Exodus 1:8-2:10 Psalm 124 Romans 12:1-8 Matthew 16:13-20
Moses, Moses, Moses. It sure is a most interesting name. Does it mean exactly what the text says it does? Or does it mean a bit more than what Pharaoh’s daughter says it does?
Moses is a word that can be found in three languages. In Egyptian, it could be related to the word ‘Mose,’ which means “son of.” Knowing that the Pharaoh who ruled Egypt may have been Seti, Moses may mean *son of Seti.” In Old Egyptian it could mean “born.” This takes on an intriguing perspective she we realize that Moses was taken out of the Nile River by Pharaoh’s daughter!
The Hebrew word ‘Moses’ is said to be “pulled from,” like “I pulled him from the river.” Yet the Jews could also see it meaning, “he pulled from the river.” As we realize that Moses pulled Israel out of Egypt, across the Sea of Reeds, we may find the appropriate meaning of Moses’ name!
To understand the situation in which Moses was born, we look who his people are and to whom his people belonged. It is a question that we repeatedly have to answer for ourselves,”Who are we?” This is a question that Israel has to answer as well. The other question, “To whom do we belong?” is also a question that aids our knowing our place in this world.
A.Who are we?
- Joseph had saved his family by bringing them to Egypt during the drought (he also saved Egypt!). From 70 people, Israel had now grown into a people of 600,000 fighting men! It has been approximately 350 years since Israel has been in Goshen (Exodus 12:40-41 430 years minus 80 years of Moses’ life). They had grown in number and in strength – the land was filled with them!
- A king had arisen in Egypt who did not know Joseph & what had done for Egypt He calls Jacob’s descendants, “Israelites.” Yet, The midwives & Pharaoh’s daughter call them “Hebrews.” The term “Hebrews” means a marginal group of people with no social standing, own no land, & endlessly disrupt ordered society (from an Arabic word); could become mercenaries, slaves, or terrorists. Yet, the king of Egypt (an insult to a “Pharaoh” – great house) called them Israelites.
- Israel was large in number, but they were being treated as slaves. Egypt’s king orders 3 tasks to limit the growth of Israel. First, there would be hard work – and the Egyptians were ruthless in how they treated them (if they work hard & for long days, maybe they won’t produce any children!). Then he told the midwives kill newborn Israelite boys (This didn’t work – the Hebrew women were more vigorous in giving birth than the Egyptian women!). Losing all rationality, Pharaoh ordered all of Egypt throw the Hebrew baby boys into the river!
- Because the midwives feared God, they did not listen to Pharaoh. Whether these were Egyptian or Israelite women who were midwives, the text is not clear. What is clear is that Pharaoh did not know who he was dealing with. In persecuting God’s people, Pharaoh was helping them to grow. We even see in history that when the early church was persecuted, it grew in ways that the government could not control it. It is also clear that Israel had no one to speak for them, yet. It is also clear that God blessed Israel. But did they realize that is what was going on? Maybe one of the Israelite people could speak for them?
B. Yet, Israel had to figure out, “To whom do we belong?”
- Pharaoh was acting like he owned Israel! He was irrational in dealing with Israel – kill the male babies, yet let the women live? Everyone heard the order, ” Throw every male child into the Nile.” So, a Levite woman did just that – with the baby boy in a basket! You have to appreciate Jewish humor – watch what you say to them, they just might do it, with a twist!
- While she was bathing, Pharaoh’s daughter found a baby boy floating in a basket! (Bathing doesn’t get us noticed by God, but being born from water does – baptism! This is when God lays claim on us and we acknowledge this claim.). Pharaoh’s daughter named the baby boy, “Moses” – what a name! Moses is then raised as an Egyptian in Pharaoh’s court.
- Later Moses will kill an Egyptian for beating an Israelite! And Moses would identify that he belongs to Israel, plus Israel’s God, and he does not belong to Egypt, or Pharaoh..
- It will take the Exodus from Egypt for Israel to know to whom they belong. But God has already started to work to bring them out of Egypt. It will be through Moses that he does this work. It will be when Moses figures out that he belongs to God, not Pharaoh, that his work will begin. Whether we have been from water, and the Spirit, as an infant or an adult, we too can know to whom we belong. Baptism is the time that we receive our names from God as his children, much like Moses received his name from Pharaoh’s daughter when she pulled him from the river. You may be raised to be like any other person in this world, but when God lays claim on you through baptism, you will discover to whom you belong. Then you can start the work that God has for you. And it just might be to deliver a people in this land who do not know God, yet!
Who are we? For Israel, they were a people who were ruled by Pharaoh. This was done in spite of what Joseph had done for Egypt. For us, we are a people born to God through baptism. We are God’s children.
To whom do we belong? For Israel, they are a people persecuted by Pharaoh and the rest of Egypt. Yet God is working a plan to get them out of Egypt. Moses will be quite instrumental in delivering Israel from Egypt. For us, we are not being persecuted, but we are being controlled by sin. And God has a way for us to get away from sin. Jesus is the one who can deliver us from sin. When we are delivered from sin, then we receive our new name from God when we are baptized. It is through baptism that we know to whom we belong. It is through God delivering us through Jesus Christ that we find the work that God has for us.
Have you found who you are? It is through God that you can find your identity. Have you found to whom you belong? It is through baptism that you find you belong to God. Otherwise, you don’t belong to anyone, no one will defend you, and you won’t have any idea what you are to do with your life. You may have been raised to be like everyone else, but is God who will raise you up to be like Jesus, his Son.
(Some of the references to this sermon are found in http://www.textweek.com and The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, Volume 1. )