Exodus 11 Believers must use their authority not to oppress but to free people to fulfil their calling
Exodus 11 Believers must use their authority not to oppress but to free people to fulfil their calling
Now the Lord said to Moses, “One more plague I will bring on Pharaoh and on Egypt; after that he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will surely drive you out from here completely. Speak now in the hearing of the people that each man ask from his neighbor and each woman from her neighbor for articles of silver and articles of gold.” The Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Furthermore, the man Moses himself was greatly esteemed in the land of Egypt, both in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants and in the sight of the people.
Moses said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘About midnight I am going out into the midst of Egypt, and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of the Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the millstones; all the firstborn of the cattle as well. Moreover, there shall be a great cry in all the land of Egypt, such as there has not been before and such as shall never be again.
But against any of the sons of Israel a dog will not even bark, whether against man or beast, that you may understand how the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.’ All these your servants will come down to me and bow themselves before me, saying, ‘Go out, you and all the people who follow you,’ and after that I will go out.” And he went out from Pharaoh in hot anger. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh will not listen to you, so that My wonders will be multiplied in the land of Egypt.” Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh; yet the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the sons of Israel go out of his land.
The practice of granting a birthright to an eldest son was a widespread tradition and custom in Israel and in the ancient Near East. The firstborn is given preference to inherit his father’s responsibilities and stature as head of the family. Firstborn also means the greatest: “I also shall make him My firstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth.” – Psalm 89:27. In the ancient world, the firstborn is ubiquitously perceived as the strength and vision of the family, tribe or nation. And he is the heir of the covenantal promises of God. The slaying of the firstborn spelled certain death to the legacy of Egypt. Egypt, the oppressor is now put down, this time to be oppressed by other nations. Those who are accustomed to oppressing others will invariably have their legacy clipped. Consequently, their descendants will be oppressed by others. As believers, we must never use our position of authority to oppress or to manipulate others into serving our causes. But we must do all to build them up and to free them to follow the footsteps of Jesus. Today’s devotion teaches us: We must use our authority not to oppress but to free people to fulfil their potential and calling.
Now the Lord said to Moses, “One more plague I will bring on Pharaoh and on Egypt; after that he will let you go from here.
The Lord has determined that this one last plague is the straw that will break the camel’s back. This time, the Pharaoh will do more than just release them. With great sorrow and desperation, he will drive them out. Moses also instructed the people to ask their Egyptian neighbours for articles of silver and gold. How does God’s favour work in causing the Egyptians to accede to the Israelites’ requests? The text offered no explanation except the commendation of Moses’s eminence. One possibility relates to the perception of Moses and the Israelites as being the firstborn of God. The Egyptians have witnessed how the plagues have pummeled their nation while leaving the Israelites unscathed. It is probable, the Egyptians parted with their valuables out of reverence and fear of greater retribution should they refuse.
Moses said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘About midnight I am going out into the midst of Egypt, and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die.
This last plague was different from the other plagues in that the Lord Himself will be going out into the midst of Egypt. As compared to the other plagues, Moses did not play an active part in initiating this one. Yet it decisively broke the Pharaoh’s will causing him to release the people. This plague slayed all the firstborns of Egypt regardless of social status, man or animal. So severe was this plague it irreparably crippled the Egyptian empire. So comprehensive was the plague that there was not a single Egyptian family who did not witness the death of their firstborn. The firstborn is the gem, the embodiment of strength and blessing. If the firstborn dies, the future of the family, tribe and nation dies with him.
But against any of the sons of Israel a dog will not even bark, whether against man or beast.
By killing the firstborn, God sealed the fate of the Egyptian empire while paving a glorious future for Israel. Here, God drew a distinction between Israel and Egypt that no harm could come to Israel. Pharaoh remained adamant at the face of repeated warnings and incurred the death of the firstborn. Thus, Egypt began a slow decline and was eventually conquered by the Assyrians in 671 BCE.
Believers must use their authority not to oppress but to free people to fulfil their calling
Our tendency as human beings is to manipulate, to oppress another so that they may serve our purposes. However, the Lord is concerned for the oppressed and He promises to deliver the afflicted and punish the oppressor. The psalmist says,
May he vindicate the afflicted of the people,
Save the children of the needy
And crush the oppressor. – Psalms 72:4
God, having seen the Israelites’ suffering, responded by “coming down” to deliver them,
The Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, …” – Exodus 3:7-8a.
