A Fierce Boldness

A Fierce Boldness

One of the aspects of Exodus I have enjoyed the most has been the way that Moses dignifies the women of Israel throughout the text. There are times, as in the beginning of the book, where Moses names specific women as he cites their courage and faith. Then there are times, towards the end of the book, where he acknowledges the women of Israel collectively for their generosity and willingness. In each case, he holds these women as equal to men in a patriarchal culture which I find so refreshing.

We tend to highlight women such as Esther, Ruth, the Proverbs 31 woman, and the virgin Mary, to name a few, but there are so many strong women we tend to overlook in the Bible as well. I think that this is why I love the glimpses Moses gives us into the women of Exodus. Though their calling was less dramatic than that of Moses’ burning bush, God met each of these women where they were as they were and used them to change a nation.

In Exodus 1 we meet two midwives who choose faith instead of fear as they act to rescue the newest generation of Hebrew sons. In Exodus 2 we are introduced to Moses’ mother, sister, and Pharaoh’s daughter; all of whom act contrary to Pharaoh’s fear-driven commands as they seek to preserve the life of Moses. His mother notes how special her son is, and risks a great amount to keep his life hidden for as long as possible. His sister bravely watches over her little brother as he rests on the river bank and boldly approaches a princess of Egypt with an offer to find a nurse for Moses when he is discovered. Pharaoh’s daughter displays a tender heart of compassion towards Moses and directly disobeys the royal edict to kill Israelite sons when she adopts Moses and raises him as her own.

In Exodus 4 we are given a deeper insight into Moses’ wife Zipporah. A Midianite woman raised by a God-fearing priest, Zipporah was not privy to the covenant of circumcision as her husband would have been. For some reason or another, Moses fails to follow through in participating in the covenant of circumcision when his two sons are born. After heeding the call of God on his life, we see God come to take Moses’ life as he journeys back to Egypt. Zipporah’s quick wit and action in circumcising her firstborn son and interceding for Moses’ life effectively spares her husband’s life. Where her husband failed to act as the spiritual leader in their home, Zipporah steps in momentarily to spare the life of her husband and to participate in the covenant between God and Israel. What follows is not a picture of Zipporah berating Moses or taking over as the leader of their home. Though Zipporah was not slow to act for the sake of her husband’s life, we see her continue to follow and encourage Moses’ leadership.

In each of these women we see courage, faith, boldness, compassion, and a nurturing spirit that goes beyond any fear or timidity. Not only do we see it in their lives, but we see it translate into Moses’ life through his leadership of Israel. For all of his excuses, Moses leads Israel with great courage, faith, compassion and bold intercession on their behalf. I believe, though I cannot prove it, that Moses recognized the value of the strong women God had placed in his life and therefore sought to recognize women as a whole. In Exodus 35 all of Israel is called to bring contributions for the Tabernacle, the house of God, out of a “willing” or generous heart. Three times Moses acknowledges the women of Israel using their skills to help create the Tabernacle exactly as God instructed. On an equal platform, Moses acknowledges both the men and women of Israel who were so moved by the Spirit that they freely gave of what they had, be it resources of time, skill, or wealth. God used the everyday skillset and tasks of these generous women to create a resting place for His presence. Their willingness to honor God with their gifts and precious time helped to usher in God’s presence among His people.

Women, God has given you a fierce boldness. He has set within you His feminine nature and it is far from weak and subservient. It is designed to complement the masculine and display a more holistic image of God to the world. You do not have to make yourself smaller nor do you have to overshadow the men in your life, but as you walk in the fullness of who you are in Christ I promise God will use you to establish and deliver nations in unique ways. Were it not for the women in Moses’ life, he would not have lived to deliver Israel out of Egypt, and I say this not to slight men in any way. I say this because I know how often I am tempted to believe the lie that my role as a woman, wife and mother is menial, when in fact God has empowered me to impact generations.

In whatever season of life you are in, know that God has gifted, called, and empowered you to impact generations for His glory.

