Exodus 19-31 "Defining Freedom"

  1. Think about your first experience with the 10 Commandments. How were you introduced to them?  What were you told about their purpose or how you should be following them?  How has that impacted your view of the Old Testament Law?
  1. After leaving Egypt, God had a lot of work to do replacing the identity of the people of Israel as slaves with the identity of being God’s chosen people. How does the giving of the Law help that process?  Do you think that these things could be helpful for us today as we leave our own personal “egypts?”  How?
    1. Do you think the Law could give our church some direction when it comes to leaving our “egypts?” How?
  1. Essentially, the giving of the Law and God’s work to re-identify Israel as His people is an invitation to Love. This is different than slavery’s demand of work and striving.  How does God’s invitation to love challenge you?  What are some of the biggest obstacles to loving well?
  1. Far too often for us, the Law becomes more like “rules” and “regulations” rather than “boundaries.” What is the difference?  Does that difference change your perspective of the Law?  Of God?  Of how we approach the Law in our own lives?  How?
  1. Egypt seeks to take away our true identity and replace it was that of a slave. God begins the process, here at Sinai, of piecing together Israel’s identity once again.  Have you had a “Sinai” moment in your life?  What lies needed to be replaced with truth in your life?
  1. How does knowing that you are called a “treasured possession” make a difference? How do you feel when you hear the words of dignity and love that God speaks over you?

*Some questions taken from Leaving Egypt, by Chuck DeGroat

Exodus 2-6 "Moses and the Inmates"

At the first hint of Freedom and Hope, Pharaoh tries to crush the Israelites’ spirit. This is true when we seek freedom from our personal “egypts” as well. But God is up to the task, promising to act mightily on our behalf to bring us out of bondage and into the promised land.

1. How does the story of Moses’ birth speak to the work of God behind the scenes? How might this story offer hope for those dealing with their personal “Egypts”?

2. What are some Band-Aids in your life that allow you to cope with difficult things? Can you identify with some of the examples Pastor Jon talked about in the lives of people you know? How about in your own life?
a. Think about this in terms of the life of Hopkins Community Church. Are there some Band-Aids that we have been using in this church body?

3. How do you identify with the “broken spirit and cruel slavery” that kept Israel from following Moses? Is there a person in your life who has a vision for more for you?

4. What leadership lessons can we learn from the calling of Moses? How might that impact how we look at our nomination and election process here at Hopkins Community Church?

5. What would “leaving Egypt” mean for you? You may not have a full answer yet, but begin thinking of which “Egypts” in your life might be tougher to leave and which ones might be easier.

6. Do you have a desire to become a “Moses” to someone else? What do you think needs to happen for you to get there?

*Some questions taken from Leaving Egypt by, Chuck DeGroat

Exodus 1 "Womb or Tomb?"

Sermon Series: Leaving Egypt (drawing from the book by Dr. Chuck DeGroat)

As the people of Israel were enslaved in Egypt, so we too find ourselves in our own personal “Egypts,” places that used to have been places of growth and prosperity, now turned into places of bondage.  But God doesn’t leave us there… He has paved a way out of Egypt through the work of His Son Jesus Christ.

Questions for Further Discussion:

  • Read Exodus 1:1-14 again. Notice the shift from Israel growing and thriving to Pharaoh’s persecution.  What do you suppose provoked Pharaoh’s wrath?  What do you think causes this in our own lives?
  • How is your story mirrored in Exodus 1? How does this chapter speak to your journey?  Do you see reflections of this at HCRC?  What are they?  Have you contributed to it?  How so?
  • Think of some good thing that has become misdirected in your life (ie. desire for success that turned into workaholism, love for food that became overeating, etc.). What good thing behind these things might you be longing for?
    1. Think about this in terms of ministry. Are there ministries that have become misdirected?  What good thing are those seeking after?
  • “Institutionalization” is defined as the process of becoming embedded in a conception, norm, role, value, or mode of behavior within an organization, social system, or society as a whole. It is where we accept the current reality, no matter how bad or harsh, and even fight to keep it.  How have you become “institutionalized”?  What about the church?
  • How does it make you feel to know that Jesus has also taken the Exodus journey?

