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August 5, 2008 / beidson

Plundering the Egyptians: The Promise of Life in a Culture of Death

Ever dreamed of being a modern-day Moses, leading oppressed Americans through the Mississippi River on dry ground, away from the clutches of crooked politicians and propagandizing Hollywood writers and directors, through the deserts of Nevada to the shores of Virginia, eating organic foods as you go and meeting with God face to face on top of the Smoky Mountains? 

Probably not.  But this dream is not as far-stretched as you might imagine at first.  In fact, our world is not entirely different from the world of ancient Egypt, where Pharaoh ruled with fury over the tired and weary Hebrew people.  For those of us who are hoping in Jesus the deliverer, we know well that our world is very much darkened by death.  It is no secret that death reigns in our culture, whether evidenced in graveyards or in the classroom–our bodies are dying along with our empty philosophies and ideas.  Without Christ, people are doomed to dwell in the darkness of a Christless world.

But we have hope, just as the Israelites did.  Even if the midst of our daily suffering and fighting with sin and its effects, we are promised that we will be delivered from its authority, and more, that we will have authority over it.  As the Israelite slaves plundered their evil masters, so we too will plunder our oppressors.  This does not mean that battered wives will always get all of their abusive husbands’ posssessions, or that the under-paid employee will one day give orders to his insensitive boss, or that Christians being tortured because of their faith will be delivered from the cruel hands of their enemies.  These things may happen, but this is not promised to us.  What is promised is much better–an inheritance kept in heaven, to be enjoyed eternally with the King of all creation.

The author of Hebrews understood this.  Writing to persecuted believers, he said: ” and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one” (10:34).  Of Moses he wrote: “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.  He considered the reproach of Christ of greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” (11:24-26).  These persecuted believers had found themselves in good company with Moses, refusing to crown themselves with all that the world holds precious and instead looking for an even greater reward.  They were plundered by their enemies in order that they might one day be vindicated by a deliverer, who would then turn and plunder their offenders once and for all.

This deliverer is Jesus, “the founder and perfector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (12:2).  His life was plundered, but so that he might turn and plunder his enemies.  He gave up his life in order that he might take it back once and for all.  In the moment of his suffering his enemies mocked him and cursed him and robbed him of everything, even his own life.  But it was in this moment of “plundering” that Jesus was plundering his enemies.  In this moment of death, God was giving life.  Just as Moses despised the riches of Pharaoh, Jesus despised the political riches and power offered to him by Satan.  And as the persecuted believers of Hebrews forfeited their earthly possessions for a better one, so Jesus gave up the world so that he might inherit all of creation. 

And we are no different.  At every turn we are offered life by those who claim to know what life is all about: youthfulness, fun, entertainment, unrestricted freedom, money, power, political peace and fame.  But these things cannot give life, and in fact often bring death.  Youthfulness comes with a high self-centered price tag.  Unrestricted freedom comes at the cost of aborted children and sexual immorality.  Political peace comes at the price of compromise, as politicians sideline matters of life in order to gain a broader voter base.  Having fun becomes the litmus test for quality of life: those who have more fun have a better life, therefore, whatever it takes to have fun, do it, so that you can have a better life.  Those who aren’t having fun must having something wrong with them.  And all of these practices stem from a worldview rooted in sin, which is rooted in death.  And this is why we see signs of death everywhere.  It seems that in every way our enemies are sucking the life right out of our world.

But in Christ, we too may plunder our enemies, though it comes at the cost of our own lives.  This will mean many things to many people.  Some may have to give up land and riches and honor in this life in order to gain an eternal inheritance in Christ.  Some may have to be imprisoned on behalf of the unborn, in order that life may be defended in a death-loving culture.  This will most certainly mean giving up a comfortable middle-class American life, and dreams of a cozy retirement.  It may mean adoption for some, and moving elderly parents into homes for others.  It might mean enduring ridicule as a “fundamentalist” from those who deem themselves sophisticated.  And it might even mean certain death for some of us.  But we must gladly be plundered in the hope that we will one day have our reward in Christ, and with him, put our foot down on the neck of our enemies, Satan and death.

Moses will never take us through the Mississippi River, at least, not in this life.  But like us, Moses too looks to Jesus to rescue him from an angelic Pharaoh, the serpent and deceiver.  And when Christ inherits all of creation, we will all be glad we refused to enjoy the riches of Pharoah’s kingdom, for ours will be an eternal, everlasting kingdom, and our King will be the one who plunders the domain of darkness and takes the life right out of death.

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