Presented on The Lutheran Hour on February 23, 2020
By Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Lutheran Hour Speaker
Copyright 2020 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Exodus 1-2
I know. Think about how that phrase is used in a variety of contexts. For example, the teacher asks the class, "What's the capital of Kentucky?" The girl in the front row, she shoots up her hand, "I know. I know." A father's drawing on his life experience to give some trusted advice to his 17-year-old son, who rolls his eyes and says, "I know, Dad. I know." A mother lost her child, stillbirth. She confides in a friend who's been through it, too. "I know." A woman is talking with a police officer. She's trying to hold it together, as she gives the description of the man who assaulted her. "You need to catch him," she says. "He's dangerous." The officer answers, "Yes, ma'am, I know, and we've taken him into custody."
You hear that phrase in a variety of situations, and it becomes clear that knowing about something is not the same as knowing something by experience. Book smarts are not the same as street smarts. Just because you have knowledge doesn't mean you have know-how. This week on this program we're starting to listen to the book of Exodus. Now you're probably saying, "I already know Exodus. I know the story. Moses says to Pharaoh, 'Let my people go.' Pharaoh refuses. God sends some plagues. He parts the sea. Moses leads the people out into the Promised Land. The end."
Yeah, that's the 30,000-foot flyover view, but things look different from the ground. You notice things at ground level that you might've missed at cruising altitude. For example, chapter two of Exodus ends with this interesting phrase, "God knew." What does that mean? What does it mean to say that God knew, that God knows? Well, sit back, listen to the story. See what you think.
"Now these are the names of the sons of Israel who went down to Egypt with Jacob: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah, Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin, Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. The descendants of Jacob were 70 persons in all. Joseph was already in Egypt. Now Joseph died and so did his brothers and so did all that generation, but the children of Israel were fruitful and multiplied and greatly increased in number so that the land was filled with them.
"But a new king came to power in Egypt, and he did not know Joseph. He said to his people, 'Look, the children of Israel have become much too numerous for us. Come now. We must deal with them wisely. Otherwise, they will become even more numerous. If war breaks out, they will join our enemies and fight against us and go up out of the land.'
"They appointed slave masters over them and oppressed them with heavy burdens. They built store cities for Pharaoh, Pithom and Rameses. But as much as they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the children of Israel, and they mercilessly made them serve. They made their lives bitter with backbreaking service of brick and mortar and all kinds of service in the fields, and in all their forced service, mercilessly they made them serve.
"Then Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, summoned the Hebrew midwives. One of them was named Shiphrah and the other named Puah. He said to them, 'Whenever you are helping the Hebrew women in childbirth and you observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a son, kill him. If it is a daughter, she may live.' But the midwives feared God, and they did not do what the king of Egypt told them to do. They let the sons live. The king of Egypt summoned the midwives, and he said to them, 'Why have you done this? Why have you let the sons live?'
"They answered, 'Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women. They are more lively. They give birth before the midwives arrive.' God was good to the midwives, and the people increased and became even more numerous. It happened because the midwives feared God. God made households for them, but the king of Egypt, he commanded all his people: 'Every son that is born, you must throw into the river, but you may allow the daughters to live.'
"The man from the house of Levi married a woman who was also from Levi's tribe. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She saw that he was good, so she hid him for three months, but she couldn't hide him any longer. She took an ark of papyrus, a basket for him, and she waterproofed it with tar and pitch. She placed him in it, and set the basket among the reeds along the bank of the river. His sister took her stand at a distance so that she would know what happened to him.
"The daughter of Pharaoh came down to the river to wash and her girls, her little attendants, were walking along the river bank, and she saw the basket among the reeds. She sent one of her handmaidens to go get it. She got it and found the child inside. She said, 'Ah, it's a baby.' She wanted to spare him. She was saying, 'This is one of the Hebrew boys.' His sister said to the daughter of Pharaoh, 'Hey, you want me to go call a woman for you to nurse him, one of the Hebrew women to nurse him for you?'
"She said, 'Go.' She went and called his mother. Pharaoh's daughter said to her, 'Take this child and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.' It happened that she took the child, her child, and nursed him. When he had grown, she brought him to her, and he became a son to her, to Pharaoh's daughter, and she called his name Moses, which means 'pulled out.' She was saying, 'I pulled him out of the water. I pulled him out of the water.'
"During those days Moses grew up, and he went out among his brothers, and he saw their heavy burdens. He saw an Egyptian man striking a Hebrew man. Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he struck the Egyptian and buried him in the sand. The next day he went out, and he saw two Hebrews fighting. He said to the one in the wrong, 'Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?' The man said to him, 'Who made you ruler and judge over us? What, are you thinking of killing me like you killed the Egyptian?' Moses was afraid. He said to himself, 'What I've done must've become known.'
"Pharaoh, when he heard the matter, he was trying to have Moses killed, so Moses arose, and he fled from Pharaoh. He went to Midian, where he sat down by a well. Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came to draw water to fill the troughs to water their father's flock. Some shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses arose, and he saved them, and he watered the flock.
