Tag Archives: Slavery

God’s People, part 24: Zipporah

Read Exodus 4:18-28

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“While they were at Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses because he had married a Cushite woman.” (Numbers 12:1 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

ZipporahPart 24: Zipporah. There are some truly strange and unique stories found in the Bible. Usually, these stories make little sense and often draw God’s character into question. For instance, you might be puzzled at the main Scripture reading today, provided you read it. If you didn’t, I highly recommend to you that you pause here, and read it. I bet you didn’t know that God almost killed Moses prior to him even being able to pull off what God asked him to do.

Why would God do that? Seriously, I am asking that question. Why would God send Moses on a task to liberate the Hebrew slaves in Egypt and decide along the way to slay him? What’s even more dubious is that it seems to be over a technicality, over the fact that seemingly neither Moses or his son was circumcised. Surely, God would have known that was the case from the outset, and nowhere do we see God so much as asking him to get that done! It is hard to make sense of God’s character in stories like these.

So, rather than try and explain what sort of theology of God is going on here in this story, we can look toward the heroine in the story. Zipporah, the wife of Moses, intercedes on her husband’s behalf and her heroic actions save the day. Literally. There are all sorts of possible reasons for the author writing the story the way they did; however, it is in this Cushite (aka non-Jewish) woman that we see what true love and faithfulness is all about. What’s more, it is kind of comical, and certainly poignant, that the wife is the one who pays attention to the details and saves her husband from running into quite a bit of trouble. Married men of the world, take note!

So, who is this Zipporah? She was one of Jethro’s seven daughters who Moses received as his wife after he saved all seven sisters and their flock of sheep from other competing shepherds. Moses, of course, was an Egyptian fugitive, having just fled Egypt for his life after killing an Egyptian slave master.  So, there with his wife Moses stayed, raised children and tended to Jethro’s sheep.

Zipporah bore Moses two sons, Gershom and Eliezer. For most women, that would be pretty much where the story began and ended in the ancient world. One was to get married, have children, raise children, become a grandparent and die; however, Zipporah’s life did not to go as planned. Her husband, following having children with her, went up onto a mountain deemed holy by her people, and quite literally “found God.” When he came back down, he was not the same man he had been when he went up.

Once he came down from that mountain, Moses was resolute about going back to Egypt. Most of the stories have him doing so alone, with him eventually meeting up with his brother Aaron; however, the Bible makes it clear that his wife Zipporah, and their children, went with him. I would like you to pause and think about that scenario for a moment. It is one thing for Moses to travel across desert and wilderness to head back into the country he fled for his life from. Sure, that would probably result in his death one way or the other, but at least his family would be safe. As can be seen, his family did come with him and that meant that their lives were in jeopardy as well.

Who knows if Zipporah resisted the move or not, what we do know is that she did go with Moses and it was her who saved him when God was about to kill him. How did she do that, you might ask? By circumcising her children and laying the foreskin at the feet of Moses. She then pleaded with God to spare Moses, and God did so.

We need not believe that God was literally trying to kill Moses to understand the overarching point. Sometimes as “insiders” think we know God so much that we fail to listen to God’s direction, all the while “outsiders” clearly see God, and choose to follow. Praise God for “outsiders” for they give us a fresh look at who we actually are, versus who we think we are. Amen? Let us be open to the faith of other people, for one never knows when he or she might encounter a Zepporah in their own lives and be blessed for it.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“You cannot open a book without learning something.” – Confucius

PRAYER
Lord, keep my heart open to learning your ways, especially if it is through the hearts of others. Amen.

God’s People, part 20: Slaves

Read Exodus 2:1-10

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Amram married his father’s sister Jochebed, and she gave birth to his sons, Aaron and Moses. (Amram lived to be 137 years old.)” (Exodus‬ ‭6:20‬ ‭NLT)‬‬‬‬

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

  Part 20: Slaves. Wow, we’re up to part 20 in this series and we have just gotten out of Genesis and into the book of Exodus. Thus far, we have talked mostly about prominent people in the Jewish and Christian faiths. We’ve talked about Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael, Isaac, Rebekah, Esau, Jacob, Rachel, Leah, the eleven brothers who betrayed their youngest (at the time) brother, Judah, Tamar, and Joseph.

The ones of those who are not prominent are at least named and a little can be gathered about them; however, I would like this time for us to pause and reflect on a couple of unnamed people. These people were not a people of high status or prominence in life, and they certainly are not given too much mention in the Bible either. In fact, they are barely named slaves who serve only one purpose in the Scriptures: they are the parents of Moses.

We all know the story of Moses, a story that has been acted and reenacted time and time again over the years. From sweeping, classic, epics such as The Ten Commandments to animated musicals such as “The Prince of Egypt”, the story of Moses has been told in so many different ways. In fact, their names and backstory seem to be of little interest to the writer(s) of Exodus. They are not even mentioned until chapter 6, and are only mentioned their in order to connect Moses’ lineage to the tribe of Levi, who was one of the sons of Jacob. In essence, Moses’ parents were important because they connected this “prince of Egypt” to the Jewish people by birth.

But who were Amram and Jochebed? We simply do not know who they were, other than the fact that they were slaves in Egypt and that Jochebed was technically Amram’s aunt. They got married and had Miriam, Aaron, and Moses. We also know that Pharaoh had ordered that all male Hebrew children under the age of 2 be thrown into the Nile and drowned.

