Sunday, August 24, 2014

Drawn Out--Exodus 1:8-2:10

What drives our lives?  Some would argue that it is fear that drives our lives . . . fear that dictates the way that we live.  That argument could be used to explain our nation’s need to jump into military conflicts around the world as a means of protecting ourselves . . . a strong military keeps us safe from that which we fear.  That argument could be used in the way that our legislators hem and haw around in their partisanship moves to protect the interests of this group or that group from another group . . . basically accomplishing nothing but creating more fear and divisiveness.  That argument could be used in the way that our economy works . . . a rumor here or a slight slip there in the markets sends the banks and Wall Street running.  Fear truly does seem to dominate the way that the world revolves.

The fear argument could also be used in our own personal lives.  Consider how much of our time goes into protecting, insuring, and risk-managing our lives.  It has been said that we have made ourselves insurance poor because we have insured every aspect of our lives for that “just in case” moment . . . we have car insurance, house insurance, health insurance, dental insurance, flood insurance, eye insurance, cancer insurance, nursing home insurance.  We invest a lot of money into quelling our fears.  Fear dictates the way that we live our lives . . . the way that we make decisions.  Fear is a big factor in the way that we live our lives.

And, fear is a big factor in our story this morning.  The saga of the Children of God continues.  We have now moved from Jacob and his twelves sons . . . moved from Joseph and his family in Egypt . . . none of that generation is left.  They have all died, but the remnants of their legacy still remain behind in the land of Egypt.  This time of respite from the famine has been good for the Children of God . . . as the scriptures say, they were fruitful and multiplied . . . so much so it seemed that they were everywhere in Egypt.  Their abundance did not sit well with the Egyptians—especially Pharaoh.  In Pharaoh’s mind these refugees were a problem . . . a problem that scared him . . . how were they going to control this growing problem.

Thus it is out of fear that Pharaoh develops a plan . . . increase their workloads . . . work them to death.  It is a good plan, but it seemed that the more that the Egyptians worked the Israelites the more they multiplied.  It did not matter how cruelly the Egyptians worked them they continue to gain more and more population in the land of Egypt.  Thus the plan is expanded.  Now there is a mandate that stipulates that all the male babies born to the Israelites are to be killed.  So strong is the fear of Pharaoh and the rest of Egypt that they resort to basically enslaving the people and killing off their children.

So it is fear and hard-heartedness that drives the story at this point and makes the lives of God’s Children miserable.  But, that is where we pick up the story this morning . . . where we see the shift from the Joseph cycle into the Moses cycle.  Despite the order of Pharaoh to kill the male babies of the Israelites, the mid-wives refuse to do it . . . they feared God and because they did they had compassion upon the children and let them live.  When questioned by Pharaoh as to why the children were not dying in childbirth, the mid-wives made up the excuse that the Israelite women gave birth too fast . . . always before they got there to help. 

Of course, this made Pharaoh angry.  In his anger he changes the mandate . . . he broadens it; now it is just not the newborns that are to be killed, but all the males that are born . . . they are to be thrown in the river and drowned.

Into this situation comes an Israelite man and woman who give birth to a son.  Fearing that the Egyptians will come and take her son to throw in the river to drown, she hides the fact that she has given birth for nearly three months.  But the child grows and becomes more difficult to hide.  So the mother concocts a plan . . . she will place the boy in a basket and place him in the reeds down by the river . . . her hope is that someone will come family.  She sends a daughter to stay back and watch what happens to the child.

Luckily for her the child is discovered . . . discovered by an Egyptian, Pharaoh’s daughter none the less . . . who picks up the child and feels compassion for the stranded child.  The sister sees an opportunity and offers to Pharaoh’s daughter a nurse maid to nurse the child until he has grown a little older . . . she volunteers her mother.  Thus the baby is saved.  The baby is nursed by his mother until the day comes when he is too big to be nursed.  He is turned over to Pharaoh’s daughter who then declares him to be her son.  She names the child Moses . . . Moses meaning to be “drawn out” . . . a reference to her having drawn out of the water and saving his life.

In this story the theme is fear . . . Egypt has a fear of the Israelites—the Children of God.  It is a fear that drives them to treat them with great cruelty to the point of even killing children.  It is fear that drives the mid-wives from carrying out the original orders . . . fear of God and what God would do to them if they went and killed these innocent children.  It is fear that makes Pharaoh broaden the mandate of killing the male children . . . a fear that floods over into the lives of all the people, fear as to what Pharaoh would do to them if they did not carry out his orders.  It was a mandate that even included those closest to Pharaoh . . . like Pharaoh’s daughter.

Despite the fear, Pharaoh’s daughter feels compassion for the child she discovers . . . she feels sorry for the child; and, instead of drowning the child in the river, she rescues it, provides for it, and adopts him into the family.  She goes against her father’s desires and orders to save a life.  Little did she realize that she also saved a people . . . the Children of God . . . the Israelites.  Out of all the fear that was surrounding this situation it is compassion that is drawn out . . . Pharaoh’s daughter cast off the fear and chose the more excellent way . . . she chose compassion.

If we listen to God . . . listen to the voice of God in our lives, and truly trust in God, then God will draw us out of our fear to do God’s will for our lives and the lives of others.  God will draw us out into the more excellent way . . . the way of love and compassion.  The voice of God calls us to love and compassion . . . always to love and compassion against all odds . . . against all fear.  The key is to listen and to trust.  For most of us the listening is not too difficult . . . it is the trusting that is hard.

As the Children of God we are a people drawn out of the chaos of fear that governs our lives.  We are drawn out to discover love and compassion for ourselves and others.  We are drawn out to make a difference in the lives we live and share with others.  We are drawn out to embrace the hope and promise of God’s presence in our lives . . . to step out of the waters of fear that bog us down . . . to do the right thing for God, others, and ourselves.  It is believing . . . trusting . . . and responding with faith.  God will take care of us . . . always has, always will. Let us allow God to draw us out so that all of God’s children may live.  Amen.

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