Thursday 30 October 2014

Bible Book:

“After a long time the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned under their slavery, and cried out. Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them.” (vv. 23-25)

Exodus 2:23 – 3:6 Thursday 30 October 2014


The suffering of the Israelites had only intensified over thelong gap in the narrative during which Moses grew up, murdered anEgyptian, fled and established a new life as a shepherd (Exodus2:11-22). Finally, in despair at their slavery, they cry out -though not to God; their suffering is intensified by the fact thatthey have lost touch with God and forgotten the part God has playedalready in their history. Their cry is simply into the void; butGod hears, and is spurred into a series of dynamic actions: Godremembers, God looks upon them, God takes notice of them. Thisrepetition of 'God' is even more striking in Hebrew than inEnglish: God is now acting powerfully on behalf of the people.

Yet God's chosen agent seems unlikely. Moses is far from Egypt,caught up in a new life, with a wife and a baby (Exodus2:22) and a great many sheep. Yet the words "he came to Horeb"(v. 1) alert the reader, for Horeb and Sinai are two names for thesame mountain, the mountain where God is revealed (Exodus19:3). Equally, his life as a shepherd prepares him for thetask of shepherding his people, just as David became Israel'sshepherd king.

Fire that blazes but does not burn (verse 2) is a characteristicsign of God's presence throughout the Bible, culminating in theflame of the Spirit, resting harmlessly on the disciples' heads (Acts2:3). The voice of God demands acknowledgement ("here I am" (v.4) - cf Isaiah 6:9) and respect, as Moses removes hissandals. The idea of sacred space, a sanctuary, would becomecrucially important in Israel's life with God. And God identifiesGod's own self through referring to previous encounters with thepeople of Israel, the shadowy figures of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,half-forgotten by the people of Israel. Moses' response is to hidehis face (verse 6), echoing the strong tradition that no-one couldlook directly at God (Exodus33:20). The beauty of holiness is balanced by its overwhelmingpower.

To Ponder

  • To what extent is it true to say that God listens moreattentively to those who are desperate?
  • Have there ever been places in your life where you have feltthat you are 'standing on holy ground'? How have youresponded?
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