Jesus and the suffering in Exodus1
So Moses said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again.
- Exodus 11:4-6
Today’s passage is full of pain, sadness and heartache. Every Egyptian house was touched with tragedy. The intensity and comprehensiveness of this tragedy strikes us hard.
How can this be fair or just? How could God do this?
The bigger Exodus narrative tells us that God is executing his judgment here. But this goes beyond judgment. We’re dealing with mystery in this passage … and in all of the moments like it.
Human history is full of moments when God does or doesn’t act. We don’t always understand it. Earlier in the Exodus narrative, the Egyptians started a program of killing Hebrew baby boys, throwing them into the Nile River. Who knows how long this season of government-sanctioned hate-crimes lasted or how many baby boys were killed? Who knows why God didn’t stop it before it started?
Thousands of years later, Jesus picked up the Exodus narrative and fulfilled and relived it.
When Jesus was born, a fearful king ordered the slaughter of all of the baby boys in Bethlehem under age two. All of the boys, just like at the beginning of Exodus. Jesus’ parents fled to Egypt – of all places! note that he’ll be coming out of Egypt, just like Israel did in the Exodus! – to escape the danger. As Jesus grew up, people were favorably disposed toward him, ultimately cheering him and waving palm branches at him as he entered into Jerusalem. But that favorable disposition didn’t last.
The crowd turned on him. God’s firstborn son – God’s son whom he loves – died on the cross. Who knows what grief filled the heart of God? The sun was darkened. The earth shook. All creation held her breath to see what would happen.
And in great mystery, Jesus was raised to new life.
We may not completely understand why God does what he does, but we do know something about him. We know that he’s no stranger to suffering. We know that he’s at work for good in an evil world. We know that he loves us. And we know that he has power at his disposal to turn even the saddest stories into stories where all the tears will be wiped away.
We can go to him with our pain, sadness, heartache and all of our questions.
Where do you need God’s comfort today? What questions do you need to be asking God today?