Wednesday 28th September 2020
Exodus Study 5: God of second chances
Exodus 33: 1-22
Verse 1-3 In spite of Israel breaking the covenant by worshipping the golden calf God keeps to his promise to grant them access to the promised land. This time, though, he refuses to accompany them. The reason for this is the break of trust that has taken place. The Israelites are a recalcitrant people and will likely betray God’s trust again. At this stage in the story, God does not see his way clear to put himself through that wringer again.
Verse 5 Taking off their ornaments is a sign of deep regret, a mournful action by the Israelites. The door is open at a crack, as God at least leaves open the possibility that he might change his mind and accompany the people after all. From now on everybody (including Moses) waits with bated breath for the outcome of God’s deliberations.
Verse 7 Pitching the tent of meeting outside the camp is a symbol of the distance now in place between God and his people. Yet God leaves an opportunity open for anyone who would cross the breach to seek out his presence.
Verse 8, 10 The people obviously realise how much is now at stake whenever God and Moses meet. This could determine the outcome of God’s deliberation. The stakes are high, and they obviously know this.
Verse 11 Since the first encounter at the burning bush the relationship between Moses and God has grown to such levels of intimacy that God now speaks to him “face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” It seems that God also needs these conversations to heal from the heartbreak of the Israelites’ infidelity! Imagine the impact of these conversations had on Joshua, who accompanied Moses to the tent of meeting. He even stayed behind in the tent after God and Moses had ended their conversations – probably dumbstruck with awe.
Verse 12-16 Here we hear some of the content of the conversations between Moses and God. Moses is pleading the people’s case, trying to convince God to accompany them into the promised land. He does this by asking God not only to consider him (which is already established), but to also consider the people of Israel. He reminds God that they are his people. Moses uses his intimate relationship with God as a bargaining chip and, in verse 17 God finally relents, stating his reason to be the favour Moses has found with him.
Verse 18-23 Here we find one of the most touching scenes in the whole Bible. Moses is so overwhelmed by God’s grace when God relents and, for the sake of Moses, promises to accompany them that he blurts out his request to see God’s glory (verse 18). This is no less than asking for a full revelation of God’s holy being – even if it kills him! God responds with great tenderness, granting Moses his request but only partially. A full revelation would have made a relationship where God can speak to Moses like a man with his friend’ impossible. God treasures this relationship to such an extent that he carefully protects Moses from the foolishness of his request. And not that Moses requests seeing God’s glory, but God allows him to see all his goodness! The Dutch theologian AA van Ruler once wrote that what we can know of God is very little. But if we could depict all that God is in a pie-chart, the little we know would not be the thin skin on the outside, but a thin slice right to the heart of the circle. We know very little of God, but we know how his heart beats!
Two things carry the story in Exodus 33: The intimate relationship between God and Moses. The love Moses as for his people. Without either of these the people of Israel would be doomed.
Moses’ love for his people was not new. Already, as a young prince, he accosted an Egyptian slavedriver so violently in protecting one of his people that he was forced to flee from Egypt. What we see here is patriotism, but also a foolish, headstrong love for his own. By the time of our narrative Moses had been shaped and matured by journeying with God. God proposed letting go of the Israelites and carrying on with Moses and his family, but by now we find a mature love in Moses, mirroring the love of God for his people. In a real way this foreshadows the love of our Lord Jesus Christ for us. This moves God to relent when his grief at being betrayed by the very people he had rescued out of Egypt urges him to turn his back on them.
Moses becomes a model for us in both the growth of his intimacy with God and in his love for his people. Faith is often held up as something individualistic in modern times – all about me and my God and the spiritual experiences I get from attending to my relationship with him. Moses demonstrates what mature faith evokes in us: We learn to care about God and about his world. We live our lives to hear God, as in the first days of creation, sigh, “It is good!” We delight in seeking to delight God. But when we get to know God better, we do not turn away from the world. To the contrary, we become priests who pray for the world, who lay the cares and misery of the world before God’s feet. We live lives that seek the advantage of others. As Jesus Christ summarised God’s will, we love God with all our being, and we love our neighbour as ourselves.
