Aaron was a disaster

This post is the fifth post in a five-part series on Exodus 1-4.

God eventually gave Moses exactly what he asked for. Moses asked God to send someone else and God sent Aaron, Moses' brother. But God sent Moses too.

Everything that God called Moses to do, Moses ended up doing. Moses went to Pharaoh. Moses spoke to the Israelite elders. Moses performed miracles. God's sending of Aaron didn't actually let Moses off the hook one whit.

But Aaron was a disaster. Every single one of Moses' objections to God's call, the fears behind each of them, came through in Aaron.

Aaron caved in to the people, incapable of leading them in Moses' absence. He helped them worship the golden calf, fueling their confusion about who God actually was. He grumbled against Moses and tried to undermine his leadership. And at the end of his life, he didn't intervene when Moses made the disastrous decision to strike the rock, the decision that kept Moses from entering the Promised Land with the people.

Aaron had wonderful moments throughout the story. But his presence as a co-leader with Moses proved harmful time and time again.

I wonder sometimes whether or not my insecurities will lead me to share leadership with people who aren't ready for it. Or, worse, whether I'm that person, standing by Moses' side at great cost.

One of the big things that God is doing in me in this season is to hammer away at my insecurities: transforming some into true confidence and others into humility and dependence. I hope that as God calls me throughout my life, I'll find that he's given me confidence to receive his call (see Moses) and maturity to handle it well (see Aaron).

In what ways is the Lord growing your confidence and maturity in this season?

Here I am, send me

This post is the fourth post in a five-part series on Exodus 1-4.

When God calls Isaiah to be a prophet (wait, I thought this was about Moses), Isaiah draws on Exodus for his response.

Moses responded to the Lord's call "Moses, Moses" with an available "Here I am." When God detailed his plan to save the Hebrew people from slavery, Moses probably felt a sense of relief: the very thing he thought needed to happen was now going to happen. But when the Lord said "Go, I am sending you," Moses resisted, launching objection after objection at God until he couldn't argue anymore.

Isaiah, generations later, knew this story. When he called out to God, he quoted Moses: "Here I am." But he went one further: "Send me."

Did Isaiah just have more confidence than Moses? Moses had been rocked by failure and rejection. Perhaps that's why Isaiah didn't reject God's call (or resist it).

But I wonder if there isn't something more. Maybe Isaiah knew both the beginning and the whole of Moses' story. Maybe Isaiah knew that on the other side of Moses' resistance, he saw God move in mighty ways, in ways that would mark God's people forever. Maybe Isaiah knew that being used by God, even if you're not feeling fully adequate, is still wonderful.

Moses' story is in here for us to learn from him. There's too much detail here for someone to just be telling a history. The back and forth. The comments about God's motivation and emotions. The nuance. These all pile up for us, if we will learn.

How do you learn from examples in the Bible? What do you do differently today because you've spent time with Moses' story and Isaiah's story?

Fellow Hebrew, Fellow Egyptian

This post is the third part in a five part series on Exodus 1-4.

 At some point in his late 30s or early 40s, Moses turned a corner and decided to engage with his Hebrew heritage. He went out to see the Hebrews working and laboring away as slaves.

He saw an Egyptian beating an Israelite. Looking this way and that, Moses saw that he was alone and could act without getting caught. He killed the Egyptian and buried his body in the sand. Was this impulsive? Was this the beginning of his attempt to lead a slave revolt? We don't know.

But we know that it led to a tremendous rejection in Moses' life.

Shortly after this scene, Moses saw two Hebrews fighting. He lectured the one in the wrong: "Why are you beating your fellow Egyptian?" Pay attention to that word "fellow."

Moses tried to point to the common ground these two men shared. Why fight each other when you have a bigger enemy? Minority groups always struggle with this, infighting at their own expense. Moses was trying to get them to focus on the real bad guys. But it didn't work.

The man Moses lectured pushed back with a sharp barb. The gist of this barb was: Who are you to lecture me about fighting with my fellow Hebrew when you killed a fellow Egyptian. Did they know that Moses was born into a Hebrew family? Was this maliciously cruel? Was this just ignorant?

Moses went away. Ostensibly he ran from Pharaoh. But I find myself wondering, as I spend time in the passage, if the whole story would have taken a different, Spartacus turn if those men had received Moses as a fellow Hebrew. Remember, things didn't end well with Spartacus.