"They returned to their father Reuel, and he said to them, 'Why have you come home so early today?' They answered, 'An Egyptian man came and rescued us from the hands of the shepherds. He even drew water and watered the flock for us.' He said, 'Where is he? Why have you left such a man? Call him to have something to eat.'
"Moses was content to stay with the man, to dwell with him. He gave Moses his daughter Zipporah in marriage. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son. Moses called the name of his son, Gershom, which means 'sojourner.' He was saying, 'I have become a sojourner in a strange land.'
"It happened during those many days, the king of Egypt died, and the cry of the children of Israel, because of their forced service, went up to God. God heard their cry for help, and God remembered His covenant promise with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the children of Israel and God knew. God knew." The Word of the Lord, Exodus 1-2.
Revé Walsh knew. She knew what it was like to grieve as she read through some of the 40,000 letters that filled her garage. People from all over the country had written in to show their support, to offer sympathy, to share their own stories, sometimes just to say, "I know. I know what you're going through." Revé's six-year-old son Adam had been abducted and murdered. There had been a massive search. It was all over the news. When people heard the report of his death, they started writing letters. Revé read through letter after letter of the families who'd suffered the same thing that she was going through. So she decided to do something. She and her husband had resources at their disposal. They had connections. Together they helped create what became the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. It's a congressionally mandated organization that's still around today, 35 years later. For example, they help get out those Amber alerts that we hear sometimes on our phones.
See, Revé Walsh knew what it was like to grieve, and she knew how to help. And her husband, too, her husband John went on to start a TV show, America's Most Wanted. Maybe you've heard of it. It ran for 26 years on primetime television and helped apprehend over 1,000 fugitives from the law. John Walsh once said in an interview, "I have walked in the shoes of everyone who's come to us for help." The Walshes knew, and they knew how. They knew how to help.
People have been reading and listening to and retelling the story of Exodus for 3,500 years. Why? Because they believed, as I believe, that the God revealed in the story of Exodus—the one true God—He knows, and he knows how. God knows what it's like to suffer evil and the pain caused by evil. God does not sit in some corner in heaven unconcerned, undisturbed by what's happening to us. He is close. He is present. He knows what you've been through. He knows what you're facing. Even more, He knows how. He knows how to ruin evil and restore the good. In the first two chapters of Exodus, we see God at work ruining the evil plans of the powerful, and not just to stop them, but to make a mockery of them. God is stripping evil of its power to intimidate. How? By defeating its power with weakness.
Consider the daughters in the story of Exodus. Pharaoh lets the daughters live because he thinks they're weak. They are no threat to him. They're not even worth his attention. Ironically, it is the daughters who defeat him. Their actions and their unintended consequences become his undoing. Moses' sister, she was allowed to live because she had no apparent power. But it was her suggestion that led Pharaoh's daughter to adopt Moses. Can't you just hear Pharaoh's daughter saying to her father, "Oh, Daddy, it's just one Hebrew baby. What could he possibly do?"
See, the scene begins with Pharaoh killing babies to preserve his power, to protect his legacy, to safeguard his name. It ends with Pharaoh dead, his empire set on a path toward destruction, and we're not even told his name. Yet Shiphrah and Puah, these two women, apparently powerless, we're still talking about them three and a half millennia later. You almost feel sorry for Pharaoh. His power is as durable as a mirage on the desert road to Midian. You trust the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. You don't need to be afraid of people who might try to harm you because God knows, and God knows how.
If this message has found you and you are in the process of harming someone or you are planning to harm them, their body, their blessings, their home, their reputation—your plans will not prevail because God knows, and He knows how. He knows because He became like us. He became a sufferer as one of us in Jesus. Jesus knows what it's like to suffer evil. He knows what it's like to be seen as weak and worthless. He knows what it's like to be betrayed and tortured, ridiculed and murdered. Jesus knows, and He knows how. He knows how to turn weakness into strength. He knows how to turn death into life. He knows how to ruin evil and remove its power over you. He became the crucified Messiah, risen from the dead as the Lord of life. Jesus knows, and He knows how.
Jesus says to you, "I know your pain. I know your loss. I know your secrets, and I know your fears. I know, and I know how. I know how to pull you out, and I know how to bring you through. I know how. I know how to help you speak up for someone who can't speak for themselves, the baby in the womb, the child caught in abuse, the widow all alone, the sojourner among you. I even know how to fill your heart with love for your enemies and to pray for those who persecute you. You don't need to be afraid of anyone or anything. You belong to me, and I will deliver you from evil. I know, and I know how."
Would you pray to Him with me? Lord Jesus, such knowledge is too much for me. It's too high. I cannot attain it. Even the darkness is not dark to You. The night is as day to You. I walk through this valley of death's dark shadow, but I fear no evil because You are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. I love You, Jesus. I trust You. Amen.
Note: The Lutheran Hour is produced for the ear and designed to be heard. If you are able, we encourage you to listen to the audio at lutheranhour.org. It includes emotion and emphasis not reflected in the transcript.
