I have been giving considerable thought to the bird’s-eye-view of the series of events we are reading about in Exodus right now. I had some new observations I thought worth sharing with you. If you recall, the last few chapters have had a varied array of behavior by our friends (so like us) – the Children of Israel. The narrative jumps back and forth between two levels of description. The descriptions of actual events that occurred on fateful days in their lives are interspersed with the detailed descriptions of God’s commands for how to construct and operate their new system of worship on a national level. It is unlike the way human authors typically write a narrative. That’s clearly because it is not a human Author.

Have you ever given much thought to manna? It was an astonishing substance!! It tasted delicious. It appeared and disappeared miraculously. It came in double portions on the sixth day (or at least there was enough for them to gather double portions.) It was convenient. It was versatile and was made into sweet coriander-like cakes (v.31 & Numbers 11:8) It had the nutrition necessary (combined with quail) to keep people healthy in a desert/nomadic lifestyle. It was provided directly, daily by God’s own hand. It was sent for 40 years and stopped on the very day they first ate the produce of the promised land (Joshua 5:12) And wondrously, on certain days, no worms were in the manna!

One of my all-time favorite scenes in a movie is found in the final scenes in Wall-E – a Disney/Pixar film that was released in 2008. In this computer-animated sci-fi scenario, robots have made humans redundant. People sit in motorized lounge chairs “having become obese and feeble due to microgravity and reliance on an automated lifestyle,” – their every desire fulfilled at the touch of a button. It is a poignant scene because it has transported out of the imagination-realm and into reality more and more with each generation. I believe we have far too much instant, mind-numbing, fruitless entertainment at our fingertips.

I do not believe in ghosts, but I do believe in hauntings. Let me explain. The Bible is so brilliant in the way it describes our natures, in order to allow us to listen to its wisdom and learn to find answers and make changes. Today’s immersion of our thoughts in to Joseph and his brothers’ lives holds a key to unlocking issues that may haunt each one of us as well. Consider with me, the way that guilt can haunt our consciences and never give us rest – even after years and years of self-deception.

I trust you are continuing with a commitment to daily reading of the Bible in this new year? For a variety of reasons, you may have decided to try a different reading plan this year. That is fine as long as you are still reading – that is the overall goal of this devotional I write. Namely, to encourage all participants (including myself) to see the daily reading of God’s Word as an integral part of our lives. If we persist, it becomes something that we cannot live without – because it just gets our heads in the right place to face the great variety of experiences each day offers.

I was privileged to visit the awesome country, Iceland, in recent months. I have never experienced such raw exposure to God’s power in Creation as we encountered there! It is a land of water, fire and ice – manifested in storms, waterfalls, rivers, darkness, glaciers and volcanoes. Unfortunately, we did not go in-season for animal life (other than the lovely ubiquitous sheep and horses) – but puffins, whales and seals will be on the agenda for my next trip. Iceland is truly a magnificent, startling and frightening place! I was reminded of that amazing country when I read The Storm Psalm (29) today. Our God is magnificent, startling and frightening at times, as well.

Isn’t it exciting to push the restart button and start the Bible afresh in January? I love this aspect of the Robert Roberts reading plan. Back to Genesis. Back to the beginning. Back to basics. And that is what keeps coming to my mind as we read these first several chapters in Genesis. All of the basic tenets of Christianity are easily discerned right from the get-go in this incredible book. Easily discerned- that is – if we take the time to truly listen to what the Master Storyteller is choosing to tell us in panoramic, sometimes almost unbelievable events that are meant for our instruction.

While I do not have time for a full-fledged blog, my mind this week has gone to a quote I discovered recently on a tombstone of a famous Chicagoan and (ironically) former Governor of Illinois:

I am not discouraged. Things will right themselves. The pendulum swings one way and then another, but the steady pull of gravitation is toward the center of the earth. Any structure must be plumb if it is to endure. So it is with nations: Wrong may seem to triumph, right may seem to be defeated. But the gravitation of Eternal Justice is toward the throne of God. Any political institution which is to endure must be plumb with that line of justice.

I once had a person who was a pedophile tell me that part of the explanation for this problem was a terrible childhood. While I truly sympathize with having been mistreated as a child (and there is nothing more horrendous!), it still does not make allowance for continued sin. I’m sorry, but a bad upbringing is no excuse. It seems that some people in the Israel of Ezekiel’s day were getting into the habit of also believing that people are incapable of breaking out of cycles of inherited sin. Or perhaps they were blaming their own sin and suffering on their forefathers’ behavior. This is a common worldview embraced in our time as well. Today we often call it a “Victim Mentality.”

Violence is a hot topic in our world. From bullying, to domestic violence, to police brutality, all the way up to terrorism and war; violence fills our homes, our schools, our cities, our nations and our daily news. It is impossible to get away from it. Speaking for myself, however, I sometimes get taken by surprise – as though violence is a new thing in human societies. Today’s readings in Mark 15, reminded me that violence is as old as the hills. It started with Cain (and his murderous seed) and will continue until the Prince of Peace comes to set things right.