“When all you’ve got is nothing, it’s enough to go around.” – Through Heaven’s Eyes, Prince of Egypt
I had the pleasure of studying and then teaching an incredibly significant part of the Bible this week. Because of the weight I’ve felt from studying, my human limitations in communicating the burdens and then my ability to forget such momentous convictions – I’ve decided to do a little reflection. I hope to make it a habit for every passage I get to study in depth.
The passage: Exodus 2:11-4:20. Here’s what happens in these jam-packed chapters:
Context – Exodus is after the book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible. I felt lucky because I also just had the privilege of studying the very end of Genesis, with the conclusion of the Joseph story (kind of). I got to study chapter 50, in particular, verse 20 where Joseph’s brothers come to him and confess/seek a kind of apology for the wrong they did to him (if you don’t know: they sold him into slavery). His response is one only someone who’s seen God work through many years of difficulties could respond: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” This dude was a baller. He’s totally able to see everything he’s been through, through “heaven’s eyes”.
So, Jo’s bros and entire family get to come with Joseph into Egypt. Hundreds of years go by (400) and as they do, things do not progress well for the Israelite people (Joseph & his 11 brothers represent the 12 tribes of the Hebrew nation). They multiply like crazy to the extent that Pharaoh becomes a little overwhelmed and chooses to enslave them in Egypt so that they won’t rise up against Egypt and take over. So, they’re enslaved and extremely abused, but the more they hurt, the more God blesses his people and they multiply! So, Pharaoh orders all the male babies to be killed (if you don’t have men to be an army, they won’t be able to attack – insert finger-tapping-forehead meme here). This is when Moses enters the scene. Basically, his mom saves him, gets picked up by Pharaoh’s daughter, gets raised by mom but then becomes a prince of Egypt.
Chapter 2 verse 11 begins: “Then when Moses had grown up” – meaning, 40 years later. He’s 40. Which is reassuring to a 26 year old who hardly feels grown – 40 is officially “grown up”. What really strikes me, though, is the preparation and combination of circumstances that lead to what happens next. Moses yes, was a Prince of Egypt, but he was also raised by his God-fearing parents for the first 12-13 years of his life! So, he’s probably got a solid foundation of who God is, of the promise God makes to free the Israelites after 400 years of slaver in Genesis 15. He’s probably been groomed to understand this is going to happen and then he enters the palace – a place where he was secularly trained, given authority, wealth and power. I mean, he’s probably thinking at this point that he is God’s man in the inside. If anyone were to set the people free, it would be him. I mean, come on!
But that’s not what happens next. He definitely tries – by murdering an Egyptian who was attacking a Hebrew… But now he’s a murderer. Everyone finds out, his own people reject him as a murderer (probably as a spoiled brat prince, too?), and Pharaoh tries to kill him. So, he runs away – to Midian. To be a wandering shepherd. Probably dwelling everyday on his failure – his immense, utter failure. Now, when I taught this, I think I didn’t make this point clear enough – Moses had to learn he was a failure. Just like we do. He had to learn his sin, he had to mess up to see his weakness. Before he messed up, he thought he was the best! So often, we don’t see our sin! We can’t see our limitation! And it’s always a surprise to us. And it was to Moses – so much so, that it kind of seems like he gave up on life. Just chilling, wasting away in Midian-ville. Ready to die a failure. That also isn’t good, though, right? Yeah, we need to see our failure, but then do we dwell in it for 40 more years? Take ourselves out of God’s playing field because we messed up once? Well, I think that’s what he learns next and the big point of this passage – God wasn’t done with an 80 year old murderer. He had him right where he wanted him. God, so graciously, approaches Moses, in his failures, and says: so, you know how you are a sinner? You can see that now? OK, great. Now, maybe, you’re ready to do it my way. Moses’s weaknesses had to drive him to God.
The rest of the passage is an awesome conversation between God (in the form of a burning bush) and Moses. God calls Moses to go back to Egypt to set His people free… But Moses pulls out every excuse in the book not to go! How relatable! It was cool to see people in my home church really connect with at least one, if not more, of these excuses. Cool, and humbling. Because these excuses are pride: not only: I can’t do it. But: God, you can’t do this.
Moses eventually gets down and says: I just don’t want to go. After all the excuses he’s honest. Yet, God provides a person to go with Moses – his own brother, who he hasn’t seen in 40+ years.
God’s name is revealed in Moses’ excuses. God lets him in on his personal name – I AM, Yahweh. And this is a point that also really hit me for several reasons:
- God’s starting the plan of salvation history – revealing his name to his people to let them in on the fact that they are his people. And now we can know God’s personal name, too, even if we aren’t Jews.
- It’s him showing Moses: this is who I am. I AM NOT who you think I am, who you want me to be. I Am and have always been and always will be this way. Not “my God” this or that. “Well, My God would never say that”, “my God wouldn’t judge you for that”. No, there’s only one God here. Take him at his word.
- It really is his universe. The meaning of what it is to be, from the beginning throughout eternity really sinks in. And honestly, listening to the Prince of Egypt soundtrack kind of hit this point home for me: “Look at your life through heaven’s eyes” – it’s essentially saying, how is God’s plan moving around you and how can you join him? You don’t know why this is happening – you could look at it through limited human cares and worries. But look at the bigger picture of what’s happening around you. The great I AM is working all around us, when we think about that, our complaints don’t seem to matter so much. We can put aside things that distract, that aren’t contributing to His plan. And that is FREEING to know God is constantly at work, even though he is great. He cares for us and wants to help us get on his page.
It’s pretty amusing that Moses doesn’t really get a choice, though. God had decided to use Moses, apparently. It seems like he goes, willingly, but not after God goes through so much effort to make him say “YES”. I don’t think he makes him, though. But I’m glad he did go. I’m glad he made those excuses so that we can see what God would say to ours. And I’m really glad that God doesn’t just brush aside the failures and the fearful – but he hears us out and grants grace upon grace so we can be apart of his wonderful rescue mission.
“When all you’ve got is nothing, it’s enough to go around.” – Makes sense, now. When I don’t have anything to offer, God can work.