19 July 2021Exodus 15:1-21
In your steadfast love you led the people whom you redeemed; you guided them by your strength to your holy abode. (v. 13)
The theme for our readings this week is ‘On Eagles’ Wings’. While eagles are not mentioned until Saturday, the week's readings demonstrate the ways in which God rescues and cares for the children of Israel in their journey from slavery through the wilderness.
Today's passage may be one that some find difficult, laden as it is with military imagery and apparent rejoicing in the catastrophic end to which the enemy comes. It is understood to be an ancient text, often ascribed personally to Moses, although later scholarship suggests that more than just the final verses might be attributable to his sister Miriam, who is named as a prophet and who brings into the celebrations a band of women who dance and play tambourines.
The song gives credit to God for the dramatic way in which the people of Israel, fleeing from slavery in Egypt, are brought to safety through the Red Sea, while their captors and persecutors, the Egyptians, perish when the waters close up again after the escape (Exodus 14). Here, as in other parts of the Bible, song is deemed the appropriate way to celebrate God’s triumph [cf 1 Samuel 2; Luke 1:46-55; Revelation7:12 ]
The song acclaims the power of God – power over even the much-feared manifestations of water and wind. Indeed God is shown as using these unpredictable, potentially lethal elements as weapons, or tools of rescue and salvation. Is there, perhaps, something redemptive in this understanding? Even those parts of life of which we may be afraid can be used for good by God.
The passage resembles, and may draw from, contemporary ancient Near Eastern mythological epic poems in which the sea is vanquished by various deities. However v. 11 introduces a distinctively Hebrew thread, asking "Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?" The God of the Jews is not one among many, but is incomparable in power and in the steadfast love (v. 13) which leads to such a rescue mission.
With the danger of the sea behind them, the people of Israel can now travel on to the Promised Land, and to the holy mountain, referred to in a number of verses, which is the climax of the journey.
- How do you feel about the use of military imagery in the Bible?
- Are there times when the greatness of God makes you want to sing? How has the lack of congregational singing during the pandemic affected your offering of praise to God?
- Have you ever experienced God using something you were initially afraid of to bring salvation or rescue in your life?
Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long. (Psalm 25:4-5)