top of page

Lent 3B 1st Reading

In my local congregation, we are currently journeying through Lent and to be honest, most of us are learning we are not as disciplined as we have previously thought. This journey for our community is a prime discipleship opportunity as we share what we are learning along with easy and the difficult moments. At least a few times in the past week, I have heard my congregants mention how hard it has been to give up something and that they should have thought about something different to give up. Would it be easier if they had chosen something different, likely not as we are learning how much we are shaped by our daily habits.

On a humorous note, Andy and I have given up television and YouTube videos (Andy’s guilty pleasure) and there have been a few times we have been tempted to slip back into old habits and turn on the TV (which we literally unplugged) or to surf the internet to find something to laugh about- he seriously finds some of the most random things out there.

During this second week of Lent, I will say that the rhythm of discipline is still being defined. Once something is set aside for a while, it’s easier to be aware of how much time, whether intentionally or not, is devoted to such activities. I’ve noticed that there are moments where we are open to better conversations with one another without the distractions of a TV in the background. A few nights when I’ve had some downtime, I’ve literally come home to a quiet house and have had moments of silence and reflection that are usually difficult to find in my life. At first, this was awkward, yet now, I am getting into a good place in welcoming this quietness and stillness. Sometimes it takes obediently walking away from the comforts and distractions the familiar to be available and open to hearing from God.

Our passage this week takes place in the desert where the Israelites have been journeying toward the destination of The Promised Land. This desert was uncomfortable and filled with the unfamiliar in absolutely every single way. They had been set free from slavery, had survived a chase by Pharaoh’s Army by walking across the sea on dry land, and God sustained them by providing manna, quail, and water from the rock. In all of this, they remember life back in Egypt while enslaved and begin to long for the days of the familiar, even though the familiar was unpleasant and yet strangely comforting to them. Perhaps this is because their lives were filled and structured so much that they were constantly busy and didn’t have time to think. Now, as they are in the desert, they are literally at God’s mercy and they have nothing else to do but wait.

God was working during this waiting and awkward time on the journey through preparing the Israelites for life in the Promised Land. They had come from a kingdom where Pharaoh’s laws were held in highest regard and now they are being re-oriented to a way of living that identifies them as the People of God and how they are to live.

The first four commandments are relational between God and the Israelites. May it be known that nothing else other than God’s power and grace delivered them from slavery in Egypt. God is to be respected and to be the priority in their lives above all else and because God is more powerful than any other entity, nothing should be made in attempt to resemble or place God among the other deities like the graven images the Egyptians used to worship their gods. God’s very name is Holy and is not to be carelessly used on the lips of the Israelites. Finally, the Sabbath, day of rest, is to be honored and no work is to be done. These relational points between God and the people establishes a turning point from what was previously lived in their life of slavery. The former ruler viewed himself as God through abusing people and power. God provides people with a covenant and freedom from the bondage they previously knew and is established in love.

The second half of the commandments are referencin