Saturday, July 22, 2017

Convoluted Hierarchies

Exodus 9:14, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (NIV).

The account of the parting of the Red Sea is one of the best known narratives found in Scripture.  We start by telling it in our Sunday Schools.  I sometimes struggle to understand how it is that stories such as this one become childhood favorites.  It ranks right up there with Noah’s ark which, in reality, is more about death and destruction than adorable zoo animals.  And here again we find the Lord in the middle of the water, saving some and drowning others.  I can’t actually take the whole passage where I would like it to go.  It’s so much bigger than flannel graph (OK, OK, I realize that no one actually uses flannel graph anymore).  But in the midst of the Israelites’ panic, when they are longing for slavery because it suddenly seems safer than freedom, verse 14 stands out in isolation and causes me to think deeply about what our part might be in the redemption of the world.

Interestingly, Moses reassures the Israelites that God has this thing under control, but it doesn’t actually seem like control is the operative word (or action), moving forward.  I think we often use this kind of language to comfort others or to halt the widespread terror.  Realistically, it works.  However, I am less and less confident that it is faithful to the witness of Scripture, history, experience, or reason.  Of course, there is truth in Moses’ statement.  The Lord will, indeed, fight for the Israelites, but I’m not convinced the Lord chooses to fight unilaterally… alone. 

In fact, Moses himself plays a pretty important role in this crossing!  The Lord tells Moses what he can do to save his people and then tells him to get moving!  The Lord persuades and employs the wind and the water.  Creation cooperates.

I fear that our words, like the words of Moses, can actually be an impediment to others in working together, creatively and redemptively with God, in the world.  There are certainly times to be still, but perhaps we must also consider how God might desire to use us, to work with us instead of for us.  Do we imagine ourselves as part of a convoluted hierarchy in which we tell God what to do and God must do it while we participate as mere spectators in the unfolding history of the world?  I guess that’s something worth considering…


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