There are things I know I can’t look at because of what they do to my heart, which is mainly turn it a greedy shade of green. This proves a connection between my heart and eyes, and is maybe why the words, “Open the eyes of my heart,” always grab me.
Moses has trouble with the eyes of his heart, too. They sometimes only see what’s in front of him rather than the One who sees and saves him, whose name is Yahweh.
After being commissioned by God to save his people from slavery, Moses meets up with overjoyed Israelites and an unenthusiastic Pharaoh. The year is 1446 BC, when Amunhotep II is pharaoh of Egypt. While the Hebrews worship at the news that God’s heard their cries and will end their bondage, Pharaoh Amunhotep is unimpressed and doubles-down instead, Ex 4:29-5:21 (NIV Study Bible notes).
Pharaoh decides the Jews have too much time on their hands if they’re thinking about a three day vacay from slavery to hang out in the desert worshiping God, which is what Moses asks for. “Who is the LORD?” Pharaoh asks. “I don’t know him,” Ex 5:2.
So he takes away the straw they use to make bricks but continues to demand that their production remains steady. Moses is the logical one the Israelites blame for their worsened conditions, “You have made us a stench to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kills us,” and they cry out to Pharaoh, not to God, for relief. Ex 5:6-9; 15-16.
When this passage opens, Moses takes God to task for what’s elapsed since their last chat. We’re privy to listen in when he asks, “Why have you brought trouble upon this people?” It was a stretch for Moses to trust God enough to go to Pharaoh in the first place. He’s self conscious about the way he speaks, so his brother Aaron goes along to help, Ex 5:22; 4:10-15.
He’s also concerned about his performance. He thinks he’s failed, but he passes the blame and shame along to God. From head-shaking at God with, “What are you doing?” Moses’ tone devolves into accusation, “You have not rescued your people at all.” The words “at all” feel like the bite at the end of a bullwhip, bitter and sharp. Moses is testy, Ex 5:23.
Is it OK to be testy with God?
But God takes it in stride. He ignores Moses’ tone and goes right to his earlier word, that Pharaoh will let them go, and he adds a little piece of news, “Because of my mighty hand, he will let them go…He will drive them out of his country.” Not only will Pharaoh be willing for them to leave, when God gets finished with him, Pharaoh will be runnin’ them outta town, Ex 6:1.
But the best news comes next, when God says, “I am the LORD.” He explains that to forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God made himself known as El Shaddai, which means “the Lord Almighty.” It’s also translated as “God, the Mountain One,” highlighting his power to make the mountains or the place where he symbolically abides, Ge 17:1 (NIV Study Bible note).
God didn’t make himself known to the patriarchs in the fullest sense of his name, Yahweh. What he did was to make his covenant promise with them–to make them a nation and to give them a land–but they never saw that promise fulfilled, Ex 6:2-4.
They knew God as the God who made the covenant, the all-powerful El Shaddai. But Moses and all Israel would know him as the God who keeps his promise, the saving Yahweh, who “will bring you out…will free you…will redeem you,” Ex 6:6-8. This is a side of God the patriarchs didn’t know about.
It’s not that they were ignorant of God’s name, Yahweh. It’s often used in Genesis. But it wasn’t understood by them in the experiential way that Moses and Israel would understand it when they walk out of Egypt and follow God’s fire through the Red Sea. With Yahweh, God shows himself to be the intimate God of relationship, the one who hears the cries of his people and cares, the one who stoops down to bring them out of slavery and into joyful worship, Ex 6:5-8.
There’s more that’s gone on in Egypt during the 430 years that Jacob’s sons have lived and died there. They may be God’s chosen people and the unfortunate slaves at the brick factory, but many are also the willing slaves of Egyptian idolatry with hearts as dark as the Egyptians, Ex 12:41. (Their quick and easy worship of a golden calf at Mt Sinai reveals they were practiced in pagan worship, NIV Study Bible notes, Ex 32).
God’s desire that they come three days into the desert to worship him isn’t just a line to Pharaoh to get them off work. It’s God’s deepest desire to teach his people who he is and how to worship him, Ex 8:20, 27-28.
Moses tells the people what God has said about his name, Yahweh, but they don’t listen because they’re so discouraged. Not having straw to make bricks was a big blow, but so was Moses’ failure with Pharaoh. They’d had high hopes when Moses showed up. They seem to have forgotten his news that God has heard them, and that God will free them. Their despair shows they’d put their hope in Moses rather than in the God who sent him, Ex 6:9 (compare with their response when Moses first arrives, Ex 4:29-31).
And it gets worse. Discouragement is contagious, and it infects Moses. Evidently he’s lost sight of God, too. He’s looking at their hopeless situation and his own inability and is just as hopeless as they are. Like them, he’s forgotten who’s running the show, “If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?” Ex 6:9-12
It’s not the first time he’s gotten discouraged by God’s people. It happened in the last chapter, too, Ex 5:22-23 (for that story, see https://iwantmore.blog/2021/01/28/worry-free/). It’s human to look at circumstances and other people and one’s self when things go badly and to feel discouraged by what we see. But of course there’s no encouragement in these. Only God is Yahweh, the one who sees and saves.
