Monday, January 31, 2011

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany: Exodus 15:1-21 The Song at the Sea

In the beginning God created a sanctuary; He created the universe and blessed it. And on the seventh day, He rested from His work named it holy. His work was completed, His work was to be enjoyed, and His work was to be shared.

The Text:
We can divide the song into three parts: First, celebrating the immediate deliverance (15:1-10), second, celebrating Yahweh’s superiority and the people’s identification with Him (15:11-13), and finally, the broader impact of this victory in the world (15:14-18). This song should be seen as the continuation of the Exodus. Yahweh has come to make Himself known, and in doing so, make Himself present in and with His people for the world. Holiness is completion and communion, and God comes to bring His holiness to Israel (Ex. 3:5, 12:16, 13:2, cf. Lev. 20:7-8). This is referenced later as the reason why Israel must be holy: Yahweh brought them out of Egypt (e.g. Lev. 11:44-45). The Exodus is a display of Yahweh’s holiness. His holiness is His free determination to bring creation to fulfillment and to share its glory. This is why Israel rejoices in Yahweh’s glorious “holiness” in the Exodus, having done “wonders” – great and marvelous works (15:11, cf. 3:20, Gen. 18:14). This song stands as part of that display and accomplishment of Yahweh’s holiness, and this fits with the creation sequence in the text (Ex. 14:19-14:31). This song is the “Sabbath” of a new creation, the remaking of Israel as a new Adam to be enthroned with God in his “holy habitation” (15:13). Miriam and the other women are a new Eve, like Deborah, Hannah, and Mary, and types of the bride of Christ. But even this mini-Sabbath looks forward to a firm dwelling, a “holy place” which is established forever (15:17-18). The entire song celebrates Yahweh’s military victory over His enemies: He is a man of war (15:3), and His right hand has done mighty things (15:6). But His Wind-Spirit, the battle-storm of His presence wields violence with a surgeon’s creative wisdom. Yahweh’s mighty arm will continue this conquest by making the surrounding nations silent like a “stone” like the Egyptians (15:16, 15:5). But one of the central ways that God’s arm will continue this battle is through this song. The song extends the Exodus by repeating the story, repeating the gospel of Yahweh’s victory so that their enemies will hear and be afraid (e.g. Josh. 2:9-14).

Dead People Don’t Sing
The Song at the Sea is a striking reminder that praise and worship and song is what always bursts out of people who have been rescued and remade. When a body is resuscitated, it suddenly starts breathing, and when people are brought back to life, they suddenly start singing. It is far too easy to make fun of the enthusiasm of some of our charismatic brothers, but frequently this is merely a cover for our own lack of faith (14:31). Has God saved you? Has God triumphed over your enemies? Then how can you not sing? This is why our worship is so full of song, this is why our choir plays an important role in leading us in song, and this is why our homes should be full of singing and music and praise. When people know that the Lord is a man of war, nothing can keep them from singing. This means singing loud, this means singing with joy, and this means that choir directors should never have to go recruiting. Love always bursts out in song and dance and praise, and it begins here and spills out into the world. This is the Song of the Lamb, our war song, and with it we bring the justice of God to the world (Rev. 15).

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