Advent Art, Day 10: The War Within


About the Art: Tintoretto, The Jews in the Desert, c. 1593, Oil on canvas, 377 x 576 cm, San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice. Click here to see the work in full and learn more about this painting.

This chaotic scene shows some of the scope of the band of wanderers Moses had been called to lead. We see people everywhere gathering manna. In the foreground, Aaron speaks to Moses, who is presented in the image of Jesus, on behalf of the frustrated Israelites who have grown tired of manna, which litters the ground. They want more. They want Moses to understand that they cannot live on bread alone. They send Aaron to talk to Moses in the hope that Moses will bring their complaint to God.

There is a certain absurdity to the scene which carries on in all of us. God reigns down unmerited blessing on an otherwise hopeless people, and eventually we grow tired of it and demand more, even though all we have needed, His hand hath provided.

When Moses died, Joshua took over leading the descendant of the people Moses led. They, like we, remain just as fickle, and God remains as gracious.

(The excerpt under the heading “Consider” is from my book, The Advent of the Lamb of God.)


“Joshua, the commander of the Lord’s army, had led the people into the land of their inheritance. But their security there balanced on the fulcrum of their obedience. Tip either way—to godlessness or to the worship of many gods—and the Lord would cut them off from the land of their inheritance. There would be an edge even to their rest.

“There was only so much Joshua could do for them. He could warn them. He could remind them of their past his- tory with idolatry. He could take them through the stories of the generations before, who had, without exception, at one point or another embraced the gods of their neigh- boring countries. He could implore, threaten, pray, and appeal. He could pound his fists on his pulpit. He could plead from his knees. He could sing in the sweetest whisper of a lullaby.

“But one thing he could not do. He could not make them holy. He could warn them of their proclivity to sin, but he could not take it from them. He could vividly predict their certain coming guilt, but he could not remove it. He could lead many of the sons of Israel to consider their place in this world, but he could not lead any sons to glory.”[1]


What do you think Joshua meant when he told the Israelites, “You are not able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy God?” What do they need to have happen in their lives if they are to be faithful?

Does God give us help so that we might serve him in truth? If so, what is the help he provides? Who receives this help? Have you received it? If so, what does that mean for your life right now?


[1] Ramsey, Russ. The Advent of the Lamb of God. IVP, 2018. pg. 71.

Tintoretto Jews in the Desert Full Day 10
Russ Ramsey
Russ is a pastor and author living in Nashville, Tennessee. His books include Struck: One Christian's Reflections on Encountering Death (IVP, 2017), and the Retelling the Story Series, featuring The Advent of the Lamb of God (IVP, 2018). His personal mission is to communicate the truths of Scripture in accessible ways to people in process. Follow Russ on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram.

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