August 24, 2014; 11th Sunday after Pentecost – A – God in Quiet Mode
Exodus 2:1-10- the birth of Moses
Romans 12:1-8- in the Body of Christ we have a variety of gifts that come together as a complete whole
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2.
27 centuries ago, Isaiah declared, “Truly, you are a God who hides himself, O God of Israel, the Savior” (Isa 45:15). Since then, many people in every generation have had the same thought, and some have taken it to a further conclusion: that God does not exist at all.
The Bible regards those who say there’s no God as “fools” (Ps 14:1). But, the Bible acknowledges that sometimes God can be difficult to perceive in the midst of troubled situations (Job 9:11- Behold, he passes by me, and I see him not; he moves on, but I do not perceive him; Ps 10:1- Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?; Paul’s promise in Acts 17:27– that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us).
So, is God really hiding himself? The real activity when God seems to be not present in our times of trouble: Pharaoh’s oppression of the ancient Hebrews and the slaying of their male infants, Some would ask, “Where is God?” Yet … God is there after all. He’s in a quiet mode, content to work behind the scenes through ordinary means of reproduction and birth. …” … “I created you!”
Hmmm. God in quiet mode. That suggests not so much God being hidden as being unobtrusive.
What is “quiet mode”? Norton AntiVirus program for computers has a “quiet mode” that refers not to absence or to hiddenness, but to a suspension of certain activities. When you’re using your computer to perform tasks that require higher utilization of your system resources, Norton automatically suspends the background activities and lets the task use the maximum system resources for better performance.
Norton’s doesn’t cease to function; it continues to display alerts and notifications during the session.
Between the close of Gen and the opening of Ex, there have been great changes for the descendants of Jacob. When Gen closed, Jacob’s 12 sons and their families were living in Egypt as welcome immigrants. God had put Joseph in pos as Governor of all Egypt, so he could bring his family down and give them the best pasture land to settle.
But 400 years go by and Jacob’s descendants have grown numerous. They prosper and grow strong in #s. A new pharaoh sees Jacob’s descendants as a potential threat to Egypt.
The Hebrews have been prolific and “filled the land.” But the Egyptian king sees their #s as dangerous and suggests that if there is war, they might side with Egypt’s enemies, or they might escape from Egypt (and they would lose a significant labor force).
So, to control them, Pharaoh enslaves them, putting them to work on massive government building projects. The Hebrews did the work, but they also continued to multiply. This leads Pharaoh to call in Hebrew midwives = when they deliver Hebrew girls, the infants can live, but boys are to be killed. The midwives, however, “fear God” more than they fear Pharaoh, and they ignore his directive.
Later, when Pharaoh sees that his orders have not been carried out, he calls the midwives in again, and Shiphrah and Puah tell him that the Hebrew women give birth so easily that the babies are delivered before the midwives can get there. The Bible compliments the midwives, saying that “because the midwives feared God, he gave them families” of their own.
Pharaoh next tells the Egyptian ppl to drown male Heb children in the Nile. This sets the stage for the birth of Moses, whose mother hid him in a basket in the bulrushes. And Moses eventually would be the deliverer of the Hebrew people.
You might wonder where is God during this struggle? Some might say God is apparently absent. But that’s not the case. God is there in the prosperity and growth of the Hebrew people. God is operating, you might say, in quiet mode. Ps 94:18-19 promises, When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.
The midwives feared God and that tells us that God was active in their lives as they lived out the principle we find in I Sam 2:30: Those who honor me, I will honor says the Lord.” It helps us understand that, when Moses is born, something momentous from God has happened. On the one hand, it’s an ordinary birth. No angel announces it. There’s no statement of Moses being chosen before his birth to be the savior of Israel. There are no special instructions in a dream to either parents of Moses.
Yet when Moses’ mother, Jochebed (Num 26:59), plots to keep him alive, she sets him afloat on the very river in which the Egyptians were drowning the male children. What was she thinking? Why would she think that the Egyptian who found the baby was not only a woman of power and wealth, but also one kindhearted enough to ignore her own father’s command? She clearly recognized that the baby was from the Hebrews- and she could have easily ordered the basket to be tipped over and drowned the baby. But instead, she took the baby into her own household, to raise as her own son.