Moses' rejection - and all the pain that came with it - sets the stage for a different kind of story. This is not going to be the story where a mighty hero leverages a powerful position to create a radical revolution. It's the story of a quiet man, a failure, who leans heavily on the Lord and succeeds in liberating God's people only because God was with him.

Where have you experienced rejection? How has that shaped you? How can God use that experience of rejection in your life?

Naming Moses

This post is the second post in a five-part series on Exodus 1-4.

Who got to name Moses?

He was born into an established family. His mother loved him. But neither his family nor his mother gave him his name.

Have you ever noticed this detail in the passage?

Moses gets his name from Pharaoh's daughter. Whatever he was called before his adoption, from that point on he's Moses.

Scholars debate the meaning of Moses' name. Traditionally, it's been taken to come from the Hebrew phrase for "to pull out or to draw out of water." And that may be where his name comes from. But he was named by an Egyptian woman. Maybe she knew how to speak some Hebrew, but it's far more likely that Moses' name comes from the Egyptian word for son ("mose").

Moses would experience alienation from his Hebrew roots in his very name. This was the name given to him by his adoptive community. This was the name that marked him as an Egyptian.

Later in Moses' life, God would call to him: "Moses, Moses." His wife and children would call him "Moses." The people he led would know him as "Moses."

That name would follow him for his whole life.

Where does your name come from? What does it mean to you?

Saved by Women

This is the first post in a five-part series on Exodus 1-4, sharing short snippets of things that have stood out to me.

You don't get Moses' story without the intervention of strong, courageous, savvy women. Four times in the first four chapters of Exodus, Moses' life is saved by women.

The first story has to do with Shiprah and Puah, the Hebrew midwives who resist Pharaoh's command to kill the baby Israelite boys. They fear God more than Pharaoh, use what little power they have at their disposal, and then play on Pharaoh's racism to escape the consequences. We don't know where they fall historically (when in time they stand in relation to Moses' birth), but we do see that the first resistance to Pharaoh's brutality did not come from Moses, it comes from these women.

The second story is the story of Moses' mother. She defies Pharaoh's command to throw her child into the Nile and hides Moses for months, a difficult feat to accomplish with an infant and several other children (Moses had at least two other siblings). The passage does not mention Moses' father. In the end, Moses' mother obeys the letter of Pharaoh's command - child into the river - but not it's spirit: "He never said we couldn't give the baby a boat!" Moses' mother showed both courage and wisdom. We wouldn't have Moses without her.

The third story is the story of Pharaoh's daughter. She knows immediately that the baby she pulled out of the river is a Hebrew baby. He bears the marks of circumcision. She would know that there was an edict throughout the land that boys like this were to be cast into the river. And yet she defies her father. We don't know why. We don't know what it cost her. We do know that she did it publicly, deliberately, indirectly. And again, Moses' life is saved.

The last story comes 80 years later. Two-thirds of Moses' life passes in these first four chapters. He's married and has a child. He's received God's call to confront Pharaoh and is turning to obey. Moses will go back to Egypt. But then we see this wild story. The Lord prepares to kill Moses, right after calling him. Moses' wife, Zipporah, realizes what is happening and acts swiftly. She circumcises their son, an important religious ritual that Moses had avoided, possibly because giving that mark of Hebrew belonging to his son would bring back to him memories of his own experience of rejection. At the last minute, Zipporah saved Moses' life.

Before Moses confronts Pharaoh, his life is saved 4 times by women.

It's easy, when jumping into the epic stories of Scripture, to skip over details like these and characters like these. Spending large chunks of time in these passages gives our eyes time to adjust to the new light, to see with more clarity the amazing things that are happening.

Why do you think Exodus starts with 4 stories of women's bravery and wisdom?

Long-Time Passages

Throughout my life, I've had Scripture passages that have just seemed to stick with me and follow me for years. Ephesians. Jonah. Stories in Luke's gospel. They pop up over and over again, whether I'm looking to study them or not.

Recently, I've been getting the feeling like I'm being stalked by Exodus 1-4. I spent a year or so studying it in preparation for the LaFe13 Conference and it's popped back up several times in the 13 months since. In conversations. In references. At work.

Over the next few days, I'll post some snippets of thoughts or insights into that passage. Just a few.

They're meaningful to me and I don't want to forget them, which is a great excuse to write about them.

Do you ever have passages that stick with you - follow you - over the years?