September 6, 2015: From Bondage to Pharaoh to Bonding w/ God

Posted on : Sep 3rd, 2015 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

“The fear of scarcity always ends in violence. Non-productive members are sacrificed in the productive economy.” This is a paraphrase of the words of Walter Brueggemann (brew-geh-man), one of the world’s most respected Old Testament scholars. I had the privilege of hearing Walter Brueggemann this spring. He is brilliant and inspiring.

Dr. Brueggemann set the context of “Part II” of Israel’s journey like this: “The Wilderness is the zone beyond Pharaoh’s control.” For 430 years Israel – the people of God – lived under Pharaoh’s autocratic control. They were his slaves and Pharaoh was, in every sense of the word, their “master.” Now they are finally set free and with that freedom comes a whole new way of life. As we discovered last Sunday, shortly into their journey, some in the community said, “Let’s go back. At least when we were under Pharaoh’s control we had food to eat.” Pharaoh had a huge grip on their imagination.

One of the first things the community had to learn anew was to trust in a God who cared for them and did not exploit them. This faith experience is symbolized in the daily provision of “manna” or bread. Every morning God would provide for the needs of the people with bread (“manna”). Bread doesn’t mean a whole lot in American culture or in our American diet today. In restaurants, bread is kind of a pre-appetizer. And in today’s “carb conscious culture” most servers ask if we even want bread. But that was not what bread meant in the Middle Eastern culture.

This Sunday, our own Arad Tooshkan who was born and spent most of his life immersed in Persian culture in the Middle East will share with us what bread means to the people and families in the Middle East. Here’s a hint of how this concept applies to our faith. In ancient Middle Eastern culture, bread was so important and meaningful that within 100 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the author of John’s Gospel writes: “Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6: 35).

So the people of God learned what it meant to be “cared for” by God. But they also had to learn a second lesson – a lesson which we struggle to learn even today.

“This is the command God gave you,” Moses continued. “Each one is to gather just enough to eat. Let everyone collect a two-quart measure of it for each person in your tent.” The Israelites did as they were told. Some took a large amount. Some took very little. But when they measured it by the two-quart measure, those who took a large amount did not have too much, and those who gathered very little did not have too little. Each had just as much as they needed.

Moses told them, “No one is to keep it overnight.” Some of the Israelites did not listen, and kept it overnight. It turned rotten and full of maggots, and Moses was angry with them.

The people had to learn a hard lesson, a lesson with is still hard for us today: “Always enough but never too much.” Each Sunday we work toward living into that proclamation of our faith as we pray the words of the Prayer that Jesus taught us: “Give us this day our daily bread.” The core meaning of those words comes right from this Sunday’s scripture in Exodus 16.

As we think about what is happening in our world economy today, where “the 1%” now controls or “owns” 99% of the world’s wealth, this ancient story takes on new relevance. Who do we trust? Who is in control of our lives? Is it Pharaoh or the God of Israel?

More on Sunday

Blessings!

Dan

 ~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Exodus 16: 9-31

(from The Inclusive Bible, a contemporary translation of the Christian Scriptures)

Then Moses said to Aaron, “Tell the whole Israelite community, ‘Present yourselves before our God, who has heard your complaints.’”

As Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of God appearing in the form of a cloud. Then God spoke to Moses and said, “I have heard the complaining of the people of Israel. Say this to them: ‘In the evening you will eat meat, and in the morning you will have your fill of bread. Then you will know that I, the Most High, am your God.’”

So it came about that in the evening quail flew in and all around the camp. And in the morning there was a layer of dew all around the camp; when the layer of dew evaporated, there on the surface of the desert were flakes of something: delicate, powdery, fine as frost.

When they saw this, the people of Israel said to each other, “what is it?” – not knowing what it was. But Moses told them, “this is the bread God has given you to eat.”

“This is the command God gave you,” he continued. “Each one is to gather just enough to eat. Let everyone collect a two-quart measure of it for each person in your tent.” The Israelites did as they were told. Some took a large amount. Some took very little. But when they measured it by the two-quart measure, those who took a large amount did not have too much, and those who gathered very little did not have too little. Each had just as much as they needed.

Moses told them, “No one is to keep it overnight.” Some of the Israelites did not listen, and kept it overnight. It turned rotten and full of maggots, and Moses was angry with them.

Each morning the people gathered as much as they needed, and as the sun grew high, it melted away.

On the sixth day the people gathered twice as much – two measures for each person. The clan leaders came to Moses to report this. Moses said, “our God commanded this, saying, ‘Tomorrow is a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to our God (Sabbath or Shabbat, means to cease or to rest.) Bake what you need to bake and boil what you need to boil. The remainder is to be set aside and kept until the next day.’”  The Israelites did as Moses instructed them, and it did not rot or have maggots.

“Eat it today,” Moses counseled, “for today is the Sabbath of our God. There is none on the ground today. For six days you are to gather it, and on the seventh day, the Sabbath, it will not be there.”

On the next day, some of them went out looking for it, but there was none. God said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my instructions? Remember, I gave you the Sabbath, and I gave you food for two days on the sixth day. You are to stay where you are on the seventh day. No one is to go out on the seventh day!” So the people rested that day.

The Israelites called the food “Manna.” It was white like coriander seeds and it tasted like wafers made with honey.

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