I loved Easter as a child. Not only because it meant egg hunts and chocolate. It was also one of the few times each year when the city cousins came to visit. That meant parties, food, and fun. The adults would laugh, drink, and play cards. The kids would laugh, play board games, and run wild.
But in the middle of it all, The Ten Commandments would be aired on ABC. This was back in the early ’70s when we lived deep in rural Missouri. Our television could only receive signals from three channels (ABC, NBC, CBS), with two more (PBS, and channel 11) available if the cloud cover was good and the wind hadn’t blown the aluminum foil off of the antenna.
I loved The Ten Commandments. To me it was the essence of the Easter season. So while the party was going on in the kitchen, I would shush the participants so I could hear Charlton Heston lay down God’s demands to Pharaoh on the other side of the bar in the living room. I was usually alone in my viewing bliss, the other kids having run off to play in the creek or jump out of the barn or something.
For many years, everything I knew about the book of Exodus was based on that movie. From it I developed a childlike faith in miracles and a deeper belief in God’s love for His people. I learned I didn’t want to have a hard heart because God would plague me with locusts or bloody frogs. I was in awe of God’s power and Moses’s ability to display that power.
In subsequent years I have actually read the book of Exodus a few times and experienced the King Tut exhibit (the costumers nailed it), both of which have changed my understanding of the history of Egypt and the reality of the Exodus story. This year, specifically, I have been pondering some really excellent lessons from Exodus that I missed when watching the movie and reading with less seasoned eyes. For example:
1. It’s okay to talk back to God. Yes, there is respect to be paid. But Moses told God he wasn’t ready, that he wasn’t worthy, that he couldn’t do what was asked. They had a conversation about it. Prayer is not a matter of us only listening or us only talking. It is a back and forth exchange where we show our vulnerability to God and ask for help in doing the work He has put before us to do. He doesn’t freak out if we get angry or scared or upset. He is patient but stern and helps us along the way. This is great news to a girl whose every report card had notes like, “Good student—but talks back to teachers.” (It’s how I learn, what can I say?)
But Moses pleaded with the Lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” Exodus 4:10
2. Even if we feel unequipped to do what God asks us to, He expects us to persevere. Moses didn’t get out of speaking just because he stumbled over words. God told him that his mouth was made by God. And when Moses argued further, God sent his brother Aaron to do the talking (that wasn’t in the movie!) But Moses was still expected to show up and give his A-game no matter what.
Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.” Exodus 4:11–12
3. God has ultimate power, but don’t underestimate evil. When Moses and Aaron demonstrated God’s power, Pharoah’s magicians produced magical signs themselves. Satan fights tooth and nail for our time, our hearts, our minds, our souls. We must cling to the True Power and not fall for the hocus pocus. I can get sidetracked with the magic show, caught up in the smoke and mirrors and forget that a battle is raging for our souls. Hell is real. God is power. Don’t get faked out.
So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did what the Lord had commanded them. Aaron threw down his staff before Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a serpent! Then Pharaoh called in his own wise men and sorcerers, and these Egyptian magicians did the same thing with their magic. They threw down their staffs, which also became serpents! But then Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. Exodus 7:10–12 (emphasis mine)
With Easter just a few weeks away, I am excited for the return of The Ten Commandments. It will air at 6 p.m, April 5, on an ABC channel near you (or online). I know it is long and very dramatic and you may have seen it over and over. But watch it anyway. Throw a party with your city friends. Look for new insights. And enjoy the magnificence of Charlton Heston at his finest.