The arrogance of man and the character of God.
Big budget, quality actors, dramatic plot… Exodus: Gods and Kings was full of lots of great things and is the latest movie based on a Bible narrative. I found it an entertaining and enjoyable movie, but if you go and see it be sure to read the original story written in the Bible. Although the movie is a gripping cinematic experience, the depiction of God and accuracy of the biblical material is skewed. And, upon reflection, I think there are two things this movie draws our attention to: the arrogance of man and the character of God.
The Arrogance of Man
Exodus unsurprisingly focuses on the life of Moses (Christian Bale) and trades heavily off his relationship with the Pharaoh, Ramses (Joel Edgerton). Moses is set up as a successful warrior and a freedom fighter, making him out to be the hero figure. Upon his return to Egypt he even trains up an army of Hebrews to fight back and uses guerrilla warfare tactics to try and convince Ramses to free his people. However, the Biblical Moses, particularly to begin with, is a humble, unwilling, God-Fearing man .
As you read on, you then see the great contrast of the Pharaoh who is arrogant and heart hearted, defiant not to let the Hebrew slaves go free. This portrayal of the Pharaoh was evident in the film but it seemed Moses too carried an air of arrogance, convinced he could free his people through his own strategy and strength. This pride of Moses gets him nowhere and it is only when God sends the plagues that the Pharaoh is moved (and the watching audience too!). Hence we see what God desires is humility, a realisation Moses finally comes to near the end of the movie.
While producer Ridley Scott holds Moses up as the hero for the Hebrew people, the real hero in this great escape was God. He is the one who controls powerful plagues and moves the heart of a feeble human called Moses. But this should not surprise us about God, because the Bible continually says that "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Which leads me to my second point…
The Character of God
God calls us to be humble because he wants us to realise that we are not rulers over our own lives and cannot save ourselves. Perhaps the most troublesome aspect of Exodus is the portrayal of God as a vision of a young boy. It unhelpfully sets him up as a character who is reactionary, immature and seems to throw tantrums to get his own way.
The sovereign, majestic, creator God is not like that at all. Rather he has a clear plan that has been set in place from the beginning of time (just read Ephesians 1). In all his ways he is both just (which does carry with it judgement) and merciful. At times, the movie makes him look like the bad guy instead of the hero who powerfully rescues his people. Much is made of trying to convince Moses that he belongs to the Hebrews, not the Egyptians, yet little space is giving for showing how the Hebrews are God’s chosen people, whom he has been working through for decades past and to whom he has given great promises to through Abraham.
The movie fails to show the deep love God has for his people, who are crying out to him from the bonds of slavery. It is that same love and commitment to his people that drives him to spectacularly set them free. Indeed God still holds that love for us now, which he has shown by sending his son, Jesus Christ, to die in our place.
You see, what the Exodus story ought to do is leave us humbled by Gods incredible power and faithful love for his people. But we should also realise that the incredible rescue from Egyptian slavery is but a shadow of the rescue from sin that we receive in Christ.
My recommendation is that if you go and check out this gripping movie production, be careful you don’t lose sight who we are compared to God. He is the hero, and we are not.