22nd January

Exodus 16-18; Psalm 22

Bible in a Year
6 minutes

Exodus 16-18

Now that the people have left Egypt, they need to find some way to provide themselves. They no longer have fields and farms to grow food, and though they do have livestock, if they’re not careful they’ll end up eating all their animals and not have any to breed for the future.

God steps in to provide for his people, but he turns it into a test to see whether these people are faithful to him or not. He coats the ground with a fine grain like substance and tells them to only take what they need, roughly 1.5kg or 3.5lb. Some people attempt to take more than that, ignoring God’s command, but when they measured it they ended up with the exact amount.

God then asked them to not leave anything over. He wanted them to be reliant on him for each day. But again they do not listen to them, so the food is instantly filled with maggots.

Next God tells them to gather double on the sixth day so that they can rest on the seventh. This time the food does last, but people still decide to go out to see if they can get a little extra.

Finally, the people run out of water and rather than trusting that God would provide, like he already has multiple times, they assume that God no longer cares. Their disobedient has turned into judging God.

We see time after time the people disobey God, either because they didn’t trust him, or because they were greedy and wanted more. The issue that we saw time and time again in Genesis is still there. God’s people are still choosing to do things in their own strength rather than trusting God to provide.

The Israelites quickly draw the attention of other nations. The Amalekites were threatened by Israel’s presence and so attacked them (the Amalekites were descended from Esau, Jacob’s brother - Genesis 36:12). While Joshua fought, Moses stood with the symbol of God’s power at the time, Moses’ staff.

As he held God’s power up the Israelites won. We soon see Hur and Aaron helping support Moses during this battle and ultimately the Israelites win. From this we can see the importance of lifting up the authority and power of God over our difficult situations, recognising him and not ourselves as the source of all our victories. We also see the value of having good people around you to support you.

Moses soon begins to struggle under the pressure of leading so many people. His father-in-law, Jethro, wisely recommended that Moses split the leadership up, appointing others to lead smaller groups of people. Make a note here, that God uses Jethro, a foreigner, to give Moses great advice.

In Genesis we saw God’s chosen man, Abraham, make poor decisions, and God bless an Egyptian, Hagar. In the same way, we now see God’s chosen people, the Israelites, complain against God while a Midianite, Jethro, is a source of wisdom.

While we see God choosing the Israelites for himself, these books are very clear to point out that doesn’t make them any better than any other people group. If anything, it just means they have a greater responsibility to be an example of God. Remember, that is the main goal of humans, to be a representation of God. His image (Genesis 1:27).

Psalm 22

Psalm 22 is one of the most famous of the lament psalms. It is the psalm that Jesus quoted on the cross (Matthew 27:46). Biblical lament is whenever a person takes their pains, hurts, and frustrations before God. It tends to include four steps; turning to God, bringing the complaint, making a request of God, and then declaring trust in God.  

Throughout this psalm we see the psalmist go back and forth through each of these steps. Sometimes complaining about their sufferings, other times asking God to do others, and then moments of trusting in God before turning back to their sufferings. This psalm is attributed to king David.

The psalm is rich and full of meaning and layers. The structure of the psalm is a chiasm where the passage mirrors itself.  

a) Psalm 22:1-2 - God feels absent

b) Psalm 22:3-5 - But God delivered our ancestors

c) Psalm 22:6-8 - Yet I am worthless

d) Psalm 22:9-11 - Do not forget me, God of my youth

e) Psalm 22:12-13 - Enemies surround me

f) Psalm 22:14-15 - My strength is worn out

e) Psalm 22:16-18 - Enemies surround me

d) Psalm 22:19-23 - Deliver me from my enemies

c) Psalm 22:24-25 - God is faithful

b) Psalm 22:26-27 - People will praise God

a) Psalm 22:28-31 - God is king

While the idea of complaining to God can offend of a lot of Christians today, it has a deep rooted history in the Bible. Here the psalmist is letting God know that it feels like he has been abandoned. Why has God forsaken them? It’s like he doesn’t answer them.

The psalmist then pulls themselves back a little by focusing on God’s past record. God saved and delivered their ancestors. They were able to trust in him, and he never put them to shame.

But then, turning back to his own life, the two don’t seem to line up. The psalmist’s ancestors may have not been put to shame, but he sure has. He is mocked, and despised, and all for putting his trust in God.

Again, the psalmist tries to pull himself back from the pit of despair. He reminds himself, and God, on all the times that he has been able to trust God in the past. This leads him to ask God to be close to him through these struggles.

Then the psalmist mentions the ‘strong bulls of Bashan’ (Psalm 22:12). This reference might be lost to us, but at the time it carried a lot of meaning. Bashan was a place to the north of Israel that was linked to the spiritual rebellion.

It was where a lot of cultic worship happened in the northern kingdom and is also believed to be the site of one of two golden calves made by one of the northern kings (1 Kings 12:25-33). For some it was seen as the gateway to hell.

So for the psalmist, the ‘bulls of Bashan’ would have been an Ancient Near Eastern equivalent of saying the ‘hounds of hell’. It felt like the very forces of death and darkness were surrounding them.

Which brings us to the psalmists lowest point. Their strength is gone, and they feel wasted away. It’s at this point the structure begins to reflect itself. Just as the psalmist fell surrounded by death and darkness, they are also surrounded by a more tangible threat of enemies seeking to destroy them.

But now they’ve finally reached a point where they can reach out and hold properly to God in the midst of their pain. Just as they had previously asked God to no forget them, the psalmist now asks that God defeats their enemies.

While they had only been able to focus on their own worthlessness, now they turn to God’s goodness and faithfulness. Where God has been faithful to ancestors of the past, the psalmist of the present and others will praise God now and forever.

The psalm began with the confession that it felt like God was absent and his people groan, unable to find rest. It now ends with the declaration that God is king and his people shall prosper.

Psalm 22 is an incredible lament psalm, that works through some of the deepest suffering and turmoil can experience. But all the way through it models for us how to wrestle with these things, so that we can ultimately stand in who God is and trust in his goodness.

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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© Bryn Joslin