I am reading a commmentary on Exodus by Peter Enns. What makes it interesting is the way he takes this ancient text and allows it to speak, rather than telling us, and the text, what it does mean, or should mean. The story of Israel in bondage to Pharaoh is a story of slavery and sovereignty, of disempowerment for the purposes of State and economy. People become resources, humans become labour units, value is located in productivity not dignity, and freedom a threat to the constraints of the product and the power of the Pharaoh - and Pharaoh is a concept familiar to all people at all times whose freedom is held by the hands of unregulated power.
Chapter 1 of Exodus is about a people at risk of oppression and life threatening policies. In this chapter God is incidental, all but absent. God neither speaks nor acts, but is referred to obliquely as at best marginal to the main action. The focus is a people ground down into lives of toil and productivity for the empire, their future threatened and their status as the people of God a claim rendered ludicrous by their powerless ,ness and humiliation.
But even in this first chapter, God is the Creator who saves; and it is indeed, God who will deliver. Pharaoh thinks he is domesticating slaves; actually he is on a collision course with God. The God of Exodus is the same God of Genesis - who creates, calls and judges. The God of Creation is the God of Salvation. The present experience of slavery is connected in the purpose of God to creation, call and judgment. God is therefore in the wings, not absent from the theatre. By late in chapter 2 God will begin to move centre stage, where Pharaoh has already staked his claim as the star of the cosmic show.
I'm reading this commentary in the midst and mess of the EU Referendum, all the little would be pharaoh's squabbling over the centre stage. I find it reassuring, though no less disturbing, that all those claimants are at best penultimates and secondary movers; God is the ultimate and prime mover in human history. Which doesn't mean an irresponsible shoulder shrugging que sera, sera, but an inner call to align with those whom God privileges. And from Exodus to Exile to Bethlehem, Calvary and beyond an empty tomb, that has been with the powerless, oppressed, poor and voiceless people.