Lent Day 28: God of the Gnats
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, so that it may become gnats in all the land of Egypt.’” 17 And they did so. Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff and struck the dust of the earth, and there were gnats on man and beast. All the dust of the earth became gnats in all the land of Egypt. 18 The magicians tried by their secret arts to produce gnats, but they could not. So there were gnats on man and beast.
Some of you may be familiar with the original trilogy of Star Wars. In the series the rebels were fighting against the evil “Empire” led by Darth Vader. The rebellion was fighting for the freedom of the republic, to have a safe and stable government, and to bring deliverance from the oppressive powers that existed at the time. Now while we know this a fictitious story, the elements of the story and the elements of the text, which are real, are present today and still exist in our culture.
We would not call the oppressive forces or obstacles in our lives the “Empire” or the gnats. However, this is how Brueggemann would describe it. “There is still pharaoh, a king of absolutism, perhaps it is a military-economic-political leader, perhaps a nagging moralism, perhaps a closed-down sense of self, or a failed family with eating disorders, or an empty bereft community exhausted in anxiety,”
There are still those in our world that are only out to serve themselves through a personal ideology of control and certitude. But there is an alternative to the oppressive empire of the world system that can and does rise above the despotism that exists. And there are those like Moses and Aaron, who know that there is another way in the world. It is the way of our Lord, the Lord of creation and the “God of the gnats.” He is “declaring possibilities out beyond pharaoh, asserting that we do not need to submit to the force of the empire, (real or imagined), whether it is military and economic, religious and moral, or whatever.” In the midst of our feelings of servitude, like Israel, we can stand, dance and find space for freedom and shalom.
We have to be careful that we sometimes can be so comfortable with the abnormal that it becomes normal to us and we are afraid of the new life and new direction that God offers us. “We are not called to aid and abet the pharaohs that loom in our lives. We are called, rather, to depart, to trust the new life, and to find space and energy for a life of full shalom, to live apart from the systems of pharaoh.”
Throughout the Bible and even in our lives there are stories of death. But the gospel is a story of life that emerges out of death. While the story of the gnats is a story that reminds us of the stink and decay of death. The gospel is a story of life and freedom. In Christ we have been called to a new and different life.
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
“God of the gnats, soften our hearts. May we turn from the ways of death and turn toward your shalom. Amen.” Brueggemann
Brueggemann, Walter. A Way Other Than Our Own: Devotions for Lent. Kentucky: Westminster John Know Press, 2017.