There is a very poignant moment in the story told in this chapter of Exodus. When Moses walks from the encampment to the tent of meeting with the cloud of God’s presence at the entrance, the people stand up and watch anxiously. In times of growing secularism, we might think that there is no such interest in what we are doing. Our religious practices are mostly seen as merely our personal lifestyle choice. Yet we should not so glibly write off the deep anxiety just under the surface of secular society. The thirst for God is there to be uncovered when we demonstrate the same commitment to our neighbours as that of Moses. What we need to do to penetrate the seemingly uninterested façade prevalent in society is to speak to the deep hurts of our neighbours from the unfathomable love of God. We are, indeed, God’s royal priesthood, as he promised in Exodus 19. And we live in a world that desperately needs priests.
Digging deeper: Some questions to ponder
- Think back on at least one occasion where you were struck by the vastness of God’s grace. How is this experience still a touchstone for the way you experience God’s presence?
- How does your relationship with God influence your relationship with people around you – some of whose lives are at odds with the life God would have them live?
- Who, on your journey of faith, were your most important priests (people who prayed for you and drew your attention to God)? Whose priest are you?
Loving and caring God lead me deeper and deeper into your presence. Merge my love for you and my love for those around me to shape me, with Moses, to be a priest who intercedes for others from a deep conviction of the boundlessness of your grace. Amen
Wednesday 23rd September 2020
Exodus Study 4: Making our vows
Exodus 19:1-8; 20:1-3
29:4-6 When one takes into account that this is the preamble to the giving of the ten commandments, it is quite striking that God does not tell the Israelites that they are indebted to him and owe him obedience to the laws he will now lay out. Instead, he reaffirms his love for them with the beautiful image of a mother eagle swooping down to catch and carry her chicks that are learning to fly but are in danger of being killed by their ineptitude. Only then does he move on to ask their obedience and offers them the opportunity to enter into a covenant with him.
Notice two things about God’s offer of a covenant: The first is that it is not forced on them. They are given a choice. God wants them to freely choose to covenant with him. The second thing to notice is that the covenant that God freely offers them will grant them incredible things: By entering into a covenant with God, they are marked as God’s beloved people and are given a lofty position and role among the nations.
29:7-8 Notice that the willingness to obey God and to enter into a covenant with him comes without knowing what God’s commands will be. It seems that the people of Israel are responding to God’s loving invitation with deep trust and the full knowledge that whatever he asks of them will be good and will lead them deeper into freedom. It will not be a resumption of the bondage they had experienced in Egypt.
20:1-3 The introduction to the ten commandments are a mirror image of the passage in 19:-8. God, again, reminds them of the salvation he has worked for them and follows this up with the first commandment – a claim on their exclusive loyalty.
The book of Exodus is the story of God leading his people from slavery to freedom. In today’s passage they arrive at the holy mountain, Sinai, where Moses had been called at the burning bush. This is holy ground, a place where God reveals himself and where they have been summoned. This is also the place where they are about to receive the ten commandments and the so-called Holiness Codex – a body of laws that led God’s people to lead holy lives.
It is instructive for modern Christians to note how God presents the law to his people. There has always been an unfortunate tendency to apply the ten commandments and other Biblical injunctions as constraints on our freedom – as if God had freed his people from the Pharaoh only to put them in bondage again. This is totally at variance with what transpires here. When Israel arrive at the holy mountain, Moses is summoned and God gives him a message to relay to his people: He reminds them of what he has just done in winning them freedom from slavery with the wonderful image of a mother eagle carrying her chicks to safety. This was done as the chicks learned to fly but started fluttering dangerously down to the rocks below. The mother eagle would then swoop down and catch them on her back to carry them to safety. “This is what I have done for you,” is God’s message to his people.