Exodus 3:1-15 "Who Am I?"

Pastor Sarah Farkas

Day 28; Exodus 38-40; Completion of the Tabernacle

Exodus 39:32 says, “Thus all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was finished, and the people of Israel did according to all that the Lord had commanded Moses; so they did.”

Apart from the final verses of today’s reading, my feeling is that these are some of the most important (if indeed we can label some verses more important than the others).  The reason that the last 5-6 chapters of the book of Exodus, the past 5-6 chapters that we have read are basically a rehashing of all that God had commanded Moses, and thus the people of Israel, is to point out the fact that they have followed these commands to the letter.  As we talked about yesterday, God has impressed on certain people the gifts and abilities to do the work that God had set out for them.  And when they all responded to God’s call, and did it all the way that God had, there was an abundance… the cup overflowed.

Once the Tabernacle was set up, we read that the glory of God descended upon it.  We read again that it was in the form of a cloud that the glory of God appeared during the day and by fire during the night.  Why is this significant?  Because God was dwelling with His people.  All the other nations of the world worshiped images they had created of a god that was far off.  We call this deism, or at least a form of it.  It is the belief that there is a creator deity, but that it is somewhere out there… not interested or interfering with the created order.  But here we see a difference between Israel and the rest of the world too… God dwells with His people.  As a matter of fact, there are even times, we read, when certain people could actually commune with God.  Actually, there is a great deal of symbolism to go with this as well.  Both tablets of stone were placed in the Ark of the Covenant; these were tablets of the covenant.  Generally, when a covenant is made, two copies of the wording were made and each party would take one of the copies.  In this case, God dwelt with His people and thus both copies were kept in the same place, at the mercy seat… the Holy of Holies… God’s dwelling place… the place at which heaven meets earth.

And so the Glory of the Lord came down and rested on the Tabernacle, dwelling with His own people.  This too is foreshadowing… a foretaste of the fullness of things to come.  As we talked about on day 24, the word “tabernacle” actually means “dwelling place.”  That word comes up again in the book of John when he writes in chapter one that “The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.”  And, as we said as well… this too is a foreshadowing of the time to come, when all things are consummated and reconciled and when, as we read in Revelation 21, the dwelling of God will permanently be on earth and all things will be made right once again!  Amen!  Come Lord Jesus!

Day 27: Exodus 35-37; Constructing the Tabernacle

The reading today has to do with the giving of gifts for the building of the Tabernacle.  It is a fairly straight forward reading… and I’m really at a loss for words about this.  Here we see that God has called certain people and put it on their hearts to be craftsmen… and put it on other people’s hearts to give of their possessions… and still others to sew and spin thread… and all answered the call!  Scripture tells us that they gave in a way that yielded over and above all that they needed.

I am reminded of Paul’s writing in the New Testament how everyone has their own gifts and should give as they have been gifted.  In Romans 12:3-8, Paul talks about the different gifts that we are given and that if we have a gift we should use it.  I am also reminded of the parable of the talents.  The good servants were the ones that put their “talents” to work and yielded double what they were given.  But to the one who hid his talent, he was punished and deemed wicked and lazy.

Sometimes I wonder if we think in this way.  We have a gift (or talent) but we chose not to use it because we don’t think its good enough.  Maybe we think that we won’t do a good job… or that someone else will do it instead.  That is simply not message being communicated here.  God’s people gave joyfully… and gave an abundance.  They certainly weren’t rich… they didn’t even have land to call their own.  But they answered the calling of God and gave until they were turned away.  Is this the nature of our giving?  It is absolutely true that God has given each of us unique gifts…  is it true that we are using them according to God’s calling?

