I've come to understand two things.
People don't respect people. They respect titles. And even then, just barely.
I heard many times growing up, "You don't have to like the man, but you have to respect the office he holds." As if offices, titles, and words made to give weight to authority were anything other than establishments of power. To have power, to have authority, you have to have subjugation. But what if your subjects no longer want to be ruled? What if they've been crying out in the wilderness for something more?
The story of Moses and the book of Exodus is wildly known in Christianity. If you grew up in the church, flannelgraphs, cartoon vegetables, and choirs told the tale of Moses saying, "Let my people go." I even remember watching Charleton Heston as Moses in the Ten Commandments every Easter as it aired on broadcast television. People know the story.
But like with many stories, Christian or otherwise, we have an innate tendency to make ourselves the hero. We resonate with Moses, we resonate with the uprising, saying, "Yes! Screw the Egyptians for oppressing Israel. God's victory is at hand!" and "All of Pharoah's army did the dead man's float."
But the more I read Scripture, and the more I see our world, the less I am inclined to relate to Moses and Israel. Sure, there are idiosyncrasies that I feel I also emulate—fear, worry, doubt, etc.
What I seem to see more so now than ever before, is the bloodied history of Egypt reflective in America.
11 So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites 13 and worked them ruthlessly. 14 They made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.
15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, 16 "When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live." 17 The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. 18 Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, "Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?"
19 The midwives answered Pharaoh, "Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive."
20 So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.
22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: "Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live."
There are far better authors, scholars, and human beings, more capable than me, like Andre Henry, to write on the matter. You can read the first entry in the series on Exodus and this incredible work here.
The only thing I will say here is this: Part of my problem (but this problem is not mine alone), is that I relate to the Moses who, enraged with anger, killed an Egyptian. Specifically, I relate to the Moses, who runs away when faced with the question by two Israelites who are fighting, "Who are you? Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?"
Moses runs. In his fear, he runs away. He runs from the comforts of what he once knew, as an Egyptian Prince. He runs from the uncomfortable reality that his brethren are suffering. And he ultimately runs from the battle that wages within himself. There is something deeply rooted within that is challenging his beliefs. He is afraid to confront this part of himself. So he buries it and flees to Midian.
God doesn't forget his people, nor does he forget Moses. As we all know, flannelgraphs included, God meets Moses as a burning bush and commands him to return to Egypt, and help free Israel.
We have to STOP running when people are hurting. When it makes us uncomfortable. When it challenges us to examine ourselves. We have to turn towards it, embrace the discomfort, and let it make us better because we chose to fight the atrocities within us.
7 The Lord said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me
, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt."
Moses resists, of course, because to do the hard work of life and calling, is painful. It requires sacrifice. It requires giving up one's self for the sake of another. Reluctantly, Moses goes. And again, we know the story. Pharaoh hardens his heart, shuns God's commands, and crushes the people of Israel underfoot.
What was the second thing?
People will dismiss what they are unwilling to be challenged by.
I've spent 30+ years being challenged in my faith, walking through doubt, anxiety, worry, and fear. I've seen hope, love, grace, and compassion.
But I've also seen wickedness, vengeance, pride, and privilege drive people who claim to know Christ and declare the gospel, use it as a tool to hammer down the oppressed, poor, marginalized, and outcast.
I cannot begin to explain how necessary it is to hear his words!
Once you read it, let it challenge you. Let it be the mirror you hold up to reflect the uncomfortable and restless evil you are afraid to confront.
Cause here is the truth:
We are NOT Moses.
We are NOT Israel.
We are Pharoah.
We are Egypt.
And America has hardened its heart towards the mercy of the Lord and the pain of His people.