18 December, 2014

Moses is Not Batman

The previews for the new movie about Moses make me cringe and fill me with overwhelming sadness. The biggest reason is because, even in the thirty second over-acted snippets of Christian Bale playing the man who took Israel out of Egypt, I can tell they have totally missed Moses’ character.

Bale plays Moses as a conquer. There are great battle scenes (show me where that is in the Bible!) and Bale is the mighty leader.

Only, he wasn't.

Eric Demeter reminds us: He was a murderer and a runaway with a speech impediment. After many years of hiding in the desert, God called him to verbally confront one of the world’s most powerful tyrants. It was a simple mission from God, really: “I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

But it wasn’t simple for Moses. It wasn’t even something he felt at all equipped to do.

Moses was a quiet, reflective man. He fled Egypt and found a life tending his in-law’s sheep. One commentary I read said that he didn’t even have his own sheep! He was okay tending to what belonged to his father in law.

Then he meets God in an extraordinary way. How many of us have asked for a burning bush pronouncement on what to do with our life? Moses was lucky – God spoke to him and said: Go – do this!

What was his reaction: I am nobody.

They go through a dialogue of Moses honestly sharing his hesitations and God meeting him in each of them. Even after being reassured that God would be with him, and seeing the staff in his hand become a snake and go back again. Moses still has hesitations. And this time he gets to the heart of the matter:

“No, Lord, don't send me. I have never been a good speaker, and I haven't become one since you began to speak to me. I am a poor speaker, slow and hesitant.” (Exodus 4:10).
By Elizabeth Wang

God was calling him to go to the king of the world (at that time) and demand that a system that had been in place for hundreds of years be destroyed! God was telling this quiet, passive man with a stutter to stand in front of the might Pharaoh and demand the (seemingly) impossible.

The fear of Moses was so great that he asks God to send someone else. The Lord then begrudgingly agrees to let Aaron go to. Aaron was the strong and powerful one. He was the mighty orator. He was the one who could stand before Pharaoh and demand freedom for the oppressed.

The fact that Aaron isn’t even in Bale’s new movie speaks volumes on just how little Director Ridley Scott understands about the story. Ridley is himself agnostic, which reveals why the power structure between Moses and God is so messed up. Moses got his strength and courage for God. God was not the weak one, he didn’t need Moses for anything. Instead God called him to do something that could only be successful if Moses relied fully on Him.

The beauty of Moses, the encounter at the bush, his time in Egypt and all that comes in the desert after, is the tender care of God and how he sometimes chooses the most unlikely person to accomplish his purposes.

Think of timid Bilbo at the start of the Hobbit, or Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. They are the reluctant hero. And so was Moses.

He wasn’t a fighter. He was not bold. He was not the charismatic or decisive leader. His timidity had some seriously consequences later on. But in that moment, sitting with God in that cave, Moses was able to be real with God and share his fear. And the most amazing thing is – God meets him in that moment. He lets Moses be scared, the point of God calling out his excuses and asking for Moses’ trust.
Image from Prince of Egypt
Trust that God would not abandon him. Trust that God could do all He was saying. Trust that at the end, God was bigger than the oppressive king Pharaoh.

Why are we so uncomfortable with the quiet leader?

Why does the idea of someone ill-equipped make us cringe?

Why do we always need the mighty hero?

I get it, I do. We want to be entertained and right now over the top action films are entertaining.  I realize Ridley was looking for the easy blockbuster. We are in love with epic battles and larger than life heroes. This year alone we had Catness Everdeen, Wolverine, Captain America, a group of American soldiers in WWII, 300 men fighting for their lives, even Bilbo himself (just to name a few).

But the heart of the story, the heart of Moses, demands that we see him for who he is. 

When we turn Moses into the mighty hero, when we make him a Biblical “Batman,” we deny who he is. We deny his journey from the man who had nothing in the desert (and was okay with that), to the man who never lost who he was and led the people of Israel to the edge of the promise land.

Let me say – it is okay to be frail. It is okay to be scared, unsure, overwhelmed. It is okay to ask God questions, and to seek clarity on what you feel He has asked you to do. It is okay to do this even if you are a man.

Because in these questions, in the quiet, in our insecurity and doubt, God comes to life! God makes an appearance and changes everything.

It is easy to appear strong. It is human to want to be the hero and conquer the mighty Pharaoh. But it takes so much more courage to be real. To be scared, to admit you don’t have it together, or that you have no idea why you are where you are.

Admit this with an open heart and a big dose of patience, and I guarantee God will show up in big and mighty ways.

Which is why we cannot portray Moses as a Biblical Batman. We have to allow him be the reluctant stutterer who trusted in a God greater than himself and thereby had the faith of a true hero.

Moses’ story is not about epic battle scenes, good versus evil, or even setting captives free. It is not a power struggle between two men. It is a story of trust, redemption, and going all in with a God who promises to be there even with the situation before us seems impossible. 

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© Amanda Lunday