Charlton Heston or Christian Bale? – Day 5 – February 5 – 90 Days through the Bible – Exodus 1-15

Day 5 – Exodus 1-15

My image of Moses is, unfortunately, built on the pictures from the classic movie “The Ten Commandments.” Charlton Heston is the model I have for Moses. At least, he was until we 7f228e20-3e59-11e4-af8d-91d89822217c_christian-bale-charlton-hestonwatched the newest incarnation of this second book of the bible in the Hollywood extravaganza that was “Exodus” with Christian Bale in the Moses role. My wife, Rachell, loves Christian Bale. Anything he is in, including the vastly underrated “Reign of Fire,” and she’ll watch it over and over. Without any shame, I’ll admit that I was equally excited to see “Exodus” in the theater a couple of months back.

While I’m not trying to do a movie review, I do have to recognize the cinematic choices made in the new film that left an impression on how I see the first chapters of Exodus that I read today. You see, the choice in the movie to have God displayed as a defiant child has stuck with me. As I read today’s passages, I tried to see that picture of God and it left a bitter taste in my mouth. Imaging God, the God of Exodus, pre-NT, is never an easy task for me. Most Christians can jump easily to the incarnational God we encounter in Jesus of Nazareth and use that image for God in all parts of the scripture. For me, that doesn’t quite suffice. It’s too easy of an out and my unimaginative brain can’t process it. So, I’m stuck with the images provided in children’s bibles, Hollywood, and campy religious artwork.

Which is why the picture of a child sticks with me. God as a child is not the God I want to see. I want a God who is powerful, authoritative, and in charge in a way that I am not. As a 34 year old man, I want someone older, stronger, and better than me, not someone who resembles my children. Likewise, I want Moses to be the squarejawed Bale or the gun-toting Heston. Seriously, I want Moses, the prophet and messenger of God, to be equally obvious and intimidating. I want Moses to command the scene and those two over the top actors certainly do that.

The problem is in the scripture, because the Moses of Exodus does not claim the scene the same way as the actors who portray him. Far from it – he appears to doubt, dither, and worry. He cannot trust the words of God and he needs his brother to speak for him. He is much more human and fallible than the Hollywood versions of this patriarch of the faith.

Which do you see when you read?

G— and K—- (and other readers), what is your image of Moses? Who do you see? What about God? What is the sound of God’s voice in your heads?

  • I’ve always wondered how the Israelite people allowed themselves (or were forced?) to be taken into slavery. They obviously started off with somewhat equal standing among the Egyptian people. If they were so numerous and potentially prosperous, how did this happen?
  • Infanticide and the slaughtering of innocent children – this is not the last time we encounter this horrific act in the Bible. There are no words to understand this tragic response to a threat. Who does this?!?
  • Fun, less destructive side note – Exodus 1:20 is the first example of “Elohim” as a title for God. Maybe that’s just fun to me?
  • I absolutely love Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush. Taking his sandals off because he’s standing on Holy Ground? What an incredible passage…Where are the holy places in our lives where we remove our shoes out of respect, awe, and wonder? Do we have any?
  • The continuation of the story. It’s great to see Exodus flow out of Genesis. It’s a good sequel.
  • Do people only believe when they see or experience signs and wonders? Are they more likely to believe? What about us, the people who don’t get to see staves turn into snakes and hands turn from leprosy to cleansed? What signs do we see in our lives?
  • I know, I know, this may be a bit irreverent but Pharaoh’s line in Exodus 5:2 (Who is theterence-stamp-superman LORD?) feels an awful lot like General Zod in Superman II saying, “Who is this, Superman?”
  • Odd interlude talking about the genealogy of Moses and Aaron in chapter 6. Seems a bit out of place, eh?
  • Ranking the plagues? Is that something people do?
  • My dad used to go around the house saying, “And Pharaoh’s heart was hardened.” I like this response to my children when I give them a negative answer to their requests.
  • There is a shift from Pharaoh hardening his own heart to God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. I love this image and this transition.
  • The first Passover and all of the subsequent memories of that day…I’ve celebrated Passover with a Seder at various times of the past few years and I cannot think of a better way to remember the history of God. We’ll be having a Seder at The Peoples Church of East Lansing again this year on Maundy Thursday. At the end, we’ll be spoiled to enjoy the music of a local Klesmer band led by our very own church sound technician, Will Cicola!
  • 430 years in Egypt before heading back home. To put that in perspective, Europeans have only been in the country we now call America for a bit more than 500 years.
  • I wish I could write a song like Moses.
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