Can we really think for long that she came up with that idea all by herself? No, God had a plan for His people. God deals in the long term, and Moses would be His chosen instrument in 80 years to bring salvation to His people. God put that idea in her mind, God softened the heart of Pharaoh’s daughter to save the baby in spite of her father’s order that he should be drowned.
Can we really think for long that God was not active in all that was going on to build up and rescue the people of Israel? It’s God in “quiet mode.”
Faith always involves a risk. Faith is a gamble that we take when we do something without knowing for sure of the results.
We call buying a lottery ticket a big gamble; but we call buying blue chip stocks an investment.
We call taking prescription medicine safe medical treatment. We call self-medication a gamble.
Because life holds no guarantees, there is an element of gamble in all that we do, whether it is driving a car or visiting a sick friend.
But the kind of risk that Jochebed took with baby Moses falls into a separate category. She stationed Miriam, Moses’ older sister, in a strategic location, to watch what happened, and gave her instructions on what to say. Miriam stepped up to Pharaoh’s daughter and asked if she (Pharaoh’s daughter) would like for her (Miriam) to find a wet nurse for the baby from among the Hebrew women. Pharaoh’s daughter thought that would be nice, so Miriam went and engaged Jochebed, Moses’ birth mother, to be Moses’ nurse, and she got to care for her own child and got paid for it at the same time.
That’s the story in a nut-shell. But back up in that story for a moment. Having done the best you can, there comes a moment when you push the little wicker ark into the waters of the Nile. You take your hands off. And the rest is in God’s hands.
In spite of your best hopes and planning, and prayers, you quiver with anxiety. Will the baby be saved? That Is the Risk of Faith.
I heard of a boy who was deeply in love with a girl he met while they were still in HS. He loved her very much, and he was convinced she was the girl God wanted him to marry. They talked about marriage, but because they were young, and there were still several years of school that lay ahead for both of them, they weren’t formally engaged.
For a couple of years they were separated in different schools. During the separation, the girl dated another young man. He too talked of marriage. She wrote her first boyfriend, and then he called her on the phone. The first boyfriend talked with her on the phone, and her being torn between the two was confirmed in their conversation.
Believing that she was the girl God wanted for him, he told her that he loved her, wanted her to be his wife, but until God had convinced her of the same thing, she would not hear from him again. Then he prayed something like: God, I think she is the one You want for me, but You will have to convince her. I leave her in Your hands to guide her emotions as well as mine. And he stopped communicating. He didn’t call. He didn’t write, and he placed his future relationship in God’s hands.
That Is the Risk of Faith!
Later in the story of Moses, we see God more visibly: speaking through a burning bush, inflicting the plagues on the Egyptians, leading Israel with a pillar of fire and a pillar of cloud, stopping Pharaoh’s army and parting the Red Sea. But in our experience God’s quiet activity, as in Exodus 1 and 2, is more typical of God than the spectacular displays that come later.
No doubt the Israelites would’ve liked the spectacular stuff sooner, would have preferred God in “active mode” before things got so bad. We, too, may wonder why God lets us get so deep into the messes of life and doesn’t intervene. It’s often beyond our ability to explain why God chooses the timing. Even looking with the eyes of faith, it “takes practice and maybe even some imagination,” to see the activity of God in troubled times.
Perhaps we should picture faith as the guy who sits at the sonar post in a submarine. He has earphones on and is listening for the slightest sound to indicate the presence nearby of another submarine, running quiet and deep. Often, the course of action the captain orders is because of what the sailor at that post picks up. Much of the time, the captain has to make a decision, based on the faintest of whispers the man with the earphones believes he has distinguished from all the other sounds of the sea.
Faith, too, seeks out the quiet sounds of God in the world filled with lots of noise. But it does not take extraordinary spiritual sonar to detect the work of God, but simply ears open and listening carefully. As Jesus said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” Mark 4:9.
Faith believes that God is not only active in the most ordinary of circumstances as well as troubled ones, but in fact, that this is His most common way of affecting our world. God works in quiet mode through people who, like the midwives, trust in God more than they trust the powers of the world.
So is God active in our lives today? Is God already sowing the seeds of recovery and redemption? Is God working in quiet mode to allow us to have full access to our own resources to deal with what comes at us? Is God staying behind the scenes but working through the lives of people, whom we don’t expect to be part of the solution, to, in fact, be part of the solution?
Exodus tells us the answer to those questions is “Yes.”
The concept for God in Quiet Mode was drawn from Homiletics magazine..