From Slavery to Worship

The exodus of the Israelites is the great defining display of God’s (YaHWeH’s) power, love, and faithfulness. In the exodus, we learn more about God’s character and present and future plans than most stories throughout Scripture.

The song (or poem) found in Exodus 15, immediately after God delivered the Israelites from being crushed by Pharaoh’s army at the edge of the great sea, is acknowledged by most scholars to be one of the earliest poetic texts in the Old Testament. It celebrates YHWH bringing his people out of slavery and freeing them through the waters of the sea (a form of baptism if you will). This Song of Moses, and Miriam’s song at the end, show us YHWH’s character and mission that speak to the actual realities of the exodus, and foretell in a cryptic kind of way, the justice of YHWH in the end:

YHWH’s character and mission revealed through worship (Ex. 15:1-21):
YHWH is a warrior God (1-10; 14-16a) He exacts justice. He does not let the wicked go without punishment. He fights for the oppressed. He makes a mockery of world powers. He’s fierce towards his enemies, and gentle towards his people.

YHWH is an incomparable God (11-12) He keeps his promises. He has supreme power and wisdom. He leads the heavenly assemblies. He rules over the nations. He forgives sin and sets free sinners. There are no gods who oppose him.

YHWH is a redeeming God (13, 16b-17) His love (hesed) sacrificially buys his people back. YHWH is a redeemer: go’el; a Hb. word that refers to any member within a wider family who had the responsibility to protect the interests of the family or a specific member of the family who was in particular need. What’s unique about YHWH being referred at the go’el of his people, was that the go’el had the role to: 1) Avenge shed blood of family members (Numbers 35:12), 2) Buy back any land or slaves to keep them in the family (Leviticus 25), and 3) Provide an heir to preserve each family’s name (Story of Ruth and Boaz). Notice that YHWH as go’el is concerned with a home for his people.

v. 13b: you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.
v. 17: You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain, the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode, the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.

The holy abode (sanctuary) and the mountain. The tabernacle and the promised land. The temple and Jerusalem. Jesus and the holy city. This is the progressive importance of the holy abode and the mountain. YHWH makes a home for his people where he is present with them, and he is preparing a home that will one day get rid of all that opposes him.

YHWH sees the homelessness of his people. Their ecological homelessness. Their social homelessness. Their physical homelessness. Their spiritual homelessness. He sees all the forms of homelessness, and through the exodus is shouting out loud to us, I’m bringing you HOME!!!

YHWH is the king (18) His throne, his kingdom, his home, will be the only ones that last forever. YHWH is king, and his rule will never end, which means what he builds will never end either.

YHWH is to be worshipped (21) The glory and beauty of his acts of redemption demand worship to him alone. He is the only one who can bear the glorious weight of worship. This is why man or other created things are not to be worshipped… they weren’t created to bear the weight of glory that comes with worship. We fold under the pressure of worship, YHWH shines!

As we have seen, the unique element about this story of the exodus is that it shows us God’s mission through his righteous character. Our mission as followers of Jesus is first God’s mission that he has invited us into, and the exodus depicts God’s mission in a way that makes our gospel much bigger and comprehensive than we could ever imagine.

But something else this song portrays is the justice that is to come. The question that rings in my ears and many other people’s ears as we read this is, “Does this kind of justice really exist? And if it did, maybe I should be the one who is drowned.”

The great exodus and the crushing of the mightiest nation in the ancient days (Egypt) is a depiction and a promissory note to all of us who are longing for justice, that there will be a day, with no more tears, no more pain, where evil will no longer be at work, and we will be at home with the Ancient of Days.

This great baptism in Exodus is a promise to you and I that evil and injustice never gets the last word. Take heart today in the midst of injustices everywhere, that your fight for justice today is not in vain, and is never going to go unnoticed, ultimately. In a day where systems are protected over people, governments oppress the masses, and terrorists threaten peace and safety, don’t forget that love alone is worth the fight.

Israel went from slavery to worship as justice rolled down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream. This day is fully coming, but it has also already come in Christ. Jesus took what we deserved and gave us what he deserved. Today, justice in the courts of heaven can be a reality for you if you have eyes to see it, as we wait for and fight for complete justice on earth.

So what does it mean for us today? It may mean something different for each of us, but I want to close with an excerpt from two friends who I am in fellowship with and do life with. I emailed them and asked them to give me their insight into the Song of Moses in Exodus 15, and here’s what they said this text means to them (us) today:

Philip: “I think it is a picture of how we should praise Jesus for his sacrifice. For his winning the fight for us, it means we no longer need to battle, if we lean on Jesus and put our faith in him the battle has already been won. The only thing left for us to do is to take out our tambourines and sing his praise and do this in a manner that everybody will join us. This seems so simple, too simple, but if we show our joy it will become infectious and others will want to know what is so awesome. This gives us the chance to share the good news.”

