For the week of January 5, 2008 / 27 Tevet 5768
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 6:2 - 9:35
Haftarah: Ezek 28:25 - 29:21
Originally posted January 28, 2006

Hold On

Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and cruel bondage. (Shemot / Exodus 6:9)

Moses didn't have an easy job. God called him to stand before a powerful leader of a powerful nation to demand that they give up their slave labor force. It was not surprising that Pharaoh, King of Egypt, didn't listen to him. That was to be expected, but the very people whom he was to lead didn't listen to him either.

When Moses first presented God's plan to the leaders of his people, they received him enthusiastically. But it wasn't too long after Moses' first confrontation with Pharaoh that their plight turned from bad to worse. After so many years of cruel bondage, Moses, who was actually a fugitive, burst on the scene, saying God had sent him to deliver them. One would assume that if the all powerful God of the universe sends someone to save them that it would just happen. But instead Pharaoh decreed that their labor be made more intense.

I don't think we can blame them for their discouragement. There is no indication that God was critical of their reaction. It would be some time before God would strive with the people over their grumbling and unbelief, but at this point, he took their reaction in stride.

What a challenge this must have been for Moses, however. He knew he had encountered God. Not only had God told him he would deliver the people, he also told him that Pharaoh would not listen. It must have been encouraging to him to see his own people's initial positive response, but then he had to stand alone except for the companionship of his brother Aaron.

It is one thing to read this as a story, but if we stopped to think about it, I wonder how many of us would be willing to be involved in such an undertaking: confronting a political tyrant on one hand, and leading a downtrodden people who had lost all hope on the other.

Yet Moses did it. As God continued to tell him what to say, Moses continued to do it.

Some may think that if they would have such an encounter with God, they would be just like Moses, but I don't think so. We might be surprised at how we can have deeply rooted convictions, yet still give up under pressure. The Bible has many examples of people who dramatically encountered God, yet were not up to the task, or did well for a while, but failed in the end.

It's not the encounter that makes the difference. There is something much deeper that must happen inside a person to enable them to stick to their calling against all obstacles. Somehow Moses was able to keep perspective in spite of the difficulties before him. Somehow he knew that what God was saying was right in spite of the circumstances he faced. The people of Israel had every indication that their situation was not going to get better. Moses had performed some signs for them, which seemed to impress them, but their increased suffering proved to have greater influence upon their outlook than anything Moses said or did. But Moses' response was different. Moses continued to believe God.

This is the challenge that is before each one of us today. Whatever our life situation, will we base our outlook on life on our circumstances, good or bad, or will we base it on what God is saying to us? And God is speaking to us - whether we have had a dramatic encounter like that of Moses or we read his clear directives in the Scriptures. Either way, as we seek to live out what God says, we will be confronted by situations that will try to intimidate us by giving us the impression that we will not be able to succeed in fulfilling God's will in our lives.

It is only when we refuse to be dragged down by these threats of intimidation that we will be able to fulfill God's call. Again, that call may not include the same level of responsibility that Moses was given, or be as critical. Still, whatever our God-given responsibilities are, as we face similar challenges, we must continue to hold on to whatever it is God has said to us.

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