Monday, February 1, 2010


Exodus 15-17

Following their passage through the Red Sea, in chapter 15 Moses and the Israelites sang a song of praise unto the Lord. The first part of the song praises God for destroying the Egyptian forces following them by covering them with the Sea that he had held back from the Israelites. The song then continues to praise him for the support that he will give them in the days ahead as they face new enemies, including the Philistines, Moabites and Canaanites. And Miriam, described as prophetess and Aaron's sister, "took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing." And they sang at least the beginning of the same song.

After traveling through the desert for three days, the came to a place called Marah, but could not drink the water because it was bitter. And the people grumbled against Moses. Moses cried out to the LORD, who showed him a piece of wood. When he threw it into the water, the water became sweet. The Lord said to the people that if they followed his commands and did what is right in his eyes, he would not bring on them the diseases that the Egyptians had suffered. They then moved on and camped at Elim, which had 12 springs and 70 palm trees.

In chapter 15, the Israelites travel to the desert of Sin, between Elim and Sinai. During this travel, they continue to grumble, saying that it would have been better to die at the LORD's hand in Egypt than to starve in the desert. The LORD then said to Moses that he was going to rain down manna upon them, and that each day, they should go out and gather to themselves enough for that day. On the sixth day, they should gather two days worth, but not more, because any more than needed for the day, or for the sixth and the sabbath, would go bad. That evening, quail came and covered the camp, so they had meat, and the next morning, the dew faded, leaving "thin flakes like frost." The Israelites didn't know what it was, but Moses told them it was the bread the LORD had provided. They gathered as they had been told, but some paid no attention to Moses and kept some until morning, "but it was full of maggots and began to smell."

Every morning everyone gathered what they needed for the day. On the sixth day, they gathered enough for two days, and on the sabbath they had bread that didn't go bad. And some went looking but there was no manna found on the seventh day. The LORD expressed some frustration to Moses that some people weren't listening. Then he instructed them to save some in a jar, so that the generations to come could see what the LORD had provided for them in the desert. And they ate the manna for forth years until they reached the border of Canaan.

As their travels continue in chapter 17, the Israelites camped a Rephidim, but there was no water. So again, they quarreled with Moses. Moses cried out to the LORD, saying "what am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me." The LORD told him to walk ahead, and strike the rock at Horeb with the staff with which he had struck the Nile, and that water would then come out for the people to drink. He did this in the sight of the elders of Israel.

The Amalekites attacked the Israelites at Rephidim, and Moses told Joshua to choose some men and go out to fight them. Moses went to the top of the hill and held up the staff. "As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning." So they gave him a rock to sit on, as he tired, and Aaron and Hur stood on either side of him holding his arms up. Joshua defeated the Amalekites and the LORD told Moses to write the story of the battle on a scroll to be remembered, because he was going to blot out the memory of Amalek "from under heaven." Moses built an altar there.

Thoughts, questions, issues

  • Three days - THREE! - after they had passed through the parted Red Sea and seen the miraculous defeat of the Egyptians, while they were being led by the pillar of cloud in the day and the pillar of fire at night, the people of Israel were grumbling about being thirsty. Jesus rebuked his disciples on occasion for having "little faith," but how much less faith was displayed during the Exodus by the Israelites?
  • Some of you will no doubt look on this as an admission of stupidity or obliviousness, but I had never before associated the Lord's Prayer with the manna in the desert. I grew up reciting (as the NIV has it) "give us this day our daily bread." In the version we use at Park Street, which Dr. Hugenberger thinks is a more apt translation, we say, "give us this day our coming day's bread." Either of them, however, is exactly what the Lord is providing for the Israelites in the desert. Whether you think about it as the daily bread or the coming day's bread, the LORD provides enough for the needs of the day, and that is what Jesus tells us we should pray for.
  • Jesus said, "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible." (Mt 19:26) But it wasn't an original lesson. It started right from the beginning of scripture. What is the lesson of the battle with the Amalekites if it isn't exactly that? With God, the Israelites prosper. Without God, they suffer. With God, all things are possible.

Psalms 1

The book of Psalms is, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it, the "prayer book of the bible." Originally written as songs to be sung or chanted, the psalms vary in content and tone. Some are prayers of praise, others of supplication. Some are confessions, others are prayers of Thanksgiving. They range from very short (Psalm 117 is three verses long, only 29 words) to much longer (Psalm 119 is a Hebrew abecedarius that has over 2300 words in 176 verses.) Many are attributed to David.

I'll have more on the book itself over the coming months, as I do more study. For today, the reading is the first psalm, a relatively short one. And one of the many psalms which I've sung with the choir, in whole or in part, in relatively modern settings.

1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

6 For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

I do like the King James Version of many of the Psalms. It could be just that the vernacular of that time sounds more poetic to our modern ear, but it fits. And this first psalm contains one of the many wonderful images from the book. The righteous man, the man who delights in the law of God, is like a tree planted by rivers of water. The image is that the roots of this man draw strength and nourishment from the living water that God provides. This psalm predates the incarnation by hundreds of years, but reading it now, we hear Jesus saying "everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (Jn 4:13-14)

The ungodly, on the other hand, the ones that don't have their roots in God's law, will dry up and blow away...

No comments:

Post a Comment