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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Exodus 2:23-25: Prayer over the long haul

23 During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. 24 God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. 25 So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.

First of all, we are again reminded that Moses’ exile (and leadership training) lasted a “long” time (23). Someone observed about God: ‘He is not slow; He is not in a hurry; He is always on time.’

But we can also sense that Israel’s praying for deliverance was not a one-off thing, but it was protracted praying that went the distance. Some prayers are answered quickly, while others (and it may be some of our most gut-wrenching ones) take time. Praying people need to remember the big picture and be able to take the long view. But where our prayers and God’s promises are in unison, something is going to happen, even though the answer may be a long time coming (3:7).

PRAYER: Lord God, as I pray please grant me steadfast faith in your Word, and unfailing patience that stays the course.

Exodus 2:15-22: The Badlands

15 When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well. 16 Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17 Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock.
18 When the girls returned to Reuel their father, he asked them, “Why have you returned so early today?”
19 They answered, “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds. He even drew water for us and watered the flock.”
20 “And where is he?” Reuel asked his daughters. “Why did you leave him? Invite him to have something to eat.”
21 Moses agreed to stay with the man, who gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage. 22 Zipporah gave birth to a son, and Moses named him Gershom, saying, “I have become a foreigner in a foreign land.”

Eugene Peterson wrote about travelling through ‘the Badlands’ each summer, when he and his wife and children returned from Maryland to stay at their family home in Montana. The description refers to a barren region of Dakota. But he also used this term for a period he went through early on in his ministry. He was about three years into the founding of a church, and found himself running out of steam. It was a difficult time, but he and his wife eventually came through it, and they learned some lessons and established certain patterns that would help to sustain them over a long ministry in the suburbs of Baltimore.

God does some of His finest work in deserts. Read your Bible! Many a leader has spent time in ‘the university of the wilderness.’ Also, note that God is not in a hurry in preparing His leaders. Ask Moses. Whenever we have to spend time in the ‘desert’, we will no doubt find, as he did, that God has gone before us and made abundant provision.

In his ‘Badlands’ Moses found:

• Refreshing: there was ‘a well’ (15). He had a supply of water and food (20);
• A place of hospitality (20). What it must have meant to him to be the stranger invited in;
• A sphere of service (17-19). (It’s interesting how the leader in Moses keeps coming out. Leaders can’t help themselves. They have to do something about intolerable situations. Although Moses got things badly wrong when he killed the Egyptian, I see the leader in him in that story;
• A home (21);
• A marriage, and a baby.

The wilderness was a place of ‘divine appointment’ for Moses, and an arena of long, patient training.

Writing of his own experience, Eugene Peterson said:

“But without those years in the badlands, I would never have become a pastor, at least not the pastor I’d earlier had a vision of being, a John of Patmos pastor, the pastor I had hoped I might be. Looking back now, I see myself in those prebadlands years as a Labrador puppy, full-grown but uncoordinated, romping and playful but not yet “under authority,” oblivious to its master’s command: “Sit.” The only verbal signal that the puppy was capable of responding to was “Fetch,” which sent him galloping across a field, catching a Frisbee in full flight, and returning it with wagging tail, ready for more. In the badlands I learned to sit.”

Exodus/Acts 7:23-29: ‘Moses thought…’

23 “When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his own people, the Israelites. 24 He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defence and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. 25 Moses thought that his own people would realise that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. 26 The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?’
27 “But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? 28 Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’29 When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons.

This is an extract from Stephen’s speech in the book of Acts 7:

Moses thought that his own people would realise that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not’ (25).

It is important to think, and what we think is not necessarily wrong. God has given us the gift of the mind and we are to gratefully use it. But sometimes (often, even?) our thinking is far from correct. Logic takes us in the wrong direction. We find repeatedly that God’s ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways and thoughts are higher than ours. This is why, as followers of Christ, we should live prayerfully, always seeking the mind of Christ.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.’ Proverbs 3:5,6.

‘Prayer is both the simplest and most difficult of spiritual practices. We need it, we desire it, it is not actually hard to do—and yet even deeply committed believers can struggle at times with prayerlessness. The reasons we give for this neglect take many forms, but they often boil down to some version of “I’m too busy.” Underneath these rationalizations lies a deeper reason: Our pride continually pulls us toward self-reliance, so we avoid the God-reliance that’s at the very heart of prayer.’ (From an article entitled: ‘The sweet relief of utter dependence’ by Kelli B. Trujillo).

PRAYER: God be in my head and in my understanding.

Exodus 2:13,14: Congruence

13 The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?”
14 The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.”

In the last chapter of Eugene Peterson’s wonderful book, ‘Christ plays in ten thousand places’, he writes about how he and his wife went to hear the famous Swiss psychiatrist, Paul Tournier, give a lecture at the ‘John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He says it was life-changing, and describes how, as Tournier spoke, he got a sense from him of what he could only describe as ‘congruence’: he felt the genuineness of the man -that his life and words were completely at one; that he lived what he said. (He says he also got the same feeling from reading his books). The man was authentic. He had obvious integrity.

It is a problem for leaders when people perceive there to be a ‘credibility gap’ between their talk and their walk. ‘How can you tell me to do such and such, when you don’t do it? How can you expect me to live one way when you live another?’ They no doubt think it if they don’t actually say it.

This was the problem Moses ran into early on when he first tried to step up to a leadership role. It was a painful lesson to learn. He was going to have to learn to lead by example, and not just by words.

PRAYER: Lord, we know we cannot expect perfection of any human leader. We are all sinners living in a fallen world. But we do pray for leadership integrity in every area of life.

Exodus 2:11,12: ‘But he didn’t look up.’

11 One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. 12 Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.

The reference to “his own people” comes twice, so it is important. As is often said, ‘blood is thicker than water.’

