Each week, I spend my first read of the chapter just in reading mode, not trying to note anything, craft anything or prepare any thoughts. That is on Monday, then on Tuesday, I take a look at what some other people have said about the chapter. Wednesday, I post my first impressions. These are thoughts based on my initial reading. As the week progresses I hope better thoughts are formed and shaped until I’m rather delivering a message to you at the Y, or posting something more significant online for your family. That said, Chapter 5 offers some real nuggets this week.
Up to this point, the four stories followed in the first four chapters were relatively well-known stories. By that, I mean that most people have at least heard a version of Creation, Noah’s ark, Abraham/Isaac, Joseph, and the Exodus from Egypt with Moses. This chapter isn’t different in that sense because it’s the introduction of the Ten Commandments. While we think that most people are familiar with these, check out this video:
My point is not to get you to learn the ten commandments (though that would be good). My point is to show us that the idea of the story might be familiar, but if the ten commandments themselves aren’t familiar to us, then there is a good chance that the meanings of the surrounding story is not familiar to us either.
Another thing that struck me this week is cumulative over the first five chapters. We live in a pro-life/pro-choice culture today. In light of our high value of human life, it is problematic to read through some of these stories. Do you feel the tension? I think that for us to take an honest look at The Story, we have to be honest about the tension as well. I feel a tension when I hear that God wiped out the face of the earth in a catastrophic flood like absolutely nothing we’ve ever witnessed – worse than any tsunami, hurricane, tornado or earthquake. I feel tension when God asks a man to sacrifice his son. I feel tension when the people God has chosen go off and sleep with other people. I feel tension when God allows Pharaoh to issue an order to kill all of the Hebrew baby boys…his chosen people. I feel less tension when Moses kills the Egyptian, but it’s still there. I feel tension when God murders the Egyptian first-borns in one night. I feel tension when God sanctions the killing of 3,000 Hebrews in the desert. What about you? Does any of this bother you?
I was taught growing up that you don’t question God about things like this. “It’s not your place to question, but to obey.” I believe today that we are in grave danger of missing out on the point of The Story if we stick our heads in the sand and don’t wrestle with some of these tensions. We are going to feel tensions like this throughout our readings. The question will be, “How do you handle the tension?” Does the tension create disbelief in you? Have you resolved the tension or just swept it under the rug? Do you feel it’s safe to be honest about the tension you feel?
I don’t want to try to resolve the tension, but rather to use the tension as a framework for our journey. Just recognizing the tension and calling it what it is puts us ahead of the game. Acknowledging what is there allows us to reject easy “solutions” that impose more on the Bible than should be there. D.A. Carson, Divine Sovereignty & Human Responsibility: Biblical perspectives in tension, says, “To explore this tension is to explore the nature of God and his ways with men.”
So, more thoughts on Moses and the Israelites from Chapter 5 in the days to come.