Week 6–“Who is ‘the Sojourner’”?: The Sin of Sodom—Angels Unawares

Thursday, April 6

“The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.  He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground.  He said, ‘My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant.  Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.  Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.’ So they said, ‘Do as you have said’” (Gen 18:1-5).

There is no specific word in biblical Hebrew for hospitality.  But in Greek, the word is philoxenia—that is, love for the stranger!  This word appears twice in the New Testament. In Romans 12:13, Paul commands his audience, “Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.”  Hebrews 13:2 deliberately alludes to the story of Abraham and Lot in Genesis 18—19: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” I hear this passage in my head in the KJV: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

Abraham did not know that the Lord was present in these three passers-by. He went out of his way to serve them because Abraham saw such hospitality as his calling and responsibility. In his sermon on Romans 12:13, the great early Christian preacher St. John Chrysostom (347-407 CE) praised Abraham and Lot as examples of radical hospitality:

Thus did Lot, thus Abraham. For he spent the whole day upon it, waiting for this goodly prey, and when he saw it, leaped upon it, and ran to meet them, and worshipped upon the ground, and said, “My Lord, if now I have found favor in Thy sight, pass not away from Thy servant.” [Gen 18:3] Not as we do, if we happen to see a stranger or a poor man, knitting our brows, and not deigning even to speak to them. And if after thousands of entreaties we are softened, and bid the servant give them a trifle, we think we have quite done our duty. But he did not so, but assumed the fashion of a suppliant and a servant, though he did not know who he was going to take under his roof. . . . as did Abraham also, whom beside his largeness and ready mind it is just especially to admire, on this ground, that when he had no knowledge who they were that had come, yet he so acted. Do not thou then be curious either: since for Christ thou dost receive him. And if thou art always so scrupulous, many a time wilt thou pass by a man of esteem, and lose thy reward from him.      . . . Do not then busy thyself with men’s lives and doings. For this is the very extreme of niggardliness, for one loaf to be exact about a man’s entire life. For if this person be a murderer, if a robber, or what not, does he therefore seem to thee not to deserve a loaf and a few pence? And yet thy Master causeth even the sun to rise upon him! And dost thou judge him unworthy of food even for a day? (Homilies on Romans 21).

Surely, this is a vital word for our own time! May we, like Abraham, seek our own “goodly prey” in the places where God has put us, not being curious as to whether the one we seek to serve is “worthy” in our own eyes, “since for Christ thou dost receive him.”

Prayer: Grant, O God, that our churches would indeed be known for “Open hearts, open minds, open doors.” But do not let us sit inside and wait for folk to come in! Send us out, we pray, to show your radical hospitality in our world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Week 6–“Who is ‘the Sojourner’”?: Remember!

Wednesday, April 5

For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing.  You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deut 10:18-19).

Deuteronomy continually calls upon the people Israel to remember who they are, and who God is. Indeed, those two calls are inextricably intertwined: Israel is the people who were made a people by the Lord who delivered them from bondage. In other words, Israel has direct and personal knowledge of what it means to say that God “is not partial,” because had God shown partiality for the wisest, the strongest, the most prosperous, the best, God would never have chosen this rag-tag band of slaves and outlaws as God’s own! Likewise, Israel knows personally that the Lord  “loves the strangers [Hebrew ger], providing them with food and clothing,” because, as God reminds them, “you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Indeed, in each of the passages regarding the ger we have examined so far God has given Israel this reminder (see Exod 22:21; Lev 19:34). This gives added punch to the commands to love one’s neighbor—including the ger—as oneself; knowing that they have themselves been immigrants and refugees, by loving the gerim, the people of Israel are loving themselves.

With the exception of our Native American brothers and sisters, all of us are here because our ancestors came here from somewhere else. Some, like the famous Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock, came fleeing religious persecution. Some, like my Scottish-Irish forebears, came because of hardship and political oppression at home. Some of us came here in chains. As Americans, a nation of immigrants, it behooves us, too, to remember who we are. Those of us who claim the name Christian need also to remember whose we are, and what it means to be the people of the God “who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing.”

Prayer: O Jesus, your prayer for us was “that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21). Thank you for making us your own people. Forgive us for the exclusion and disunity that have instead prevented the world from seeing you in us. Heal us, we pray, through Jesus our Christ, Amen.


