In fact the Bible has deep meanings in every word that God inspired the writers to write. But our understanding develops in the Church (Cf. Vatican II; Dei verbum). For more on the development of the idea of God in the Bible see here.
10 plagues and, for fear of more, let the Hebrews leave, but in the last minute found that they are losing slaves who could have served Egypt and wanted to catch them. Why could not they catch the Hebrews to bring them back to slavery? Where was that? In his commentary, the Biblical scholar Richard J. Clifford, S.J. gives answers to the above questions: The God of Israel is compared in Exodus to the Baal to show that, like the Baal, God is the fearsome divinity bringing thunders and fire upon his enemies but only God is superior and in charge of heaven, earth, and the netherworld. The power of God can therefore make waters stand or get emptied to allow his servants to cross the Red Sea while his enemies are drowned by the same water when they attempt to catch the Hebrews. They cross and find themselves at the narrow area of the Red (Reed) Sea or rather the Sea of Reed which means bitter - Bitter water of myrrha cannot be tasted (Cf. Exodus in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary; Pp. 50-60). The people of God must experience pain here and in the desert (for lack of water and food) and be lost without God for 40 years to be prepared to enter the promised kingdom. Repentance is required before tasting God (in the Eucharist and in eternal life). In the New Testament Jesus said "Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able." (Luke 13:24). A great effort is required for entrance into the kingdom.
EXODUS Beyond History
Now Exodus is not an escape. It is a crossing from slavery under powerful tyrants to liberty. In my opinion, subject to Church authority to correct if not accurate, it is the restoration of human dignity to the original one created by God in his image, but deeper than this it is the exit - Exit from the self. In Exodus, water and exit from the self are joined as an expression or symbol of being in the true God.
How is that? First, in baptism, we are initiated to die and be buried with Christ in order to rise with him. It is only the first step in becoming Christians; for we have to undergo the difficulties of life without hatred or complaints and participate in the body of Christ by building it or expanding it where we are and where we go. None of the above can be completed without the grace of the Holy Spirit who acts in all sacraments to make us holy.
Ideologies and major religions of the Far East say to God "I am You" but a true Christian tells God "I am yours." In heaven, the elect do not melt in God as in other religious mystic sects, but remain distinct from God whose glory is their light (Revelation 21:3; 21:23).
The above little reflection briefly explains what sets Christianity apart. God is not only transcendent and not only immanent, but penetrates humanity and transforms humans to be with God in heaven if they only listen. The One through whom everyone is saved is JESUS CHRIST our God and Lord.
Since water is part of this discussion let us add more reflections from other scholars. Fr. Georges Farah, PhD, also taught the deeper meaning beyond water in Scripture. The story of Jesus walking on the waters of the sea is more than a mere event to show his power; for it reminds the listeners of Jesus' victory over the waters of the sea considered the abode of death. He is the One who takes Peter by the hand to deliver him from death. He is the One who leads the Church, new Israel, out of the bondage of death and "slavery in the land of Egypt". According to Georges Farah, every event recounted in the Gospel has multiple meanings; all meant to encourage the young church to persevere in the times of darkness.
Joseph Ratzinger, another renowned scholar who became Pope Benedict XVI, commented on Jesus walking on waters and coming to the apostles (Mark 6: 45-52): The apostles were crossing the lake. Jesus alone is on land while they are wearing themselves out in rowing without making any headway since the wind is contrary. Jesus is praying and, in his prayer, he sees them struggling on. So he comes to meet them... But what is decisive is that while praying , when he is 'with the Father' he is not removed from them. When Jesus is with the Father, he is present to the Church...Conversely the Church is, so to speak, the object of the encounter between Father and Son and thus herself anchored in the Trinitarian life. Here Ratzinger emphasizes the necessity of the Church as minister of salvation (See Dominus Iesus here).
In other words, it is not water that matters most but the presence of Jesus our God to us if we let him in.
From Baptism to the Eucharist Back to Georges Farah, in the Eucharist, God allows himself to be eaten by us. God goes all the way to unite himself to us in the Eucharist. In John 6 we read "So Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him." The least we can do is thank God for the grace of love that he comes to us in the Eucharist which imparts life in Christ to those who take it in the state of grace.
While Exodus showed us the mystery of the Trinity in a symbolic way, and water is used in baptism to initiate us in the Church. the Eucharist brings us to eternal joy which Christ wants to bless each one with and for which he died on the cross and rose from the dead.
Joy or Threat of Death Today
But do we feel that joy imparted by Christ? Alas, fear has become a global concern in the last few years with the increasing communication about violence and the killing of Christian (and other) victims in the Middle East and other countries in the world by extremists who claim they are acting to avenge the God of Islam. The most recent attacks on January 7 and 8 in France did not spare any soul of the "infidels" and resulted in more hatred towards Islam by the average person in the civilized world. Commenting on the event from a geopolitical perspective, Dr. George Friedman, an expert on global intelligence, wrote an article in Stratfor here where he practically dissects the near impossible situation of terrorism today and warns that the more-than-ten centuries war between Islam and Europe/the West will likely continue. Of concern, he maintains that Muslims in Europe and elsewhere do not share the values and principles on which the Western civilization is built. Is coexistence possible between nations and cultures today?
