Redeeming the Plagues: Part 17
Memorial Day Edition
Then he said [to Moses], “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.”
“I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them –” Exodus 3:6-8
God introduces himself to Moses by mentioning Moses’ ancestors. Its like a man holding out his hand and saying, “I worked for your father.”
God is saying, “I worked with your father, your grandfather and your great grandfather. We have a covenant, and I have not forgotten it. Moses, its time to saddle up –”
Until that point, the Hebrew people had been enslaved for probably 300-500 years. In our time that would be like honoring a promise left over from the Middle Ages.
How much do we remember about the Middle Ages?
When I speak the spectators at living history events for World War II – which ended seventy-two years ago – most of them have no idea what the Second World War was about. There is no grasp of history. They don’t even understand why the villains of the war were so evil.
Now – imagine Moses.
There’s no direct memory to any of the events God is discussing. Moses was adopted by the Egyptians. He may have restarted a relationship with the Hebrew God (vs. the Egyptian gods) after meeting Jethro, his future father-in-law.
Moses is a complete newbie when it comes to a relationship with this strange Hebrew God who doesn’t come in statue form, likes to hide in bushes and then light them on fire.
There are no history books, no photographs, and barely any written record of events for the Hebrew people for Moses to reference. The Hebrews are enslaved. They are not allowed to learn of their history or culture. They are not even allowed to have a culture.
I was recently in New Orleans, Louisiana and met a local Creole, (a person from Louisiana of mixed heritage – usually Caucasian and African-American who speaks French). He said, “I’ve always been jealous of the Jewish people, they had a written alphabet. They knew who they were. Me, I don’t even know what language my grandparents spoke, or what country in Africa my great-grandparents were from!”
That is the legacy of slavery.
Moses had the same background. His family heritage was the blank slate of slavery’s trauma and genocide, then mixed adoption into a completely different culture… Egypt. Finally he fled, running into the God of Living History.
Imagine the Hebrew people who knew the histories. I know they wondered. I know they asked, pounding their fists and crying out in agony, “Where are you God? Where is the fulfillment of our promises? What happened to the covenant of our own land, which you, God, promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? What are we doing in slavery? Has God abandoned us? Did those men die in vain?”
Did those men die in vain?
Bring this back to Memorial Day 2017.
We still grapple with those questions. But I will tell you this –
No. Those we honor from our armed forces did not die in vain.
God has a covenant with each of us. He has made covenant with each of us.
And just as God stepped up to defend his covenant at the cost of his own son’s life – he felt the pain of loss.
God wanted to serve and rescue – bringing freedom to the oppressed. We see God’s heart here with the burning bush, and we’ll see it later with Jesus in the New Testament.
We see a continuation of God’s covenant of fulfillment and freedom, as America was founded with the ideals of religious freedom. The founding documents of our nation are covenants between the government and the people.
Covenants like God had with Abraham.
Kings were often considered divine… unreachable. To make a covenant with them for personal or governmental purposes was unheard of! To have God himself come to Abraham, a nomadic shepherd and make a covenant was even more miraculous!
And the burden of proof for this covenant’s fulfillment didn’t rest on the Abraham or his descendants – it rested on God.
Its Memorial Day.
Memorial Day started with local women wanting to honor the sons and fathers they lost during the Civil War. The country was recovering from a decisive time in history when it was nearly torn apart. But the covenant held strong.
Memorial Day was a way to bring people together – not only in their sorrows, but in their loss.
And that covenant held strong, as we went to war against aggression throughout the globe and throughout our nation’s short history – we have been a world-shaping voice, bringing the promise of covenant, not dominion over the earth.
The warriors we’ve lost did not die in vain. God has not forgotten their sacrifice. They honored a covenant in way that few ever realize. They did what Christ did. They sacrificed their lives for the sake of a covenant and a rescue.
During World War II – the soldiers went into battle to fight what they thought was a simple case of a global schoolyard bully – but they found death camps.
Death camps full of people who had disagreed or fought against the prevailing force of Nazi Germany – often in the same manner of the American patriots during the Revolutionary War. (They were writers, resistance fighters, rabbis, teachers, pastors, average people and citizen soldiers.)
But these death camps were also full of Jews.
During World War II – the covenant came full circle. Abraham’s children were rescued by those who recognized Christ Jesus as Messiah, and had accepted the covenant of salvation. It was America who pushed for a Jewish state of Israel… fulfilling the covenant that God promised to Abraham.
They did not die in vain.
And if you notice, God says, ‘I am the God of…’
He exists outside of time.
Those men, women, children – who throughout history have given their lives and are to be honored this Memorial Day –
– They’re still alive.
(Next week is the anniversary of the invasion of Europe through France – D-Day. We’ll look at Moses’ D-Day.)
In honor of Memorial Day – here is a link to my other blog, featuring a short story: Ghost Unit
All Bible references are taken from Bible Gateway.
Photograph is mine.