Friday, March 4
Reader: “I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment.”
Response: “I will claim you as my own people.”
Scripture: Exodus 6:1-13
Then the Lord told Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh. When he feels the force of my strong hand, he will let the people go. In fact, he will force them to leave his land!”
And God said to Moses, “I am Yahweh—‘the Lord.’ I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty’—but I did not reveal my name, Yahweh, to them. And I reaffirmed my covenant with them. Under its terms, I promised to give them the land of Canaan, where they were living as foreigners. You can be sure that I have heard the groans of the people of Israel, who are now slaves to the Egyptians. And I am well aware of my covenant with them.
“Therefore, say to the people of Israel: ‘I am the Lord. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. I will claim you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God who has freed you from your oppression in Egypt. I will bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will give it to you as your very own possession. I am the Lord!’”
So Moses told the people of Israel what the Lord had said, but they refused to listen anymore. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go back to Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and tell him to let the people of Israel leave his country.”
“But Lord!” Moses objected. “My own people won’t listen to me anymore. How can I expect Pharaoh to listen? I’m such a clumsy speaker!”
But the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron and gave them orders for the Israelites and for Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. The Lord commanded Moses and Aaron to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt.
Let’s look a little deeper at this account. Things are developing on several levels. First, it is important to remember that Pharaoh considered himself a god to be worshiped and obeyed. When the Israelites wanted to go to the desert to worship their God, that was an affront to the Egyptian ruler. So one of the dynamics transpiring is that God is directly confronting Pharaoh on his claim (and on his gods via the coming plagues). Moses is the mouthpiece delivering this message.
Second, in the past God had appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El-Shaddai meaning “God Almighty.” That may be the only name they knew; we don’t know. God established his covenant with the patriarchs roughly 600 years earlier in promising that the land of Canaan would be their home. God’s covenant was with an individual, Abraham, and then with a family, Isaac and Jacob. Now hundreds of years later, God is unfolding his covenant with a vast nation of more than one million people! The people have heard of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They even have the 400 year old bones of Joseph in their possession!
So here, in response to Moses’ complaint to God about doing nothing to help his people, God reminds Moses of their encounter on Mt. Sinai. It was there that he asked God, “Who shall I say sent me?” upon learning he was to deliver the Israelites from the hand of Pharaoh. God gave Moses a name previously unknown to him, Yahweh, meaning “The LORD.”
What is happening here? The people of Israel have not experienced the hand of God. In a nutshell, they didn’t really know God first hand. They had just heard about him. There was no intimacy with the LORD. He was more of an idea to them, not a relational God. So God reassured Moses that he did hear the groans of his people and that he had not forgotten his covenant promise to them. In fact, he was laying the groundwork to give his people their own first hand experience with their covenant keeping God. This truth is underscored with the sentence, “I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. I will claim you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God who has freed you from your oppression in Egypt.”
God’s desire always is that his children know him intimately. One of the purposes of the Exodus is for his people to experience him first hand, now they would encounter God for themselves. To know implies intimate knowledge and experience. It is the same word used to describe human sexual relations as in the case of Adam and Eve. (Gen.4:1)
In focusing on their terrible circumstances, the people were not interested in listening to Moses’ words. But God did not give up and sent both Moses and Aaron back to Pharaoh with the same message: let the people go. Even if the people refused to listen to God’s words of deliverance, God continued on course. Because of the people’s closed mind to God’s word, what should have been a week and a half trip to Canaan took forty years and that generation of Israelites never did see the Promised Land even though they experienced crossing the Red Sea! You’ll recall through their own disobedience to the LORD, Moses and Aaron likewise failed to enter the Canaan.
Centering our attention on the immediate troubling or fearful circumstances because those are what we can see and hear, can be a great hindrance to faith and trusting God. The Israelites didn’t know God at this point and so had trouble putting their faith in him and his word. They had no intimacy with God. I’m wondering when we are fearful of things in the world in which we live, is it because we know more about God than knowing God himself? Cultivate intimacy with God; you’ll find it is more rewarding than the journey itself.
Music: “Holy is God the Lord” from Elijah Oratorio Gabrieli Consort
Holy, holy, holy is God the Lord
The Lord of Sabaoth
Now his glory hath filled all the earth.
O make thy way plain before my face. Support me this day under all the difficulties I shall meet with. I offer myself to Thee, O God, this day to do in me, and with me, as to thee seems most meet―Amen. Thomas Wilson 1663-1755 from Prayers Ancient and Modern, p.149