-a

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Burning Bush Moments

Burning Bush Moments

The second chapter of Exodus opens with the birth of Moses and his adoption by Pharaoh’s daughter. He is raised in the royal house as an Egyptian in spite of his obvious Hebrew heritage and the Pharaoh’s attempts to take his life among the lives of the Hebrew baby boys. We see that Moses also knows of his heritage when he encounters an Egyptian beating another Hebrew man, “one of his people” {Exodus 2:11 ESV}. In a moment of anger, and with no apparent witnesses around, Moses takes justice into his own hands, murders the Egyptian, and hides him away. This “rescue” of a fellow Hebrew does not go over well with the nation of Israel nor with Pharaoh himself, as Moses is discovered and must flee for his life.

Moses finds himself at the well in Midian, where he comes to the aid of a group of shepherdesses in distress. We see him be quick to aid and serve them, which clearly impresses the women and their father Reuel (at times referred to as Jethro), the priest of Midian. Reuel invites Moses to dwell in Midian and gives his daughter Zipporah to Moses as a wife; think of this as an ancient “thank you” gift. All is well in Moses’ world as he welcomes two sons with his new wife and starts his career as a shepherd. However, we find life for Israel still oppressive and desperate back in Egypt.

During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel – and God knew. {Exodus 2:23-25 ESV}

Biblical commentaries dive deeper into the term “knew” used within this passage. It goes beyond the ability to acknowledge or be aware of an issue, much like you can “know of” something or someone. It is a deeply intimate picture of God loving, approving, and taking ownership of Israel as His people. He not only recognizes but identifies with their unjust suffering and oppressive slavery.   Wherever you are today, know that God hears you, remembers you, and knows. Just as God goes beyond simply acknowledging Israel’s plight and is moved to act on their behalf, to bring them into a place of freedom, He will do for us. We need only to call on Him and cry for help. Sometimes that is the biggest kicker for me; humbling myself enough to ask for help. Yet look at how quickly God takes ownership of Israel and moves to implement His plan for their deliverance by calling Moses.

I love that God is a God who meets us where we are, as we are, and lovingly calls us up into the plans He has for us. I love that we see this clearly in His calling of Moses. While Moses is shepherding his father in laws’ flocks, God plants a burning bush near Horeb, “the mountain of God.” Moses takes note of this odd sight and goes to check it out:

When the LORD saw that he [Moses] turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” {Exodus 3:4 ESV}

Here is where God begins to blow my mind. Moses was near “the mountain of God” but he was not actually experiencing the presence of God. It was not until Moses noticed the burning bush and turned to inquire that God spoke to him. You can be near God and not experience God; not because He is not available, but because we do not engage with Him in burning bush moments. Not only does God meet Moses where he is, as he is, but God calls him to deliver Israel. For every excuse Moses extends to God, and they are numerous, God answers with His provision and with His presence. God clearly explains to Moses that though this task of delivering Israel from Egypt and leading them to the Promised Land would be far from easy, He would be with Moses, equipping him for every step of the way.

When God calls us, His presence goes with us. He is the I AM for every one of our “I am nots.” It does not matter who we are or are not because He is. God does not promise easy, but He does promise provision and favor. And to be clear, provision and favor do not always equal prosperity and ease. God does not bless us because He owes us; obedience in itself is a blessing. His provision and favor is then a guarantee that God sees us and cares for all of our needs because of His sufficient grace towards us. He never fails to be faithful to His covenant with us in Christ.

Father, thank You for being the all-sufficient I AM in every circumstance and situation. Thank You for meeting us where we are, as we are, and lovingly, persistently, and patiently calling us up into the plans You have for us. Thank You for Your faithful presence that goes with us, equipping us to do all that You have called us to complete. Help us to be attentive to the burning bush moments in our lives.

-a

Multiplication in the Midst of Oppression

Multiplication in the Midst of Oppression

This week we are diving into the beginning of Exodus as we take a closer look at the first chapter. This is not meant to serve as an exhaustive or exegetical bible study, but I do hope these thoughts encourage and challenge us as we engage with God Himself and with the world around us.

