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Moses

 
Chosen

The Three Patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – are very significant to Judaism. Joseph may have saved Israel from extinction when he brought Jacob (or Israel) and his family to Egypt during the famine. But Moses is THE most important figure in Judaism. Not only did he lead the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt, he is credited with receiving the Torah from God.

Let’s take a fresh look at Moses’ story.

A new Pharaoh who didn’t remember Joseph came to power in Egypt. He felt there were too many Israelites in his country (in today’s news, it would be too many illegal aliens). He determined to control them, because he was afraid they might supported one of their enemies in a war. So he ordered that they be put in hard labor work-gangs presided over by a foreman to construct the storage cities of Pithom and Rameses. The Egyptians tried to crush their spirit by forcing them to make bricks and mortar or do other back-breaking work.

Pharaoh also instructed midwives to kill all Hebrew boy babies the minute they were born. The midwives, however, had too much respect for life and for God and refused to obey. When asked why they allowed the boy babies to live, the midwives answered that Hebrew women were so tough they had their babies without midwives. According to the writer of Exodus, God was pleased with the midwives and gave them families of their own.

Next Pharaoh ordered that every Hebrew-born male be drowned in the Nile River (girl babies were not to be killed).

This was during the time when Moses was born. According to Chabad.org, he was born in Egypt on the 7th of Adar of the year 2368 from creation (1393 BCE). He was the third child born to a Levite man and woman (Exodus 6:20 names them: Amram married Jochebed, his father’s sister); she bore Aaron and Moses; Miriam, being a girl, isn’t mentioned. Miriam was six years older and Aaron was three years older. According to Exodus (2:10), it was Pharaoh’s daughter who named the baby Moses.

When Jochebed gave birth to her second son, she refused to drown him in the Nile. Instead, she hid him for three months. Then she took a small papyrus basket, waterproofed it with tar and pitch, placed her son in it and set the basket afloat in the reeds at the edge of the Nile. Miriam watched from a distance to see what happened.

When Pharaoh’s daughter, Batyah, came to the river to bathe, the floating basket was discovered. She ordered one of her maids to retrieve it from the reeds. Batyah’s heart went out to the Hebrew baby boy in the basket. Suddenly, Miriam appeared and asked Batyah if she would like her to fetch a nursing mother to take care of the infant. When she answered yes, Miriam returned with her mother, who Batyah hired to nurse the baby for her. So the baby’s Hebrew mother became his nursemaid.

Concerning Moses, Sportin’ Life’s skeptical sermon in Porgy and Bess says, “Li’l Moses was found in a stream… He floated on water ‘til ole Pharaoh’s daughter she fished him, she says, from that stream.” Of course, Sportin’ Life was insinuating that the baby was illegitimate, that Pharaoh’s daughter had been guilty of a sexual indiscretion.

Once Moses was weaned, he was returned to Pharaoh’s daughter, who named him Moses (Pulled-Out), since she “pulled him out” of the river, and adopted him as her son.

The next we hear about Moses, he is 20 years old. One day, he went to see his brothers – he only had one brother, Aaron; does it mean he went to see his Hebrew brothers? In that case, he knew he was not Egyptian. He was appalled at difficult labor the Hebrew people were forced to endure. And was even more incensed when he witnessed an Egyptian foreman whipping a Hebrew slave. Once he was certain no one was watching, he killed the Egyptian and buried him in the sand.

The following day, when he saw two Israelite men fighting, he asked why they were fighting. The man who had started the fight angrily asked, “Who do you think you are, telling us what to do? Are you going to kill me like you killed that Egyptian?” Moses realized that people knew what he had done, including most likely Pharaoh, so fled Egypt and went to Midian.

The seven daughters of the priest of Midian came to a well to water their father’s sheep. Some shepherds chased the girls off, but Moses came to their rescue and helped them water their sheep. When the girls returned home, they told to their father, Jethro, what had happened. He told them to invite the man to share a meal with them.

When Moses decided to settle down there, Jethro gave his daughter, Zipporah (Bird), to him for his wife. Moses fathered two sons by Zipporah: Gershom (Sojourner), so named because Moses was a sojourner (visitor) in that country, and Eliezer (he is not mentioned until later in Exodus).

When the Pharaoh died several years later, the Israelites cried out to God for relief from their slavery. God heard their groaning, remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and understood what had been happening to the Israelites. Remembered? God had forgotten his covenant?

