Good morning! We continue in our series “Questions God Asks” with the other worshipping communities of Boone UMC. We all have questions for God: God, why did you let this awful thing happen? God, what do you want of me? God, how do I know you’re real? These questions are good and welcomed, by the church, by God. And yet, what about God’s questions. God has questions too, for us. The question that God is asking us today is: Who is the Lord? Hear God’s Word from Exodus 5:1-5. I’ll be reading from The Message translation:
5 After that Moses and Aaron approached Pharaoh. They said, “God, the God of Israel, says, ‘Free my people so that they can hold a festival for me in the wilderness.’”
2 Pharaoh said, “And who is God that I should listen to him and send Israel off? I know nothing of this so-called ‘God’ and I’m certainly not going to send Israel off.”
3 They said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness so we can worship our God lest he strike us with either disease or death.”
4-5 But the king of Egypt said, “Why on earth, Moses and Aaron, would you suggest the people be given a holiday? Back to work!” Pharaoh went on, “Look, I’ve got all these people bumming around, and now you want to reward them with time off?”
This is the Word of God for us the people of God. Thanks be to God!
Phillip turns two this Wednesday. Whoever came up with the notion of “terrible two’s” owes me big time. The saying just flat out doesn’t apply to Phillip. “Sir terribleness” has been on a mission since about 18 months, and especially in the last couple of months. One of the most unsettling things he’s doing is being afraid of things. He says “Daddy I’m scared” at least once every hour these days. It’s his 2-year old way of asking me “why”, of asking me “how”, of asking me if he can trust that he’ll be alright and taken care of, if he’ll live even. And every time I’m trying to assure him “Phillip it’s okay, Phillip you’ll be fine”. I want him to know that as long as his mommy and daddy are with him he’ll be taken care of. I want him to know deeply who we are so that he can trust us. I believe that’s what the author of Exodus is after in this passage, for us to be able to answer the question: “Who is the Lord?”
Pray with me.
The Exodus story of Moses and the Hebrews is a common one. Hollywood has even pitched its own version. Chapter 5 has no bells and whistles and lights. It’s typically overlooked and yet Chapter 5 actually stands out. It shows us the brutality and terror of the Egyptian slave system, a system that thrived off of making humans into subjects, a system that was fueled from punishing opposition, a system that blamed its slaves for their conditions, a system that used divide-and-conquer tactics to keep its subjects brainwashed, a system that put power into the hands of only those on the top. Though the entire chapter tells the conditions of these slaves, the slaves themselves, the oppressed, are voiceless; they never speak a word. Everyone else speaks for them, even the writer of Exodus. Of course Hollywood would turn from such a chapter. We often do too. We’d much rather rush to the portions that don’t make us feel guilty, that make it easy for us to identify only with the ones who triumph, with the ones whose side God is on. But that’s not clear in this passage. Moses even questions God’s commitment.
Who is the Lord?
A horrifying question. Pharaoh asks it, with sarcasm even. Yet each character in the story is really asking the same question, Moses and Aaron, the people and Pharaoh. The answer to this question stares evil right in the face. It settles the matter of whether or not evil has the upper arm. Nobody gets off the hook then. It’s the question before us too. And it appears that God is answering it as well. Because evil doesn’t just lie down; to overcome evil, and death, and pain, and suffering requires struggle, for us and for God. Who is the Lord? Who is the Lord?
God doesn’t force an answer. God doesn’t wave a magic wand. God doesn’t give the full picture up front. God’s answer is not one that we can fully possess or claim. God continues to enter into relationship, God continues to work through promises.
Who is the Lord?
And God responds:
Luke 4:18-19 (NLT)
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that prisoners will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
19 and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”
Who is the Lord?
Psalm 23 (KJV)
23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Who is the Lord?
The question echoes throughout history. We hear it in a different register from the lips of Jesus even: “Who do you say that I am?” Jesus makes it personal. Because ultimately our knowledge of God has everything to do with the way we see ourselves, our own identities. What kind of person am I? What kind of people will we be? Pharaoh doesn’t know the Lord. His heart is hardened. Both, have deadly effects on the Hebrews. Will our hearts be a home for faith, for courage, for compassion? Will our lives demonstrate the people we are? What do our daily lives communicate about how we deal with evil in the world, in our neighborhoods, in our own lives? God deals with evil altogether different than we’d expect: through nonviolent love, through a cross. THIS…..is the Lord we claim! Amen!