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Jan 26 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 21, 2018 – Exodus Chapter 2

Safe and Sound

Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got him a wicker basket and covered it over with tar and pitch. Then she put the child into it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to find out what would happen to him.
The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the Nile, with her maidens walking alongside the Nile; and she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid, and she brought it to her. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the boy was crying. And she had pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call a nurse for you from among the Hebrew women that she may nurse the child for you? Exodus 2:1-7

Intro: In chapter 1, we saw how severe discomfort forces us to change

Here, in chapter 2, we see how comfort tempts us to settle in
– the plot in today’s episode is keeping Moses alive
• suspense is raised at his birth and resolved three months later
• then, in his early adulthood, suspense rises when his life is again in jeopardy
◦ it is resolved when Moses finds a home in the Sinai Peninsula and settles down

1-4 Pharaoh’s command (the baby should have been thrown into the Nile)

Later on, we’ll learn the names of Moses’ parents
– but for now, they remain anonymous — they are “stock characters”
• the storyteller wants to focus our attention on the baby
• it is not difficult to imagine what went through the mother’s heart
◦ beautiful (Hebrew, tov): good, healthy, put together well–a keeper
– so she gathered papyrus from Nile, wove a basket and waterproofed it
• KJV “ark” same word as Noah’s boat and later on the Ark of the Covenant
◦ a box or chest – the items placed in each ark were precious
◦ the purpose of placing items (persons) inside was to preserve them
• “technically,” she did place her baby in the Nile
◦ we learn that the baby had an older sister who stuck around
◦ for the time being, the baby is relatively safe floating in the reeds

We’re still at beginning of story and two interesting developments emerge:

  1. the conflicts that drive the plot are caused by men
  2. the heroes who resolve the plot’s tension are all women
    • beginning with the midwives in chapter 1
    • now Moses’ mother, his sister and soon . . .

5-10 Of all people, it was Pharaoh’s daughter who discovered the baby

She came with her entourage of maidens to bathe in the Nile
– in every other instance of bathe in Exodus, it refers to a ritual purification
• Pharaoh’s daughter spotted the small basket stuck in the reeds
◦ she sent one of her servants to fetch it
◦ when she removed lid, the baby cried
– she recognized this as one of the Hebrew’s children
(who else would have risked setting their baby adrift in the Nile?)
• right then, Moses’ sister appeared and volunteered to find a Hebrew wet nurse
◦ Pharaoh’s daughter gave a one word answer, Go!
◦ not a negotiation, but a command
• the girl ran off and came back with her mother
◦ so Moses’ mother was paid to nurse and raise her own son

The child grew – this is another way to say, “Time passed”
– but we notice the passing of time without our attention moving from the child
• the storyteller uses the same device in verse 11, where the child is suddenly an adult
• we have not witnessed forty years pass,
◦ we have witnessed the child grow into adulthood by stages
– no names have been used in this episode until now, when the baby is named
• “Moses” sounds like a Hebrew word for drawn out
◦ this is a name with a destiny
◦ Moses was drawn out of the Nile, from his own people and then Egypt
• however, Moshe (Hebrew) means “one who draws out”
◦ also another name with a destiny–one that will soon be fulfilled
◦ but that is getting ahead of ourselves

11-15 The storyteller isn’t interested in filling in the time gaps

We are hearing only the highlights, the turning points in Moses’ life
– one day he leaves the palace to observe what life is like for his people
• no explanation is given for why he feels affinity with the Hebrews
◦ after all, he was royalty and they were slaves
• it could be, he was always made to feel like an outsider
◦ in Genesis we learn that Egyptians would not eat at the same table with Joseph
◦ and this, in spite of the fact that only the Pharaoh was greater than he

. . . the Egyptians could not eat bread with the Hebrews, for that is [disgusting] to the Egyptians (Ge. 43:32)

◦ perhaps this explains why Moses was drawn to connect with his people
– there is no reason to assume he was already thinking of Israel’s liberation
• I think attacking the Egyptian was spontaneous – an act of outrage
◦ it was triggered by seeing the cruelty of one person in power toward a defenseless Hebrew
• after making sure no one was looking,
◦ Moses unleashed the same treatment on the Egyptian that the Egyptian afflicted on the slave
struck down translates the same word for beating – only, the Egyptian died

Moses was now in this situation up to his neck
– he returned next day to continue his survey of the situation
• but this time he witnessed a skirmish between two Hebrews
◦ this must have baffled him
• he had seen how they were mistreated by the Egyptians
◦ why add to that by mistreating each other
– when Moses tried to break them up,
• the man who started the fight asked him,

Who made you a prince or a judge over us? Are you intending to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?

