The Wild Places Bible Guide – 6
March 18, 2019
Monday, March 18
We continue in our second week of Lent reading passages from the wilderness narratives that sit between Israel’s deliverance from slavery and their arrival in the Promised Land. The founding stories of this people of faith include rescue and promise, but also the chaos and confusion of wild places.
Exodus 19:1-9a (CEB)
19 On exactly the third-month anniversary of the Israelites’ leaving the land of Egypt, they came into the Sinai desert. 2 They traveled from Rephidim, came into the Sinai desert, and set up camp there. Israel camped there in front of the mountain 3 while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him from the mountain, “This is what you should say to Jacob’s household and declare to the Israelites: 4 You saw what I did to the Egyptians, and how I lifted you up on eagles’ wings and brought you to me. 5 So now, if you faithfully obey me and stay true to my covenant, you will be my most precious possession out of all the peoples, since the whole earth belongs to me. 6 You will be a kingdom of priests for me and a holy nation. These are the words you should say to the Israelites.”
7 So Moses came down, called together the people’s elders, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. 8 The people all responded with one voice: “Everything that the Lord has said we will do.” Moses reported to the Lord what the people said.
9 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I’m about to come to you in a thick cloud in order that the people will hear me talking with you so that they will always trust you.”
Points of Interest
- It’s striking how people so often encounter God away from busy economy and industry of human habitation. Certainly, the early Israelites’ primary places of encountering God are not in any human-constructed building. Bible scholar Wes Howard-Brook: “Moses encountered YHWH outside of Egypt, outside of empire, in the wilderness and at a mountain. These two sites are repeated places in which YHWH encounters Israel. It is where the authority of the state cannot reach.” (Come Out, My People, 143)
- The image of the eagles’ wings is a beautiful maternal image for the Divine. God scoops up her young to hold and to treasure, and in time to represent God to the whole earth as well. Many Jews have historically understood themselves as a chosen people, to be specially loved by God and especially equipped to represent the love and justice of God to the whole earth. The New Testament (in the letter Hebrews) also appropriates this responsibility to all followers of Jesus – to experience unique communion with God and to represent the love and justice of God to all the earth as well.
- Along with many other things, Moses passes on the eagles’ wings and holy priesthood news to the whole assembly, and the people shout out in unison: We’ll do everything that God says. I love that God’s response is to tell Moses: I think we should talk where they can overhear us, because I’m not so sure they understand. A funny moment in divine revelation.
- A small but interesting note. God wants people to hear God talking to Moses, not so that the people will trust God more (although that’s probably also true), but so that they will trust and listen to Moses. This is pretty sweet backing Moses gets from God, and also maybe a note of realism in how hard leadership and group learning really is. No matter how eager people may be, it takes a lot of trust and a lot of time for communities to learn new things and to change in any way. Change is hard.
A Direction for Prayer
Pray for your faith community’s calling to ride on eagle’s wings and be a holy priesthood. Pray that your faith community will experience God’s love and protection and represent the love and justice of God to your city.
Spiritual Exercise of the Week
Encounter and Discovery in Nature – This week, each day if you are able, spend a few minutes of quiet in a natural environment. This could be a patch of woods, a park, or even leaning against a single tree. Be creative with what’s available, or try a single, longer trip at one point during the week. (The ocean of Revere Beach, Boston Harbor, or the beaches of Dorchester Bay, and the woods of the Arnold Arboretum, Franklin Park, and more are all available via public transportation.) Quiet your body and mind for a few minutes, and see what you notice or discover. Is there any way you differently encounter yourself, your life, your world, or God in this setting? Is there any perspective you take in?