I was re-reading the story on the Exodus last night and found myself really wrestling with it's message. It's so difficult for me to grapple with the idea of a God who turns rivers to blood and kills first born children (that sounds like something Pharaoh's and Herods would do). It's a difficult story to say the least but paradoxically it's a profoundly hope filled story. At the same time that lives are taken, lives are saved. By the shedding of blood Israel is saved. On the one hand, this story is a continuation of history as we know it--kingdoms take power by shedding blood. But on the other hand it's completely new event in history--slaves are heard and liberated by an all-powerful God (this would be backwards logic in the ancient world).
Interestlingly enough, when slaves are set free some others are set free with them (Exodus 12:38)--this is a blessing not just to Israel but to anyone who would take part in Israel's liberation. In this aspect of the story, we see that it's also a story about solidarity with oppressed people. When Israel (the nation of slaves) flees from Egypt (the most powerful nation in the world), it would seem by the world's logic that only a fool would flee with them. But others did leave Egypt with the Israelites. What were those "others" thinking? Who would run from Egypt? Who would leave the most powerful nation in the world to be with the ones whom they are oppressing? Who would leave wealth to find "liberation"? It defys logic to leave the wealth of Egypt to wander in the desert with the oppressed. But how did it work out for the people who stayed? When Egypt fell, when Pharaoh fell, those who found themselves complicit with the empire fell too. All those who found themselves complicit with the most powerful nation in the world suffered and fell with their king.
God's love is on it's way to the poor, the oppressed, and to those who cry out. Where will you find yourself? Will you leave the comfort of Egypt to wander with the oppressed? Or will you find yourself complicit with their oppressors--an even worse sort of captivity? Will you sell all you have and follow God's love? Or will you weep for you have great wealth?
God is a God who sets captives free--captives of slavery and captives of wealth--free to worship in the wilderness.
In Jesus we see the the paradoxical and yet unmistakable departure from the pattern of history. In Jesus Christ, the captives are set free by the shedding of his blood and not of that of his ememies. And we see the continuation of that "new" event of backwards logic--the liberation of captives by the hand of an all-powerful God. In following Jesus, Israel incarnate, we flee from the captivity of slavery and wealth to wander and to worship in the desert.
When the slaves are set free may we be set free with them.