From the rice fields of Vietnam to the milk and honey of Canaan, every square inch of earth and sky is contested territory, the struggle between domination and democracy, between slavery and freedom, between empire and kingdom. And in today’s text, the struggle between Pharaoh and God.
Exodus 14:21-31 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers. At the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic. He clogged their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty. The Egyptians said, “Let us flee from the Israelites, for the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and chariot drivers.” So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the Lord tossed the Egyptians into the sea.The waters returned and covered the chariots and the chariot drivers, the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not one of them remained. But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great work that theLord did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the Lord and believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.
Of all the Bible stories, stories about restoration and forgiveness, about healing and community, about miracles and manna, why is this thetext for oppressed people the world over?
The Israelites, after a life of slavery, finally win at something
God is protecting the people
The Bible is a history of God’s intervention at the intersection of religion and politics
Why is this the text for oppressed people?
Because the states and the schools, the municipalities and the principalities won’t do it. Only God has promised inheritance to the disinherited, franchise to the disenfranchised, inclusion to the excluded, that the last will finally be first.
“There can be no Christian theology,” says James Cone, “that is not identified unreservedly with those who are humiliated and abused.”
God’s justice isn’t the divine will equally distributed- a passive neutrality or an egalitarian fairness- but the tilted exercise of power to topple the tyranny of slavery in its myriad of forms yesterday, today and tomorrow. Hear the Good News:
GOD TAKES SIDES! GOD TAKES SIDES! GOD TAKES SIDES!
On March 16, 1968, Hugh Thompson was flying reconnaissance over the village of My Lai. He received no enemy fire. He spotted an irrigation ditch full of assassinated bodies and a terrified group of Vietnamese civilians and children scrambling for shelter as American soldiers chased in murderous pursuit. Hugh landed his helicopter between 2nd Platoon C Company and the innocent villagers. Thompson commanded the door gunmen behind his cockpit to train their machine guns on their brothers in uniform until they stood down, until the massacre ended.
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and the waters formed a wall on the right and the left, and the Israelites walked across on dry ground because the Lord saved them.