Opening Prayer: Almighty God, Jesus said that he was able to give us living water, the water of life that would well up in us to eternal life. We ask that you would give us that living water now, that our souls would be refreshed and strengthened through Jesus.
The Road to Emmaus passage (Luke 24:25-27) is the famous post-resurrection account of Jesus’ conversation with two disciples that don’t recognize him. On one level the disciples don’t recognize Jesus, they can’t see him. But the narrative reveals that they can’t see Jesus in the Scriptures either. In fact, they don’t finally see Jesus until he breaks bread in their presence and then disappears. As we study the Old Testament it’s important to constantly remind ourselves why the Old Testament matters, why it’s so important. Not only is this story our story, but according to Luke 24, it is first and foremost the story of Christ. This pattern shows us three layers or applications: Christ in the Old Testament Scriptures, Christ himself, and Christ in the church. We also see half of this pattern in the book of Luke-Acts where the apostles duplicate the life of Christ because they are filled with the Spirit of Christ.
We pointed out last week that Paul says that the crossing of the Red Sea was the baptism of Israel (1 Cor. 10). This means that according to Scripture we see these three layers in the sacrament of baptism. Israel was baptized in the cloud and in the sea, Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, and we are baptized in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The reason why we need to pay close attention to the Old Testament story is because it is the same Jesus at work there who came in the flesh who has made us his body. This kind of reading invites us to see more than just old stories or good morals. At the same time this is not an invitation to free-for-all allegorization. It is an invitation to look for and find Christ.
The Song of Moses
Notice the emphasis on the name of Yahweh at the beginning of the song. This was of course what Yahweh had promised from the beginning that they would know his name as Yahweh (Ex. 6:3-7). Yahweh is the God who brings Israel out of bondage, but more than that, Yahweh is the God who fights for his people. The Song of Moses is a war song, a battle hymn. Yahweh is a man of war (15:3). Yahweh did not merely “allow” the seas to kill Pharaoh; Yahweh cast pharaoh and his chariots into the sea (15:1, 4, 6-7, 10, 19, 21). Yahweh has triumphed gloriously in order that all of the nations around them will be afraid (15:14-16). When Yahweh acts everyone fears. This was also the reaction of Israel (who was saved) (14:31). This is what we see in the early chapters of Acts. We should also note that this fear is not incompatible with joy (15:20). What is implied here (and in many Psalms) is the idea that the right kind of fear makes us humble, obedient, and joyful. This war song is very similar to the Song of Deborah and to many of the Psalms. It celebrates the destruction of the wicked openly and essentially asks God to keep it up.
Following the song, Miriam, the sister of Moses and a prophetess, leads some singing and dancing in celebration. It should be noted that her name literally appears to mean “bitter sea” (or it is at least a pun on these words). This is significant especially given the fact that the very next scene is concerned with the “bitter waters” of Mara. Both “Mara” and “Miriam” are forms of the name Mary which is also the name that Naomi gives herself in the story of Ruth. Notice that all of these “Maras” occur on the verge of something good. Finally, one of the things that is notable about this Exodus event is the sequence: it goes from the sea and blessing to three days in the wilderness and grumbling where the bitter water of Mara is turned sweet from a tree, ending in Elim at an oasis.
Conclusion and Applications
We need to be people of the Book and books. We should love to tell stories, read stories, and even write stories. But ultimately this all goes back to the fact that God is telling the story of history and Jesus is the main character from beginning to end. We need to read and love stories because we need to understand what God is doing. This is why we need to immerse ourselves in the Psalms. The Psalms are full of stories of Yahweh’s warfare. In fact, Scripture teaches that singing the Psalms (and all of God’s word) is warfare (Psalm 149:5-9). And this is what we see taking place the book of Revelation (e.g. Rev. 15:3).
When we are immersed in the story of Scripture (and all other faithful stories for that matter) it teaches us to understand the story of our lives better. We should find ourselves identifying our lives with stories. When things have gone terribly and they don’t seem to be able to get any worse, we should recognize that we are at the edge of the Red Sea with the enemy coming down on us, and we should say, “This is the part where God delivers us…” But you may be at a different place in the story. You may be in the wilderness, hungry, thirsty, and tired. “This is the part where I am called to fight/serve…”
These stories are our stories. But they are also Christ’s stories. And therefore we may be assured that His Spirit is working out our stories in accordance with his will. Sing the Psalms as though justice and mercy depended on it; because they do. Sing the Psalms as though your stories, your future depended on it; because it does. Sing the Psalms because they are the songs of Jesus, our great man of war, who is seated at the right hand of God the Father in heaven ruling and reigning until all of his enemies have submitted. He leads his hosts, his warriors to do battle with sin, with lying and cheating and stealing. He leads his hosts to do battle with the curse, with cancer, and sickness. He leads his hosts to do battle with abuse, with injustice, and with every evil thing. And all will fall before his glorious throne because God saves sinners.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Closing Prayer: Almighty and Glorious King, you rule over this world in perfection and goodness and wisdom. We praise and worship you, Lord Jesus, for you are worthy to be praised. You are King above all kings and Lord above all lords. The presidents and prime ministers and parliaments and congresses and councils and tribunals are all under you. And if they will not submit to you, we know that you will dash them in pieces. We know that the kingdoms of this world have become your kingdoms, but we do not yet see every knee bowed and every tongue confessing this fact. Therefore we plead with you for your kingdom to come and your will to be done on earth even as it is in heaven.