Exodus 39-40

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So, we see the finishing of all that God commanded. There was a lot of to do, and a lot of details that tend to make our eyes glaze over.

But, at the end of it we read this:

“Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 35 Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.

In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the LORD was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel during all their travels.”

I guess this is what happens when we go ahead and follow what God asks. Nice thing it’s not nearly as complicated these days.

Exodus 36-38

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Repetition. First we had the command by God to do the work. Now we have the work being done. The repetition isn’t all that interesting to read, but it’s very important because it is relating to us that the people, finally, did what God commanded. Exactly. They followed his plan to the letter.

Course, this sort of thing really helps when those who are in charge are filled with the Spirit of the Lord, the ruach elohim. The Spirit knows God, obviously.

Another thing comes to mind. Notice who we don’t hear a lot about in these chapters. Notice who is mentioned as the teachers and leaders. Moses is not the featured player. Moses who has the mantle of leadership, who is God’s chosen man, who is the one who hangs out with God and talks with him “as a friend” is not the one who is responsible. He was responsible for the telling. Bezalel and Oholiab are responsible for the doing. The Spirit of the Lord came upon them for this work, and if Moses had thought himself the leader in it he would have been in opposition to God.

Makes me think of a number of churches I’ve been a part of, where the leadership thought that because of the nature of their position they were also supposed to be in charge of everything, and couldn’t let go of the work enough to involve others. Moses knew God. And he knew that this work wasn’t his work to do. And so it was done right because he didn’t do it and didn’t butt in on it.

I think this lesson applies to more than just topics of craftsmanship.

I wonder also if this stepping back by Moses to led the Spirit work in those chosen for the work was why we have 36:4-7.

Too much was being given. So much that Moses had to tell the people to stop giving.

Such is the work when the Holy Spirit is in charge, and given freedom to work in freedom.

Exodus 33-35

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Exodus 33-35

Barely made it to these chapters. No, not me. The Israelites. They were on the verge. Just at the point God felt comfortable to share all that he was, these folks decided they wanted someone else. Maybe not a different name, but a different personality, and presentation. They decided the ways that God would like to be worshiped, and they felt that whatever they decided to offer was fine. They thought God to be like the other gods they knew.

Only they were wrong. God does not like to be mistaken for a cow. He does not like his honor attributed to any others. He doesn’t care about the reasons. Even if he hasn’t made a recent appearance he still insists his revelation is binding in all respects.
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good listening

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Every once in a while I happen across music I really like. There’s usually some kind of interesting story there because I’m not exactly out there in the clubs looking or listening.

Not too long ago I came across Tanya Gordon. She’s friendly, funny, and has a wonderful voice.

Not only does she sing, she also apparently makes a pretty mean lamington. She’s also a part of emerging Church stuff Down Under there.

She just released a new CD. Good music, and the proceeds go to a good cause.

You should buy it.

Exodus 30-32

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I wonder about God’s conversation with Moses in chapter 32. This is one of those moments in which my preconception about God seems to be in conflict with the God I am reading about. Which is right?

That God can be pleaded with isn’t without other examples. Did he forget though? I don’t think so. Maybe it’s more the fact that in his burning anger he was willing to again start over. He could have fulfilled the promise through Moses, since Moses was within the family of Abraham too.

What seems to be clear is that God was convinced to change his mind. That is remarkable. And I think it bears a great deal on the topic of prayer. Moses doesn’t excuse the actions, but instead he argues about God’s own promises. He presents God with God. Is this a reminder because God forgot? I doubt God forgot it, but maybe God doesn’t mind his faithfulness being reflected back to him. He wants us to participate, and participate in ways that show we really do know him.

That’s the trouble with the calf. It’s meant to be a god, only God’s image is not in the calf. It’s a false image. It’s a lie. It is the projection of the people’s thoughts about gods, not God’s revelation. By creating this idol they are showing themselves to be ignorant, and misguided. God wants a relationship. He wants to be known. He first made humanity in his image, but they broke that reflection. Now he called a people to be his priests, but here they reflect a lie. God uses humanity to be a reflection, representatives, images of him in this world, but they don’t get it.

