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The Story of Moses: The People God Rescues and the Way God Rescues


In 2008, some 16 years ago, in the city of Los Angeles, a pregnant mother cut into her custom made cake. The pink frosting underneath was a way of joyfully announcing to all there that day that she was having a baby girl. Her blog post about it all went viral, and as legend has it, the gender reveal party was born. 

Yes, that’s right, the gender reveal party. If you’re unfamiliar with this phenomenon, the idea is simply this: An expecting couple finds out whether they’re having a boy or girl, but rather than finding out from a doctor and through a ultrasound, the couple invites their friends and family over for a party, and then cuts into a cake to reveal pink or blue frosting or crushes a golf ball to reveal a blue or pink explosion, everyone’s there to celebrate, it’s a boy, or it’s a girl, and there you have it, it’s the gender reveal. 

And if you’re of a certain generation, you know that every expecting couple has a gender reveal at some point, it just so happens to take place in a delivery room, doctors and nurses are invited to celebrate, in fact, the whole thing is such a grand occasion that the couple will often stay for the night. That’s the original gender reveal. 

Exodus chapter 2 begins with, of all things, a gender reveal, however this reveal is not cause for celebration, but rather cause for great concern. Here again is what we find:

Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son.

Last week we began a new sermon series on the Old Testament book of Exodus, and if you were here with us last week, you immediately understand that we’ve got a problem here because here’s what we read at the end of chapter 1 last week, it’s the verse that immediately precedes our verse for today … 

“Then Pharoah gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile … “   

As we discovered, God’s people, the Israelites, found themselves as slaves in the land of Egypt, and the king of Egypt, from now on we’ll call him Pharoah as he’s so named, is so threatened by the growth and size of the Israelite people, that he declares a gender specific genocide, demanding that all the Hebrew baby boys be put to death. 

And here at the beginning of chapter 2, we learn that a Hebrew baby boy has been born. And so, the stage has been set, the tension is thick, the scene is tense. We’re left wondering, boy oh boy, what is going to happen next?

Four parts to today’s sermon, that’ll help us make our way through the text … 

The Rescue of Moses

The Rescue of God’s People

The People God Rescues

The Way God Rescues 

The Rescue of Moses

Last week we witnessed the wonderful scheming of two Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, who feared God and thwarted Pharoah’s plan to have all the baby boys be put to death. Well, here the wonderful scheming continues, in possibly an even more wonderful way, and it all unfolds here in verses 1 through 10. 

When she could hide Moses no longer, this is verse 3, Moses’s mother placed the baby in the Nile, the very place that baby boys were sent to die. And yet, she puts him in a basket, a floating car seat if you will, so that he might live another minute, another hour, another however. 

And who is it that finds this baby boy? It’s none other than Pharaoh's daughter herself. And it says in verse 6, “He [Moses] was crying, and she felt sorry for him.”   

Not missing a beat, here comes Moses’s older sister, with gumption and courage all her own, to Pharaoh's daughter, with a most timely and thoughtful suggestion … “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” 

Pharaoh's daughter takes her up on it and the sister brings the baby to none other than Moses’s mother herself. Mother and son reunited, not in secret, but rather with the blessing of the royal household. 

It’s all pretty darn great, and yet as great as that is, the crucial detail comes at the end of verse 10, as Pharaoh's daughter names the child, Moses, for the name Moses means, “to be drawn out” or as Pharaoh's daughter says, “I drew him out of the water.” 

It’s a foreshadowing of what’s to come. That just as Moses, the one who will lead the Israelites out of Egypt, was drawn out of the waters of death, God will draw his people out of oppression and slavery. That just as Moses experienced an exodus from the Nile, God’s people will experience an exodus out of Egypt.  

The Rescue of God’s People 

Which now brings us to point two and the end of Chapter 2. It’s the rescue of not just one person, but rather all of God’s people, or at least the initial signs of it. 

We’ll pick things up in verse 23, which are in my mind, some of the most beautiful and comforting passages in all of scripture, where it says, The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. 24 God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. 25 So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.

Notice the symmetry between the rescue of Moses and the foreshadowing here of the rescue of God’s people.

Just as Moses cried out from a basket in the Nile, so too God’s people cried for help in their slavery. And just as Pharaoh's daughter heard the cry of Moses and felt sorry for him and came to his rescue, so too God heard the cry of his people, was concerned about them and came to their rescue. 

It’s a reminder that our God hears the cries of his people, especially so with those who are oppressed and suffering. And it’s a reminder of what tremendous comfort that can bring and has brought God’s people throughout the years. 

For example, a few years ago a couple scholars wrote a book entitled The Genesis of Liberation, in which they explored what they called the "miracle" of how many African American slaves came to faith in Christ in midst of suffering and oppression.

And the authors described this reality as a “miracle,” because how could it be, that enslaved Africans would embrace the religion of their captors, some of whom used the Bible to justify the brutal trans-Atlantic slave trade?

Well, here’s how. Throughout the pages of scripture, slaves encountered a God who cared for the oppressed, who delivered the downtrodden from their abusers. And in Jesus, they found a suffering Savior whose life and struggles paralleled their own struggles.

God hears. God remembers. God looks. God is concerned by the cries of his people. Comforting indeed. 

Now when it says that God remembered his covenant the idea here is not that God forgot his covenant. In other words, it’s not as though God heard the cries of his people and thought “Oh my gosh, that’s right, I did promise I’d free these folks from slavery someday,” in the same way that we sometimes on our way home from the grocery store think to ourselves, “Oh gosh, that’s right, I was supposed to grab milk!”

