Following our work with Matthew at the retreat, we explored Exodus 3:7-10, which involves God calling Moses to bring his people out of Egypt.
Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. They cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.
We reflected on this, and the other passages, using the methodology of Lectio Divina. This involves three readings. After the first, we named words that stuck out. Then we read a second time and name a possible message. Following the third reading we considered the call the text has for us.
Working with Exodus 3:7-10, I learned the value of this methodology through the evolution of my own interpretation.
After the first reading, “I have their cry on account of their taskmasters” stuck out to me. I had never heard it described that way and it seemed such an odd sentence construction. Did God hear “on account of the taskmasters” or is the cry the result of these taskmasters.
Sentence structure and syntax is a fickle thing and this particular case caught my attention. Specifically, it sent my mind into considering how we carry our own preconceptions into how we interpret scripture and discern God’s voice. Before I got to far thinking through that we did the second reading.
In the second reading, we named various messages. It seemed fairly straight-forward to me, so I stated that God has plans to create a world in which people from many nations coexist peacefully. Each of us voiced similar ideas, even considering that God is providing a schematic for identifying the less fortunate.
Something about that interpretation did not sit quite well. Specifically, it seemed that we were claiming equivalence with God, which makes me uncomfortable. We are not God. We cannot begin to interpret that. With that in mind, I listened to the third reading.
In this case, the last verse stuck out more than it had before. That is the only line where God directly commands Moses. God tells Moses to go out, challenge Pharaoh and lead the people out of Egypt. That is the role Moses is to play and realizing God’s dream. Moses is responding to an invitation, or a call. I identify with that same call, a call to step in and challenge system of oppression.
The value of this is that we know there is a higher plan at work. I know so many incredible people who dedicate themselves to fighting injustices against people of color, the LGBTQIA+ community, the poor, other disenfranchised groups, or some intersection of these. I admire each of them and try to be more like them.
At the same time, I have witnessed the slow, oftentimes seemingly nonexistent crawl of progress firsthand and also through listening to those who continue to face said oppression. It feels awful to know that you will not reach all that you envision.
Moses experienced the same thing, dying before reaching the Promised Land. Despite his critical role and involvement in several major steps against injustice, he was unable to witness the realization of God’s promise and arrival to Jerusalem.
This arc with Moses reflects how things work for better or worse. God dreams of a more peaceful world and calls us to make that change. That change does not happen overnight though. “We are workers, not master builders” as Oscar Romero prayed. We must continue working and encouraging others to work with us.
Following from that, we are more likely to reach God’s vision through actively working and taking steps towards realizing that vision.
Of course, this message is not ground-breaking, yet I valued how the Lectio Divina led me there as I prioritized different elements of the text in each step. Questioning the sentence structure opened me up to new possibilities from the text. Following that I was able to explore these possibilities and considered the wider narrative at play in the story of Moses.
I likely did not blow your mind here. In spite of that, I hope you can also see the value in this methodology for understanding and reflecting on scripture, and perhaps other complex passages you come across.