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Daily Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, June 19, 2022  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Exodus 3:112

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness and came to Mount Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. Now go, I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He said, “I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” (NRSV)

In one of the most remarkable passages in the Hebrew Bible, God appears to Moses with a series of promises: God has heard the peoples’ suffering, God will deliver them from the bonds of oppression, and God has promised them a better land—to which Moses must lead them. Moses protests, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?” Yet we are told God will not only be with Moses but will be guiding him and the people each step of the way.

Today is Juneteenth, a celebration of the true emancipation of enslaved Black Americans almost two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued. Just as Moses and the Hebrew people were forced to struggle against Pharaoh’s power and authority, this freedom did not come easy—it came only at the end of a bitter war and would soon be replaced by an entirely new struggle. Every step taken on the road to true freedom and liberation, though, is worth honoring and remembering—and for that we truly give thanks today.

Yet even as we celebrate the hard-fought freedom from chattel slavery, which was finally realized on June 19, 1865, we acknowledge that we as a country can never fully celebrate Juneteenth while oppression and injustice still exist around and within us today. In the context of Moses and the people’s journey, we remain in the wilderness—liberated from a particular type of oppression but having not yet arrived at the Promised Land—and there is a growing realization that each one of us will be needed if we are ever to leave this wilderness space. “Who am I?” we might protest like Moses, but may we trust God has indeed called each one of us to help build a world that is equal, equitable, just, and truly free.

Liberating and loving God, I pray that you would use my hands and my voice to build that better world you have promised us—seeking true freedom, justice, and equity for all. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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