He looks a hardened twenty. His hands are calloused and his skin is darkened as is true with anyone spending days laboring in the sun. Sweat fills his brow and his face is filled with despondency.
He doesn’t know that he should be home playing with kids. Or sitting down and eating a meal with family. The lines on his face ought to have been formed from nights of laughing with his children. Instead they are deep chasms of bitter days.
It’s just the way that it is.
He gets up early. He goes into the field. He works until he can’t work anymore. He goes home. He goes to sleep. He wakes up and does the same thing. Grueling work that has sapped every ounce of life from his body.
And he does it for zero pay. He’s a slave. His grandfather was a slave. Just as his grandfather’s grandfather was a slave. This is how it has always been and it’s likely how it will always be.
At least he gets food. At least he has a home. “At least…at least…”, that’s all he really has to get him through the day. He lives for the at least.
Hope on the Horizon?
Then one day some hopeful Harry decides to tell him that this isn’t the way that things are supposed to be. “You don’t have to be a slave! You can be free! Our God has heard our cry and He is going to rescue us from slavery”.
And he bought it. Just like all of his other countrymen. They bowed their heads and worshipped. And with that a terrible invader came into their hearts.
When hope comes you can’t live for the “at least” anymore. Hope demands more.
Things didn’t happen as quickly as they had planned. In fact life got much worse. Hope not only killed the “at least” in principle it killed it in reality. Life got worse and worse and looking for an “at least” became more and more difficult.
His spirit is now broken. “I should have known,” he tells himself. “I’ve always been a slave and I always will be a slave. I was stupid for hoping. Stupid for believing that I’m anything more than a slave. This is who I am and I need to be okay with that.”
And with that he started looking for the “at least” again.
This hopeful Harry, we’ll call him Moses, continued undeterred*. And miracle after miracle happened in the land; culminating in the death of the firstborn of the Egyptians. With this the Israelites (and our young man) moved through the wilderness and encamped right in front of the Red Sea. Pharaoh picked up pursuit and drew near. The Egyptians are marching towards them and fear envelops the camp of Israel.
And that’s when he says it. Almost everybody was already thinking it but this dejected chap had the gall to articulate it:
“Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”
Do you hear the voice of the cynic? Hardened by years of slavery. Seasoned to have hopes dashed. And resting in the shallow reward of being able to say, “I told you so”.
The Gospel Rescue From Cynicism
I’m that cynic.
And I don’t want to be anymore. I want that cynic to drown in the raging sea of red along with the Egyptians.
Here is my hope. God saves cynics and he transforms them.
Moses tells the people to stand firm and to “see the salvation of the Lord”. Not accomplish the salvation of the Lord. Not make it happen. Just watch and see what the Lord will do.
And he does it. He drowns the Egyptian and with it a good portion of the Israelite fear. Oh, it will rear it’s ugly head again, but on that day they will celebrate victory. They’ll drink deeply of God’s grace. Even the cynic. When God saved Israel that day he even saved the cynic.
Cynicism dies hard, but the hope of the gospel and it’s Savior is far greater. Some day our cynicism will melt like wax before the glory of the Lord. May it start melting today.
*Actually it was the LORD that continued undeterred. Moses fits the model of a reluctant leader more than he does an exuberant and hopeful leader.