Last we left the book of Exodus, the Egyptian king had issued a murderous edict that every baby Hebrew boy should be thrown into the river. One particular mother didn’t listen. She kept her child safe until she couldn’t anymore. She placed him into a papyrus basket (or rather – into God’s hands) and put him in the shallows of the Nile river.
There he was found by the Egyptian princess who decided to adopt him into her Egyptian family, but also to allow the Hebrew mother to serve as caretaker for his early childhood years.
She nursed him in her Hebrew home.
She fed him Hebrew baby food of mashed potatoes.
She spoke to him in the Hebrew language.
But when he was old enough, she brought him to the palace of the Egyptian king.
Life changed for Moses.
There he ate the finest Egyptian steaks.
He was clothes in the finest Egyptian artisanal headdresses.
A servant would come and fan him with a palm branch as he ate his royal chicken nuggets.
This upbringing for Moses presented unique challenges.
He was part of both the Jewish and Egyptian culture.
Yet not fully a part of either culture.
In Egyptian School: “You can’t be part of our group project. You aren’t Egyptian enough. Sure, you dress like us. But you don’t look like us. You look like a Hebrew – that is to say – you look like scum.”
On the Hebrew playground: “Get out of here Moses. You aren’t Hebrew. Not like us. You’re Egyptian—go back to your side of town with the fancy marble swing set and the jewel-encrusted teeter totter. You stuck up jerk!”
In the Egyptian classroom: “And that, dear students, is why Hebrews are inferior to the Egyptians. Be sure to get it right for the test.”
At a Hebrew holiday: “And remember, God hates the terrible Egyptians, because they are terrible in every way. Just as terrible any Hebrew who is associated with them.”
Moses undoubtedly suffered pressure on both sides.
Where did Moses fit in?
I. Egyptian Street Justice
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. (v.11)
Maybe with a whip.
Maybe with a club.
Maybe with his own fists.
Whatever Moses saw, it set something off inside of him.
He was raised an Egyptian.
But he was genetically all Hebrew.
This wasn’t right.
This was wrong.
There needed to be justice.
Since he was Hebrew.
Perhaps he saw himself as the perfect individual.
Looking this way and looking that way and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. (v.12)
He began digging.
No one saw.
He kept digging.
I hope no one saw.
He used the Egyptians club to dig some more.
No one saw…right?
He smoothed out the sand when he was done.
He patted it with his hands.
He stomped with his feet.
It looked alright.
He went away.
He came right back.
No it didn’t.
He dropped a few palm branches on top of the spot.
Just to make it less suspicious.
He went away again.
He looked back.
Adjusted the palm branches.
He sprinted without looking back.
He got home.
He ran past his Egyptian mother.
What did you do today Moses?
Sorry. I’m tired, I need to go to bed.
He went to bed.
Or tried to go to bed.
All night -staying awake – as he replayed his own murderous actions.
The next morning, he got up.
He had slept on it.
And had managed to remove the guilt simply by focusing on the awful thing that had been happening.
(And completely ignoring the awful thing he had done.)
He marched back to the slave camp.
He was their hero.
A vigilante and defender of justice.
He…saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?” (v.13)
Friend, God doesn’t want us to be violent.
Friend, use your words.
Friend, be kind.
Friend, violence is wrong.
The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” (v.14)
His mind began racing.
I thought no one saw me.
I thought no one knew.
He ran from the Hebrews and sprinted to the scene of the crime.
It still looked intact.
The dirt still looked like dirt.
No trace of evidence.
They must have seen.
Did others see?
Would others seek justice?
He wasn’t wrong.
When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian. (v.15)
He was no longer Egyptian.
He was no longer Hebrew.
He was definitely not the just defender of justice.
He was just…
II. Lessons on Injustice
This is a hard lesson.
It was a hard lesson that Moses needed to learn that would shape him for being a leader in the future.
I think it’s filled with some hard lessons for us on the topic of justice that will shape us to serve our community.
It is UNJUST to see only SOME injustice.
Because notice when Moses decides to take action.
If you notice, it isn’t when he goes down to watch the unjust slave labor.
It was only when the slave driver started to physically abuse a slave that Moses decided it was worthy of action.
Either he didn’t see the forced slave labor as unjust.
Or, at least, he didn’t think it was a big enough injustice to do anything about it.
This is so 21st century American.
We love to call out injustice.
But we often do it at the expense of another injustice.
This person says: That law is unjust, but not this one.
That person says: Nope, law riot is unjust; not this one.
This person says: that political party is unjust, but not this one.
That person says: Nope, this political party is unjust, but not that one.
This person says: That news station is unjust, but not this one.
That person says: Nope, this news station is unjust, but not that one.
It’s as if we think we only have a label maker that we used to label things as wrong.
But we only have one label left.
And we think we can only label one thing wrong.
So we can only use it to describe what we deem to be most wrong.
And we can’t label anything else as wrong, because we might have to remove that wrong label from the thing that we really want to be wrong, put it on another thing and label that thing as wrong, and now there won’t be any wrong labels on the thing that we really want to be wrong.
