“Tell me a story”, plead children to parents all over the world. My children did, and now their children do as well. We all love a story, whether a bedtime tale, a movie, a novel, or a friend spinning a yarn about something they’ve experienced. As humans we are storytellers and listeners. A Native American proverb aptly says: “Tell me a fact, and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth, and I’ll believe. But tell me a story, and it will live in my heart forever.”
We are hardwired to remember stories more than facts and figures. Drowning in information bytes and data, stories cuts right through the noise. We are shaped by the stories we hear and the stories we tell. Stories are at the heart of what make us human; they color our understanding of the world and our place in it. People have always told stories to pass on their history, their values, and beliefs to future generations. Perhaps that is why so much of the Bible is story, and why Jesus could not resist telling us a good one.
These daily reflections for Lent are based on the greatest of all stories told by the greatest Storyteller of all. In these pages we will follow the highlights of the story of Israel’s Exodus and see our lives as a part of God’s story. The Bible says that the story of the Exodus was written down for our instruction, a roadmap for our spiritual journey. The Exodus is more than an historical event; it is the story of how God always acts to redeem lives. A gracious God invites us to re-story our lives by living into His better script of grace and transformation in Christ Jesus.
Each day’s reflection will have a brief Scripture text telling about the Exodus story, brief observations on that Scripture text, then questions for you to prayerfully consider what God might be saying to you, and what you want to say to God. Keep in mind that the Exodus story has been passed down for our instruction and is intended to be a pattern for our faith journey (I Corinthians 10:6, 11).
In many of the Scripture texts in this devotional you will find the word “LORD” in all capital letters. By putting “LORD” in all capital letters the translators are signifying that they are translating the Hebrew name of God, Yahweh. On the other hand, when you find the word “Lord” with only the first letter capitalized, translators are saying that this is a translation of the Hebrew word Adonai, meaning “sovereign ruler”. Just remember, “LORD” is God’s personal name; “Lord” is God’s title. Yahweh is the name God gives to His people; it is the name by which He swears eternal faithfulness to them: “I will be your God, and you will be my people” (Exodus 6:7).
Over the years, the name, Yahweh, or “LORD”, was looked upon with such awe and reverence by the Hebrew people that they dared not even speak it. Thus, as we read “LORD” in the daily readings we remember the reverential awe and wonder that it stirs in God’s people. “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD” (Isaiah 6:3).
ABOUT THE SEASON OF LENT
The season of Lent is an especially good time for leaving old stories behind and entering into God’s story. The word Lent literally means “Spring”, coming from the Middle English lente meaning “lengthen”. Lent signifies that time of the year when the daylight hours lengthen after the long winter nights. The dark chill of winter is giving way, sap is rising in the trees, and new life budding with possibilities all around. Just as the physical world is being renewed once again, so our spiritual lives can be renewed and increasingly fruitful. That is always the promise of these days of Lent: a time for spiritual renewal and transformation.
It is significant that the early Christians’ celebration of Lent predates their celebration of Christmas. Second Century church leader Irenaeus (A. D. 130-202) tells us that their observance of Lent went back to “the time of our forefathers”. Although the length of the Lenten season has changed over time, it has always been a time for reflection on Scripture, prayer, and repentance in order to ready ourselves for the full joy of Easter morning.
While the first council of the universal church, the critical Council of Nicaea (A. D. 325), was silent about any mention of Christmas, it prescribed a 40-day period for Lent. Those early church leaders who were entrusted with the care of souls believed in the importance of a yearly season focused on spiritual renewal. Like most of our holy days, or holidays, the observance of Lent has changed through the centuries, but has always been intended for spiritual growth. What better time to be thinking about new growth than when we are coming out of winter into spring!
Lent is not about trying to score spiritual brownie points with God or trying to earn His favor. Rather, Lent is about focusing on His infinite love for us, just as we are. God cannot love us any more than He already does. But what a difference it can make to live in daily reminders of His love and to re-story our lives into God’s grand story of the Exodus. It’s a real page-turner!