07 July 2008

Let my people go

I wanted to reply to Frank Viola's recent blog post 'Favourite Song of the Season', but comments were closed so I'm going to reply here instead. Do visit Frank's item by clicking the link above (or the image), read the words and listen to the song. I agree with Frank, it's a great song. I love it!

The theme is one that's been very real to me for many years. It applies to the Church today, indeed it's applied to the church for the bulk of its history. Let my people go!

What do I mean? Let's say that Egypt represents the world, and Pharaoh therefore represents the Prince of this world. Meanwhile the Israelites, Yahweh's chosen people, represent the Church. The problem the Israelites had was that not only had they got into Egypt, but Egypt had also got into them. They arrived in Joseph's day, hungry and desperate and glad to find a land where there was food enough to go around. As the generations passed they became more and more dependent upon the Egyptians. At the same time, as far as the Egyptians were concerned they became a serious refugee and immigration problem, aliens in the land.

It has always seemed clear to me that the Church has gone to live in the world. The Church has adopted the world's methods of management, organisation, authority, and structure. The methods seem to work for the world and have therefore been seen as a good way to do things. Maybe we have become so used to them that they appear to be the only way to do things! If it works for government and for big business, surely it will also work for the Church?

Well, after a fashion these methods seem to work for the Church, but at a serious price. Either we do things our way or we do them the Lord's way, but we can't mix and match. We really can't. We have been making bricks without straw, and it is so, so hard for us! And when we cried out in despair, Yahweh heard us and has come to remind us that in Christ we are truly a free people.

In the end Yahweh calls Israel out of Egypt. He is also calling the Church out of the world, but like Pharaoh, the Prince of this world is unwilling to let us go. And as the Church walks away from the world it heads out, like Israel, into the wilderness. What did Israel do? They complained most bitterly. 'Why has Yahweh brought us out into the wilderness to die? At least in Egypt we ate all we needed.' So the Lord sent manna and then they complained that it was not the kind of food they wanted!

We are just the same. We hanker after the reliable and safe provision of the world rather than trust to the uncertainties and hardships of the wilderness. Yet the wilderness is just a place we must pass through to arrive at the promised land, flowing with milk and honey. But we cry, 'It's too hard, we don't like it, we're afraid, we want to go back to the world's ways, we'll make a god of gold and worship that, we will die in this wilderness, there's nothing to drink, the land he promised us is full of giants, we can never succeed.'

Listen, we have to leave the world's ways. We are in it of course, but we should never have become of it. We have to leave our comfort zones and go. We have to trudge through the wilderness, we have to learn to depend on the Lord alone, we have to believe that in him and with him we are safe and will succeed in the task he's given us.

Yes, not only have we been in the world, but the world has been in us. Enough! If you want the detailed story, read 'Pagan Christianity' by Frank Viola and George Barna. If your eyes are open the book will open them even wider. It will explain how the church came to be the slave of the world, both in it and of it. And it will explain how the Church needs to throw off everything that encumbers her and go back to the Promised Land. And live in it. Like Israel, the Church was originally in this land of promise but left, and now it's time to go back again to our inheritance.

Yes, I like the song. 'Let my people go!' Remember who it was who told Moses to speak that way to Pharaoh! It was the Creator of this universe, the King of Kings, Yahweh speaking out of his Shekinah Glory. If he says 'Let my people go' who can stand against him? So what reason can we possibly have to be afraid? Hmm?

Get walking!

1 comment:

  1. Get Walking. Great way to sign off, Chris. Those two little words say so much! Why? Well, in order to keep from allowing Egypt to get into us, it is necessary to be intentional and purposeful in our steps.

    I say that metaphorically and materially for if we make a point to walk wherever we go instead of always opting for the car, the metro, or the plane, the ramifications are many. Walking forces us to stay locale, relating to those in our neighborhoods and villages instead of rushing past everyone, too busy to notice needs or have a simple conversastion.

    Instead of "going nowhere, fast" we walk, we breathe, we rejoice and accept the limitations and uncertainties of all that it means to be human.
    Surely, this "antidote" will fly in the face of the scientific mind, but from a humanists point of view, it does have some prescience. Would that I could do it!!!!!
    Thanks for an excellent, thought-provoking piece.



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