Thursday, March 19, 2009

Rhythms of Moses' Life-from this past Sunday

We’ve been exploring and discussing the idea that life is guided by rhythms—both internal and external. When we speak of rhythms, we’re talking about the movement, or change, or flow of life because of the actions and events and practices of our lives.

External rhythms are dictated by things that happen to and around us. Some are natural—the things that life brings to us. But some are caused by other people—work situations, family, other relationships.

The key is, they are situations, times, seasons, events, that come to us from outside ourselves; the ebb and flow of good and bad times, the ups and downs of joys and sorrows, life and death, joinings and separations, losses and victories, the frustrations and rewards that happen when starting or ending a relationship, raising a child, working a job, playing a game…

Our character is based and built on how we respond to these situations given to us—especially the challenges—and if we make the most of them or let them victimize us.

Healthy Internal rhythms are guided by practices, or habits, that we discover or establish, to find balance in life. If my life is mostly ruled by external rhythms, than I struggle for balance—there is so much demanded on me by work, family, other relationships…

The internal rhythms are guided by practices that we determine. If I have established practices that help me stay spiritually focused and centered, then I am better prepared for the challenges and problems that come at me in life.

I can handle the crises better. I can find the positive and grow through difficulties, rather than just get angry or despair.

For me, healthy internal rhythms, and the practices that create them, are not just helpful, they are necessary. They are the actions we need to be healthy, Christ-like people.

Healthy rhythms of life give order, but also can spark creativity; they bring challenge but help us live life abundantly. They involve discipline but open up freedom. They give structure while spurring on imagination.

Healthy rhythms help us to be open to God and others. The rhythms give depth to our inner life while helping us to live in the world as Christ lived in this world.

Today we’re going to look at some of the rhythms of life of a great person in the history of our faith—Moses. Most of us know something of Moses, if not from the Bible, then films like The Ten Commandments or The Prince of Egypt. Today I want to look at Moses’ life and humanity, not so much the stories and miracles we’ve heard about.

Even before Moses was born, there was movement, or a shift with his people—his ancestor Joseph had risen to prominence in Egypt, as an advisor—the top advisor—to the Pharaoh, the king.

But over time, Israelites became so numerous, those in power in Egypt worried about their strength of number, and subdued the Israelites—turning them into slaves.
Around the time of Moses’ birth; Pharaoh, fearing the continued growth of the Hebrew people, demanded that all male babies be killed at birth.

Into this was Moses born. A child condemned even before he was born. But his mother was wise, and when she could hide him no longer, put him in a basket and laid the basket in the river.

Moses was found by Pharaoh’s daughter, who rescued and claimed him as her own son. Thus the man that condemned Moses, became his grandfather.

Moses went from being the child of a slave, a boy who was not supposed to have any chance to live; and became part of the royal family—those who had held the power of life and death over him, and his people.

He grew up as one of them. The Bible tells us he was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.

The next time we read about him, he is a grown man. He seems to be aware of his true heritage, and of the injustice around him. He sees the Israelites who are his people--slaves, forced to spend their lives working for and being brutalized by others.

He also sees the Egyptians who raised him, living with plenty, having others do the work for them, enjoying lives of ease and luxury. The natural rhythms of life have been distorted, discarded, by those in power. Moses must struggle to know his place, being part of both worlds.

One day Moses sees an Egyptian beating an Israelite slave. He is angered, and kills the Egyptian. The first adult action we see by this one who would become such a great man of God is the act of murder.

Any balance he had in his life is destroyed. His place in the royalty of Egypt is gone. His adopted grandfather, Pharaoh, orders Moses’ death. So Moses flees.
He goes to a land called Midian, where he begins a new life. He marries, raises a family, and helps his father-in-law care for his animals.

For forty years he lives this new life, simple, and peaceful, far from the conflict between the Egyptians and Israelites, and his crisis of identity.

But after forty years the rhythm of his life is about to change again. Because while Moses is living a shepherd’s life, working hard and living simply, the situation in Egypt is getting worse. The king of Egypt has died, but the slavery of the Israelites continues, and their treatment gets worse.

One day Moses’ peaceful existence is disrupted by a burning bush. God speaks to Moses through this bush and tells Moses his simple life is about to get radically different.

God tells Moses that he is sending him back to Egypt, the place he fled forty years earlier. He is not going back quietly, but boldly, because God is sending him back to free the Hebrew slaves. This shepherd is going to the king of Egypt, and demanding that he release his entire labor force.

Moses goes to Pharaoh, and demands he release the Israelites. Pharaoh refuses, and Moses performs miracles and warns Pharaoh about plagues that God is going to send down on the Egyptians if they don’t comply.

