Finding the courage to demand what is right
I love it when God opens the scriptures to show me something I never saw previously.
This happened recently and I want to share it with you, so you can also see.
Raised with privilege
Most of us will know the story of Moses and how he challenged Pharaoh for the release of his Israelite brothers and sister. They had remained in slavery and captivity for 400 years, toiling under oppression from the Egyptians. Moses was born an Israelite but by the hand of God was saved from death and ended up living as a prince of Egypt.
Now although we already know this, I hadn’t really taken the time to understand what that really meant. It meant that Moses had never experienced cruelty at the hands of an elite power. He had never felt the unjust pain of the whip for failing to work to someone else’s direction exactly as instructed. He had never experienced the dehumanising act of being counted and treated like an animal, being born only to spend your life in service to your master. He had never watched his new born baby boy, snatched from his arms and tossed into the fire. Killing a whole generation of Israelite men and leaving a community in grieving.
In complete contrast, Moses has been raised in a palace. Surrounded by beauty and elegance. Slaves and servants to tend to his every need. Not only that but he had personal access to the highest power in the land. He could talk to, approach and request anytime he wanted from his grandfather the Pharaoh. A luxury no slave would ever have.
Moses had never tasted the sting of hunger, but instead had become accustomed to fine food and wine; probably the best in the land. He was also given authority bestowed upon him by his adopted family. An authority he could wield over his Israelite slaves. Yes. His. Israelite. Slaves.
You see, even though Moses was himself an Israelite, he was one of the privileged and not thought of, or treated as a slave like the rest of his people. What belonged to his adopted family; also belonged to him. And that included all of the slaves.
He always felt slightly uncomfortable with this, knowing deep down that he was just like them and his heart broke silently for the plight of his people. When I reflected on this, I wondered how many opportunities, people and places I had access to, where maybe other people had no access? How was I using my privilege or position? How was I using my connections and networks? Was I just thinking about me? Or was I using any of those gifts to seek better things for people who could not get these things for themselves?
Moses the secret warrior
God had awakened the compassion in Moses for the plight of his people. Each time he walked around the palace and lands of his adopted family, the moans and cries of a people in suffering grew louder. Have you ever experienced that. Seeing something you know is wrong but it doesn’t affect you directly? It can leave you feeling powerless and guilty, knowing people like you are committing atrocities upon people who you are also connected to. The inner torment and conflict is real. Having the power of a prince, yet being too afraid to use it in fear of ending up like the people your heart weeps for.
You try to think of ways to act that won’t draw attention to you. A way to help that is under the radar so you are not accused of assigning value to something society tells you isn’t valuable. Feeling impotent despite knowing your elevated position, whilst the cries of the enslaved echo until they become deafening. Eventually you snap and do something rash. In Moses’ case, he killed a guard who was mercilessly beating an Israelite slave. Devastated by his own actions he runs away, expecting the worse and refusing to face the consequences of his actions.
Are we to applaud Moses for his secret defense of the Israelites? Maybe? Did the means justify the end? Probably not. This is something I see replicated almost daily at the moment. Friends and acquaintances sending private messages of support in the wake of a very public backlash from Christians about Black Lives Matter. They see the pain and hear the cries of their people and desperately want to do something about it. But fear.
That’s it. ‘But fear’.
They fear stepping out from the expected norms and responses of their counterparts. They fear being rejected for their belief that all humans have the right to be equal and not forced into a lesser life, with hardships and disadvantage. Fear that they may become one of the marginalized if they dare to stand against the status quo. A consequence already being played out on allies who stepped out before them.
So instead, they become secret warrior’s. Quietly supporting one private message at a time. Maybe even briefly revealing their position in a short debate with their peers, but without making too much of a scene. Will these secret warriors take this plight to the Pharaoh’s of their land? Or like Moses, will they run away to a far corner of the land. Away from the pressure, away from the polarisation of approved status-quo and the deafening cries of the unjustly treated. Disengage, hide, run, avoid at all costs paying any sort of price for the redemption of others.
Moses stayed away for 40 years, facing his own series of life trials and perhaps having no time or space to reflect on the situation he left behind. What were the slaves doing in that 40 years? The bible does not give us details, but we do know they were not free, slavery continued to be inflicted on them by the Egyptian power. Like many now, Moses would have been unaware, unimpacted and not conscious of the abuses and atrocities inflicted upon his blood brothers and sisters, while his back was turned.
