“The Israelites Passing through the Wilderness Preceded by the Pillar of Light…”
Welcome to DORScribe, a blog on reading the Bible with an open mind.
In other words, this Bible-blog is different.
It says not only that the Bible should be read with an open mind, but also that it was designed to liberate the human spirit, not shackle it. That runs contrary to a prevailing perception these days, that way too many Christians are way too negative, close-minded, or both. For more on that, see About this Blog, which also talks about how we can live fuller, richer lives of great spiritual abundance, and do greater miracles than even Jesus did, if only we open our minds…
In the meantime:
The Bible readings for Sunday, September 14, are: Exodus 14:19-31, Psalm 114, Romans 14:1-12, and Matthew 18:21-35. For more on Psalm 114, see On the psalms up to September 14. See the full readings at The Lectionary Page, but here are some highlights.
Exodus 14:19-31 begins with an account of the pillar of cloud: (or of light, as seen above):
The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them. It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel. And so the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night.
For more, see sites including What did the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by …, which said that in “addition to guidance for the Hebrews, the pillar was a testimony to other nations concerning God’s involvement with and protection His people Israel.”
That passage is followed by the account of Moses “parting the Red Sea,” an account that has caused considerable debate, “even to this day.” Note too that this account “is also mentioned in the Qur’an in Surah 26: Al-Shu’ara’ (The Poets) in verses 60-67.” See Crossing the Red Sea – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
According to the Exodus account, Moses held out his staff and the Red Sea was parted by God. The Israelites walked on dry ground and crossed the sea, followed by the Egyptian army. Moses again moved his staff once the Israelites had crossed and the sea closed again, drowning the whole of the Egyptian army.
Isaac Asimov – among others – suggested that the actual crossing took place at the “sea of reeds,” and/or marshes at the upper end of the Gulf of Suez, “two shallow bodies of brackish water called the Bitter Lakes … no longer on the map because they were filled in at the time the Suez Canal was built.” See also the Wikipedia article:
General scholarly opinion is that the Exodus story combines a number of traditions, one of them at the “Reed Sea” (Lake Timsah, with the Egyptians defeated when the wheels of their chariots become clogged) and another at the far deeper Red Sea, allowing the more dramatic telling of events.
Be that as it may, the Israelites escaped their Egyptian overlords and not unnaturally viewed the escape as miraculous: “Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great work that the LORD did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the LORD and believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.” (For more on Moses telling his story in “language and concepts that his relatively-pea-brained contemporary audience could understand,” see On the readings for June 15 – Part I.)
Of Romans 14:1-12, the International Bible Commentary (IBC) said, “Nowhere is [Paul’s] level-headed insight into problems of personal relationships displayed more than here,” then added:
Every individual carries with him a set of convictions born of past experience and the influence of other personalities upon his own. He is apt to consider his opinions sacrosanct and rationalize principles out of them. A desire for self-justification may prompt him to regard with scorn those who do not conform to his views, and write them off as unreasonable and intolerable. (E.A.)
In the end Paul asked, “Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister?” He then noted, “we will all stand before the judgment seat of God” and that “each of us will be accountable to God,” and thus counsels – according to the IBC – “let the other man be… It is nothing less than usurping Christ’s sovereign authority over a fellow-Christian for one to criticize him over a difference of opinion.” (On the other hand, see also Marketplace of ideas – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, discussing the idea that “the truth will emerge from the competition of ideas in free, transparent public discourse.”)
So: The competition of ideas good, judgment-passing criticism bad…
And finally, Matthew 18:21-35, tells the story of the Parable of the unforgiving servant – Wikipedia, the free …, right after Jesus told Peter that he was to forgive his erring neighbor not seven times, but “seventy times seven.”
Wikipedia noted that the parable has been interpreted in a number of ways, including that: 1) God’s forgiveness of sin is of enormous magnitude, like the 10,000 talents, 2) This enormous degree of forgiveness should be the model for the way that Christians forgive others, 3) An unforgiving nature is offensive to God, 4) Forgiveness must be genuine, and finally 5) that “It is like the C.S. Lewis quote, ‘To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.'” (Emphasis added.)
The upper image is courtesy of The Israelites Passing through the Wilderness, Preceded by …. The painting is by William West, and dated 1845. The site added that “West painted a dramatic night scene, with the light streaming down on tiny figures of Moses and the Israelites. By 1845, such an epic treatment of a biblical subject was old-fashioned and it is the last of the Bristol School’s imaginary, Romantic landscapes. It would be twentieth-century film-makers who were to reinvent the epic dramatisation of history with casts of thousands.” (Emphasis added.)
The lower image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article, with the caption: “This depiction by Domenico Fetti (c. 1620) shows the unforgiving servant choking the other debtor.”
For more on Jesus telling Peter about forgiveness, see Where do you find Forgive seventy times seven in the Bible.