As I have been thinking and working on this post throughout the week, my heart has been so heavy and saddened by the state of the world around me. Feelings of anger, helplessness, guilt, and weariness have all coursed through my veins as my eyes have been inundated by headlines and hashtags. I have caught myself squeezing my little one tighter, rocking him longer, and praying with greater fervor for the wisdom to know how to raise a Jesus-loving, people-loving, fearless world changer. As I have wrestled, I have found the context and the message of Exodus even more relevant and reassuring. I believe there is something here for us within this chapter. So with that being said, let’s dive in!

God blessed the growth of the nation of Israel tremendously during their time in Egypt. They moved to Egypt as a family of seventy, but in the introduction to Exodus we see that “they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.” {Exodus 1:7b ESV} We catch a glimpse of the fulfillment of the promise God had made to Abraham back in Genesis 15:5; that he would be the father of many, that his offspring would outnumber the stars in the sky.

We also see a change in the leadership of Egypt. Joseph and all of his brothers had died, as well as the Pharaoh who had valued Joseph so highly. A new Pharaoh was in charge and he did not know Joseph (1:8). This Pharaoh began to fear Israel when he saw how quickly and strongly they were growing as a nation, and he allowed that fear to begin to drive his decision making. Rather than treating Israel well and working to maintain friendly ties with them that would continue to benefit both nations, Pharaoh began to harshly oppress Israel. He believed they would be unable to rise up against Egypt in a future time of war if he could limit and weaken them in oppression, but he was mistaken.

But the more they [Israel] were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians lived in dread of the people of Israel.” {Exodus 1:12 ESV}

The greater the oppression, the greater the multiplication. The greater the multiplication, the greater the oppression, until Pharaoh was willing to murder the newborn sons of Israel. Unfortunately for Pharaoh, the midwives he ordered to do his dirty work feared the Lord more than they feared him:

“Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiprah and the other Puah, ‘When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.’ But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live…..So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.” {Exodus 1:15-17; 20-21}

What Pharaoh intended to thwart the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham in hindering the growth of Israel, God used to bring His promise to pass. God raised up two women who feared the Lord and valued the lives of the next generation more highly than their own to rescue many. They understood that fearing the Lord was more life-giving than fearing a paranoid man, and God used their courage and faith to preserve His promise.

The midwives are not the only women that we see God raise up to act boldly in the story of Exodus. We will explore this further in a future post. For now, I want to highlight a few takeaways from this first chapter:

  1. A forgotten history leads to a fear-driven future.

This change in Egypt’s leadership came with a ruler who had forgotten the history of his country. He did not know Joseph, nor how God had used Joseph to spare Egypt and grow its economy tremendously during a severe famine. Rather than seeing the presence of Israel as a benefit to Egypt, he saw them through a lens of paranoia and fear. We are given no indication that Israel was unhappy in Egypt, or evidence that they would side with Egypt’s enemies in a time of war like Pharaoh had feared. Instead, they appear to be growing, fruitful, and satisfied in the land. Fear and paranoia drove Pharaoh to make some oppressive decisions, decisions that would have devastating consequences for his country and his family.

  1. God wastes nothing in bringing about the fulfillment of His promises.

I firmly believe that God is not a God of fear (1 John 4:15-18 ESV). The oppression of Israel came from a decision based in fear, not based in the heart of God, so I think it would be hard to argue that God willed Israel’s oppression. While I do not believe He willed it, I do believe He remained sovereign over it because He did not waste it. God used that which should have broken Israel to make them stronger. God used that which should have limited Israel to make them greater. God used that which should have resulted in death to give way to life. God redeemed all that was meant to crush His people by raising up women whose faith was greater than their fear.

If you spend any time observing the life of Jesus, you will quickly see that oppression is not in God’s character nor His nature. In fact, the opposite is true. God is always working to bring about genuine freedom. I look at the world around me, as it falls to pieces, and it is entirely too easy to identify the consequences of fear and oppression. Fear will always lead to oppression but oppression does not have to perpetuate fear. Perhaps this is a rare instance when Israel gets it right; they did not allow oppression to hinder their life. In the midst of great oppression, of days full of heavy burdens and exhausting slavery, they continued to grow in relationships and in family. They continued to usher in new life in the hope of a better future. They did not accept nor adopt their oppression as their identity.