How does God respond to Moses’ accusation? He doesn’t defend and he doesn’t answer his complaint. He just repeats his directive twice–to go to Pharaoh and tell him to let his people go, Ex 6:11, 13. Clearly, God’s word is enough, and he’s not discouraged one bit.
God seems to be weaning Moses off his leadership stats. It’s easy to get caught up in what others think of you and your message, judging yourself by their response to what you’ve said. But what God’s people think of Moses is irrelevant. It’s what God thinks that matters. God is the principal player here, not Moses or Israel. Moses’ message is God’s own word, and he’s responsible to proclaim it to Pharaoh and the people, whether or not they like it or believe it.
It’s not a pep talk Moses and Israel need. It’s a whiff of God and his glory, God and his grace, God and his power to do what he’s said and save. When we see God, everything else falls into place.
God gives them what they most need at this moment–not an eloquent or experienced leader, but more of God himself. This is what he does in sharing his name: “I am the LORD,” I am Yahweh, Ex 6:8.
“The supreme need in every hour of difficulty and depression is a vision of God. To see him is to see all else in proper proportion and perspective.” Morgan (http://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/exodus-6/).
I’m prone to lose heart like Moses, to forget that what God says is strong enough to stand on. Or to be like Peter who focused on the wind and waves around him when he tried to meet Jesus walking on water. It’s only natural to think that what’s right in front of us is all there is.
But God calls us to see more, to keep our eyes wide with faith, to look at him instead. Hard circumstances and unkind people don’t have to sink us. We’re only sunk when we forget who’s calling our name. It’s Yahweh, who “will bring you out…will free you…will redeem you,” Ex 6:6-8. God leads us out of our slaveries and into deeper relationship with him.
When we come to faith, we find that we begin to see through this life to the “more” we have in him. Wide eyed, we learn to see every difficulty as a chance to believe and depend. It wasn’t Moses’ abilities and wisdom that merited him. It was the God who called and empowered him.
“I am the LORD” is where we begin.
Jesus teaches about forgiveness in the parable of the servants who owe money. His takeaway is, “forgive your brother from the heart,” which is only possible with an eye on our real debt to God, Mt 18:23-25.
Next, the Pharisees ask him about divorce.
From the beginning, Jesus said, God’s plan was one woman and one man, joined together as one flesh, and not separated. The Pharisees then ask why Moses commanded “that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Mt 19:4-7.
Jesus’ response is that Moses permitted, not commanded, it because of the hardness of their hearts, but it wasn’t God’s plan since Adam. Anyone who divorces and remarries, except for adultery, commits adultery, Mt 19:8-9.
Jesus knows what they’re really asking, which is this: can we trade-up? And Jesus’ answer is, no. Divorce to trade-up is adultery.
The disciples say something like, “Gee, this is hard. If you can’t trade-up, better not to marry!” Jesus agrees it’s tough. He says, “Not every one can accept it.” The one-wife-for-life or one-man-for-life command is harrrd, Mt 19:10-11.
But Jesus says the alternative is either the gift of celibacy…or castration…or the conviction not to marry for the sake of the kingdom. Other than those reasons for not marrying, the choice is marriage-for-life, not fooling-around-for-life, Mt 19:12.
This teaching goes against the natural man or woman’s bent. It goes against the grain of our culture. Unfortunately, it also goes against the choices of many Christians.
But unless single in these ways, the spiritual man (or woman) must commit to one woman (or man) and curb all other urges. It’s a kind of death, but like all deaths to self, it brings life. There’s no prospering in relationships outside of the way God designed them to work, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it,” Mt 16:25.
Jesus’ teaching at the beginning about forgiving seems deliberately placed just before this one about marriage.
Forgiveness from the heart brings hearts together for giving.
“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want,” v 1.
Here’s the one who has his eyes on the LORD, on Yahweh, his shepherd, “Because God is my shepherd, I have everything I need.” Other people become fellow sheep–not day spas, not oases. Just pilgrims along the way–not dreamy destinations.
God gives green grass and quiet waters, nourishment and refreshment, comfort, plenty, peace. No person can provide these things. They’re just fellow sheep needing tending.
–makes me lie down,
–goes with me,
–follows me with goodness and love all my days, and
–puts me up at his house in heaven, v 2-6.
What more could I ask for? And who else could deliver it?
My take away today is to look at you and not at what I see. When I do, the struggle I feel to believe you falls into place. My blog’s stats still whisper pride and shame, depending on the day, a game that never feeds me as I want it to. Help me to put my trust in the truth that you are Yahweh, the God who frees me.
Sometimes, I go my own way. Thank you for being the shepherd who seeks and saves lost sheep again and again. If you were patient with a pagan pharaoh and wandering people, surely I can expect your patience with me.
Today, I see you as The Shepherd who meets my heart’s cry for everyday connection, who leads me in and out of dark valleys, who chastens and corrects me, who gives me good things, and who will one day bring me home.
I have everything I need.
Exodus 5-7, Matthew 18-19, and Psalm 23 are selected for today in The One Year Bible.