Tagged: Wilderness

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 17:1-7

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on March 19, 2017.

“Not all who wander are lost,” the line from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings hangs in our living room. Reminding my family and visitors that just because we wander at times through this life does not mean that we are lost. We have a home. We have a community. We have a God.

In Exodus 17:1-7, the people are somewhere between the Red Sea (Exodus 14) and Mount Sinai (Exodus 19). The desert is their home. Roaming from place to place is their occupation. They are wanderers. But that does not mean they are lost.

In the past, when I read about the desert wandering I thought the people were lost. No clear direction or leadership. There were grumbling voices from within the community growing louder by the day. The children were thirsty. The livestock faced malnutrition. Anger was building. Desperation was setting in. During desperate times people can do crazy things. Therefore, the work of leadership becomes crucial.

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Luke 4:1-13

This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on February 14, 2016.

Hermano Leon Clipart
Hermano Leon Clipart

Jesus’ journey into the wilderness serves as an annual launching pad for our own 40 day journey into the Lenten wilderness. Occurring with variation in each synoptic, the preacher may be tempted to choose another lection this year. Before doing so, the preacher should consider whether they have sufficiently mined Luke’s depiction of Jesus’ testing, for it is rich with biblical allusion and spiritual guidance.

The first few verses alone are packed with dots that need to be connected. The 40 day journey immediately reminds us of other biblical heroes who have undergone a similar experience. Moses’ 40 day fast (Exodus 24:28; Deuteronomy 9:9) and Elijah’s 40 day flight to the mount of God (1 Kings 19:4-8) come to mind, offering a subtle connection here between Jesus, the great law giver and the great prophet. Then there’s the not-so-subtle connection between Jesus and Israel. Jesus passed through the waters of the Jordan (Luke 3:21-22) just moments before being led into the wilderness by the Spirit. His first temptation: To make bread (think: manna). The connections between Jesus’ 40 days and Israel’s 40 years are not coincidental. Look closely. Jesus answers each test with a quote from Deuteronomy, the book that begins “these are the words Moses spoke to all Israel in the wilderness east of the Jordan…” (Deuteronomy 1:1). Two of those quotes (Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 6:16) come right after the prayer faithful Jews were to pray twice daily, the Shema, and the third comes within 2 chapters (Deuteronomy 8:3). In this story Luke identifies Jesus as both Israel and the model Jew, and the biblical allusions don’t stop there. Instead, Luke continues to draw a line from Jesus’ present experience all the way back to the beginning.

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Matthew 3:1-12

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on December 8, 2013.

All four gospels open with the figure of John the Baptist and connect his ministry and message to Jesus.  Each draws attention to John’s role as a fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3.  In the Fourth Gospel John the Baptist has the exclusive role of introducing Jesus as the Lamb of God and pointing his own disciples toward him.  However, in the Synoptic Gospels John is primarily a prophet of repentance anticipating the appearance of the Messiah and the advent of the Kingdom of God.

Matthew summarizes John’s message simply: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come” (3:2).  He identifies John as the one prophesied by Isaiah who would prepare the path of the Lord in the wilderness, making smooth the way of his coming to his people.

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