Weekly Bible Devotional
“The Bible: The Journey of Faith”
January 17, 2021
Scripture: Exodus 15:1-3
Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord:
“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my might,[a]
and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
The Lord is a warrior;
the Lord is his name.
Notes on the Text:
The Book of Exodus is the second book of the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. Exodus contains many of the pivotal moments of the formation of the people of ancient Israel: slavery in Egypt, the ten plagues, the Passover, the Exodus from Egypt, the crossing of the sea, the divine revelation and law-giving at Sinai, and the worship of the golden calf. For a general overview of Exodus, you may go to this link: https://www.enterthebible.org/oldtestament.aspx?rid=21
Exodus is a great story of liberation from injustice. It has inspired countless numbers of people to seek freedom and justice. The people of ancient Israel had become enslaved in Egypt. Joseph, one of the twelve sons of Jacob, had died and a new dynasty of kings in Egypt did not favor foreigners, and so they enslaved the Hebrew people. The people of Israel were living under a heavy burden of oppression. Egypt was a great civilization, but we know that during the eighteenth dynasty, 1570-1300 BCE, they had a vast number of slaves working for the king/pharaoh.
Like most books in the Old Testament, Exodus did not get into its final written form until around the time of the Babylonian Exile (587 BCE). So the context of the writing is important because the people of Israel were experiencing another major oppression at that time and thus remembering God’s deliverance during earlier oppressions was essential to their survival.
This week’s scripture is a song of joy by Moses for God’s deliverance of the people of God after being chased by Pharaoh. One of the great themes in the Bible is that of a journey. The journey is both inward and outward and always moves toward liberation, love, and grace. The people of God were shaped by the journey. They had endured 400 years of slavery in Egypt. They were living as exploited people with no hope or prospect for anything else. Then God called one person who listened and followed on faith. Moses believed the impossible. The odds against him and his people seemed insurmountable. Yet, Moses kept taking the next step and the next step until the liberation became a reality. And in this week’s scripture we hear the song of joy that came from the people’s deep faith.
We don’t know exactly how many years it took to get to this point, but we know that this was an incredible journey of trust in the face of great fear. With each challenge and obstacle, Moses and the people had to listen, trust, and to see life through God’s way. But the story did not end there. They did not live happily ever after. The same pattern of liberation and trust had to be repeated over and over again. After experiencing the great liberation of Exodus, they doubted and grumbled. They listened to their own wisdom and tried to find security in their own devices. The pattern of three steps forward and two steps back was repeated over and over again. The same was true of the followers of Jesus. Every time, the journey had to be the key. Whether the threat was internal or external, the journey was the key. Every misstep or trial had to be faced with faith and reliance on God’s guidance to stay on the path of love.
One of the great themes of scripture is that of the journey of faith which changes and transforms people. The journey is sometimes literal but other times metaphorical. The journey is always about finding freedom through following the path of love, especially when we leave our comfort zones of control, power, esteem, or security. We know from our own personal experiences how difficult it is to stay on the path of love because we often lose sight of the big picture of the journey of life. So many illusions and fears mislead us to believe that there is another way. And no amount of information or facts can really help us truly be transformed on the path of love. We often try to rationalize our way out of a challenge forgetting the power of our spirits. We have seen in recent months how hard it is to believe the facts once we have made up our minds. That is why a journey is often necessary. Conversion does not happen if we have all of our securities and certainties. We have to let go and trust every step of the way. Staying on the path of love requires a continuous commitment to the process of transformation into greater love. And the good news of our time is that we are literally on a journey where the path ahead is not clear which presents us with an opportunity for greater trust. We can try to cling onto what we know and resort to strategies of fear and control, or we can trust God by doing the next loving thing.
We may feel that the brokenness of this current moment is beyond repair, but through faith, we know that the God of Exodus and of the resurrection is able to take seems impossible to make it possible through love. Our work is to trust love and to take the next step. If your response to our current hardships is that of anger, hate, fear, or certainty that you are always right, then you are in the two steps backward time of the journey. If your response is to work for healing, justice, and peace, God will show you the way forward which always involves leaning on God’s presence. Richard Rohr writes, “We want certitude, but instead God asks us to have faith.”
You can use this story from Exodus as a mirror to your own journey of faith. Imagine yourself on the journey of faith toward freedom (inwardly for you and outwardly for our community and world). Where are you? Are you still in Egypt in slavery? Are you waiting for Exodus? Are you rejoicing about freedom? Are you wandering in the wilderness weary and full of doubt? Have you lost all of your securities in the wilderness? Do you want to rush out of that desert place? Are you in the land of promise? Wherever you are, let the Holy One bless you and give you the assurance that even when you lose your way, God will never abandon you.
For the Traveler by John O’Donohue:
May you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you. Amen!