The Wheel Turns Again
The Israelites Are Oppressed
Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.
The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, “When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.” But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?” The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.”
Birth and Youth of Moses1
Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.
The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him. “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,” she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Yes.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”
Peter’s Declaration about Jesus2
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
Wheel in the sky keeps on turnin’
I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow
Wheel in the sky keeps on turnin’
Some 2500 years ago, a debate ensued between two philosophers named Heraclitus and Parmenides about the nature of reality and change.
Heraclitus, who is credited with the phrase, “You cannot step in the same river twice.”, believed that everything changes all the time. Change is the only constant in our life.
Parmenides, on the other hand, argued that if something changes then it ceases to be the same thing. With constant change there could be no such thing as identity.
What does that matter to us? Well, we deal with change and identity on personal levels and perhaps even more significantly across generations.
For example: If the Hebrew people no longer live in the land of their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are they still Hebrew?
Or: When the Hebrew people moved to Egypt and over the generations, eventually became slaves of them, were the younger generations who knew little to nothing about God Hebrew or had they become Egyptians?
Or, in modern terms: If someone today is a Hebrew person by ancestry but not a practicing or believing Jew, are they still part of God’s chosen people?
Or, by contrast: If someone is not genetically related to Abraham, does that disqualify them from ever being part of God’s chosen people?
In other words, if you either are or are not part of God’s people, can things change? Heraclitus would say yes. Parmenides would really struggle with this. Scripture is full of people who change their identities and change their lives. The word used to describe this is repentance. God calls us all to repentance because the brokenness of our world twists any original goodness that God creates in us by pulling us away from Him. We can certainly feel like we have always been a Christian, and we may not require a dramatic experience or change to put us on God’s path, but picking up our cross and following Jesus does not come naturally to us. It does not come naturally because we start off being deceived about our true identity, and then living into that lie begins to change us. Changing our allegiance changes our actions, and changing our actions changes our identity until at last, by God’s grace, we finally become the person God created us to be in the beginning.
What changes have shaped your identity?
What further changes do you need to make in your life?