How many crimes against humanity have we each ignored over the years? How many atrocities have we seen, made a feeble attempt to ‘play our part’ then continued on with our lives? I have done this many times – dropped a coin in the tin, signed up for a newsletter, shared a social media post, knowing that my feeble efforts really cost me nothing and I felt validated in moving on.
God got Moses’ attention
We all know the story of Moses and the burning bush. It used to be a Sunday school favourite but not a story I hear often these days. When God started to reveal this further to me it became clear that this was about God causing an event that couldn’t be ignored. We don’t have to look very far for things that are out of the ordinary, virtually unbelievable but are happening in front of our eyes!
A world-wide pandemic, World-wide protests against racism to name a few. Is this God getting our attention? Is God trying to get you to focus on His voice, rather than the burning bush? What might God be saying to you right now? The answer to this question may not be the same for every person. Like Moses, not everyone is called to be an ally to an enslaved people. However, when you hear the call of the Lord – I have no doubt that like Moses with the burning bush; there will be no ignoring what God has called you to.
Using his privilege
After Moses’ encounter with God, God gave Moses a clear mandate to approach the most powerful man in the land…and request the most ridiculous thing. “Stop doing the thing that has benefited you, served you well, made you rich, powerful and respected…..because God told me to tell you”
Yeah – you couldn’t even make that sound plausible inside your head, let alone out of your mouth! Even Moses knew this was sheer madness and tried to make excuses that he couldn’t possibly be the right person for the job. (Yes, I too have said this lol). It turns out for every problem, God has a solution! In rolls Aaron to provide all the support Moses need’s to carry out his task.
Armed with a word from God, his brother by his side – Moses does what no other slave can do. He seeks an audience with Pharaoh (his grandfather) and his request is granted.
This is one of the greatest gifts an ally can give. To use their power, position and authority to reach the change makers. Places the lowly, unapproved and ignored simply cannot go. This sort of gift can only be given by those who have been raised or accepted by those in power.
And if that scares you half to death, don’t worry! If God has mandated you for this he will give you everything you need. It maybe people who will stand with you as you challenge the status-quo, it maybe people with skills in areas where you are weak or simply someone to emotionally support you on your journey.
Purpose & Perseverance
I am sure many of us have childhood memories about the plagues that God brought down on Egypt. Scary stuff when you are a kid (And probably still scary as an adult!) The truth is, when God determines that something will be, no amount of objections will null God’s decision.
Pharaoh may have been the all powerful king in the land of Egypt, but he wasn’t God. Pharaoh was proud, arrogant, unbelieving and stubborn. We shouldn’t curse him for this; the bible tells us that it was God who hardened his heart. I always found this to be a strange act of God that he would make someone purposely stubborn? What could the reason be for that?
I don’t have all the answers but what I do know is, sometimes God allows our path to be blocked by obstacles, problems and opponents. Some say it is about trusting God (and not your own strength) while others say it allows God to show his full power an glory. Both or neither may be true but the fact is, this is what God did.
What did Moses do in response? He stayed in close conversation with God. He listened obeyed and had his brother to support, lift and encourage him after every refusal. Imagine God asking you to do something that seems both impossible and crazy; then being not at all surprised when it doesn’t happen. You keep trying but are prevented from success at every attempt. Do you give up and consider if you heard God correctly? Do you decide this isn’t for you and refuse to continue?
Moses carried on for one simple reason. For every refusal, He saw the hand of God in the situation. God made promises, kept his work and reinforced Moses’ purpose after every refusal. Yes, things got bad for the Egyptians, very bad. Many suffered because of the stubbornness of one man. Those he should have been protecting were hurt in the process and those who once benefited from the spoils of slavery, eventually paid a heavy price. Despite seeing this, Moses was undeterred, staying close to God and watching as the Lord Almighty
As we look around us at our communities, society and the world, what do we see? Pain, anguish, terror, fear, fake news! For those who want to cling onto sinful ways, maintain the status-quo or continue to benefit from the enslavement and dehumanisation of another people – things may get really bad. For those trapped in societal slavery and bondage, freedom, mercy and justice is on it’s way.
Don’t lose hope when you see the chaos in the world! I know God has called upon the Moses’ of our season to take up their mantle. They may still be on their journey to become allies, but they are almost certainly on their way.
A reflection of Moses’ journey by Dionne Simpson.