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The Ultimate Exodus
Finding Freedom from What Enslaves You
By Danielle Strickland
NavPressCopyright © 2017 The Salvation Army
All rights reserved.
But the midwives had far too much respect for God and didn't do what the king of Egypt ordered; they let the boy babies live.
When my youngest son was born, it was magical — not in the witchcraft kind of way but in the Walt Disney sort of tingles-down-your-spine, heaven-on-earth sort of way. Actually, if the truth be told (and why not tell it), I loved him before he was born. In the early ultrasound he looked a bit like a skeletal transformer, but even still, I loved him before we met.
Life and beauty are gifts. I'm not talking about the kind of beauty that is marketed and sold in bottles and formulas, but the kind that comes crying in a wrinkled and bloodied newborn body. Life in this most fragile form is a gift to the world — a sign of something greater, bigger, deeper. I talk to people all the time — strong and scary people, people with scars and leather jackets and a lot of tattoos — who say that the birth of a baby took all their pain away. All their resentments left them as they held a six-pound bundle of skin and bones. A baby who can't do anything for itself somehow allowed them to experience the gift of life. It took their breath away.
When they tell me their stories, I understand. It's my story too. Perhaps you know what I mean. It's not always a newborn baby; the gift comes in kindness and goodness expressed everywhere. It's there in beauty and hope revealed through small acts of life every single day.
Life has power. Beauty has strength. It's quite remarkable when you think of it, and it's important to remember.
I remember a man who was an alcoholic for years. He was unwanted and rejected, regularly escorted out of towns by the police. He told me about being in detox, trying to get better but shaking and feeling so very sick as the alcohol was leaving his body. Sick and alone, that part of his life was a blur. But he remembers something very clearly: A lovely nurse sat with him and held his head in her lap, caressing his hair as a mother might have done, had he ever had a mother who loved him. He said he just wept. He wept in the lap of love. As he recalled the story, he couldn't remember the last time someone had touched him with kindness.
That kindness impacted him. It was powerful, a force of love. He told me his story years later as my supervisor in The Salvation Army, a wonderful man of God who fought every day for others, trying to spread goodness to a dark and lonely world. He was an incredible example of what one life — and the power of kindness — can do in the world.
This is what I love about the Exodus. The story God tells of the deliverance of his people from slavery in Egypt is a powerful one. It's not pretend or make-believe; it's dipped in the blood and guts of real life. The backdrop is almost entirely dark, actually, as though God understands better than anyone how difficult real life is. But the light and the power of beauty in it, the sheer force of love and goodness and truth, is mind-blowing. Kindness itself stands out against the dark backdrop with vivid, breathtaking intensity. In many ways the Exodus story is the story of life. It's the story of God's people being born. This story that begins in tragedy and slavery and bondage and fear is actually a story of birth and hope and kindness and beauty changing the world.
The Revolutionary Start
The Exodus didn't start when Moses stood before the Red Sea, waiting for it to part. It didn't start when Moses stood before Pharaoh, waiting for him to "let my people go." It didn't start when Moses stood before a burning bush or even when he stood over the body of an Egyptian slave driver he had just killed. Two women started the Exodus before Moses was even born.
Two women, in a world where women didn't really count much. They weren't even Egyptian women — at least Egyptian women would have had some influence or power. But these were two simple Hebrew midwives. In the eyes of the world, their importance didn't really even register on a scale.
One day the raging and fearful king of Egypt, the Pharaoh whose name we don't know (the Bible's storyteller doesn't bother to mention it), asks these two Hebrew women to do something dark and horrible. He wants them to kill all the baby boys born to the Hebrews.
Now this is horrible in itself, but perhaps even more terrible to a people who have been taught the value of life. In the creation account of the Hebrews, people were valued not because of what they do, but because God created them. They are intrinsically valuable — just to be born is evidence of God declaring you good.
Pharaoh wouldn't have shared this worldview. For ancient Egyptians, people were functional. Women were property. Hebrew boys were a potential threat. I doubt Pharaoh's command was even very personal; evil rarely is. It was most likely a cold, rational decision: Hebrew baby boys were better off dead.
The Egyptian midwives of the time could possibly swallow Pharaoh's edict that these babies were unnecessary. And in fact our current culture can be convinced of reasons why children shouldn't be born. But ancient Hebrews could not. The Hebrew midwives knew something that the Egyptians didn't: They knew life was a gift. They knew babies don't come from storks, or the will of a man, or even the womb of a woman. Babies come from God. Life, the Hebrews have always taught us, is a gift.
So these two women did something incredibly powerful. They said no. And make no mistake: Every revolutionary act begins with a no. When the most powerless group of people in society stood up to the most powerful, something happened. Time suspended, things slowed down, the world flipped upside-down even if for a brief moment, and everything changed. Because of their belief in God and beauty and life, because they were willing to take a risk and do the impossible thing, to do the right thing no matter what it cost, light came into an impossibly dark situation.
We know the names of those two women; the biblical record makes sure of it. Shiphrah and Puah. Pharaoh's name is not so clear, but then, what's special about a king being a tyrant? But Hebrew midwives standing up to a tyrant king? Now that is something special indeed. They are named in eternity because they defied a tyrant king to honor the King of life. And they let the boys live.
