The Exodus narrative describes a covenant in which the oppressed collaborate with “a force larger than themselves” to depart a system of anxiety to go out and create an alternative, Common Good.
The human cry evokes divine resolve. There is a divine resolve to transform the economic situation of the slaves. It is, at the same time, inescapably, a divine resolve to delegitimate Pharaoh and to wrest social initiative away from the empire. [Ancient Egypt’s] practice of exploitation, fear, and suffering produces a decisive moment in human history. This dramatic turn away from aggressive centralized power and a food monopoly features a fresh divine resolve for an alternative possibility, a resolve that in turn features raw human agency.
The biblical narrative is very careful and precise about how it transposes divine resolve into human agency. That transposition is declared in the encounter of the burning bush wherein Moses is addressed and summoned by this self-declaring God. The outcome of that inscrutable mystery of encounter is that Moses is invested with the vision of the slave community in its departure from the imperial economy. The words that go with the encounter are words of divine resolve:
“I have observed… heard… known… and have come…” (Exod 3:7–9 )
But the divine resolve turns abruptly to human agency:
“So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:10)
The outcome is a human agent who can act and dream outside imperial reality. And dreaming outside imperial reality, that human agent can begin the daring extrication of this people from the imperial system.
Covenants are more buoyant than contracts for one reason: we trust that a larger force than our own conspires with us to accomplish the common good. What great exodus would you attempt if you know that your human agency would be met with divine resolve? What new act of community trust might you take if you saw that you were not isolated, or subject to the dehumanizing narrative of scarcity?