emilynisch

we want to serve the Egyptians

In Uncategorized on March 31, 2009 at 1:49 am

As you may have guessed, I’m still working my way through Exodus. I’ve just finished the part where Moses parts the sea and leads the Israelites through. Reading Chapter 14 taught me something about the difficulty of leaving familiar things, even if they’re terrible, for new things that are better but unfamiliar.

The verses that caught my attention in Chapter 14 of Exodus take place right after the Israelites see that the Egyptian army is pursuing them into the desert: They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (14:11-12) The part that especially caught my attention was this: It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians…! In the French version I was reading it was even stronger. Basically it said, “Let us be, we want to serve the Egyptians.” (“Laisse-nous tranquilles; nous voulons servir les Egyptiens.”)

This part caught me because it sounds so human and familiar. We take a risk on something, it looks like it may not work out, and we start to wonder if God is trustworthy or if he cares about us. I think if we had had perfect, unhurt lives up to the point of this risk we might not come to this type of discouragement, but we live in a world where we’ve all encountered so many broken systems, promises, people, relationships, etc. that it’s hard to trust that God really is different and makes trustworthy promises.

I think the Israelites are finding this especially hard, as we have already seen in earlier in Exodus, because they’re not sure that God is their good father who will take care of him – even after he chooses to spare them when he kills the first-borns in all of Egypt. They’ve been hurt in their long season of slavery and it seems like they just don’t know their father. They’ve only known harsh masters who drive them even harder when Moses tells Pharoah to let them leave – why should God be any different. Every person they’ve known as a people has probably treated them with contempt and harshness.

They’re afraid of anything new and find it hard to believe that their life can hold any real good – they haven’t seen any so far. So, they complain and ask that if they can’t have good (Pharoah’s already on their trail ready to bring them back to slavery and punishment), can they at least have some comfort? Their old homes? Familiar work that brings them food and water? They’ve given up on the great, awesome, poignant, strong good that God gives. They don’t believe he has it in store for them.

Late in Chapter 14 they finally believe: “And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.” (31) God had to show them the difference between how he treated the Egyptians and how he was treating them. He’s saying to them “I have chosen to be against these people (and against everything they’ve done to you) and for you. I am against your hurt, your persecution, your slavery, the way of life you were forced to follow in Egypt. All of that is dead, and I have chosen to bring you out and into a better life, and I have chosen to kill the Egyptians who were against me and you.” The Israelites see that God has power greater than any they’ve ever seen before (as do the Egyptians back home who survive) and probably for the first time ever, they might start to hope that their God can do a new thing.

This section will definitely challenge me to not do the same, and to remember that my Father is good, and good to me, despite anything I’ve known formerly. He does new things, because he always does things his own good way. He is like nothing I’ve ever known.

Spring is coming soon in North Carolina, and I’m finding it’s a perfect time to remember all of this. Out of the dead of winter, God brings Spring – and Spring is good and full of life. And it’s definitely not just so-so, or anything like winter. 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