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Exodus: Hope in Darkness

. 6 min read

Exodus:
Hope in the Darkness
                                       Ex 10-12
1-2
July 2017, Christ Mountain Top, The Lord’s Table
Call
to Worship, Psalm 88 (6:00 pm only)
Children,
Exodus 10.1-29
Message,
Exodus 11.4-10, 12.30-38
Children:
Blood
Frogs
Gnats/lice
Flies
Death
of cattle
Boils
Hail
& fire
      Pharaoh’s heart, hardened by God … humble
yourself
Locusts,
cover the surface of the land, fill your houses
      Pharaoh’s heart hardened
Darkness,
that can be felt, 3 days
      Pharaoh’s heart hardened
      But light for Hebrews
Message:
God
is on the loose
      Hijacking Moses’ life
      Selecting a murderer, a failure, a
reluctant man
God
is on the loose
      Destroying the powers of Egypt
      Setting slaves, God’s people, free
The Mummy
(original 1999) the gods of Egypt doing these powerful acts … interesting that
they borrow the imagery of Exodus and flip the script. Instead of a powerful
free God fighting to free slaves, it’s a powerful oppressive God fighting to
enslave humanity.
      For the Hebrews, under oppression, their
situation seems hopeless. They have no memory of freedom. They can’t imagine
what it looks like. Moses offers promises, but they have no way fully
appreciate it. If you have ever experienced abuse, or learned the story of
someone who has lived it, you may appreciate, just a little, how hopeless they
were. Or, how the glimmer of hope became the cause for deeper disappointment.
      God does something mighty. Pharaoh hardly
flinches. God does something else. Pharaoh brushes it off. God brings one
calamity after another, and Pharaoh still holds the upper hand.
      Moses says, “Let my people go.”
      Pharaoh says, “Make bricks without straw.”
We
know how the story ends, but imagine yourself in the middle of the story. Where
do you find hope? And we are each at a different place in our personal stories.
Where do you find hope?