And now comes a wonderful offer. They are offered to enter into a covenant with God if they are willing to follow his guidance, to obey his ordinances. God does not force this upon them. He does not need to, since an offer to enter into a covenant with God is such a desirable thing. It is like the offer of marriage a young lady receives from a man she is madly in love with. The most desirable thing she could think of would be to stand in front of the altar and promise to love him till the end of their lives. Joined to this offer of a covenant is also God’s promise to stay true to them as his beloved people and to give them a very special role in his plan for the world.
Yes, God does call us to give ourselves away to him, to give away our lives. But this does not make us slaves. This makes us beloved children in our Father’s house!
Does this sound like the loss of their newly found freedom? Quite the opposite! It takes their freedom to a new dimension. It guarantees their freedom by entering into a special bond with the One who will protect their freedom, quite literally as we see later in Jesus Christ, with his life.
When you get to the ten commandments this does not change. God is not about to enslave his people again. To the contrary! The first table of the ten commandments are given to prevent God’s children allowing a Pharaoh on the throne again by firmly establishing God alone on the throne. And God does not act like the Pharaoh! Anything, anyone we allow to rule our lives except God will eventually turn into a Pharaoh and diminish our freedom. We can only ever be free, truly free, is we worship God and live our lives in service of God.
And then comes the second table of the ten commandments. God knows that we tend to attempt to enslave one another in various ways. Transgressions of any of the last six commandments erodes the freedom of our fellow human beings. And so, God protects our freedom by giving these commandments to human society. God is indeed intent on setting us free and opening the possibility for us to live a life of freely choosing to do his will – which is the only way to freely choose life!
Digging deeper: Some questions to ponder
Where and when did you first experience God as a reality in your life? What feelings towards God did this evoke in you?
Think back on your life. How and when on your journey has God carried you to freedom and protected you from harm like a mother eagle?
Recall the Christian you have known whose life was most characterised loyalty and commitment to God. Would you describe this person as free or as someone caged in by laws that prevents him or her from enjoying life?
Read Exodus 20:2-3 as words addressed to you and respond to them in your own words.
For Wednesday 16th September
Exodus Study 3: Getting Egypt out of Israel
Verse 2-3 In these verses the people of Israel are leaving the oasis of Elim for the desert and, like bratty children, start complaining about their plight. They direct their complaints against Moses and Aaron, blaming them for taking them out of Egypt and causing their situation. This is no more than a thinly disguised rebellion against God. Moses sets things right in verses 6-8, and also puts some perspective to their complaints: Their complaints are offensive, as they display gross ingratitude, but they provide yet another opportunity for God’s glory to be on display through his gracious and unmerited provision.
Note that the Israelites’ complaints are about luxuries. They are not in danger of starving. Meat was a luxury at that time that was rarely part of the diet of the average human being. Eating “our fill” obviously means eating until we have had more than enough – a rare occurrence for the average person at the time. They are obviously romanticising their existence in Egypt to give credence to their moody complaints.
Verse 5 The instruction the Israelites are given about gathering manna on the sixth day does not stipulate that they should gather a double portion. It seems that God surprises them by turning what they have gathered into double the normal quota.
Verse 18 Again, we see the Lord providing the exact amount each family needs. No-one had a surplus which could be stored. (In verse 20 we see what happened to those who intentionally stored a surplus.) And no-one had too little.
The Israelites had probably settled in nicely in Elim when the instructions from Moses and Aaron came to move off into the desert. They could have been forgiven to ask is this was really the road from slavery to freedom, from Egypt to the promised land. Elim was a welcome oasis with water and shady palm trees. It must have seemed good enough! Why not stay here? That is the question we are tempted to ask on our own life journeys too. We sometimes experience periods in our lives that are Elim-like: We are in a zone of comfort. Things move on smoothly. There are no big problems. We would love this to continue indefinitely. And then, without warning, through crisis or, gradually, through accumulated small calamities, things change. We are not in Elim any more. We are in the desert. And we start grumbling. We might refrain from directing our ire towards God, by choosing human targets: the government, our spouses, the boss – any perceived human cause for things not going as smoothly as before. Yet, at a deeper level, we develop a coolness toward God, that might, in time, turn into a grudge. Like the Israelites, we long for “the good old days” – an imagined and highly romanticised past. We filter out the negatives and exaggerated the positives.
