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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Raw Deals

Hey all, about that time.  We're now beginning the Book of Exodus!

Joseph may have been the Man in Egypt, but his time ended.  A few generations passed, and the Hebrews grew fruitful and multiplied, as commanded.  But then new leadership took over, and felt threatened by the fruitfulness and enslaved them.  When that didn't keep them in line, he ruled that all newborn Hebrew males must be drowned in the Nile.

Moses, son of a Levite, was spared this cruel fate by being sent down the Nile in a wicker basket, to be discovered by the Pharaoh's daughter, who raised him as her own.  But instead of reveling in Egyptian power like Joseph did, Moses killed an Egyptian taskmaster he saw beating a slave, and became an urban legend among the other slaves for this actions, meaning he had to flee to Midian.

While he was hiding out, G-D appeared to Moses as a burning bush at Mount Horeb and chooses him to free the slaves from Egypt.  He will go in G-D's name, explain this to the Hebrew elders, and explain that the Hebrews will be freed from slavery and given the land currently occupied by the Canaanites.  He also assured Moses that he need not fear what the Egyptians might do, because He'll handle them.  Pharaoh, similar to bullies of later generations, did not back off from anything unless it was stronger than him, so G-D would be Moses' muscle.  And He'd get the average Egyptian to start sympathizing with the slaves, too!

And just to prove Who was making it all happened, He showed a few "signs and wonders."  Moses still felt reluctant to take this job, as a "man of few words," but G-D told him to not even sweat it, He would give Moses the words, but if he'd rather use a mouthpiece anyway, He'll tap his long-lost brother Aaron into service.  And don't worry about everyone who wanted to nail you for killing that taskmaster, the statute has run, so nobody's going to hold that against you.

So he and Aaron give the good news to the Hebrews, and put on the signs & wonders show, and they give them credence.  They then ask Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go out for three days into the wilderness to sacrifice to G-D.  Pharaoh not only shuts them down, he directs the slave to make bricks without providing them with the straw needed to do so.

Moses asks G-D why He allowed Pharaoh to hurt the Hebrews, and G-D says, "Just wait."

Sometimes we find ourselves with a goal or mission that makes little sense to others.  Sometimes our reasoning looks crazy or stupid to those who think they know it all, and don't.  But if you know for a fact that something is right, you do yourself a disservice when you hold back.

When Moses complained that he'd rather have someone else actually do the talking in Pharaoh's Court, the text indicates that G-D was angry with him for making that request.  He had no problem talking with his fists when he killed a taskmaster to protect a slave, why is he getting scared to actually speak to Pharaoh?  Possibly because that current Pharaoh grew up with him in the palace, and might be less receptive to his new role?  Maybe because somebody could recognize his voice and say, "Why should we believe that this murderer is carrying a message from a foreign deity?"  Either way, this was a big blunder on Moses' part, because he let guilt and fear from the past immobilize him.  

He may have had a prior station in life that he had to give up for a good reason.  But it was still his calling to free those same people for whom he killed to protect.  Instead of realizing that his sense of justice, which led him to take a life, had come full circle, as he was now about to protect the entire Hebrew nation, instead of just one slave.  But he was too scared to take on this role, so he had to have his own personal spokesman.

Not to get off on a tangent, but this reminds me of those situations where a family is involved in a newsworthy story, and who speaks to the media?  A "family spokesperson."  More often than not, this "family spokesperson" doesn't even have the same name as the family.  And more often than not, this "family spokesperson" is defensive and abrasive, and forever demands that the media just "leave the family alone," knowing full well that this demand does not make the story less newsworthy.  The "family spokesperson" does nothing but prevent the real parties to the story from making an appearance, and serves as a confirmation that the actual "family" are cowards who will not speak for themselves.

Not everyone stays cool and calm when visited by a forgotten diety who makes clear demands and scares you a little bit so you'll know He's real.  Moses gets some credit because of that, but he could have grown enough courage to agree to challenge Pharaoh on his own, without Aaron as a "spokesperson," especially after G-D promised to protect him from anything that Pharaoh would try to do.  This may explain why G-D allowed Pharaoh to tighten his grip on the Hebrews a little bit . . . if you doubt yourself, you'll lose ground, but if you trust yourself, you'll advance.

And so, my Beta Brothers, take this story from the beginning of Exodus to heart.  As cute, adorable, and comfortable as it may be to be a reluctant and unassuming leader, it is far better in the long run to be a confident one.  You can still be a nice guy, but try being nice and assertive simultaneously -- it really can be done!

Go Your Way . . . .