by Tom Dunlap
A Reflection on Exodus 15:22-27; Psalm 102; Hebrews 3:1-6 from the 2021 Lenten Devotional Booklet
Dashing into the desert, the Hebrew tribes have just escaped plague-infested Egypt and are suddenly thirsty, so they start “grumbling against Moses.” In distress he cries out to the Lord and drinkable water is provided for the demanding people.
Then and there, the Lord speaks directly to them, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and … if you pay attention to His commands, I will not bring on you any of the diseases (10 plagues) I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you! (Ex 15:22-26).”
Things do get a bit better, but the impatient tribes must learn humility and how to wait on the Lord, as they heal.
And if we also listen carefully, Psalm 102 shares a second lesson in how to heal. Now, centuries later, Jerusalem is abandoned and the Temple destroyed; the majority of its residents and workers exiled. The city is a shadow of its former self. Shops boarded up. Streets empty. All around, the hills are quiet and dark at night. During this Babylonian Exile, Psalm 102 was written to lament this great loss and the isolation felt by the exiles.
Speaking for all the captives, the psalmist cries out:
My days vanish like smoke…
My heart is sick and withered like grass… I lie awake; I have become
Like a bird alone on a roof…
My days are like the evening shadows;
I wither away like dry grass…
Yet out of this isolation, this drought of the spirit, she has a vision of the Lord:
The Lord looked down from His Sanctuary on high, To hear the groans of the prisoners
And to release those condemned to death.
This vision makes the speaker aware in the midst of her pain and isolation, that the Lord of all Creation abides. Spiritually aware, she can declare:
So the Name of the Lord will be declared in Zion And His praise in Jerusalem,
When the faithful peoples and the kin-dom Assemble to worship the Lord! (Ps 102: 3-22)
So, all that has been taken away or lost, will return. Jerusalem may be in ashes and the people scattered, but the glory of the Lord endures. And when she praises this all-giving, all-loving Lord, her hope renews and returns. The ephemeral meets the Eternal. Her praise lifts her out of exile and into a spiritual awareness of the glory of the Lord. In a mysterious way the Lord lives in the praises of faithful believers.
O Lord, give us the strength and spiritual awareness to wait for our safe return to our cities and communities. For You are the Lord of healing and grace. Amen.