Read: Exodus 1:22 – 21:29
I’m late again, I know. And I’m also behind. I was trying to decide whether I should catch up and then blog or just reflect on what I’ve read. I decided on the latter. So here goes!
This week’s reading began the long history of the Israelites and their adventures, misadventures, victories and utter failures and disappointments. I hesitate to admit that I struggled (am struggling) with this book in a way that I didn’t struggle with Genesis. I know I’m going to deal with this as I work my way through the Scriptures, but, being as familiar with the narrative of Moses and the Israelites as I am, I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because it’s been one of those weeks. It’s that cognitive dissonance again. Ugh, horrid feeling.
I wonder if the Israelites suffered from cognitive dissonance. Here is this great mass of people, escaping from their bondage in a foreign country and traveling to a land promised them by God. They have just witnessed terrific, horrible plagues and have crossed the Red Sea on dry land! God has preserved and prospered them in the midst of slavery, chaos, and destruction. And now they’re in the middle of the wilderness. Wishing they were back in Egypt.
Whaaa? How do you go from being a slave to being set free, and then wishing you were a slave again? It wasn’t until I studied American Reconstruction that I sorta’ kinda’ understood where they were coming from. After the Civil War ended and slaves left their masters to begin new lives as free men and women, some found themselves wishing that they could go back to the plantation. They may have been freed, but America, as yet, didn’t know what that meant politically or socially. Freedom for blacks didn’t hold the same meaning it held for whites. The question of what equality means in America wouldn’t be answered for many years and only after much suffering, chaos, and heartache. As a result, some would have rather returned to the old way of life where, at least they had a place to stay and food to eat, rather than have no certain place in society at all.
That train of thought makes sense for the black ex-slave of 19th century America, but not for descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. How do you question your place in the world when you have a pillar of cloud keeping you cool and guiding you through the day and a pillar of fire keeping you warm and protected at night? How do you experience the miracle of living in the only part of a country that has light when the rest it is shrouded in heavy, suffocating darkness? How do you question God’s will for your life when all around you are the bloodcurdling screams of those who’ve lost their eldest sons and your sweet child is still alive and well? How do you cross the Red Sea on dry land and look back to see that the waters have swallowed up your enemies and then question whether or not you should have left Egypt after all? I don’t get it! I will never understand what was going through the minds of these stubborn people!
On one hand, they know that God has saved them from bondage. They know this is the same God who gave Abraham a son in his old age, who wrestled with Jacob and renamed him Israel, who brought Joseph to Egypt and made him second in command to Pharaoh and saved the world from a seven year famine. They knew all the stories that had been passed down from generation to generation. These were their stories. This was their family. But they also knew that traveling in the wilderness, the scarcity of water, the cries of tired children, the uncertainty of the great unknown was not what they bargained for when they dreamed of freedom. And as these two beliefs swam around in their travel weary brains, I can only imagine their discomfort.
That is cognitive dissonance. When two or more conflicting cognitions try to set up shop in your mind, you can’t help but feel uncomfortable.
Perhaps I struggled (am struggling) in Exodus because I got bored. I know this stuff backwards and forwards after all, must I read this again? Can I just skim this so I can type up something intelligible for Read Along Tuesday? But when I stop long enough to pay attention, I know that this frame of mind is utterly ridiculous because this is my story! The dissatisfied child of God who is facing the great unknown and would rather go back to what she knows and is comfortable with. Yeah, that’s me. I know the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I know that He is King of kings and Lord of lords. I know that He’s the Beginning and the End. How can I stand at the start of 2013 and look back at all the battles He has fought for me thus far and question my worth? How can I read journal entries and look through and not know that God takes care of me despite of all the stupid things I’ve said and done? How can I look back at all the wonderful memories of the past twenty-something years and not know that my heavenly Father has a specific place in this world for me? This is my God who brought me out of the land of my enemy, out of the house of captivity. I am free indeed.
Enough with the cognitive dissonance. I know in whom I believe and He holds me in His care :)
There’s an old Sara Groves song called ‘Painting Pictures of Egypt’ that captures perfectly the sentiments in Exodus. It started playing in my head halfway through this post! Enjoy!
On to Leviticus!!