Rev. Katherine Todd
Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.
Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, and the Plain—that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees—as far as Zoar. The Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.” Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day. Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated. The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended.
Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the Lord had commanded Moses.
Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.
Can you imagine a life like Moses’?
The different chapters hardly seem like they should hold together in one person’s story!
He is born to a Hebrew family, amid genocide – the killing of all the Hebrew baby boys by the Egyptian government at Pharaoh’s command. He is finally abandoned into a carefully lined basket left in the bullrushes along the side of the Nile, his sister left to keep watch, for he has become too big and loud to keep quiet and hidden.
Moses is then found by one of Pharaoh’s own daughters. There he gets his name “Moses” – as one drawn out of water. He is first raised by his own family – as his sister quickly offers her family as one to care for the boy while he nurses and is young, and the princess accepts.
Then he moves in the palatial grounds where he grows up among the Egyptian elite, as one of them, the princess’s adopted son.
But this time reaches its abrupt ending, as he loses his temper with an Egyptian task-master, beating a Hebrew slave. Moses is enraged at the injustice, rises up, and kills the Egyptian. And for this he knows he must flee. And so he does. He flees into the wilderness.
And it is there that he finds Herders and Farmers. And he finds a woman whom he marries as his wife. And there he lives a good long time.
…until he sees that bush on fire – on fire yet not burning up!
There is where GOD speaks to him.
There is where GOD calls him back to Egypt – to be used by God to set the Hebrews free.
And so this man…
born of a Hebrew slave,
narrowly escaping infant death by adoption into Pharaoh’s own household,
enraged by the mistreatment of his people, the Hebrews, he kills an abuse and must flee.
This Hebrew, raised an Egyptian, murderer of an Egyptian slave-master over the Hebrews, then flees these disparate parts of his past and takes refuge in the wilderness, tending flocks, starting a family.
He’s become a family man, a quiet man, an invisible man, an immigrant, a refugee…
Until GOD calls him back,
back to his past and everything stirring, everything enraging, everything unjust and evil.
GOD calls him back IN ORDER TO lead the Hebrew people OUT, out to life and freedom and a future of hope.
And so this Hebrew, Egyptian, Murderer, Immigrant, Refugee, Husband…
is CALLED by God.
This man –
already having lived decades of three different lives entirely –
is called to a new chapter:
one of miracles, signs, terrible wonders, great evil, and great deliverance.
And if that doesn’t already sound like enough, he is THEN called to lead the people AFTER their deliverance – another whole skill-set ENTIRELY. He must seek God’s face for the people. He must convey God’s Words to the people. He must lead the people in their long, arduous journey through the wilderness.
He faces complaining.
He faces mutiny.
He faces idolatry.
He faces utter faithlessness.
He faces disobedience.
He faces disputes.
He faces good intentions and frail follow-through.
He is now in the role of pastor, president, interceder, judge, and navigator.
-A Hebrew-born, Egyptian raced, righteously indignant murdering, Immigrant, Refugee, Husband, Prophet, Diplomat, Freedom Fighter, Navigator, Interceder, Spiritual Guide, President, Pastor, and Judge-
It makes me tired thinking about it.
It makes me tired saying it.
How about you?
in Deuteronomy 34,
to the end of his life,
Moses’ vision is unimpaired. His vigor has not waned… to the end.
Judging by Moses’ outrage at the merciless, Egyptian slave-master,…
Given Moses’ fury when returning from long communion with God on the mountain – to break the stone tablets of the word,…
Judging by Moses’ slamming of the stick upon the rock – in anger at the faithless, entitled, short-sited, ungrateful complaining of the people who wanted water. Right. Then…
I’m guessing Moses was a passionate man.
I’m guessing he had two settings – on and off. When he was in the wilderness, he could turn it off. We don’t have any stories of him fighting off nomads or raiders. But when in the middle of the cultural-political-enslaving-exploiting-murderous drama, in which he was raised and from which he had been spared, he could not turn it off. His sense of justice was acute. His anger would swell. And when he watched as the people swiftly forgot God’s faithfulness, deliverance, signs, and wonders – no wonder, he lost his cool. He felt things deeply. He had a keen sense of right and wrong.
