March 18 by Pastor Jim

In the course of those many days the king of Egypt died. And the people of Israel groaned under their bondage, and cried out for help, and their cry under bondage came up to God.  And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.  And God saw the people of Israel, and God knew their condition.
     Exodus 2:23-25

The book of Exodus tells us of God delivering his people from slavery in Egypt.  It’s a marvelous story — especially in light of the fact that the people had no idea that God was there for them or even that he was planning to act.

At the end of Genesis, the people had gone down to Egypt during a famine in search of food.  Joseph had become the right hand man of Pharaoh and this had made it possible; but, as we then turn the page from Genesis to the first chapter of Exodus, centuries pass and the situation has changed.  We’re told that “there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.”  The people are soon in the new and uncharted waters of slavery.

What we learn in these first chapters of Exodus is that, even in new and uncharted waters, God can be trusted to look out for his people — and this begins even before they cry out for help.  Indeed, Exodus 2 opens with what sounds almost like a new creation story.  Baby Moses’ mother doesn’t just note that “he was a fine child” or “he was a goodly child” as our English translations would have it.  Rather, the Hebrew says “and she saw that he/it was good,” echoing God’s affirming words at each step of his creation.

And then, when she has to put baby Moses in a basket and turn him loose in “uncharted waters,” the word for “basket” is not the usual one in Hebrew but rather is the word for “ark” — as in Noah’s ark!  Yes, we are meant to sit up and take note: God is beginning to move even before his people are aware of it and in ways they couldn’t imagine.

The story grows more complex in this second chapter of Exodus; tension increases until at the end we come to the words above; four pointed verbs, rapidly in succession: “And God heard …, and God remembered ….  And God saw …, and God knew.”  Clearly, God had been watching all along; those opening words of the chapter describing the first chapter of Moses’ life make that clear.  But the chapter closes with the sound of four bold hammer strokes making it clear that God is about to act.

Well, we find ourselves in “uncharted waters” today, certainly … as individuals and as a congregation.  Perhaps the hardest part, at present, is simply not being able to gather together in worship and with friends or with those with whom we are engaged in various groups or ministries.  But know that God has “been there before” and that you and I — and St Timothy’s — are being held in his strong hands.

As I look at the way God starts to work at the beginning of Exodus 2 even before he “hears” and “remembers” and “sees” and “knows” at the end of that chapter, I can’t help but think of that marvelous promise near the end of Isaiah:

      Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear.
                  Isaiah 65:24.

This is the God we worship; this is the God we can trust as we now move forward in waters that are indeed “uncharted” — to us but not to God.

Gracious God, you know what lies ahead of us far better than do we … and that is enough.  We know we are in good hands because we can look back on so many instances in the past when you were there for us in “uncharted waters” and brought us through.  Be with us now — as individuals, as families, as a congregation, as a nation, as a world — that we may not only trust you but be used by you to encourage others who may be struggling at this point.  Provide, we pray, for whatever we may need; and show us, even with the restrictions that encompass us, ways in which we can serve the needs of others.  For we pray in Jesus Name.  Amen.