by Rev. Ian Arnold
It would be really surprising if the book of Exodus failed to resonate with you. The thing is, it is all about oppression followed by liberation. And, on a spiritual level, this is absolutely timeless. Who of us hasn’t felt oppressed, even a captive, of doubts, of fears, of worldliness and in thraldom to a sense based appearance of things? And it hasn’t only been a feeling of being oppressed, or a captive, but of our insignificance and littleness in the face of the seeming strength of what it is that is oppressing us.
Oppression followed by liberation! This is a thrilling and reassuring message that Exodus carries for us and, keeping this in mind as you open it and begin to read it, it is like a light that is switched on; and a story about events which took place somewhere around 3,500 years ago comes alive in your very own life.
Go back to the closing Chapters of Genesis for a moment and recall the point to which those Chapters take us. Joseph, second in command in Egypt after the Pharaoh, had brought his old father, Jacob, and his brothers, with all their families, livestock and possessions to live in Egypt. They had prospered and become a sizable colony. But then, and now turning to the book of Exodus, we read that “there arose a new king (Pharaoh) over Egypt who did not know Joseph”. (Chapter 1, verse 8) Maybe he had heard about Joseph but felt no obligation to maintain the favourable status that had been accorded these foreigners by his predecessor. To the contrary, he saw them as ‘fifth columnists’, whose loyalty could not be relied on. And so he ordered oppression.
Brutally, the order was issued for all Hebrew (descendants of Jacob) boy babies to be killed at birth. You will perhaps know the amazing story of the rescue of Moses, born to Hebrew parents, yet brought up, protectively, in the royal household and of him being called by God from the midst of a burning bush to lead the deliverance of his people from Egyptian bondage.
That deliverance was in fact a long time coming, just as our very own deliverance from spiritual oppression always is. We read of the tremendous tussle Moses got involved in with the stubborn Pharaoh who was unimpressed with the early miracles God performed but who, in the end, and following the death of all firstborn in Egypt, relented. Escape followed, scary as it must have been, especially when the Pharaoh changed his mind. Next came the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, encampment in safety, Moses going up on Mount Sinai and the giving of the Ten Commandments and the Law and, finally, instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle.
This is interesting, that the kind of oppression, spiritually, that we experience from time to time is what essentially good people across the board and even moreso in the world of spirits, were experiencing before the Lord’s coming into the world, His first Advent. This is tellingly summed up in the “Arcana Caelestia” (“Secrets of Heaven”) paragraph 7932 and reads,
“The children of Israel represented those belonging to the spiritual Church who lived in the world before the Lord’s Coming, but could not be saved except by the Lord, on account of which they were preserved and held back on the lower earth, where they were in the meantime molested by the hells which were round about them. When therefore the Lord came into the world and made the human within Him Divine, He then – when He rose again – delivered those who had been preserved and held back there. And after they had undergone temptations He raised them to heaven. These matters are what the internal sense of the second book of Moses or Exodus contains.”
Maybe the word “molested” is not, at least these days, the best fit, but it’s all about being needled and provoked and blocked by influences impacting on us from hell and even to exasperation and despair; these curbing and smothering the Lord’s goodness and truth in our lives as out absorption in the world and being carried away by appearances does.