The amazing thing in this story (as in ours!) is how infinitely patient and graceful God is. He keeps providing. He does not lose his temper. There is an adult in the room, and it is not one of the Israelites, nor one of us! We can only marvel at it, sing praises to it. Indeed, the glory of the Lord is on full display in all of this!
One would have expected God’s provision to impress the Israelites enough for them to be humbled and contrite. But, no, it is reported that some of them gathered more than a day’s worth of manna – only to see it spoilt by worms. They probably did not trust God’s provision enough to take a chance on it being there again the next day. It is striking that this did not occur on the sixth day. God provides for his other gift in the desert – the sabbath – by first making what they had gathered on the sixth day enough for two days and then preserving it from worm infestations. In this way God grants them a weekly rhythm that includes time for rest and prayer, important for any person traveling through the desert – literally or figuratively.
We should not miss the relevance of all of this for our desert times. The story is intentionally written to relate to God’s children in difficult times. It is all too human to struggle to trust God on a daily basis. We would also prefer to have our minds at ease by building up enough of a surplus to rely on. We also lose our rhythms of work, rest and prayer. This story provides us with some profound pointers for the way to conduct our journeys through the desert:
Trust God for one day at a time. Didn’t Jesus say, “…can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?”(Matthew 6:27). And don’t we regularly pray, “Give us this day our daily bread”?
Develop a healthy rhythm of life with time for work, rest and prayer. If we spend all our time worrying and plugging away at our problems, if we never rest, never release ourselves into God’s care, we display a lack of trust in God and we run ourselves into the ground.
Still the question remains: Why not take Israel directly to the promised land? Why spend forty years in the desert before entering the promised land? There is an easy answer: They say it took God a few weeks to get Israel out of Egypt, but it took him 40 years to get Egypt out of Israel! They were not ready to receive the promised land yet. They had not yet learned well enough who God is and that he could be relied on fully. And so they first had to spend time in the desert; enough time to expect the daily provision of manna and to know that they were secure in God’s care. Only then could they enter the promised land with all its temptations and other gods without becoming slaves again.
It is always easier to see how tough times had shaped us and set us on the only real road to the promised land in hindsight. The trick is to expect these times and to view them as opportunities rather than calamities. Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous architect, as a boy once walked across a field with a light covering of snow on it with his uncle, a very disciplined, but rigid man. When they exited by the gate at the top of the field, his uncle pointed to their two, very different sets of tracks they had made in the snow. His uncles tracks came from gate to gate in a perfectly straight line. His tracs veered off the path every few paces, to explore and look at interesting objects. Frank Lloyd Wright singles this moment out as the moment when his life took a decisive turn: “Then and there,” he said, “I made a firm resolution – one I have stuck to for all of my life. I would never limit myself like my uncle did and stay on the path!”
The route towards God’s goals for our lives is normally circuitous. We learn all the time. We are shaped by our journeys. Desert times are inevitable in these journeys. We could spend our times in these arid patches bemoaning our troubles, or we could view them as calls to focus on God and to grow in our reliance on him and to be shaped to be the persons he created us to be.
Digging deeper: Some questions to ponder
- Recall one desert time in your life.
- What was the most important way you were shaped in this time?
- What meaningful activity was triggered by this experience?
Thank God for being there for you in difficult times. Declare yourself ready to follow him wherever he leads you and express your trust that he will take care of you if it leads you through the desert.
For Wednesday 9th September
Exodus Study 3: God issues a call
Verse 3 It seems that it took a while for Moses to decide to investigate the sight of the burning bush. What convinced him was not the fact that the bush was burning, but the fact that it was not consumed.
Verse 5 These few verses are full of revelations of who God is. The first thing we learn here is that God is holy and only to be approached with great respect. The second thing we learn is that he is the God who binds himself to his people – the God of Moses’ ancestors – and stays true to his covenant with them.