Moses does. Moses gets God. Moses knows God so much he can argue his own traits back at him. And this knowledge, this example of image and reflection, brings transformation to the situation. Those who were facing annihilation got significantly less than they deserve.

On a different note, earlier in chapter 31 there is an extraordinary couple of verses. Did you notice them? Here they are:
“Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts- to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship.”

What makes these extraordinary? This is the first time we are specifically told the Spirit of God came down on anyone. God himself announces it. And for what did the Spirit fill them? To do artistic things. The Spirit came upon Bezalel and Oholiab so they too could be creators, images of God’s creative power in building the Tabernacle.

They are the first charismatics, and it’s expressed in craftsmanship.

a theological post

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I’m going to coin a word. I’ve done the essential research involved and found that in fact Google does not have a single instance of this word.

Before I get to it, I’m going to explain it. Suspense, you see, makes for better reading, and in a theology related post a person needs all the tricks for better reading that can be had.

I’m taking a class on Jurgen Moltmann right now. One of the tasks in this class is to write a short paper on his theological method, on the way he approaches writing about theology. This is what makes theology so fun. I’m asked to determine how to write on how he has determined to write on how God has determined to write. But that’s besides the point.

One of the problems with this task is that Moltmann is brilliant. Another problem is that he’s well, “imaginative”, or in other words does things that others in his guild don’t really appreciate. He’s not all that into the rules.

The rules have a pattern for writing theology, which is why it’s called systematic theology. There’s a system to be had, and worked with. You start with a basic premise then work your way onwards and upwards filling up volumes with a coherent discussion of who God is and what he has done in this world. Depending on the starting point and the assumptions made along the way a theology can look quite different from another theology, but the key to a good theology is not ruined by these differences. Rather what makes a bad theology is that it is incoherent. It doesn’t stick well together, and the pieces don’t match.

So, theologians try to punch holes into each other’s theologies, trying to find the points at which a seamless system reveals seams and cracks and holes. These then can be the basis of an enlightening research paper that gets said discoverer tenure.

What doesn’t always matter is how the theology then intersects with our lived lives. Part of the problem too is that because the study of the Church is within theological purview, the church is made to fit within the same coherent set of meanings, and symbols, and concepts — and becomes an inflexible entity that serves the goal of coherence.

The problems we face are not as much dealt with by the theology as much as they are asked to be quiet and fit in with the theology already established. This leads to friction between who we are and what we think we are supposed to believe.

Friction is a key word here. We’re all in motion in time and in space. We live lives that have a past, a present, and a future. We live lives that are constantly brushing up against other people and other realities. “If I only could be left alone!” we cry when frustrated, the frictions of life grating us to thin wisps of being.

God too, we can say, is in motion. That’s a little trickier concept because he is eternal and infinite, so there seems to be no place for him to move to. However, that’s not exactly the case because God created time and space, and in this time and space there is movement. Indeed, within God himself, some have argued, there is movement. If we see the Trinity as being composed of eternal relationship, and thus eternal interaction, God is in constant motion. Maybe even defined by this constant motion. In theological terms this movement is called, among other terms, perichoresis. It’s a word that can loosely be defined as a dance. The Triune persons are in an intricate dance with themselves, as they also intricately involve themselves within the constantly moving life of this world.

When God interacts within history there is friction. Just ask Jesus on the cross. Or the Israelites in the wilderness. When humans interact with God there is friction, just ask the prophets or look at the letters of Paul. With all the movement these interactions create a divine friction that wears down the other. God becomes angry. Humans become broken.

Systematic theology is a study of God in a vacuum, in a way. It dispenses with the complicated parts that real life encounters in order to develop a coherent system that describes what is, if what is were within a controlled lab setting. This approach gain coherence, for the most part, but does it by setting aside another seemingly important theological goal. Theology should not only be coherent it should have integrity.

Theology should mean something to this world, to our present problems and to our present issues. It should speak into the life I am living this morning if it is to be a real reflection of the revelation of the God who acts.