I do not know a whole lot, but I do know that there is a calling, an anointing, and a destiny on your life that the Enemy of God would love to crush through means of fear and deceit. I know that you exist as a unique reflection of God’s image that no one else ever has nor ever will express; that the world desperately needs to see. I know that Satan would love to squash that expression through means of oppression. I also know that you were created by the Living God; whose plan for your life cannot be thwarted by schemes of evil nor the fear of man because He is greater, He is faithful, and He wastes nothing.

Father God, we are so thankful for the example You have given us in the lives of these women who chose to trust you as they stood against fear and oppression. We are so thankful that you are faithful to Your word and to Your promises; that You are the God of freedom. Would you continue to show us more of who You are as we continue to participate in Your story? Would you help us to walk boldly, eyes fixed on you, and empower us to make decisions from a foundation of faith rather than fear. We ask that You would have Your way in us, for the sake of Your glory and our good.

-a

Exodus: An Introduction

Exodus: An Introduction

I love the Old Testament. It makes my nerdy heart sad knowing that the Old Testament is so quickly synonymized with boredom and confusion. For starters, all of those genealogies make me feel really good about the list of baby names I’ve thought of throughout the years, and if my kids complain about their names I have a whole bunch of Scripture to provide perspective for them. There are some crazy stories in the Old Testament; some disturbing on a whole new level and others revealing a deeper extent of God’s sense of humor. What I love most about the Old Testament is the attention to detail. Over the thirty-nine books in the Old Testament God continues to reveal His character, His holiness, and His attention to detail. He sets the stage for the arrival of Jesus so beautifully that by the end of the story you are left breathless. In light of the Gospel, in light of Jesus Christ, the Old Testament is transformed from boring, confusing, stodgy law to a gloriously rich foundation into which grace sends its roots deep down.

So with that said, we are about to embark on a series based in Exodus. I am so excited to share with you some of the truths that God has been gently, yet firmly, imprinting on my heart through this text. I want to be up front and let you know that I am the farthest thing from a Biblical scholar, but I will try to let the text speak for itself as I share both implications and applications for my personal life. I strongly encourage you to “take the meat and leave the bones” in these subsequent posts. Hold everything in the light of Scripture, take it before the throne of Grace, and always examine that which others speak into your life.

I think it is always beneficial to pause and reflect on where you have been, where you are now, and plot out where you want to go moving forward. Not only do I find this incredibly valuable in making sure I am living intentionally in my everyday life, I also think it is crucial in establishing proper context for biblical passages. Before we dive into Exodus, let’s take a step backward for a bit and establish a solid foundation.

Exodus is the second book in the Old Testament. It follows Genesis, literally “The Beginning” of God’s story. From the creation of all that is to the death of Joseph, Genesis details some of the most famous Sunday school stories (anyone else remember the felt boards?). Over its fifty chapters, we see God create the world, form Adam and Eve after His image, and live in relationship with them. We then see Adam and Eve doubt God’s heart towards them as they exchange the truth of God for a lie and sin enters the story. We see the extent of the fall of man in the story of the flood and God’s mercy towards man in the life of Noah. We see God call Abraham and establish the nation of Israel through one of the most dysfunctional families of all time. We are introduced to Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob’s twelve sons – the most famous of which being Joseph. We see God waste nothing in Joseph’s life as He establishes Joseph as second in command of all of Egypt, placing him in a position of great favor with Pharaoh and enabling him to relocate his entire family to Egypt during a significant famine. We see God remind His people of their promised home as Joseph issues a prophetic word to his family in the conclusion of Genesis:

And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.” Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” {Genesis 50:24-26 ESV}

It is with that sweet reminder of God’s faithfulness to His promises that the story of Exodus begins.

Egypt had served Israel incredibly well during the years of Joseph’s life, but it was still not the home God had promised them. Perhaps you are in a season where the promises of God seem like a distant memory. You are not in a bad place, but you are not living in the fulfillment of the promises God has given you. As we dive into the richness of the text in Exodus, my prayer is that we would keep Joseph’s last words in the forefront of our minds and hearts; that we would allow the truth of God’s faithfulness to direct our steps while we trust Him to bring us up into the fulfilment of all that He has promised to us.

-a