We Can’t Social Distance Compassion
“Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.”
(Exodus 2:5–6 NIV11)
Yesterday we saw that Pharaoh has decreed that the Hebrew boys were to be murdered. Now we see one of the most famous stories of the Old Testament. A little papyrus ‘ark’ with a boy in it washes down the Nile into the private bathing area of the Princess of Egypt.
Whether by careful planning or God’s guiding hand the result is that this member of the royal family chooses to open the basket. Upon opening it the previously ignorable decree of her father took on flesh and limbs. Crying in place of law. A warm body in place of chilling directive. An ignorable group of foreigners was now a very present human baby. Impossibly vulnerable. Unavoidably present.
To follow her father’s decree here was to bring genocide up close and personal. In effect, to make it murder.
When the distance collapsed the need for personal care was inescapable. She chose well and God even allowed Moses’s mum to nurse him through his young years.
And what of this boy drawn out from the reeds? How would he respond to his own people whilst in the palace of Pharaoh? We assume that he knew of their plight but it’s only as he goes out to see them that it really strikes home;
“One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people.” (Ex. 2:11 NIV11)
Regrettably, Moses is moved from armchair observer to murderer on behalf of his people. The change is the distance. It simply rose up in him with tragic consequences.
What can we learn?
It’s worth noting that in the first instance God doesn’t condone Moses as a murderer. And, yet God doesn’t discard him either. God will redeem this murderer from exile and over the coming days we’ll see rescue is made possible for all God’s people through this chastened shepherd.
Secondly, I think it’s challenging to reflect on the fact that most of the problems of the world that I’m ambivalent about, ignorant about, (or maybe even – if I’m really honest – hard-hearted about) are those that I’m yet to put a personal face on.
Dear Heavenly Father, I’m thankful for the compassion of Pharaoh’s daughter. I’m thankful that Your Son didn’t stay distant from us but met us up close and personal through the incarnation. I’m reminded that too often my heart does not reflect Yours when it comes to the needs of the least around me. Forgive me. Please Lord help me to not be socially distanced from compassion. Give me eyes to see the opportunities to show practical love and compassion today.