Exodus 1:8-14; 3:1-15
(watch here: https://youtu.be/B_lrTaaSGKU)
8Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9He said to his people, ‘Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than
we. 10Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.’ 11Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. 12But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. 13The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, 14and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.
Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. 3Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’ 4When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ 5Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ 6He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
7Then the Lord said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, 8and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. 10So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.’ 11But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ 12He said, ‘I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.’
13But Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you”, and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ 14God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.” ’ 15God also said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you”:
This is my name for ever,
and this my title for all generations.
Our reading for today reminds me of the one about a mental asylum that was getting too crowded. The director decided to do a quick test to try and lessen the population. He chose 15 of the least mentally ill patients and brought them to a room in which he had painted a door on the wall. He said, “Behind that door is freedom, you can now leave this hospital.” All of the patients jumped off their benches and ran towards the door painted on the wall and smashed into the wall except for one who was still sitting on his bench. While the others were sent for treatment for their injuries and back to their rooms, the director said to that man that he was free to leave the hospital. They did the paperwork and walked outside where a taxi was waiting for the now free man. While he was sitting in the taxi, the director asked him, “Why didn’t you try to go through the door earlier in that room?” ”I’m not stupid,” replied the man, “I knew you had the key for it.”
Nothing wrong with a healthy dose of suspicion on that man’s part! I don’t imagine there’s a lot that makes sense in a mental asylum. And much like a prison, I doubt there is much trust shared between the patients and their caregivers so I understand that man’s hesitancy at the gift of freedom presented to him. The director has the key to all other doors, why not the one for the painted door on the wall? I suppose I’m overthinking it a little too much and minimizing the playful humor of it all. We ought to be glad that man found freedom no matter how he got there. Freedom is an important thing to have in this world. It is difficult to have any joy and contentment without it. We need freedom if we are to know the joy that God wants us to know. God is all about freedom and ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to experience it in this world. God wants us freed from whatever that enslaves us in mind, body, or spirit. Whether it’s sin or death or the fear of death or doubt or despair or sickness or unhealthy relationships or any other type of entrapment, God wants to set us free from anything that restricts us. Our God wants us not only to survive but to thrive. And we can’t do that without freedom. We must have freedom if we are to become the people God wants us to become. Freedom of choice, freedom of thought, freedom of action, freedom to succeed, freedom to fail, freedom to love, freedom to hate…you get the idea. We need freedom and God wants us to have it.
Just look at how God used Moses to ensure it! Moses, another lowly shepherd who wasn’t the best public speaker, was chosen to lead thousands of Israelite slaves to freedom from Egyptian bondage. Quite an unusual leader for such an enormous task. But like Jacob from last week, God chooses unlikely people to lead his people. I don’t quite understand it but I recognize it and accept it. What an enormous task set before Moses! As we heard in our reading, the Pharaoh had grown a rather strong distrust of the foreigners in his country and instead of kicking them out he enslaved them. This only made them grow in numbers and Pharaoh oppressed them harder and harder. Naturally, their outcry to God grew with their oppression until God finally decided to act on it. He summoned Moses to Mt. Horeb where He spoke to him through the burning bush and tasked him with leading the people out of their slavery. Moses didn’t have a clue how he was going to do it but he had faith enough to obey our mighty God. God told him how to tell the Israelites who it was that tasked him and sent him on his way.
Unlike the patriarchs that came before him (Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac), Moses was given a responsibility that conveyed one of God’s most prized concepts, freedom. In leading the people to freedom, Moses was actually illustrating how much God values freedom. Freedom is just as important to God as it is to us. He wants his creation to grow and develop. He wants his creation to expand and flourish. He wants his creation to sustain itself. It can’t do any of these things without freedom. And there is a freedom within the Trinity, where all three entities are allowed to exist and be in relationship of their own free will. Paul writes in his second letter to the Corinthians, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (3:17) Jesus came to live among us, died for us, and was resurrected to us all so that we might know the freedom that exists in the Trinity. We can take comfort in passages like John 8:36, which states, “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” Moses may have freed those Israelites from their bodily slavery but Jesus frees us from our spiritual and mental slavery. In Galatians, Paul writes, “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (5:1) Christ frees us for no other reason than freedom. I realize that sounds a little redundant but not if we consider Christ’s greatest commandment to love one another. We are freed to love and serve our neighbor and experience the freedom found in that. A little later in Galatians, Paul writes, “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (5:13-14)
Moses and his great exodus teach us just how much God values freedom. He walks with them through their pain and suffering of leaving their slavery. He guides them and protects them as they come to realize the gift of freedom. God wants us to be free and will do the impossible to ensure such freedom. Let us appreciate all our many freedoms and give thanks to our God who blesses us with them. Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.