Sunday, October 08, 2006

How Dreadful Is This Place (Exodus 16-19)

There is no honeymoon for the marriage of the Lord and Israel. Oh, there is a wedding feast (Passover) and a consummation (The Red Sea), but as soon as they are free from danger the people begin to grumble:
Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.
In a heartbeat they would trade the salvation of God, and all the promises and hope that it entails, for pots of meaty stew. After all, they would argue, “we are about to die; of what use is the Lord’s victory over Pharaoh to us?” Thus Israel despised his birthright.

There is indeed little the Israelites have to commend themselves to anyone. They are a whiny, ungrateful, cowardly, unorganized rabble. It is one of the things that testifies to the truth of the story of Exodus – if this were not indeed the history of this people, they certainly would not invent it for themselves!

But God sticks by them, consenting to provide them with bread from heaven to feed them, water to quench their thirst, and victory over the Amalekites to ensure their survival. And God’s reputation is spreading. Jethro, an outside observer, cannot help but be impressed at how much greater the Lord is than the gods he is used to.

The Israelites are about to learn this lesson all too well. Here God reminds them, not only of the deliverance they have just experienced, but also of the great vocation he is calling them to:
You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
With flashes of lightning and booms of thunder, the cloud of God’s presence descends upon Mount Sinai. The people are warned: keep absolutely clean, be on your best behavior, abstain from sex, don’t go near the mountain! Here is a presence so potent that a mere touch will kill you in an instant. Danger seems to be the only thing this motley crew respects, and the fear of the Lord is at least the beginning of wisdom.

There is an interesting parallel between the Israelites here and Esau who too when he was a little hungry concluded “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?”

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home