Tag Archives: oppressed

God’s People, part 20: Slaves

Read Exodus 2:1-10

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Amram married his father’s sister Jochebed, and she gave birth to his sons, Aaron and Moses. (Amram lived to be 137 years old.)” (Exodus‬ ‭6:20‬ ‭NLT)‬‬‬‬

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

  Part 20: Slaves. Wow, we’re up to part 20 in this series and we have just gotten out of Genesis and into the book of Exodus. Thus far, we have talked mostly about prominent people in the Jewish and Christian faiths. We’ve talked about Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael, Isaac, Rebekah, Esau, Jacob, Rachel, Leah, the eleven brothers who betrayed their youngest (at the time) brother, Judah, Tamar, and Joseph.

The ones of those who are not prominent are at least named and a little can be gathered about them; however, I would like this time for us to pause and reflect on a couple of unnamed people. These people were not a people of high status or prominence in life, and they certainly are not given too much mention in the Bible either. In fact, they are barely named slaves who serve only one purpose in the Scriptures: they are the parents of Moses.

We all know the story of Moses, a story that has been acted and reenacted time and time again over the years. From sweeping, classic, epics such as The Ten Commandments to animated musicals such as “The Prince of Egypt”, the story of Moses has been told in so many different ways. In fact, their names and backstory seem to be of little interest to the writer(s) of Exodus. They are not even mentioned until chapter 6, and are only mentioned their in order to connect Moses’ lineage to the tribe of Levi, who was one of the sons of Jacob. In essence, Moses’ parents were important because they connected this “prince of Egypt” to the Jewish people by birth.

But who were Amram and Jochebed? We simply do not know who they were, other than the fact that they were slaves in Egypt and that Jochebed was technically Amram’s aunt. They got married and had Miriam, Aaron, and Moses. We also know that Pharaoh had ordered that all male Hebrew children under the age of 2 be thrown into the Nile and drowned.

Jochebed, in an attempt to avoid her child being murdered in such a horrific way, but the baby Moses in a basket and floated him down the Nile river. Miriam, who was clearly older than Moses, was tasked with ensuring that her brother ended up in the care of the Pharoah’s daughter. This was a dangerous mission, no doubt, but one that she pulled off.

We have no clue what Amram thought of this, or what was going on in their heads, because nothing else is written about them. We can only imagine the horror of thinking their baby son would be drowned in the Nile. Amram lived to 137, according to the Biblical account, but we have no idea if he was alive at this point or not. He’s simply not mentioned and the Bible explicitly names Jochebed as the “woman” who took the action to save her son’s life.

While we do not know enough about these people to speculate on what their character flaws were (which is a running theme of this series), we can instead point to the way the story is told in order to find potential flaws in us. The story only “uses” Jochebed and Amram as a means to an end, namely, to show that Moses was Hebrew and of the tribe of Levi. That serves the dual purpose of showing Moses to be both a Hebrew and the “priest” (as the Levites were priests in ancient Judaism) who was worthy of delivering the Israelites out of bondgage and back into a proper relationship with God. Other than that, they were not considered important enough to the narrative to mention anything further about them.

How often do we do the same? How often do we idolize heroes in our midst, only to ignore the unnamed or barely named, disregarded, sufferers who raised and/or inspired those heroes up? How often do we ride the stories of success on the backs of the oppressed? How often do we focus on the few who rose to prominence (only because they are prominent), to the detriment of those of whom we deem unimportant? Let us not do that. Let us see all people through the eyes of God who created them. Let us view all human beings as both important and sacred.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“The Bible has been the Magna Carta of the poor and of the oppressed.” – Thomas Huxley

PRAYER

Lord, help me to see through reading the Scriptures that you are on the side of the oppressed and the downtrodden and align my heart with you so that I stand in solidarity with them. Amen.

THE CHRISTIAN MANIFESTO, Part 8: Oppressed

Read Luke 4:13-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Don’t be surprised if you see a poor person being oppressed by the powerful and if justice is being miscarried throughout the land. For every official is under orders from higher up, and matters of justice get lost in red tape and bureaucracy.” (Ecclesiastes 5:8)

oppression11Recently, a fellow colleague and friend of mine got into a conversation about the scripture passage I was preaching on at the church that I serve. The passage is Luke 4:14-21 and is on Jesus’ first recorded visit to the synagogue in Nazareth following his baptism and wilderness experience. In that passage, Jesus is handed the scroll of Isaiah and he opens it up to the following passage: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, for He has anointed Me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.” Inspired by the conversation, I have decided to devote a series of devotions on this particular passage, which has become known as “The Christian Manifesto”.

Part 8: Oppressed. In our world, it is so very easy to see oppression just about everywhere we turn. We don’t even have to look far or wide. We merely, have to turn on the news to see oppression spill forward into our homes. Stories of people killing others because they are of a different creed, tribe, race, or all of the above. People enslaving women and children and subjegating them to all sorts of horrific and oppressive conditions. Perhaps we know of people who are in abusive relationships who, in the context of such abuse, are subjected to an oppressive living environment. Sadly, some have even found the church to be a place of oppression and subjegation.

The truth is that, no matter where we are, if there are people congregated and organized, there is bound to be oppression in one way or the other. Oppression happens when one who is in a position of power lords it over those over whom they are in power. In other words, oppression happens when power is misused and abused. Whether it be in the work enviornment, in a domestic situation, in schools, in churches, in governments, or wherever it is occuring, oppression always involves an abuse of power. You know the phrase, “absolute power corrups absolutely”; too often, good people corrupted by power become monsters and demons.

With that said, oppression is pernicious. It does not go away once the oppressor is removed; rather, oppression begets more oppression. Often times, the oppressed end up becoming the oppressor. Having risen out of being oppressed, the victim seeks to put themselves into a place of power so as to never fall victim to the abuse they endured in the past. Other times, the victim acts in an oppressive manner because it is learned behavior and it is all they have ever known, What ever the case, be it self-preservation or ignorance, the oppressed will often morph into the oppressor and the ugly, nasty cycle will continue.

Most, if not all, of us have been on both sides of the oppressed/oppressor divide. We’ve all, no doubt, been in situations where we have been abused or where power had been lorded over us in a way that made us feel week, vulnerable, threatened, and trapped. With that said, there are times (even if seemingly minor) that we have been of abusing the power that we have over others. Perhaps in our familial relationships, or in our professional relationships, or in friendships, or in our communities. The point of this is not to point the finger, but to spark a new and more wholesome self-awareness so that we can move forward from where we are to where God is calling us to be. As can be seen in the Christian Manifesto, Christ was anointed by God to set the oppressed free, which means that Christ has both set you free from being oppressed as well as from the oppression of being the oppressor. What’s more, just as Christ has begun the work of freeing the oppressed, so too we Christians are called to carry on the work of eliminating oppression and injustice from our homes, from our communities, from our world and from our midst. The task is set before you as surely as Christ is with you. Amen.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
PRAYER
Lord, end all oppression and make me a part of the solution and reconciliation process. Amen.