A Devotion on Exodus 2:11-14 for Mid Morning Suffrages,
Thursday of the Third Week of Easter.
Given to the the Association of Confessing Lutherans of Ohio at Fairborn,
May 12th, 2011
Moses looked left, and Moses looked right, and then Moses slew the Egyptian in a righteous rage. Yes, Moses hated injustice and oppression, Moses loved righteousness and the Law. Because of this trait God had seen to it that he would be drawn from the Nile by Pharaoh's daughter. Moses was the right man for the job.
He looked left and he looked right and there was no one. A curious gaze. Was it just to make sure that no one was watching? Was it a gaze to see if someone else was going to do something about this outrage in front of him? Was an Egyptian coming to stop this madness? Was a Hebrew coming to stand with his brother? Was it a gaze to see if someone was there to help Moses stop this?
But Moses did what those who are passionate about justice, those who love the right are prone to do: Like any activist, he acted. In his blow on the Egyptian, he used all the skills of war and sword that the palace of Pharaoh could teach. It was no wonder that the palace responded as it did. Using Pharaoh’s generosity against Pharaoh never ends well, even today. It is no wonder Moses’ life was going to be sought from him.
And the oppressed? They see the splendrous skills of the artists of war and oppression every day. They have seen many swords. They know swords do not distinguish between Hebrew and Egyptian blood. Another sword in the hand of another prince of Egypt is merely another sword in the hands of another prince of Egypt. Their question is: “Do we need another sword? Are there not enough swords? We will die now at their left hand, we will die then at their right, so what is the difference? If they make us powerful enough to fight with them now, they must deal with us after their victory. Does it not occur to the conquering king that he neither needs or wants catapult operators living close to the walls of the castle once it is his?”
He backed up God’s great plan by 40 years, this Moses. He was the right man now at the end of the first third of his life, his heart was filled with the passions he would need. He knew Egypt’s court better than most. He knew their ways and means and the language, he knew their arts of war. He had seen the plight of the Hebrews. In short: He was not ready.
I found myself at Jim’s* house in September of 2009 and “the vote” as we now euphemistically call it, arose ever so briefly “It is quiet in the desert,” was his response and he spoke them with the kind, knowing, undeserved smile that often graces his face and is shared with friend and foe alike, “There is a lot of peace there. Don’t disturb it. Just let is settle over you.”
Moses entered the desert of Midian with all his faculties of war and fight for righteousness fully intact. He showed it at a well in Midian right away, fighting again for the underdog. Yet, the noise of Moses soon faded and the peace of the desert settled on him like its sand; sand he once thought was good for burying dead Egyptians. He spent the next third of his life there, looking left and looking right and seeing himself alone; a nomad. So, the desert forced him to look deeper and deeper, again and again, but now within and there also he looked left and he looked right and eventually he saw inside no one at all.
The desert in all her peace is a killer as well. She killed the Egyptian inside of Moses and buried him in sand. All the skills of war, all his training in the fine art of palace intrigue and palace politics left him. There was no one on his left as he looked that way within. He looked right and there was no one there any more either. The desert had killed the Hebrew, so used to being the obedient servant, so used to live in the continuous compromise of being a captive minority, as well. He took up being slow of speech in the desert. She has time like she has sand. Moses no longer drew on the language of a prince at court, a man of power and means, nor on the language of the defeated. Those men within were dead. He looked left, he looked right, and there was no one left to speak. All that was left was the desert with billions of grains of sand below and billions of stars above, stars and sand once promised to Abraham.
At the end of the second third of his life, now too old to fight, too old to compromise God comes to visit Moses. Moses has now learned not to look left and not to look right. There will be no one there who will last. Their absence was no longer a cause of grief or anger. Their presence would not have been cause of strength or celebration. Moses will now look up and learn the language of God.