Tuesday

04 November 2014

“Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go’.” (5:1)


Background

This compelling story speaks for itself. The underlying drama is the clash between:

  • the experience of soul-destroying enslavement, with the struggle to survive getting ever more desperate as conditions gofrom bad to worse
  • a demand for respite (even a glimpse of freedom), raising expectations that are brutally suppressed by a superior power.

Was the aspiration to go into the wilderness worth the trouble it caused?

Woven into the drama are two competing models of leadership:

  • Pharaoh the tyrant. He is contemptuous of Israel's God; contemptuous too of the Hebrews, insisting the slaves are lazy and want a holiday only for sex (so that they outnumber even more the indigenous population: verse 5). As tyrants do, he ratchets up the oppression to quell rebellion.
  • Moses, God's prophet, speaking only what God gives him to say. He has no political power to win his way. Indeed things have got worse since his intervention. But he unburdens his soul to God, articulating his puzzlement, his needs and complaints: to which God responds with a promise, that God's commitment to Israel's deliverance will soon be enacted. And Pharaoh will find himself put in his rightful place, unable to resist God's will.

To note:

  • LORD is used in English versions of the Bible to refer to the mysterious name - never to be pronounced - of Israel's God. See Exodus 3:13-15 and 5:1.
  • The "taskmasters" (verse 6) were Egyptians who were appointed by Pharaoh. Accountable to them were the 'supervisors' (verse 10), who were Hebrews. In verse 16, "your own people" refers to the fact that the Hebrews were Pharaoh's subjects.
  • Bricks were made from mud from the river Nile, which was mixed with sand and shredded straw, and hardened in the sun after being placed in brick-shaped wooden boxes.


To Ponder

  • In our contemporary society, all groups and organisations regularly ponder the issue of 'authority'. Who has it? How is it to be exercised? How can it be challenged? To whom are people with 'authority' accountable? Reflect on your experience of 'authority' in your family, your congregation and your workplace or school/college. To what extent do the models of Pharaoh and Moses help?
  • Regarding spiritual leaders in churches, does the model of Jesus reinforce or qualify the style of Moses? How do congregations support their lay and ordained leaders to be disciplined in private prayer? And if you are part of a congregation, what do you do?


Bible notes author:  The Revd David Deeks

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