Day 26: Exodus 31-34; The Golden Calf

Here we come to another story that is familiar.  I feel like the book of Exodus is filled with familiar stories interspersed with writings about the law, the tabernacle, and the like.  This story is a bit different that some that we have read in the past week or two, and yet still abundantly similar as well.  As is the norm when something happens to this wandering nation of Hebrews, they complain and grumble against Moses and God.  Different this time would be the actual making of a “god” to worship when they face uncertainty.  Unfortunately, this is only the beginning for God’s chosen people.

So Moses is up on the mountain meeting with God and receiving the Law.  In the mean time, the people are starting to wonder what happened to Moses.  Never mind the big smoking cloud, the fire, and the lightning on the mountain, it is clear that Moses has abandoned them.  So, they do that seems to be out of the ordinary for us, for anyone really… they make a god for themselves.  However, this really isn’t something new for this culture or the cultures around them.  We saw that Egypt pretty much had a god for everything, created and worshiped in hopes of a favorable turn for them.  We would say now days that these people didn’t understand the world around them and thus things they didn’t understand were deemed supernatural, for which a god figure was created.  So really, the Israelite people were just mimicking what they saw all around them.  Would this be something that is pertinent only to those people at that time?  I think not.

But perhaps someone would argue, “we don’t make golden calves for ourselves to worship.”  On one level that would seem to be true.  I haven’t visited many people in my life that have statues of golden calves in their houses or yards much less alters to worship them on.  We try to avoid those stores with the big golden buddhas on the shelves and stuff like that.  We simply don’t make gods for ourselves in our lives do we?

Well… I tend to think, at least in my own life, that I often worship at the alter of a few things other than God.  I make myself busy in an effort to do as much as I can because I don’t trust that God will take care of things.  Sometimes I worship at the alter of current events, paying more attention to TV, celebrities, or even weather reports than I do my Bible and devotional time.  I often worship at the alter of self, trading God time for me time claiming that I need my video game time to help me recharge rather than prayer or the Bible, or even worship.  Maybe we worship at the alter of money, working longer and harder, sacrificing our family time for the sake of a few more dollars.  Maybe there are other things that fit this category… I am forced to ask the question of myself, and maybe you will think about this too: “what is the golden calf in my life?”

Whatever it is that may be distracting us, the other parts of the story here are quite important as well.  Most of all, from what I see, is the picture of God that we get.  It raises some questions… and gives us some comfort.  The proclamation of God’s name, His very nature of Love, Grace, and Mercy, are all found when Moses hears the name of God as God passes by him.  (34:6) ““The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness…”  Our God is a forgiving God.  If He weren’t, we would all have been wiped out long ago.  No matter what the alter you find yourself worshiping at today, know that it is not too late.  Throw away your golden calf and come back to God for He is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

One question that is raised here… and perhaps this isn’t a good place to leave off for the day (but perhaps will generate some discussion)… We also get a picture of God being angry with Israel, threatening to wipe the nation out and start over with Moses.  Ultimately this doesn’t actually happen because Moses pleads with God and God changes His mind.  Yet we are told that God is unchanging or “immutable.”  How do we reconcile these two things?  I’m curious to know your thoughts!

Day 25: Exodus 28-30; Concerning Priests

We’re good and into the thick of the descriptive exodus content.  Today we are reading about priests.  You may be thinking to yourself, like I tend to when I read these passages, that they are not anything that we need to know about (especially priests being that Hebrew priests and the sacrificial rites no longer exist).  But, like all other things in the Bible, there are many things that we can learn from this.  In fact, the priesthood, the priestly order, and all things pertaining to priests and the Hebrew religious cult (a word that has many negative connotations in our society but actually simply means “a system of religious beliefs and ritual”) actually… you guessed it… foreshadow things to come and inform us about Jesus Christ, His life, death, and resurrection.  There are also some implications for us here, which in many ways have to do with our role as Christians in the world today.

