18. Faith in Conflict

Meditations on ‘Focusing Faith’ : 18.  Faith in Conflict

Heb 11:23   By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

The thing about Moses’ parents was that they were living in an environment of conflict, an environment of stress. The people of Israel had started out as one big family and in time of famine had settled in Egypt and then over the years grown into a nation. To really catch a sense of this – and this is important – we need to read the account of what had happened over the years. As you read these verses, note particularly the ‘stress words’ in them: Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become much too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.”  So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites and worked them ruthlessly. They made their lives bitter with hard labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their hard labor the Egyptians used them ruthlessly. (Ex 1:8-14) This was not a fun time for Israel!

Another way of putting this perhaps, is to say they were living under persecution. Every aspect of their lives was dominated by this one thing – they were slaves. (As an aside, I am told that the slave trade across the world is worse today than even in the years when slaves were regularly being shipped across the Atlantic to America).  Put another way, they were not free to do what they wanted.

But it is also important to note the intentions of the Egyptian king and his leaders. While Israel were just a family they were no threat but now they had multiplied – and some scholars suggest there were probably between one and two million of them – they became a threat as a people within a people and if war ever broke out they might not side with Egypt. His initial intention then was clearly to limit their numbers and control them. To do this he made them slaves and made them work so hard they would be too exhausted to have children. It didn’t work; they just kept on multiplying. The response of the king to this was to instruct the Hebrew midwives to kill any baby that was a boy, (Ex 1:16) but when that didn’t work, he gave a general instruction to all his people to kill any baby boy born to the Israelites (Ex 1:22) That is how desperate this situation had become.

We then find the story focusing on this one family where the wife conceives and a baby boy is born. Now the king’s instruction was that any baby boy born to the Israelites was to be thrown into the Nile with he presumption they would be drowned. We have come to that well-know story, so often told in Sunday Schools, where the baby, named Moses, is put into a papyrus basket by his mother and put into the Nile where it is known the Pharaoh’s daughter often comes to bathe. She comes, finds the baby, is moved by the sight, leaves the baby with its mother to be cared for initially before she takes him into her family in the palace where he is raised as a Prince of Egypt (see Ex 2:3-10)

So she ‘threw’ him into the Nile didn’t she?  Wisdom and hope – yes but also faith, the writer to the Hebrews tells us. She knows she is part of a special people. Yes, we know they haven’t been designated a special people yet, we’ve got to wait for the Exodus and Sinai for that, but the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their encounters with the Lord would have been passed down and so she has that revelation. She also has that inner feeling that killing babies is wrong. Add to that a mother’s love for the baby she has brought into the world, and we have three ways that God’s will is expressed – special revelation, conscience and ‘natural’ feelings of a mother. Faith, the New Testament says, comes from hearing the message or the will of God (Rom 10:17) and she has heard it in three different ways and so she is not going to give way to the dictates of this despot of a ruler, she is going to obey the will of God and preserve this little boy’s life. It is an act of faith which, history will show, has incredible repercussions. He is going to be God’s instrument to defy the next Pharaoh and become the leader of God’s people for forty years.

Sometimes we are faced with circumstances in life where we are put under pressure to act in certain ways and yet deep down we know that this is not the right way. What is put before us may not be illegal and it may be the way the rest of society goes, but deep down we know that this is not God’s way. Maybe there is the special revelation – the Bible reveals it is not His will, maybe it is the quiet inner witness of the Spirit, or maybe it the words of someone else. Whatever the pressures to conform, resist it. It doesn’t have to be pressures of persecution it can just be the pressures of the world’s way of thinking – well everyone does it, don’t they.

These things tend to be do with relationships or the fruits of relationships, so sleeping with a person you are not married to maybe OK for the world, but not you. Having an abortion maybe OK for the world but not you. Flirting (and a bit more) with someone other than you partner maybe OK for the world but not you. If it’s not to do with relationships it probably to do with money or ambition.  Taking bribes, or handouts, or call them what you will, may be OK for the world, but not for you. Giving bribes maybe OK for the world, but not for you.  You can no doubt think of plenty more ways that the enemy pressurizes God’s people to conform to his unrighteous and less than godly way. Faith stands out and says, I will obey the Lord and His will.

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