We have a foretaste of heaven inside us

Paul uses the Greek term arrhabôn, a term used in business documents for a downpayment, to describe the gift of the Spirit as a foretaste of our future inheritance (2 Cor 1:22; 5:5; Eph 1:13-14). The Spirit is also the aparchê, the first fruits of our future experience with God (Rom 8:23). Through the Spirit, we await full vindication (Gal 5:5) and experience a foretaste of the coming world (1 Cor 2:9-10).

See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2e3pJO3nH8 (1 minute)

Moses as a refugee—Exodus 2:15-17

Moses may have thought that killing an Egyptian oppressor was an act of justice, but the Egyptian overlords have different ideas. Once word about his action leaks, the attempted hero must flee for his life, soon becoming a fugitive in Midian from political repression.

Moses has reason to fear Pharaoh (Exod 2:14; cf. 14:10), though fearing God matters more (1:17, 21; 14:13; cf. 3:6; 9:30). Pharaoh wants to kill Moses just as Moses had killed an Egyptian (2:15). Now Moses has to flee for his life (2:15), abandoning any semblance of privilege and virtually all connections with both Egyptians and Hebrews. Undoubtedly his action shamed his adoptive family, but survival would now be his first concern. Moses’s ancestor Jacob had had to flee both his brother (Gen 27:43; 35:1) and his uncle (31:20-22, 27); but Moses’s flight from Pharaoh especially prefigures the flight of all Israel from Pharaoh a generation later (Exod 14:5). In contrast to Joseph, who went from being a pastoral nomad to being vizier over Egypt, Moses goes from being a high-status member of the Egyptian nobility to being a pastoral nomad.

Moses thus sits by a well in Midian, both a useful place to quench thirst and a normal place for meeting local people. Those who come to the well include the priest of Midian’s daughters. (The priest is apparently called both Reuel, as in 2:18 and some other passages, and Jethro, as at other times in Exodus. Alternatively, the term translated “father-in-law” in these passages might mean simply “male in-law,” allowing for a grandfather or brother-in-law who also held or shared the priestly office at different times.)

That these daughters come to draw water might not be unusual, but Moses might recall the story about himself being drawn from the water, an event commemorated even in his name (2:10). He might also recall stories about his ancestors. The servant whom Abraham sent to find a bride for Isaac found her at a well, where she graciously watered his camels (Gen 24:13-21). Jacob met Rachel at a well, when she was coming to water her father’s flock at the well’s watering troughs (29:9-11). Now Moses also acts gallantly, like his ancestor Jacob. Jacob rolled away a large stone and watered the flock Rachel had brought (Gen 29:10). Moses rescued the women here from bullying shepherds and watered their flock (Exod 2:17).

Moses acts like Jacob here, but also like himself: he had already demonstrated his hatred of oppression by killing the Egyptian in 2:12. That the text does not specify violent action on Moses’s part here might suggest that it proved unnecessary; standing up for the women may have been enough to make the bullying shepherds back down and wait their turn. (Moses did know how to try to resolve matters nonviolently; cf. 2:13.)

Yet like Pharaoh’s cupbearer temporarily forgetting Joseph, the young women leave their benefactor Moses at the well, apparently with no reward for his action—until their father intervenes (see 2:18-20, in the next lesson).

(For other posts on Exodus, see http://www.craigkeener.com/category/old-testament/exodus/.)

The Hebrews were sinners too—Exodus 2:13-14

In Exod 2:11-12, Moses killed an Egyptian who was striking one of Moses’s own people. He meant to act for justice. Unfortunately, however, injustice was not limited to the Egyptians. In The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn confessed his dismay at his discovery that it was not only his oppressors who did evil. “The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

Sometimes the oppressed share the same values as the oppressors. It was not only Egyptians who were striking Hebrews; the next day Moses encountered two Hebrews struggling and asked the wicked one, “Why do you ‘strike’ your neighbor?” (Exod 2:13, using the same Hebrew term as in 2:11-12). Far from being united against common oppressors, God’s own people were fighting among themselves. (For historical analogies of how devastating this can be, one may think of how European and Arab slave-traders and colonialists encouraged and exploited intertribal conflicts in Africa. European colonialists did the same in the Middle East. Many centuries ago, divisions among Christians also weakened traditionally Christian Mediterranean cultures in the face of their Islamic conquerors.)

