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For the week of January 17, 2015 / 26 Tevet 5775
Torah: Shemot/Exodus 6:2-9:35
Haftarah: Ezekiel 28:25-29:21

God's Directives

But the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron and gave them a charge about the people of Israel and about Pharaoh king of Egypt: to bring the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt. (Shemot/Exodus 6:13)

Life to the fullestMoses had quite the life! First, he should not have survived infancy as he was born during the time of Pharaoh king of Egypt's edict that all male Hebrew boys should be killed. When his parents couldn't hide him any longer, he was sent to an uncertain fate as he was placed in the Nile River in a basket. But he was found by none other than the king's daughter; and Moses' own mother was hired to nurse him. The Scriptures don't tell us how he discovered his true heritage, but at some point he became not only aware that he was a Hebrew, but also that he was called to rescue them.

Whether it was that he was not ready or that it was not God's timing, his initial attempt to stand up for his people was disastrous. Taking matters into his own hands, he secretly murdered an Egyptian who had been abusing one of his fellow countrymen. His misdeed was discovered, and the king sought to kill him. So Moses fled to the wilderness.

By the time God did call him to deliver his people, Moses was no longer willing. It might be hard to believe that he just about flat out refused to obey. But God wasn't taking no for an answer. So he went.

When Moses first approached the elders of his people they were encouraged that after so many years of suffering God was going to take action. But not surprisingly, Pharaoh king of Egypt was not happy by God's demand of release and so increased the burden of his Hebrew slaves. As a result the elders were upset at Moses and wouldn't listen to him, as they blamed him for making their situation worse.

So here is God's champion isolated from both the evil king and the people he came to save. But God wasn't done. In fact, he was just getting started. Undaunted by Pharaoh's stubbornness and the people's despondency, God sends Moses back to Pharaoh with the demand, "Let my people go!"

Put yourself in Moses' sandals. Remember he didn't want this job in the first place. Now everyone is mad at him, but God tells him to move forward with his plan anyway. So what does he do? He does it. Do you know why? God said so.

We read at the start that God gave Moses and his brother Aaron "a charge." This is the Hebrew word, tzava', which is often translated "to command." It's similar to the word mitzvah, which in popular Jewish thought is a good deed, but it's much more than that; it's a commandment. For religious Jews, following God is all about his commandments, but more in terms of ritualistic observance than the dynamic relationship we see between God and Moses. Many Christians today wrongly associate ritualistic observance with what Moses is actually modelling for us. This misguided assumption results in tragically rejecting God's revelation of himself through this great teacher of his Word.

To avoid this sort of misunderstanding, I prefer to use the English word "directive" instead of commandment. To me directive is more relational and alive. It reminds me that God's commands are not arbitrary, cold rules. On the contrary, God directs his people for very specific reasons. He has a purpose to accomplish, and he, more than anyone, knows exactly what he is doing.

Had Moses given in to the intimidating forces bearing down on him, life would have continued as normal. He could have gone back to the wilderness, to his family, and to his sheep, while his people would have continued being slaves in Egypt. But everything changed. Not all at once. Moses and the people would face many more challenges. But because Moses continually followed God's directives, his people were set free.

How is God directing you?

Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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