One More

One more. This could be a statement of intended indulgence; just one more bite to jam into an already bulging stomach; just one more drink before I give it up for good; just one more . . . But it can also be a heart wrenching acknowledgment that one more thing must happen to make the horror end. And the one more thing may just be a horror itself. Was the Civil War justified or Christian? I’m not smart enough to offer up a decisive judgment either for or against the propriety of the Civil War. I’m glad that slavery was abolished and I’m not at all sure that it would have been in this country without war. Was one last horror needed to end the horrific inhumanity of slavery? I don’t know. Let’s bring it down to the family who lives in terror of their own child; their child who terrorizes everyone else in the family. They have tried everything; counseling, prayer, interventions, tough love. They have read the books. They have one more thing; one more blow to deliver. They call the police and endure the shouted threats and obscenities as he is dragged from the house. Do the neighbors judge? Do they sit with the sister who is afraid of the night? One more. One more wound to stop the bleeding. It is easy to judge those who have had to make a “one more” kind of decision, whether it be family, country, or God.

Chapter 11 of Exodus begins with God stating that he will bring one more blow or wound on Pharaoh and all of Egypt. The word translated “plague” in most translations means “blow or wound”. God is going to give Egypt a devastating punch in the face. Pharaoh will feel it with such intensity that he will send the Israelites packing with gusto. He will drive them right on out of his land. The Israelites are told to ask of their neighbors for gold and silver stuff. The word cannot be confined to mean jewelry, though it most likely included jewelry. The Egyptians are going to hand over their precious possessions. And why would they do that? Because God had given the Israelites favor or acceptance in the eyes of the Egyptians, who have never really liked them before. Some suggest that God put all of the Egyptians into a favorable toward the Israelites trance. I find it more likely that they had become convinced that the God of Israel was a force to be reckoned with and so they wanted to curry favor with Yahweh by being friendly to his people. God orchestrated the events that would lead to this acceptance and gift giving. And I think Moses was considered to be a great man for the same reason. Imagine that you believe in a bunch of gods and along comes this guy whose God seems to do whatever he wants and your gods seem powerless and even defeated. You would probably be impressed with Moses as well, even if it was a begrudging awe.

And then Moses delivers, without preamble, the terrifyingly brutal announcement of Yahweh’s one more wound. And we have to wrestle with this. It seems very un-God like. All of the firstborn in Egypt will die because of Yahweh going out into the midst of Egypt. There is no way to soften this; to blur the brutal truth. This is Yahweh making this final strike; this death blow. And everyone in Egypt, from the Pharaoh on down to the lowliest slave girl grinding grain in the field, will be struck by this punch. The resulting cry will be like nothing ever heard anywhere. It will be so terrible that such a cry will never be heard again. Can you hear the women and men wailing over the cold bodies of their babies? Can you hear the animals? They were surely a part of the cacophony of distress. Does it tear at you? These people will come to Moses and bow before him, completely humbled and broken. They will not wait for Pharaoh to give his permission. They will urge Moses to leave with all of his people.

How do you read this story? Do you hear a distant and cold God pronouncing judgment on a people who are not his concern? I hear a weary God saying, “One more blow.” I hear his heart aching with the pronouncement of destruction and ruin. I hear a God who loves that slave girl in the field shouting out her pain. One more blow. One more wound to end the bleeding of the Israelites; to stop the contemptuous beatings; the callous casting of children into the river. I don’t know why Yahweh didn’t just whisk his people out of Egypt. Over and over again, we are told that this is all happening so that they will know that he is God. Maybe, Yahweh wanted the Egyptians not only to see him as more than the God of slaves, maybe he wanted them to stop treating people as tools to be used and discarded. Maybe God knew that the only way to stop the inhuman treatment of people in Egypt was to deliver one more blow. One more wound to end the bleeding. I don’t know, but I trust in Yahweh. I believe he is almighty and good. Peace, Walter