Which brings me back to Moltmann. His approach, it seems, involves a willingness to discard coherence in his quest for integrity. This drives theologians batty, but it results in a theological discussion that is immediately applicable. He starts with a problem, not with a premise. Instead of moving forward then, and only possible getting to the point where he discusses real life issues, he moves backwards from the problems. He sees a theological solution, an integration of God within this world, and then has to find the “equations” that justify having such a solution.

This sounds disordered, but isn’t as much because God has done much the same thing. He tells us who he is. He acts. He tells us what to value and who to value. He does not start with a systematic expression of his divine reality.

All of Christian revelation begins with an end that forces us to work back to the beginning. God just doesn’t really worry about answering our questions. He’s much more inclined to have us answer his questions. Answering God’s questions is what happens, or should happen, in the life of the church and in our own spirituality.

So there is friction between the questions we want answered and the questions God wants us to answer. Theology and the Church part ways at this friction.

But theology isn’t content with this situation. Neither is the church. The Church tries to get theology to address its problems, theology tries to tell the Church what problems it actually has, which are problems theology can coherently answer.

Meanwhile each individual, each particle, and God himself are in constant motion. There is friction.

When the Church itself cannot address problems, or indeed creates problems, it is a sign the friction has increased and become a hindrance. Auschwitz is a massive point of friction for a German nation that had prided itself on a very, very advance theological conversation. How could a spiritually, socially, and culturally mature nation devolve into such barbarism? Friction. There was a disorder in the movement, and while it seemed to be running well, it instead was being rubbed down into chaos and disorder.

The built-up conception of God did not adequately address real life, and could not reach into the lives of massive desperation that surrounded all of WWII. Theology lost all integrity in the concentration camps.

Yet that doesn’t mean theology has become empty or lost all worth. The problem wasn’t with the Theos, God — the problem was with the logos, the words that were used about God. The words used were in friction with the Logos who was sent as God’s prime revelation within history. It was the words that were wrong. This is true despite the fact that pre-WWII German theology was immensely coherent. They just weren’t coherent with God. And they certainly weren’t coherent with humanity. There was no integrity. That created friction.

We see this now. We see the errors of words by the actions they provoke. We see the results of seemingly ivory tower conversations put into practice by experimentalists, often with cultural and social disasters resulting.

Moltmann was shaped by the Auschwitz reality, not as a Jew but as a German soldier, who lost his own friends defending an indefensible cause. In his POW camp he saw the importance of integrity, and over the years has been willing to sacrifice a bit of coherence in order to constantly keep in sight the pressing problems that humanity inflicts upon others, and upon God himself. The very disorders that characterize suffering in this world are not merely accidental by products of sin among us. They are key indicators of points of friction between God and humanity.

Some of this friction, especially in Christian societies, comes from being caught too much on individual parts of God’s own motion. An over-emphasis on Christ seems noble, except that such often creates destructive hierarchies and distorted power structures, as people assume that Christ needs representation, not in love but in power. An over-emphasis on the Father creates legalistic cultures that rhetorically reject the Law as found in the books of Moses, while instituting whole new laws that try to regulate every part of life so as to bring approval from God. An over-emphasis on the Spirit brings storms and heresies. Each person becomes a power for themselves, and unrestrained in their enthusiasm. They become unmoored, and victims of potent spiritual realities.

The problems point to the frictions. Particular problems can illustrate potential sources of frictions that should be addressed so that the movements of God and man through time and space can be addressed both theologically and practically. How we address problems relating to leadership, or poverty, or psychology, or nature, or whatever seems to break down our theological integrity in this world seems to be now an extremely vital task. Systematic theology has created coherent systems which provide foundations. There is not too much new left to be said. What has to happen, however, is that these theologies need to be probed for their points of friction, to discover how when practically applied they enhance or break down society, culture, and relationship.

If there is friction then that means we are stuck on something. It means we are caught up in disorder, and even small disorder can cause huge problems in our constant movement. The most potent friction is, of course, sin. But that’s not the only friction. Sin can arise from other frictions, such as a disordered view on how the Spirit does in fact work in this world, or a misconception of Jesus’ mission on this earth, or a dismissal of God’s work in his created world.

