Moses’ Baptism

I read a description today of Moses’ crossing of the Red Sea as a baptism.

Perhaps it would be better put differently.  Perhaps a better way to say it is that baptism is a re-enactment of the crossing of the sea.

I’m struck by this idea: that we go beneath the water, like the Egyptians, but we are raised up and out of the water like an Isrealite.  It strikes me as a powerful picture of the transformation we experience through Jesus: going from a member of the empire to one of God’s people; going from a part of the problem to a part of the solution.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

6 thoughts on “Moses’ Baptism”

  1. It was almost a throw away line, in the recent Rob Bell book. He was making a much wider point about The Exodus and mentioned that some scholars call it Moses’ Baptism. I have no idea if he or the mentioned scholars have any good reason to hold on to it.

    I don’t know if the connections I see are stretching for something that isn’t there, but it does seem like both the crossing of the Sea and baptism have elements of choosing a new life with God over the old life of slavery. Also, the public-ness of both events is central to what they were about. These are in addition to the rather silly fact that both resolve around water, and perhaps the slightly deeper fact that water is a symbol of changeabality, mallabality, and cleansing.


  2. No doubt all those symbols are stuffed in there – albeit awkwardly. i’m more convinced that the Isrealites crossed the Red Sea because not crossing meant certain death. Although it must have been scary to cross amid the conditions they were given, i’m not so sure it was a hard decision.

    If you wanted to suggest the crossing is symbolic of choosing life over death i’m more inclined to agree. It seems to me that the demonstration of God’s power and Moses’ authority to wield it were meant to be an unforgettable and inexcusable witness for the Isrealites later when they were grumbling in the desert – not to mention the memorable display of God having mercy on whom he will, and not on whom he won’t.

    Look, i can’t say that it isn’t what the “scholars” say it is. It just didn’t strike a chord in my mind or my spirit.


  3. Yeah, I’m not invested in it particularly. It occurs to me that, based on the chronology, there’s probably a stronger argument to be made in the opposite direction: Baptism is a symbolic crossing of the red sea, rather than vice-versa.
    I think it’s an interesting possibility, but I understand your skepticism.


  4. Hmmm. Amid all this “Yeah, I’m not particularly comitted to the idea” I click the “Possibly related link” And it leads me to 1 Corinthians 10:
    “1For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. ”

    I don’t have any idea what that means. I’d be interested in your take. It’s compelling, though, that scripture seems to somehow connect the crossing of the Red Sea with Baptism.


  5. i just read the passage.
    Paul is just coming out of chapter 9 where he is regaling the reader with his committment to become one of the people to whom he ministers in the hope that some might be saved. So too it was the same with Moses and the Isrealites in the cloud and the sea; they were baptized together through the experience of God’s great testimony.

    Paul goes on to point out that in spite of that, so many of them fell away and died. In fact, all of them except two were faithful enough to see God’s promise fulfilled. So it was a baptism of a very real spiritual kind; Paul even says they partook of spiritual food, and drink, and the rock that was with them was Christ.

    i don’t know if what we experience as a transformational event in our own Baptism (in the Spirit) is the same, but i do see some similarities. The thrust of Paul’s point seems to be about holiness. He juxtaposes the failures of the Isrealites with our potential to fail in sexual sin and idolatry – just like the Isrealites. He seems to be implying that we aren’t as insulated as we somtimes like to think we are to temptation.

    He also says this about the plight of the Isrealites in the Sinai: “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.”

    Pretty sobering to consider.


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