EXODUS: Egyptian Street Justice
Last we left the book of Exodus, the Egyptian king had issued a murderous edict that every baby Hebrew boy should be thrown into the river. One particular mother didn’t listen. She kept her child safe until she couldn’t anymore. She placed him into a papyrus basket (or rather – into God’s hands) and put him in the shallows of the Nile river.
There he was found by the Egyptian princess who decided to adopt him into her Egyptian family, but also to allow the Hebrew mother to serve as caretaker for his early childhood years.
She nursed him in her Hebrew home.
She fed him Hebrew baby food of mashed potatoes.
She spoke to him in the Hebrew language.
But when he was old enough, she brought him to the palace of the Egyptian king.
Life changed for Moses.
There he ate the finest Egyptian steaks.
He was clothes in the finest Egyptian artisanal headdresses.
A servant would come and fan him with a palm branch as he ate his royal chicken nuggets.
This upbringing for Moses presented unique challenges.
He was part of both the Jewish and Egyptian culture.
Yet not fully a part of either culture.
In Egyptian School: “You can’t be part of our group project. You aren’t Egyptian enough. Sure, you dress like us. But you don’t look like us. You look like a Hebrew – that is to say – you look like scum.”
On the Hebrew playground: “Get out of here Moses. You aren’t Hebrew. Not like us. You’re Egyptian—go back to your side of town with the fancy marble swing set and the jewel-encrusted teeter totter. You stuck up jerk!”
In the Egyptian classroom: “And that, dear students, is why Hebrews are inferior to the Egyptians. Be sure to get it right for the test.”
At a Hebrew holiday: “And remember, God hates the terrible Egyptians, because they are terrible in every way. Just as terrible any Hebrew who is associated with them.”
Moses undoubtedly suffered pressure on both sides.
Where did Moses fit in?
I. Egyptian Street Justice
One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. (v.11)
Maybe with a whip.
Maybe with a club.
Maybe with his own fists.
Whatever Moses saw, it set something off inside of him.
He was raised an Egyptian.
But he was genetically all Hebrew.
This wasn’t right.
This was wrong.
There needed to be justice.
Since he was Hebrew.
Perhaps he saw himself as the perfect individual.
Looking this way and looking that way and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. (v.12)
He began digging.
No one saw.
He kept digging.
I hope no one saw.
He used the Egyptians club to dig some more.
No one saw…right?
He smoothed out the sand when he was done.
He patted it with his hands.
He stomped with his feet.
It looked alright.
He went away.
He came right back.
No it didn’t.
He dropped a few palm branches on top of the spot.
Just to make it less suspicious.
He went away again.
He looked back.
Adjusted the palm branches.
He sprinted without looking back.
He got home.
He ran past his Egyptian mother.
What did you do today Moses?
Sorry. I’m tired, I need to go to bed.
He went to bed.
Or tried to go to bed.
All night -staying awake – as he replayed his own murderous actions.
The next morning, he got up.
He had slept on it.
And had managed to remove the guilt simply by focusing on the awful thing that had been happening.
(And completely ignoring the awful thing he had done.)
He marched back to the slave camp.
He was their hero.
A vigilante and defender of justice.
He…saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?” (v.13)
Friend, God doesn’t want us to be violent.
Friend, use your words.
Friend, be kind.
Friend, violence is wrong.
The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” (v.14)
His mind began racing.
I thought no one saw me.
I thought no one knew.
He ran from the Hebrews and sprinted to the scene of the crime.
It still looked intact.
The dirt still looked like dirt.
No trace of evidence.
They must have seen.
Did others see?
Would others seek justice?
He wasn’t wrong.
When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian. (v.15)
He was no longer Egyptian.
He was no longer Hebrew.
He was definitely not the just defender of justice.
He was just…
II. Lessons on Injustice
This is a hard lesson.
It was a hard lesson that Moses needed to learn that would shape him for being a leader in the future.
I think it’s filled with some hard lessons for us on the topic of justice that will shape us to serve our community.
It is UNJUST to see only SOME injustice.
Because notice when Moses decides to take action.
If you notice, it isn’t when he goes down to watch the unjust slave labor.
It was only when the slave driver started to physically abuse a slave that Moses decided it was worthy of action.
Either he didn’t see the forced slave labor as unjust.
Or, at least, he didn’t think it was a big enough injustice to do anything about it.
This is so 21st century American.
We love to call out injustice.
But we often do it at the expense of another injustice.
This person says: That law is unjust, but not this one.
That person says: Nope, law riot is unjust; not this one.
This person says: that political party is unjust, but not this one.
That person says: Nope, this political party is unjust, but not that one.
This person says: That news station is unjust, but not this one.
That person says: Nope, this news station is unjust, but not that one.
It’s as if we think we only have a label maker that we used to label things as wrong.
But we only have one label left.
And we think we can only label one thing wrong.
So we can only use it to describe what we deem to be most wrong.
And we can’t label anything else as wrong, because we might have to remove that wrong label from the thing that we really want to be wrong, put it on another thing and label that thing as wrong, and now there won’t be any wrong labels on the thing that we really want to be wrong.
But that’s not how it works.
There can be more than one wrong.
In a sinful world.
There’s often way more than one wrong.
I would suggest…
If you are labeling one thing injustice.
At the expense of ignoring another injustice.
People will often see you as unjust.
Because that’s unjust.
It is UNJUST to take justice into YOUR HANDS.
Because Moses knows it’s wrong.
“He looked to the right and to the left” before committing the crime.
That’s not something you do when you’re about to do something upright.
You’re not checking to the right and then to the left to ensure that no one is looking to see you fold the laundry.
And then! Moses hides the evidence.