Friction can arise from very earnest intentions. But it’s still friction. And friction causes problems. So, it must be addressed. And only by seeing aspects of the world that are not what they should be according to God’s original intent can we discover specific points of friction. This is what Moltmann attempts to do. Theological integrity seeks a frictionless surface between God and this world, so that what we say and what we do really and truly reflects God’s kingdom in the present, and helps bring transformation.

What this means, basically, is wholeness. A theology that is without friction allows for, results in, psychological, relational, and societal wholeness.

Which brings me to my word, and a word which I think should become the primary motivation within Emerging circles and others who seek to, first of all, have integrity in this world. Words about God are not enough anymore. Theology is not a strong enough goal. Instead we need to study the frictions.

Which is why we need not only theology but also theotribology.

“Formally defined, tribology is the science and technology of interacting surfaces in relative motion and all practices related thereto.”

Theotribology, then is the exploration of the interactions between God and humanity, within this world and with each other.

As you can tell by this roundabout post, the concept still needs a bit of work. Just had to write this now as a starting point.

Exodus 25-27

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Maybe I have a question.

Why so exact? Why did God need to specify what he wanted to such precision?

As I wrote that a possible answer occurred to me. We love serving God. We want to do all sorts of things for him, and offer him the most majestic honors we can think of. But how do you give a gift to someone you don’t know? One way is to buy them something you would like, or others like that person would like. The Israelites had plenty of models. They saw what the Egyptian gods preferred, and that was their picture of what a god would want.

Only God isn’t one of those gods. His interests are different, and in all ways he wants to be distinct. From this perspective this is a wish list of sorts, a way to guide the people in their desire to give so that they give what God wants. He doesn’t want people to offer him any old thing and be happy they gave. He wants order. He wants people to listen. He wants a particular decor that from top to bottom speaks theologically of God’s character.

I’ve heard some say that this tabernacle is a reflection of the Throne room, so that there is a mirror on earth. Which is why it needed to be exact.

Instructions abound through the Bible. And to be honest these here are some of the most comforting. They don’t allow room to think. A person just follows the plan. Later on the instructions get more vague — love your neighbor. Help the poor. Edify those in the Body.

Unfortunately, the church has taken these vague commands and made their own versions of specifics, calling it tradition or church order or some other such thing. All because having a list like this here in Genesis seems tedious, but in reality its very comforting. Knowing exactly what God wants, from his own mouth, makes for easy agreement. But, it doesn’t exactly reveal a close relationship.

That comes later.

Exodus 22-24

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In reading these laws we can, I think, get a glimpse into what God sees as important. Maybe they do not all apply, and they are certainly not binding on us in the same way, but in these laws I think we can get a fair measure of applicable proverbs. Things we can voluntarily put into practice in our lives.

It might be interesting to go law by law. But that would also take a bit of time, so I’m not going to do it.

I’m going to see if we can find groupings. Well, theft is one. What does this mean? It seems God is a respecter of our private property. While there is a communal quality, he seems to understand that we have a separation from others with certain items or property. Essentially, this is an honoring of boundaries. If one person invades or takes from another they are to help the victim be restored, so there is no loss. Not only that, the inconvenience is noted and so if the original can’t be returned the thief has to pay interest, even if it means the thief goes into slavery.

God asks us to respect other people, and to respect what God has given them. No coveting, after all.

The verses following 22:16 go a different direction. Here God is showing his concern with social order, and that includes religious propriety. In the first section here we see the concern being for individual rights. Now we see the concern focusing on the rights the society has, which the individuals must be accountable for.

Included in this is a few interesting bits. One there is a clear importance put on not offending God himself. He is the source of power and life for Israel. So, don’t anger him, please. At this point he’s asking nicely. Later on in the prophets his reminders get a little more potent.

Another is that within society personal property rights are not the sole financial concern. How we treat the least among us is as, if not more important. I say more because in these verses we are told that if a person has a grievance because they were trampled in their need, God himself will respond to their cries for justice.

