Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Read Like an Egyptian

This week, we're talking about the plagues in Egypt, and we're looking at what it is that they teach us about God. And certainly, they teach us the raw power of God, but I said yesterday that I think we're missing something very important in the stories of the plagues. And we are. 

Because too often, we read the Exodus like Egyptians. 

We read it as if we are a people in the land in which the Exodus is happening, as though we are actually there and experiencing the plagues of the frogs and the flies and the blood and the darkness firsthand. We put ourselves in the shoes of those who were walking in those sands along the Nile, and from this vantage point, the stories of the plagues take our breath away. 

They raise for us questions about this God, about any God who could do such a thing. We stand in awe of His power, but we tremble a little bit, too. It's hard to grasp what He's doing or why or how a loving God could do this to an entire people, especially an entire people who aren't responsible for telling Israel "no." Egypt as a whole is paying the price for Pharaoh's hard heart, and the entire land is suffering and is being devastated and then...and then, what? 

But let me ask you something: 

How does it change your view of God if you read the Exodus not as an Egyptian, but as an Israelite?

What if you saw the plagues not as a person of the land, but as a person of God - a captive in a foreign land? This is what we're missing about God's love in these stories. 

The people of Israel went to work in Egypt every day. They came to build bricks in a land teeming with locusts. They came to make harvests in a land decimated by hail. They came to the rivers after a long day under the hot Egyptian sun and found blood instead of water. They knew firsthand the plagues of Egypt because they were living them in their captivity. 

But when the people of God went back to Goshen? When they returned home at night? None of that. There were no frogs in Goshen. There were no flies in Goshen. There was no hail in Goshen. There was light in Goshen. 

The people of Israel went to work in their captivity in Egypt and saw God's judgment on a harsh people, but they went home at night to peace and prosperity - to thriving crops and fertile soil and quiet, without a buzz or a croak or a flutter or a thunderclap to be heard - and they knew God's deep love for them.

And sometimes, I just wonder how it would change our understanding of God if we read these stories the way Israel saw them, not the way Egypt did. If we read them and knew what was happening in Egypt, but knew that we don't live there. If we knew about the frogs, but the croaking didn't keep us up at night. If we read them as His people and not a bunch of foreigners?

What if the Exodus isn't just a story about God's raw power, but about His deep love?   

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