Opening Prayer: Our Father we are your sons and daughters, your royal family, and we come now before you to hear your wisdom. Speak to us now and deliver us from all our enemies. Speak and recreate us according to the image of your Son. Look down upon us and remember us and know us. We are your people, come now and empower your word by your mighty Spirit, Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!
Lent is the season in the Church calendar when we turn our attention in a focused way upon the struggles that we face in the flesh. As disciples of Jesus, we are called to take up our cross and follow Jesus.
The Baptism of Moses
Moses came from the tribe of Levi. He is a member of the priestly tribe, tasked with the teaching and guarding of Israel. His mother sees that he is “good” (reminding us of Genesis 1: God is beginning a new creation story.), and she hid/treasured him for three months (2:2). The extreme measures that Moses’ mother takes suggest that the murder of Hebrew boys had become fairly widespread. Notice that his mother is obeying the command of the Pharaoh: she is putting him into the river. Moses is placed in an “ark” made of bulrushes or papyrus, and the ark is covered with clay and pitch (v. 3). The word for “ark” is only used elsewhere to refer to Noah’s ark. The word for “clay” could be translated cement or mortar, but the point is that Moses is in some way symbolically being given up for dead. The word is used later to describe the mounds of frog carcasses after the plague (8:10). Clay reminds us of the ground out of which man was taken when he was created (e.g. Job 10:9, 33:6). Moses is symbolically returning to the ground in the river-grave of the Hebrew babies. The word can refer to the color “red” and may have actually looked somewhat “bloody” in the water. The ark is placed in the “reeds” in the Nile, suggesting that his mother hoped he would be found by an Egyptian and saved (v. 4). This also reminds us of the sea through which Israel later passed, the Sea of Reeds. Pharaoh’s daughter obviously knows what’s up, and goes along with the plan of Moses’ mother (v. 7-9). Literally, she “spared” him (v. 6). The same water that has killed many Hebrew boys is the water of life for Moses. Notice also that it’s Pharaoh’s own daughter who is saving the Hebrew baby who will rise up and deliver Israel. This also indicates Pharaoh’s impotence: it’s not just the midwives fooling the king; his own daughter is not obeying him. She is not only sparing Moses but paying his mother to nurse him. His mother is given money like the Israelites will receive from the Egyptians later (12:35-36).
From Saved to Savior
There are three events that mark Moses’ transition from an adopted prince in the royal house to Midian. He sees an Egyptian beating a Hebrew and intervenes to save him (v. 11-12). He intervenes to break up a fight between two Hebrews (v. 13-14). Finally, he intervenes to defend the daughters of Jethro from the shepherds (v. 16-17). The stories have in common Moses’ defense of the weak, but they also show us Moses’ future ministry to Israel. He will deliver them from Egypt (the Exodus), he will be their “prince and judge” to secure peace in Israel (the Law), and he will provide Israel with water in the wilderness. The word for “strike/smite” in 11-12 is the verb form for the word “plague.” Moses is prefiguring what Yahweh will do to oppressive Egypt. One commentator suggests that when Moses “looked here and there” (v. 12), he was actually looking for help. The episode at the well is a scene that we have witnessed before (Gen. 24, 29). This is what might be called a “stock scene” or “type scene” (think of a western movie shoot-out scene). This wedding-well scene has its great fulfillment in Christ (Jn. 4). Moses is married to one of Jethro’s daughters, Zipporah, and she bears him a son named Gershom. The narrator says that this fits with Moses historical circumstances; we might also point out that the name is based on the verb “to drive out” and is what Moses has just done to the shepherds. This is also what God promises Pharaoh will do to the Israelites and in fact what he does (6:1, 12:39, cf. 23:28ff).
It is after Moses has left and the king of Egypt had died that Israel is first recorded as crying out for help. The people have obviously been oppressed for a long time, and God has defended them providentially, but it is only here when they cry out for help that God is spoken of directly intervening in the plight of Israel.
Notice that this chapter begins and ends with a wedding and the birth of a son. The names of the sons even have similar meanings: Moshe “he drew out” and Gershom “he drove out.” We noted in chapter 1 that there was a repeated emphasis on the word “son.” Here, interestingly, the word “daughter is repeated 9 times (2:1, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 16, 20, 21). These “daughters” join the midwives of chapter one in playing instrumental roles in the deliverance of Israel. This reminds us of the promise in Gen. 3:15 that it is through the seed of the woman that God promises to crush the seed of the serpent. Here, the serpent is the house of Pharaoh, but God is already raising up a seed, a savior, a deliverer.
In 1 Cor. 10:2, Paul makes the strange assertion that all of Israel was baptized “into Moses.” Paul explains that it was “in the cloud and in the sea.” At least one way of understanding this is that Israel followed in the steps of Moses. Moses passed through the waters and was delivered from his enemies, and in the same way Israel was later delivered from her enemies through the waters of the Reed Sea. To be baptized is to be joined to a head, to be married to a leader. Israel followed the savior Yahweh raised up for her, and we are called to do the same. Our baptism is into King Jesus. But we are told his baptism was a literal death, and therefore we have been baptized into his death (Rom. 6:3-4). We have been called to follow him to the Promised Land. Throughout Scripture God points his people to what he has already done in history. This is how we know that God will deliver us now and in the future. God has been faithful in Jesus, and therefore he will be faithful to all who are in Him.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen!
Closing Prayer: Great and mighty God, you have come in Jesus and gone on before us. You are in front of us, securing our way, defending us from all our enemies. You have been faithful and therefore we believe that you will be faithful to us and to our children.