Faith Lessons by Ray Vander Laan: Crossing the Red Sea

We continue to consider RVL’s lessons on how to think as the First Century Jews thought, that is, with an Eastern point of view. (“RVL” is what his students call Ray Vander Laan and how he often refers to himself.)

To think Eastern, it’s critical that you first see the picture before you try to draw the lesson. Don’t jump quickly to conclusions. Rather, study the story at length. What happened? Why did it happen?

Consider the Exodus. God told the Israelites to prepare to leave Egypt. They were not wealthy and certainly wouldn’t have had the ability to carry many of their possessions with them. They fled Egypt and were soon pursued by the Egyptian army on chariots. The crossed the Red Sea and watched as God destroyed the Egyptian forces

Now, put yourself in the place of an Israelite woman told to pack for the journey. She likely had several children and not a single pack animal. They weren’t a wealthy people. They could only carry what they could strap on their backs or perhaps drag in a litter. The priorities would be clothing and food and whatever was needed for the children.

After they crossed the Red Sea and saw God’s destruction of the Egyptian army —

(Exo 15:20-21)  Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing. 21 Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.”

Now, in my Sunday school classes growing up, we skipped this. After all, the story involves instrumental music, dancing, and a woman in charge! And in skipping it, we missed a life-changing point.

As we sat in RVL’s class, my wife — the mother of four and the person in charge when it’s time for us to pack — asked, “Where did they get the tambourines?” And that’s what RVL asked the class. If you were packing to walk from the Land of Goshen to Palestine, taking only what you could carry, would you pack tambourines? We Westerners wouldn’t.

But Miriam and the other women did. Why? Well, there’s only one possible explanation. They packed tambourines because God was with them, and there’d surely be a need to celebrate! They packed anticipating the need to exalt God on the way. How else could they make it to the Promised Land?

(Psa 149:1-5)  Praise the LORD.

Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints.

2 Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King.

3 Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with tambourine and harp.

4 For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation.

5 Let the saints rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds.

Prepare to have a reason to celebrate. When RVL’s granddaughter was in the hospital preparing for a risky heart surgery, she called RVL as he was getting ready to come be with her and told him, “Don’t forget the tambourines!”

We Westerners read about the song of Miriam and look for a doctrine, a rule that we can get right on the Great True-False Test in the Sky. Easterners see the story as an example of how to live before God.

When God gives a victory, celebrate with your whole being. Dance before God! And be ready for it to happen. You never know when you might need a tambourine.

Church of Christ application.

Well, yes, there’s an application regarding instrumental music. But the bigger application is about how to view our relationship with God. It’s not about faithfully doing everything according to the rules. It’s about letting God be real in our lives — individually and as a faith community — so real that celebration is expected.

Rather than sniffing that church isn’t about entertainment and applause, we should exult in what God is doing for us every day. (And have tambourines handy, because we’re going to need them)

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21 Responses

  1. This is a good reminder of the joy we have in our lives due to God’s faithfulness, grace and forgiveness.

    Woo Hoo !!!

  2. That’s great! I’ll have to remember that. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on how God wants his people to be festive, to celebrate in his presence. Where do you suppose the emphasis on stoicism and somberness in our worship came from?

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  3. Victorian mores? We’re a very English/Scottish brand of religion.

    And remember that our most recent heyday was in Eisenhower’s America — pretty tightly buttoned-down.

    As Randy Harris quips, “In our worship services, we strive to avoid anyone having an experience. If we’re singing, and we think someone is about to have an experience, we will stop and have a prayer.”

  4. Gonna link this on my little family blog….wow!

    I have read this passage many times over the years, but you are right we totally skipped talking about this story during our bible classes. As the mom of 4 little kids packing always falls to me when we are going somewhere. I’ve never packed a tambourine, but maybe I need to reconsider my packing list next time.

    Thank you so much Jay for your refreshing point of view!

  5. Jay

    I wish we could show the joy and gratitude Miriam demonstrated. The Jews knew how to have a party….wish we could too. But wine…WOW what a sin.

    Look at the gratirude of the Samaritan lepor and blind Bartemaues.

    We need to go on a mission trip to India and see how those native missioaries suffered to preach the Gospel, but the joy that resulted from many conversions in the lives of the convert.