Up to this point, there hasn’t been any mention of Moses being a religious man; no mention of any relationship with God. However, when he was eighty years old, while he was shepherding his father-in-law’s sheep, an angel of God revealed himself to him at Mt. Horeb (or Sinai), the mountain of God, in a blazing fire in the middle of a bush that wasn’t consumed. From the burning bush, God spoke to Moses. First, Moses was instructed to remove his scandals because he was standing on holy ground. Then God identified himself as the God of his forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God. God told him that he had seen the affliction of his people in Egypt, knew all about their pain and had heard their cries for deliverance. It was time to take them out of Egypt and establish them in a good, spacious land, a land flourishing with milk and honey, the land currently populated by the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. God instructed him to return to Egypt to free his people and bring them out of Egypt.

Moses’ reply was typical of most of us: “Why me?” Even after God promised to be with him, Moses continued to question: if he goes to the Israelites and tells them that the God sent him, they will ask, “What is his name?” Moses asks, “What do I tell them?” God replied tell them “I-AM sent me to you” and that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob sent him. Once there, he was to gather the leaders of Israel and told them what God had told him; God had assured him that the leaders would listen. Then he was to go to Pharaoh and tell him that the God of the Hebrews wanted permission to take the Israelites a three-day journey into the wilderness to worship him.

He was warned that Pharaoh would not agree to let them go unless he was forced to, so God promised to perform miracles that would send Pharaoh reeling. Moses was to instruct each woman to ask their neighbors and any guests in her house for objects of silver and gold, for jewelry and extra clothes. The a papyrus written by an Egyptian named Ipuwer in approximately 1400 BCE mentions the women gathering jewelry: “Gold and lapis lazuli, silver and malachite, carnelian and bronze… are fastened on the neck of female slaves.”

Once again Moses resisted. He doesn’t think the Hebrews would trust him or listen to him. They would doubt that God appeared to him. So God asked, “What’s in your hand?” Moses answered, “A staff.” “Throw it down,” God said. When Moses threw it down, it became a snake and Moses was frightened. Then God told him to pick it up by the tail. He was even more afraid, but when he picked it up, it was his staff again. God told him that was a sign so the people would trust that God had appeared to him. Next God told him to put his hand inside his shirt. Once it did so and pulled it out, his hand was leprous. Then he was instructed to do it again. When he did, it was healthy again. If the people weren’t convinced by the first miracle, Moses could use the leprous hand as a second sign. And if two miracles weren’t enough for them to trust him, Moses should take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry land; the water would turn to blood when it hit the ground.

Moses’ next objection was that he didn’t talk well; he had never been good with words and he stuttered and stammered. God asked, “Who made the human mouth? …It was me, God! So, get going; …I’ll be right there to tell you what to say.”

Moses still tried to beg off: “Send somebody else!” God was growing angry, but he asked, “Don’t you have a brother, Aaron? He speaks very well.” Aaron was on his way to meet Moses. When he arrived, Moses was to tell him that God wanted him to go with him. God promised to tell Aaron what to say each step of the way. Moses would decide what to say and Aaron would be the spokesperson to the people. Moses was instructed to take this staff so he could use it to do the signs (miracles).

Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Ken Medema is a legally blind Christian musician. By the age of five, he was playing his mother’s piano and by age eight was studying music, using Braille music sheets and memory to play the classics. His teachers also encouraged his improvisational skills. In 1969, he received a Master’s Degree in Music Therapy from Michigan State University. In 1973, he began his recording career and produced several albums. He has also presented thousands of concerts all over North America, Australia, Africa and Europe. He owns his own recording company, Bier Patch Music, in Grandville, Michigan. Medema’s Moses is humorous, but also very meaningful. He illustrates the dialogue between Moses and God in the following excerpt:
Not me, Lord! Don’t you know I can’t talk so good; I stutter all the time. Do you know my brother, Aaron? He can sing like an angel, talk like a preacher… And another thing, how will they know that I’ve been here with you? How will they know what you’ve sent me to do? … they’ll never hear a single word I’ll say! Maybe you should get your dirty work done another way!

What you got in your hand, Moses? It’s just a rod. Throw it down, Moses. …Lord, don’t take my rod away from me; don’t you know it’s my only security… a man’s gotta have something he can call his own… Throw it down, Moses. …Moses threw the rod on the ground and the rod became a hissing snake! Well, Moses started runnin’. Well, maybe you’d run… I’d run… Runnin’ scared of what God’s gonna do! … And the Lord said, Stop, pick it up, Moses, by the tail! Lord… Don’t you know that you never pick up a hissing snake by his … Pick it up, Moses! Oh, God, it’s a rod again… Do you know what it means, Moses? Do you know what I’m trying to say, Moses? The rod of Moses became the rod of God! With the rod of God, strike the rock and the water will come… part the waters of the sea… strike old Pharaoh dead… set the people free.

Then Medema brings this humorous dialogue to an excellent, personal point:
What do you hold in your hand today? To whom or to what are you bound? Are you willing to give it to God right now? Give it up, let it go, throw it down. Click Here to Hear Medema accompany himself as he sings Moses

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