And speaking from experience, this is a hard road to walk. To open ones eyes to injustice; to be present to the oppressed, the violated, the exploited; to confront fear-filled and death-dealing regimes of power IS EXHAUSTING.
To deliver, to lead, to teach, to guide… To console and exhort, to seek God’s face and speak God’s words… and yet be met with such short God-memory, such flighty faithfulness, and such ungrateful demand is outrageous. Moses knows this bad behavior won’t fly with God, and Moses can hardly contain himself. He breaks things. He hits things…sometimes. And yet he implores God to give them yet one more chance…again and again.
It is amazing. Crazy amazing.
I am not endorsing Moses’ break-downs. I am not excusing them. God didn’t.
It’s because of his outburst smacking that rock with his stick – from which water gushed onto the complaining people – that he is not allowed to enter into the promised land. He only sees it with his eyes…his eyes which have not diminished, which have not become impaired. He gets to SEE the promised land, but he doesn’t get to enter.
No Moses’ bad behavior – his murder, his outbursts – hitting and breaking things – none of this was okay.
But if we, for even a minute, imagine the road he walked, I imagine few – if any – of us could have done as well! Could we have walked as long or as far? Could we have led for so long, amid such stress and turmoil, conflict and complaining? Could we have worked until we passed – not retiring? Could we have worn so many different hats? Could we have returned to the land of our oppression & anger & fear, in order that others might be set free? Could we have confronted the mightiest power of the land? Could we have stood, our arms raised in obedience, in the face of the in-coming Eyptian army, while the people walk across a lake-bottom by foot, chased by horses and chariots?
Moses did all these things and far more. These are only the stories that have reached us.
And yet when he died, he was still full of vigor, his vision unimpaired.
And I wonder, is this the kind of eternal life – quality of life – that God gives?
Could it be that – as we obey, as we press in, as we face our fears – that God gives us wisdom and unimagined strength?
Could it be that service to God is the best kind of life we can have?
Despite all that stress and wear, Moses remained full of vigor.
By reports in fact, he shined. He shone with the light of God – for he spent time, face to face with God – and so he glowed.
Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, scripture proclaims.
They shall mount up with wings, as eagles.
They shall run and not grow weary.
They shall walk and not faint.
They shall walk and not faint.
May WE be so bold,
So returning to God,
So taking refuge in God,
That WE TOO GLOW.
May WE TOO know
That eternal life – that quality of life
that makes life worth living
that is the nectar and sweetness of life.
Here I am, Lord.
Is it I, Lord?
PRAYER (Ted Loder)
into an unclenched momento
a deep breath,
a letting go
of heavy experiences,
of dead certainties,
softened by the silence,
surrounded by the light,
and open to the mystery,
I may be found by wholeness,
upheld by the unfathomable,
entranced by the simple,
and filled with the joy
that is you.
(Tomas H. Tellez, Nicaragua)
Lord, free us from falling into the sin of believing that the slavery in Egypt is better than the struggles in the desert.
(Frederick Buechner, adapted)
Lord Jesus Christ, help us not to fall in love with the night that covers us but through the darkness to watch for you as well as to work for you; to dream and hunger in the dark for the light of you. Help us to know that the madness of God is saner than men and that nothing that God has wrought in this world was ever possible.
Give us back the great hope again that the future is yours, that not ever the world can hide you from us forever, that at the end the One who came will come back in power to work joy in us stronger even than death.
(Psalm 19, 13-17)
Turn, O Lord! How long? Have compassion on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us,
and as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be manifest to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
Let your favor, O God, be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands—
O prosper the work of our hands!
(Daniel J. McGill)
Bless, O God, my enemies with sunshine.
Upon their crops come shining.
May green grass grow in their meadows,
Sweet crops within their fields;
Send rain upon their soil,
Fill their children with joy,
Bless their grandparents with peace.
May every woman of them know delight;
May ever man of them be loved.
May the birds of their air never hear bombs;
May their rivers run clean, their air smell sweet in the morning.
May all things with life be blessed!
For if my enemy is not blessed,
How can I, O Lord, be blessed?
How can I?
For earth shall cry if they shall weep,
And I shall cry if she is hurt.
Sending (Numbers 6:22-26)
22 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 23 Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them,
24 The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.