But that’s not how it works.
There can be more than one wrong.
In a sinful world.
There’s often way more than one wrong.
I would suggest…
If you are labeling one thing injustice.
At the expense of ignoring another injustice.
People will often see you as unjust.
Because that’s unjust.
It is UNJUST to take justice into YOUR HANDS.
Because Moses knows it’s wrong.
“He looked to the right and to the left” before committing the crime.
That’s not something you do when you’re about to do something upright.
You’re not checking to the right and then to the left to ensure that no one is looking to see you fold the laundry.
And then! Moses hides the evidence.
Again – you got the internet explorer to delete your explicit search history, not the fact that you were watching a documentary on How Buttons are Made.
Moses knew that justice wasn’t up to him.
But he did it anyway.
And immediately did something deemed by Pharaoh as unjust.
If you think it’s unjust that your coworker has been spreading lies about you. (It is.)
And you take it into your own hands by punching them in the face.
It’s no longer an issue of unjust gossip.
But it’s now an issue of unjust face punching.
You aren’t Batman.
Stop taking justice into your own hands.
It is UNJUST to want justice against OTHERS, but not YOURSELF.
Because maybe Moses felt like he was being so very just.
Like he was a hero of justice.
Like he was a member of the Justice League.
But if he really loved justice so much…
Why did he run away?
He had killed someone.
Why not stick around for trial?
Because he didn’t love justice as much as he said.
He only loved justice against others.
The other day I was taking a left turn from Six Forks Rd onto Newton Rd. At the stoplight there are two lanes that allow you to turn left. The first lets you turn left and keep straight. The second turns left and then quickly becomes a right hand turn lane for the shopping center.
I was in the left lane. Ready to stay straight and head to church.
But after turning, someone from the right lane cut me off and entered the left land in order to stay going straight.
I was mad.
You knucklehead. You should get a ticket. That’d be just.
A few days later, same situation. This time I was in the right land turning left. As I approached the end of the land, I needed to enter into the left lane in order to stay straight.
I cut the person off behind me.
They started honking and I thought.
Couldn’t they see I needed to change lanes.
This is unfair.
They’re being the knucklehead.
And the same person was a knucklehead in both.
Humans want justice.
But only against others.
Which just proves how unjust human justice really is.
If you really love justice, you will want justice against the wrongdoer, even if the wrongdoer is you.
If you don’t want justice against you when you do wrongdoer, then…
You just aren’t just.
III. The Only Just God
No human is truly just.
Sin makes it impossible.
But there is one who is truly just.
Thankfully, he is the one in charge of ultimate, eternal justice.
God is JUST.
As is often the case with God, when an adjective is applied to him, he embodies every aspect of that adjective.
We get our definition of power from him.
We get our definition of mercy from him.
We get out definition of goodness from him.
And we get our definition of justice…from him.
Psalm 30:6 says, “God is a God of justice.”
He sees to it that all wrong is punished.
He sees to it that all evil is penalized.
He sees to it that all sin receives its repercussions.
God is just.
He is never unfair.
He is always final.
He is always right.
And there is no need for a jury trial.
God saw the whole thing.
He saw the action.
He heard the words.
He read the thoughts.
He knew the heart.
God always declares a right verdict.
What’s the verdict with you?
How do you think a just God will sentence unjust you?
And the only justice for the eternal injustice of sin?
That would be eternal justice.
IV. The Only Just God
If you’ve done wrong and you get caught…
It’s not totally lost.
It’s like those DUI commercials, “Did you have too much to drink? No worries. Give us money. We’ll schmooze the judge. We’ll work the system. We’ll get you an innocent verdict.”
And it must work.
Cause they keep airing the commercials.
But remember – the judge they are trying to convince in that scenario?
He’s a sinner too.
His justice will always be tainted with injustice of sin within.
But how does one convince an eternally just God whose justice is not tainted with sin?
Circumstantial evidence doesn’t work.
You can’t blame it on your parents.
You can’t point to others in society as worse.
You can’t offer him a bribe.
I would suggest that the only lawyer that can possibly get you out of the justice of God…
God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement…so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:25-26)
Do you see Jesus’ defense?
This injustice that you are trying my client for.
You have incorrectly identified the perpetrator.
The actual culprit is me.
I did it.
I unjustly gossiped about my coworker.
I unjustly shouted at my spouse.
I unjustly spoke racist terms at my neighbor.
I did it.
And, if you remember, I was already sentenced.
On a cross.
Why are we here?
That word is a courtroom term. It means to declare innocent.
To declare right.
To declare not guilty.
Because Jesus suffered punishment for your injustice, you have been justified.
You have been declared right.
You have been declared not guilty.
Which isn’t fair!
But it’s so awesome.
It means we are forgiven.
It means we aren’t headed towards hell.
It means we will have eternal life.
V. What Now?
How do we, the justified, in justice? A few notes…
1) Act Justly
“Act Justly.” (Micah 6:8)
That’s what God wants.
He doesn’t want you to be unfair.
He doesn’t want you to show favorites.
He doesn’t want you to comment on one sin over another sin.
