An Old Story of The Hard Heartedness of An Ancient People And Their Pharaoh
It’s not just left-leaning writers, like Nicholas Kristof, who are attempting to diffuse the paranoia of an “invasion” of impoverished refugees. Fox News anchor Shepard Smith calmly and succinctly called out the fearmongering for what is. David Thornton of the unapologetically conservative website, The Resurgent) tried to disarm the disinformation campaign as well.
All three are in agreement that there’s no need for a massive troop build-up at the U.S.-Mexico border. Like its prequel in April, 2018, there’s not likely to be much of a caravan left by the time a few of them make the 1,000-mile trek on foot. There’s also no evidence of Middle-eastern terrorists masquerading as Central American migrants. But I guess brown is the new black and they all look alike, right?
Why is this feverish fear so contagious? It has politicians “concerned” about people exercising their right to vote. The civil rights’ era label of “outside agitators” has been pulled from the recycle bin to apply to voting rights activists. It has lawmakers wanting to revoke the citizenship of people born in this country. It has conspired to disenfranchise the Natives of this land from casting ballots.
Exodus of the West?
Could the book of Exodus give us a clue to what’s going on in the minds of some Americans, who consider themselves the Americans? Let’s consider the following excerpt:
Joseph and his brothers and all that generation died. The Israelites, however, were fruitful, increased greatly, multiplied, and became extremely strong, so that the land was filled with them.
Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power over Egypt. He said to his people, “Look at the Israelite people, more numerous and stronger than we are! Come, let’s deal wisely with them. Otherwise they will continue to multiply, and if a war breaks out, they will ally themselves with our enemies and fight against us and leave the country.”
So they put foremen over the Israelites to oppress them with hard labor. As a result they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more they multiplied and spread. As a result the Egyptians loathed the Israelites, and they made the Israelites serve rigorously. (Ex. 1:6-13, NET)
Let’s dissect a couple of things here. First, this king had a case of selective memory and strategic forgetfulness. How is it that he could know about a foreign people living in his land, but not know how they got there and where they came from? He referred to this rapidly growing demographic as Israelites, in other words, the offspring of Israel. Doesn’t referring to them as Israelites beg the question, Who was Israel and how did his offspring come to reside in Egypt?
The truth is, this king didn’t want to know about Joseph’s role in making Egypt great. Pharaoh wanted to deny or diminish any people or accomplishments that would credit outside agitators with meaningful progress to Egyptian science, politics, economics. To borrow from Rage Against the Machine’s “No Shelter,” this king’s agenda was for everyone to see through…
[Egyptian] eyes, [Egyptian] eyes
View the world through [Eyptian] eyes
Bury the past, rob us blind
And leave nothing behind!
It’s much like American amnesia regarding people like Peter Salem, Paul Cuffe, Benjamin Banneker, Charles Drew, Garrett Morgan, Alice Ball, Dorothy Vaughan, Patricia Bath, or Michelle Alexander. Hebrews in Egypt could’ve identified with Public Enemy’s line, “Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps.”
Not only was there deliberate disinformation going on, there was also irrational anxiety. As Proverbs 28:1 says, “A wicked person flees when no one is chasing him” (NET). Why would this pharaoh imagine that a people whose ancestors had helped Egypt prosper during a catastrophic famine join ranks with a foreign army? Could it have been the unrestrained greed and unresolved guilt of the Egyptian leaders that aroused their fears of the Hebrews? Did his legacy of subjugating others to get ahead make him dread his chickens coming home to roost?
Pharaoh’s ignorance and fear led to increasingly oppressive policies. The harsher the Egyptians treated the Israelites, the more they despised and feared them. What the pharaoh and his followers didn’t realize is that retribution wouldn’t come by the hands of the Hebrews themselves. God’s hand would hold His cup of wrath to their lips until the last drop of His indignation was swallowed. The more pharaoh hardened his heart against human cries for mercy and Divine calls for justice, the fuller the bitter cup of vengeance became.
Siphon Up – Trickle Down
Pharaoh could have saved his empire and family a lot of devastation by humbling himself before God and changing his ways. However, it seems almost impossible for rich, powerful bullies to repent. They fear that if they repent, then they might have to repay (Luke 19:1-10). Such people are rare as a camel walking through the eye of a needle. Most prefer to keep siphoning up surpluses, while stingily allowing droplets of sustenance to trickle down.
Just as ancient Egypt had its chance, 21st century pharaohs have their chance to reverse course and be agents of reconciliation, peace, and prosperity for the people under their authority. However, Revelation lets us know that just as with Egypt, worldly powers in the last days are filling up God’s cup of wrath by serving themselves at the people’s expense. Soon a global series of plagues will eclipse the severity of Egypt’s tribulation.
Exorcising the Demonic Forces of Fear
As in Exodus 12, there is a way for the people of God to escape, and it’s not by colonizing the moon or Mars. Jesus is our Passover Lamb, who takes away the sins of the world (1 Corinthians 5:7; John 1:29). This Lamb dedicated Himself to be our sacrifice before the world even began (Revelations 13:8). However, our profession of faith in Him has to be more than meeting under a steeple or having cross tattoos and jewelry (Matthew 7:21-23).
Faith in Jesus means walking in the light of truth and love with Him (1 John 1:6-7). As we walk with Jesus, He infuses us with a love that casts out fear and brings us into fellowship with others we wouldn’t normally gravitate to (1 John 2:6-11 and 4:18). Instead of seeking to take the life of others, Jesus’ love moves us to live sacrificially for their benefit (1 John 3:16-17, Romans 12:1). Living out the gospel in this manner gives us confidence, rather than fear, when judgment comes (Proverbs 19:17; Matthew 25:31-46). It also give us peace of mind in this life (2 Timothy 1:7).