Thursday, March 28, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Exodus 16 and Epistle of Barnabas 20-21

Exodus 16 – The Israelites take the “long way around” to Canaan, through the Wilderness of Shur, around the western coast of the Sinai Peninsula through Marah and Elim, then to the Wilderness of Sin - see the map if you are as unfamiliar with this territory as I was: - you have to love the internet. 

Here they begin to grumble: “Would that we had died at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread!” (16:3) It is interesting here that we are shown that the desire for freedom in man is not unequivocal.  We want our security as well, even the uncomfortable certainties we can get in a system that basically uses us. 

The Lord gives his people nourishment – quails and manna - from heaven, but it is not something they can store away or build up a supply of; it is fundamentally food that is received day to day, and they need to trust a lot in the provider. Right now they are thinking the slavery they knew in Egypt is better than the freedom they are promised at the end of this hard journey.

This is the kind of guidance and presence God gave us in the garden, the guidance that came from his daily presence.  But we did not like that kind of guidance. We wanted a “knowledge of good and evil” that would make us independent of God to a degree --a system to go by.  And though God wants us close and listening day by day, He will work with us.  He will ultimately give his people a Law to go by, a list of rules.  But is it what He really thinks is best? I don’t think so.

Some attention is also given to the holiness of the Sabbath—some manna may be set aside safely for the Sabbath rest. And Moses also puts a little manna in an urn to keep, to show those who will come after them what they lived on for forty years. Communication of the salvation story to future generations will be key.

The Epistle of Barnabas
20 – The Way of Darkness: The Way of the Dark Lord is devious and fraught with damnation. It is the way to eternal death and punishment In it is found all that destroys the souls of men: idol-worship, brazen self-assertion, and the arrogance of power; cant and duplicity; adultery, manslaughter, and robbery; vanity, rascality, sharp practice, spitefulness and contumacy; sorcery and black magic; greed, and defiance of God” (181).

The widow and the orphan mean nothing to people like this. “Gentleness and patience are alien to them” (181).

“They make away with infants, destroying the image of God” (181).

21 – “All this shows what a good thing it is to have learnt the precepts of the Lord, as they are set forth in Scripture, and to put them into practice. For the man who does this, there will be glory in the kingdom of God; but one who prefers the other Way will perish together with his works” (181).

If you are in a position of influence, do not fail to help those who need your help. Have “no more to do with the piety of hypocrites” (182).

Take God for your teacher, and study to learn what the Lord requires of you; then do it, and you will find yourselves accepted at the Day of Judgment” (182).

He asks that they remember his efforts on their behalf. “So long as the fair vessel of the flesh remains to you, try to leave none of these things undone; spend continual study on them, and see that all the commandments are carried out faithfully” (182).

Farewell “May the Lord of glory and of all grace be with your spirit” (182).

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