Annette: “We are to tell stories where we’ve doubted God and where we know He has rescued us.  We are to sing songs and dance all over the head of evil as we sing of God’s loving, victorious salvation.  We are to tell the stories we so often avoid telling because they are bloody and ugly and because there is no victory without loss.  War leaves behind causalities which breaks the heart of God and too ought to break our hearts.  We have to wear clothes of sorrow and desire for justice as we put on our dancing shoes and play our tambourines as we sing songs that tell the stories where even though we deserved death we have been given the gift of life.”

Praise Jesus.

Sing with tambourines.

Tell stories of our rescue.

Sing and dance over evils head.

Wear clothes of sorrow (don’t brush over our pain and loss in the midst of the battle)

Desire and fight for justice, because it’s coming, it will not delay.

Weekly @Switchfoot Song: Life And Love And Why

I haven’t posted a “Weekly” @Switchfoot Song in quite a while, so I realize the title of these posts now are fraudulent to a degree. Offer me the grace to keep the “weekly” part of the title if you will, as I am on a personal journey to unpack the theology/philosophy of Switchfoot’s songs (which are many and will take a while), and the “weekly” part of the title puts pressure on my weird mind to keep working on this.

So today I’m highlighting the song “Life and Love and Why,” which asks many questions about life, it’s purpose and meaning, and is searching for something, not just to live for, but to give one’s whole life for, and even die for:

Life and love and why
Child, adult, then die
All of your hoping
And all of your searching
For what?
Ask me for what am I living
Or what gives me strength
That I’m willing to die for

Take away from me
This monstrosity
‘Cause my futile thinking’s
Not gonna solve nothing tonight
Ask me for what am I living
Or what gives me strength
That I’m willing to die for

Could it be this
Could this be bliss
Could it be all that
I ever had missed
Could it be true
Can life be new
And can I be used
Can I be used

Give me a reason
For life and for death
A reason for drowning
While I hold my breath
Something to laugh at
A reason to cry
With everyone hopeless
And hoping for something
To hope for
Yeah, with something to hope for

Could it be true
Can life be new
Could it be all that I am
Is in You
Could it be this
Could it be bliss
Can it be You
Can it be You

Some people say these are the questions of the 20 somethings, the idealists who are longing for more than this world has offered them, and will be discontent in life till they find that purpose.

I suppose many middle aged men and women look at this generation and say, “It’s only a matter of time until you realize the American dream is not worth fighting against, so just give in to it now before you’re let down and realize the idealized life of standing courageously for something is a let down.” With all the lost dreams out there and the relentless fight of wanting to die for something, I understand why people would feel that way.

To long for something that you would be willing to die for ends up really bad for most people in the movies, at least if it’s not a cheesy flick. It’s like William Wallace in Braveheart. Everyone wants to be the lover and warrior that he was, but no one wants the outcome of his life. Dying on the execution table having lost his love and the war he was fighting for.

The world we live in does not value lives that give everything up for truth and justice, at least not right away. We all think of the righteous martyr and say, “Wow, she was courageous! I want to be like her, but I really hope I don’t have to in this life.”

Whether we like it or not, we are in a time in history where the courageous men and women are being raised up again in the West, as there has been a season when courageous people were few and far between. The age of comfort and leisurely pleasure is over.

With the rise of social media and the global connectedness we can now have, even though there’s “relative” peace in the West, all of us know that it is not all good throughout the world and our lives of “bliss” are confronted with death, hunger, and grave injustices. We can no longer live in our bubbles and pretend everything’s good. We all belong to one another, I hope we believe that… and the only hope in the world is people not losing hope.

“With everyone hopeless and hoping for something to hope for, yeah, with something to hope for… Could it be true, can life be new, could it be all that I am is in You; could it be this, could it be bliss, can it be You?” The answer to these questions are found in the next song on the album entitled “You.”

“I find peace when I’m confused, I find hope when I’m let down, not in me… me
in You, it’s in You. I hope to lose myself for good. I hope to find it in the end, not in me … me in You.”

This is the hope this world’s longing for. This is the place where confusion is not disorienting, and being let down in the end doesn’t breed hopelessness. This is the place where losing is winning, and death is living. This is the place where the weak are strong, and the poor are rich. It’s the place where if you want to be somebody, you become a servant of all. You can’t lose when you arrive at this place.

I’m talking of course about the place of surrender. Losing one’s life while standing before a bloody cross with Jesus the Christ hanging on it, displaying the greatest act of love, sacrifice, courage, and compassion. It’s not in us, it’s in Jesus. Jesus is the hope in the darkness, and the love for the loveless. It’s in Him, not us. Jesus offers us life for death and makes love something worth dying for.

Because of Jesus, love alone is worth the fight. Love for our enemy is cast in a whole new light. Love for the underdog and the broken sufferer is the new normal. And today, there is an army rising up, learning how to die, resurrecting an old moral. What gives me strength that I’m willing to die for? It’s the hope of life in Christ that offers more.