It is interesting to note that Moses hides his face here, afraid to look at God. Shortly after this, Moses engages God in conversation and is much less deferential – and God allows this! Later (in chapter 33:18) Moses has the temerity to request not to only see God, but to see God’s glory – his full splendour. The holiness of God does not repel; it attracts and invites us closer to God. It is deeply attractive.
Verse 7 The third revelation of God’s nature is that he is a caring God. The plight of his people matters to him and moves him deeply. Notice how comprehensive the description of God’s perception of their suffering is: God has observed their misery, God has heard their cry, God knows their suffering. The last verb – knowing – is especially powerful. The Hebrew word used here has the implication that God experiences their suffering as his own! I cannot help but to find here a resonance with the Lord Jesus entering our world to take our burdens upon himself as his own.
Verse 8 The fourth revelation of God’s nature is that he is a God who enters history to free his people and to work his will.
Note that God not only delivers from something, but also to something, not only from slavery, but also to the promised land. This is God’s characteristic way of salvation.
Verse 9 The fifth revelation of God’s nature is that he notices injustice and acts to undo it.
Verse 12 The sixth revelation of God’s nature is that he works through human agents like Moses.
This can realistically be described as the most important call story of a human being in all of history. Yet a most unlikely person is called, in a far less dramatic fashion than possible for God. Let’s unpack this. There is much to be learned from it for ourselves.
Moses, at this stage, seems an unlikely person to receive this call. A murderer, a coward, a pampered brat, a stutterer. Yet, in the conversation that ensues Moses demonstrates a lack of personal ambition and also a natural capacity for leadership by being bold and persevering in the face of a power so much greater than his own. God seems to have been aware of these qualities all along.
The manner in which God appeared is quite telling. As appearances of God go, the burning bush was not all that impressive. Moses could actually ignore it for a while. The only remarkable thing, that convinced him to investigate, was the fact that the flame did not consume the bush. In fact, God even has to speak directly to Moses to tell him to take off his shoes, since he is on holy ground. The sign itself is not overpowering enough for Moses to stand in awe before it.
All of this is very important: God does not overpower Moses with the sign. There is something gentle about this sign. God appears as a flame that does not devour – neither the bush, nor Moses. The very fact that God’s appearance is so self-limiting and gentle makes a conversation between him and Moses possible. If God had appeared in all his glory, this would have been impossible for Moses. Moses would have been dumbstruck (which might have been better than all the arguments het offered!). God allows Moses to argue with him in the rest of this chapter and, for a few minutes, all of history hangs in the balance. Without Moses’ compliance the story cannot continue. And, remember, this is the story that leads to the birth of the Lord Jesus in Bethlehem! Yet God risks Moses saying no, as he often risks all of us saying no to his call. If this call is to be answered in a proper fashion it will need to be answered as loyal obedience from within a living relationship. It was not Moses’ vision at the outset that offered the key to the successful execution of God’s plan; it was his continuing conversation with God that allowed him to stay the course in spite of the Israelites’ constant recalcitrance. In Exodus 33 the relationship between God and Moses has developed to such an extent that it is reported that God spoke to Moses “as a man with his friend.”
The passage of Scripture has two obvious applications for our lives: Look out for the people like Moses that God calls in our day. They are the ones that will show us the way forward in a time when the church is in need of renewal and direction, They are not necessarily the most impressive people, but the ones who have had lifechanging encounters with God and have been drawn into continuous conversations with God. There are more of them around than we give God credit for, but they are not always easily recognisable.
The second application: Be on the lookout for the burning bush moments that God plants along my way. They are not obvious, but if we are alert for them, we will be able to spot them. Mostly we will be like the two travellers to Emmaus that said to each other “Were our hearts not burning within us?” after their encounter with Jesus. God is always present in our everyday lives, but mostly so gentle, so open to our responses that we could easily miss it and carry on as if he were absent. But if we expect him to be there in every day, we can join the ranks of the Emmaus travellers in expressing our recognition of God’s very real presence our everyday lives. And, like Moses, we will discover that this awareness completely changes our lives.
