Exodus 2:11-25 | Luke 18:1-8
The story of Moses is so rich, so packed with events which pass almost unnoticed and yet are full of meaning, that it seems a pity to only have one week to spend on it. But if we’re going through the whole Bible in twenty weeks, we have to keep moving.
In this week’s reading alone there are three vignettes that I’d really love to preach on.
First, we have Moses’ early days. He’s grown up as an adoptive member of the Pharoah’s family, but nursed by his Hebrew mother he clearly identifies with the Hebrew people; to the extent that when he comes across an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave, he takes matters into his own hands, and kills the Egyptian.
Moses, who will be the great law-giver, the one who will carve on a tablet of stone the words “You shall not kill”, starts his days by trying to solve his people’s problems by violence. And as a result he is forced to flee his household, and before long Pharoah is seeking his life. Not, I suspect, simply for murder, but because Moses has chosen sides; has betrayed his adoptive family in favour of the people of his birth.
The Old testament is a violent book, written in, and of, violent times. And there is no escaping the violence in the narrative which is attributed directly to God. But here, within the same tradition, is a story that subverts that narrative, which hints at the deeper revelation of God that will come through history, and especially in the person of Jesus: that violence merely begets violence. Long before Jesus will counter ‘an eye for an eye’ with ‘love your enemy’, the Hebrew tradition carries the same message. In the orchestra playing the tune of a violent and vengeful God, there is another melody, perhaps the second violins, quieter, often almost hidden, but never silenced, saying “but it doesn’t work”.