Exodus / Week 1
The writings of Moses are amongst the most ancient in the Scriptures, and are arranged first in the Old Testament with good reason. They provide for us the foundations on which everything else we will read throughout the Bible is built. They give shape and direction, content and definition to the history of the Church and her worship and thinking. And they explain the terribly plight of a sinful humanity, and how God will graciously restore a people to Himself. Again and again we find Jesus, and the Apostles stretching back through the generations of the people of God to ground their teaching and actions in the writings of Moses.
It is in Exodus that we are first told that God is loving. It is in Exodus that we are introduced to language, concepts and ideas that are absolutely critical if we are to understand our experience as Christians. In Exodus we are taught the structure of our world and the meaning of life, and are given a ‘dress rehearsal’ for the whole of human history. It is in Exodus that we are taught what it means to be and to do Church, and what it doesn’t mean! It is in Exodus that we are shown in detail what the character of God is like and how that shapes the life of Christian discipleship in the midst of a fallen world. It is Exodus that teaches us the dynamics of how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit relate to each other, to the Church and to the world.
We’ll be moving fairly swiftly through the book, covering it all before Advent gets under way. That means that in our services we will be dealing with the ‘Big Picture’ stuff. These notes and the questions that follow are designed to help us work out the implications and wrestle through some of the more detailed discussion in the context of our own personal devotional life and in our home groups. This means we will be reflecting on the Book of the Exodus with others whom we trust and in a context of prayer and support as we seek not just to understand what we believe, but to live it.
Please don’t feel bound by these questions, especially when using these studies to frame HomeGroup discussions. There may be other questions that arise from sermons, or our own reflection on the text that we would find it more helpful to discuss. Please feel free to do so! And don’t feel you need to answer them all in one HomeGroup. You might only negotiate two or three of the questions in an evening, but you can use the questions to help you think through the issues in other ways and at other time too…
Week 1: Exodus 1-2
Exodus, of course, doesn’t start in vacuum. There is already a history of God’s involvement in human history, and there is a profound sense of intentionality in that involvement.
Just one example of this takes us back to Gen.15:12-16, where the LORD gives Abram the future history of the Exodus in 3 verses. What is particularly poignant is the LORD’s knowledge of Israel’s slavery and suffering, and the judgement that will come upon Egypt as a direct result. ‘Know for certain…’ suggests a certain non-negotiable character to the LORD’s pronouncements. What do you make of the fact that the Lord knows that four centuries of oppression are in store for His people, yet seemingly does nothing about it, either before or during their generations of oppression? Why does the LORD not act either to prevent that suffering, or to bring it to an end much sooner than He does?
Why does God not act like this on behalf of oppressed and enslaved people more generally? He is clearly able to act to overthrow and judge oppressive regimes, so why does the Exodus stand as such a unique experience in the long history of humanity’s inhumanity? Given that there are some estimated 28 million people enslaved in the world today, why is there no contemporary Exodus? Does the book of Exodus give the Church a mandate to get involved in issues such as oppression and slavery?
Joseph was – at one time – the second most important and influential man in Egypt if not the world. How could he be forgotten in Egypt? What lessons do we learn about fame, influence and importance?
…but Joseph is remembered throughout the rest of the Bible, and continues to be an example to the Church today. How can this encourage us as we seek to live as faithful Christians in the world today?
In our own experience we regularly face situations where our faith conflicts with what the world expects or demands from us. What can we learn about how to respond to those kinds of situations from the story of the midwives? How did they find the courage to endanger their own lives in this way? What do we learn about their character and their relationship with the Lord?
How do you make sense of the fact that seemingly God blessed the midwives when they lie to Pharaoh? Does this mean it is OK to lie so long as we do so from good intentions?
What similarities are there between the birth of Moses, and of Jesus (see especially Matthew 2)? What do you think we are supposed to learn from these parallels?
The word that is used to describe the ‘papyrus basket’ in which Moses is laid is the Hebrew word Tebah. It is the same word that is used to describe Noah’s Ark – and that is the only other place it is found in the Bible? Do you think that is significant? Why / why not?
Read Acts 7:17-29. Do you think Stephen is right to interpret the actions of Moses in Exodus 2:11-15 in the way he does? Why do you think Moses first attempt to lead the Hebrews out of slavery failed?
How can Jethro – a man from Midian – be a priest? Do you think we are meant to understand that he is a priest of the Living God, or is he ‘pagan’ priest of some kind?
Why is it ironic that Moses called his son Gershom, saying ‘I have become an alien in a foreign land’? What does this tell us about how Moses sees himself at this point in the narrative? What lessons can we learn that might help us in our own experience of living as ‘aliens and strangers in the world’ (I Peter 2::11)?
Chapter 2 closes with a summary of the story so far. The Israelites are still in slavery and are crying out to the LORD. The LORD hears and remembers His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This isn’t to say that it had somehow slipped his mind, but rather that He has recalled it with a view to act. In fact, He is already acting. He has taken Moses into the wilderness to prepare him for his task of leading the ancient Church out of slavery. But it will take another generation… another 40 long years of slavery and suffering; another 40 years of God seeming not to answer the prayers of His people, as must have seemed the case for the last 3½ centuries. Such is the furnace in which God first cast his people, and then drew them out, to be the people of His inheritance (Deut.4:20). The stage is set…
 EndSalveryNow.org, see also e.g. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/lifestyle/modern-slavery-britain/ , http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/29/13000-slaves-uk-four-times-higher-previously-thought and http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25048307 for other contemporary comments with a UK focus.