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Apr 24 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 22, 2018 – Exodus Chapters 15 – 16

Basic Survival: Food and Water

I will sing to the LORD for he has triumphed gloriously;
he has hurled both horse and rider into the sea.
The LORD is my strength and my song;
he has given me victory.
This is my God, and I will praise him—
my father’s God, and I will exalt him!
 Exodus 15:1-2

Intro: These verses begin Israel’s first psalm of praise

However, it will be a long time before music becomes regular feature of their worship
– I am going to run through what follows quickly and then return to this song

Israel’s “other song” is their chorus of complaint (15:22-27)

They arrived at their first desert oasis, but the water there was undrinkable
– we naturally encounter “bitter” moments when traveling
• they went straight to complaint, grumbling or murmuring
• the Hebrew word suggests frustration or disappointment settled in the heart
◦ and then verbally leaking out
◦ they learned to complain while they were slaves in Egypt
– Israel was an infant nation – they had been dependent on their masters
• it did not occur to them that they could fend for themselves
◦ symbolically, the wilderness was more than a place, it was a state of mind
◦ uncertainty, unpredictability, chaotic and filled with unknown dangers
• God did not scold them for complaining or for criticizing Moses
◦ instead, he used this incident to test and train them (see vv. 25-26)
◦ he could take care of them and given their cooperation he would take care of them

Their next trek brought them to a true oasis, v. 27
– the significance of twelve springs and seventy palm trees:
• a water source and five palm trees (date palms) for every tribe
• God was taking care of them

Before long, the people were griping again (Chapter 16)

When forming an opinion about a situation or a person,
– nothing easier than finding something to criticize
• if you can’t find some flaw, it is easy enough to invent something

For example, when Daniel’s enemies could not find any fault or evidence of corruption in his administration or service to the king, they conspired to set the stage so he would be condemned for his righteous behavior (Dan. 6:4-5).

• criticism is not a skill we want to develop
◦ it tends to spoil everything in our lives
– note the symmetry in their complaint:
• it emerges in the contrast between Egypt and the wilderness:
“In Egypt we had food.
In the wilderness we are going to starve to death.”

Again, God does not fault them for their grumbling
– for now, he wants them calling on him whenever they have a need
• this is not exactly prayer and it was certainly not best possible way to ask
◦ in fact, their statement is rather snide, If only Yahweh had killed us back in Egypt
• but God is patient with them
– Moses, on the other hand, is obviously irritated

What have we done that you should complain about us? . . . What have we done? Yes, your complaints are against the LORD, not against us (Ex. 16:7-8)

Then God did something special for Israel – 16:9-10
– he revealed himself to Israel and set food on the table
• the revelation of God’s glory is a self-manifestation
◦ there was no visible form, only the radiant glow of his presence
• they were permitted to see something of who God was
◦ not only deduce who he was by his actions
– that evening, quail flew into camp and in the morning:

the area around the camp was wet with dew. When the dew evaporated, a flaky substance as fine as frost blanketed the ground. The Israelites were puzzled when they saw it. “What is it?” they asked each other (16:13-15)

• it was breakfast – a substance they could grind into flour and use to bake bread
◦ they never figured out what it was, so they named it “manna” (“What’s this?”)
• vv. 17-18, everyone had enough and just enough for each day
◦ except the sixth day when God delivered double the amount
◦ he was already training them to observe the Sabbath

We are not in a position to make moral judgments regarding Israel

Having access to enough food and drinkable water is not a trivial concern
– after breathing, eating and drinking are up there at top of list of human needs
• Israel is just beginning to learn about God’s provisions
• centuries later, Paul felt compelled to assure the Philippians that

this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus (Php. 4:19)

◦ and even still he reminded Timothy

After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content (1 Tim. 6:7-8)

I wonder if we realize how much we have
– it has become apparent to me that my portfolio includes friendships
• I’m not a great friend – I don’t keep in touch or send holiday cards
◦ but if I am needed, I will be there
– this week I was needed — a friend called for help
• between meetings with him, I consulted another friend
◦ from the second friend, I gleaned wise insights
◦ as a result, I was able to be more useful to the first friend who called
• I hope you also have that kind of wealth

Now I want to return to the poem

I saved it for last, because for me, poetry is like desert
– it explores, experiments, contemplates, imagines, and celebrates
• it sometimes surprises in ways that make us sit up and notice
• more than anything, poetry invites us to experience, to see, hear, feel
– poetry has its own rules – words aren’t bound to their dictionary definitions
• the sky can weep and trees can clap their hands for joy
– because poetry begins in the soul
• and then makes its way through the body and mind,
◦ it provides a perfect language for prayer and praise
◦ it also helps us connect with the souls of others; even those we don’t know
• yesterday, I walked our dog, Kona, near a park, where I heard singing
◦ a group of Korean Christians were singing they hymn, “Revive Us Again”
◦ I smiled and mouthed the English words to myself as we passed by
◦ my soul shared that sacred moment with them

15:1-2, I will sing to the LORD
– notice for now, that the song begins in the first person singular: “I,” “my,” and “me”
• the individual has a song because of what God has done for him or her
◦ this is how a person owns God and his generous grace
• God had given them a song and he had become their song!

