Theology in a New Key: Egypt

For some time now, I have been concerned about the number of worship songs which focus on victorious living. Some of these songs promise divine help with negative thought patterns (like shame or fear). Others promise divine deliverance from more tangible opponents (like cancer or addiction).

Don’t get me wrong. I believe God is powerful. I believe God can strengthen and heal. But I have a long history of praying for miracles that haven’t come yet, and I don’t want to make people promises God, in His wisdom, will not keep.

Exodus as Typology

There is one interesting exception to this trend—Cory Asbury’s song “Egypt.” With powerful vocals and a stirring melody, Asbury urges his audience to consider how the God who led Israel out of Egyptian slavery might even now be calling His children out of their own bondage experiences.

More precisely, Asbury draws upon his own experiences of deliverance, using the language of exodus to praise the God who still sets people free. It could reasonably be objected that Asbury is allegorizing the Exodus narrative. That way of reading Scripture has a long history in the church, but it has generally been condemned by Protestant exegetes.

Caution is certainly warranted. We should always be careful about reading ourselves into the stories of Scripture. Sometimes, we don’t belong there. But the way the Exodus story is used by writers of both the Old and the New Testaments suggests we indeed should read ourselves into that story.

Moreover, I don’t think Asbury is reading the Exodus narrative in a strictly allegorical way. I rather think his reading is more typological. He presents the Exodus narrative as an example of how God works in the lives of His people. And typological readings of Scripture have long been respected by a variety of Christian theological traditions.

Too Individualistic?

It might also be objected that “Egypt” reads the Exodus narrative through an excessively individualistic lens. It is certainly true that we Americans tend to glom onto texts which we think promise us, as individuals, success in whatever endeavor we happen to take on.  It never crosses our minds that we might be Jeremiah (the suffering prophet who died, it seems, far from his home) rather than David (the victorious warrior-king).

Nevertheless, the careful reader of Scripture will notice God shows real concern about individuals—even those who ostensibly stand outside of His covenant promise (think Hagar and Naaman). Deliverance is not merely a corporate thing. It is something God offers to individuals, to broken people like you and me.

The truth is I need the victorious, warrior-God of “Egypt.” I need to be delivered from so many things. I need to know God has not left me helpless in a cruel world. I need to know God will fight for me. And I need to praise God for the mighty warrior He is.

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