One More Night With The Frogs

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Most people are vaguely familiar with the story of the ten plagues which struck Egypt to bring about the freedom of the Hebrews from bondage.  The second of these was the plague of frogs:

And the Lord spoke to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me.  But if you refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all your territory with frogs.  So the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into your house, into your bedroom, on your bed, into the houses of your servants, on your people, into your ovens, and into your kneading bowls.  And the frogs shall come up on you, on your people, and on all your servants.”’”  Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your rod over the streams, over the rivers, and over the ponds, and cause frogs to come up on the land of Egypt.’” So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt. And the magicians did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs on the land of Egypt. Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, “Entreat the Lord that He may take away the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may sacrifice to the Lord.”And Moses said to Pharaoh, “Accept the honor of saying when I shall intercede for you, for your servants, and for your people, to destroy the frogs from you and your houses, that they may remain in the river only.”  So he said, “Tomorrow (Exodus 8: 1-10 NKJV)”.”

There were frogs everywhere.  They were squashed under foot.  They were making a nasty smell as they burned in ovens.  They covered people in their sleep.  Yet, how does the Pharaoh respond? Initially – with MORE FROGS! Just like with Aaron’s rod, and the plague of blood – Pharaoh’s sorcerers replicate the warning from God.  There seems to be no sense in this unless it is a hardhearted  bravado that “You don’t scare me.” But does that lesson the discomfort of a world overrun with frogs? No.

Eventually, the plague becomes beyond endurance for the Egyptians and Pharaoh calls Moses to rid him of the frogs.  Moses tells the king, that all he need do say when the Jews may leave and it will be done.  Surprisingly, Pharaoh’s response is “Tomorrow.” One more night with the frogs, please.

But are we any different?  When God convicts us of something we need to change in our lives, how do we respond?  Often it is with – “tomorrow.” I will study more – starting tomorrow. I will diet – tomorrow.  I will stop smoking -tomorrow. I will get to the gym – tomorrow.I will begin to be less judgmental – that’s right – tomorrow.  “One more night with the frogs, Lord. One more night.”

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He Understands

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Hebrews 4:14-16 reads: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (NIV).”

A priest – put in simple terms is an intermediary between God and man – a kind of bridge. Many religions are reliant on the idea of priest-craft a kind of ritualised, action based intercession.  Sinful humans are cut off from direct contact, they need the bridge.

Our bridge is our elder brother, Jesus.  He is the High Priest, and one unlike the Hebrew high priest (who would need to purify himself before approaching God on the people’s behalf).  Jesus (God’s own Son), is our high priest – in all things tested and tempted as we are but He approaches the throne of God already pure. He did not fail in the face of temptation. But better still, He understands our weaknesses, and intercedes so that we may receive mercy.

He needs no ritual.  He needs no cleansing. He merely is Himself, and in so being provides us mercy.

How cool is that?   He understands you. He understands me. He understands (and  loves) us.

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“Like the Back of My Hand”

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It is a familiar phrase: “I know it like the back of my hand.” But, how well do we know the backs of our hands.  Okay, logically it is something we see every day so should know well. We would assume a deep familiarity.  But, do we really spend any time actually “taking it in?”  Or, is the back of your hand something, you assume you know so well, that you actually stop noticing?  Have you become so indifferent or numb to its presence that you never give it a thought?

Is our relationship with God any different?  Those of us who have been believers for a while, have we started to take His presence in our life for granted as well (like the back of our hand)?  If so it is time for us to remember the joy and excitement of our conversion experiences!  And, if God is fully real in our lives, are we celebrating that with others so they can share in the wonder and joy as well? Let’s not treat that aspect like the back of our hands either.

Here is the challenge for this evening.  Rather than seeing our relationship with God as intimate as “the back of our hands,” let us ramp up our appreciation.  Let’s each make our journey with God to be as familiar (and joyful) as: “my mother’s voice,” “my baby’s laugh,” or “my lover’s smile.”

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What’s In A Name?

