have known and loved the story of ‘Moses in the Bullrushes’ since childhood. It is indeed a charming story. But it is also a perplexing story. And, ultimately, a hugely encouraging story.
1. Be Charmed
Cruel Pharaoh is afraid that the Israelites will continue to grow in number and turn against him. First, he commands the Hebrew midwives to kill all the boys at birth. But they outwit him. Then, he orders that they all be cast into the Nile. Baby Moses is hidden by his mother for three months, and then cast into the Nile. In a little boat. Pharaoh’s daughter sees the little boat, takes a look, hears the baby crying, ‘and she felt sorry for him’, v6. Moses’ sister has been watching. “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” And she returns with Moses’ own mother. Some years later, Moses is handed back to the princess.
Consider the ironies:
- in a male-dominated system, it is women who show the intelligence, compassion, courage, and resourcefulness to do what is needed;
- Pharaoh’s murderous policy is undermined by his own daughter, who rescues the very person who would deliver Israel from Egypt’s clutches;
- Pharaoh’s chosen means of destruction – the Nile – becomes the means of rescue;
- Moses’ mother gets to do the thing she most wants to do, and is paid from Pharaoh’s budget;
- Moses receives a privileged education in Pharaoh’s court, equiping him for his future role as leader.
2. Be Perplexed
It’s a delightful story. But there is an underlying brutality which we cannot ignore. We don’t know how long Pharaoh’s killing spree lasted, or how many boys were slaughtered. But we do know that God’s people were suffering.
Why? Not because of their own sin. They were in the very place to which God has sent them: – Gen 46:1-4 “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down into Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again.”
Was God with them? And even if he was, why was everything happening so slowly? Between v10 and v11 is a 40-year gap. And between the end of chapter 2 and the beginning of chapter 3 is another 40-year gap. Time enough for an entire generation to be born into slavery, grow up in slavery, and grow old in slavery.
The story of Moses makes us face the days, weeks, and years of darkness that may be part of our experience. But, at the same time, it lifts the corner of the curtain to enable us to see that there is another story going on.
3. Be Encouraged
This is the story of God’s patience: –
God is being patient with the Egyptians. Their probation will continue right up until the 10th plague.
God is being patient with the Amorites. Gen 15:13ff “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and illtreated four hundred years…In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”
2 Pet 3:8f ‘But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’
Be encouraged: God’s patience is lasting. But be warned: it is not everlasting.
Rev 6:10 ‘“How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” …And they were told to wait a little longer…’
Rev 10:6 – “There will be no more delay! But…the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.”
Rev 11:15 – and finally the day will dawn when ‘the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.’
I said that God was being patient with the Egyptians and with the Amorites.
He is also being patient with Moses. He had the heart and education of a leader. But not yet the commission or empowerment of a leader. That will come next.