Last 4:4 post I chose not to delve into the Moses/hard-hearted pharaoh/plagues story because it was split between the two weeks' readings. I also claimed to have much to say on the topic. I hate when I set myself up for failure and writer's block.
And just because transparency is my thing, I'll admit that I got completely behind again this week. I didn't catch up until Sunday afternoon because I'm a lazy slug. I knew I was caught up enough for the sermon, based on the sermon title, and due to still icy roads, we didn't have class, so I let it slide when I realized that it would be hard to get caught up before church. If I can't get motivated to stay on track during Exodus, Numbers is going to be a dark time, a very dark time. Lucky for us all, imaginary readers, you get to live that experience with me.
So here are my transition-less thoughts on Exodus 1-31, minus a couple chapters in the 20s that F. Lagard skipped but will tie in with other law passages later.
So Moses . . . he's like the star of the OT. I love his mother and the daring plan to save him as a baby. She's a part of a long line of biblical mothers who sacrifice and make hard decisions for children who will serve God in a special way. I love his Egyptian mother who provides protection and a privileged upbringing for the son of slaves. I love that despite that privileged upbringing, when he sees a slave being mistreated, he must intervene. I love that even when all he has is excuses, the Lord of all creation doesn't lose patience with him but steadily overcomes his objections until Moses is on board. And I love that for someone who begins his adventure with God so reluctantly, he's going to end up being a person who talks with God face to face, as a friend.
What about Pharaoh's hard heart? I've talked about (for several weeks running now) God's intervention in the lives of these men to bring about the promised nation, and last week I felt comfortable with God giving out free will and accomplishing his purpose despite human weakness. But what about that heart-hardening in the Exodus story? I think in that flannelgraph version, all I really got about this pharaoh is that he's a bad guy, an enslaver of men, a promise-breaker, someone who sits idly by and allows ten kinds of suffering to come upon his people when the power to stop it was always within his grasp. But when I read verses like Exodus 4:21, I wonder if the power to stop was truly his. If God hardens your heart, what does that mean? Could Pharaoh have given the Hebrews his blessing and kept his word? F. Lagard and Chuck both told me this week that God recognized the selfishness and stubbornness in Pharaoh's personality and used that as a part of His ultimate plan. I'm not doubting that the dude had that in him naturally, but that doesn't eclipse the language. That hard heart gets mentioned something like ten times in this story, and in most of those mentions, God gets the credit as the heart-hardener. It's a tough one to reconcile for a New Testament Christian, someone who sees God as "patient . . . not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9) I really think I came out of this reading with a better handle on it than I have had in the past, but it's a tough passage for me.
My friend Lacey is in the middle of a blog series about God and remembrance, a topic that I've enjoyed reading about (and one that I once wrote a paper about for my OT survey class at Harding), and in the story of the institution of the Passover feast, we see God teaching his people about remembrance. It's important--He makes it important. Even before the law gets handed down, even before we learn the intricate obedience that will be required to be God's people, we (and the Hebrews) see that God sweats the details. It's important to remember, and it's important to establish an appropriate remembrance. It's important to pass it on as a tradition for generations to come. And considering how easily and how often the children of Israel are going to forget God, His miraculous deliverance from Egyptian bondage, and the extreme lengths to which He went to liberate His people, it's clearly a tradition that's needed.
In addition to some clear instructions on the memorial Passover feast, this week's reading covered the beginning of God's renewed covenant with His people and some clear instructions on their end of the bargain. The ten commandments come down (though the following two chapters of law have been temporarily skipped in my Daily Bible), and intricate barely covers the painstaking care that goes into the design of the tabernacle and implements that will be used in sacrifice and worship. Clearly there are enough tabernacle details for a 75-week sermon series. If you don't believe me, I can tell you the story of how I once lived through that. The thing that really strikes me in this reading is that if God cared so much then about the when and how and with what of worship, can he care any less now? It makes me worry (probably in a good way) about the state of my heart and the sloppiness I bring along in my head when I come to worship. And probably, if I'd paid more attention during that tabernacle sermon series, I might have known that sooner.
And for those of you keeping track of all the foreshadowing, this week we see the groundwork for a blemishless atoning sacrifice. Blood will be shed, but God will never ask that it be the blood of His imperfect people, the people to whom He attempts to draw nearer through miracles and guidance and salvation, then and now.