Exodus does not inform us why the “wicked one” (Exod 2:13) was striking the other; perhaps he was a Hebrew overseer, but he may simply have been angry. The wicked, however, are not always dissuaded from actions if they lack fear of punishment. The aggressor demands, “Who made you a ruler or judge over us?” Asking who appointed him a ruler may be equivalent to asking whether he was appointed as one of their task masters (the same Hebrew term appears in Exod 1:11). Ironically, Moses would someday appoint leaders and judges over Israel (Exod 18:21, 25; Num 25:5; Deut 1:16).

Questioning Moses’s authority over them, the aggressor reveals that he knows Moses’s crime against an Egyptian (2:14). Thus we read not only of disunity, but also of likely betrayal; not only of Hebrew infighting, but also of one’s willingness to appeal to Egyptian rulers to get one’s own way. Moses may have expected his people to welcome him as a deliverer; some without faith preferred their present arrangements.

(For other posts on Exodus, see http://www.craigkeener.com/category/old-testament/exodus/.)

Ethnic reconciliation in Ephesians 2:11-22

This is a message I preached at an evangelical Presbyterian church in Indiana. This link worked when I tried it and hopefully still works when you try it!

http://www.covenantepc.org/resources/sermons/racial-reconciliation-1045am-service/

P.S., where I tried to access it from just now, the video would not load. The audio, however, DOES load.

Standing for Justice—Exodus 2:11-14

Nobody’s perfect, but sometimes one side really is right and another is wrong. The civil rights reformers were not perfect (see the marvelous movie Selma: https://www.amazon.com/Selma-David-Oyelowo/dp/B00NMF8SEK), but they were right that racial oppression was wrong. In that setting, whites who wanted to stand for justice needed to join the “black side.” The British, French and Americans were far from perfect, but Hitler’s genocidal activity was pure evil (see https://www.visionvideo.com/dvd/21624D/hitler-the-rise-of-evil). Fighting for justice in such circumstances could be standing for the “Jewish side.” When North Korea tortures and imprisons detractors, or ISIS or other religious vigilantes in Central or South Asia kill Christians or other religious minorities, these acts are evil. In our narrative, God was clearly on the side of the slaves. They were far from perfect, but they were unjustly oppressed—and they were God’s people.

Probably no one would have taken note when Moses went to visit his fellow Israelites; probably no one would by spying on this person of status despite his ethnic affiliation. Moses witnesses his people’s difficult “burdens” (Exod 2:11), a term describing their work as an enslaved people (in the OT found only in Exodus; see also 1:11; 5:4-5), burdens from which the Lord their God would ultimately deliver them (6:6-7).

But seeing an Egyptian “striking” a Hebrew, he “struck” the Egyptian (the same Hebrew term, often applied to killing). Moses intended the lethal outcome of his blow; he first made sure that no one was looking before he killed the Egyptian (Exod 2:12). The law of Moses later required the penalty of death for deliberately striking someone lethally (21:12), but Moses may have been saving the life of the Israelite being beaten. Certainly later Jewish interpreters and biblical voices understood Moses as acting for justice (cf. Acts 7:24-25). Moses identified with his enslaved people more than with his own privilege (cf. Heb 11:24-26).

Moses hid the corpse in the sand (Exod 2:12). (A contrast with Moses’s mother positively hiding him is possible but unlikely, since the narrator employs a different Hebrew term.) Moses did not expect to get caught, and trusted that his fellow Israelites would appreciate his action and not circulate it. But even if the Hebrew he rescued appreciated the action and was the only witness, questions about his own escape from beating might well lead to him recounting the story, and word about the action of this privileged Hebrew would quickly spread (see 2:14).

Although Moses’s action may prefigure his future role as deliverer, the difference between his failure as a small-scale deliverer here and his future success as an agent of God’s deliverance is clear. It’s not enough even to be right about our calling or destiny: we need to depend on the Lord to get us there. It’s important to stand for justice, but it’s ultimately the Lord who grants success. It is difficult to even quantify the vast chasm between Moses’s act of avenging and hopefully rescuing one Hebrew and the plagues that would later force Pharaoh to release Israel. It is the difference between the arm of flesh and the arm of the Lord.

(For other posts on Exodus, see http://www.craigkeener.com/category/old-testament/exodus/.)