“But the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron and gave them a charge about the people of Israel and about Pharaoh king of Egypt: to bring the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt.”- Exodus 6:13
When we recall the story of Passover, we often think of Pharaoh as the one who rejected Moses’ call. Yet it was not just Pharaoh, but the children of Israel that needed to be convinced (Ex. 6:9). The message of the plagues is not just a message to the Egyptians, but to those needing liberation.
The enslaved children of Israel knew what to expect as slaves, and they were resistant to change. They were part of a great empire, even though they were at the bottom. Change is threatening; change induces fear. Moses asked them to leave what they knew, to leave the life of the Nile in exchange for the dryness of the desert. Moses called the children of Israel to an uncertain and even threatening future. It is better to live along the Nile than to go mad from thirst in the desert, they must have thought.
First Moses had to convince the elders of Israel, and then he had to deal with the Israelite overseers. Among the children of Israel were those who benefited from the oppression, those Israelites who oversaw the labor and reported to Pharaoh. In many situations of oppression around the world we find examples of those among the oppressed that collaborate with the oppressor and benefit from the situation. As we see here, the overseers collaborate with Pharaoh, and resist, not just because the future is unclear, or they are worried where change might lead, but they are worried about their positions of betterment at the expense of the rest of their people.
In reconciliation, we challenge the status quo. For many, this is threatening as we become accustomed to the way things are, and we, like the Israelites are fearful of change. Where will reconciliation lead us? It seeks to lead us away from the Nile, to a place where we have to trust God. It leads us to a place free of fear, enmity, and socio-economic oppression. Yet we benefit from the status quo. We know our place; we have our work and our community. Like the overseers, we might lose something if we choose God’s different path. Yet in our shortsightedness, it is difficult to see that God is calling us to something better. We hear the words, we know with our heads, yet we have to let that message sink into our hearts.
In the New Testament, we see that Jesus also faced resistance to his messages. There were many on that day that welcomed Jesus, but when it came to standing with him and believing in the truth of his message, his followers ran away. Jesus was a threat to those in power, and in the end even Judah collaborated with the leadership that opposed Jesus.
The stories of Moses and Jesus are the stories of the great liberators, those who challenged those in power, and those around them. The message of reconciliation is a message not just for the powerful, but for all of us. Moses and Jesus called for a change in the status quo, and while we may be comfortable where we are, walking in reconciliation requires trusting in God. The message of reconciliation is a message to go into the desert, a message to stand with our Messiah even when his message is ridiculed. We need to heed the voices of these great liberators and God’s call to be agents of reconciliation, acting with obedience so we can see the greatness of promise and resurrection that God has in store for us.
April 17, 2014
Musalaha Executive Director — Salim J. Munayer