Again – you got the internet explorer to delete your explicit search history, not the fact that you were watching a documentary on How Buttons are Made.
Moses knew that justice wasn’t up to him.
But he did it anyway.
And immediately did something deemed by Pharaoh as unjust.
If you think it’s unjust that your coworker has been spreading lies about you. (It is.)
And you take it into your own hands by punching them in the face.
It’s no longer an issue of unjust gossip.
But it’s now an issue of unjust face punching.
You aren’t Batman.
Stop taking justice into your own hands.
It is UNJUST to want justice against OTHERS, but not YOURSELF.
Because maybe Moses felt like he was being so very just.
Like he was a hero of justice.
Like he was a member of the Justice League.
But if he really loved justice so much…
Why did he run away?
He had killed someone.
Why not stick around for trial?
Because he didn’t love justice as much as he said.
He only loved justice against others.
The other day I was taking a left turn from Six Forks Rd onto Newton Rd. At the stoplight there are two lanes that allow you to turn left. The first lets you turn left and keep straight. The second turns left and then quickly becomes a right hand turn lane for the shopping center.
I was in the left lane. Ready to stay straight and head to church.
But after turning, someone from the right lane cut me off and entered the left land in order to stay going straight.
I was mad.
You knucklehead. You should get a ticket. That’d be just.
A few days later, same situation. This time I was in the right land turning left. As I approached the end of the land, I needed to enter into the left lane in order to stay straight.
I cut the person off behind me.
They started honking and I thought.
Couldn’t they see I needed to change lanes.
This is unfair.
They’re being the knucklehead.
And the same person was a knucklehead in both.
Humans want justice.
But only against others.
Which just proves how unjust human justice really is.
If you really love justice, you will want justice against the wrongdoer, even if the wrongdoer is you.
If you don’t want justice against you when you do wrongdoer, then…
You just aren’t just.
III. The Only Just God
No human is truly just.
Sin makes it impossible.
But there is one who is truly just.
Thankfully, he is the one in charge of ultimate, eternal justice.
God is JUST.
As is often the case with God, when an adjective is applied to him, he embodies every aspect of that adjective.
We get our definition of power from him.
We get our definition of mercy from him.
We get out definition of goodness from him.
And we get our definition of justice…from him.
Psalm 30:6 says, “God is a God of justice.”
He sees to it that all wrong is punished.
He sees to it that all evil is penalized.
He sees to it that all sin receives its repercussions.
God is just.
He is never unfair.
He is always final.
He is always right.
And there is no need for a jury trial.
God saw the whole thing.
He saw the action.
He heard the words.
He read the thoughts.
He knew the heart.
God always declares a right verdict.
What’s the verdict with you?
How do you think a just God will sentence unjust you?
And the only justice for the eternal injustice of sin?
That would be eternal justice.
IV. The Only Just God
If you’ve done wrong and you get caught…
It’s not totally lost.
It’s like those DUI commercials, “Did you have too much to drink? No worries. Give us money. We’ll schmooze the judge. We’ll work the system. We’ll get you an innocent verdict.”
And it must work.
Cause they keep airing the commercials.
But remember – the judge they are trying to convince in that scenario?
He’s a sinner too.
His justice will always be tainted with injustice of sin within.
But how does one convince an eternally just God whose justice is not tainted with sin?
Circumstantial evidence doesn’t work.
You can’t blame it on your parents.
You can’t point to others in society as worse.
You can’t offer him a bribe.
I would suggest that the only lawyer that can possibly get you out of the justice of God…
God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement…so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:25-26)
Do you see Jesus’ defense?
This injustice that you are trying my client for.
You have incorrectly identified the perpetrator.
The actual culprit is me.
I did it.
I unjustly gossiped about my coworker.
I unjustly shouted at my spouse.
I unjustly spoke racist terms at my neighbor.
I did it.
And, if you remember, I was already sentenced.
On a cross.
Why are we here?
That word is a courtroom term. It means to declare innocent.
To declare right.
To declare not guilty.
Because Jesus suffered punishment for your injustice, you have been justified.
You have been declared right.
You have been declared not guilty.
Which isn’t fair!
But it’s so awesome.
It means we are forgiven.
It means we aren’t headed towards hell.
It means we will have eternal life.
V. What Now?
How do we, the justified, in justice? A few notes…
1) Act Justly
“Act Justly.” (Micah 6:8)
That’s what God wants.
He doesn’t want you to be unfair.
He doesn’t want you to show favorites.
He doesn’t want you to comment on one sin over another sin.
A just God wants his justified people to act justly.
Even when others aren’t.
2) Let God Do the Avenging
Romans 12:19 says, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
Did you hear that?
God says, “I’m in charge of getting justice.
Not you, Moses.
Not you, person sitting in Gethsemane church.
Not you, person watching online.
God is in charge.
That means the next time someone does you wrong.
Here’s what you do…
Ready for it?
Because if you take revenge, you aren’t getting even for God.
If you take revenge, you are stealing God’s job.
And you’ve committed your own wrong.
That God must avenge.
Trust God to do God’s job.
God is just.
And mercifully, God justifies.
Which calls into question the ending of this story…
Do you know what happens next with Moses?
He goes to Midian.
He meets a woman.
He marries her.
He is accepted into her society.
He doesn’t die.
It’s not because God isn’t just.
Years later, God would get justice for the Egyptian that Moses killed by punishing Jesus on the cross.
This means that from God’s eternal view…
Moses was no longer guilty.
He was no longer Hebrew.
He was no longer Egyptian.
He was first and foremost…
Because of Jesus.
And because of Jesus.
You are no longer guilty.
You are forgiven too.
Which is just.
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