I will say what is obvious about our Old Testament reading this morning, it is complicated.
If we read the story of the Israel being set free from bondage it would appear that God killed a bunch of Egyptians, and then his people picked up a tambourine and celebrated.
Isn't God a God of mercy and forgiveness?
Didn't Jesus teach us to "turn the other cheek", and "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." ?
How do we square that idea of God with the God we meet in Exodus who in the words of Moses and the people, "The Lord is a warrior, the Lord is his name....Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power- your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy "?
What is obvious from my reading this week is the rabbis have struggled with this same question.
One answer given in the Talmud was that God may have drowned Pharaoh's army, but God didn't like it.
On seeing the drowning Egyptians the angels were about to break into song when God silenced them declaring, “How dare you sing for joy when My creatures are dying” .
God may have to punish evil, but God would rather not.
I can understand this as a parent.
Wouldn't it be better if our children always did the right thing?
Isn't it better if we never would have to correct them, or punish them?
But sometimes we do.
God couldn't allow the Egyptians to keep enslaving the people of Israel.
God couldn't allow the Egyptians to slaughter God's people by the Red Sea.
God had to act.
And this leads me to the biggest problem we have when we read passages like this.
Social standing matters.
We have a hard time with the Old Testament (and really the entire Bible) because it was written for and by people who are on the margins of society.
The Bible was not written by Egyptians.
It was not written by the powerful rich empire.
It was written by a people who were enslaved, threatened, killed, and marginalized.
And we are the Egyptians.
We live in the richest country in the world.
We live in the country with the most resources.
We live in the country with the biggest military.
We live in the country that is the envy of the world.
We live in the country that is dominant in trade.
I think one of the problems we have is that we are rooting for the wrong team.
We feel bad for the Egyptians.
Forgetting that God gave them plenty of chances to let God's people go.
Forgetting that the people of Israel had already left Egypt.
Why are they going after them again?
Let it go.
Maybe because Empires can't.
We can't let anyone get the better of us.
We can't admit that our gods of greed and power are not as powerful as we thought.
Let us think about this in a different way.
How many of you have seen the 1980 classic movie the "Karate Kid"?
When you watch this movie you root for Daniel Larousa.
You see him get beat up and made fun of by the bullies.
They can't let it go.
They search him out and make fun of him or even hurt him.
So you root for Daniel to win and the for the bullies to get what is coming to them.
You don't root for Johnny and Cobra Kai.
And at the end of the movie when Daniel wins the Karate Tournament you cheer, because they got what was coming to them.
That is this scene in the exodus story.
Israel had lived for years under the harsh oppression of the Egyptians.
They were not allowed to be human.
They worked 12 hour days in the hot Egyptian sun, making bricks.
They were fed just enough to keep them alive and working.
When Pharaoh thought that they might rise up against him, he had all the first born sons killed and thrown into the river.
We don't live in that position.
We are not met with daily indignities and evil.
But if we were and our oppressors were then defeated we would rejoice.
We would rejoice like they did at the end of Karate Kid.
In other words it is understandable why the people picked up a tambourine and begin to sing.
And they gave thanks to God for this victory.
What we also see in our reading this morning is that almost immediately things get complicated for Israel.
And almost immediately they forget to trust God.
And God gives a warning not to forget who they are, and where they came from.
In other words, now that you have your freedom don't become like the Egyptians.
Don't go around oppressing other people.
Don't forget that God got you here.
Don't forget to be merciful and loving.
Don't forget that God has been merciful and loving to you.
Because this is us too.
We forget in a second who we are, and were we come from.
Once the bully is gone it is our tendency to take on the bully tactics with others.
The freedom that God gives us is to be used for other people.
It is to be used to free others.
Last Sunday after worship I went to the "Never Again" rally organized by our Jewish siblings.
And one speaker after another remind us that we said after World War II, "never again".
Never again would we allow nationalism to blind us to hatred.
Never again would we allow the color of one's skin, the religion someone practiced, the person that you love be the defining factor in our world.
And yet, we fall so easily back into the mistakes of empires.
When we feel threatened we send out the cavalry, and then are surprised when our armies are drowned.
God has taught us a different path.
As we hear Miriam sing, "In your Steadfast love you led the people whom you redeemed; you guided them by your strength in your holy abode."
That is our only hope.
It doesn't feel like enough.
I mean Pharaoh has chariots, spears, and swords.
And I know that I too am not adequate to defeat the powers of the world.
But what we have is God.
God who has taught us about justice.
God who has taught us about love.
God who has taught us about love.
God who has taught us about mercy.
God who has given us freedom to love our neighbor as ourselves.
To love the stranger, the widow, the poor, the alien.
So who are we for?
Are we for the Karate Kid, Daniel Larousa?
Are we for Cobra Kai?
Are we for Egyptians?
Or are we with God's people.
Who are cheering for at the end of the movie?
I hope for us even though we live in Egypt we will still follow God.
We will not forget where we came from, who we are, who we belong to.
And we will follow all God's commandments, so that we can love our neighbors as ourselves.