God turns the water in their river to blood, brings down plagues of frogs, gnats, flies, and locusts. He kills the Egyptian’s livestock, and causes sores to break out on all the people. He brings hail to destroy their crops, and causes the sky to turn dark. Finally, he brings a plague that kills the firstborn children of Egypt.

This shepherd, Moses, is now the most powerful man in his part of the world. He goes back to Pharaoh over and over, showing incredible strength and perseverance and courage.

Each time Pharaoh refuses to comply, Moses goes back to God to be encouraged and strengthened, then goes back to Pharaoh again and again.

This man who fled Egypt, poor and powerless, spent forty years living a simple, peaceful existence, responsible only for his family and some animals, is now responsible for the survival of hundreds of thousands of people.

God spoke to Moses, and Moses obeyed God’s call on his life, and experienced the power of God like no one else.

He leads the Israelites out of Egypt, and becomes their leader, not just politically, but spiritually. He tells them of God’s love for them, and God’s leading as they leave their old lives behind and move toward the land that God promised their ancestors.

Moses sings out to God:

The LORD is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
my father's God, and I will exalt him.

Moses leads the people through conflict with other nations, and conflict among themselves. He leads them in battle, and in peace.

Moses leads, but also learns from his father-in-law, and becomes an even more effective leader. There is a beautiful story where Moses’ father-in-law gives him some simple but profound advice, and Moses follows it, becoming an even more effective leader.

Moses retreats from the people he leads, up to a mountain, where he communicates with God. God gives him the law, beginning with the Ten Commandments—basically telling the people how to worship and follow God and how to live in community with one another.

Moses goes back and forth from being among the people, teaching them to obey and follow God, to going up the mountain, spending time alone with God, sometimes for as long as forty days.

For forty years Moses serves as the leader of the Israelites, as they wander through the desert. There are times when all is well—God provides for the Israelites, speaks through Moses, and they respond and obey. There are other times when they rebel and reject God, and Moses has to go to God and plead for God to have mercy on his people.

In Exodus chapter 33, there is a beautiful exchange; Moses, who regularly converses with God, basically asks God how he can possibly do all that God is asking him to, and God replies:

"My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."

God knows Moses cannot do all that He is asking him to do without rest, a break. A little later God tells Moses, "Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.”

God tells Moses to initiate festivals throughout the year, to break from the work the people do and spend time resting, celebrating, worshiping God.

We see clear rhythms in Moses’ life—times where he is in great power, others where he has nothing…

He lives 120 years—in three distinct stages—for the first forty, he ives as an Egyptian, with wealth and power…

The next forty he lives as a fugitive in a new land, the simple life of a shepherd.

The final forty he spends leading Israelites out of Egypt, into the wilderness, where he leads them as they grow into their identity as God’s people.

We see Moses go from ruler to fugitive.

There are times when he is leading hundreds of thousands of people,
And times where he leaves them to be in solitude, alone with His God.

Times he pleads with the people to be faithful to God, and times he pleads with God to have mercy on the people.

We see him enjoying peace and struggling to win battles.

There are times when Moses is respected and loved and followed, other times when people turn their backs and reject both him and the God he speaks for.

Through it all, we see an intimate relationship between Moses and God—and that relationship is what sustains Moses through the incredible adventures and challenges of his life.


When we look at rhythms, we are looking at the ebb and flow of life—ups and downs, comings and goings, times of work and rest, joy and sorrow, peace and stress…

As we talked about weeks ago, life is busy, stressful, challenging. We can’t control the external rhythms of life.

The key is to build practices in our lives that will help us develop healthy rhythms in the areas we can control— practices and behaviors that will help us connect with God and other people in healthy ways.

…practices that will help us discover who we are; who God created us and calls us to be.

…practices that will help us find balance—spiritually, emotionally, physically.

In Moses we see a man who lived a life far more crazy and difficult than ours, yet found some healthy rhythms in the midst of chaos, starting with his relationship with God.

Next week we will begin looking for specific practices that will help us build healthy internal rhythms—practices that will help us become more balanced in seven areas of life:
Spirituality
Physical health
Work
Rest
Play/adventure
Wonder/curiosity
Relationships

We’ll do some work together, but also individually, because the practices that help me be more balanced and healthy will be different than yours. So we’ll spend some time looking out and ahead, brainstorming and dreaming.

The intent is to better be the people God created us to be. To live lives marked by balance, peace, and abundance. It is this kind of life that helps us live out God’s call on our lives—both the specific call to be the person we are created to be; and generally—God’s call for each of us to know and pursue Jesus, to love and serve one another, to strive to live out God’s kingdom in our world.

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