God promises Abraham 4 things:
Presence → that God will be with him
People → that his family/descendants would be more numerous than the stars.
Place → A land specifically set apart for this people to live and thrive.
Program → through this family the entire world would be blessed
At the end of Genesis, we’re 4 generations in and not a whole lot seems to have happened. The family is still pretty small, but we have a glimmer of hope. Joseph – the one with the coat of many colors – is Abraham’s Great-grandson was sold into slavery by his 11 brothers. And through God’s providence and Joseph’s faith, he not only survives but thrives in Egypt to the point that he is a leading political figure in the country. He invites his father and brothers to come and live in Egypt, but his Father, Jacob – is concerned about going to a foreign land. And we find this brief interaction between Jacob and God in Genesis chapter 46.
As we’re following the story of God’s people and God’s promise, we have a glimpse of hope here. The family is still pretty small – around 70 people. But, God is going to Egypt with his people and even though Jacob will die, God will be with this family and bring them back out.
In Search of a Hero
In these first chapters of Exodus, it seems like the type of situation that calls for a hero – the kind of hero that sees the problems around them and chooses to do something about it. The kind of hero who will stand up for what is right and oppose injustice. The enemies seem too powerful and too ruthless – we’re not sure that anyone can handle the task of coming to the rescue. The Hebrews need a hero.
We see Moses step in and avenge his brother who is getting beaten and we lean in a little bit more. Maybe this guy is the hero!! Maybe he’s going to be the one to save the people – finally – after all of these years. The plot seems to keep pointing in that direction.
Moses moves out of the palace, steps in and even kills an Egyptian who is mauling and Hebrew, and yet, his brothers don’t seem to be looking for that kind of hero. He had been waiting 40 years – probably hearing from his mother that he was saved for a reason. By faith he steps out of the privilege and attempts to become the hero. And it’s not the murder and the fear of the Pharaoh that makes him shrink is discouragement, its that his Hebrew brothers says – “we don’t want you to be our hero!”
From Moses’ point of view, he was now permanently separated both from what he regarded as his homeland, Egypt, and also from the people he now identified with as his own, Israel. Consider, then, the spiritual challenge that was his. He was a failure as a deliverer of his people, a failure as a citizen of Egypt, unwelcome among either of the nations he might have called his own, a wanted man, a now-permanent resident of an obscure place, alone and far from his origins, and among people of a different religion (however much or little Midianite religion may have shared some features with whatever unwritten Israelite religion existed at this time). His character, as we have seen, was clearly that of a deliverer. His circumstances, however, offered no support for any calling appropriate to that character. It would surely require an amazing supernatural action of a sovereign God for this washed-up exile to play any role in Israel’s future. Moses knew this, and his statement, “I have become an alien in a foreign land,” resignedly confirms it.Douglas Stuart
During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God.Exodus 2:23
As little as the Hebrew people might have known about God – for thus far they had only heard stories from their ancestors – they begin to cry out to HIM for help. And it is here that we find the hero of Exodus!
Moses is not the hero of the story.
Aaron is not the hero of the story.
The people of Israel do not walk out of Egypt because Moses has some sort of Rocky-like montage where he starts training a little harder and digging a little deeper so that he can saunter back into Egypt and start setting slaves free.
The people of Israel walk out of Egypt because God always keeps his promises. He is the hero. He is the center of the story. The people walk out of Israel because God’s will is moved along by the prayers of his people.
The Hebrews finally reach out to someone who can actually do something about their slavery.
The prayers of the people of God have such a key role to play that the Bible can make it clear only by speaking of it in terms we can understand. It, therefore, depicts the unforgetting God as though he were capable of forgetting and depicts our prayers as having the marvelous effect of causing him to remember. Our prayers are so effective and so delightful in his ears, that God condescends to accommodate his eternal, sovereign, providential working to what we can understand, as though to say, ‘Oh, thank you for reminding me.’J.A. Motyer
We’ve finally found the hero of the story and we’ve found him by faith. We’ve always known that he was working behind the scenes. Even though he was silent he was never absent. And all human efforts seem to have come to a screeching halt and faith needs to step in. And so crying out to this God that the people don’t even quite know yet is enough – enough to move the providential hand of God forward. Now that Moses has come to the end of himself, he’s finally ready to be used by the true hero – who we – along with the Israelites – will learn to follow him and know him by faith if we’re going to know him at all.
While it is first important to understand the OT in its original context, as a Christian reader we see it through the lens of God the Son, Jesus Christ – the true hero. We’re supposed to see the ties of a mother who had a son in a less-than-optimal situation. We’re supposed to see the connections between a baby put into a little ark and a baby put into a little manger. We’re supposed to see the connections between Pharaoh who intends to eradicate any threat to his political power and Herod, who does the very same thing in an attempt to kill this new “King of the Jews” that had been born. And we’re supposed to see that we’re not the hero of the story. No matter how hard we try, no matter how determined we are, not matter how much good we attempt. We cannot save ourselves and we cannot save those around us. We just don’t have it in us.
We need another hero and Jesus is that hero. And he too we must get to know by faith. Even when our life looks like the enemy is too big and too ruthless – when the odds are stacked against us – we can have faith that there is a hero who is enough for every need and trouble and trial, who laid down his perfect life as a sacrifice for you, who listens when we pray, who will come again and defeat evil and usher in the new heavens and the new earth, but who’s ways we don’t always understand in the day to day.
And so, we walk by faith, not by sight.