    Bob.

  6. Nice one Jay!! In the One Cup congregation I attend we clap during our singing, Amens are given during the sermon/lesson and the members “praise God” for allowing us to be part of His family. The assembly is the place, not the only place, to praise God and encourage one-another to love and good works Heb.10:24. I’m thankful to be a part of a Spirit led congregation. God Bless!!

  7. I need this so bad. I want this for our people. I want this for my wife…for my children. I don’t know how to get there. But somehow…..it has to start with me. And it might have to start with you. Thank you Jay for my next sermon topic. I know what I want to say, but I don’t know how to say it. The Spirit is going to have to help me get there.

    Join me in praying for our brethren to be free in Christ. We say we are free in Christ….but we don’t act like we are free in Christ. We are slaves to the past. We are slaves to the old patterns. Patterns we have trusted in….that we thought were right. But we are choking. The air is stale. I will pray for my congregation and I hope you will too. We are going to have to start leading our congregations. I want my children and your children to live in fresh air.

    Nick…you are so right.

    Tim, just a thought. Wouldn’t it be great if the University Church of Christ in Abilene could celebrate. The last time I visited the brethren there…..it was……well you know what it was like. What if we could get Forest McCain to stand up at the podium and shout out his praise of the Lord with his hands lifted up? And then ask the congregation to join him. Would you stand with him? Arrange it and I will endow a scholarship in his name!

  8. To All of you

    Ray Vander Laan has a series of seven studies with each study consisting of four to seven lessons. They are great for home bible studies. Each lesson has a DVD lasting from 20-30 minutes. Ray makes one to two profound pins in each lesson that you will retain.

    we went through his series of “Faith Lessons on the Promised Land ” in six months.

    Bob

  9. Can’t type or spell

    profound points

    Bob

  10. Tim,

    I think it largely goes back to Zwinglian/Reformed/Calvinist thinking. The Catholics loved to have their celebrations. Luther, being a good German, continued to enjoy a good beer and began church music that led to Bach.

    But the Calvinist influence was pretty somber — and we are heirs of a Calvinist culture, although we reject their atonement theology. The Restoration leaders all came from Calvinist roots.

  11. Nick,

    I think you’re right about Victorianism. Somewhere along the way, Victorianism became associated with Christianity in our thinking.

    I’m not sure how it happened. I wonder if anyone has done a study?

  12. Bob,

    I’ve posted lessons based on all 7 DVDs under “Faith Lessons by Ray Vander Laan,” as well as some mp3s of lessons he’s taught. I understand he’s about to release 2 more DVDs shortly.

    http://www.followtherabbi.com/Brix?pageID=1985

  13. Stan—

    I don’t know you brother, but that was an amazing post and really spoke to the heart of how I feel myself. How do we change?!?!?! I DON’T KNOW!! I don’t have a family, but if God does bless me with that some day, I REFUSE to allow another generation of my bloodline to grow up not knowing how to experience and emotionally connect to our God and other Christians!

    It is so hard! As the “Chosen Frozen” (as we in the COC have affectionately been labeled), stoicism is considered a virtue. But brother, I have no idea how to change yet still be true to myself….all-the-while knowing I want to permanently change this behavior(rather, lack thereof). What do we do?

  14. I play too many mind games with myself. There are times in worship that I feel like I want to raise my hands up. But someone will think I’ve lost it…so I don’t. And then I get to thinking…..what if I raise my hands now…but don’t have that feeling next week. If I don’t raise my hands then….people will wonder why my hands aren’t raised. They will think that there must be a problem! And what if I don’t have that feeling all the time….will I feel like I need to raise my hands just for other people’s benefit. People are always analyzing and analyzing what others do in worship. Everybody is analyzing. But you know…..as I type this…….it sounds so very anal. I never realized how similar the words are…..analyzing and anal….until I started typing. I don’t want to be like this. I want to be free and genuine and sincere.

    FREE!………………..GENUINE!……………SINCERE!

