Fellow Passengers: This week’s Promise Passage* (Exodus 3:7-9) transports me to my childhood home in the late 1960s, where I lived with my parents, Granny (known affectionately to many in the family as “Boss”), teenage brother Dave, sister-in-law Sandra (while her husband, my brother Jerry, was off fighting in Vietnam), and Sandra’s new baby, Kelly. Granny had a room to herself, Dave and I shared a room, and Sanj slept with Kelly in the room formerly occupied by Mom and Dad, who closed in the back porch for their bedroom. I’m sure this small, one-bathroom house made for cramped quarters, especially by today’s standards, but I didn’t know it then. The only sign of irritability in the household came whenever baby Kelly cried. I’m not sure when the “let the baby cry it out” method of mothering came along, but I suspect Sandra was among the first generation to practice it. “Cry it out” wasn’t quite up to snuff for Granny, though. She had never read Dr. Benjamin Spock and his new-fangled playbook for parenting, so she was constantly going into “Boss” mode and giving Sandra some fairly direct prodding, in the form of Sandra, your baby’s crying. I must have heard this bit of information shared a thousand times.
I thought of Granny’s mantra, your baby’s crying, with its implied appeal to do something about it, when I read today’s passage about the Hebrews in Egypt. The LORD God, who apparently hadn’t read Dr. Spock, either, is quoted as saying, I have heard them crying out. . . and I am concerned about their suffering. And so I have come down to rescue them. In the background to today’s story, we learn that a new “boss” had come into power in Egypt, and this new boss, who didn’t have any history or relationship with Joseph, was threatened by the growing population of Hebrews. So Pharaoh introduced a new playbook, a new constitution of sorts, leading his administrators to “deal shrewdly” with these children, to fool them into a life of slavery, lest they join forces with others and make war on the empire. It all reminds me of another sound in that childhood home of mine – the transistor radio blaring the voices of Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey and the Who, singing, I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution, take a bow for the new revolution. . . then I’ll get on my knees and pray, we don’t get fooled again. It doesn’t take long for us to see the results of the new Boss’ “shrewd” revolution – the Hebrews suffered terrible abuse and affliction at the hands of the Egyptian taskmasters, causing the slaves to get on their knees and pray, to cry out to God and beg for deliverance. And God saw their affliction, heard their cries, knew their suffering, and announced that deliverance was on the way.
We live in a revolutionary age that wants to believe a new “boss” or set of bosses might lead us to a promised land flowing with milk and honey. But as revolutions bring regime change upon regime change, we still have a world racked by slavery, oppression, child labor, and human trafficking. The Who were likely right in their assessment: meet the new boss, same as the old boss. As the bosses of the world continues to “deal shrewdly” with us and attempt to fool us into complicity with a world that is captive to greed, I think I’ll follow the lead of Pete Townsend and the Who: I’ll pick up my guitar and play, just like yesterday, I’ll fall on my knees and pray, we don’t get fooled again. And as I set my sights for the land where sweet milk flows into glasses and sourwood honey flows onto biscuits, I’ll remember that no matter who occupies the seat of imperial power, we serve a God who listens to the prayers of people driven to their knees by the heavy burdens and bitter toil imposed by the Pharaohs of the world. I’d like to think there’s a voice like Granny’s in heaven, near to the throne of God, offering the simple mantra, Lord, your babies are crying. Your babies are crying. Your babies are crying. . .
*Daily Passages are the weekday reflections of Stan Dotson, connecting culture to biblical texts. As always, your feedback and comments are welcome.