Frederick Buechner has a wonderful description of Moses coming down from the mountain after his encounter with God, with his hair blowing in the breeze and the sun behind him. And then, Buechner says, Moses himself looked very much like a burning bush.
Digging deeper: Some questions to ponder
- Think back on your life and ponder on some of the moments where you experienced the presence of God.
- What impact did these moments have on your life?
- Identify one activity in your present life that you could describe as something God has given you to do. Now, think back: Where did it start? What was the burning bush moment that God used to draw you to it?
Thank God for his continuous presence in your life. Now take a moment to express your willingness to take up the task or tasks that he has set aside for you.
For Wednesday 2nd September
Exodus Study 1: Shiphrah and Puah and Pharaoh Whatsisname
Verse 13-14 The word “serve” and it’s derivatives (i.e. “service”) are central to the story told in the book of Exodus. It is used 5 times in these two verses (though only translated as “service” once. There are 97 other occurrences in the book. The main emphasis of the story is on serving God, as opposed to serving the Pharaoh. Serving the Pharaoh is depicted as harsh and meaningless forced labour. Serving God is depicted as the route to freedom. The way the story is told intends to convey the message that any service other than serving God is as backbreaking and debilitating as service to the Pharaoh.
Verse 17 The Hebrew word translated with “feared” describes respectful awe and trust and not fear of being harmed. Shiphrah and Puah are thereby described as two individuals who stood in deep awe before God to such an extent that it determined the way they conducted themselves. Their whole lives were responses to God’s call.
Verse 21 One of the theories (that has a ring of truth to it) about Israelite midwives is that the task was given to were barren women. This makes this verse especially meaningful at a personal level. It also reveals God as a being who not only protects life, but also gives life – even where it seemed impossible. The reward for the midwives’ service is intrinsic to the service itself; they save children’s lives and are given their own children. This gives us something to chew on when considering the lifegiving service we provide when we answer God’s call!
Frederick Buechner once said that the two most important days in your life is the day you are born and the day you discover why. We would all like to make our lives count. We are at our most alive when there is purpose to what we are doing. This is not due to a desire to feed our egos. We should rather see it as a sign of health, as a desire God implants in all of us to open us up to a calling.
Exodus is dominated by Moses – a man called by God. Without Moses answering God’s call, the salvation story in Exodus would not have occurred. Yet, the story of the Exodus does not start with Moses’ call. It starts with the call of two humble and insignificant women – Shiphrah and Puah. They were Jewish midwives at a time when the people of Israel were in the depths of slavery in Egypt. There is a strong indication that barren women were given the task of midwives. The many stories of (initially) barren women in Israel’s history gives us some insight into their humiliation and low status in society. Shiphrah and Puah were the most unlikely heroes in the story of the survival of the people of Israel one could imagine. In terms of status and power, they were at the opposite end of the scale to the Pharaoh. But without their brave resistance to the Pharaoh’s order to kill Jewish boys at birth, there would have been no Moses and no Exodus. And so, their names are handed down in history, while the Pharaoh’s name is not even mentioned. It seems to be intentional; he is a mere pawn in a story where God is in the background, but where God determines the outcome of the story and the Pharaohs have little influence. Maybe we should call him Pharaoh Whatsisname!
Verse 17 is pivotal in understanding the difference between Shiphrah and Puah and the Pharaoh: “But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live.” The two midwives took their orders from God – the God they respected and before whom they stood in awe – and, in the process, discovered their calling.
One other thing should be noted: God was already at work to defend his people. Shiphrah and Puah joined him; the Pharaoh opposed him. The work done by Shiphrah and Puah is important and had a massive effect; the deeds of the Pharaoh were meaningless and ineffective and were washed down the drain of history.
This is what a calling is: joining God. Becoming an active part of the coming of the kingdom. Every Christian is called to do this in her or his own unique way. The day when you discover what this is (and it might be different things at different stages of life) is the day when your life becomes truly meaningful.
