Wednesday, February 22, 2012

120222 - Exodus 06-07 - standing fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free

Wednesday SOAP: God takes a suffering, disenfranchised, oppressed and underpivileged people for Himself, redeeming them from a privileged, oppressing, imperious tyrant. Neither the overlord nor the underdog will listen to the Word of the Lord. Why not? Aren't the oppressed virtuous by definition? Aren't God's chosen people fundamentally different from Egypt? No; the difference starts with God Himself; and being freed by Him means far more than freedom for freedom's sake.

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S: And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the LORD. And Moses spake so unto the children of Israel: but they hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage. (Exodus 6:7-9)

O: God had already sworn these things to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - but here is the definitive time it begins to happen. He had also sworn (Gen. 15:13-14) that the Israelites would be in slavery for all these years. The Israelites didn't listen to Moses. Sorrow and cruel bondage had made them forget their very heritage in the promises of God.

A: So what is the innate difference between the hardened heart of Pharoah the oppressor and that of the oppressed Israelites? We like to paint oppressed and suffering people as virtuous, stoic, even heroic. But the truth is that there's nothing about suffering itself that brings a person closer to God. In fact, I have found the old saying, "hurt people hurt people," to be true. I would hasten to add that privileged people, like Pharoah, also hurt people, proving that man makes a terrible idol. You could say that the privileged add to the offense in light of the fact that they do it so carelessly - but you could also say sufferers hurt others with full knowledge of suffering. Suffering itself does not make us virtuous - but we do have the power to choose our response to suffering, and this, Viktor Frankl said, is a greater power, a greater freedom, than the power to enslave and cause suffering.

For the believer, all of this reminds us that the hearts of the Israelites, hardened by suffering, and the heart of Pharoah, hardened by self-centeredness, were both far from God. It was God's overture to the Israelites, in taking them to Himself for a people, that made the difference.

It didn't happen all in one generation, but God did call out a people for Himself, who served as an outpost of redemption in this world, from which salvation has ultimately spread to every nation under heaven. As one writer said, if by our Redeemer's stripes we are healed, (Isaiah 53:5), we should be "healed people who heal people," rather than hurt people who hurt people. We could add, "forgiven people who forgive people," saved people who save people, etc.

P: Father, thank you for reaching me. Thank you for giving me the liberty, the desire, the power and the revelation to do what pleases you and keeps me hearing from you, tender towards you, and tender towards others.

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