Herrenhuter readings for Saturday, the 24th January 2015

RedSeaEgyptians

I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously.  (Exodus 15,1)

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. (John 8,36)

The liberation from Egypt was a foundational experience of Israel. All their history from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob climaxed in this deliverance from slavery in Egypt. And it had been a time in coming. Most people had forgotten about how Joseph was sold into slavery by his very own brothers. The wide-spread famine of those ancient days was practically forgotten just as the grand management of that princely Joseph under Pharos supreme leadership to address this crises and thus also help save his father Jacob and all those nasty brothers too. Now however time had moved on. The plenteous descendants of those archaic nomads, who had settled down to tend Pharaoh’s herds, were no longer out in the veld, in the wide open spaces, but jammed together in tight and dusty compounds. Every day had its own trouble and the menial labourers were mostly concerned with meeting the quotas backing clay stones for monuments of Egyptians lords. Their blood and sweat was put into making those stones and impressive cities. Their biggest joy was having some good meat stewed with unions, garlic and leek.

Yet that was not the end of the story. Just the humble beginning – or if one remembers the background – and interlude and intermission. God had already heard the wailing complaints of his people. Their crying voices had met his ear. He was all set to free and liberate them – his very own and special people called Israel after their devious patriarch and forebear. He had chosen Moses and his brother Aaron to get the cart rolling. At first Pharaoh didn’t budge, but after some divine intervention and not just gentle persuasion he let them go – across the red sea and off into the wilderness. In the end the Egyptians had urged the slaves to go. Facing their dead firstborn proved that the God of Israel was not shying away from playing hard-ball. He was serious and would stand by his demands: “Let my people go!” The oppressors finally got it. They let those people go. After their first Passover and burdened with their few earthly possessions, that they could carry plus those bribes and gifts of persuasion from their overlords, they trekked off into the unknown. So far, so good. That could have been the end of the story – and they lived happily ever after. Yet, it would not be so easy. Life is never that simple.

Just as the Israelites deemed themselves in safety, Pharaoh showed signs of regret. It was dawning unto him, that this exodus would prove detrimental to the Egyptian economy and delicate balance of power in the Middle East. What if this revolutionary precedence would encourage other slaves to demand liberty, equality and fraternity? It could really come to that, Pharaoh feared. And how right he was! Well, he sent his swift chariots carrying his able marksmen and elite hit-squads to pursue the runaway slaves, convince them to come back, return to the previous status quo and get all set in good old normality. This was just a question of time. Power was so unevenly matched it would seem. Those stumbling refugees were no match for those fleet-footed steeds carrying those deadly sharpshooters. And those special forces were just so itchy for a fight. That was their life’s calling after all.

Behind them lay Egypt and the approaching police force, whilst the Red Sea lay in front of them barring their escape. Finish and end of story! While not quite yet. Even though the Israelites were quite ready to give up right here and now – and not for the first or last time either – still God had other plans. He did give up on his people here or ever. He opened up a pathway right through the impenetrable depths and let his people go right through – rattled perhaps, but unharmed. He had opened up an exit, where human possibilities had come to their utter limits. God then shifted those boundaries.  He opened up a way and they walked right through – ever further and further away from Egypt, but their nemesis – the approaching Egyptian forces – where narrowing the gap fast.  What a sight it must have been? What a challenge even for the fleeing refugees to escape through that sea always in danger of being swallowed up by the returning floodwaters? Yet, they marched right on and right through. God had shown them the way and they had escaped finally as the raging waters buried the Egyptian strike force. Horses and all the king’s men – even his most chosen captains – were gulped up by the hungry chaos floods and they sank to the bottom like a stone. They were history and their demise was terrible. Yet the Israelites were safe and sound on the other side. That’s when Moses and the people of Israel praised the living God, who had triumphed gloriously even as they thought it was all over. He had brought victory out of sure defeat. He does mighty miracles and wonders. He truly is God – and nobody is like him!