A just God wants his justified people to act justly.
Even when others aren’t.
2) Let God Do the Avenging
Romans 12:19 says, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
Did you hear that?
God says, “I’m in charge of getting justice.
Not you, Moses.
Not you, person sitting in Gethsemane church.
Not you, person watching online.
God is in charge.
That means the next time someone does you wrong.
Here’s what you do…
Ready for it?
Because if you take revenge, you aren’t getting even for God.
If you take revenge, you are stealing God’s job.
And you’ve committed your own wrong.
That God must avenge.
Trust God to do God’s job.
God is just.
And mercifully, God justifies.
Which calls into question the ending of this story…
Do you know what happens next with Moses?
He goes to Midian.
He meets a woman.
He marries her.
He is accepted into her society.
He doesn’t die.
It’s not because God isn’t just.
Years later, God would get justice for the Egyptian that Moses killed by punishing Jesus on the cross.
This means that from God’s eternal view…
Moses was no longer guilty.
He was no longer Hebrew.
He was no longer Egyptian.
He was first and foremost…
Because of Jesus.
And because of Jesus.
You are no longer guilty.
You are forgiven too.
Which is just.
Last week we started our journey through Exodus. We learned about how the family of Israel had moved to Egypt and had grown so large that they had become the People of Israel.
In turn, a new Pharoah came to power. He was very afraid of what might happen if these people grew too populous. He hatched a plan to oppressed them by making them into slaves, He also delivered a horrific edict for the Egyptian midwives to kill every newborn baby Hebrew boy.
But the midwives…
Do you remember their names?
(If you don’t, that’s kinda the point…)
Their names were Shiprah and Puah.
…refused to follow through on the Pharaoh’s murder orders and saved the baby boys.
God worked through these insignificant seeming ladies to accomplished his eternally significant plan.
What happened next? Look at the end of chapter one:
Because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. (v.21)
For the first time, the midwives needed midwives of their own.
I wonder if they took turns midwifing for each other.
Think of their joy!
A son that they didn’t have to return to his family after delivery.
A baby girl that they could keep in their arms.
God was their God and God gave them good gifts.
To be fair, the same thing happened to Pharoah.
Pharoah’s god gave him a gift.
Of course, Pharoah’s god was fear.
Fear can only gift…
Pharaoh, however, commanded all his people, “Every son who is born you shall throw into the Nile…” (v.22)
Pharoah couldn’t get the midwives to kill the baby boys.
So, he enlisted the help of others…
People who weren’t afraid to get their hands bloody.
I. A Bundle of Joy & Terror
Now a man from the house of Levi went and took a Levite woman as a wife. The woman became pregnant and bore a son. When she saw that he was a special child, she hid him for three months. (v.1-2)
Levi is the name of one of the Twelve sons of Israel. People from the house of Levi would have been descendants of that Levi and full-blooded members of the Hebrew nation.
And this fully Hebrew family was going to have a fully Hebrew baby boy.
Babies are blessings! The news that you are going to have one is usually met with excitement! Huge and high fives and kisses and baby showers.
But when this family was registering.
Besides choosing their favorite little outfit and the cutest little baby toy.
They also needed to put on their registry.
Because Hebrew baby boys had been ruled “illegal” by the king.
Can you imagine what that moment would have been like for his parents?
Joy! “I have a son!”
Terror! “I have a son.”
Joy! “Look at this beautiful life.”
Terror! “Hide him quickly before Pharoah puts him to death.”
They hid him.
They didn’t celebrate with family.
They didn’t celebrate with friends.
Maybe the mom even pretended to be sad and despondent.
As if she lost the child.
All while snuggling her little bundle behind closed doors.
Finally, she was no longer able to hide him. She decided to make an arts and craft project.
She got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. (v.3b)
Papyrus was a long and broad-leaved plant that grow by the Nile. It floated.
Tar and pitch filled the holes and gaps. (It connected the leaves together and prevented water leakage.)
The end result was a Basket. Most likely rectangular shape. In fact, the word used here for basket is the same word used in Genesis 6 for Noah’s “ark”.
Which sounds cute.
A nice toy for the child during tub time, right?
She put the child into it and placed it in the reeds along the bank of the Nile. (v.3)
She had determined there was no other choice.
If she kept the child in her own hands, she would be putting him at risk.
She would love her baby.
She could hold her baby.
She could snuggle her baby.
She could sing lullabies to her baby.
She could experience motherhood with the baby.
If she kept the child in her hands, she could experience motherhood.
She could also be sentencing her son to death.
Because if the Egyptians came, she could not protect him.
They would overpower her.
They would kill him.
She could not keep him in her own hands.
She needed to put him in God’s hands.
The mother took the basket to the river.
She placed her child into it.
She looked into his eyes one last time.
Then shut the cover.
She motioned to her older daughter to take her position.
Then, ran away in tears.
COMPASSION is more powerful than FEAR.
Because when Pharoah couldn’t get what he wanted, he turned to inciting terror.
But it didn’t work.
Compassion overpowered the fearful edict.
Compassion led the mother to keep her baby alive.
