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).