Well, I seem to remember from Sunday School days the simple point being made about Moses, ‘But he didn’t look up!’

Leaders can be in the habit of looking “this way and that” but failing to truly look up. Like Moses, they maybe have a sense of destiny. They feel the call to lead, to do something. So they end up acting impulsively, on a whim, and in self-reliance. They try to do God’s work, but in their own way. They fight with worldly weapons (2 Cor.10). Prayer is an almost perfunctory item on a packed business agenda – perhaps the merest glance heavenward. They just hope God is okay with what they’re doing because they are going to do it anyway.

‘Truth will out.’ It did in Moses’ case. We may try to bury our sins, but ghost-like they emerge from the grave to haunt us. The only way we can give our misdemeanours a decent burial is through confession and repentance before God, and trusting in Jesus’ blood for forgiveness. Then we can have peaceful consciences. But even so, we can’t always evade the consequences – even of forgiven sin.

‘Moses had a splendid education (Acts 7:22), but he was lacking in faith. He fought the wrong enemy at the wrong time with the wrong weapon. When you start to look around and ask yourself “Is it safe?”…not “Is it right?” You have stopped living by faith. Sometimes God has to “set us aside” to teach us what we need to know – and to help us forget the way the world does things. Moses’ impulsive deed sent him to the back of the desert for forty years, just as his impulsive words would keep him out of the Promised Land (Num.20:9-13). An impatient spirit is a dangerous thing. Warren Wiersbe: With the Word’, p.49.

PRAYER: Lord God, as I consider the outlook, may I never lose sight of the up-look.

Exodus 2:11a: His own people

11 One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor.

Many years had passed, and we know nothing of this formative period in Moses’ life, other than that he was raised in a palace as the adopted son of an Egyptian princess. We can only imagine the outstanding education he must have received, and the mind-boggling opportunities that came his way. But steeped as he was in the culture of Egypt, Hebrew blood coursed through his veins, and he recognised “his own people.” He felt their pain and misery. He identified with them. He was a Jew.

There’s a repetition of this idea in Acts 4:23:

“On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them.”

They had been grilled and threatened, and you can almost feel something of the relief of getting back to the church family, and being able to pray together about the dark cloud hanging ominously over them all.

I observed in a recent sermon that persecuted Christians appear to prize fellowship more than some of us in the ‘free’ west. Although it is regularly costly and dangerous to get together, they will take risks to do so. We, on the other hand, can be quite blasé about it, and we are often full of excuses. We have other places to be and other things to do.

But there is something immeasurably precious about being able to meet with our “own people” who are God’s people. As Eugene Peterson observed regarding Sunday worship – this is ancient wisdom and we disregard it at our peril!

PRAYER: Lord please forgive us the sin of neglecting the means of grace, and renew our priorities so they align with yours.

Exodus 2:7-10: Positioning

7 Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”
8 “Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. 9 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”

Sometimes in life you are in a place of waiting, watching; unsure what your next major move should be. But you position yourself to be ready when the opportune moment comes. It’s rather like the striker who puts himself/herself in a position to make a strategic play – to receive the ball and score, almost before anyone realises what is happening.

Moses sister so positioned herself that she was ready and available for a critical moment (4).There was both risk and patient waiting bundled together in her choice, but she was in the right place at the right time to score an all important goal! It led to Moses being adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter, and growing up in the palace of the man who had wanted him dead – right under his nose! You almost have to laugh out loud, especially when you see that Jochebed not only got her son back, but she also got paid to raise him. How wonderful God’s ways are. He does far more than we can ask or imagine.

‘Pharaoh cruelly sought to destroy Israel, but his own daughter had pity on a Hebrew child, and not only so, but, without knowing it, preserved Israel’s deliverer, and provided Moses with a good nurse, even his own mother.’ Matthew Henry.

PRAYER: Lord, help me to so position myself spiritually that I am ready for any opportunity you send

Exodus 2:5,6: A mysterious way

5 Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. 6 She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.

Who can tell what/who God is going to use next to further a great purpose? As someone said, ‘Great doors turn on small hinges.’ We may well be surprised. Warren Wiersbe observes that a baby’s tears moved the heart of a powerful princess. Pharaoh’s own daughter was now defying her own father’s edict. Who would have thought it? ‘God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform…’ He is ‘the God of surprises. In what ways has He surprised you?

The Bible describes the world as it really is, and in this world God’s presence is everywhere, and nothing is beyond His power.

‘Many who, by their birth, are obscure and poor, by surprising events of Providence, are raised high in the world, to make men know that God rules.’ Matthew Henry.

Exodus 2:1-4: Faith works

2 Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, 2 and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. 3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. 4 His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

We read here about baby Moses that “he was a fine child” (2). To every parent their baby is special. But it is as though this couple discerned something more.

At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child” ( Acts 7:20).

By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict” (Hebrews 11:23).

As with Shiphrah and Puah, here were two more people from the margins of society (Amram and Jochebed 6:20) who were prepared to resist the king’s decree.

Faith works. Moses’ mother had faith, but that did not mean she sat on her hands. To take practical steps doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not trusting God.

Papyrus was a plant with strong stalks suitable for boat-building. The Hebrew word for “basket” is the same word used for the ark built by Noah (Genesis 6:14). It is used only these two times in the Old Testament. As God used the ark to save Noah and his family, so he used an ‘ark’ to protect baby Moses.

‘Jochebed obeyed the letter of the law when she put Moses in the waters of the Nile, but certainly she was defying Pharaoh’s orders in the way she did it. She was trusting the providence of God and God didn’t fail her.’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘Old Testament Commentary’, p.149.

PRAYER: Lord God, as I seek to walk with you by faith, please show me the ways I ought to work out this faith in practice.

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