Compassion led the mother to build a tiny boat.
Compassion led the mother to place him in a river, turn around, and leave him under his teenage sister’s eyes.
Compassion is more powerful than fear.
We shouldn’t be surprised.
Compassion is godly.
And since God is strong.
Compassion is strong.
If you don’t want to be compassionate, but you’d rather work through fear…
God can work like that to.
Because the God who says, “Be compassionate…”
Also says, “Be afraid of the One who can destroy body and soul in hell.”
That’s really what hell is, isn’t it?
It’s a place for those who don’t like to operate with compassion.
Because there is no compassion there.
II. A New Mom
Back to the Nile.
You could hear the frogs croaking.
The crickets chirping.
If you listened closely enough, the cooing of a Hebrew baby boy.
Pharaoh’s daughter came down to bathe in the Nile, and her attendants were walking along the bank of the Nile. (v.5a)
This seems to be a normal occurrence in Egyptian culture. The Nile river was believed to be restorative. Many believed that bathing in its waters brought life and beauty and youth.
Maybe not this kind of youth.
Pharaoh’s daughter saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant girl to get it. (v.5b)
What do you think it is?
An abandoned picnic lunch?
Maybe it’s flowers from that one prince!?! (I knew he had a crush on you.)
She opened it and saw the child…a boy, and he was crying. She felt sorry for him and said, “This is one of the Hebrew boys.”
Because Pharoah’s daughter knew her dad’s decree.
She knew it was unlawful to keep a Hebrew baby boy alive.
She knew it was law that any Egyptian citizen help in killing such a child.
She knew that law applied even to Egyptian princesses.
But she also knew this baby needed help.
She felt sorry for him.
She had compassion on him.
She picked him up into her arms.
Then the baby boy’s sister appeared from the side of the Nile. She said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Should I go and call a wet nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” (v.7)
The princess agreed.
And the grade schooler went running.
Out of the Niles
Past the reeds.
Through her street.
Into the door to her own home.
“Mom! Mom! Mom, where are you?”
The girl’s mother walked out from the backroom.
Her eyes bloodshot and tear-stained.
“Mom! It worked. The princess found brother and she is in need of someone to care for him. I told her you could! You don’t have to cry anymore.
Together they ran out the door.
Through the street.
Past the reeds.
Into the Nile.
Together with the princess they arranged for the baby’s care.
Not only would the baby be safe, but his own mother would care for him.
And get paid for it!
And the mom took her baby into her arms.
Wait! The princess said, I need to name him.
Hmmm… What do I know about him.
He’s a Hebrew baby.
I drew him out of the water.
“Hey! Dear Hebrew friend. What is the Hebrew word for “Draw out of water?”
I’ll call him “Moses.”
Because I drew him out of the deadly water.
That’s what God called him too.
Because He had drawn Moses out of the deadly water.
GOD’S COMPASSION is more powerful than ALL fear.
God’s compassion conquered our greatest fear.
Namely be written out of eternal life.
Being judged harshly for our sins.
Being placed out of heaven.
Even if you haven’t been compassionate.
Even if you’ve been a cold hearted.
Even if you’re drowning in the revenge you’ve sought.
God had compassion on you.
God’s compassion brought him to earth.
God’s compassion sent him to the cross.
God’s compassion took you out of the murky depths of sin and brought you on the shores of eternal life.
He drew you out of eternal death.
He drew you into eternal life.
He drew you into his arms.
If you are afraid….
Of the virus.
Of your guilt.
Of your shame.
Of your finances.
Of your family dynamic.
Remember God’s compassion.
III. What Now?
What response is God looking for to his compassion?
1) Trust God’s Compassion
This is what the mother did.
She knew Pharoah’s hand was violent.
His threat was terrifying.
Her own compassion wouldn’t be enough.
Eventually – someone would find out that the child was alive.
Be motivated by the fear induced by Pharoah.
And do evil.
But when the mom placed that baby in a basket.
She wasn’t really placing that baby in a basket.
She placed him in God’s compassionate hands.
Is there something that’s beyond your control?
Something that that you can’t bear on your own?
Something that is scary?
Something that is out of your hands?
As we get out of COVID, there will be things outside your control.
What other people do…
What other people wear…
What other people think about what you do and wear…
Where the germs might be…
How quickly you can regrow your business…
Whether somebody hires you…
Whether you can rekindle that relationship…
Goodness, even whether you fall into the 90+% of vaccine effectiveness.
You can’t control it all.
And I wouldn’t trust people to be compassionate.
They are sinners.
But God is always compassionate.
He has been compassionate towards you.
He is compassionate towards you.
He will be compassionate towards you.
2) Show God’s Compassion
Because compassion isn’t meant to be just a God thing.
But a God’s people thing.
Look at what God says to his people:
Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another.”
Colossians 3:12 says, “As God’s holy people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion.”
1 Peter 3:8-9, “All of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing.”
What does that mean in 2021?
A time when people love to use fear to accomplish their goals?
It means that YOU, dear believer, don’t.
You, dear believer, show compassion.
It means wearing a mask, even though you’re vaccinated – just to ease other’s fears.