Reflections for February 23, 2020
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. For more information about the program and its Speakers, and for free resources, go to our website, lutheranhour.org. Once again, here's Dr. Michael Zeigler.
Mike Zeigler: Thank you, Mark. Once again, I have joining me in the studio, Rev. Dr. Jason Broge, the director of—how do you say it—content and curriculum?
Jason Broge: It's design and development.
Mike Zeigler: Design and Development for Global Ministries. Now, one thing that struck me, you got my attention in this reading from the book of Exodus is a how we're told that God was good to the midwives, and He gave them families. A lot of translations say they're in Exodus 1:21, but if you look in the King James version, he says that He made them houses. And you know like, Okay, what's going on there? So I check the Hebrew and the word there is "house" or "households," and that got me thinking about this phrase, "households of faith," and we're not calling it "families of faith," but "households of faith." So what's the reason behind that?
Jason Broge: So often in ministry we talk about families, and we don't talk about households. And the distinction there is that if you've got a roof over your head, you're in a household. The things that we're finding in this research study with Barna are true of households, not just for families. They're definitely true for families, but also people who live by themselves. Maybe people who live with roommates. Sometimes you'll be talking to somebody who are a couple and they don't have any kids yet and they think, "Oh, this family ministry stuff's not for me." Well, no, actually the stuff that we have been learning about, the rhythms of life within a Christian households, are true of you as well. And on the other end of the spectrum, you maybe have a couple who are empty-nesters and are thinking, "Hey, this isn't true of us anymore. Our families left us." No they haven't. And you are still in a Christian household. And so everything that we've been studying and learning and the resources we're providing are for you as well.
Mike Zeigler: You're saying there's a bigger biblical category of which family, nuclear family, mom, dad, kids is a part, but the bigger category is in fact household. And that makes sense of what you hear sometimes in the book of Acts, like a whole household would be baptized.
Jason Broge: And we realized that this concept of what a household is, as being just a family has somehow crept in more recently. And if you actually go into Scripture, there is a clear idea of a household being much, much bigger.
Mike Zeigler: Probably at least multigenerational ...
Jason Broge: Multigenerational, but actually ...
Mike Zeigler: Maybe servants and workers and ...
Jason Broge: Exactly, it's going to be all the people who come under his care that he is responsible for, and they're not all living in one structure. In this case, they're traveling and moving into the Promised Land. They're living in something more akin to a tent, if you will. And those are all going to be clumped together, so they can rely on each other for resources. And they are living life, doing life together, so this idea of a household was much, much broader.
Mike Zeigler: One of the terms I've heard you and others talk about is a spiritually dormant household, and you were talking a little bit about what makes a household vibrant last week. What does that mean, dormant?
Jason Broge: Well, there is a significant percentage of Christian households when studied, who fell into that category, and that meant that these are households who are not doing those vibrancy characteristics at all—so not having spiritual conversations together. They report not experiencing spiritual disciplines together, and they also were ...
Mike Zeigler: That would be like doing devotions and praying together.
Jason Broge: Exactly. And they also report not extending hospitality and having outsiders come in. So the dormant households are ones that are not doing those things. And I want to emphasize that word "together," because I'm not just talking about, you might have some members doing devotions, but they're not coming together. You might have them outside of the house having spiritual conversations, but when they're in the household together, faith isn't being nurtured there.
Mike Zeigler: If someone's listening and they think, "Wow! What might be my household; we kind of sound dormant," what would you recommend, what would you suggest may be a step in the direction that may be a little bit more vibrant? What could they do?
Jason Broge: Well, there's a lot they can do, and I think the first thing is acknowledging it. Saying, "Hey, you know what? There's some room for us to grow." And the exciting thing for me is that as we looked at these characteristics that I mentioned last time and also this time—the idea of having spiritual conversations together, spiritual disciplines, and extending hospitality together—those three things, they're all things you can grow in. There's really a spectrum of vibrancy for most of us, and we can look at where we are now and say, "You know what—I think as a household during this season, we really want to tackle getting better at having our spiritual disciplines, maybe devotions on a regular basis."
Mike Zeigler: So not trying to do everything all at once, but saying maybe for the next three months we're going to work on this one thing?
Jason Broge: Absolutely. And if you want aids to help you in figuring that out—both assessing your household and also having some ideas of resources to help you get along—I really encourage you to check out some of the materials that we've been creating in conjunction with this research study. One place to start is to go to LHM Learn and look at our course, Building a Vibrant Household. It's a free course that you can go through, and we'll walk you through the process of learning about these characteristics, evaluating your household, and giving you some suggestions that take into account the different stages of life and the different types of households so that you can come up with a plan that's attainable, that's realistic, that will help you grow in nurturing your faith.
Mike Zeigler: Very good. So that's at the Lutheran Hour Ministries website, lhm.org, and then there's a backslash learn.
Jason Broge: Learn. Yes.
Mike Zeigler: Okay. And that'd be a good place to start.
Jason Broge: Absolutely.
Mike Zeigler: All right. Thank you for being here, Jason.
Jason Broge: Thanks for having me. Mike.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"O Wondrous Type! O Vision Fair" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)