Monday, November 12, 2012

Remembering Egypt (part 2 of 2)

In his desire to make it so that the people of Israel “remember the day” that they “came out of the land of Egypt” all the days of their lives, Moses continues to present the mighty hand and outstretched arm of Israel’s faithful God, recounting “His signs and His deeds that He did in Egypt…and what He did to the army of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 11:3-4).  Though the people continued to cast their eyes and hopes backwards in a longing for what they thought of as simpler days, Moses bids them look forward, saying that “the land that you are entering to take possession of it is not like the land of Egypt” (11:10).  Because it is the land that is the covenant gift of their God, it is better.  So that they would not be taken by faulty memories of supposed freedom from the want of the wilderness, Moses speaks again of the Lord “Who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery” (13:5).  Belaboring the point, Moses repeatedly refers to “the land of Egypt” as “the house of slavery” (13:10), regardless of the people’s present struggles as they made their way to their promised land.  He goes on to quite bluntly inform the people to “remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you” (15:15). 

When they came to the season of Passover, its purpose was to remind the people that “the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night” (16:1).  They were to remember that they “came out of the land of Egypt in haste” (16:3), wasting no time at all in coming out, because of the great oppression “of the land of Egypt” (16:3).  Moses was very clear in telling the people that God was giving them this celebration of remembrance to mark “the time you came out of Egypt” (16:6), with each person reminding himself, “that you were a slave in Egypt” (16:12).  God wanted His people to have a clean break from Egypt, relying on it for nothing, not even allowing one of their future kings to consider a “return to Egypt to acquire many horses” (17:16).  God is clear in informing His people that He can provide them all things of need and value.  Even in the midst of the fear of those who would come against them with horses and chariots, they were not to turn back, but find value in calling to mind that “the Lord your God is with you, Who brought you up out of the land of Egypt” (20:1).  It was made to be understood that there was power in remembering the deliverance provided by the Lord. 

Even their dealings with foreign nations were to be defined by such remembrance.  Ammonites and Moabites were not allowed to “enter the assembly of the Lord” (23:3).  Why was this?  “Because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt” (23:4).  Israel’s treatment of foreigners, the fatherless, and widows was determined according to God’s deliverance, regulated by the remembrance “that you were a slave in the land of Egypt” (24:22).  Later in Israel’s history, God would direct His kings to show no mercy to the Amalekites, because of what they “did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt” (25:17). 

When the people told their story, they were to include the fact that their forefathers “went down into Egypt and sojourned there” (26:5), even though the slavery experienced there would be a source of shame and derision.  This part of the story must be told, for then the rest of the story, that of their faithful, covenant God could be told, and the people could exclaim that “the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror, with signs and wonders” (26:8).  This story of their covenant God would necessarily include a recounting of the potential for blessings or curses which He presented to them.  The dreaded curses spoke of “the boils of Egypt” (28:27), and “the diseases of Egypt” (28:60), recounting the plagues that befell those that would attempt to stand against this mighty God.  The greatest of all of the curses associated with Israel’s failure to be faithful to the demands of the covenant, would be for “the Lord” to “bring you back in ships to Egypt” to “offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves” (28:68). 

As he is reported to have worked towards the conclusion of his message to the people, once again, Moses is heard to declare that “You have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt” (29:2).  Lest the people begin to be deceived by the recollections of the life lived in Egypt, Moses says “You know how we lived in the land of Egypt” (29:16).  If the people began to engage in the practices in which, no doubt, many were engaging in while living in their land of slavery, the Lord would bring calamity upon His people, and “Then people would say, ‘It is because they abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their fathers, which He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt, and went and served other gods and worshiped them’.” (29:25)  God’s people would know, by this daily remembrance, that when misfortune befell them, such perdition was of themselves.            

The Creator God, through Moses, seems to have repeated Himself a great deal here.  With that, we who assent to the confession of the covenant (Jesus is Lord) can take a moment to agree and say “Yes, we would do very well indeed to keep the memories of where it was from which our God redeemed His covenant people, and that from which He delivered, close at hand and near to our hearts.”  We do well to remember being dragged out of the house of slavery (which is no doubt on the mind of somebody like the Apostle Paul, in his references to slavery), but along with that, to remember the place that God had originally intended for His creation, and the place from which the divine image bearers fell.  In this, we can have a vision of the place to which our God is bringing us in restoration and renewal and salvation.  Indeed, as it was of great value for God’s covenant people in that day, so it is of great value for God’s covenant people in this day, to not only remember that He brings into covenant for a purpose, but also to hearken to the words spoken by the man who spoke to God face to face, to cast our eyes rearward, so “that all the days of your life you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt.” 

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