Sorceresses should be put to death. Anyone who has sexual relations with an animal shall be put to death. Anyone who takes advantage of a widow and orphan… don’t worry about them. God himself will be their executioner. He takes such things personal apparently.

Oh, and don’t charge interests if you loan money to a poor person.

All people should be treated fairly and generously, no matter their station in life. If you try to profit off their pain, watch out for God.

Chapter 23 continues many of the same themes. God is a fair God. He is a just God. He is a compassionate God. He is an honest God. He is an upright God. Even if it hurts, do right by people. God is watching.

Justice and mercy are not merely nice words to be bandied about. For God they are eminently practical words that have absolutely pragmatic applications. Words mean something. They mean actions and responses and sometimes sacrifice.

In 23:10, however, we have a little change of pace. God has taught about justice and mercy and shared a little introduction to what and who he values. He has set up patterns for living in space together.

Now, he sets up patterns to live in time together. Six days work, then rest. Six years sow a field, on the seventh let it rest. Let a grove and a vineyard have the same sabbath year. Don’t even guard it. Let loose all responsibility for it during that year. Let the poor and animals take what they want.

Reminds me of John 3:16. For God so loved the world, he sent his son. The world is also in need of rest, and just as sin trashes our inner being, too much overwork is too much for the land itself. To live right, there has to be patterns of work and rest, for us and for everything.

Three times during the year, God commands, party. It’s the law. Feast. Dance. Celebrate God’s work. Remind yourselves three times during the year what God has done and be thankful for it.

Oh, and don’t cook a goat in its mothers milk.

The Sabbath is an ordering of the present, giving it over to God. Passover is the mark of the Past. In 23:20, God gives order to the future. He is establishing himself as being in control of space and time, so that here he says exactly what his angel will do, so that the People can live and act in such ways as reflects the angels actions. They can live in hope. They can live in promise. They can live in victory.

God will act, therefore live in such a way as though God already acted. The future determines the past. God’s promises echo back into the present changing hearts and minds, so they can live without the fears and worries that the present always offers, as well as put aside the regrets the past constantly brings up. The People of God are people who live in the power of the future, and so change the present by reflecting God in ways of hope and life and joy and thanksgiving.

I’m struck by how much 23:20-33 reminds me of another teaching later on. This section is very much like the book of Revelation, though plenty shorter.

Chapter 24 wraps this first law giving up. Moses goes and meets with God, who finalizes this telling with the ceremony of sacrifice and tablets.

God has in the last five chapters given a very well rounded revelation of himself, setting out briefly and succinctly what he values and who he is. He is a God of justice and fairness, he is a respecter of individuals and of community. He does not despise the rich but he very much looks after the poor. He demands order in space and in time. These laws are meant for the people of Israel. They are not random bits of good ideas, but instead they are specific patterns of living that if followed will reflect God to this entire world.

We can see God in these laws. See him quite clearly in fact.

Exodus 19-21

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Hey! Back to a more decent hour of posting. What’s that bright thing outside the window. It’s the sun!

So, I’m taking a gander at Exodus 19-21

God meets Moses on the mountain. He commands that no one, nothing else, is to be on that mountain.

My guess is this rule didn’t apply to animals already present on the mountain, such as squirrels and mice and hyraxes and such likely weren’t evicted.

So, what is up with that? Why such strong rules, and strong barriers, and absolute insistence on a precise order?

What happened to the God who walked in the garden with Adam and Eve? What happened to the visits we see in Genesis?

It makes me consider the centuries between Joseph and this new work of God. It’s almost like God is reframing himself. Not changing but rather he put a huge distance between his foundational work of calling the Patriarchs and now this present work of building a people.

The task is different here, and now God is starting from a new beginning, which means first off creating a renewed perception of who he is. This is revelation in action. These people were called by God but they didn’t know God. They knew the gods of Egypt, who were of an entirely different sort and character. So God begins the lessons.

