Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

God Calls Us to Advocate for Social Change by “Appealing to Caesar” – Part III

A guest post by Ben Dudley
If you haven’t read the Part I or Part II, check those out first.

The Old Testament: Part I – Exodus 5:1-4
Second only to the Christ story, the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt is one of the most widely known stories in all of the world.  What was going on in Egypt that caused Moses to want to appeal to the Pharaoh?    This story is found in the book of Exodus in the Old Testament.  Pharaoh’s daughter raised Moses, born a Hebrew, in Pharaoh’s house after being hidden by his mother for fear of his death.  The Egyptians were using all of the Hebrew people as their slaves.  In chapter 5 God, remembering the promise God made to Abraham, sent Moses to Pharaoh with the instruction, “Let my people go.”

It is important for us to remember that “Israel’s election was not a rejection of other nations but was explicitly for the sake of all nations.” (Wright 2006)  God was clearly using Israel as a witness to other nations of God’s love and mercy.  God saw the chosen people of Israel being mistreated and out of a desire to fulfill God’s mission to make Israel a great nation, God sent Moses.

“God was giving notice to the fact that no power on earth could thwart the ongoing purpose he had intended for them.  If Egypt could be utterly humiliated, its militarily power completely overwhelmed, and its gods totally discredited as unworthy of human worship, then all Egypt and all nations surrounding Egypt would know that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was indeed the true God.” (Glasser and Engen 2003: 76)

Moses could very easily have gone to his people and have said, “God wants to deliver us from Egypt.  Let us take up arms and revolt and overthrow the Pharaoh.”  Moses could easily have said, “God wants to deliver us from Egypt, so when the moon is setting let us pack up our belongings and flee to the desert!”  Had he chosen this path one of the most significant messages of this story would have been missed.

“The Exodus account emphasizes the signs, plagues, and victory at the Red Sea as a demonstration to the Egyptians of the power of Yahweh.  The phrase ‘that the Egyptians [and Pharaoh] will know that I am the Lord’ and its equivalent (Exodus 7:5,8:10,12; 14:17) occurs more frequently than ‘that Israel may know’. ” (Glasser and Engen 2003: 78)

One important thing to reflect upon is God delivered the Israelites out of bondage, not Moses.  Moses was a vessel for God’s work, but it was nothing Moses did or didn’t do that freed the people.  Not only was it not Moses who freed the people, it was not Pharaoh either.  I believe this has huge significance for the thesis.  The point of appealing to Pharaoh again was not to give humans power to do good.  The point of the appeal was to bear witness to Pharaoh, Egypt and the surrounding nations about God.  When we appeal to the government we should not expect our governments to do what is merciful and just, we should appeal as a witness to the one true God.  Ferdinand Deist writes:

“God is a God who intervenes on behalf of the poor and the needy if they accept their own helplessness and call upon him in the firm belief that he alone is mighty to liberate them.  They will not therefore look to an outside power to come to their aid, because God himself will send his servant to act on his behalf” (Glasser and Engen 2003: 79). In the next part, Part IV, we will explore another passage from the OT.

Ben Dudley was born and raised in Texas, though he has always felt like he belonged on the West Coast. He and his wife now reside in Portland, Oregon. Ben is a graduate of Baylor University in 1999 with a Church Recreation and Leisure Services Degree, and is currently two years into a Master of Arts in Global Leadership Degree from Fuller Theological Seminary. He has served as a pastor in two different churches prior to moving to Portland where he and his wife, along with a core team of people are planting a church. Ben also works with CrossTraining-US where he serves as a chaplain to professional soccer players in Portland. He considers himself a very lucky man to be married to his beautiful wife Jamie, who is his best friend and partner in ministry. They both love to travel, eat good food and spend time with friends and family.

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