We know, that even though Israel had experienced this miraculous and awesome deliverance, they still faced the wilderness on their way to the promised land. Even though this initial liberation and divine salvation should have been enough proof to them, that the God, who was going with them day in day out – and even at night was watching over them in a column of fire – that he would not leave them to fail, but would surely bring them to the promised goal even if it meant to feed them in the desert, find water where there was none and protect them against all enemies and pending disasters.

The Lord our God called his people from of old and led them through the ages to bring them there, where they would perceive the ultimate salvation, freedom, righteousness, goodness and peace – Shalom – that he had in mind for them. His only begotten Son Jesus Christ became man in Bethlehem so that he would fulfil these ancient promises and prove God righteous, just and faithful and let everybody know, that whoever trusts in God will not be disappointed for if the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. Jesus Christ overcame death, devil and all evil – he did not shy away from the very portals of hell, but went right through, harrowed hell, conquered the devil and liberated humanity in his glorious victory. Even as all the world stood still and the sun darkened its face, because all seemed finished, Jesus Christ overcame and restored God’s favour to all mankind, he prepared a salvation through the forgiveness of all our sins and thus freed us from the terrible yoke of slavery that had oppressed us from the very day, we were expelled from paradise. Lost and found + Paradise restored + Thanks be to God, who has triumphed gloriously for us and our salvation. He is truly the one and only Lord and God of hosts: Father, Son and Holy Spirit + Amen.

“Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice” by Martin Luther, 1483-1546

1. Dear Christians, one and all, rejoice,
With exultation springing,
And, with united heart and voice
And holy rapture singing,
Proclaim the wonders God hath done,
How His right arm the victory won;
Right dearly it hath cost Him.

2. Fast bound in Satan’s chains I lay,
Death brooded darkly o’er me,
Sin was my torment night and day,
In sin my mother bore me;
Yea, deep and deeper still I fell,
Life had become a living hell,
So firmly sin possessed me.

3. My own good works availed me naught,
No merit they attaining;
Free will against God’s judgment fought,
Dead to all good remaining.
My fears increased till sheer despair
Left naught but death to be my share;
The pangs of hell I suffered.

4. But God beheld my wretched state
Before the world’s foundation,
And, mindful of His mercies great,
He planned my soul’s salvation.
A father’s heart He turned to me,
Sought my redemption fervently:
He gave His dearest Treasure.

5. He spoke to His beloved Son:
‘Tis time to have compassion.
Then go, bright Jewel of My crown,
And bring to man salvation;
From sin and sorrow set him free,
Slay bitter death for him that he
May live with Thee forever.

6. This Son obeyed His Father’s will,
Was born of virgin mother,
And God’s good pleasure to fulfill,
He came to be my Brother.
No garb of pomp or power He wore,
A servant’s form, like mine, He bore,
To lead the devil captive.

7.To me He spake: Hold fast to Me,
I am thy Rock and Castle;
Thy Ransom I Myself will be,
For thee I strive and wrestle;
For I am with thee, I am thine,
And evermore thou shalt be Mine;
The Foe shall not divide us.

8. The Foe shall shed My precious blood,
Me of My life bereaving.
All this I suffer for thy good;
Be steadfast and believing.
Life shall from death the victory win,
My innocence shall bear thy sin;
So art thou blest forever.

9. Now to My Father I depart,
The Holy Spirit sending
And, heavenly wisdom to impart,
My help to thee extending.
He shall in trouble comfort thee,
Teach thee to know and follow Me,
And in all truth shall guide thee.

10. What I have done and taught, teach thou,
My ways forsake thou never;
So shall My kingdom flourish now
And God be praised forever.
Take heed lest men with base alloy
The heavenly treasure should destroy;
This counsel I bequeath thee.

Hymn 387  The Lutheran Hymnal Text: Rom. 3: 28 Author: Martin Luther, 1523
Translated by: Richard Massie, 1854, alt. Titled: “Nun freut euch, liebe Christen g’mein

About Wilhelm Weber jr

Rector of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tshwane
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