Pharaoh and the Egyptians, as portrayed in the early chapters of Exodus, resisted in letting the people of Israel go when Moses and Aaron first came to make the request. Not only did Pharaoh resist, but he oppressed the people of Israel even more by demanding that they meet their quota of making bricks without the necessary tools to make said bricks. He also caused the people to turn against Moses – the very person who was painting a vision of freedom before them.
Pharaoh’s goal was essentially to get the people’s eyes off of the vision that Moses had just declared. He wanted every glimmer of hope that they ever possessed in being free to dissipate. And if by chance, they still hoped, he wanted them to understand the repercussions of ever making a move.
In spite of Pharaoh’s efforts and scare tactics, the Israelites pressed through and overcame hell and high-water to get their freedom.
Similarly, 50 years ago this summer, volunteers and organizers pressed through in hopes of securing the voting rights of African Americans and end white supremacy in Mississippi. Like the Pharaoh of old, the KKK and others opposed to treating African Americans with dignity, respect and equality, fought back. Hard. Many who participated in the fight for justice were brutally beaten. A few lost their lives. Even so, they were not deterred from the vision before them which changed the way the United States looked at Civil Rights and eventually dismantled Jim Crow (the old Jim Crow, not the New One).
The lesson: Do not have to fear Pharaoh! Do not fear his repercussions. Hear what God says to Moses in Exodus 6 – “I am the LORD and I will bring you out from under the burden of the Egyptian and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.”
Do not fear because God is on the side of justice, equity and peace. Always. There will be tension and there will be conflict – that is to be expected. In fighting for justice, you may be silenced, you may be ridiculed, you may be made to look like a fool, your faith may be called into question, you may lose friends – all of which are tactics to get your eyes off of the goal. All of which are the response of oppressive regimes (and those who are also oppressed and cannot possibly see that freedom is a possibility) because they do not want to let go of power – there is often an economic cost to doing so, proving that money really is the root of all evil. But God will have his way and free his people. He fears the cries of his people and will deliver.
Keep painting and articulating the vision of freedom and justice!