Scripture Exodus 16:3-4 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you...
Quote – Psalm 119:27 Cause me to understand the way of your precepts,
that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds.
Reflection – When we hear the word 'Obedience' we may very well balk at the idea. The word seems to suggest a loss of agency, creativity and independence that we very much value. It is this misunderstanding of obedience as a part of our relationship to God that is addressed by today's story for contemplation. In today's story the Hebrews have to unlearn the fearful, desperate and selfish nature that slavery in Egypt has planted in them and relearn to trust in the graciousness of God to provide. This lesson is important if they are first to be a peaceful community and second if they are to be witnesses to the nations of God's justice. If they do not learn to trust, they will not learn to be generous and without both, they will not learn how to live for the common good, which is exactly what God intends for them to do. Striving for the common good is the public face of a healthy and obedient relationship with God.
The Hebrews desires are distorted at the beginning of our story. Their desire is actually to return to enslavement. Again, there is a truth deeper than the historic in this story. Humans are created good according to Genesis 1 and this true. But our desires are deformed as well. Pharaoh desired power and control, and his leadership formed a society built upon that same desire (perhaps nurtured by fear of loss?) which lead to the cruel and violent enslavement of an entire people. The example is extreme no doubt. But can we not look both to the not so distant history of WWII and even current events in which Muslims and immigrants are treated with disrespect and outright cruelty and white supremacists emboldened to march without hoods to see that humans are created good, but can all too easily, through fear, pain, and anger misshapen into hateful and violent actors? Disobedience is no small matter. It can have very serious consequences.
God demands obedience of the Hebrews in the desert, in the midst of their understandable fear, not to wrest from them their humanity, their will, their creativity, or their freedom, but instead to shape them so that they can become again the 'good' proclaimed at the dawn of creation. Obedience to God does not do us harm, it is good. It does not injure us but instead is a process of healing and making whole. And this story most importantly for us, shows us that obedience to God does not enslave us to the will of another, but rather frees us to realize the potential with which we are all born, to reflect the image of God that resides in us all.
Prayer – Send your Spirit, God of creation and resurrection, to energize us in our growing in your Image. Teach us not to fear challenge nor to resist change, but to trust that when we cooperate with your will, we will discover our truest and best selves and so be enabled to work with you in the renewing of the world and the creation of your kingdom.