Help is on the way
Jimmy the headgehog sat listening raptly to the pastor's sermon. The
lion behind the pulpit spoke passionately about obeying the prompting
of the Holy Spirit. Jimmy nodded. He wanted to serve God's will, only
what could he do? He was only a hedgehog and possessed no special
skills. Still, he vowed in his heart to the Lord that he would do
whatever the Spirit told him to.
Later that day, Jimmy was compelled to drive to the grocery store. He
did not understand why, but he did as God bid. Once there, he was
compelled to buy a jug of milk. Though confused as to why he was doing
this, Jimmy obeyed. As he was heading home, his attention turned to a
house, though he did not see any reason it should be. The Spirit nudged
him to go up to the house, ring the bell, and give the milk to the
person inside. Feeling like a fool, the hedgehog did exactly that. He
rang the doorbell, and when a large cat answered the door, he held up
the jug of milk and said "this is for you."
The cat's eyes welled with tears. "How did you know?" he asked. "I
can't tell you what this means to us. We have run out of money, there
is no food in the house, and we have been praying desperately for some
milk to feed the baby!"
This is a true story.
Have you ever been praying for something and wondered if God was even
listening to you because there seemed to be no response? Ever wonder
"have I done something wrong? Is that why God won't help me?" How many
worried months have you spent waiting for help that seems never to
come, even though you are certain you've gven God no reason to ignore
you? Guess what. You're not alone.
It was 400 years since Joseph had first come to Egypt and
saved the nation from a famine. Israel had been living in Egypt, in the
area of Goshen, peacefully farming and herding sheep and cattle, being
good neighbors and keeping out of trouble. It is also worth noting that
these are the only people who did not work for Pharoh. During the
famine, everyone but Pharoh's priests was forced to sell themselves
into slavery to Pharoh to pay for the food they bought once their money
ran out. Egyptian law was not like Hebrew law. (which technically did
not exist yet) A man's descendants remained in the same caste as him.
Thus, (almost) all Egyptians were slaves and all Hebrews were free. Yet
all of this was turned upside-down one day when somewhere within those
400 years, the pharoh at the time feared a Hebrew uprising and forced
Israel into slavery.
While it is true that God permitted slavery, He set up certain
rules. It was supposed to be a consetual arrangement and the master was
supposed to take care of the slave's needs. The slave was then to be
released in the year of jubilee with everything he would need to stay
on his feet. What the pharoh did is closer to the abominable practice
common in the American south in our early years. It was detestable in
So why did God allow the Israelites to suffer for so long? His
people had done nothing wrong. They were far more sinned against than
sinning, to borrow a phrase from Anne McCaffrey. They prayed and cried
out day after day for deliverance from their oppressors, yet for many,
many years, God did not answer. At least it seemed that way. What was
he waiting for?
There is a story which springs to mind about Thor. I do not
usually like to talk about pagan gods in a flattering manner, but this
story illustrates the point quite nicely. A goblin mage had siezed
control of an asteroid and was sending it toward Valhalla. He would
destroy it if Odin did not relinquish his throne. Meanwhile, a ship
lost at sea during a storm was begging for a sign to show them the way
home. Thor offered to fight the goblin, but Odin told him instead to
gather a sack full of fine food. The goblin was sure that he would be
destroying Valhalla, but Thor informed him that he could have destroyed
the asteroid at any time. He had not because Odin bade him to stay his
hand until that precise moment. When Thor destroyed the asteroid, the
flash of light served as a beacon to the sailors, who arrived safely
home and found a feast waiting, left there by Odin himself.
In the matter of the enslavement of Israel, God wanted to do
much more than simply deliver his people out of a terrible situation.
The timing and circumstances had to be just right in order to
accomplish everything that was planned. Through the exodus, God would
demonstrate His power and love to the world.
Enter Moses. Born at just the right time, when Hebrew children
were under the threat of death from the pharoh, Moses was kept hidden
until he could be hidden no longer. His mother, Jochabed, placed him in
a basket and set him adrift on the river, trusting him to God's care.
God took the basket to the place where the princess was bathing. She
drew him out of the water and called him "Moses", meaning "drawn out".
