Exodus 15: 20 – 21

19 When Pharaoh’s horses, chariots and horsemen[a] went into the sea, the Lord brought the waters of the sea back over them, but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground. 20 Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. 21 Miriam sang to them:

“Sing to the Lord,
for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
he has hurled into the sea.

In my long gone misspent youth I spent more evenings than were probably good for me in smoky pubs at what were then called ‘Folk Nights’, and a group of three young ladies that often sang were called Miriam’s Tambourine (timbrel is an old name for tambourine).  It was, I must confess, many many years later that I realised the Biblical source of their name. I never knew why they called themselves that, they were actually three young teachers who had met at St John’s College, York, and now they will all be long retired, and I dare say nearer 80 than 60, so I never will now.

The original Miriam though, sang because she was seized with joy when she led the women in their singing and dancing. A spontaneous celebration of both the victory over Pharaoh’s men and deliverance from slavery.  So celebrating would have come easily, and little thought given to Pharaoh’s men that had perished as the Red Sea closed over them, nor the widows and orphans who would now be in mourning. But for the moment the Israelites, after generations of subjugation, were once more in the ascendancy. So, Miriam sang and the women danced and all rejoiced.

We face at the moment not an enemy we can see or touch, but only one that we can endure, and know that eventually we will overcome this virus. After the pandemic is over there will of course be a time to discuss how we can avoid such a thing threatening us again, we will look at what was done and what wasn’t done and (with the benefit of 20:20 hindsight) see where mistakes were made.

But before that…

Let there be sorrow for those that did not make the journey with us, but also rejoicing that we will have overcome.  In the meantime, stay home, keep apart, wash your hands often and pray for the day of rejoicing to come soon.


Lord God, our loving Father in Heaven, we know that at times it must have seemed to the Israelites that they would never be free, but when the time was right you delivered them.  Help us to have faith that you will deliver us from our present troubles, and then we may lift again Miriam’s tambourine and sing and dance to your glory.

In your Mercy hear our prayer,