A Way Out of No Way

By Pastor John J. Pawloski - August 27th, 2023

Exodus 1:8-2:10 (NRSVue)

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.

He said to his people, "Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land."

Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.

The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, "When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live." But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live.

So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, "Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?" The midwives said to Pharaoh, "Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them." So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.

Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, "Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live." Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river.

His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him. The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him. "This must be one of the Hebrews' children," she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh's daughter, "Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?" Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Yes." So the girl went and called the child's mother. Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages." So the woman took the child and nursed it.

When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, "because," she said, "I drew him out of the water."


A few weeks ago, I served as a Chaplain at DuBois, our local UCC church camp of the Illinois South Conference. I was teaching a class and had a car loaded full of craft supplies and materials for the instruction. Rather than make numerous trips to and from my car to the classroom, I decided to drive my car as close to the classroom as possible using a little gravel trail which came to within twenty feet or so of the class site. When class was over, I put my car in reverse and proceeded  to drive in reverse for about 150 feet or so when I realized I had veered too far over and was about to slide down an embankment. I tried to pull forward to try to get to higher ground, but no such luck.  I was literally stuck. Any kind of move might end up with me in my car taking a tumble down the hillside. There literally seemed like there was no way out.

After realizing this predicament, I honked my horn to alert those walking nearby. At first, they did not understand, but quickly they realized my situation: I was stuck and I needed help.  Soon a group came to see what the commotion was all about. Many came up to the car and expressed their viewpoints on what might be done. Finally, they summoned a tractor and groundskeeper to weigh in on the situation. Someone suggested I should get out of the car, but I realized that would mean no one would be there to steer or apply the gas or brake. So I remained in the car–after all, a captain goes down with his ship. It was about then that I reflected on what I had been teaching the kids all week: that one of the gifts of the Spirit is a sense of calm when in the midst of chaos. I decided to take my own advice. I had decided that my car was lost, and there was no sense in crying about it. I just turned it over to God and to whatever outcome the Creator deemed fitting, I would be ok.

After about thirty minutes of evaluating options, and a few failed attempts, they decided to tie onto the car at the midline post separating the front from the back passenger side door. They actually pulled the car a little forward and mostly sideways, which seemed to defy logic, but it worked. Soon, I was able to shift to a low gear, and with some assistance, make it to solid ground again. Crisis averted and without any appreciable damage to my car. God had literally made a way out of no way. What seemed impossible was not impossible for God.

Today’s scripture lesson tells the same story: nothing is impossible for God. Again and again the Bible tells us narratives of those who are literally stuck in a pit of despair (Joseph) or facing near certain extermination (Moses avoiding drowning in the Nile; Jesus avoiding Herod’s wrath), God finds a way out of no way. The birth of Moses teaches us of the persistence and ingenuity of God (like the groundskeepers at DuBois). Notice that the story hinges upon the civil disobedience and courage of two midwives that are named (a rarity in the Bible), and the unexpected kindness of Pharaoh's daughter (who is not named). Moses, born into a family of slaves, finds his way into the lives of the royal family where he receives a first class education, and a personal relationship with those who rule Egypt. He was hand-picked by God to be the one to tell Pharoah to let God’s people go free. Only someone like Moses would have the gravitas to be taken seriously by Pharoah.

Of course, God could have raised up a commoner to lead the people (as in the case of David who was a shepherd when God first called him into service), but God chose to work through the adversity to achieve what no human could have predicted–the liberation of the Israelite nation. God’s plans never get derailed. They might get re-routed or delayed. But God will find a way to get what God wants done.

But what does this story teach us today? Well first, that our doubt in God’s plan for us is misplaced. We may misunderstand God’s plan (or more likely, we may want to water it down), but eventually, God will win out. The Almighty always does win in the end. God is unstoppable. Second, as Paul tells us, God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom; God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. We do not have to see or understand God’s plan for it to work.  Finally, God sees talent in you that you do not even know you have, and God will send you resources to put that talent to good use. God does not need the most polished or attractive personalities to accomplish God’s work. Ordinary folks have been changing God’s world for centuries and there seems like little chance God will slow down now. If our modern plight tells us anything, it is we cannot count on our leaders for much, if anything. So we are going to have to do it alone–with God’s grace and blessings. So next time you get stuck, remember your God makes a way out of no way.