Moses, prophet, law giver
June 30, 2018
‘What if you couldn’t write?’
‘I wouldn’t be me if I couldn’t write? I received the training to do this work. You are what you must do’
Moses felt irritated. Why was it so difficult for people to understand that the power of God lay in His love expressed through meticulous arrangements for every life? He shrugged. He had seen enough of God not to ask such ‘what if’ questions. But then, so had she, but she asked.
Miriam laughed. This new-found brother was as cryptic as the little boy she watched grow up arrogant in the Pharaoh’s palace. He stopped playing with her when he was only four years old. ‘Princes do not play with goat herding girls’ was the last thing that uppity four year old told her when she tried to lift him up.
‘Who told you that?’. ‘I know’. And he walked out of the room. After that he had steadily ignored her. At first, she thought it irritating. But she got tired of bowing to his passing shadow. And after some weeks, she stopped following her mother to the palace to babysit this uncompromising upstart. She had learnt to keep quiet about who he was, and kept him safe there with her silence.
Until he popped up weather beaten, holding a staff for miracles. Each day after that had been a swirl of wondrous shows of power. The Nile turning into blood was only the beginning of a string of disasters of such proportions, no one could figure out what was going on until they had ended up safely behind the red sea. Egypt was destroyed at the hands of Moses, his stick and his God. The wonders never ceased. Bread from heaven, water from rocks, and bitter waters turning sweet at the taste of Moses’ stick. Miriam’s brother was the hero and the women’s quarters constantly buzzed with gossip about the Midianite woman he had brought. Every woman wanted to belong to Moses! He noticed no one. He was too busy listening to his God and writing down laws.
‘Why does God need to give us so many laws?’
‘Because God is the epitome of order’
‘How can that be a good answer?’
Moses scratched his beard, a habit from his days of going for long periods without a wash among the sheep and goats. These days, as a leader, water appeared outside his tent by the time he walked out each morning. They were surrounded by outbursts of oasis in the desert, and Moses was sure they were recent pools supplied by God. He was so loved and hallowed by a section of the community, he felt scared sometimes. Then there were those who insisted on finding fault with every instruction he raised. He was sure it was their grumbling that had sent Miriam with those questions.
How do you explain to a group of shepherds who had spent all their years in slavery that order was necessary while they wondered about in a never-ending desert? All they questioned was whether they left the burden of slavery in Egypt into a new slavery of dos and don’ts? But he knew that the laws were just God continuing with His agenda of love in building the nation He started with Abraham. That is what He said on the different mountains Moses had met Him on. ‘I am the God of your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’. His work had never stopped. When they were in Egypt, He had just been waiting for the appointed time for each part of the whole. And this will be continuing for a long while yet.
He scratched his beard again. He had no answer for Miriam. God’s love in His law and work seemed so difficult to explain unless seen with eyes of faith. He had seen the finger carving out the ten commandments. He remembered how he shook watching that. He did not dare question God. What he had seen of God left him breathless, speechless, wordless and selfless. If God gave Israel laws, then laws were what they needed.
After all, Egypt could only have become the world power it was because of the unrelenting discipline it demanded from citizen, aristocracy and technocrats alike. Because of their cruelty, they added to the laws, oppression and yokes for slaves. But looking beyond those, the truth is that you did not become great without discipline and order. He accepted the endless litany of rules he was directed to write down for them. What they could eat. What they were to wear. Who they were to marry. All of it had to do with order, decency, right living, beauty. Strengthening the weak. Without law, there will be no power except brute power. Everyone, except the violent, would be weak. God said He was going to make them a nation, so they needed law. The problem was – where will this nation be? He sighed. Miriam knelt and bowed her head. Belonging to this God was simply devastating to any sense of self.