Carmen Joy Imes is Associate Professor of Old Testament at Biola University and a fellow for the Every Voice Kingdom Diversity initiative. She is the author of Praying the Psalms with Augustine and Friends (TUMI, 2021) and Bearing God’s Name: Why Sinai Still Matters (IVP, 2019). Her current projects include a commentary on Exodus for Baker Academic and a book exploring human vocation as the Image of God. Carmen blogs at www.carmenjoyimes.blogspot.com and you can also find her on YouTube.
The laws at Sinai are no ball-and-chain, implementing a new form of slavery. They express the practical dimensions of life in freedom, the boundaries within which the nation can experience a life-giving form of service to the One who graciously rescued them from servitude. In short, they are revolutionary.
The God of Israel does not get so caught up in the national agenda that God neglects the prayers of individuals in pain. The best antidote to politics-as-usual is proper worship. Praising YHWH can keep our feet flat on the floor. As we worship the God who sees and the God who acts on behalf of the downtrodden, we seek to become like God. YHWH, rather than the human powers that be, becomes our model. In worship we become attentive to the things that God attends to, such as the grieving woman whose empty cradle signals an uncertain future.
Jesus’ claim to be the good shepherd is much more than a comforting metaphor. It is a claim to kingship and a clarion call to surrender our wills and follow him to green pastures. His kingship subverts hierarchies. He models followership for us and ushers us into wide-open spaces where we can flourish in his upside-down kingdom.
Our problem is neither that we have power nor that we lack power. Many factors outside our control determine how much power we actually have. Our problem is that we fail to recognize the power we do have so that we can steward it well.
Jesus pronounced judgment on the entire system and dismantled it with a whip – modeling for us how to treat egregious distortions of Christian worship that distract from God’s redemptive work. This is not politics “out there,” in the public square, but in house.
The descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob cried out for deliverance, and Yahweh heard them (Exodus 2:23). Notice carefully: Yahweh did not offer to comfort the Hebrews. Yahweh did not tell them to endure their situation because things would all work out in the end, or because after death they would be “in a better place.” Instead, Yahweh acted on covenant promises made with their ancestors by entering history.