First, to the priestly garb.  To be honest, this is one of the easier passages to read when it comes to symbolism mostly because much of what symbolized on the priestly outfit is explained.  There are 12 stones which represent the 12 tribes of Israel.  There are 2 stones, each with 6 names.  These also represent the 12 tribes of Israel.  The number twelve becomes a symbol in itself as well, representing the whole of the nation of Israel.  We tend to recognize this number from the number of Jesus disciples that He called.  Coincidence?  I think not…

There is a very specific ceremony that is described next, to consecrate the priests for service to God.  Many different animals are sacrificed in many different sacrificial ways all to “consecrate” Aaron and his sons for service as priests to God.  Here again we see the symbol of blood being used to represent forgiveness and holiness.  I’ve often wondered why God chose the specific portions of the animals to sacrifice (long lobe of the liver, kidneys with the fat still on then, etc.) for the sacrifice… I’ll try to look deeper into it, but if anyone has any insight, I would love to hear it!

I think one of the most important things that is mentioned here though is found in 28:36 with the plate that is bound to Aaron’s turban.  It reads “Holy to the Lord.”  This is the main thrust of this passage in that everything that is done here is to make the priests, or in this case Aaron, set apart, different, “Holy to the Lord.”  Holiness is a word that we often employ to describe God’s complete otherness from us.  I think that the antonym of the word Holy would be sin.  The reason this is important is because of the priests’ special position.  Their job and sole purpose in Israel is to be representatives of the people before God.  People brought their sacrifices to the priests and the priests would do the appropriate things as someone who was a mediator between Holy God and sinful man.

This position is something that is likely lost on us as we really don’t encounter something like this in our daily lives.  But… here’s the thing… actually… we do!  Too often though, I think that we get the wrong idea about this.  For us, perhaps, pastors = priests… this is something that I think has come through with tradition and may be a bit more prevalent within the Roman Catholic church with their hierarchical structures.  While I am not criticizing them here, I do believe that our mindset of the pastor being anywhere closer to God than the rest of the lay people is simply not what the Bible lays our for us in our “Post-Temple” world today.  While we read here that the “priesthood” will be for Aaron and his sons forever, just a few days ago we also read in Exodus 19 that Israel’s purpose was to be a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”  Israel was meant to be a nation set apart for God to give glory and to be a witness to Him and for Him before all the nations.  The same is true for us.

1 Peter 2:9-10 says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”  We are God’s people, a chosen people, a royal priesthood.  In Christ, we are consecrated through His blood, and through the Holy Spirit we are to live in this world as God’s representatives, proclaiming His Name before all nations.

Day 24: Exodus 24-27; Covenant and Tabernacle

Well, after the laws of yesterday, we step into what is seemingly a construction plan that really has no pertinence to us at all.  I know that my temptation what I come to these passages is to skim briefly and not really pay attention to them.  Don’t give into this temptation… there are things we can learn even here!

First in this passage we see the covenant confirmed.  To date, if you look at all the times that the covenant is brought up in the Scriptures, there is really little asked of the people of Israel.  Phrases like “I will be your God and you will be my people” abound in covenant language.  This is still true, and is still the basis of the covenant.  Along with this, the idea of election is also true, the fact that Israel was a chosen people by the grace of God through no merit of their own.  Now however, there are a few more stipulations to the covenant.  The how of the “you will be my people” has been more defined.  And Israel’s overwhelming response is written in 24:7, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.”  The sign of the covenant is seen here, once again as a foreshadow to something greater, with the blood sprinkled on the alter and on the people.  This becomes for the Hebrew people, the sign of the covenant, of forgiveness.  Blood, as a symbol, has an abundance of meanings which we will talk about in the future I’m sure.  One of the first and foremost of the meanings though, is the symbol of “death for life.”  The people of Israel are dying to their own desires so that they will thus live in God’s covenant.  More to come on this!

Moving along to the design of the tabernacle again I want to encourage you to read through this, boring as it may seem.  I’ve heard few sermons on sections in the Bible like this, and have really heard even less life application about them.  One of the popular themes in messages that I have heard about this particular passage is the notion that God is a God of particularities.  God doesn’t simply say “build me a nice tent to live in,” but rather sets out all of the designs for very specific dwelling place for His presence.

