In his excellent book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson writes, “All the wisdom and strength of the ancient world were in Mesopotamia and Egypt…Mesopotamian power and Egyptian wisdom were strength and intelligence divorced from God, put to the wrong ends, and producing all the wrong results.”
This is very well said and I entirely agree.
Peterson then begins the next paragraph with this almost-there conclusion: “So Israel said no and became a pilgrim people, picking a path of peace and righteousness through the battlefields of falsehood and violence, finding a path to God through the labyrinth of sin.”
Close, but not exactly. Did “Israel say no” or did Yahweh—Israel’s God—say no? Did Israel “become a pilgrim people” or did they simply follow Yahweh’s lead into the unknown?
Yahweh delivered His people, indeed His “firstborn son” (Exodus 4:22), from the furnace of Egyptian bondage and cruelty. That miraculous deliverance, from top to bottom, was exclusively Yahweh’s work. Israel did not “become a pilgrim people” in the sense that they, at long last, having had their fill of Egyptian oppression, made the settled decision to leave. No, a thousand times no. But for Yahweh, there would have been no deliverance or uncertain, if exciting, opportunity to become a “pilgrim people.”
This world’s repositories of wisdom and strength are foolish and weak.
Israel’s ancient path was not only “a path to God,” as Peterson writes, but a path made by God. Yahweh delivered and led. Israel feared and followed. That’s what happened.
So too with us! There are modern Egypts and Mesopotamias that serve as today’s reservoirs of so-called wisdom and strength. They are nations, companies, ideologies, political parties, and more. They promise much: peace, safety, equity, happiness, wisdom, and virtue, but deliver bondage, not altogether unlike that experienced by Israel anciently. However, God, in Jesus Christ, has shown us the truth of all this, the truth about this hostile world. This world’s repositories of wisdom and strength are foolish and weak. “Where is the wise?” Paul asked tauntingly, “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Corinthians 1:20).
Paul knew what we can all learn: that God alone, in Jesus Christ, has opened the Way of deliverance for His beleaguered people (John 14:6). He is as mighty to save us from the perils of modernity as He was from the perils and tyrants of old.
Boil it all down—all of it—and just two words will remain: Jesus saves.
David is a speaker/director for Light Bearers and ARISE co-founder and instructor. Since his baptism in 1999, David has traveled the globe preaching and teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. He and his wife Violeta are the happy parents of two boys, Landon and Jabel.