Robert Alter, “God, Who is the source of the speaker’s power, is for that very reason the theme of his song.”

15:3-5, We can see that verb tenses form part of the structure of the poem
The LORD is and he has done this or that
• the poem can move with him through time
◦ his actions unfold in the past, present and future
◦ he has rescued Israel, he is leading his people, and he will bring them into the land

Other noteworthy features of the poem:

  1. The poem uses expressions that are graphic and dramatic
    • it engages the palate of our imagination to paint vivid scenes
    • v. 14 projects into the future where Israel will face new challenges
    ◦ first, it describes the visceral experience of their enemies
    ◦ then it gives the reason – they’re terrified of Israel’s God
  2. The poem uses metaphors that create feelings that match events
    v. 5, they sank to the bottom like a stone
    v. 10, They sank like lead in the mighty waters
    v. 7, God’s blazing fury consumes them like straw
    v. 8, the waters that parted stood straight like a wall
  3. The poem uses poetic license
    v. 9, for example, to put words in mouth of their enemy
    • this speech characterizes the enemy’s aggression and conceit
  4. The poem uses repetition
    • this is a characteristic of Hebrew poetry, known as parallelism
    ◦ for example:
    until your people pass by, O LORD
    until the people you purchased pass by (v. 16)
    • the second line steps up the statement in the first line
    ◦ in doing so, it explains how Israel became God’s people
  5. The poem suggests theological themes
    • v. 13, “redeemed” and v. 16, “purchased”
    • it simply states these concepts, but does not develop them
  6. The poem contains other literary devices
    • but we would have to learn Hebrew to appreciate them

The song ends with a crescendo

The LORD will reign forever and ever! (v. 18)
Everett Fox, “. . . the last verse goes far beyond the celebration of a single military victory.”

Although the song ended, the celebration did not

Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine and led all the women as they played their tambourines and danced. And Miriam sang this song:
Sing to the LORD,

for he has triumphed gloriously;
he has hurled both horse and rider
into the sea (vv. 20-21)

– we have not seen Miriam since her conversations with Pharaoh’s daughter
• and now she is a prophet and worship leader

Conclusion: Paul referred to these events in his first letter to the Corinthians

These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age. (1 Cor. 10:11)

Here is what I hope we learn from their song and example:

First, the poem begins with the voice of an individual and ends with the community of God’s people
– through their shared experience of life with God, the people were melded together
• God’s goal is not to produce one devout person
• God creates families, communities, a people

Stephen Porges, a research scientist at Indiana University, observes, “We have to remember that mammals are very special vertebrates—they need other mammals to regulate their bodily states and to survive”

– the state of one person’s nervous system is transmitted to the nervous system of others
• we can incite fear and spread our anxiety to others
• we can also calm and soothe each other’s fears
Second, song is a way to interact with God and each other
– neuroscience research has led to a new understanding of the importance of play in human interactions
• there are uses of play that are both therapeutic and spiritually beneficial
• Miriam and David (years later) were onto something regarding dancing

Jaak Panksepp emphasizes music and dance, noting that some marathon meets have started banning iPods because it gives those listening to music as they run an unfair advantage over sloggers. He says, “…music and the other arts need to be incorporated into all therapies that are clearly concerned with the human spirit.”

Third, Israel is establishing a pattern that we do not want to adopt
– their griping was unworthy of Yahweh
• eventually they paid a terrible price for it
◦ God had worked miracles to rescue them from Egypt
◦ he had proved himself capable of supporting them
• and God has proved himself to us

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? (Ro. 8:31-32

– we don’t want to pick up Israel’s stubbornness
• it is a natural condition and hard to shake
◦ even when we want to become better people,
◦ we find it difficult to resist the old self
• have you ever caught yourself praying,
“Change my life, O God, but leave me the same”?
◦ doesn’t work, does it?

God has so much for us!
If only we can learn to live with open hearts and hands.
I know that I come to this point all the time,
but I can’t help it.
We need to relax ourselves into trust,
and not fighting what he wants to do
or making it difficult for him to give us what he has for us:
The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
I will advise you and watch over you.
Do not be like a senseless horse or mule
that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.
Psalm 32:8-9

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