Week 6–“Who is ‘the Sojourner’”?: Love Your Neighbor

Tuesday, April 4

“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. . . . When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien.  The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Lev 19:18, 33-34).

Jesus’ teaching on the Greatest Commandment is found in Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; and Luke 10:25-28.  These accounts differ on small points: in all three, however, the whole of God’s law hangs on two essential prescriptions: love for God, and love for neighbor. Jesus’ first commandment comes from Deuteronomy 6:5: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” His second commandment comes from today’s passage in Leviticus: “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Some interpreters have proposed that this was an in-house commandment: “your neighbor” means “your fellow Israelite.” But Leviticus 19:33-34 demonstrates that this is far too narrow a reading. Here, love is commanded toward “the alien who resides with you” (the Hebrew term, as in yesterday’s passage, is ger) in the same language used in 19:18 for the neighbor: “you shall love the alien as yourself.” In fact this passage says, the ger “shall be to you as a citizen among you.”

We may not like this commandment—particularly if we are persuaded that immigrants and refugees pose a threat to us either economically, by taking our jobs and resources, or more fundamentally, through crime or terrorism. We could perhaps say that these words of Scripture address the community of faith, not the nation, and that national policy needs to be mindful of the security of our borders. But for the church and for the individual Christian, there is no passing this particular buck. We cannot even use the tired “Old Testament laws don’t apply to us” excuse, because Jesus has made eminently clear that this particular law does apply to us—second only to the command to love God. Certainly, unemployment, crime, and terrorism are real concerns (although we may legitimately ask if there is any evidence connecting those concerns to immigrants or refugees).  But whether we like it or not, if we want to be followers of the Christ, we are commanded to love our neighbors—including immigrants and refugees—as we love ourselves.


“Thou who art over us,

Thou who art one of us,

Thou who art:

Give me a pure heart, that I may see thee;

a humble heart, that I may hear thee;

a heart of love, that I may serve thee;

a heart of faith, that I may abide in thee.”

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

(Dag Hammerskjöld, Markings, 1964)


Week 6,“Who is ‘the Sojourner’”?: A “Stained-Glass” Word

Monday, April 3

“You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.  You shall not abuse any widow or orphan.  If you do abuse them, when they cry out to me, I will surely heed their cry; my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children orphans” (Exod 22:21-24).

In this passage, we know of course who the widow and the orphan are. We can understand why a special command might be needed to ensure their just treatment: in the clan-based economy of ancient Israel, a women without a husband to ensure her access to property, or a child without a parent’s protection, could well fall through the cracks.  However, who is the ger (“resident alien” in the NRSV)? The old King James often uses “sojourner” for ger and related terms. At one time, “sojourner” meant something in our culture—consider the nineteenth-century heroine, escaped slave, abolitionist, freedom fighter, and feminist who called herself Sojourner Truth (pictured above). But in our day, “sojourner” is used in hymns, prayers, or Bible readings, but never found outside our sanctuaries, making it difficult to say what it means. It has become a “stained-glass” word.

To find the best contemporary translation for ger, it may help to consider how this word is used in our Old Testament. The ger is a person of foreign birth, living within the borders of Israel but without land or legal status. That is why the ger is so often listed together with the widow and the orphan: like widows and orphans, the gerim are vulnerable: they have no one to look out for their rights. This is why a special command is needed to ensure their just treatment, and why generosity to the ger is a consistent biblical principle.

So, who is the ger in our own time and context? The NRSV “resident alien” is accurate, but bookish and stodgy; far more vigorous, and no less accurate, is the Common English Bible rendering “immigrant”—particularly if we include those sometimes vilified as “illegal immigrants,” and those we call “refugees.” As the political rhetoric of the recent campaign has made tragically apparent, these “sojourners” are perhaps more vulnerable and at risk now than ever before—making these passages of Scripture more relevant than ever before. As today’s passage demonstrates, the ultimate guarantor of rights for the ger in Scripture is the Lord, who assures us, “If you do abuse them, when they cry out to me, I will surely heed their cry; my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword”—which should, to say the least, give us pause.

Prayer: Vilifying the outsider has always been far too easy for us, O God. Open our eyes and hearts and hands to the “sojourners” in our midst, we pray, through Jesus Christ, who said, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matt 25:40), Amen.


