Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sing it like you mean it! Exodus 15

We’re out. Out of Egypt. Out of bondage. Out of the middle of the Red Sea. Out of the path of some 600 chariots.

It’s a good place to be. So, what happens now? We sing. That’s most of Exodus 15 (link), which is where we are today as we go through the whole Bible. Moses and the people of Israel then break into a song.

The song praises the work of God in delivering the Israelites. It certainly reflects the truth that Israel truly had nothing to do with their salvation. The song itself is beautiful. Even translated into English, the imagery is strong.

The opening lines of the poem bring out the immediate inspiration. The “horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea” speaks of the events in the preceding chapter.This reference to “sea” is part of the evidence that we are not dealing with a minor lake in that event but in a bigger body of water.

Moving on, the song highlights that God is the God of both the current and the previous generation. It seems at times that we have lost that in modern Christianity. We tend to forget that God is not new on the scene or that Christianity is not a recent discovery and happening.

We are far too quick to assume the previous generation knew nothing. People are people, though the world around us has changed in the intervening years. There are valuable lessons that those who have gone before have already learned. Why would we insist on fighting our way through the same aspect?

Moreover, there is an audacity in assuming that because of their “old-school” lives, the prior generations did not know God. It is as if we assume that someone without Facebook could not possibly know God. That is a dangerous position to take in life.

It is even easier to assume that the generation that went through struggles must not have known God, else He would have delivered them. After all, if God is delivering this generation of Israelites from bondage, it must be because He was not involved with that last bunch, right?

No, not right. That is also refuted here. That God was still a part of the life of Israel in the generation that suffered without deliverance is stated here. That is important to remember: it is not always about whether this generation or that generation called out to God. Rather, it is about His work on this earth.

After the glorious singing, though, things go in a bad direction. The people go from great signs into the wilderness. In the wilderness, life is harder. In the wilderness, challenges come without quick answers.

In this wilderness, there was water. It just was undrinkable, a terrible temptation for the thirsty people. Their anger comes out, and it comes out against the earthly figure that is at hand. They grumble at Moses.

God guides Moses to a tree that, when thrown into the waters, turned the water drinkable. The people drink.

How quickly, though, they went from rejoicing to complaining. Let us all try to avoid that quick shift, shall we?

An important note here is the reference mid-chapter to Miriam, the sister of Moses, as a prophetess. While Moses is the one at the head of the list, he is not there alone. Neither is he the only one who hears from God, and that’s a good thing. No one should be in that position.

Today’s Nerd Note: Hebrew poetry is different from English poetry. It does not rhyme. It did not rhyme in its original language, and does not in translation.

A few of the poetic notes in this passage include anthropomorphism. That’s the technical term for describing something non-human with a human characteristic. An example is the description of God’s mighty hand. Guess what? That does not mean that God used a literal hand. It is a reference to His power as being like the strong hand of a warrior.

This is used throughout the Bible to describe God. It’s normal manners of speaking: we describe the unknown with the known. That should surprise no one. Be careful to remember as you read the Bible: some lines are meant to be seen as figurative language or poetic language. Do not put the burden on them to be specific descriptions.

It is not ‘holding to every word of Scripture’ to take this passage to mean God literally reached down with a hand and smacked the Egyptians. That’s actually ‘going a little too nutsy’ and not seeing the passage as it would have been seen. That is actually one of the keys to Biblical understanding: how was this understood when it was written?

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