This Will Not Stand!

A reading for Friday, September 30, 2016: Exodus 7:14-17, 8:5-6, 16-17, 20-21; 9:1-3, 7.

Walter Brueggemann, Old Testament scholar and writer, identifies Pharaoh as the perfect image of empire power. Pharaoh believes himself to be a god, with all the rights and privileges. He takes what he wants, he uses what he wants, he controls what he wants. He answers to nobody. Pharaoh's power is hierarchical and exists outside the covenant of relationship with God and God's people. His power is illegitimate because it's power that ignores truth and justice.

Brueggemann says "Power is the capacity to organize and administer social goods and social access. Truth is the structure of reality that is in the nature of things that cannot be violated by our capacity to administer it. Power can sometimes be administered in harmony with such truthfulness, but very often power is seduced so that it runs contradictory to truth. Truth is not a set of propositions in the Bible, but a cluster of relationships. Those are relationships of dignity, well-being, security and respect. When power violates those, then those who administer such power learn is that they cannot finally withstand the force of truth. So, the truthfulness of God’s commitment to neighborliness does not give in in the long run."

The plagues that come upon Egypt and Pharaoh are in service to truth and justice. God will not let things stand the way they are, the oppressed much be released, the captives set free, and dignity, well-being, security and respect must be restored for God's people. Pharaoh and his empire will not stand in the end.

The temptation for empire power remains with us today. It's no longer called Pharaoh, but instead goes by other names that are still based in control and consumption, and it still ignores truth and justice. The good news for us and for all of creation is that God still will not let the power of empire stand. It may seem like empire has the upper hand at times, but it won't last.

Again from Brueggemann, "The truth carried by Moses is always coming from below in the cries of the slaves, but it always turns out that power from above never has the capacity to silence the cries from below. It is the cry from below that is finally generative of the historical possibility. Pharaoh is very slowly diminished and his power wanes and he does not catch on until it is too late—which I think is probably a right rendering of how that tends to work."


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