When the Israelites first stepped out beyond the border of Egypt, they could taste freedom. It is what they wanted, or so they thought. Very quickly, they began to miss the everyday securities of Egypt. Some became vocal, and soon a disgruntled group of pilgrims were pining for the peace of slavery that would soothe the chaos of wilderness.
Whether you lived in ancient Egypt, the Roman Empire, or today in the Global West, a view of the ‘good life’ is sold. Together with its unique promises of blessing, prosperity, salvation, security, and progress, this package is enticing in its benefits. But, as we’ve considered in the New Exodus posts over the past 2 years, this ‘security-package’ isn’t “Gospel” peace and joy. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad Nike’s make me run faster, Peet’s Coffee wakes me up, ATM’s feed me money when I need it, and my navigation system guides me through the maze of San Francisco. But it’s important to keep our eyes open when it comes to how we define the ‘good life.’
NT Wright sees the New Exodus theme in Paul’s writing:
“When Paul speaks of God rescuing people from one kingdom and giving them another one, and of ‘redemption’ and ‘forgiveness’ as central themes of that rescue operation, he has the Exodus from Egypt in mind. What God has done in Jesus and is now doing for them is the New Exodus, the great moment of setting the slaves free. To become a Christian is to leave the ‘Egypt’ of sin and to travel gratefully to the promised inheritance.”
Paul uses the thought-world of both his Jewish history and Roman present in order to infuse a new understanding of freedom and joy. But choosing this Exodus route means subverting, rejecting and resisting, to some extent, the false versions of salvation offered by the dominant ‘Empire’ of the day, the false versions of redemption, of freedom, of forgiveness, of blessing, of security. In our contemporary time, this is the trick – figuring out what this subverting, rejecting, and resisting looks like. As I’ve said before, you can take Israel out of Egypt, but it’s difficult to take the ‘Egypt’ out of Israel. Our habits and patterns, informed by the reality and promises of the ‘good life’ according to everything from Thomas Jefferson to Tommy Hilfiger, are deeply ingrained. Sometimes, it’s hard to think that there is a difference.
In coming posts, we’ll animate this further, contending that the Gospel of Jesus offers an alternative reality that is more compelling, and offers a better freedom, than the false securities and cheap freedoms of ‘Egypt’. Until then, consider this:
To what extent is your definition of freedom informed by the supposed ‘right’ to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (as defined during the Enlightenment), versus the ‘privilege’ of participating in the cruciform life of suffering servanthood?
What are the habits and practices of your ‘Egypt’ which capture your attention daily? If you lost these, how would you feel? To what extent has your life become dependent on these securities?