First lesson, on the mountain: God is great. Rather greater than great. Really, astoundingly great, beyond compare. Don’t mess with him. Don’t let your animals mess with him. Don’t think you have any rights whatsoever. Don’t be the least bit presumptuous. His greatness and his holiness go together. He is powerful. He is mighty. Next to him nothing has glory so don’t even think about trying to put other things in his category. He is his own category.

He is not tame.

This is a surprisingly hard lesson to learn. Takes a while to teach it. Much of the Old Testament, in fact. It’s important they learn it because they are a nation of priest. The whole bunch of them are representatives of God now, and how they act reflects back on the God they serve. Not only in their worship, but in every nook and cranny of all of life.

Which means there has to be some guidelines put in place. Those who are his representatives must live lives who fit within God’s revelation and identity.

How, though, does a person represent God to the world if they do not really know who God is? They can’t really. So God shows them how to start. He gives them the Law. These guidelines are not just random rules meant to restrict. They are laws which themselves speak of the God who gave them. Because the people don’t know him, they need a framework which illustrates God’s emphases and character, so that they can grow up into knowledge of Him. With the Law people can reflect God even if they don’t know him. It’s a starting point.

The starting point of the starting point is the Ten Commandments.

I first notice God’s self-identification. He does not define himself in the same terms we find in a systematic theology class. He doe not get into the philosophical “proofs”. He defines himself as the God who acts.

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt. He frames the whole giving of the Law, his expectations for his people, on the basis of his act of liberation and salvation. He choose Israel. He brought Israel out of Egypt. As Paul the Apostle will later say, “therefore…”

Therefore… have no other Gods. Therefore… don’t make an idol. Therefore… don’t use God’s name in vain.

Therefore… remember the sabbath.

Now this one catches me. The Ten Commandments are all the rage in conservative Christian circles. Post em in schools. Post em in courts. Post em in the city square and wherever there’s a spot. Post em all over the place.

How many people who want to post ’em really follow them all. Sure, the no idols one isn’t hard. Who, though, does absolutely no work whatsoever on a Saturday? That’s the sabbath after all. Sunday is a holy day because of the resurrection, which has a different symbolism. We can, and the early church did, work on Sundays. Saturday though is tied to creation. It is tied to God’s work, and he rested on the seventh day. So, do nothing on Saturdays. And by nothing, that means nothing (except healing maybe, as Jesus noted).

That is the teaching of the commandments. And if a person wants to post em all over the place they need to model them before they salute them.

Otherwise it’s religiousy and empty rhetoric which makes God into a figurehead for a vague morality rather than a specific God who acts in specific ways and gives specific ways of reflecting him.

Course, I do a bit of work on Saturdays. But I’m a firm believer in other kinds of divine reflections, namely the Spirit, who isn’t really as interested in posting signs, as much as my becoming a sign.

Though, it is curious that while most folks who demand courts have a ten commandments do work on Saturdays, most every court, even those without Ten Commandments, don’t work on Saturdays. I think there’s a parable in this.

Well, again, the Lord God brought you out of Egypt. Therefore, honor your mother and father. We can all agree to that. Though honor, as Jesus taught, isn’t blind subservience. Honoring God is at the beginning of this list, and so takes priority if there is a conflict.

Therefore, don’t murder. Alright.

Therefore, don’t commit adultery. Fine, fine.

Therefore, don’t steal. Okay.

The LORD your God brought you out of Egypt, therefore, don’t give false testimony. Even if it’s just business or for a perceived better good.

When I read this I can’t help but think about politics, and how much false testimony flies from both sides of the political aisle. This verse doesn’t say “false testimony in an official court of law.” It says don’t give false testimony. It’s a bridle for our tongues.

Therefore, don’t covet your neighbor’s house. Or wife. Or business. Or employees. Or education. Or salary. Or car. Or looks. Or sense of humor. Or his stereo. Or his suit. Or his friends. Or his power. Or his easy going lifestyle. Or his church. Or his vacations. Or his investment portfolio. Or his lawn. Or his non-receding hairline. Or his weekly tithes. Or his position on important committees. Or his influence in society. Or his intellect. Or his dog. Or his… well, nothing.

