18 but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this.
This verse comes after Moses has reminded the Israelites of God's commands about how to treat Egyptians and slaves, Edomites, and Ammonites and Moabites. What are the differences?
Well, Ammonites and Moabites were to be excluded from the assembly of Israel for ever and ever, because of how they had treated Israel in the Exodus. Edomites were supposed to be allowed within the assembly after a set time, because they had treated Israel well in the Exodus.
Then there's the command that Egyptians were to be allowed into the assembly. Now, the people of Israel have just (well, 40 years before) left slavery in Egypt. They had been subjected to oppression and even an attempt at genocide. Yet, God doesn't command vengeance, rather hospitality and forgiveness.
He also commands that the slaves and servants of the Israelites be treated decently. In fact, built into the Law is the requirement that slaves be able to attain freedom, and that Israelites be automatically freed after no more than 50 years.
Looking at this, I'm wondering about our tendency to forget where we come from. How easy it is to attain to power and then use it badly, whether it be for revenge or simply to show how great we've become.
And it's the source of downfall. Serious downfall. When we think that God has blessed us so that we can demonstrate our newfound power and authority, we've missed the point. God had appointed Israel to demonstrate His holiness to the people around them, to be the instrument of His glory and His work in the world.
It wasn't supposed to be about them and their national aggrandizement. They were supposed to remember the deliverance they had received, to recall that God had chosen them, and that there was no personal merit to them, rather it was the gracious love of God.
Sound familiar? That's us, as followers of Christ. That's us, as Baptists. That's us, as Americans.
As followers of Christ, we're supposed to be demonstrators of God's holiness, instruments of His glory, the body through which He works in the world. Are we doing it?
Us Baptists claim to be followers of Christ, and so all that applies to us. How does some of our behavior match up with that? Are what we are known for as Baptists in line with this?
We Americans have been blessed by God. It's true that a lot of that blessing has come through the determination and hard work of people, some of whom wouldn't even acknowledge God's hand in the work, but there is precious little other explanation for our birth and survival as a nation. Yet we have, at times, not been what we should either.
The issue, though, is this: none of us can change our past. We can learn from it and move forward. The Israelites weren't told to spend time lamenting that they had gone to Egypt in the first place, but rather were instructed how to be from this point forward.
I think it's time that many of us realize that we are to remember where we came from, and let that affect our behavior from this point forward, not dwelling on the past, but growing from it.