I really didn’t feel that my sermon this Sunday was particularly well written. Exodus opens with the Israelites living in Egypt and their living conditions worsening as the Pharoah works to reduce their population. First, he places them in slavery. Second, he kills their male children.
I felt as though I effectively communicated the desperateness of the Israelites’ circumstances, but I’m not sure if my sermon provided much hope to the church. As we consider the horror of having male babies murdered, I believe it’s natural to ask the question, “Where is God? What’s it going to take for God to do something?”
My answer to this question seemed extraordinarily inadequate, but it’s the best I have right now.
- Even though we can’t always see Him, God is always working. In this instance, we see God’s providence when the baby Moses was rescued. But if we end our inquiry there we’re horribly shortsighted. Thousands of other babies continued to be murdered well after Moses was saved. According to 7:7 Moses was 80 when he finally confronted Pharaoh. No one in that day had any awareness that God was acting, and even if he was, why was he showing favour to just one family? These are valid questions and I have to say “I don’t know.” All I know is that God was working. He was working more slowly than I would like. Certainly he worked more slowly than all those Israelite families would have liked. Still, God was working, and although I don’t understand his timing it’s inaccurate to say he was doing nothing.
- Suffering is a symptom of freedom. In the big picture of things, when God gives us the freedom to make decisions for ourselves, he gives us the freedom to choose evil as well as good. If God was to intervene and prevent suffering every time someone made an evil choice, would He really be giving us freedom? Freedom provides us with many blessings, but it also enables unimaginable suffering at times.
- We’re not told that the Israelites asked God for help. Perhaps this is an important point that I didn’t address in my sermon. Although God honours the midwives’ refusal to harm the male babies, He is strangely absent in this chapter despite the presence of such suffering. The focus is on the efforts of Moses mother, but even she doesn’t pray to God. I wonder how much the Israelites even knew of God (Yahweh) at this point? We find later that Moses didn’t even know His name. Maybe God used the suffering, as heinous as it was, to ensure that the Hebrews would accept Him when He did reveal Himself.
So there we have it. Not a very hopeful story, but it contains the seeds of hope in the rescue of Moses. It contains the seeds of God’s work. And it can provide us with hope that God is working even when we can’t see His presence in the midst of horrible situations. Although I have to admit, this story still leaves unanswered questions for me.