Fifth Sunday of Lent

Sunday, April 2

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.  Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill.  So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”  But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world.  But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.”  After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.”  The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.”  Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep.  Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.  For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”  Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.  Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother.  When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home.  Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”  Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”  Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”  She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”  And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him.  Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him.  The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there.  When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.  He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”  Jesus began to weep.  So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”  But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.  Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.”  Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”  So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.”  When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”  The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him (John 11:1-45).


Week 5, Exodus 3—4; 15:1-22: “Moses and Miriam”–The Prophet Miriam: “Snow-white” Miriam

Saturday, April 1

“While they were at Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married (for he had indeed married a Cushite woman);  and they said, ‘Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?’ And the Lord heard it.  Now the man Moses was very humble, more so than anyone else on the face of the earth.  Suddenly the Lord said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, ‘Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.’ So the three of them came out.  Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud, and stood at the entrance of the tent, and called Aaron and Miriam; and they both came forward.  And he said, ‘Hear my words:

When there are prophets among you,
I the Lord make myself known to them in visions;
I speak to them in dreams.
Not so with my servant Moses;
he is entrusted with all my house.
 With him I speak face to face— clearly, not in riddles;
and he beholds the form of the Lord.

Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?’  

And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them, and he departed.

When the cloud went away from over the tent, Miriam had become leprous, as white as snow. And Aaron turned towards Miriam and saw that she was leprous.  Then Aaron said to Moses, ‘Oh, my lord, do not punish us for a sin that we have so foolishly committed.  Do not let her be like one stillborn, whose flesh is half consumed when it comes out of its mother’s womb.’  And Moses cried to the Lord, ‘O God, please heal her.’  But the Lord said to Moses, ‘If her father had but spit in her face, would she not bear her shame for seven days? Let her be shut out of the camp for seven days, and after that she may be brought in again.’  So Miriam was shut out of the camp for seven days; and the people did not set out on the march until Miriam had been brought in again.  After that the people set out from Hazeroth, and camped in the wilderness of Paran” (Num 12:1-16).

This odd, ancient story communicates in particular two important lessons. First, while recognizing the roles of Aaron and Miriam, this passage affirms the uniqueness of Moses. Aaron the priest and Miriam the prophet both ask with some reason, “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” The answer, of course, is yes: Aaron and Miriam—that is, priesthood and prophecy—are legitimate means of communion with God. But Moses is both priest and prophet, and something more besides: “With him I speak face to face. . . and he beholds the form of the Lord.”

Second, this old story absolutely refutes any notion of “racial purity.” The occasion for this confrontation between Moses on the one hand and his brother and sister on the other is Moses’ marriage to a non-Israelite woman. According to Exodus 2:21-22 (see last Saturday’s devotional), Moses’ wife Zipporah was Midianite, but in today’s passage, the wife of Moses is said to be Cushite. Cush could refer to northern Arabia (and so perhaps to Midian by another name), but usually designates what we call Ethiopia, in northern Africa. In either case, the point is that Moses did not marry an Israelite (although, as we will see, one dramatic element of this story is heightened and clarified if Cush is understood as Ethiopia).

Many biblical texts condemn intermarriage with foreigners: for example, Deuteronomy 7:3-4, where the Lord says of the Canaanites, “Do not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for that would turn away your children from following me, to serve other gods.” Ezra ordered a wholesale divorce of all foreign wives (Ezra 10:3-14); Nehemiah, dealing with intermarriage more leniently in his day, took no action against existing marriages but forbade the practice in the future (Neh 13:23-28). The purpose of these regulations was never to preserve racial purity, however, but rather to maintain right worship, as Deuteronomy 7:4 makes clear. Therefore, in other passages, intermarriage is not condemned. Deuteronomy 21:10-14 describes the practice of marrying foreign women taken in wartime, insisting that such war brides be treated with respect. The four women in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus are all foreign women who married into the people Israel: the Canaanite Tamar, Judah’s daughter-in-law (Gen 38; Matt 1:3); Rahab of Jericho (Josh 2:1-12; 6:17; Matt 1:5); Ruth, the Moabite widow who married Boaz, becoming King David’s great-grandmother (Ruth 4:18-22; Matt 1:5-6); and Bathsheba, “the wife of Uriah” the Hittite (2 Sam 11—12; Matt 1:6).

