God acted to liberate the Hebrew people, and they responded with joyful celebration. They saw God’s saving work and believed. Then, as now, God hears the cries of oppressed people and responds. This God is worthy of trust and loyalty. The gift of such compassion strengthens faith for the lifelong journey toward living in freedom in God’s reign.Exodus 14:19–31 continues the story of the Hebrews’ journey to freedom. Following the Passover meal (Exodus 12), the Hebrews ed from their homes, stopping for instruction and consecration of the rst-born (Exodus 13). They avoided the main military route between Egypt and Canaan; a daytime cloud and nighttime pillar of re con rmed God’s leading presence. When trapped in their campsite between the sea and the Egyptian army, Pharaoh seized the opportunity to recapture his escaped workforce.In this week’s passage, a cloud moves to protect the Hebrews as they camp by the sea. “Water walls” provide a dry crossing for the Hebrew slaves, but restored order to the sea brings devasting results.The storyteller shows that God is responsible for the freedom of the Hebrews. God-action frees and saves. The people see and believe. God-actions serve to continue the formation of the people of Israel, who grow in understanding that faith in God is well-placed.Water is signicant in stories of God’s saving work. Water recalls God-work in creation, and the promise to Noah to never again destroy with water. Water also is a physical barrier. Water-crossing imagery is found in the story of Joshua, leading the Israelites into the Promised Land. Crossing through water becomes a metaphor for transformation – a symbol of God’s deliverance. Water, asa sign and symbol, is used in baptism today as a means to rehearse God’s freeing love through Jesus the Christ.For modern readers, Exodus 14 often raises questions about the character of God. Couldn’t God have saved the Egyptians, too? Remember that the storyteller who recorded the stories in Exodus was a person of that time and worldview. Pastor Martin Niemoeller, imprisoned in concentration camps during World War II, said, “It took me a long time to learn that God is not the enemy of my enemies. [God] is not even the enemy of [God’s] enemies.” A Jewish legend tells of God’s words to an archangel, who was celebrating the defeat of the Egyptian army in the sea: “Why do you celebrate while the work of my hands is being destroyed?”The Exodus stories explore God’s relationship with the people of Israel. They help to shape them into a people with mission and charge. These stories become a lens for understanding later events in their history and shape their self-awareness, values, and faith. Their understanding of God as I AM (“I will cause to be”) becomes clearer. The exodus journey is associated with God’s grace, compassion, and salvation, and becomes a metaphor for hope. Two other readings for today – Psalm 114 and Exodus 15:1b–11, 20–21– af rm the importance of God’s actions in the lives of the people at this time.For Jesus, the road to freedom was forgiveness. Jesus’ story in Matthew 18:21–25 lifts up the essence of God’s law as God’s gracious, extravagant, unlimited compassion. Paul, in Romans 14:1–12, calls Christians to be accountable to Jesus’ standards and example of forgiveness while living with con dence that we are God’s. Jesus’ disciples today continue to journey toward the freedom of God’s reign, striving to live in ways that honour God.
Reflecting on the WordConnecting with life
■ What are your experiences of stepping into an unknown future?
■ What are some feelings associated with these times?ScriptureExodus 14:19–31 continues the story of the Hebrews’ journey to freedom. Following the Passover event (Exodus 12), the Hebrews ed from their homes (Exodus 13). This week, we nd them trapped between the sea and the Egyptian army.Read or listen to the story from the perspective of one of the characters: Pharaoh, Moses, Aaron, Miriam, He- brew male slave, Hebrew female slave, Hebrew child, Egyptian soldier, Egyptian military leader. Be aware of these things as you read/listen to the story as your chosen or assigned character:
■  What did you see or hear during these events? What questions might you have asked? What challenged you? What frightened you? What comforted you?
■  In our time, what challenges are created by migrations of refugees – for the refugees and the communities they leave behind?
■  What do you imagine the implications of the Exodus were for the Hebrews and the Egyptian communities?In Exodus 3:14, God gives God’s name as “I AM WHO I AM,” which also can be translated as “I WILL CAUSE TO BE.” To what extent do the events of the Exodus reveal this identity to the Hebrews?Psalm 114 and Exodus 15:1b–11, 20–21 celebrate God’s actions in the Exodus.
■ What additional insights into the Exodus story do you gain from these readings?
■ How do you think the exodus event might have shaped the faith and beliefs of the Hebrew people?These stories were recorded centuries after the Exodus, probably during the time the Hebrew people were in exile in Babylon.
■ In the retelling of this story, what might the waterrepresent? To what were the Hebrews crossing?
■ To what extent might the Hebrews of the Exodus andthose who heard the story later have seen this event asa “test of the gods”?
■ Notice how the storyteller describes the Hebrews inExodus 14:19. What do you think the narrator conveysthrough this image?
■ Considering that this story is the account of the“victors” – the Hebrews – what questions do you haveabout this account?
■ How might this text be used to cause harm?Matthew 18:21–25; Romans 14:1–12 For Jesus and Paul, the road to freedom is forgiveness and God’s liberating justice.■ What do these texts reveal about God’s character andthe essence of God’s law?Connecting scripture and lifeGod’s compassion strengthens our faith and deepens our trust. God continues to liberate and save, and we are formed in such freedom.
■ What signs of God’s freeing and reconciling love haveyou witnessed?
■ What can you do to be agents of God’s liberating lovefor those who are oppressed?
■ How might participation in such liberating acts shapeyour faith and the faith of others?
Focus for Worship, Learning, and ServingTelevision and newspapers confront all ages with images of violent oppression, and the plight of refugees and asylum seekers often motivates strong responses. Many are moved to respond with prayer and acts of mercy for those who must suddenly leave a familiar place and way of life, perhaps without family members or friends, to survive. Many stand in solidarity in the quest for liberation and a future with hope.In Exodus 14:19–31, we encounter the Hebrew people as they ee their known – albeit oppressed – lives to nd freedom. This week offers an opportunity to consider and re ect upon how our nations and communities help individuals who are oppressed nd liberation. How do you welcome the refugee and asylum seeker? As you prepare, pray for all in your congregation to grow in faith and trust in God, who continues to liberate.