After the Pharaoh’s daughter took baby Moses into her own home, she loved him as if he were her own child. He was beloved in the palace and his laughter and his smile brought joy to everyone. Pharaoh, himself, was fond of Moses, looking to him as a grandson. Often he would play with the child and he would giggle and pull Pharaoh’ crown off his head and put it on his own while the Pharaoh would laugh and make faces at the baby. Not everyone was pleased by this though. The magicians in Pharaoh’s court saw the child pulling the Pharaoh’s crown off his head to be a bad omen. One day the palace magicians and wise men were huddling together discussing this amongst themselves.
“Surely this is a bad sign,” said one, “the child repeatedly pulling the Pharaoh’s crown off his head!”
“Yes,” said another, “This cannot be ignored! Surely the child means to eventually usurp our master’s throne. Has not this very thing been prophesied?”
A third spoke in a hushed whisper, “It pains me to say this but it seems to me we must put this child to death now before he is allowed to grow in strength and cunning and someday raise an army.”
The magicians and wise men all murmured in agreement except for one: Jethro, the priest of Midian.
“It seems to me,” said Jethro, “that we are reading too much into the actions of a child who has not yet reached the age of understanding. Let me propose a test. Let us put, in a basin, a piece of gold and a burning coal and place the basin in front of the child. If little Moses reaches for the gold, we’ll know the child has understanding and we can recommend to the Pharaoh that he have the future usurper executed BUT if the child reaches for the hot coal, we will know the child has no understanding and that his actions are innocent.”
The magicians and wise men all agreed to Jethro’s proposal and the next day they carried out this very test. They laid before Moses, in a basin, a piece of gold and a hot coal. The piece of gold caught the child’s attention and he began to reach for it when the Angel Gabriel suddenly appeared and moved the boy’s hand to the coal. Not only did Moses pick up the burning coal, but he put it in his mouth! From that day forward the child stuttered and was slow of speech.
The ancient Rabbincal interpreters of scripture used stories and parables to explain things in the Bible that might be considered confusing to hearers. These types of commentary on scripture are called midrash. This ancient midrash about Moses’ childhood sought to explain why God would allow his chosen prophet to be a “stutterer and slow of speech.” According to the midrash, it was God’s own merciful intervention that made Moses slow of speech. If the angel hadn’t showed up, things would have been far worse. There may be another lesson in this tale too. Our childhood traumas make us the people we are and all of us carry with us the scars of things that have happened to us in life. None of us, though, is too scarred to serve. Our past does not determine our future. It is easy to wish away all the burning coals in your past but it is impossible to know who or what you’d be without them. As disciples, we serve not because we are perfect but because, without God’s intervention, our fates would be much worse.
Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…