While Aaron and Miriam object to Moses’ foreign-born wife, God does not!   Indeed, because Miriam the prophet spoke against her brother, God struck her with leprosy; her skin became “as white as snow.” If Moses’ Cushite wife did come from Ethiopia, this punishment is curiously appropriate: it is as though God had said, “Since you are so concerned about light skin, we will see just how white we can make you!” Although Moses intercedes for her, snow-white Miriam must stay outside the camp for seven days, until her leprosy is gone, and with it her uncleanness. The point is surely clear: “racial purity” is of no concern to God.

Prayer: O God, help us to see our sisters and brothers of other nations and races as sisters and brothers, and to affirm the full humanity of all people. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, descendant of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba, Amen.

AFTERWORD: Pictured above are Mildred and Richard Loving, whose 1967 Supreme Court case, Loving v. Virginia, struck down anti-miscegenation laws in America.


Week 5, Exodus 3—4; 15:1-22: “Moses and Miriam”–The Prophet Miriam: Moses, Aaron and Miriam

Friday, March 31 

“O my people, what have I done to you?
    In what have I wearied you? Answer me!
 For I brought you up from the land of Egypt,
    and redeemed you from the house of slavery;
and I sent before you Moses,
    Aaron, and Miriam” (Micah 6:3-4).

Micah’s prophecy is set in the middle of the eighth century BCE, at about the same time that Amos and Hosea were prophesying in the north, and Isaiah son of Amoz was prophesying in Jerusalem (compare Micah 1:1 with Amos 1:1; Hosea 1:1; and Isa 1:1). Within the relative brief span of their prophetic ministries, Israel to the north would fall to Assyria, and Judah to the south would see its borders radically reduced, and be forced to submit to Assyrian rule. Micah addresses a people in despair, who despite their injustice and immorality cling desperately to the superstition that since they are God’s people, nothing really bad can happen to them: “Surely the Lord is with us! No harm shall come upon us” (Micah 3:11).

In Micah 6:1-8, the Lord announces a lawsuit against the people for violating God’s covenant. To show that God has been faithful despite their faithlessness, the Lord rehearses the story of the Exodus out of Egypt—led, this passage declares, not by Moses alone, but by “Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.” These three siblings had been used by God to deliver God’s people in ancient times. But it may be that they are also remembered as examples of the life of faithfulness God desires, to which Micah’s own generation is called:

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8).

May we too, empowered by God’s Spirit, model ourselves on Moses’ passion for justice, on Aaron’s steadfast loyalty (a better translation of the Hebrew khesed than the NRSV’s “kindness”), and on Miriam’s humble, self-effacing walk with God.

Prayer: O Jesus, you alone embody all righteousness. Yet you call us to be your disciples, and follow in your way. Show us how we may do justice in our own context. Break open our hard hearts, and enable us to love as you love, in lives of true commitment. Keep us humble, Abba, and help us to desire always to walk with you. In the name of Jesus, who says to all his disciples, “Follow me” (Matt 4:19), Amen.


Week 5, Exodus 3—4; 15:1-22: “Moses and Miriam”–The Prophet Miriam: God’s Deliverance

Thursday, March 30

“When the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his chariot drivers went into the sea, the Lord brought back the waters of the sea upon them; but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground. Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing.  And Miriam sang to them: ‘Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.’ Then Moses ordered Israel to set out from the Red Sea” (Exod 15:19-22).

Based on the archaic form of Hebrew found in Exodus 15:1-18, this poem is the oldest passage in Scripture, having been fixed in written form by the eleventh century BCE. This is important: we need to hear this song, not from the perspective of a strong and self-confident Israel, but of an Israel in its infancy—a people fragile and vulnerable, who had until very recently been no people, hanging on to survival by their fingernails. Otherwise, we may use the image of God as a warrior, sweeping away God’s enemies, to justify our own arrogant, bullying behavior. Jewish tradition did not read this passage as legitimating hatred toward those we regard as our enemies. According to the Talmud (the authoritative collection of the teachings of the rabbis), when the Israelites began to celebrate the defeat of the Egyptians, God asked, “How can you sing as the works of my hand are drowning in the sea?” (b. Megillah 10b).