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The name of Moses is an interesting one on several levels, and the interpretation of it teaches as much about the theological beliefs and backgrounds of the commentators as it does about the scriptures themselves.

One of my graduate school professors was a liberal rabbi, and an advocate of the documentary hypothesis of the origin of the scriptures. He held that the name was purely the result of later editorial when the Jews were “creating” their national identity [thus in Hebrew].  I am no fan of such as view, and my rant on the hypothesis needs to be reserved for a future post.

It does, however, say something, not about the Book of Exodus, but of the Jewish interpretations of it.  These generally follow some rather insular reasoning. For example:

Some say the name means “Drawn out.” Okay, an interesting view, and one that is consistent with the biblical assertion, that Pharaoh’s daughter named him Moses: “When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water (Ex 2:10 NIV).”

One commentator then expands this with: “Another reason the Torah calls him Moshe is the significance of the name itself. The name “Moshe” means that just as he was rescued and drawn from the water, so too he will he rescue others from hardship, and that is what he did.” Eliezer Danzinger, http://www.chabad.org/parshah/article_cdo/aid/627663/jewish/What-Was-Moses-Real-Name.htm .

But if the Bible is indeed the word of God, can we not take it at face value that an Egyptian royal would name the child in her own language [not Hebrew], using the customs and usages of her own culture and social class.  Names such as Rameses (Born to Ra the sun god), Thutmose  (Born to Thut the god of knowledge ), Ahmose (born to Iah the moon god), and Amenmose  (Belongs to Amun (the wind god), all come to mind. So wouldn’t the construction Hapimose after the god of the Nile become a likely option?

 

The Danzinger article also suggests that since “Pharaoh’s daughter saved Moshe’s life and adopted him and cared for him as her very own son. Therefore, she merited that her name prevailed. Moshe himself may have used this name out of gratitude to her.” Fair enough, but why Hebrew?

Can I suggest an alternative name source scenario?  Moses would come to know his heritage and in so doing kill an Egyptian task master.  He fled Egypt and dwelt with Jethro in Midian.  There he was brought into the presence of the God of Abraham, Issac, and of Jacob. God identifies Himself as YHWH,”I Am That I Am.”  This is an ineffable name for the devout, lest it be used in vain (Exodus 20:7).   Might Moses when encountering not only the God of his fathers, but the power and majesty of the ONE and ONLY God, discard the pagan styling bestowed upon him by his Egyptian adoptive mother? “I am not from a river, nor from some manifestation of a false divinity! No, I am not ‘born to’ or ‘belong’ to such. I am ‘born to’ the God whose name is not uttered, thus I am  —Moses.”

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The Whole Word of God

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It may not be surprising that Genesis 1 and the Book of Matthew are among the most read pieces of literature ever.  Fair enough, we might say, as the Bible is a weighty tome for a person of no or little faith to take in.  Even among believers, however, there is a tendency to focus on “the exciting bits,” and in so doing often skipping or glossing over the genealogies, ritual laws, and “dry bits.”

We should remember, however, that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim 2:16-17 NIV).” Jesus said that man should not live by bread alone, but by the words of God.  

Martin Luther had a problem with the Book of James.  He, like many, read it as a stand alone document. He viewed James celebration of “works” done in faith as contrary to Paul’s teachings on the sufficiency of faith.  As a result Luther relegated James to an appendix in his New Testament translation.  But if we read the “Whole Word of God” we need not see rival or contrary “truths” but supplemental and elaborating, indeed  enhancing facets of the mind of God.   We are saved by grace, God did the work.  Faith is a gift of that grace. We if we read James in light of God’s entire message, should do good works because we are saved, not to be saved.  If we are a people who have put on Christ,  and who are filled with the Spirit of God, how could be any less serving, giving and loving than the model we been clothed and filled with?

Let us dwell in the Word of God, let it guide our actions and our prayers.  Let us prepare to go into the world equipped with the full armour of God and in that armour let our sword be intact, sharpened, and full.

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