It means handing over a couple of dollars in your pocket to help the guy on the street.
It means staying calm, kind, and gentle even when your spouse, your kids, your parents aren’t.
It means listening to your friend from a different culture speak of the racism they’ve experienced –without assuming you know more about what they’ve experienced than they do.
Compassion means kindness.
Compassion means gentleness.
Compassion means caring.
Maybe this doesn’t seem hard to you.
Maybe you enjoy showing compassion to your baby.
Maybe you enjoy showing compassion to your kid.
Maybe you enjoy showing compassion to people in need.
But pay close attention to that what now.
It says, “Show GOD’S compassion.”
The other day I found Daniela on the porch.
She was squatting down.
Moving her hands in a gentle petting motion.
Soothingly saying, “Hola.”
The animal she was being so compassionate to?
My first thought is “Get away! It’s a bee. It’ll hurt you.”
Daniela’s thought? “I will show you compassion.”
I still moved her away from the bee.
Who’s more in line with God?
“Don’t show compassion, you might get hurt.”
“I’m showing compassion no matter what.”
God calls us to show compassion even if it may hurt.
Especially when it may hurt.
Even to the ones who are out to hurt us.
Because he showed compassion to us when it hurt.
That’s the compassion God wants you to have.
Not just for the people that have had compassion on you.
Not just for the people that you like.
Not just for the people that can get you back.
For people who can never pay you back.
For people that haven’t done anything likable.
For people that can might even hurt you.
In fact, Isn’t that what God did in today’s account?
On the one hand, this story is about God’s compassion to Moses.
But, on the other hand, it is about God’s compassion to Pharoah.
Think about it:
That baby becomes the mother of Moses.
That Moses becomes the leader of the people of Israel to safety.
That people of Israel become the bearers of the promised Savior.
That Savior was our Savior.
That Savior, get this, was Pharoah’s Savior.
God kept Moses safe from Pharaoh’s hand that…
God might keep Pharaoh safe from His hand.
We just finished up Easter. It was awesome!
Over 1000 Easter eggs.
The power of the Gospel.
It’s like we came out of the grave of quarantine.
Just like Jesus came out of the grave.
To celebrate how Jesus came out the grave.
But now we are following up by going to the book of Exodus. Exodus is not too difficult to find in your Bible. Go to the beginning. Page through Genesis until you get to the end of it. Then, you will find Exodus. The second book in the Bible.
Exodus’ date is not totally certain. The most commonly accepted theory has it occurring in 1446 B.C. That means its events happened 3477 years ago.
It was a different time.
It was a different place.
It was a different people.
Did you know the word “EXODUS” literally means “a mass departure of people?” In the book, the people of Israel make a mass departure from the oppression and death of their Egyptian overlords.
We aren’t out of it yet.
But COVID numbers are improving.
The Exodus from COVID is beginning.
How do we do it?
What do we keep in mind as God provides us with Exodus?
As we study the OG Exodus, may God guide our hearts in truth, understanding, and hope. Before we begin, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our eyes to hear what you want us to hear; open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Background
The story begins with the Israelite people under oppression. A bit more about how that happened:
In the book of Genesis, we are introduced to a guy named Israel. Israel had 12 sons. Their names were Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; Issachar and Zebulun; Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher, Benjamin and Joseph.
That last one, Joseph, is probably the most famous of all. The family originally resided in Canaan and Joseph is the first one to “move” to Egypt.
Maybe “move” isn’t the right term.
Forcibly bloodied, sold into slavery, falsely accused, left to rot in prison, and miraculously saved by God’s grace is more accurate.
But that’s another sermon series for another time.
The main point is that Joseph eventually became the second in command of the Pharaoh of Egypt. He was placed in charge of food stored in preparation for a seven-year famine and, then, rationing the food during the famine.
Joseph did a great job and saved many lives.
The Egyptian people were thankful. The king even invited Joseph’s family to come to Egypt and live with them.
This is where Exodus picks up:
They who went to Egypt with Jacob, each with his family: The descendants of Jacob numbered seventy in all; Joseph was already in Egypt. (v.1-5)
How do you get to 70? Each of those 12 brothers had their own family. If you’re really into Bible trivia, you can find a full accounting of these families in Genesis 46. What’s interesting to me is how sin and sadness was already a part of their family:
Reuben had a wife and four kids.
Simeon had five children with one woman and another child with a second woman.
Judah had five children, but two of had died at a young age.
Asher had four boys and a girl.
Gad had seven kids.
And Dan had a single child.
The Israelite family was accepted into Egyptian society.
They were given a place to live.
They were given food to eat.
Their kids were invited on play dates.
And the dad’s got to join in whatever the ancient Egyptian equivalent of the local bowling teams were.
The family of Israel was the family of Joseph.
And Joseph was a savior to the Egyptian people.
But then some things started to change. These things are only a few verses long, but they represent some years of attitudinal changes that reshape the role of the Israelite family in Egyptian society.
The family of Israel became the People of Israel.
Verse six says it this way, “Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, but the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them. (v.6-7)
Wanna do some math?
