It's that moment when you realize your life is not quite what you expected. How did we get here? Perhaps a tragedy brings it to the surface: watching a loved one die in front of you; your job is pulled out from under you; the diagnosis is worse than imagined.
Perhaps it was more gradual. Life just evolved into a disappointment. It's like our life showed up and was not dressed for the occasion! Where do we go from here, and where is God in all this?
Easter is almost upon us. Many people struggle to see the relevance or even the reality of Easter. Where is the abundant life and joy that God promises through the Easter story?
We are not the first people to be disappointed in life or even in God. Imagine doing exactly what God told you to do only to end up as slaves and under constant threat of genocidal forces. The ancient Hebrews found themselves in such a place. Through a series of events beyond their control or choosing, they ended up in Egypt. However, they prospered for quite a while. They grew in population and productivity. This success was in favor for a while until a new king came into power and decided to fear their success.
He considered his actions to be protective and preemptive measures for Egypt's wellbeing. There had already been a similar problem in the past for Egypt. Another people group from Canaan had previously gained prosperity and power in Egypt and took over. This was known as the Hyksos Period. The Pharaoh may have wanted to avoid a repeat of history.
The Hebrews were enslaved and forced into labor. When this did not slow their growth, the king took more drastic measures. He declared an edict that all Hebrew boys were to be thrown to their deaths into the Nile River at birth.
One couple gave birth to a baby boy and hid him for three months (Exodus 2:1-2). They were in an impossible situation. They were under an edict that their son must be thrown into the Nile, and failure to obey could end in the death for the whole family. Certainly, they had to wonder how God could let this happen. They had to wonder how life turned out the way it did for them.
The child soon was no longer concealable, so the mother put a plan in motion. She covered an ark with bitumen and pitch (Exodus 2:3). The Hebrew word for "ark" here is often translated as basket, but the same word is used for Noah's boat. This is no coincidence. Noah's family was preserved in the ark from drowning in the flood. This mother is hoping the same will preserve her child. Since she knows what God has done before to deliver His people, she is demonstrating faith that He will do the same again.
She placed the child in the ark and placed the ark among the reeds along the riverbank. The mother was casting her son into the Nile as commanded, but not in the way the Pharaoh intended. By placing him in the reeds, the basket could not move (Movies portray this scene wrong!) This baby did not float down the river. There was a plan.
The baby boy's sister also helped. She stood watch to see what would happen (Exodus 2:4-5). The location along the river was where one of Pharaoh's daughters would come bathe. This was a strategic move on the mother's part. She hoped against all hope that the royal daughter would take pity on her son when she found him.
Would the daughter of Pharaoh see this Hebrew baby and cast it into the river, or would she protect him? The tension of the story hits a high note (Exodus 2:6). She opened the basket. And she saw the child. And behold the boy, the one crying. The Hebrew language accentuates and emphasizes this moment. She not only saw the basket. She heard the cries.
Tension climbs higher. She recognizes immediately that this is a Hebrew boy, presumably because of his circumcision. What will she do?
The sister has to carry out the plan. She steps out into view and offers to "find" a Hebrew wet nurse for the baby (Exodus 2:7). The question assumes the Egyptian princess will keep the child. Everything hangs on what the princess says next. All tension is relieved the moment the princess says, "Go" (Exodus 2:8). Blessing comes upon them more. Not only does the child's mother get to raise him, but she gets paid to do so, something no slave would expect (Exodus 2:9).
The child grew and eventually came to live with the princess, and she named him Moses, a name referencing how she drew him out of the water (Exodus 2:10). Of course, Moses would go on to be used by God to free the Israelites from Egypt. God would draw them out of the water at the Sea of Reeds (Red Sea).
Has Christ Failed You?
When life has not played out the way we expect, it is easy to question God's purpose, character, or even existence. What we must do is question our expectations before we question God. Rarely do we check our expectations against what is Biblical, much less practical or realistic. We need to allow God to shape our expectations. God certainly allows humanity to make choices, and this includes the evil choices of pharaohs and kings. This includes your evil choices and mine. God is faithful, but we are not. He protected the baby boys in Egypt. He delivered the deliverer He would send for His people. Like the Egyptian princess seeing the basket and hearing the baby Moses crying, God heard the groaning of His people, and He saw His people – and God knew (Exodus 2:23-24). God hears the groaning of our souls. God sees us, and He knows exactly what we need.
Moses' mother faced an impossible situation. By all appearances they were at a dead end. Yet, God prepared the way, working in and through the situation. Moses would become the leader God would use to liberate Israel from slavery. Before He liberated Israel, God liberated Moses. God used women to thwart the plans of a powerful man, the Pharaoh. In the Ancient Near East culture, it was shameful that Pharaoh, a man, was outwitted by these women.
The Easter message in fact brings hope to those with broken expectations. Jesus deliverers us from our slavery to broken ways of life. Our sin deserves justice, but Jesus took that justice upon Himself at the cross of Calvary. He died, was buried, and rose again. The cross should have been dead end, but it was a moment for God to demonstrate His love, justice, and power. The world leads us to a dead ends, but that is when we see God open up the road to redemption and freedom.
Easter reveals that road. Easter reveals that God has never let us down. Easter reveals God's uncanny way of bringing difficult circumstances and unlikely heroes together to impact the world. He certainly can use anyone in any situation to change the course of history, perhaps, even us....perhaps, even in our circumstances.