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Friday, May 9, 2014

Echoes and Echoes

Today we read Exodus 24 at Morning Prayer, which is the downside to a lectionary. Yesterday we read the Ten Commandments (chapter 20) and in between is a large collection of laws (which most think is what is called "The Book of the Covenant"). Perhaps I will share some of what is in that Law tomorrow.

As I read and prayed over Exodus 24 before the service began, I was struck by v 14 where Moses says to the elders: wait here for us, until we come to you again. And I found myself thinking, Abraham! This led me to gather up some commentaries on Exodus and as I read the third one (Richard Elliott Friedman) I discovered the discussion of this text and the Abraham & Isaac story in Genesis 22. Friedman (Commentary on the Torah, p252) points out that in addition to the verse I noticed there are a chain of ten verbs as well as four nouns which are present in both stories. Abraham is rewarded "because you did this thing" and all the people promise "we will do all the things". Abraham listened to God's voice and Israel said with one voice" that "we will listen"

Both events take place on a mountain; one called the Mountain of YHWH (Sinai/Horeb for Moses) and the other the Mountain of God (Moriah/future Temple Mount for Abraham). Both are centered on a covenant between God and His people. The verbal parallels are not accidental. The guiding Divine Hand and the human authors have made these connections clearly for reasons. The latter is fulfilled by the former; as God has gathered the descendents of Abraham and is taking them to the land He has promised.

The reason I use so many commentaries is because each one has an angle and sometimes they offer a particular insight which others leave out (another commentary drew connections to Hebrews and the offering of Christ). I have acquired a deeper appreciation for what the authors were doing and trying to communicate. In the end, while there is much information, it is also revelation of God. More and more I see that God's heart is being given along with the many lessons. How God operates is veiled even in Scripture, but the veil is "thinner and more transparent" in the Bible. In some places it is very obvious.

The sad part of Exodus 24 is that the people's promise (twice the people declare We will do what God has said in v3&7), which is sandwiched around the consecrating sacrifice of blood, is empty words. This group will perish in the desert, too quickly turning to a golden calf idol and too reluctant to trust God and enter the Promised Land. They also gripe and complain constantly. But, as I shared a few days ago, the story of the Hebrew slaves in the desert is like a mirror to me in which I see my own face and the faces of Christians everywhere. We are no different from them in terms of faithfulness (sadly). That is why we need to be saved by God....

God's heart, though, is there. There is a danger to God, so much perfection, goodness, light, power, etc. It is something which can consume and destroy us. We are not ready for the presence of God. Yet, the Moses group "saw" God. [some wonder if the "see God" and "no one can see God" streams in the Jewish Bible are the result of different hands/different theological traditions] Afterwards they ate. I see my own Sunday worship experience in that event, we "see" God in faith response to the community of believers and the Word. We eat (communion) with God. We renew the covenant (and make promises, bold promises, holy promises---which we will not keep). Yet the heart of God is for us, He desires us, forgives us, calls us back. Yes there are days of wrath and punishment, but in the end it is about salvation. So those men on a mountain with God, and the connections of that day to the day of an old man and an only son on a mountain (and a pending sacrifice), and the shed blood on the first mountain, and the blood not shed on Abraham's mountain, all connected to the blood of Jesus shed. And it all weaves together in an artistic masterpiece called the Bible: the heart of God revealed.

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