Another point we may miss in this account of God’s deliverance is that the songleader is Moses’ sister, identified as “the prophet Miriam.” Miriam is not the only woman identified as a prophet in the Hebrew Bible: so are Deborah, who is also called a judge—that is, a leader in Israel in the days before kings (Judges 4:4), and Huldah, who confirms that the book of the law discovered in the temple in Josiah’s day is divine word (2 Kgs 22:14-20). A feminine form of the word “prophet” is used in the Hebrew for grammatical reasons, but it would be a mistake to translate the word as “prophetess,” implying that these women belonged to some sort of women’s auxiliary! Miriam was a prophet, just as Moses was; just as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos and Micah were. Like them, Miriam was a spokesperson of God, and the song that she led was, and is, a word from God. In our next two devotionals, we will chase this idea through other texts, in order to refute any nonsense about “political correctness” here. The Bible is clear on Miriam’s prophetic role. The question is, what will we do with this word?

Prayer: Thank you, God, for your including us in your community. Forgive us for turning the good news of that inclusion into an excuse for excluding others. Help us to hear your good news with joy, whether it is proclaimed by a Miriam or by a Moses. Through Jesus, whose ministry was supported by women “who provided for [him] out of their resources” (Luke 8:3), Amen.


Week 5, Exodus 3—4; 15:1-22: “Moses and Miriam”–Moses’ Call: Resistance

Wednesday, March 29

But Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”  Then the Lord said to him, “Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?  Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.”  But he said, “O my Lord, please send someone else” (Exod 4:10-13).

A common element in biblical call stories is what Robert Gnuse calls “prophetic denial”—the rejection of a prophet’s call, based on a sense of unworthiness or inability in the one called, or on anxiety about what the call implies (Robert K. Gnuse, The Old Testament and Process Theology [St. Louis: Chalice, 2000], 128). Jeremiah objects that he is too young (Jer. 1:6); Isaiah exclaims, “I am a man of unclean lips” (Isa. 6:5); Jonah votes with his feet and heads for Tarshish (Jon 1:3). But Moses, in his persistent resistance to God’s call, outdoes them all! First, he demands that God reveal God’s name (Exod 3:13). Then, Moses asks for signs that will prove that he has come from God’s presence (Exod 4:1-8). Then, he protests that he cannot speak eloquently, or perhaps even plainly (the Hebrew permits either reading; Exod 4:10). Finally, in blunt, transparent honesty, Moses blurts out, “O my Lord, please send someone else”! I don’t want to do this! God does send Aaron, as Moses’ spokesperson, but Moses is not excused—he too must go.

Doubtless we resonate with Moses’ complaint. We would not have chosen to live in times that require us to stand up and stand out. We would have preferred a quiet, non-confrontational life. But we live in this time and place, not in some other, and by God’s grace we must prove equal to the demands of our season. We would prefer that God send someone else. But God has sent us.


“To serve the present age,

my calling to fulfill,

O may it all my powers engage,

to do my Master’s will!”

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

(Hymn by Charles Wesley)




Week 5, Exodus 3—4; 15:1-22: “Moses and Miriam”–Moses’ Call: God Sees

Tuesday, March 28

“Then the Lord said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.  The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them.  So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt’” (Exod 3:7-10).

The pilot announced over the intercom, “I have some good news and some bad news. First, the bad news: we are lost somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. We really don’t have any idea where we are. However, the good news is that we are making very good time. . .” We’ve all heard one or another version of a “good news/bad news” joke. In a way, that is the form that God’s call to Moses takes. First, the good news: God has not forgotten God’s promises to the ancestors, and does indeed intend to bring God’s people into a homeland. Further, God is not removed from the suffering of God’s people. God is aware of their oppression at the hands of the Egyptians, and God has a plan to deliver them.

But now comes the bad news: Moses learns, to his astonishment, that he is the plan: “I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt”! That is the problem with prayer, brothers and sisters! When we ask for God to act in our world, we had better be ready to put hands and feet to our prayers, for God will put us to work. God’s certain, and terrifying, answer to our prayers concerning racism and violence in our culture will be to send us to address them. Our promise is, however, that God will be with us, as God was with Moses.

Prayer: Thank you, God, that you see the suffering in our world, and that you care, deeply. We know that you are calling us to address the crisis of our times—but we are afraid, Abba. Empower us to be used by you to answer our own prayers, in the name of your son Jesus, who prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want,” (Matt 26:39), Amen.