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We continue in our Fall series reading through the foundational stories of the Hebrew Scriptures, working to finish with a palate perspective of them as we move into Advent and the way in which we as followers of Jesus read the Hebrew Scriptures as pointing towards Jesus.
This book of the Exodus tells the story of the life and leadership of Moses who transformed by an encounter with God, leads the Israelites from their generations-old enslavement in Egypt to freedom. Paradoxically, once liberated physically the people struggle to become free from a different bondage, an enslavement to fear of the unknown, the security of the familiar and the all-too-quick movement to idolatrous rejection of the God who delivered them from their chains of slavery. The story is the primary articulation of Jewish identity, but is also the story of the human condition from which God longs to deliver us, and the exodus from sin in which Jesus of Nazareth leads us forward through his life and death.
Today’s selection tells of how quickly the Israelites lose faith and hope in Yahweh when Moses is absent and his brother, Aaron, steps in as “interim pastor.” It’s a story of idolatry and mistrust, present at the heart of the human condition. A story told again and again in the Bible, from the garden of Eden in Genesis 2 up and through the life of Jesus.
The gospel of Matthew is likely written to the church located in what we now call Syria & Lebanon, one that was heavily influenced by Jewish culture and belief. The teaching in today’s reading, commonly called the Beatitudes, is at the center of Matthew’s retelling of the gospel. It’s the constitution or summary of all that Jesus taught. Matthew presents it as both a new teaching and faithful re-interpretation of the Jewish Torah or law, less a new way of approaching God than a fulfilling or perfecting of the Torah.
Questions for Examen & Contemplation:
Image credit: Leon Sitarchuk, Study for "Moses and the Golden Calf"