There were 70 men in the Israelite family according to Genesis 46:29. Of those 70, 12 of them were in Joseph’s generation.
That means 58 boys grew up and got themselves wives for a total of 116 in their family.
If each those couples each had an average of 3 children, that would be 116 aunt and uncles plus 290 children.
If you did that same math with the next generation, you’d get…
Carry the 1.
Multiply the square root.
And count to it…
Very quickly this was becoming more than just a singular immigrant family in Egypt.
Very quickly they were becoming an entire minority culture.
And at least one person didn’t like it.
Unfortunately, he was a very important person.
A NEW Pharaoh rose to Power.
Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. (v.8)
I don’t know why this happened.
Maybe he didn’t pay attention in history class.
Maybe his uncle didn’t buy him any Joseph action figures.
Maybe history just gets lost sometimes because people don’t care to talk about it.
I don’t know.
But this new Pharoah didn’t know the incredible blessings Joseph’s family brought to Israel.
He only knew…
That he didn’t like them.
“Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.” (v.8-10)
It sounds almost like a rallying cry of sorts, doesn’t it?
These people are the reason for our problems.
These Israelites are the reason that the economy is shrinking.
These foreigners are the reason that gas prices have risen.
We need to need to stop them.
I’ve got a plan.
So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor… (v.12)
They mocked the Israelites.
They developed derogatory racial terms for the Israelites.
They made the Israelites eat at their own restaurants.
They whipped them.
They beat them.
But despite all these negative changes, there is one thing that didn’t change.
…the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread… (v.13)
Because they were God’s people.
And God wanted his people to be blessed.
And if God wants his people to be blessed…
There’s nothing an angry, xenophobic king can do about it.
Even when OPPRESSED, God’s people are BLESSED.
This has been true about the pandemic.
At the end of 2020, there was a GALLUP poll that asked questions about American’s mental health.
Across the board, every group of people ranked themselves as having a dip in mental health.
Every group except one.
Do you know what that group was?
Not the rich.
Not even Super Bowl victors.
Those who have remained connected to their church.
It’s more than just emotional health.
God’s Word has become more easily available than every before.
Social media is flooded with church services, sermons, and songs every weekend.
God’s people have doubled down to meet with each other via ZOOM, even if they had to get their kids to bed.
People have spent more time in God’s Word.
People have spent more time in prayer.
People have spent more time just simply depending on their Savior Jesus.
Which is a blessing.
A blessing delivered during the oppression of the pandemic.
And even if none of that were true, God’s people are still blessed.
We are still loved by Jesus.
We are still saved by his grace.
We are still redeemed.
We are still sanctified.
We are still forgiven.
III. The Decree
When people are oppressed, God’s people are still blessed. This is truth.
But there’s another unfortunate truth that can run alongside.
When others see how God’s people are still blessed when their oppressed…
They bring more oppression.
…so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites and worked them ruthlessly. They made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly. (v.13-14)
I don’t care that it’s hot; get the straw.
I don’t care that you’re tired; put the mud in the brick forms.
I don’t care that it’s your birthday; I’ve got a whip and I give his daddy welts as a present.
All of this comes to a head in verse 15, The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” (v.15)
Being a 15th-century B.C. midwife couldn’t have been a very glamorous job.
There are long hours.
Need to be ready at a moment’s notice.
People are emotional.
People are rude.
So, I don’t know…
I imagine these two women finishing up with a family.
Their clothing soaked with sweat.
They started taking off their shoes.
Oh my aching feet…
PHAROAH WANTS TO SEE YOU BOTH NOW!
And Pharoah was someone to listen to!
Someone to fear!
His palace was impressive.
You pass countless armed guards to get to him.
There are paintings in the wall describing the number of people that Pharoah’s grand army has defeated!
Or – decapitated.
They enter his throne room.
He sits so high above them.
They are forced onto their knees.
His perfectly trimmed Egyptian goatee screams a message of dominance.
Maybe these midwives did fear him.
Just not as much as someone else.
The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. (v.17)
Because while their earthly king said, “Murder.”
Their heavenly king said, “Do not murder.”
So, they don’t listen.
And when the king caught wind of this and called them into his courtroom to question their disobedience, they just blamed it on the strength of Hebrew women. “They are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.” (v.19)
Which isn’t totally untrue.
Hebrew women were strong.
Because they had an all-powerful God on their side.
And it was this same powerful God that worked through these two lowly midwives to save his people.
God works through UNLIKELY people to accomplish His INCREDIBLE work.
Cause two midwives is probably not who you’d expect to do God’s Work.
A super soldier?
A techy billionaire?
Or an assassin who turned over a new leaf?
But this isn’t the Avengers.
This is God.
God often chooses the people that look weak.
The people that seem unimpressive.
The people that are unsung…
To do his incredible work.
Is that you?
Do you feel weak?
Are you unimpressive?
Are you unsung?
You are exactly whom God is looking for.
Even during this year.
Even during a pandemic.
Even if you aren’t labelled essential by government edicts.
Even if you aren’t labelled essential by others in society.
Even if you don’t label YOU essential.
