Oct 6 – Exodus 5:22 to 6:12 “God’s promises stand, our listening changes” – Exodus Transitions Series
Israel is on a journey from stuck—with God seemingly far away—to having freedom in their own place with God close by.
This fairly short section of scripture basically describes something like a reboot of a computer, or a “time out” in a sport, where the coach needs to reset the mood of their players.
In this passage, something God directed stands firm — and gets reinforced or made more clear, and other things — human directed things — change.
Unfortunately, that is the way it usually goes.
It can be helpful for us to watch it happen in the text, so we can watch out for the same thing in our life.
What stands solid and consistent is God and God’s promises or covenants.
In what we read they get restated and even more focused.
What is fickle in the story is the ears and hearts and will of the people.
This is true for the enslaved people of Israel, and in fact it is true for all people, including us.
Humanity is fickle, and loses faith in — and track of — God’s solid promises.
Humanity would often rather stay in misery and slavery than believe God wants them live to well and be free from being stuck in the clutches of anything but God.
In many ways, we are not that much different than the drunk in the open sewage ditch I spoke of on another Sunday…
One time, a drunk knocked on the window of our car as I was dropping my girlfriend off at her parent’s home. He slurringly asked for a ride home. I said it was not too cold, he could walk, the cold air would do him good.
A while later, as we walked across a bridge over the steep-sided ditch to get to her house, I saw regular puffs of steam rising from the ditch, and found that odd. It was not unusual for the guck in the ditches to steam, but not in puffs. We took a closer look, and realized the drunk had fallen off the sidewalk and down the two to three meter steep slope into the basically open sewage ditches that they have there in the lowlands by Vancouver. I scrambled down to check on him. He was acting like he was in a bubble bath or a fancy spa, rolling around in the muck with seeming delight.
He had a gash on his forehead that was bleeding.
Then he collapsed face first into the shallow water. He was a big guy, and limp as a rag dog, but heavier than a sack of potatoes. I tried to drag him out and prop him up on the bank, but he kept rolling himself back into the sludge as if he preferred it. All I could do was keep his head out of the slime water, while my girlfriend went to get help.
Whenever I read a scripture that shows the insistence of humankind in doing exactly the opposite of what would bring life and health in God’s eyes, I think of that guy.
I got very very angry with his insistence on bathing in the slop. The anger gave me the energy to hold his head up, defying his self destruction with anger fueled adrenaline.
When the ambulance crew got there, I was happy to hand him off. They were not happy about how smelly their rig was going to be.
Only much later in life did I recognize my own tendency to do exactly the opposite of what is good for life and health and well-being, and realize some of how God might just feel to see me — and us – behaving similarly to that man.
And that awareness makes me more compassionate with such foolishness. But not always. Sometimes my anger still wins.
Israel felt trapped. They felt they had no choice anymore, no power, no hope.
A brief time of enthusiasm that things might change if Moses arranged this “worship retreat” collapsed when Pharaoh ordered their work be made harder yet.
Now the people don’t want to hear of it anymore.
Moses could talk freedom and change and promises of God until he was out of breath, they would not hear it.
This puts Moses into a leading crisis. The last few verses from Chapter 5 make that clear. And the implications of what Moses expects reflect what we all tend to expect: immediate solutions by God’s direct intervention in power.
“you have not rescued your people at all.”
I encourage you to reread that part later reflectively and contemplate how you actually expect God to work in similar ways…
This “stuck moment” described in our passage shows us a few things we need to remember.
Sometimes, even before we begin a transition like escaping to a freer God-led existence, things get harder first.
The powers that capture us, and that we let ourselves slowly become captive to – do not let go easily, nor do we let go easily of what gives us false comfort. Like a drunk, mistaking warm raw sewage for a bubble bath.
Second, leaders get discouraged too. That is normal. …
But notice, Moses deals with that between him and God.
And in the conversation that follows Moses challenging God, God makes Moses even more clearly his embodiment, his direct representative.
God even reminds Moses that he is being shown sides of God his ancestors did not know, he has been given “the name.” …
In all that fickle human response to God’s salvation plan, where appetite for taking risks toward positive change is absent, where a move toward freedom, toward new life and invigoration and worship of God wanes frequently, still God’s promises and God’s will are what stand solid and consistent.
To a discouraged Moses, God says “Now you will see my power, power Pharaoh will give in to.”
God is saying “Pharaoh is not as powerful as I AM, not as strong as “The Name” or “Yahweh” and you will see my powerful acts increase until Pharaoh recognizes that and gives in to it”
God will show Moses more of himself than the forefathers saw.
God also reminds Moses of past covenant promises to Abraham, Isaac & Jacob to give them the land of Canaan.
At that point God again says to Moses that he has heard the people groaning.
In the OT when God becomes aware, it always means God-action is coming.
God does a surprising thing. God begins to add promises to the past ones!
In verses 6 – 8 there are 7 “I will” statements by God, with one “You will” statement.
Seven things God will do, and only one his people are asked to do:
say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and
I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.
I will free you from being slaves, and
I will redeem you
with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.
I will take you as my own people, and
I will be your God.
Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. 8 And
I will bring you to the land
I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.
I will give it to you as a possession.
I am the LORD.'”
Powerful promises, added as an extra layer to the past promises, and to the acknowledgement that God is aware of their struggle! …
All planned and eventually done to honour God’s past covenant promises, to lessen their struggle and, bring them into full freedom and full relationship with God.
God is going to demonstrate power and care in such a way that God should never be forgotten or doubted again,
Israel would be his permanent special people.
Congregation, God has fulfilled many of his promises from the past including the promise of a Messiah, who came in Jesus, the Christ, who died a cruel death, but was raised, as God had promised, to unlock and defang the power of sin and death and decay. To make the powers of Satan and his Pharaoh henchmen toothless.
The coming of Jesus, his struggle, suffering and cruel death, and more-so his resurrection completed many of God’s past promises.
But there are promises that are not completed yet. Promises for which it is not yet time, or promises God’s people have lost track of.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. — Jeremiah 29:11
He has promises and plans that let us bring his message of grace to every place and every people.
He has promises that if we seek the well-being of our cities and world, we will prosper along with them.
He had plans that allow us to live well, in Shalom, a life deeply rooted in relationship to God, not a life of being slaves to things that bring us shallow comfort, or the illusion of safety.
He has plans for all to live free, unfettered, unbound, even from their fallen human nature.
And, a plan yet not fulfilled completely, is a plan for a new heavens and a new earth, where those he knows,
those who saw him hungry and acted,
those who know they are not fit to be his children
but know that by the grace shown in Jesus they are privileged to participate in a Kingdom feast beyond imagination,
wher those people will live forever in fellowship with the God who won the smackdown with Pharaoh and all earthly powers.
So, in 6:9 Moses announces God’s plans, as instructed.
But the people do not care.
In 6:10, 11 God tells Moses to go to Pharaoh again
In 6:12 Moses says if the people won’t listen (to me) then Pharaoh won’t listen either.
What stands solid? — God’s covenant promises and will to save.
What is fickle? Mankind’s resolve and faith.
Let us become a people of increasing faith and resolve to live within God’s promises and blessing, so we can flourish in the land God has placed us in. For God’s Glory,