Weeks earlier in December, 2014, Henri Boulad, S.J. addressed the European Parliament in Brussels where he mounted a strong defense of Christians in the Middle East who since the Islamic conquests of the 7th century have been subjected to a "dhimmi status" (second degree) with periods of calm and periods of persecution and today count for only 2% of the local population. Fr. Boulad reminds Europeans that their crusades and colonization were historical reactions to the aggression of Muslim forces into Europe. The propaganda of self-imposed guilt is run by a suicidal obsession with political correctness. "Telling the truth has become a crime today. Denouncing Sharia, as a flagrant contradiction with the most basic human rights, is being accused of racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia … Europe is seen as driven to retreat and to sell off with ease her values and principles that she has taken centuries to acquire. She is slowly losing her freedom of expression, her resilience to resist, and her immune system." Urging Western experts (whose knowledge of Islam is rather bookish, theoretical and academic) to consult Eastern Christians "who have bathed for centuries in Islamized societies and have a different approach, a different sensibility" in the dialogue with Islamic scholars, he raises his voice "Beyond all divisions - East and West, Islam and Christianity, Left-Right - what is important is to save man, his values, his freedom, and his dignity" and finishes like a hero "EUROPE, TAKE CARE NOT TO LOSE YOUR SOUL! Because on this soul depends the fate of Eastern Christians."
At the same time in Nigeria too, the terrorist Boko Haram executed and/or raped some 2,000 innocents in the name of Allah. But on the new year's eve celebration of the birthday of Islam's founder, addressing the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University and its scholars. a passionate Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (a moderate Muslim) called for a religious revolution of Islamic religious discourse and education after what he termed "centuries of ideologies that have been sanctified" against the the entire world. (Listen to the address with English subtitles here.)
A Recent Event: Steps in Joy in the Philippines
While fear prevails in many parts of the world, six million Christians joyfully attended and sang in the outdoor Mass presided over by the outreaching Pope Francis in Manila, the Philippines as reported on the 18th of January by BBC (See the report here). How is this man able to galvanize that huge following everywhere he goes unless he has much love for the poor and forgotten?
Have we forgotten the deep meaning of Exodus or Jesus walking on waters? Exodus or exit from the self is the difference between Christianity and religions... Christianity is Christ present to us. If Christ calls us as with Samuel, let us follow him...Let us repent and grow in faith.. Christianity is the way to God; for he said "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). What would have been the fate of Christians if the apostles did not open their Judaic tradition to the 'pagans' and their understanding to the Greeks and Romans? Christianity advanced the world in all fields particularly in "knowing God" who loves everyone. To know God is not an exercise of the body or the mind but in grace to strive to find him in the depth of love (see my lecture here). I saw remains, bones, and tombs of martyrs and saints in the catacombs in Rome and the monasteries in Lebanon and Egypt. Martyrs and saints continue to adore him in their hearts and on their knees. See Pope Francis who is leading a reform of the Church, and preaching reconciliation everywhere he goes. In each local church, there must be a renewal of Christian life, and in every society Christians need to recall the promises of Christ and stand for the truth, help the needy and the elders, and pray for reconciliation in the family, with friends, and with all others. I need to reflect on God, his eternal selfless love, his words in the Bible and his saints everyday even if for a few moments, because this is my only salvation!
A Little Closing
In a lecture I gave in 2006 to young adults, I outlined some fundamental dimensions for Christians:
1. Social: Strengthen your faith and involve yourself in social activities and charities (Knights of Columbus is only one example); involve yourself if possible to stand for the truth of Christ in social encounters in universities, schools and professional organizations that challenge the faith.
2. Spiritual: Learn from the Bible and saints; Exercise yourself in spiritual exercises gradually with a spiritual director (Example here); Participate in Mass; Learn and continue to fast and give alms.
3. Vertical Dimension: Build a relationship of love with God who loves you. For this seek spiritual direction from the pastor or a monk who has experience with Christ.
We are not saints (yet). We have responsibilities towards our families and society which mean that we need to balance our approach in every word we utter and every action we make. In a polarized world with fear and threats of violent death, I find St. Augustine's words to be appropriate "Be moderate in everything except in love".
The above can be considered as a proposal subject to approval by Church authority.
Hymn: The magnificent hymn "Love Divine" was sung by the ranks of dignitaries and the Choir of Westminster Abbey in the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011
"Love divine, all loves excelling, joy of heaven, to earth come down... Finish then thy new creation, pure and spotless let us be"...
All of them sang regardless of their ranks...all of them bowed but probably not many thought of the words "Finish then thy new creation, pure and spotless let us be." A new creation is God's unfinished work awaiting the promised glory.