My wife and I have been married for 43 years. God is good! In that time, I have never become fully accustomed to her packing. A small suitcase is never sufficient. Clothes are piled on the bed and then sorted. The bedroom floor is covered with shoes. Sorting follows. The selection then begins. And eventually her suitcase is packed and mine is there for the things that don’t fit in hers.
Can you imagine the packing frenzy in Egypt on Passover Day? Israel had been foreigners in the land for 400 years, and God was about to deliver them. Moses told them to get ready for a mass exodus. While faith in God and his prophet Moses motivated them, consider the practical aspect.
Imagine the stress. There had been nine plagues, and Pharaoh reneged on each promise to let them go. Why would #10 be different?
The Israelites had never lived anywhere but in Egypt. As difficult as their lives had become, it was all they knew. Later, in the desert, they would beg Moses to let them return to their Egyptian homes, food choices, and abundant water supply. They were about to leave the familiar for the unknown. That is stressful.
It is packing time. What do we take? What can be left behind? How do we haul it? Where do we put the kids and the elderly? Packing and traveling are stressful enough when we go on vacation. Imagine the added stress of their situation.
And then the women say, “Honey, don’t forget to pack the tambourines.” I am imagining my reaction if that were my wife in that situation!
Exodus 15:20 is a verse that never really struck me. In reading it, the idea that the Israelite women celebrated God’s deliverance on the safe side of the Red Sea is the point of the passage. But the practical aspect of the music and instruments is easily overlooked.
Exodus 15:20 says, “Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing.”
Since the Bible does not say that the Lord dropped tambourines from the heavens like manna, the people must have packed them. And it wasn’t just Miriam. The verse says, “all the women followed her.” In other words, there were probably a lot of men rolling their eyes (like me).
Why, in the stressful context of Passover preparation and mass exodus, did the people pack tambourines? There is only one answer: they planned to dance!
In spite of their situation in Egypt—their enslavement, the tension surrounding the plagues, the fear of Pharaoh and increasingly hard labor, the logical skepticism about the plan Moses told them came from God, and the pending Passover and exodus—the people expected to worship and to dance!
We have entered the new year of 2018. Life ebbs and flows in our broken world. Even those who seemingly have their spiritual act together wonder from time to time. What is God up to? Why does evil continue to win battles? Why does God allow evil? Where is our comfort and hope when we are walking in dark valleys?
The ancient Israelites didn’t have it all together, either. They exited Egypt under stress. They arrived at the Red Sea and looked over their shoulders to see the mighty army of Egypt advancing. They cried as they awaited their slaughter.
God delivered them!
When they were packing in Egypt, they didn’t know when they would dance. They didn’t know where they would dance. But they believed that they would dance!
God delivered them from the mighty Pharaoh. God has delivered us through Jesus Christ from death itself and promised us a place in his kingdom. Do you believe? Did you pack your tambourine? In the hope of the new year and God’s faithfulness, all of life is worship! Plan and expect to dance.
Devotionals are written by Jeff Blamer, Vice President of Member Services
Note: My thanks to a friend for pointing out Exodus 15:20 in a recent devotional thought. He said that the idea came from an unnamed trip participant during a devotional in the Sinai.