Every nation has a formative episode. The episodes can be one that is event (i.e., the signing of the Declaration of Independence) or it can be natural (i.e., the New Year) or it can even be invented (there are a lot of those).
These formative episodes often become dramatic retellings of identity. They form identity. Often, however, the dark sides of those events are often glossed over. Many patriotic events gloss over crimes against humanity, war, bloodshed, death of innocents.
Egypt had been that for Israel. Joseph’s story from slave to leader (second only to Pharaoh), and thus bringing Israel in on a powerful note. Then their time in Egypt as home. Then their transformation from power and freedom to slavery. Then from slavery to freedom out of Egypt. Even for Solomon, Egypt remained a key piece of Israelite identity.
Depending on how we read it, it would seem that part of the reason that God was allowing the exile was not just a consequence of sin and rebellion, it was a reshaping of the people of Israel. The formative event was to be the return from exile, rather than escape from Egypt and all the baggage that came with it.
The exile, in other words, was to be a time of purification. It was also a time of reorientation. The Promised Land was only a dream in Egypt. The Promised Land was a memory in exile.
- Have you ever had a “Promised Land” dream? What was it like? Has it been fulfilled?
- Do you have a “Promised Land” memory? What was it like? Is currently part of your life, or is it in the past? If it is in the past, could you return? What would it be like?
- What are personal events that have formed you in such a way as to have changed the path you took in life?
Lord, our past shapes us. You graced us with the freedom to not be defined by it, except by your will. Give us the vision to see the next Promised Land you have for us. Amen.