There
are three surprising themes in the text, three “Easter eggs” for you gamers,
that offer hope, hope in calamity, hope in crisis, hope in oppression, hope in
slavery, hope in the darkness.
1. Pharaoh’s heart is
hardened … by the LORD
      3x by Pharaoh, 8.15, 8.32, 9.34
      6x passive, 7.13, 7.14, 7.22, 8.19, 9.7,
9.35
      9x by YHVH, 4.21, 7.3, 9.12, 10.1, 10.20,
10.27, 11.10, 14.4, 14.8
Pharaoh
played a part, he went along with the hardening of his heart by God
      For the characters in the story, this is
mostly unseen. It is reported to the reader by the narrator only. We know this,
but the Hebrews were ignorant of it. Moses is told by the LORD, at the
beginning, that the LORD is going to do this, but Moses hears nothing else on
the subject from God until chapter 10, as we come to the climax.
      In the darkness, God is acting. We do not
see it. We may never know of it. It is hidden, backstage, behind the curtain,
and we have no access to the secret. But God IS acting. God IS on the loose.
Brueggemann:
There
is more here than can be understood, but whatever else it means it begins in
the conviction that God works on both sides of the street. The despairing ones
do not see how a newness can come, how evil can be overcome, or how futures can
arise from the totalitarian present. … Something is “on the move” in the
darkness that even the lord of the darkness does not discern. It is strange
that neither Egypt nor Israel understands the movement in the darkness! Israel
is no more privy to God’s freedom than Egypt is.
Brueggemann,
Walter. Prophetic Imagination:
Revised Edition (p. 15). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.
Brueggemann
invites us to embrace the darkness in our lives, not because it is dark, but
because we know that, somehow, God is at work. God is on the loose.
2. No dog barks
Exodus
11:7
 But not a dog shall
growl at any of the Israelites– not at people, not at animals– so that you
may know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.
In
the post-apocalyptic world that is Egypt after the ten plagues, even the dogs
submit. Their natural impulse to bark at a stranger, to bark at passing
animals, is squelched by the complete and total domination of Egypt by the LORD
God of angel armies.
      The slaves walk out of Egypt, having
plundered the Egyptians, like the victor of a post-apocalyptic battle.
This
remarkable statement reveals two deep truths in the story.
1.    
That redemption requires judgment. There is evil in the
world, and it must be destroyed in order for slaves to go free. Now, I do not
say this to commend violence against evil. Paul instructs us to “overcome evil
with good” (Romans 12.21). Jesus calls us to “judge not” (Matthew 7.1).
Judgment, terrible and complete, is reserved for God alone.
2.    
Again in the words of Brueggemann:
God
… does not flinch from taking sides.
Brueggemann,
Walter. Prophetic Imagination:
Revised Edition (p. 15). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.
This
is, of course, one particular story. And all our stories are different. We may
be oppressed and wonder when God will hear our cries. We may be “king of the
mountain” and hopeful that God will not take interest in the way our position
is maintained by others of lower estate. This story, however, is unequivocal:
When redemption comes, it requires judgment on power. And, God does not flinch
from taking sides.
      God is on the loose.
Therefore:
We
must take sides. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
Elie
Wiesel, 1960 (opening quote for an episode of Frontier, season 1, by Netflix)
3. A mixed crowd
Exodus
12:38
 A mixed crowd also
went up with them,
Despite
the many biblical texts defining Israel as a “closed” group, a people that must
not intermarry with other nations who worship other gods, for example, here at
the beginning of Israel’s story it is an open
group. A mixed crowd goes with them, not Hebrew. Perhaps they are other
enslaved peoples. Perhaps they are Egyptian. Whether Hebrew or Hyksos, Cushite
or Egyptian, they all become Israel. In a similar way, here at Christ Church,
all are welcome to follow Jesus with us, without distinction, and all are
welcome at the Lord’s Table, without question. We are an open group and we have
an open table.
As
I was meditating on this story, I was driving home from a week of study at my
mother-in-law’s and listening to an album of the Flobots, an album Caleb turned
me on to several years ago. They are politically and socially left of center,
so don’t bother listening unless you are ready for that.
      I was marveling at how the story leaves
open the possibility that some Egyptians may be among the “mixed crowd”. One of
their songs is titled “Anne Braden”, and it tells part of the story of this
white southern woman who chose to stand with the descendants of slaves. “She
knew there was something wrong. Because the song said yellow, red, black and
white, everyone precious in the path of Christ. But what about the daughter of
the woman cleaning their house?” Because of her faith in the God who takes
sides, she protested the Mississippi execution of Willie McGee, an African-American
convicted by an all-white jury, for raping a white woman, with whom he claimed
to be having an affair. She and her husband bought a house in a white
neighborhood and gave it to a black family to integrate their own town. And she
continued to love her racist family and friends. Anne Braden says, “You do have
a choice. You do not have to join the world of the lynchers.”
      I was in tears. Maybe it was the caffeine
to keep me awake, or having been away from home for a week, or that I forgot to
take my medicine. Or, maybe, it was an overwhelming reminder from the Spirit of
God that I am invited to join the “mixed crowd” and called to take sides with
the God who works both behind the scenes and in plain sight to set the
oppressed free – whether they are the descendants of American slavery (which
John Wesley called the most vile form of slavery in the world), immigrants
trying to escape ISIS, or Muslim neighbors of every racial and ethnic
background. I always tell my new Muslim friends, “If you need a Christian to
stand with you, call me.”
      God is on the loose.
Hope
in the darkness.
1.    
The LORD hardens Pharaoh’s heart: God is at work in the
darkness, unknown and hidden to us.
2.    
No dog barks. Redemption requires judgment on evil, and God
takes sides. God is not impartial.
3.    
A mixed crowd. An open group with an open table. And the
holy opportunity for those of us with privilege to stand up for others.
Resource:
      New Interpreter’s Bible, Exodus,
Brueggemann

      Prophetic Imagination, Brueggemann