Crossing the Sea to Freedom: Exodus 14
In the timeless Exodus story of the parting of the Red Sea, the people of Israel gain freedom born out of the plagues and the Passover and begin a wilderness faith with the One called “I Am.” With barely a minute to enjoy roasted fish at their sea-front camp, the army of chariots are upon them. From his throne of power and pride, Pharaoh changed his mind about letting his slaves go saying, “What is this we have done?” And off he went chasing down the Israelites to the bitter end of defeat, his own righteous privilege and position hardening his heart to injustice
Pharaoh’s Servants: What have we done? We have released the Israelites from serving us and lost our labor force!
All of Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, his chariot-drivers and army caught up with the Israelites as they were camping by the sea. The Israelites saw Pharaoh and the Egyptian army closing in on them…they were trapped and feared for their lives, so they cried out to the Eternal.
The Israelites were also second guessing Moses and changing their minds, thinking they were somehow better off with the horrors of slavery, than facing the fight in front of them. What they had known for 400 years seemed preferable to impending death and uncertainty. The chains of mistrust and fear were keeping them from moving forward:
Israelites: Were there not enough graves in Egypt? Is that why you brought us out here to die in the desert? Why have you made us leave Egypt? It would have been better for us to live as slaves to the Egyptians than to die out here in the desert.
Moses: Don’t be afraid! Stand your ground and witness how the Eternal will rescue you today. Take a good look at the Egyptians, for after today you will never see them again. The Eternal will fight on your behalf while you watch in silence.
Eternal One (to Moses): Why do you call for Me? Instruct the Israelites to break camp and keep moving. Raise your staff and reach out over the sea to divide it. The Israelites will be able to walk straight through the sea on dry ground. I am going to harden the stubborn hearts of the Egyptians, and in their arrogance they will continue to chase the Israelites. My honor will be on display when I defeat Pharaoh, his army, his chariots, and his chariot-drivers. The Egyptians will know that I am the Eternal when I display my glory through Pharaoh, his chariots, and his chariot-drivers.
Exodus 14 (The Voice Translation) The Voice attempts to translate the poetry, humor, and beauty of the Bible’s passages in a screenplay format using “Eternal One” for YHWH. The Sunday Lectionary for Sept. 13, 2020 includes Exodus14:19-31.
Soul Search. Sometimes in the face of chaos in our culture it is easier to isolate and insulate and go about our day not “seeing” those who are enslaved to poverty and racism. Brenda Salter McNeil in her new book, Becoming Brave: Finding the Courage to Pursue Racial Justice Now says there is a need to examine privilege, power, and position and the injustice that results from being unwilling to acknowledge or fight for needed change. She urges us all to listen to new prophetic voices of protestors, teachers, artists, journalists, and people of color that move us to break free from privileged mentality and fight against prejudice and injustice. There is an urgent call to use our access, influence, and networks to combat the lies and power of those who inhibit the flourishing of all God’s people.
In Prophetic Imagination, Walter Brueggemann says that Jesus’ kingdom message offered both mercy and criticism simultaneously. His ministry to the poor radically challenged the status quo of economic inequality, and directly criticized those who profited from others’ poverty. His ministry to the oppressed also points out the injustice of the oppressors, who are threatened by his message of redemption. I’m praying for my imagination to be spirit-energized, not content just to criticize the status quo, but keep moving with hopeful possibility and creative ways to love and serve.
Let us Pray. O Eternal One, I am afraid, unwilling to move, not believing what’s ahead is better than what was behind. Please fight for us all, send us leaders who hear your voice, fight for those who cannot win anything on their own. Help me to sit in silence and listen, to hear the cries of those who call for freedom, to have the courage to keep moving forward through the waters you part in front of me. I see you there both behind and in front of me. Show us your glory. Amen.