◦ Moses thought he had covered up his crime
◦ but word reached Pharaoh and Moses hit the road

16-22 Imagine we were Hebrews in 800 BC hearing this story

When the storyteller comes to part where Moses sat by a well,
– we would all be saying, “Ooh yeah!” smiling and nodding
• because we know what happens when a single man comes to a well
(or, as in Isaac’s case, is represented at a well)
◦ he meets a single woman and they end up married (cf. Gen. 24; 29:1-12)
• seven sisters arrived at the well with their father’s sheep
◦ but local shepherds threatened them and drove the away
◦ Moses saw this and stepped in to defend them and watered their flocks
– this looks like the same sort of situation that incited Moses to attack the Egyptian
• he witnessed abuse, sympathized with the abused, and jumped in
◦ he’s young and he’s strong enough to do something, so he does something
◦ it is not a bad quality, but can result in wrong if impulsive or one goes too far
• “helped” is the Hebrew word for saved – the next time we come to it is in chapter 14

Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians (Ex. 14:30)

Now the storyteller begins naming other people (e.g., Reuel, Zipporah and Gershom)
– other names by now are no threat to Moses
(his position at center stage has been well established)
• when the sisters returned early, their father wanted to know why
◦ they told him about the Egyptian man – identified by his clothes and bearing
◦ in Russia we were told, “We can always spot an American, even in the way they walk”
• their father asked, Where is he? and sent them back to the well to invite him to eat bread
◦ Moses was welcomed, fed, and shown hospitality
◦ these signaled a safe environment–at last
– Moses was given a wife and they had their first child
• he was beginning to settle into his new life

23-25 As we come to the end of the chapter . . .

Moses’ situation is opposite of his people
– we’re told that the king of Egypt died
• a fact that seems irrelevant to Moses’ new life
◦ nor did it change anything for Israel
◦ they were  still in slavery and suffering
• four words capture their misery:

  1. sighed: an expression of heartache (four times in the first chapter of Lamentations)
  2. cried out: like a shriek or scream
  3. cry for help: occurs often in the prayers of the Psalms
  4. groaning: or moaning, as of people who mourn

– according to Stephen Porges, the human brain responds to sounds in such a way that

“… high-pitched screams from another mammal (not just our children, but also our dogs and cats) elicit a sense of urgent concern or empathy for another who may be feeling pain or injured.”

• did Israel’s cries affect God in this way?
• four words describe how God experienced Israel’s cries:

  1. heard their groaning
  2. remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
  3. saw the sons of Israel
  4. knew (simply this one word–and that is enough)

There is a minor theme that runs through this chapter
– a person will see and then act or a person will hear and then act

  • Moses’ mother saw and then acted to save her baby
  • Pharaoh’s daughter saw the basket and acted to retrieve it
  • Pharaoh’s daughter heard the baby’s cry and acted as his rescuer
  • Moses saw the Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave and acted 
  • Pharaoh heard what Moses had done and acted

– now we are told God heard Israel’s groaning and saw their distress
• so the question we are left with for now is, Will God also act too?

Conclusion: I mentioned that Moses “saved” Reuel’s daughters

The first section of Exodus is about salvation, and the lesson is never forgotten
– the same word for saved is part of Jesus’ name
• another form of the same word is translated safety
– in many of our Wednesday night meetings we’ve discussed judging others
• it is a behavior we want to eliminate from out lives
• but what we have not discussed very much is it what it feels like to be judged

Again, Stephen Porges reports that being judged (or evaluated) by another person puts our bodies in a defensive state, throwing our nervous system into stress mode (fight or flight). “When we are in a defensive state, then we are using metabolic resources to defend. It’s not merely that we can’t be creative or loving when we’re scared; we can’t heal.” He explains how this compromises our ability to regulate our emotions and reactivity or to interact with another person so that we are able to co-regulate each other’s emotional state–a process that normally occurs in social engagement. Both the brain and body require safety to achieve and maintain optimum health. So knowing that someone is judging us, sends an alarm through our nervous system and prevents us from deriving the relational benefits of our interaction. The brain’s “social engagement system” is available only when feel safe.
“It is this [neural] system that not only facilitates social interaction and enables social interaction to foster growth, health and restoration, but also has the capacity to down-regulate our reactions and the neural circuits that evolved for defense.” (Porges, A Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory: The Transformative Power of Feeling Safe.)

Qualities of a safe person or group include:

  • the assurance that we are accepted
  • our boundaries are respected
  • we are received without judgment
  • we are listened to attentively
  • does not break our trust
  • is calm
  • is empathetic

Jesus Christ not only saves, but he is safe.
In our silent prayer,
we learn to rest our souls in the safety of his presence.
Then, in hurry and stress of our busy days,
we can return to that safety with a couple of cleansing breaths.

On the first Sunday of this new year,
I suggested that we practice “barn raising,”
that we help each other build our spiritual lives
on the person and teaching of Jesus.
We can do this by creating loving environments,
environments of warmth and safety.
When we are safe and feel safe, we project safety.
And everyone in the world needs this.

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