Matthew 15:17–28; Ephesians 4:17–24 (read online ⧉)
For I am the LORD, who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God, so you must be holy because I am holy. —Leviticus 11:45
When the Israelites were brought out of the land of Egypt, it wasn’t going to be things as usual. We often focus on the slavery and the misery, for this was the reality of the Israelites in Egypt by the time Moses was born, and very much so after his return from Midian.
Today, we would say that this was in the rearview mirror. That was their life. It was to be their life no longer. However, that also meant that practices that they copied from Egyptian culture had to be culled. Other than their bloodline, there were only three things that otherwise tied them together, their story, circumcision, and a promised land that was not in Egypt. That’s it.
We look back at them and say, YES! Many would argue that the United States couldn’t keep the “dream” of the Founding Fathers alive, and it hasn’t been 300 years! They waited over 400 years! How tightly they must have held onto those 3 things. Yet, there would have been a lot of other stuff that they took with them. They needed to understand that a line has been drawn. They are now called to be holy, for God is holy. The key (oversimplified) part is that God defined what is holy.
The first piece (again, oversimplified) was don’t be an Egyptian (don’t even walk like one). That extended to other tribes and nations, too. The Promised Land contained the Canaanites. They were the people that the Israelites were supposed to drive out for they would cause the Israelites to fall away from God (so said God). They didn’t drive them out. So, down the timeline we have one of these Canaanite women come to Jesus so that he will heal her daughter.
Here, as in other times with Jesus, that while he is first called to the Jews, to those that pursue, he would still respond. That Jesus would still respond to a generational enemy tells us much about Jesus. It also tells us that being “called out of Egypt” is more than the story of Exodus. It can be our story, too.
Paul sets this story forward in Ephesians, too. This letter was likely a circular letter passed among the churches of Asia Minor and found a permanent home in Ephesus (hence the name). Historians come to that conclusion for a number of reasons, but one of the more interesting points is that this letter is not addressed to anyone specifically (see other letters of Paul). Paul intended or expected this letter to have a life of its own (kind of like those forwarded emails and now Facebook messages that keep coming back year-after-year).
That makes this particular passage from Ephesians even more interesting. He makes the statement that the hearers/receivers of the letters should not be like Gentiles. Sounds pretty straightforward, except that many (if not most) of them were Gentiles! Paul, so to speak, was telling them that they were now called out of Egypt.
Gentiles are, to these Christians, a different people from themselves. They, who were once Gentiles, were called to be Gentiles no longer!
※ Prayer ※
God, you called us out of the darkness of our souls to be something greater than we could be on our own. As we look with hopeful expectations for the returning to some sort of normal, help us to remember that we are daily called out of Egypt to be your holy people. Amen.
※ Questions ※
1) Swap Gentiles with American (or whatever nationality is your “heart” nationality). How do Paul’s words feel now?
2) Those of the so-called Western Civilization are often blind to the differences between the general culture and the Christian culture, often because we fail to understand what it means to be Christian. What is one thing you can think of that conflicts?
3) Life as usual is not (really) the Christian life. What is unusually Christian about your life? Do any non-Christians practice the same? If so, now what?