Scripture says this, “God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)
Because it’s all about God.
And the more that the world thinks you are unimpressive.
The more the world feels that you are week.
The more unsung YOU are.
The more SUNG God will be.
Which is the point.
Because he alone is the Savior.
And he is directed people to be saved through YOU.
IV. What Now?
How do you do unsung work for our Savior God?
1) Fear God
That was the driving force for Shiprah and Puah.
They feared the eternal God more than they feared the temporal king.
They feared the being who breathes eternal hellfire rather than the man whose body would be burned with regular fire.
Fear in Hebrew has two senses.
The first is terror.
To fear something because it is bigger, stronger, and more powerful than you.
But there’s a second aspect of the Hebrew definition.
An aspect that encompasses respect.
Our God saved us.
He lived perfectly when you couldn’t.
He died innocently in your place.
He rose triumphantly to assure you of your forgiveness.
Because of God, you are forgiven.
You are in his kingdom.
You have peace.
Nobody else can offer that to you.
And nobody else should cause enough “awe” to inform your day-to-day decisions.
No one else.
Not a friend.
Not a family member.
Not a coworker.
Not a C.E.O.
Not a Twitter trendsetter.
Not a President.
Fear him more than anyone.
And fear him more than anyone.
2) Obey God in Whatever You Do
Maybe you don’t have a high-ranking job.
That doesn’t mean God can’t work through you.
I remember when I was a dishwasher.
I was in charge of scrubbing pots.
I was in charge of cleaning pans.
I was in charge of dumping out the stinky pot of used grease from the fryer.
It was lowly.
I also remember a certain waitress, older than me, who was having boyfriend issues.
He had fathered her child and since left her.
She felt alone.
She felt sad.
She felt abused.
And after one particularly, abusive phone call, she was in tears.
The cooks laughed it off.
The boss said, “Suck it up.”
The other waitresses began to gossip.
When it was quiet…
And she handed me a plate filled with fish fry grease.
She said, “I’m sorry. It’s been a rough day.
For whatever the reason….
I’m still sure why…
I was able to say:
“I’m sorry he said that. It must be hard to be alone. But I know that you aren’t. Can I tell you about Jesus?”
To his glory.
Jesus brought comfort to her that night.
1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
Do you do dishwashing? Do it for God’s glory.
Do you do newspaper delivery? Do it for God’s glory.
Do you post on social media for 13 followers? Do it for God’s glory.
Do you teach 1-year-olds? Do it for God’s glory.
Because when you do.
You are an unsung hero.
Understand that’s only in the world’s eyes.
Because God sang about you as he knit you together.
God crooned with joy as he gave you life.
God added a new stanza to the song of salvation that’s all about you.
And God brings the beautiful melody of the Gospel to others through you.
I guess what I’m saying is…
You might be unsung to the world.
But to God?
Because you’re sung.
I. The Story
Perhaps it happened something like this….
Mary took the steaming kettle off the fireplace.
She poured it over the coffee grounds and into her mug.
Then, added a little milk.
There wasn’t time to wait for it to cool.
She needed to be awake, functioning, and on the road before the sun was up.
And she was exhausted.
The last few days were rough.
Staying up late.
Lots of crying.
She missed her friend.
He had been forcefully taken before she could say good-bye.
He had been shoved in a dark room.
In a sense, it was like he was quarantined.
No one could get in.
No one could get out.
But unlike a quarantine, there wasn’t going to be an end to this darkness.
He was dead.
Her mind kept replaying what she had seen. (Mark 15:40)
Jesus had been taken by a mob of soldiers.
Jesus had been condemned by a group of priests, church elders, and lay people.
Jesus had been nailed – hand and foot to a cross.
Jesus had been locked in a tomb never to be heard from again.
She missed him….
The tears might have begun flowing again had it not been for the interruption.
Mary! We’re here. Are you ready?
It was her friends.
Salome and another Mary. They called her Magdalene.
Mary grabbed the heavy cloak of her son James, wrapped it around herself, and walked out.
Do you have what we need?
Yesterday they had bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. (Mk. 16:1)
I still can’t believe the deal we got…
Normally it’s one bottle for a kopek.
But Mary did such a good job haggling with that vendor…We got two bottles for one kopek
And have you ever seen balsam at such a good deal?
Mary shot her a look.
Now wasn’t the time...
They approached the garden quietly, remembering where they had seen them lay his body. (Mark 15:47)
Turn at the olive tree.
Over the little hill
Past the rose bushes.
As they approached the final turn, the conversation turned practical:
“Who will roll the sone away from the entrance of the tomb? (Mk. 16:3)
It was rather large.
Big enough to cover a doorway.
Big enough that you couldn’t just move it.
Big enough that no one person could move it.
Perhaps they could convince the Roman soldiers.
Mary, you could practice your haggling skills once more!
But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. (Mk. 16:4)
At this, Mary Magdalene screamed!
How could they do this?
They must have stolen his body!
They just wanted to add insult to injury.
They probably took it out and are going to display it on a pole somewhere for everyone to see.
It’s too much.
I can’t handle it.