Jochebed, in an attempt to avoid her child being murdered in such a horrific way, but the baby Moses in a basket and floated him down the Nile river. Miriam, who was clearly older than Moses, was tasked with ensuring that her brother ended up in the care of the Pharoah’s daughter. This was a dangerous mission, no doubt, but one that she pulled off.

We have no clue what Amram thought of this, or what was going on in their heads, because nothing else is written about them. We can only imagine the horror of thinking their baby son would be drowned in the Nile. Amram lived to 137, according to the Biblical account, but we have no idea if he was alive at this point or not. He’s simply not mentioned and the Bible explicitly names Jochebed as the “woman” who took the action to save her son’s life.

While we do not know enough about these people to speculate on what their character flaws were (which is a running theme of this series), we can instead point to the way the story is told in order to find potential flaws in us. The story only “uses” Jochebed and Amram as a means to an end, namely, to show that Moses was Hebrew and of the tribe of Levi. That serves the dual purpose of showing Moses to be both a Hebrew and the “priest” (as the Levites were priests in ancient Judaism) who was worthy of delivering the Israelites out of bondgage and back into a proper relationship with God. Other than that, they were not considered important enough to the narrative to mention anything further about them.

How often do we do the same? How often do we idolize heroes in our midst, only to ignore the unnamed or barely named, disregarded, sufferers who raised and/or inspired those heroes up? How often do we ride the stories of success on the backs of the oppressed? How often do we focus on the few who rose to prominence (only because they are prominent), to the detriment of those of whom we deem unimportant? Let us not do that. Let us see all people through the eyes of God who created them. Let us view all human beings as both important and sacred.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“The Bible has been the Magna Carta of the poor and of the oppressed.” – Thomas Huxley

PRAYER

Lord, help me to see through reading the Scriptures that you are on the side of the oppressed and the downtrodden and align my heart with you so that I stand in solidarity with them. Amen.

God’s People, part 19: Joseph

Read Genesis 37

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Then [God] sent someone to Egypt ahead of them— Joseph, who was sold as a slave.” (Psalms‬ ‭105:17‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

  Part 19: Joseph. An entire book could be written on Joseph and, as a matter of fact, the last quarter of Genesis is centered on him. Most of us know the gist of his story. He was a “dreamer” who had dreams that proved to be really annoying to his family and, specifically, his eleven other brothers. While the Bible tells us that Joseph had number of dreams, they always ended in the same way: with his brothers and the rest of his family (mom and dad included) worshipping the ground he walked on.

Sounds a bit…I don’t know…egotisitcal and heady, right? His brothers thought so and decided to murder him. Reuben suggested putting him in a well and leaving him to die (with the hope that he could come back and rescue his brother in secret). The others took the suggestion, but Judah offered one even more alluring. He suggested they not kill Joseph at all, evidently while Reuben was not there; rather, Judah suggested that they sell him off, make a profit and pass him off as being killed by a wild animal to their father. So, that is what they did, much to Reuben’s dismay. Joseph was sold to nomads who brought him into Egypt.

Long story short, it was his ability to interpret dreams that ironically saved his hide and put him under Pharaoh’s employment. Through his ability to interpret the Pharaoh’s dreams, Joseph rose to be the second in command under Pharaoh. It was through his newfound position and status in Egypt that Joseph found his place in the world and became the savior of his own people.

He also became the archetype for the prophet. The prophet both dreams and can interpret dreams. Those dreams tend to have prophetic implications. Those implications end up costing the profit, big league. People reject, abuse, and sometimes kill the prophet, until the prophecy comes true and the prophet (alive or dead) is respected.

Yet, what landed Joseph into trouble with his brothers was not so much his prophetic dreams, but his inability to know when to play it cool and chill out on the self-aggrandizing and boastful rhetoric. When one reads the story carefully, Joseph’s prophetic dreams are distorted by his own boasting of his status with his father.

Jacob favored Joseph more than the others, to the point where he was giving Joseph fancy clothing to wear and keeping him from having to workt he fields, while his brothers slaved away. Worse than that, actually. Jacob seemingly put Joseph in charge of his brothers and sent him out in his fancy clothing to check up on them and make sure they were doing their work efficiently. Then he was to bring the report back to his father.

Let me tell you this, no one likes a supervisor. Especially when that supervisor is one’s snot-nosed, bratty, younger brother. This enraged his brothers so much that they plotted against them. Had Jospeh humbled himself and explained his dream in a way that was less threatening to them, perhaps they would have heard Joseph out and at least given him the benefit of the doubt. We’ll never know, and God brought the good out of what had gone from bad to ugly in one fell swoop.

Have you ever been so sure that God was calling you to do somethng that you ended up doing it without ever pausing to wonder exactly HOW it should be done? Have you ever rubbed someone the wrong way due to coming off as boastful or self-aggrandizing? Sometimes we are doing exactly what we are supposed to do; however, we are NOT doing it HOW we ought to! When that happens we can be a hinderance to God’s ultimate plan, rather than serving it’s ultimate purpose. While God can and will bring the good out of any circumstance, let us learn from Joseph, that humility goes a long way in spreading the Gospel. Amen.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Without humility, the GOOD News of Jesus Christ looks very, very BAD.

PRAYER

Lord, give me the boldness of your prophets, and the humility of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.