Consequently, the Egyptian oppressors were defeated and had their fate sealed. The bible warns against all kinds of oppression in the family, in the workplace and in the nation. To oppress is to manipulate the weak for selfish gain. An oppressor is one who treats people unfairly and cruelly to deprive them opportunities and freedom. He is also one who hurts or frightens someone who is smaller and less powerful, often forcing him or her to do something that they do not want to do
Oppression in the society
Oppression is rampant in today’s society. In the case of the family, a senior figure utilises his position to withhold and grant favour in an unfair manner. In some cultures, girls are subtly oppressed and boys are given preference in the family. There is also oppression at the workplace where the weak are forced to work for the interests of more powerful individuals. Those who do not speak up for themselves are often treated unjustly. And there is oppression at the national level where a class or ethnic group is deprived of the opportunities to thrive with the rest of the nation. Foreign workers are oppressed when they are not treated justly and their voices often fall on deaf ears. There is oppression whenever people are not treated with dignity, justice and mercy.
The believer’s mission is not to convert, but to fight against oppression in the society. We must be the change agent to free families from the bondage of hate and manipulation. In the workplace, we must speak up for those who are too timid to speak for themselves. The church must see to the dignity and welfare of those neglected by the general population.
Oppression in the church
People thought if they enter into the church, they could find solace, righteousness, peace and joy. But many find themselves oppressed by hypocrisy and another kind of evil.
Jesus preached against oppression in the church of His time where the Pharisees ”tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.” – Matthew 23:4. Church leaders in a bid to raise funds for their opulent buildings and outreach programmes compel their members to downgrade their matrimonial homes to contribute to their coffer. But the leaders themselves live in posh apartments and did not do what they preach.
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees who “shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” – Matthew 23:13. Many church leaders today shore up membership and finances by preaching a worldly gospel. And many who bought into their gospel will not experience salvation. By peddling what the people desire, these leaders will certainly inherit the demise of their legacy.
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees who accorded special privileges to the wealthy while relegating the poor to an inferior position (see Matthew 23:16). In today’s churches, the rich are often given preferential treatment according to the gold they placed at the altar. Such is also a form of oppression.
Jesus came to the Jewish church first so that in cleansing it, others might come and find salvation. Therefore, believers must follow in the footsteps of Jesus to restore righteousness and freedom in the church.
Oppression in the soul
Sin oppresses the soul imprisoning him in all kinds of darkness and evil: fear, hate, greed, lust, pride, unbelief and falsehood etc. A person who is oppressed in the soul cannot stop himself from doing evil because he is a prisoner of sin. The apostle Paul said,
For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin… For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. … but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. – Romans 7:14,19,20,23.
Oppression in the soul is the root of all oppressions in the society. Without deliverance from the oppression of the soul, there is no freedom. Hence, believers are not to just preach Jesus but to destroy the bondage of sin in the souls of people. Our mission is to deliver people from slavery to be adopted as sons of God. Paul said,
For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” – Romans 8:15
Ministers of the New Covenant is greater than Moses
Moses wielded supernatural power that crippled the Egyptian empire. Thus, he is considered as one of the greatest man in biblical history. Yet Moses with all his glory cannot remove the veil that blocked the hearts from receiving the truth that can set them free. He succeeded in taking the Israelites out of Egypt, but could not take Egypt out of them. Consequently, they could not enter the promised land. Being condemned, their bodies rotted in the wilderness. Paul said,
But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. – 2 Corinthians 3:15-17
The key to freedom is not in removing oppression in the society through physical might. But in removing the oppression of sin from the soul by the power of the Spirit. Today, the ministers of the New Covenant can do what Moses could not. Not only do we possess authority over the angels, we have authority to destroy sin itself. And this authority is given to believers who walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Jesus said to His disciples,
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. – John 14:12-14
As church leaders, figures of authority in the family, companies and nation, we must carry ourselves with righteousness, and mercy. Whatever our capacity may be, we are tasked to destroy sin and to free them to fulfil their potential and calling.
Dear Lord, I thank you for making me a minister of the New Covenant. Anoint me with your Spirit so that I may help destroy the bondage of sin. Use me to remove oppressions that work in the soul, in the family, society and nation. I lay down my life as your vessel. Give me boldness and wisdom to stand up to oppressive people. For I trust that you have granted me divine authority of the angels to assist me in my mission. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.