In that season, a little baby was born to parents who saw that he was beautiful, special, valuable — something every parent would see if they had the eyes to see it. That baby grew up to be an unlikely hero, Moses, who would lead the people of God from slavery to freedom — an Exodus so big the world is still talking about it! He was a deliverer, first delivered by two women who understood the breathtaking power of beauty in life.
In the story of God's people getting free, the value of life is a central theme that I think would be irresponsible to miss. Shiphrah and Puah put their lives on the line for it. Moses' parents saw the value of their beautiful baby boy at his birth. Even Pharaoh's daughter, when she opened a basket floating on the Nile River and saw Moses' precious little face, understood that the power of life — the gift of it, the value of it — is a force. And now, when life is birthed, and the cry is heard, we are all reduced to tears — or maybe enlarged to tears, because the beauty of it unlocks something within us, and we weep in the lap of love. Touched by kindness. Breathtaking beauty.
This is how God sees us — as a gift to the world, as people with value and purpose and beauty. Not because of our gifts or our jobs or our bank accounts, but because of who we are. He made us with deep value.
Let that understanding guide you as you read this story. Because the Exodus is really everyone's story. Every single one of us struggles with the oppression of being devalued. Every single one of us faces choices like the one those midwives made on a completely normal day in Egypt many thousands of years ago. I'm praying that we would learn from their example and let the boys live on our watch, that life would have room to cry, grow, learn, expand in us and through us. May we be born again into the beauty of God's Kingdom of life. Right now. Our Exodus starts as we encounter the breathtaking beauty of life.
What are some of the things — the expressions of goodness and beauty and life — that take your breath away?
How are these expressions sometimes devalued by others?
What can you do to assert and celebrate their value?
Excerpted from The Ultimate Exodus by Danielle Strickland. Copyright © 2017 The Salvation Army. Excerpted by permission of NavPress.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
THE EXODUS: A Quick Review, xvii,
CHAPTER 1: Breathtaking Beauty, 1,
CHAPTER 2: How Slavery Starts, 9,
CHAPTER 3: Tiny Little Spider Bites, 15,
CHAPTER 4: What Pain Can Do, 25,
CHAPTER 5: Unlearning, 33,
CHAPTER 6: There's a Pharaoh in All of Us, 43,
CHAPTER 7: It Gets Worse before It Gets Better, 55,
CHAPTER 8: The Wild Gospel and Living in Deserts, 63,
CHAPTER 9: The End: of Ourselves, 71,
CHAPTER 10: Picking Blackberries and Bushes on Fire, 81,
CHAPTER 11: What's in Your Hand?, 91,
CHAPTER 12: Confrontation, 99,
CHAPTER 13: Don't Be Afraid, 107,
CHAPTER 14: Start Now and with You, 115,
CHAPTER 15: Living Open handedly, 125,
CHAPTER 6: Sabb1ath in Defiance of Slavery, 135,
CHAPTER 7: Stay1ing Free, 141,
What People are Saying About This
In The Ultimate Exodus, Danielle Strickland reminds us that God invades our ordinary, everyday lives in ways that lead us closer to true freedom. She knows this, of course, because she’s experienced that liberty in real ways most of us can only imagine. As she retells some of the ways God has led her from the edge to an exodus, we are reminded again that life is more than just one Red Sea crossing.
If you’re searching and longing for freedom in your life, find someone who knows what it feels like to be free, and lives it. Find someone who understands that freedom is not a cheap quick fix and that it’s often hard, sacrificial, and disciplined. Find someone who’s failed and gotten up again, with skin in the game and scars to prove it. Someone who is compassionate enough to love you where you’re at but challenging enough to not let you stay there. Find someone who can’t stop working toward setting people free because she has discovered the kind of good news too good not to share. Danielle offers us all this and more in The Ultimate Exodus. Get the book, and get back on your journeyto freedom.
I’m a total Danielle Strickland fan. Not only is she one of the most outstanding speakers around today, but she’s also a radical witness to Jesus and a good writer to boot. Danielle speaks with the authority of someone who lives out her message in the rough-and-tumble of life.
The Ultimate Exodus effervesces with Danielle Strickland’s characteristic passion, compassion, and clarity. It addresses some of the most pressing, pervasive, and personal issues of our time, unlocking freedom and greater joy for us all.
This isn’t a book with information and steps in it. It’s a book about the power of love to set us free. Danielle doesn’t just talk about this in books; she lives it out on the streets. This book won’t make you want to be like Danielleit will make you want to be like Jesus.
Danielle Strickland gives off the fragrance of Jesus. And in The Ultimate Exodus, she reminds us that Jesus came not just to make bad people good but to set oppressed people free and bring dead people back to life. It’s a beautiful book.
This is a book about getting free and becoming a real and an honest-to-goodness follower of Goddisciplined, focused, evangelizing, praying, serving, sabbathing, giving, and believing. And because I know Danielle Strickland, I can say that it’s also written by one. You simply must read it.
It’s common to find a book that would be good for someone you know. It’s rare to find a book that would be good for everyone you know. Simple, beautiful, and comprehensive, The Ultimate Exodus holds treasures of Danielle’s life experiences, and the depth of her spiritual reflections is poetic and life changing. While freedom can be a buzzword, this journey through the central metaphor of Scripture is not only hopeful but also enlightening and deeply enthralling. Through The Ultimate Exodus, you will catch a glimpse of the beauty of God’s love for his children and gain invaluable perspective on how to attain the freedom promised in Christ. This book is a gem.