Therefore, don’t covet. Because God brought you out of Egypt. Funny, I do see a lot of coveting going on among most everyone I know, including myself. Might be a good thing to preach on someday. Maybe before the building committee meeting.

So, those are the Ten commandments. That’s the beginning of the beginning, not only of this particular method of God’s revelation. It’s also the beginning where reading the Bible in a Year encounters a bit of tediousness. It’s the Law. Oxes, and slaves, and pits, oh my!

So, a little suggestion for myself along the way. I think it’ll be good to not only look at what is given in the Law but to see how the Law reflects back onto the giver. I’m going to start asking how these laws seem to illustrate God. If they are meant as guidelines for his priests, so they will live in accordance with the God who has brought them out of Egypt, then these Laws aren’t just about things to do. They are about the God who is, sharing with us his values, and cares, and interests, and priorities.

With that in mind, it’s time to leap into the Law.

Exodus 16-18

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Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

Now in the wilderness the people see needs beyond their slavery. They used to be slaves, and while slaves they had no freedom. But they had food to eat, and water to drink, and places to sleep.

Now they had freedom, but food was elusive, water was often bitter, and my guess is they didn’t have fresh straw beds every night.

They were God’s now, not the Egyptians. The Egyptians were a lot more predictable. Predictable is satisfying. Freedom is dangerous and filled with risk. Yet in freedom one can take the leap out and journey to the place of blessing, the place of God’s promise. God isn’t predictable, even though he does promise. He’s not predictable because he is the daily God.

He is also the God of holiness. What is curious about this is the idea that his holiness is tied up in his creation and his holiness is reflected not in our busyness but in our rest. The manna comes, comes after complaints and more whining. It is the daily bread.

Yet there are those who want to run things their own way. On the one hand are those who will gather two days worth. They do not really trust God so they horde, just in case.

They think they know better.

On the other hand are those who cannot rest. On the day of holiness, when God seeks all to stop, these people continue their habits, not turning to God but still turning to their own interests. They work even though God said stop.

They think they know better.

The first group gets maggots for their hording. The second group gets nothing for their work. Only God’s will can be done on the way to the promise.

And, take note of 16:36 — “An omer is one-tenth of an ephah.” I think that cleared things up. It is interesting, though, because it appears to be a footnote to the text, for a later generation who needed earlier weights and measures explained, just as my footnote at the bottom says an omer is about 3 pounds, making an ephah about 30 pounds.

In 37 the folks get thirsty. Again with the complaints. They blame Moses and wonder why he brought them out of Egypt for “this”. Things really are worse. They feel their loss without seeing the promise in full. Sure there are miracles along the way but what are miracles when thirst comes?

They don’t have any trust. They don’t have any courage. They don’t have any hope. Imagine if they had gone the short way and faced battle right off.

But God provides. They begin to trust.

Battle comes to them now, a brief test. Still they cannot stand on their own but need the power of Moses, in whom God worked clearly, to be their morale. They were full of fear, except when Moses stood for them.

No wonder he didn’t really trust anyone else to help lead.

The people were weak and worried and fickle. So the one man who was strong thought that all the burden really was on him, confirmed by the fact the people proved this over and over.

He thought himself indispensable. He was Moses after all. Who else was standing up?

But that’s not the way of God. Only God is indispensable. And so Jethro gives some solid advice. He’s a wise man to be sure, even though he’s not one of the Hebrews and not within the covenant.

“Slow down, Moses,” he says. “Remember your calling, and do that. Don’t get so exhausted doing everything that you lose sight of what only you can do.”

Don’t collect two days worth of manna, and don’t collect it on the Sabbath. Don’t be greedy in power, and don’t assert more power than God asks. Let others participate.

In these passages, with the most basic aspects of life we are reminded of our daily bread. We are reminded of our place before God and our place among others. We are reminded to do what God asks, not too little or too much. We are asked to trust. We are asked to let go. We are asked to be generous and courageous.

Somehow I think these verses are not just a good story meant to remind us of God’s work many, many centuries ago.

I think God has reminded us in this present moment through these words. And he expects us to listen.