During Lent at Andrews UMC, we’re taking a look at five of the most important Old Testament stories and how they might help us better understand why Easter Sunday is so worth celebrating.
Our God saves.
That’s the message of the story of the Exodus. That’s what makes it so memorable and so important to remember. Through a man named Moses and his brother Aaron, using plagues and a dramatic parting of the Red Sea, God sets the Israelites free from oppressive slavery.
God describes this saving action with the Hebrew verb nasal, translated in the NIV as “I will rescue them” (3:8). Walter Brueggemann offers an alternative translation: “snatches them up.”*
This could seem like a strange way to rephrase the act of rescuing… except when I think of how we snatch up our small children almost every day.
Our fifteen-month-old has recently learned to walk. Items that seemed harmless not long ago are now highly dangerous: the coffee table, the stairs, even the floor. First comes the thud; next, a brief, suspense-building silence; and then, the first heartbreaking cry. Every fiber in my being, every bit of maternal instinct demands that I drop everything and go and SNATCH HIM UP. I pull him into my arms and hold him tight as he cries. My heart swells as I whisper words of comfort and rock him and keep him safe.
Is this what God did for the Israelites? God “heard them crying out” (3:7) and so God came down and snatched them up?
This is what our God does. This is who God is. Our God saves.
The dark side of this is the easily-made observation that sometimes, we cry out and God doesn’t come down. Or God seems to take an unnecessarily “long period” of time before salvation comes (2:23). Why has the Syrian civil war gone on for 3 years? Why did the Jewish persecution last 12 years under Hitler? Why did slavery go on in American for 245 years? Why so long?
I’ll tell you honestly: I don’t know.
But here’s what I do know: because God came down, no suffering lasts forever.
God’s people were suffering so God came down to snatch them up. That describes what happened with the Exodus, but not only with the Exodus.
Just a few months ago we celebrated the birth of Christ, the moment when God came down in the form of a human-born baby boy. In another month or so we’ll celebrate the end of that life, the end that became a beginning for all of us.
God came down. God saved us.
Perhaps you’re in a phase of too-long suffering right now. Too long without a job, too long in bad health, too long in grief, too long in a broken relationship. I don’t know why these wilderness periods go on so long. But I do know they do not get the final say. We are not doomed to carry our sin forever. Not even death is the end for us.**
The end of the story is always:
Our God saves.
* In the New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary.
** In the words of Frederick Buechner, “The Resurrection means the worst thing is never the last thing.” See, Listening to Your Life.