I’ve gotta tell the disciples!
She turned and ran away. (John 20:1-2)
But the other Mary grabbed the hand of Salome.
She squeezed it.
Together they walked forward to investigate.
As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. (Mk. 16:5)
Mostly because nicely dressed young men aren’t usually sitting inside a tomb.
Usually, they are wearing strips of linen cloth within a burial site.
And usually, the person inside the tomb isn’t sitting.
Because they’re dead.
Don’t be alarmed, he said. You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. (Mk. 16:6)
They women’s eyes followed his gesture to the rock where his body was supposed to have been.
Just the linen cloths.
Their eyes darted around the room.
There was no sign of forced entry.
No sign of a footsteps.
No indication that grave robbers had been there.
There was nobody.
“Go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” (Mk. 16:7)
The women looked at one another could it be true.
Each of them was trembling. (v.8)
Could it be?
Did he do it?
Was Jesus alive?
The women hurried away from the tomb…
They ran past the rose bushes.
They sprinted up the hill.
They darted past the olive tree.
They went as fast as they could.
They were afraid yet filled with joy. (Mt. 28:8)
Because Jesus was no longer dead.
Jesus was alive.
II. Facing Death
The Easter story is more than just good news for the women.
The Easter story is good news for us.
And you can find that good news within the angel’s words.
TRUTH: Jesus was crucified.
Did you know this past year that over 2.81 million people died from COVID alone?
And so far this year, the running total for all known deaths worldwide, is above 14.4 million? (Worldometer.com)
That’s a lot of death.
But consider the numbers of those affected by death.
People who have lost loved ones.
Who stayed up late crying over an old photo album.
Who broke into tears any time a favorite song played.
Who lost sleep trying to figure out what to do next.
Who lost a mom, a dad, or a child.
Maybe you know that firsthand.
Jesus knew it too.
He knew your pain too.
This why Jesus came to earth.
He saw your pain.
He saw your hurt.
He saw your fear.
All of it caused by death.
And he wanted to do something about it.
By taking on death.
That’s exactly what he did!
These women are the witnesses of this.
They saw the blood dripping from his right hand.
They saw the blood dripping from his left hand.
They saw the blood coming from his feet.
They saw the crown of thorns mangled against his brow.
They saw his eyes - bloodshot and tired.
They saw sweat covering his abdomen.
They saw him laboring to breathe.
They saw his body start to tremble.
They saw him breathe his last.
And then, they saw his body taken into the grave.
Just like so many others.
Just like all others.
Jesus was dead.
III. …and Coming Out Alive
But I want to draw your attention to angel’s words one more time. He said, “You are looking for Jesus who was crucified.”
That’s an imperfect verb.
It describes an action that took place in the past…
With occurring results in the past…
That are no longer true in the present.
Last night, I was eating a Reece’s chocolate egg.
I could taste it at the time.
But I can’t taste it anymore.
It isn’t in mouth.
As you can see.
Or another example…
I was seated on the couch last night.
It was comfy.
My dog joined me.
But currently, I am standing.
No couch in sight.
Jesus was crucified.
He was dead.
But no longer.
Jesus has RISEN.
He did what no one else could do.
What no warrior could do.
What no king could do.
What no president could do.
What no athlete could do.
What no celebrity could do.
What no social media advocate could do.
What no scientist could do.
What no doctor could do.
What no vaccine could even do.
He entered death and came out alive!
And so will you.
Not on your own.
On your own death will defeat you.
But by faith in Jesus…
Remember -- we confessed it earlier in this service, the “wages of sin is death.” The whole reason that death was in this world in the first place was sin. Our sin.
But Jesus took our sin to the cross.
He killed it.
And he left it in the grave.
He came out alive.
But your sin did not.
In Jesus, you will not die.
In Jesus, you will live.
One more verb tense. Look at the next verb that the angel uses:
He IS not here.
That’s present tense.
As in, “Presently, right now, this moment as I talk to you women. Jesus lives.”
Why would he be?
If he were alive, and he is, why would he be inside a place for dead people? (He isn’t.)
Jesus is NOT in the tomb.
He wasn’t at the time the women spoke to the angel.
He wasn’t the time this was written down.
And is not in the tomb now.
Jesus is alive.
Jesus is taking care of his people.
Jesus is taking care of you.
He’s with you while you face the pandemic.
He’s with you while you face job loss.
He’s with you while you face relationship struggles.
He’s with you while you face death.
He’ll be with you after death….
IV. What Now?
Because one of the scariest things in this world is death.
A while earlier, I was talking to someone who had COVID.
They were older.
They had preexisting health issues.
They were in need of medical care.
‘Pastor,’ they said, ‘I’m tired. I’m sick. I’m anxious for my kids.”
But, “Pastor,” they said, “I’m not scared.”
Because if I die…
When I die…
I know that I will live.
Because I know that Jesus lives.
They were right.
Jesus said this, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die. And whoever lives and believes in me, will never die.” (John 10:25-26)
I don’t know if you’ll get COVID.
I don’t know if or when you’ll die.
But I do know this.
You will live.
There’s no doubt.