This name takes on a special signifcance when applied to our
extended metaphor of the river of history. Moses was not special. He
was an ordinary levite boy born to an ordinary levite couple. Even the
levites were not special at that time. But God chose him out of all the
children of Israel to become something special. Moses would become the
first ruler of Israel, second only to God Himself. He would be the
deliverer who saved his people from slavery. He would be the
representation of God to the people of the entire Earth, not just
during the exodus, but for all time. To this day, we celebrate the
things that Moses accomplished in the name of God.
But to come to the point where all of this could be
accomplished, Moses had to be three things. He had to be a Hebrew, he
had to be Egyptian royalty, and he had to be familiar with Midian. Now
the reason why he had to be a Hebrew is obvious. It would take a Hebrew
to rescue the Hebrews, to become their leader, and to follow through,
spending the rest of his life shepherding them until they reached the
promised land. He had to be familiar with Midian because that was where
Israel would be going, where Saudi Arabia is today. But why Egyptian
Never in human history has God performed a series of miracles
like those of the exodus. Oh, He has performed some great ones. The
flood, for instance, was a single, devastating miracle. The miracles of
Jesus were wondrous, bringing the dead to life, making the blind see
and providing for every kind of need. The miracles of the Holy Spirit
are often less flashy, but nonetheless life-changing, including the
speaking of languages never learned, words of knowledge and using
compulsion to meet needs, as in our opening story. But before there is
mercy, there must be law. Before God spares us His wrath, we have to
know just what it is we're being spared from. God planned to really
open up the floodgates and pour out his power so that the world would
understand the He alone is God. He alone is all-powerful, just,
righteous, holy, and compassionate to those who humble themselves and
call on His name. For that, he needed an adversary truly worthy of his
wrath. Enter Ramses. (I don't know for sure that this was his name.
Some documents call him Achmose, but Ramses is traditional, so we'll
call him Ramses.) The pharohs who had come before Ramses were
hard-heatred, but none of them were like him, and that was exactly how
God wanted it. It would take very little to keep Ramses fighting God
and acting as the canvas on which Yaweh could paint a picture of
We should be clear here- God did not make Ramses do anything.
God hardened the man's heart, when it was needed, which it often
wasn't, but the decisions which Ramses made were purely his own. And I
wonder if God really had to do anything active to him anyway. What
Ramses did is to behave exactly the way a man behaves when everything
that God is has been removed. It is conceivable that all God had to do
to harden Pharoh's heart was keep quiet.
But getting back to the question, Ramses was a terrible man,
and a terrible man was what God needed. The deliverer would have to
speak to this man who had the power to take away the life of anyone in
Egypt and deliver God's ultimatums, knowing full well that he would not
listen. That person would have to be close enough to Pharoh to enter
and leave the palace at will without great threat from Pharoh himself.
Not that God could not have protected Moses, but if he were just
another Hebrew, he would never have been allowed audience with Ramses.
Moses was raised as an Egyptian prince. We don't know whether
he knew he was a hebrew, but if he didn't, he found out, and his heart
was with his people. Moses murdered an Egyptian taskmaster for beating
a Hebrew. When he discovered that his crime was known, he fled to
Midian and lived there for forty years, until his encounter with the
burning bush. He got married and made a living herding sheep.
Altogether, it was eighty years before God summoned Moses back to
Egypt. Now there's a long wait. During that time, many Hebrews died,
finding their liberation only by entry into paradise. No doubt, they
wondered why God had not answered their prayers, never knowing about
the delivered whom God had been preparing for eighty long years, to
bring him into play at exactly the right moment.
So when you think that God is not listening to your prayers
and you don't know why, remember the Hebrews, waiting so many years for
their deliverer. They didn't know it, but help was on the way. It may
well be that while you can't see anything just yet, your prayers have
moved God to act in a powerful way that will leave you stunned when it
all finally becomes visible.
Today's reading: Exodus 2:1-10
2:1 Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman,
2 and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months.
3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket
for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in
it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile.
4 His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.
5 Then Pharaoh's daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her
attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among
the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it.
6 She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. "This is one of the Hebrew babies," she said.
7 Then his sister asked Pharaoh's daughter, "Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?"
8 "Yes, go," she answered. And the girl went and got the baby's mother.
9 Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Take this baby and nurse him for
me, and I will pay you." So the woman took the baby and nursed him.
10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh's daughter
and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, "I drew him out of