Structure of the Tabernacle

The particularities of the designs of the Tabernacle are not arbitrary either.  There is a very specific set of symbols and meanings that are communicated in the tabernacle’s design.  We see things like angels woven into the fabric.  Things are placed in very specific places for a very specific purpose.  The ark is placed in the very center of the tabernacle, in a perfectly square room, in complete darkness; the place that God dwells.  It is strangely reminiscent of the creation story in which God is dwelling in the darkness of pre-creation.  If one was walking out of the Holy of Holies, the first thing one would see would be the light of the candle.  Thinking of the creation story once again, this would bring up some memories of Day 1 of creation.  There are others here as well.  See if you can point them out!

A not so final note about the Tabernacle, as it is of great importance in the biblical story is the meaning of the word “tabernacle.”  Tabernacle actually means “to dwell” or “dwelling place.”  There are two things that I am reminded of here.  First, that God actually dwelt in this place in a special location.  While we know that God is omnipresent, everywhere all the time, He was here in a very special way and the Hebrews believed it.  To them, God was real.  Unlike some of our theologies and philosophies of today which start with humanity and work to explain God, their world was the opposite (and the way it should be), all things begin with God and it is from that starting point that we seek to understand the world.  Second, and I think this is very important as well… Read John 1 if you get a chance.  In the phrase “…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” uses the same Greek word that would have been used in Hebrew in the Old Testament for Tabernacle.  Jesus, the divine Word, second person of the Trinity tabernacled among us.  It is an interesting foreshadowing of the idea of God with us, fulfilled in Jesus and ultimately will be realized at the end of time when heaven comes down to earth and “the dwelling of God is with men.” (Revelation 21:3).

Day 23: Exodus 21-23; Provisions for the Journey (Part 2)

I didn’t really know what to call this post at first.  There is a lot here, but I think that it still falls under the title “Provisions for the Journey” as what is talked about from Chapter 20-23 is really all about the life that the people of Israel are to live on their walk with God.  Yesterday we talked about how God provided for their physical needs and even their judicial needs.  Now, God is laying out His commands for the people of Israel, reaffirming the covenant and giving stipulations on how they are to keep their half of the covenant, namely the “you shall be my people” part.

The 10 Commandments are likely some of the most familiar Scripture texts in the whole Bible.  In many ways these commands, as all the follow which really just expand upon them, are the basis for life and law in the land of Israel, and also for us today.  They were to be the way in which God’s people were set apart from the rest of the world.  Cultures at that time would have bought and sold people at will, amongst other things  and sought to make as much for themselves by whatever means necessary.  Sounds a bit like our culture eh?  God was prescribing a different lifestyle, one that would be both honoring to Him first and foremost, but also be of benefit to the whole of the community of Israel.  Cultures don’t thrive when morals are low and everyone is in it for themselves.  We see this today as well.  The rich get richer on the backs of the poor.  Who does this benefit?  Certainly not everyone.  God is laying out the foundation for a community in which everyone is cared for and watched over.

Of course there are things in this that are quite removed from our culture.  We don’t have slaves anymore, but many of us have people that work under us, with us, or for us.  How do we treat them?  We don’t call people aliens anymore, but there are certainly people from other countries living among us.  How do we treat them?  Immigration is a hot topic right now.  I read this and I don’t see anything that says we treat people a certain way based on their citizenship or whether they are a legal or illegal immigrant.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but Exodus 22:21-23 says, ““You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.  You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child.  If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry.”

As I read these, I see a lot of things that we don’t pay any attention to anymore as well… there are some interesting ones too… I’m certainly not advocating for them to become commonplace… but the thought of what would happen to people in our culture today if these were Enforced is… interesting…

>Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death.

>Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.

>Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death.

>You shall not permit a sorceress to live.

>Whoever lies with an animal shall be put to death.

What about you?  Do you have a favorite?  One you think interesting?  Share it with me please!