The world has not changed much over the ages. We still find it hard to imagine that people without power and status can make a difference. We tend to feel insignificant and powerless when those in charge steer a course that we feel to be wrong. We often feel that our lives lack meaning and significance. This makes it difficult for us to be open to God’s call. This would be a grave mistake. God has a calling for his church in every place and in every age. And God has a calling for each of his children. Our lives receive meaning from this call, even when we are not fully aware why our lives actually matter. I think Shiphrah and Puah would have been stunned to see their names recorded in history. If asked about what they did, they would have said that they only did what was obvious for midwives. Only after the people of Israel had left Egypt and settled in the promised land could we appreciate the full extent of their influence on history. Mostly, we have to be content not knowing exactly what the extent of what we do will be. We can only do what is right, what we believe God to have given us as our calling and leave the rest to God.
There is an African saying that goes like this: “Anyone who things she is too insignificant to make a difference has never attempted to sleep in a room with a mosquito in it!”
Digging deeper: Some questions to ponder
- If it were possible to speak to the midwives and to tell them about the impact of their work in future, what would you expect to have be their response? What does this reveal about the hidden potential of things you do on a regular basis, simply because you feel that they are the things that should be done?
- Take stock of your own life: When have you felt most that what you were involved in doing was significant? Why was this? How does this serve God and his purposes?
- Try to name at least one of the regular activities you are committed to in terms of the purposes of God. I.e. “I prevent people from being overcome by worry and stress by doing their books and giving them a clear overview of their finances.” Or, “I help lonely individuals to have a sense of being part of a community by contacting them regularly and by keeping them in touch with others.”
If you were able to identify one or more areas of your life where you are serving God’s purposes, thank God for these opportunities for service. Pray for the people whose lives are touched by what you are doing.
Introduction for Bible Study from Wednesday September 2nd to Wednesday 7th October
The book of Exodus is the grounding story for the Jewish faith and identity. It tells the story of God entering into a covenant with them and, as keeping to his side of this covenant, delivering them out of the bondage of slavery, caring for them in the desert, and bringing them to the promised land. Israel does not always keep their side of the covenant, but God’s fidelity and mercy prevails.
It is also a very important book for Christians. We all know the stories from childhood. The book contains the ten commandments, that feature prominently in the Christian church. Its depiction of God speaking to Moses and to his people is without peer until the appearance of Jesus Christ – God in human form. There is much we should learn from this book. To name a few:
Israel (and, later, the church) is God’s beloved, chosen community. We are baptized into the church and, in this way, are reminded of God’s grace. He initiated our faith and inclusion in the chosen community and we live by God’s fidelity to his promises, even when we stray and need to be brought back to the fold.
A God who acts in our world. The basis of all Jewish and Christian faith and witness is that God is a God who acts in history, right down to our time. If this is true (and we believe that it is!) it becomes extremely important to learn to recognize the ways in which God acts. The book of Exodus brims with a wide variety of ways in which God acts that makes God’s activity in our present world discernable.
Modern Christians need these reminders more than any other generation. We tend to pack our theology in abstract terms – the names of God (Saviour, Father, Almighty, etc.) and the attributes of God (loving, just, holy etc.). None of these are without merit, but they are secondary to the deeds of God. We only know these things about God as derivatives from the stories of God that constitute our faith and witness. If we stop telling the stories, our faith becomes anaemic and our witness fades.
The life of faith as a journey with God. This God who acts in our world does not keep his distance from us. He enters into a relationship with us and journeys with us until our very last day. He communicates with us, directs us, cares for us and encourages us for our life’s journeys. Exodus teems with practical pointers for this journey.
God and delivers from hostile powers. God is depicted in the story as a God who opposes and defeats hostile and abusive powers, while still offering them opportunity to repent and reform. This should give courage and hope to Christians in a great variety of situations where they find themselves victimised.
Exodus 1:8-22. Shiphrah and Puah and Pharaoh whatsisname
Exodus 3:1-12. God issues a call
Exodus 16:1-30. Getting Egypt out of Israel
Exodus 19:1-8; 20:1-3. Making our vows
Exodus 34: 4-14; 28-35. God of second chances
Exodus 40:34-38. Prepared for a future with God