Sermon Notes: Psalm 80
The beginning of the Exodus narrative begins with the refusal of the King of Egypt to acknowledge Joseph (lit. “know Joseph”). Chapter 2 ends with God acknowledging Israel (lit. “know”). In between we find acts of faith: the midwives; Moses’ parents; Moses’ sister and Moses himself. Acts that spring from a life lived in the knowledge that God “knows the way of the righteous.”
We also find acts of rebellion: Pharaoh, taskmasters, the general populace and some Israelites. These acts spring from a refusal to acknowledge that which God acknowledges.
“So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them” (Ex. 2:24-25).
Jocheved, and Miriam’s Faith (and Pharaoh’s Daughter?) (2:1-10)
Faith has consequences! Jocheved and Amram having acted in faith and now have a baby boy whom a nation have been mobilized to cast into the river. So, how do you react and what do you do? You put him in the river! How that is done reveals her Jocheved’s faith.
Miriam stands by to “know” what will happen to the boy. Miriam is not waiting out of curiosity, she is waiting in faith. She acts shrewdly, just like the midwives in ch.1, and Moses is restored to his mother before departing to Pharaoh’s household.
Moses’ Faith (2:11-14)
Moses having spent the vast majority of his life in Pharaoh’s household knows he is a Hebrew and that he will redeem Israel (Acts 7:23-25). By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. (Heb 11:25-27)
Moses the Rejected Redeemer (2:11-14)
Moses defends his brethren and “supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand.” (Acts 7:25)
“Who made you a prince and a judge over us?” No answer is given to this Israelite’s question because it is already clear! God has made him prince and judge! This lack of awareness is striking in comparison to Jocheved and Miriam’s faith and understanding.
Moses fears and flees when he becomes aware that his killing of the Egyptian was “known.”
Moses in Midian, Israel in Egypt (2:15-21)
Moses settles down to a quiet life in exile. A man cast out of both “homes”: Egyptian and Hebrew. A stranger in a strange land. Having sons who are not born under a death sentence. Shepherding just as Israel’s sons used to do when they first arrived in Egypt. His credentials as Israel’s redeemer become less and less convincing as time passes.
Meanwhile in Egypt… a wicked king dies and a cry goes up. God’s covenant with Abraham, hinted at in the beginning of Exodus 1, is mentioned explicitly. God has not forgotten, even when everything seems to point to that conclusion.
“And a man of the house of Levi went and took as wife a daughter of Levi” (Exodus 2:1).
The simplicity of this verse belies its significance in the context of the Exodus narrative. As we read on in the book of Exodus and other books in the Old Testament we find the simplicity of this introduction to the birth of Moses also disguises a narrative complexity that is the key to understanding its significance.
Context: Exodus 1
Paraphrase of Genesis 46:8 – 50:26. This introduction consciously picks up on the final chapters of Genesis and continues the story. Keeping the final chapters of Genesis in mind is therefore necessary as we read Exodus 1 and 2.
The fruitfulness of Israel and their subsequent subjugation by Egypt just as revealed by the Lord to Abraham in Genesis 15:13-15.
vv.11-22 from enslavement to infanticide. The failure of Pharaoh’s increasingly desperate attempts to frustrate God’s covenant promises to Abraham that Israel would flourish and leave Egypt for Canaan.
The Anonymous Marriage: Exodus 2:1
Verses 1 and 2 tell the story of a man marrying a woman who then conceives and gives birth to a son. There is nothing unusual about this storyline in Biblical narrative. It happens all the time. However, we have the unusual detail that both the parents and the baby are unnamed. We then read on to find in v.4 that the anonymous firstborn son has an anonymous sister (v.4), and then in v.10 the child is named by an Egyptian princess.
It is not until we get to Exodus 6:20 that we find out the parents names: Amram and Jocheved, but also we find out Moses has a brother, Aaron, and then in 7:7 we find out Aaron is the older brother. The genealogy in Numbers 26:59 then gives us the complete family tree: Amram and Jocheved have 3 children: Miriam, Aaron and Moses. Exodus 2:1-2 missed out the birth of two children. Why?
Understanding how Moses tell this story in Exodus 2 is therefore key to understanding the point he wants to make.
Opposition to Pharaoh and Faith in God
Pharaoh’s irrational rage towards Israel was met with simple, obedient faith. To surrender to the temptation to acquiesce in search of a quiet trouble-free life would result in greater destruction.
“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s
command.” (Hebrews 11:23)