Category: Arbra Bailey

Exodus 16:2-15

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on September 24, 2017.

In the article, Exodus 16 as an Alternative Social Paradigm, Ann Fritschel introduces an analogy of the Israelites’ wilderness experience to a liminal experience. Taken from the Latin word for ‘threshold,’ liminal is defined as an ‘in-between place,’ a rite of passage as one moves from childhood to adulthood. With the aforementioned in mind, perhaps the actions of Israel are more plausible as we witness a continual disconnect between expectation and application of God’s commands. In Exodus 15, the Israelites take a praise break and worship the LORD that brought them up out of Egypt and through the Red Sea on dry land. It’s not long though, in fact just a month from their miraculous aquatic-based deliverance, before the Israelites piggy back on their earlier disposition of complaining while living in the wilderness. The initial murmuring motif raises its head again in Exodus 15:22-27 when the Israelites are grumbling for the need to quench their thirst. Even after God directs their feet to an abundance of springs and shade trees, the tension of living in-between reappears even in our pericope.

From an exegetical perspective, Exodus 16:2-15 is a rich reservoir for exploration, a gold mine for excavation. While there exists much scholarly debate about sources and literary form, one thing is for certain, our text parallels a traditional pattern of murmuring found in Numbers 14 and 16. Simply put, the people murmur, a conflict occurs, and a theophany combined with a divine word for Moses provides instructions for relaying to the people. Within the text, we find the manna and quail traditions (believed to exist independently) combined to relay an intended message to its hearers that differ from its counterparts in Numbers 11 and Psalm 78. Exodus 16 maintains the tension of the two aforementioned accounts. On the one hand, we witness the gracious provisions of God through the manna and quail. On the other hand, Israel’s disobedience is clearly visible even in the absence of judgment by God.

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Exodus 14:19-31

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on September 17, 2017.

For the sake of contextual integrity, let us backtrack the events that have taken place since Exodus 12:1-14. God has enacted the tenth and final plague on the land of Egypt, resulting in the death of every firstborn person and animal whose doorposts and lintel is not covered by the blood of the sacrificial lamb. Now the promise of God to set the captives free unfolds, as Pharaoh and the Egyptians urge the Israelites to go away and carry their plunder with them. Yet, while the Israelites are making their way from Rameses to Succoth, several critical practices are outlined primarily for Israel’s remembrance. Remember the ordinance of the Passover and its significance as on this day the LORD brought you up out of the land of Egypt (Exodus 12:43-13:2). Enact the Festival of Unleavened Bread continually as a remembrance of how the LORD demonstrated His strength in providing your deliverance (Exodus 13:3-10). Consecrate your first born as a reminder to your children that you are here today only by the grace and strength of the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt (Exodus 13:11-16). Finally, just in case the people were subject to convenient amnesia, Yahweh provides pillars of clouds and fire to represent His presence that rests with them and leads them along the way (Exodus 13:17-22).

Armed with a plethora of devices to stimulate the Israelites’ senses for relating to Yahweh, the LORD makes an executive decision to reveal another aspect of His glory in yet another unexpected way. God orders an abrupt U-turn of the Israelite camp back towards Pharaoh and relays the end goal of His plan to His servant, Moses. It is here where the Israelites and we begin to experience the tension of the text. Now the narrator outlines two divergent plans, Yahweh’s and Pharaoh’s, making it obvious that a cataclysmic showdown is inevitable. It’s not long before Israel’s brain cramp sets in signaled by a murmuring motif aimed at Moses and ultimately at God. Moses, displaying potentially a measure of growth and positive leadership, addresses the people’s actions of fear opposed to their hyperboles of the “good life” lived in Egypt. In response to the implicit prayers of Moses towards Yahweh, God recapitulates His plan for the Israelites and conveys to Moses that prayer time is over, now is the time for praxis (faith placed into action).

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Exodus 12:1-14

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on September 10, 2017.

Much has happened between Exodus 3:1-15 and Exodus 12:1-14. God provides Moses with signs for the times. Moses receives a spoiler alert on how the encounter with Pharaoh will end and then God sends him back to Egypt to set the plan in motion. As foretold by God, a triad of plagues in triplets strike the land of Egypt as Pharaoh and God take turns in hardening the King’s heart. In this rhythmic dance, a noticeable pattern emerges, in the first two plagues of each triplet Pharaoh is warned and instructed to let the Israelites go. When he refuses, the aforementioned plagues take place. However, the final plague in each triplet comes upon Egypt without warning, and with each plague, the severity grows even worse. Now the tenth and final plague is given to Pharaoh affixed with a warning label of “extreme danger” as a disclaimer for disobedience. Here we find the Passover (Exodus 12:1-13:16), in between the call of Moses occurring “in the past” and the fulfillment of a promise by God “in the future” with special instructions for God’s people, Israel, to follow in between “in the present.” A closer inspection of Exodus 12:1-14 unveils the Passover is more than a dietary meal for the purpose of remembrance for the posterity of Israel. The Passover signifies the messiness of life, where the tension between the call of God and the realization of the promise of God takes place in our lives. It’s the “in between” phase of life where God doesn’t merely pass over His people, but provides them with a specific set of instructions for their obedience and ultimately their deliverance.

During this crucial stage of the journey, God relays to Moses and Aaron that a new day has dawned for His people, as God orders a blank slate on the tablet of time for chronicling the history and identity of the Israelites based on what God is about to do (Exodus 12:1-2). Whether the Hebrews would now have two calendars (a civic and religious) or recalibrate their existing way of tracking time, one thing is for certain, the 15th of Nisan has become the origin of a new axis, a new season and way of life. More than that, God places emphasis on the family unit, household, as the means by which the Passover is experienced and celebrated. The importance of community bears mentioning in a time where our current society places enormous emphasis on individuality.

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Exodus 3:1-15  

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on September 3, 2017.

The life of Moses has been covered by Hollywood to the extent that it may appear common, yet perhaps it is here amongst “the common” things of life that Exodus 3:1-15 provides an opportunity for the preacher to connect with the congregation. For it is in the everyday routine of a shepherd attending to the sheep that we encounter Moses in this pericope (Exodus 3:1). Unbeknown to Moses, what started out as an ordinary, common, day would serve as a trajectory point for a life altering extraordinary encounter with the Holy. Yet, an appreciation of Moses’ past is required to understand the significance of the present.

Here is a man whose life has been nothing less than a roller coaster ride of emotions. From a prince in the palace to a murderer and an alien in a foreign land. This commoner experienced the highs and lows of life. Not to mention, his current profession wreaks with a foul odor designating a lowly position in life. With a resume full of failures, dreams deferred, and a daily routine filled with isolation there is nothing extraordinary about Moses at this point in his life while wandering in his own wilderness.

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