The story of the Exodus shows a God who looks down from heaven and sees the plight and suffering that his people, the Hebrews, are experiencing because of oppression and injustice. In response, this God says “No more.” In this passage, God shows himself to be personal, faithful, and compassionate. God uses language associated with the human experience as a way of showing his closeness to his creation. God says that he has seen, heard, and is concerned with the sufferings of his people at the hands of the Egyptians. In light of this, God decides that it is time to act, and announces, “I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians and bring them to a land of abundance. Finally, God chooses Moses as the instrument of His divine intervention.
For many people, the Exodus story is a feel-good story but has no impact on their lives. The Exodus story seems so far removed from our current reality. However, could the Exodus story, in fact, be an illustration of the liberation and deliverance that God has willed for all his people? Could it be that that same God still cares for and loves his people, so much so that he would again be willing to again come down and deliver them?
As we read the passage, we ask ourselves what God means when He says, I have come down to deliver them. What does that mean in our current reality which seems so overcome with division, hate, racism, sexism? I believe that, for us, we must turn or gaze upon Jesus, God incarnate.
Jesus, in his inaugural sermon found in Luke 4:18-19, declares, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” The flesh and blood Jesus declares; I have come down to deliver them. This Jesus, who is truly the second person of the Trinity, decides that he will come down and make things right.
Jesus, whom we long to know and desire to follow, is a liberator.
Jesus, through his inaugural declaration and his liberating work on the cross, took on the enmity, division, and hatred of the oppressors, and destroyed their power. He freed us through the work of the Holy Spirit to be reconciled with Himself and with one another, and then calls us to be agents of that reconciliation and justice.
Proverbs 28:5 states, “The evil do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it completely. This notion entails that Christians are called to pursue justice. James Cone in his work, A Black Theology of Liberation, states, “To know God is to know God’s work of liberation on behalf of the oppressed. God’ revelation means liberation, an emancipation from death-dealing-political, economic, and social structures of society. This is the essence of biblical revelation.”1
However, Jesus is not interested in solely liberating and proclaiming the kingdom of God on his own; instead, he invites ordinary fishers to leave their places of comfort and provision and to follow him in his plan of redemption and deliverance.
God’s liberating action does not require our involvement, but that we have been invited by Christ as his body to participate. In our proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we join hand-in-hand with Christ, in his mission of reconciling all things to the Father, through the work of the Holy Spirit, so that His kingdom might come, and His will might be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Thus, in our call to follow Jesus, we are obligated to find the places that don’t look so promising, and (empowered by the Holy Spirit be people of the promise) we must be committed to doing the work of reconciliation and liberation that is required there. I surmise that the church is the most powerful entity on the planet, because it is the vehicle by which Jesus speaks, acts, moves, and liberates by way of the Holy Spirit. The church, when joined to Christ in mission, becomes an instrument of His divine intervention.
James, Cone. A Black Theology of Liberation. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1970), 48. ↩
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Thank you for your response. I have not read the James Cone book you mention but I am currently reading The Cross and the Lynching Tree. When I read the second chapter of this book I hoped to never be a Niebuhr in my reaction to the past lynchings and the current brutality to blacks in our sick nation but to speak up for the suffering around the world-here in our country but in the entire world.