Our God is not absent-minded and forgetful. Rather, the idea here behind this language is, “It’s time.” The time has come. The time has come for God to fulfill his covenant promises and lead his people out of slavery and begin their journey towards the Promised Land. 

Which brings us to an important and crucial observation as we remember that two things can be true at the same time. 

1) God always, always hears the cries of his people and

2) Sometimes in our suffering, God’s answer to our prayer is “not yet.” “It’s not yet time.” 

God always has a plan. God always has his own timing. And sometimes, it’s different from ours. 

When he made his covenant with Abraham years earlier, God warned them that before they would enter the Promised Land, before they would be a great nation and be a blessing to all the nations, they would first be slaves in the land of Egypt. For whatever reason, he is sending them on a journey through Egypt, that they might be an exodus shaped people, strengthened and formed by the crucible of suffering, that they might cling to God more having come out the other side.   

The rescue of Moses, the rescue of God’s people, third …

The people God rescues.

In between these two rescues, is a most perplexing story, I’d even go so far to describe it as rather unsettling.

Picking things back up in verse 11, after Moses was all grown up, we read this, 

He [Moses] went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. 12 Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 

What I find so unsettling about this part of the story is in trying to assess how we should feel or understand this act of violence on Moses’s behalf. Is this an outright sin, a violent and bloody fit of rage? Or are these the rare and unique circumstances of some kind of just and warranted killing, protecting and defending his own people against a vicious and oppressive enemy? I’m not sure. The text itself doesn’t really state how we should understand this act of violence on Moses’s behalf. All we really know is that Moses’s actions draw the wrath and scorn of Pharaoh, in which Moses becomes exiled out of Egypt, a fugitive on the run. 

And yet, here’s what’s really peculiar. The man who wrote all this is Moses himself, what we’re reading here is an autobiography of sorts. And if I were Moses, I’d omit this detail from the story as it certainly doesn’t seem to be the most flattering of accounts. And yet, Moses includes it. Why?

Well, this might be a bit of speculation, but I wonder if he does so to highlight the kinds of people God rescues. Not the perfect, but the flawed. Not the sinless, but the sinner. Not the worthy, but the unworthy. Not the deserving, but the undeserving. 

Here Moses recounts the story of a man who was lucky to be alive who took the life of another, the one who was saved by an Egyptian took the life of another Egyptian, and yet, as we’ll see soon in chapter 3, he’s the very man that God chooses to lead God’s people out of Egypt. 

Altogether, it underscores something that we’ll need to hold onto throughout this Exodus story. God doesn’t choose Moses, or choose the Israelite people because they’re the best or most deserving or whatever else, rather he chooses them because he chooses them. He loves them because he loves them, because he just does. 

Years later, as he writes the book of Deuteronomy, Moses will testify to this very reality, saying,  

The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples … But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery …

It’s a beautiful and sobering reminder that God doesn’t choose us because of our awesomeness, but rather because of his love for us. He chooses us because he chooses us, he loves us because he loves us, because he just does. It’s both as simple and mysterious as that. 

Years ago, when I was in my mid 20’s I went on a mission trip with the very high school ministry that I was once a part of as a student, and I remember having a conversation with one of the youth leaders, who was there when I was a high school student and still there years later. And he asked me, something to the effect of, “Daniel, so many of the kids you graduated with and went to youth group with have walked away from the faith, walked away from the church, and yet you’re still here. Why do you think that is?” 

I wasn’t really sure how to answer. In some respects, I could point to parents who took me to church, or a Christian community in high school and college that through their example made the good news of Jesus more believable, and yet, the truth was, my other friends had those things too and had left the faith. So what was it, what made the difference? Deep down, beneath the surface, I over time came to understand a deeper reality. I’m here because he keeps calling, he keeps choosing, he keeps nudging, he keeps loving me, and he won’t let me go. That’s all there is to it. 

Shoot, I shouldn’t even be a pastor. Nobody on either side of my family has ever been a pastor, all my immediate family went into medicine, and for whatever reason I nearly faint every time I give blood. I’m not supposed to be here, and yet here I am.

Some of you never imagined being inside this church, or any church for that matter, and yet here you are. You might be thinking, I’m not supposed to be here, and yet, here you are. Why?

Because God keeps calling, God keeps choosing, God keeps nudging, God keeps loving you, God won’t let you go, despite all the odds, imperfections, obstacles and all. That’s all there is to it.

The people God rescues.

And we’ll finish with this, it’s our fourth and final point, The Way God Rescues 

There’s a stunning, magnificent detail within this passage that’s an absolute must see, and yet, the trouble is you can’t see it in our English translations. 

Moses’s mother throws an absolute hail mary, she knows her baby boy is on borrowed time, and so she throws her son into the Nile, into the waters of death, and places him in a basket. 

And that word for basket, the Hebrew word tevah, is the exact same word that is used to describe Noah’s ark. In fact, it’s the only two occasions that the word is used throughout the entire Old Testament. 

Noah is saved, Noah and his family are rescued from the waters of judgment because he finds safety and security in an ark.

And Moses is saved, Moses is rescued from the waters of judgment because his mother places him in the safety and security of a basket, within an ark all his own. 

They each found shelter, they each were rescued by clinging to a wooden vessel. So too, we find shelter, we are rescued by clinging to a wooden cross on Calvary long ago.

You see, the very thing, the Nile River, that Pharaoh wanted to use to bring death, the Lord used to bring life, through a basket ark. And the very thing that years later, that the Romans wanted to use to bring death, a wooden cross, God used to bring life to us all. 

And so we cling to the cross, that we might be saved from the jaws of death, spared from the waters of judgment, that we might have life, in this life and the next.

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