When Israel Was in Egypt's Land
When Israel was in Egypt's land,
let my people go;
oppressed so hard they could not stand,
let my people go.
Go down, Moses,
way down in Egypt's land,
tell old Pharaoh:
Let my people go!
The first verse of "When Israel Was in Egypt's Land" and "Go Down Moses" is the same; it tells the story of the Israelites' exodus from Egypt. However, it also is the story of our sisters and brothers' escape from slavery in the U.S. Unable to speak openly with each other, African Americans' spirituals were coded communication. "Israel" represented people who were slaves, "Pharaoh" was the slave master, and "Egypt" was the South. The "Promised Land" was freedom and "Moses" was a "conductor," like Harriet Tubman or John Brown, on the Underground Railroad. The conductor might warn of danger by singing Wade in the Water (ELW 459) to tell the fugitives to walk in the river where bloodhounds could not track them. Do we recognize our sisters and brothers' stories of oppression hidden in the words we sing? Are we willing to share openly the words of all our stories?
Gracious God, thank you for the faith of our sisters and brothers amidst the horrors of slavery. Forgive us when we knowingly or unknowingly oppress our neighbors. In your Son's name, help us to hear, repent, reconcile, and love all people. Amen.