When I started the biblical reflections portion of this blog almost four years ago, I didn’t realize how much I would learn and how much it would shape my ministry. Many Christians don’t know how to approach the Hebrew Scriptures that many call the Old Testament, and as much as I love the gospels and the letters of Paul I am learning how to hear those writings much more fully as I become more and more familiar with the Psalms, Jeremiah, Deuteronomy, Ecclesiastes, Esther and Haggai. I am understanding more what Dietrich Bonhoeffer meant when he said,
I notice more and more how much I am thinking and perceiving things in line with the Old Testament; thus in recent months I have been reading much more the Old than the New Testament. Only when one knows the name of God may not be uttered may one sometimes speak the name of Jesus Christ. Only when one loves life and the earth so much that with it everything seems lost and at its end may one believe in the resurrection of the dead and a new world. Only when one accepts the law of God as binding for oneself may one perhaps sometimes speak of grace. And only when the wrath and vengeance of God against God’s enemies are allowed to stand can something of forgiveness and love of enemies touch our hearts. Whoever wishes to be and perceive too quickly and too directly in New Testament ways is to my mind no Christian. We have already, discussed this a few times, and every day confirms for me that it is right. One can and must not speak the ultimate word prior to the penultimate. We are living in the penultimate and believe the ultimate. (DBW 8: 213)
As I have wrestled with some difficult pieces of the Bible it has caused me to think about ethics, faith, our current world and so much more. For me this is the more challenging way but it has also been incredibly rewarding. Finishing Psalms 21-30 as a transition between books now I stand ready to begin another large piece. Next will be the book of Exodus, the second of the Pentateuch that I have approached. It is a book that I am more familiar with than I was with Jeremiah or Deuteronomy when I began and it is more of a narrative than any of the books I have done previously. I have two trustworthy companions for the journey. Since this is one of the central books of the Torah and the defining drama of the Jewish people I am delighted to have Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’, Covenant and Conversation: A Weekly Reading of the Jewish Bible as he reads through Exodus: The Book of Redemption as one of my primary dialogue partners. I will also be taking along Carol Meyers commentary on Exodus from the New Cambridge Bible Commentary Series. I have other resources that I have read in the past or that are on my shelf that may also be a part of this journey. With the forty chapters of Exodus the hope is to make the journey in approximately forty weeks, but as journeys go there are often unforeseen stops along the way. I am looking forward to this next exploration as I reenter the journey of the people of Israel from Egypt into the wilderness, from slavery into becoming the people of God and seeing how their journey and faith continue to shape and inform my own.