There is a string of passages at the end of Genesis and the beginning of Exodus that I have been pondering the past couple weeks. It starts in Genesis 48:11.
And Israel said to Joseph, “I did not even pray to see your face again. And look! God has shown it to me and also the face of your children!”
Jacob’s words, when he lays eyes on Joseph after so many years, are precious to me. It reminds me that I never know what the future holds and what sort of good things God has in store. In a sense, for Jacob, God raised Joseph from the dead. You just never know what good things are in store for tomorrow.
Pharaoh heard about the situation (of Moses killing the Egyptian), and he sought to kill Moses. Moses ran from Pharaoh, and he lived in the land of Midian, by a well.
What is it that led Moses to this desolate place? He killed someone. He lost his family, and fled from his home because of murder. If you can imagine yourself into this narrative and character, you would surely assume the good things of life are in the past.
But we know how the story goes. Living in Midian, by a well, Moses is just in the prologue of his story. Moses is about to be used by God to work one of the greatest acts of redemption ever. You never know what good things are in store for tomorrow.
At the end of Exodus 3, in remarkable detail Yahweh tells Moses about the series of events about to occur in Egypt. Moses’ reply is “But they won’t listen to me.” Based on his experience, that reply makes sense. What happened the last time he told one of the Israelites what to do? When he tried to break up the fight? “Who made you our judge?!”
I’ve spent a summer or two in this sort of “Midian.” You can’t imagine that the next school year can go any differently than the last. You pick up your staff, walk into Egypt, and though it isn’t easy, before you know it the Red Sea has parted. It’s a completely different year, and you’d be a fool to say that it has nothing to do with God’s presence and activity. You never know what good things are in store for tomorrow.
Remember the “magic tricks” that God gives Moses, the ones with the staff turning into a snake and whatnot? The whole point is to show Moses that God can do more than he can ask or imagine. The trajectory of Moses’ life will not be limited to “what normally happens.”
Moses still isn’t sure. He has a speech problem. Surely they won’t listen to someone like that. “Who gave man a mouth?!” says Yahweh. You might be tempted to hear a sharp scolding tone. I see a smile.
I know that just a few verses later it says the Moses’ responses upset the Lord (וַיִּחַר־אַף יְהוָה), but does that necessarily mean that God speaks harshly here? Don’t you think God is capable of feeling irritation and even anger and at the same time acting in love with a smile that says, “I’m for you! Why would I call you to this and let you down?!” I think so.
In Exodus, Yahweh argues with Moses to convince him that the God with whom he is speaking is not limited by his experience or imagination. You never know what good things are in store for tomorrow.