Out of the Zoo: Moses and Me

Annie Thorn is senior history major from Kalamazoo, Michigan and our intern here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  As part of her internship she is writing a weekly column titled “Out of the Zoo.” It focuses on life as a history major at a small liberal arts college. In this dispatch, Annie reflects on Moses, the Exodus, and God’s call on our lives. —JF

As I embark on my second-to-last semester here at Messiah University, there’s still a part of me that doesn’t believe I’m a senior. It seems like it was just yesterday when I toured campus, submitted my application, and interviewed for scholarships. It doesn’t seem like it was all that long ago when Dr. Fea hired me and asked me to start writing this column. Yet with each passing day, graduation looms closer. I must admit, the “real world” still seems pretty scary to me, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever feel completely ready to face it on my own.

As a part of my senior course load this semester I’m taking a class called “God, Humanity, and Nature” with Dr. Ted Davis. I took a class with Dr. Davis last spring, and was pleased when I discovered he would also be instructing the honors capstone I needed to graduate. Last week, we spent our class period discussing Plato’s Timaeus, the Bible and evolution, and the historicity of the Exodus. Tremper Longman, the author of a book we read for class, Zoomed-in to answer our questions.

Longman’s chapter on history–one of four in the book–fascinated me. I was glad he joined us via Zoom so I could hear him speak more about it. While some scholars question whether the Israelites actually escaped from Egypt in ancient times, Longman contends that a historical Exodus proves vital for the Bible’s over-arching salvation narrative. In times of hardship and trouble, Tremper argues, the Israelites repeatedly remembered and wrote about how God delivered them from the hands of Pharaoh. By noting the parallels between the story of the Exodus and the story of Jesus, Longman claims that the former is “an actual redemptive event that anticipates an even greater redemptive event.” (99) While I haven’t personally scoured Egypt for archaeological evidence for the Exodus or written a dissertation on its historicity, I thought Longman’s argument was incredibly convincing. I am grateful that Messiah (and Dr. Davis’s class) gives me so many opportunities to think deeply about God, the Bible, and my own Christian faith.

On top of Longman’s book, I’ve also encountered the Exodus in my personal devotions lately. I’m reading through the Bible chronologically this year with my church, and the plan I’m using started the book of Exodus at the end of January. Coincidence? Maybe.

The story of Moses and the Israelites seems to change every time I read it, depending on what stage of life I’m in. As an elementary schooler, I liked learning about the plagues. They were gross and interesting and showed God’s mighty power. Mrs. Terry, my Sunday school teacher, helped us construct an Exodus-themed snack with raisins for flies and a licorice river of blood. When I read Exodus in High School, I remember being fascinated by its connections with the New Testament. Now, I’m particularly struck by Moses–but not the Moses who courageously parts the Red Sea and leads his people toward the Promised Land. The version of Moses that stands out to me now is the one who speaks to God in the burning bush. The one who constantly wonders why God would choose him to do something so important as free his people from slavery. The one who, out of fear and insecurity says, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

I think a lot of college seniors can relate to Moses in this burning-bush moment. We often hear God’s call loud and clear–mine is to teach–yet sometimes we feel incapable or unprepared. We’re afraid that we won’t be good enough, that we will disappoint him in some way. Sometimes we wonder if he picked the wrong guy (or girl). But the good thing about Moses is that his story doesn’t end in fear and insecurity–and neither will ours. Just like Moses, God calls each of us to do things that we won’t always feel qualified for. He challenges us to break outside of our comfort zone, to do things we’re not capable of on our own. He promises to give us the words to speak and the strength to stand. And he promises to be with us, every step of the way.