The babe born into slavery, hidden at his mother’s breast until his cries could be muffled no longer, took a journey in the Nile that claimed so many Hebrew baby boy lives before it gently delivered him into the hands of pharaoh’s daughter to be adopted as a prince of Egypt, and back into the hands of his birth mother as a wet nurse.
I wonder, did your adopted mother and your biological mother know that you were her precious child? How did your mother know that Pharaoh’s daughter would save you from the river rather than drown you herself? The Nile was blood soaked long before the 10 plagues started, but you survived, and you were raised by looking out and over your people being whipped and beaten and used as hard labor to build wondrous structures that we still marvel over today.
Tell me, did you know you were Hebrew? Did you always know? Growing up in a palace full of riches, was there a pit in your stomach as you thought of your biological mother slaving away for your adopted grandfather? That you were supposed to die in that river; and even if you survived, your back was supposed to be whipped until the weight of tyranny broke it, and your spine was supposed to be crumbled and mixed into the brick. Is that why the pyramids still endure today? They were made from the slaves’ backs. Is that what ran through your head when you killed the Egyptian man beating the Hebrew slave?
Tell me, were you so successful leading your people in the desert because you first wandered in the desert yourself? What was it like? Your lost years in the desert? With your wife and your father-in-law as you quietly tried to find yourself! It seemed God found you first. Was it hard learning to do for yourself what you so easily commanded others to do for you in the palace? Were the sheep better company than the courtiers in the palace?
Tell me, what possesses a man to run toward a burning bush? When God spoke to you with fire and told you to free your people, what made you think you could negotiate your way out of going to Egypt? Did you find relief when God said that He would be with you? Do you know how rare that is to have verbal confirmation of God’s presence in your life? His support? Some days I would kill for that. Other days, I think I hear his voice in my head, but it competes with the devil’s, and I am ashamed to say that I don’t always know which one to listen to.
When you asked who sent you, had you lost faith? Did you not know who you were talking to? I Am sent you the Great I Am! The one and only supreme over everything holy and unholy tasked you with a mission to save your people that you always knew of but never really knew.
Tell me, did you regret fighting with God about your speaking abilities? God was championing you! He believed you could do it, and He gave that part to Aaron! I wonder how many times that I have done the same thing. What would your life had been like? What would my life have been like? The paths not taken because we were too scared to take the opportunity God gave us, and God gave us the choice of cowardice, but He believed in you so much to support you in every way possible to lead your people out of slavery. What does God believe in me to do?
Tell me, what was it like to choose God’s will over your family? To forsake everything that you knew for God? Everything you loved? Were you prepared for pharaoh’s brutality? To stand up for a people you did not know against the family that raised you, even though you ran as far away from both families all because God said so? Little did you know that you were river delivered into the hands of the enemy, raised in their palace, learned their customs, their speech, earned their trust, their love, their affection just so you could get a seat at the negotiation table.
You were worried about your stutter and your sputter, and Aaron your biological brother had to step in and speak for you, but it did not matter because Pharaoh’s heart was hard, not by his own will, though I’m sure he had plenty of reasons, but because God made it so.
For too long, God had seen his people enslaved, listened to his people cry, watched as they suffered, and He could stand it no longer! It was time for justice, time for might. You were worried about speaking; God did not intend for words to move pharaoh’s heart. God devised in his infinite might and wisdom…plagues. God made pharaoh’s heart hard to show his power through your hand with ten plagues. Each more gruesome and miraculous then the last to assert authority and exact justice.
Tell me, with each plague that hit the Egyptians did you beg Pharaoh to let your people go not just for the Hebrews to be free, but to show mercy to the land and people that adopted you? Did you beg at all or were you resolute and confident as leaders should be when you stood toe to toe with pharaoh, shifting wooden staffs to snakes that eat shifty magicians’ snakes for breakfast?
By the time hail fell even though pharaoh’s heart was hard, the Egyptians started to listen to you. They heeded your warnings; they saw what their drunk with power ruler could not see that Pharaoh was merely a man on the throne, not god or demi-god or god incarnate. Pharaoh had no authority over the Hebrew God, and his hard heart was going to be the death of them.
The tension had to be brewing as each plague grew in intensity. Terror befell Egypt. Pandemonium ran ramped in the streets as well as the Hebrew slave camps. Pharaoh cavalierly toyed back and forth with how many slaves he could keep, but you persisted, God persisted, culminating in the tenth and final plague; the death of the firstborn sons, a blood debt owed, and blood debt received, blood freed your people.
Tell me, what was the moment like when Pharaoh said you and your people are free after his son, and all the firstborn sons were ripped away from them? Joy? Relief? Bitterness? Deep sorrow? How do you turn around, and lead your people after that? Thousands now depended on you to lead them.
The parting of the Red Sea must have been such a pivotal moment for you,
Pharaoh at your back, chomping at the bit to destroy you, and to recapture the Hebrews, to be able to be a conduit for God’s power, His might all day and all night, hands prostrated upwards, staff out, how did you find the strength?
Physically it was demanding. Your muscles must have been trembling, and your lungs must have been burning. When did the aha moment come, where you decided you could lead your people? That you could be God’s prophet, his spokesperson on Earth?
The power, the might, the energy that it took from you, the faith in God that grew inside you to perform that miracle is a miracle in itself from where you started stuttering and sputtering, pleading with god to send someone else to hold the waters at bay so that your people could cross safely, I am not sure that I have found that confident Godly leader in myself, so how did you come so far?
You are free, your people are free and you have nothing but the clothes on your backs, and the few provisions you could carry, and you are wandering in the desert, it’s hot, it’s desolate, and all of a sudden everyone is coming to you, needing your help, your advice, complaining.
God is leading with clouds and by pillars of fire, and letting manna from heaven and quail rain down, and the moment you retreat to be with yourself and commune with the Lord, they turn their backs, and worship a golden calf! Of course, you are angry, of course, you are bitter, you got betrayed by a people that you risked everything for. How do you forgive them? How did you plead for God to have mercy on them? How did you continue to lead them?
What was it like to view God’s glory? To not even see God’s face, and your body still radiate His holy luminance? What was it like to chisel out the Ten Commandments? Was it extra hard to chisel thou shall not murder? Did you feel convicted with every rock pounding letter you made? And, you had to do it twice because your anger got the best of you!
In the end, your anger was your downfall, you could have spoken to the rock, and let the water flow like God wanted, but you got frustrated and struck it instead, and after years of wandering in the desert, you got to the edge of the promised land and weren’t allowed to go in, how did you accept that punishment? Were you sad? Bitter? Did you think it fitting?
What was death like? I know that sounds so macabre, but you had such an interesting death. What was it like to be shown the promised land, the land of milk and honey, everything that you worked so hard for, your legacy on Earth, and be buried by the LORD in an unmarked grave? Did the Angel of Death greet you like an old friend? Were you ready to die? Were you relieved, a long life, a job well done, despite all your shortcomings and sin? It feels impossible to be satisfied with this life. When you transitioned into your own version of the promised land in Heaven, is it everything we were promised? Is it more?
I have questions! I fear they will never be answered. I study and dissect your life looking for clues, looking for anything to bring significance to my insignificance, just hoping that your hallowed iridescence will rub off on me, that I too may learn the Lord through your eyes, and do His will.
*This poem is inspired by the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy in the NIV version of the Bible