    My wife may even think I’ve lost it. She has never raised her hands. Then if I raise my hands……will that make my wife feel like she needs to raise hers too? Will she feel uncomfortable standing/sitting next to me……wondering what I’m gonna do next in worship. What if I tell her about my desire and she tells me that she would prefer that I not raise my hands in worship…….what do I do then??????? AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!

    JMF my son…….we are going to have to set you free.

  15. JMF
    I play too many mind games with myself. There are times in worship that I feel like I want to raise my hands up. But someone will think I’ve lost it…so I don’t. And then I get to thinking…..what if I raise my hands now…but don’t have that feeling next week. If I don’t raise my hands then….people will wonder why my hands aren’t raised. They will think that there must be a problem! And what if I don’t have that feeling all the time….will I feel like I need to raise my hands just for other people’s benefit. People are always analyzing and analyzing what others do in worship. Everybody is analyzing. But you know…..as I type this…….it sounds so very anal. I never realized how similar the words are…..analyzing and anal….until I started typing. I don’t want to be like this. I want to be free and genuine and sincere.

    FREE!………………..GENUINE!……………SINCERE!

    My wife may even think I’ve lost it. She has never raised her hands. Then if I raise my hands……will that make my wife feel like she needs to raise hers too? Will she feel uncomfortable standing/sitting next to me……wondering what I’m gonna do next in worship. What if I tell her about my desire and she tells me that she would prefer that I not raise my hands in worship…….what do I do then??????? AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!

    JMF my son…….we are going to have to set you free.

  16. Jay

    Forgive me but I have been tempted to spike the punchbowl at our adult gatherings just to see how we would act if we loosened up a bit.

    Why not? We take medication that helps us? a little wine might help our attitude.

    Did Jesus drink wine with the rabble of his day?

    Yes I do hold my hands up in worship and my wife does to. Yes we on occasions drink a little wine but not as much as the common Jew did at the feast of the tabernacles.

    Bob

  17. We are called to follow Jesus, carry His Name. He did not start a religion or form a cult. Let’s stop renewing our distrust and instead renew our minds with His strength. Let grace have it’s way. Follow Jesus way and tell others who will do the same. Thank you Jay and RVL for teaching the whole Truth. God is so big.

  18. When it is a family and not a show or a scheduled performance, the Spirit is much more free to do His thing in our midst. Drop the fear, the ceremony and the ritual… these aren’t cure-alls, but it is a place to start.

    http://books.jesuslifetogether.com/Meetings-in-His-Kingdom/Jesus-IS-Still-Alive

  19. Why is it so easy to stand up and shout in celebration when my home team scores a touchdown… because I am at home with my family and friends and feel comfortable… I am in my element. Time with God’s people SHOULD ALWAYS FEEL THAT WAY… like you are in your element. That was the environment you were made for… but not the environment of modern Christendom… Meetings the same time every week with the same basic service structure is NO different than catholic liturgy except we don’t speak in latin and we’ve added some more interesting songs (and the “free” ones even add a piano)… C’mon guys and gals… let’s at least read what the early Christians did. 1 Cor. 14 is the closest thing to a description of what a meeting of saints looked like in the first century and it looks NOTHING like what most do today… READ IT. It says, “Everyone comes with a song or a word of instruction…” Everyone one does? Yes, everyone comes ready to share the song that is on their heart to Jesus. You immediately get the feeling reading that chapter that there is no liturgy, no pre-programmed order… it is fluid, dynamic, alive, letting Jesus be Lord of the time together… the freedom of expression and praise that you all are longing for isn’t ultimately about being less formal as much as it is about being more in tune with the Living Jesus everyday and letting our meetings flow OUT of that dynamic. Jesus, Paul, Peter, John and James didn’t have worship services that were pre-planned and ordered by the worship deacon. That is all man made and you all are feeling the pain of being constrained by man-made chains. Be free. Invite brothers and sisters you know over to your own house. Not “small groups”…. just spirit-led spontaneity… FInd out how you can serve each other and pray for each other. Confess your sins to each other. Deal with interpersonal issues. And praise God together in as much freedom as you feel shouting for your favorite team… That’s just what families do…

  20. I’m starting to like you Pilgrim.
    No, I’m not John Wayne.

  21. Every one should read the faith lesson by ray vander laan because they are very interesting and clear all the concept.

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