Friday, September 15, 2006

BEFORE HOLLYWOOD & DISNEY. I recently initiated an exploration of the life and impact of Moses, one of the key figures in faith history and theology. I'm a bit embarrassed to confess that I've worked very little with Old Testament characters in preaching or teaching. I have worked with several of the prophets and their messages in context. My attempt is to discover all I can of Moses, not as an idyllic hero (a la Midrash, Disney and Hollywood) but as a volatile human being shaped by, among other things, his care for his kin and the call of God. Thus far, I am impressed that the Scriptures paint a very complex and vulnerable person. Among numerous volumes available regarding Moses, I am particularly appreciating the insight of Martin Buber, Abraham Heschel, and Walter Brueggemann regarding Moses.

A LIFE UNDER SEIGE. The life of Moses begins under siege. He is under seige at birth at two levels. First, he is born into family of people who are dominated and forced into slavery in powerful foreign culture. Second, he is born during an edict from the nation’s leader that all Hebrew boys should be killed at birth. Moses is born into a world in which human oppression, slavery, and the slaughter of innocents serves powerful interests (see Exodus 1:8-22). Sound familiar? For all the differences between Moses’ world, Jesus’ world and ours, some things remain the same: fear-born oppression and readiness to kill the innocent for the sake of protecting or advancing the interests of the powerful persists.

A LIFE SURROUNDED BY LOVE. Though under siege, Moses is yet surrounded by love--love that risks death and that dares to adopt a Hebrew child into the royal family. According to Exodus 2:1-10, it is women who act in faith and love to thwart to destructive will of the Egyptian Pharaoh. Midwives practice civil disobedience. Moses' mother hides him for three months before placing him in an ark in the Nile. His sister watches at a distance. Pharoah's daughter is filled with life-saving compassion. As a result, this salvaged child is adopted into the ruler’s own family. Such love, described in Psalm 139, surrounds us.

REDEEMED FOR A PURPOSE. From the beginning of the Moses story, I take away an elementary but enduring application: regardless of uncertain and inhospitable beginnings, our faithful God wills that every child be redeemed, set in God's family, and empowered to relieve suffering and release oppression. God not only acted in Moses’ life and in Jesus’ life, God acts in our lives. God's purposes work in and through each of us. That is why we have been so loved and redeemed--not to squander our faith inheritance on ourselves, but to serve to relieve and release others to God's glory.

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