Or The Death of the Old Gods
As you can tell, the subtitle of this blog post is Death of the Old Gods. And you may also ask: how does this connect to what I learned about Exodus from our church sermon series on the Book of Exodus?
I left off in the story of Exodus chapter 1 where God rewards the midwives who opposed Pharaoh’s wicked genocidal policy towards the Israelite boys. I got on the anti-abortion soap box and how God is always for life.
Choose life, that you might live…
I’m going to skip the birth of Moses and his miraculous survival followed by his early life and his flight to Midian to escape a murder charge. Rather, I’m going to pick up where God has revealed Himself to Moses and also commissioned Moses to go back to Egypt because the old king has died and now is the right time to save Israelite. Naturally, Moses wants to know more about God and His Name.
To Moses’s surprise and mystery, and mystery for all of us, God says simply: “I AM.” In the original Hebrew, it’s just four consonants: YHWH. (The vowels were added much, much later.) The Hebrews scribes later realized how holy God is and had a certain purification rituals to be performed whenever they came across these four letters. This begs the question: I am what?
You see, all Moses knew at that point were bits and pieces that his mother told him when he was a child and the Egyptian pantheon. Now, I’ve seen enough of the cult classic movie Stargate and its follow-on the hit TV series Stargate SG-1 to know what the Egyptian and one Canaanite god look like:
These gods and goddess were associated with fertility, agriculture, thunder, death, and pretty much nature. These gods and goddesses are capricious by nature, need food and human “worship”, and can even be fooled. In Egyptian mythology, the “god” Osiris was murdered, cut into pieces. His sister-wife Isis managed to find all but once piece. This then became an Aesop-like fable about why ancient Egyptians did not eat a certain part of the body.
Really? We have: 1) a god who can be killed by 2) another god and 3) can’t be put back together, thus suffering the same fate as Humpty-Dumpty of the nursery rhyme fame, and 4) yet supposedly to be revered in worship so that the Nile won’t flood, you and your spouse will have lots of children, and appeased so that lightning doesn’t strike you dead. Or protect you in times of war. The system of worship in place is that you have to pray to them all the time, as if they need you as much as you need them.
On the other hand, there is the revealed God of Moses and his ancestors (triune, but we’ll get to that later) who declared to be omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and all loving, and above all, holy and thus all good. You can’t lie to Him, you can’t fool him, but He still cares for you even if you are unlovable at times. The God of both the Old and New Testaments is gracious and in fact slow to anger.
No wonder when the Ten Plagues of Egypt come, the old gods don’t stand a chance. Each Plague counters a specific deity and renders them powerless. Whether from ancient Greek, Rome, Babylon, Egypt, Scandinavia, or Asia, these deities are dead. There are no active temples to Zeus, Hera, Osiris, Marduk, or Ba’al. The former temples are now archaeological sites, studied by professors and gawked at by tourists.
Some will say that it was the Renaissance and the Enlightenment whose philosophies proclaim the equality of man, the age of reason and science, and intellect have reduced the need for superstitions and the fear of “the gods” of nature. Maybe. I’ll even say Nietzsche’s story Thus Spake Zarathustra and the whole “God is dead” movement in the 20th century helped along the idea or perhaps is the culmination of Enlightenment thinking.
There is more to the story because that is not our story.
Rather, Exodus is perhaps just as much as if not more controversial than Genesis. In Genesis 1, we see there IS a Creator, not the evolutionary mumbojumbo of primordial soup. Yes, I know about Urey’s experiment in 1957 except the amino acids that supposedly formed protein were the wrong kinds and unsuitable for life. Oh, and in Urey’s experiment now debunked, someone (and therefore outside the system) had to plug in the electricity to generate the required current. In Exodus, it shows man has no power to save himself and enslaved to the old gods whom by the way I suspect were made up in some campfire 15,000 years ago.
In Exodus, God is shown to be a deliverer, a liberator, a redeemer, a protector and a guide to the Israelites. For the first time in 430 years, the Hebrews are free. They are free to go and worship God in the Promised Land. Whoo! For the first time, the Hebrews were truly alive and free.
Bottom, the good thing is that man has been delivered from the old gods. We’re free, aren’t we?
If the story of Exodus were to end when Moses parted the Red Sea and the people escaped, it would be the high note. End of the movie. Roll credits.
But the story is not over.
There is still one old god left: oneself. Yes, the narcissistic, selfish, conniving, power-hungry, angry, petty, jealous YOU. And me. And as the story continues, the Hebrews complain a lot. It reveals their distrust in Jehovah God and they try to do things their way. But in case we are hard on them, we too complain a lot. It reveals our own distrust in Jehovah God and we try to do things our way.