The Lesson Learned
“Oh. Right,” said Grandpa with a twinkle in his eye. He set his glass back on the table and resumed. “Well, after some time in the wilderness, scripture says that Moses had a son and named him Gershom because, he said, – now let me think here; I want to get this exactly right……Ok, are you ready? This is an important detail: he said, ‘I have been a stranger in a foreign land!’” finished Grandpa dramatically.
Micah thought for a few seconds, but couldn’t see anything special about Gershom’s name, so he asked, “Um, I don’t get it. What was so significant about it?”
“Oh, I’m glad you asked,” replied Grandpa with a wide smile. “Now, let’s carefully think about it for a minute, and see if we can figure out what Moses meant when he said, ‘I have been a stranger in a foreign land.’ Ready?” Micah nodded. “Okay, tell me: Which foreign land was Moses talking about when he said he was a stranger?”
“Um, I’m not sure. Maybe…” Micah started to guess, then interrupted himself with, “Well, what exactly is a four-rain land?”
“Foreign land. It is a land that is distant from your homeland. It is a land where you are not a citizen, but a foreigner.”
“Oh. Kind like China?”
“Right. So, what land was Moses referring to when he said he was a foreigner in it?”
“Um, would it be in the wilderness where he was watching sheep?”
“Possibly. But let’s imagine what Moses might have been thinking at the time: ‘I am a stranger in this foreign wilderness. I wish I could go home.’ Right? Isn’t that what a person who is an out-of-place foreigner wants the most – to go home?” Micah nodded. “Now, where do you suppose home was for Moses? Was it back in Pharaoh’s palace?”
Micah thought for a second before answering, “Well, that’s where he grew up, but I kinda think that he didn’t think of that as home because he knew he was a Hebrew.”
“I think you are right. So, do you think he thought his home was in a slave’s house in Egypt?”
Micah shook his head, “No, because he had never lived in a slave house.”
“Good point. So, if home wasn’t in the wilderness, and home wasn’t in the palace, and home wasn’t in the slave quarters, then where was ‘home’ for Moses?”
Micah puzzled for a few seconds, then said, “I don’t know.”
Grandpa nodded, “That’s the point, see. I suspect while Moses was in the wilderness, he began to feel a little homesick and maybe said to himself, ‘I sure wish I could go home.’ But apparently, he eventually asked: ‘Wait a second: where IS home?’ And I think he realized he had been a foreigner all his life. I think Moses came to realize that Egypt was no more his home than the wilderness was.” Grandpa sat back and looked expectantly at Micah.
“O-kay,” said Micah slowly, “I get what you are saying, but how is that significant?”
Grandpa nodded, “Stay with me for a second and I’ll show what I mean. You see, Micah, if Moses was to be the kind of deliver God wanted, it was very important that he realized he was a foreigner. You see, if Moses was going to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt, he had to be convinced that Egypt was not his home and that it was not home for the Hebrews.”
“Why?” Micah asked.
“Simply because the Hebrews felt at home in Egypt. They had lived in Egypt for a number of generations, you know. Even though they had to work very hard in Egypt, it was the only home they knew. Now, what usually happens when you take a person away from their home for a long time?”
Micah scratched his head, “What do you mean?”
“Well, have you ever been away from home by yourself?”
Micah nodded, “Yeah, I’ve been to camp, and once I stayed with you and Grandma for a few days.”
“Did you ever feel homesick?”
“Well,” replied Micah, feeling slightly embarrassed, “Maybe a little.”
“Sure you did,” said Grandpa kindly, “That is very normal, especially if things aren’t going well.”
Micah nodded emphatically.
“Now, imagine taking a whole nation of people from their homeland through a hot and dry wilderness on a long journey to a place they had never seen. Do you think there might be a bunch of people who would want to return to their Egyptian home when things started getting difficult?”
“Ohhh,” said Micah as understanding lit up his face. “So you are saying that if the Hebrews thought of Egypt as home, they would feel homesick in the wilderness and want to go back?”
“Exactly right,” smiled Grandpa. “Thus, their leader would need to be reminding them that Egypt was not their home, the promised land was. To do that consistently, he would need to be fully convinced of it himself. Now, it looks like when Moses said, ‘I have been a stranger in a foreign land’, that was the point when he realized that he had no homeland.” Grandpa paused and reached for his iced tea.
Micah sat in silence for a minute, watching a hummingbird at the feeder while he thought about what Grandpa had said. When the hummingbird left, he said, “So, while Moses was in the wilderness, he realized that Egypt wasn’t the true home of the Hebrews and that they belonged back in Canaan, right?”
“That’s exactly right,” confirmed Grandpa. “Now, let me check to see how well you were paying attention to the story. Remember, the story started when a new Pharaoh began to rule over Egypt. What did he do to God’s people?”