Our Inability to Rescue: A Reflection on Moses

I’ve been spending some time in Exodus 2-3 lately and I noticed some things I hadn’t before. For example, I never noticed how strongly Moses was driven to rescue others out of difficulty. He had this sense of justice that seemed to move him to get involved in other people’s issues. In a matter of a few verses, he gets between two Hebrews fighting with each other (Exodus 2:13), he stands up for women who were being bullied (Exodus 2:17), and he even goes as far as killing a cruel Egyptian taskmaster (Exodus 2:12)! I can’t help but admire Moses’ gutsiness. He was a man full of faith (Hebrews 11:24-28). But… I was also struck by how horribly unsuccessful he was at relieving Israel from their slavery (Exodus 2:14-15). You see, at this time in history, Israel was oppressed by Egypt, and their conditions were extremely harsh (Exodus 1:8-22). And because of the sheer power of Egypt, Moses‘ chances of liberating them were as likely as a tadpole defeating a shark! In fact, it wasn’t long before he found himself fleeing Egypt with his tail between his legs (Exodus 2:15). Moses wanted to save, but he wasn’t the saviour. He was indignant when he saw his people’s mistreatment (Exodus 2:11), but he may not have realised that someone far more powerful and compassionate than him was also watching everything that was happening (Exodus 2:25).

I don’t know about you, but I often look to my own resources when helping others. When I hear of someone being mistreated or hurt, my knee-jerk reaction is often to offer comfort out of my own emotional resources. When I hear of someone struggling, my tendency is to offer my own strength. When I hear my son Silas crying, I think it’s my job to conjure up the energy he needs in that moment. But, the likelihood of my success against all the troubles and difficulties in this world are as likely as a tadpole fending off a shark! What I mean is, in and of myself, my toiling and my helping are ultimately futile (Ecclesiastes 1:2-3). The thing that comforts me in Moses’ story is God’s intervention. It wasn’t till Moses found himself as a refugee outside of Egypt (Exodus 2:22) that God started to enter the picture. Exodus 2:25 says that God knew the cries, the groaning and the oppression of the Israelites. Isn’t that an interesting phrase, ‘God knew’…. The Hebrew word behind this is sometimes used to refer to the way two people know each other in marriage. It’s not a cold, indifferent kind of knowledge… it is a deep, intimate, experiential knowledge.

You see, Moses in his limited strength was only able to deliver a handful of women from ‘the hand’ of bullying shepherds (Exodus 2:19). But, in the next chapter God declared that he had ‘come down to deliver (Israel) out of the hand of the Egyptians’ (Exodus 3:8). Why? God was moved by the cries of his people… and he alone was powerful and compassionate enough to save them. God had made a covenant with Israel’s ancestors (Exodus 2:24), and he wasn’t about to break it. The kingdom of Egypt may have been strong, but neither they nor their false gods were any match for the true God. And, in fact, it was in God that Moses found the strength and the ability to return to Egypt. But, it is important to note that Moses did not return as Israel’s rescuer, but as the servant and the mouthpiece of Israel’s rescuing God (Exodus 4:10-12). God is the hero of Israel’s story… and he’s the hero of our story too. Jesus, God-in-the-flesh, identified with us in our humanity and our weakness (Hebrews 4:15). He knew our groanings and pain better than we could ever imagine. And Jesus submitted himself to the judgement we deserved, and in doing so, actually conquered the powers that enslave us (Colossians 2:13-15)!

Jesus is our saviour! No matter how burdened we are by the pains of others, we can know that Jesus has experienced their burdens more deeply himself (Isaiah 53:4-5). No matter how many times we fail, Jesus has succeeded in accomplishing the ultimate rescue of sinners (Revelation 5:5). So, what does this mean for us? Well, for starters, it frees us from the ultimate burden of rescuing others. I for one have a problem with this at times, but it’s actually crushing when I rely on my own human resources. On the flipside, it’s liberating when I take the backseat in the story, and acknowledge that Jesus is the rescuer. In fact, he is the main character and the hero in all of our stories! So, next time you are faced with a need that we want to help with, let’s turn to Jesus in prayer. He alone is our rescuer, and he alone can offer us help in our times of need (Hebrews 4:16).

Grace and peace,