By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
“I have seen the afflictions of people. I have heard their cries, and therefore,
I have come down to deliver them from their slave drivers…I am sending you to
the King of Egypt so that you can lead my people out of his country.”
– Exodus 3:7, 10
June 12 is our country’s Independence Day Celebration. It is an opportune time for us to remember and to celebrate the lives of those who died for our country’s independence. It is also an appropriate moment for us to reflect on the deeper meaning and implications of freedom relative to our faith in the God of freedom, who created the heavens and the earth and continues to sustain his creation in love and in freedom.
To be free is not just to have a flag of our own; it is not just to celebrate Independence Day each year, like a dead ritual. To be free is to be able to determine our own destiny as a people. As long as our destiny as a nation is dictated or dominated and controlled by foreign powers, whether it be US, China or Russia, we are not truly free.
Our Biblical text talks about the Exodus Event. This is considered the most central event in the Old Testament (cf. Ex. 1-3). It marks the beginning of Israel as a nation. It deals about God’s liberating acts among slaves in Egypt, setting them free from the bondage of slavery.
According to the story, there was a time when the Israelites were treated nicely in Egypt. Perhaps, this was the time of the Hykssos (foreign rulers) who ruled Egypt for a long time after taking over the Empire from the Egyptian Dynasty. But then the Egyptian Dynasty returned into power under Pharaoh Amoseh. There was a change of leadership, and the Israelites grew in number and became a threat to the powers-that- be. Hence, the Egyptians enslaved them under Pharaoh Rameses II to prevent them from growing in number and from taking over once again the Empire together with other foreign powers (cf. Ex. 1).
This is the historical context surrounding the life of Moses, the great leader of the Exodus. In trying to defend the rights of a slave, Moses killed one Egyptian slave driver. That’s why he fled to the land of Median to escape from the Egyptian authorities. There he married Zipphorah, one of the daughters of Jethro, the priest of Median, and raised a family of his own.
However, Moses could not help but remember what he had seen and heard happening among his fellow Israelites in Egypt. While he was taking care of his flock in the wilderness of Median, he realized God’s call for him to be instrument of his own people’s liberation. He felt within himself a burning desire, like the “Burning Bush,” to lead his own people from slavery to freedom. He had to go back to Egypt to bring his own people out of the land of slavery into a land of freedom.
Like the Israelites of ancient times, we are also living in our own period of Exodus. We are also on a journey towards genuine freedom. It is not only freedom from foreign domination and exploitation, but also freedom from poverty and want, freedom from illegal drugs, graft and corruption, freedom from selfishness and greed for power and wealth.
Authentic freedom is not something given on a silver platter; it is something to be struggled for. It has to be paid and nurtured by the sweat and blood of freedom-loving people. The Israelites in Egypt had to cry out for freedom day and night until the God of freedom heard their cries. Moses had to suffer all sorts of criticisms and oppositions in leading his people to freedom.
Genuine freedom is not license to do anything we want. There is a line from an old hymn saying: “Make me a captive, Lord, and then, I shall be free.” God freed the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt in order to be God’s people. Genuine freedom is coupled with responsibility. To be genuinely free is to be obedient to the will of God as stipulated in God’s commandments and instructions. Paradoxically, indeed, to be genuinely free is to be a slave of God.
God of freedom
The Exodus Story is telling us that the God we believe in is a God of freedom, calling us to be instruments of freedom, and empowering us to live in freedom. He said to Moses, “I have seen the afflictions of people. I have heard their cries, and therefore, I have come down to deliver them from their slave drivers…I am sending you to the King of Egypt so that you can lead my people out of his country”(Ex. 3:7, 10).
God knows that to be an instrument of freedom is never an easy task. Thus, God said to Moses, “I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless he is forced to do so. But I will use my power and will punish Egypt by doing terrifying things there. After that he will let you go” (Ex. 3:19-20).
We must always bear in mind that in our struggle for genuine freedom, the God of freedom will be with us. God will never forsake us. God said to Moses, “I will be with you, and when you bring the people out of Egypt, you will worship me on this mountain. That will be the proof that I have sent you” (Ex. 3:12).
Our journey towards genuine freedom with God’s sovereign and abiding presence continues. Our country’s victory over the evil forces of enslavement will largely depend upon us, especially each of us who truly believe in the God of freedom.
And so, the challenge before us is not so much to die for freedom, but to live in genuine freedom.# nordis.net