Friday, February 18, 2011

Mandate to Pharaohs: “Let my people go”

February 11, 2011 will go down in history as the day ordinary Egyptian citizens successfully ousted a modern day Pharaoh, in a nonviolent revolution sparked by the recent successful uprising in Tunisia. It’s hard not to see this as a miraculous feat, given the kind of oppressive and dictatorial rule Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak successfully maintained in that country for over 30 years.

Which reminds me of the truly miraculous deliverance recorded in the Bible’s book of Exodus, one that took place in that same country over 3000 years before. The God of the universe, having heard the cries of the thousands of Hebrew slaves who labored there under brutal and harsh conditions, unleashed a series of disasters that finally led the Pharaoh to heed the words of God’s chosen liberator, Moses, “Let my people go!”

Since the beginning of time, the world’s Pharaohs, intent on maintaining power and adding to their lavish empires, have not given up their positions easily. But in the face of multitudes who manage to totally lose their fear and live only by their faith and hope, they can be rendered powerless. No amount of military might can stop them. God can either change the hearts of military leaders, as in the case of the 2/11 revolution, or can cause their chariots to mire down hopelessly as they pursue their subjects, as in the case of the 1290 BCE revolution.

What can we learn from this? Can we ask what might have happened to Iraq’s “Pharaoh” had we prayerfully partnered with the God of justice to bring him down, rather than through the violent means that have resulted in untold suffering and the loss of thousands of innocent lives? And dare we hope that the 2/11 event that happened recently in Egypt could set a precedent for similar liberations of a more peaceful kind?

I for one am not ready to underestimate the divine power of God-inspired justice that is in the DNA of every person on earth. Nor can I remain skeptical about what the intervention of God’s compassion can accomplish for today’s powerless and oppressed crying out for relief.

Biblical “salvation” is clearly about more than just being delivered from this present world and transported to another. Scripture is full of examples of God’s people being saved from disasters, from want, from injustices and oppression, and from their enemies, including their powerful Pharaohs and Caesars.

And all of that without the use of violence to combat violence, a strategy that ignores the life and example of Jesus and only compounds the problem it is meant to address.

Here are some related articles I found interesting:

"Egypt's Christians After Mubarak" by Cornelius Hulsman

"The Fallacy of the Clash of Civilizations" by Charles Kimball

And here's the text of a recent lecture on the Middle East by a friend of mine, Daryl Byler, serving with Mennonite Central committee in Lebanon:
Microsoft Word - Kennel-Charles Lecture.10January2011[1].pdfMicrosoft Word - Kennel-Charles Lecture.10January2011[1].pdf
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