Discussion Guide: Exodus 13 & 14

Discussion Guide: Exodus 13 & 14

Even the craziest rescue plans have their catches. Today’s passages deal with the ultimate moment of Israel’s salvation, as well as the moments right before. While we all like to think we want to be a part of God’s plan, sometimes it isn’t all peaches and sunshine. Sometimes, it’s not a quick, easy path at all. Nope, sometimes… we have to take the long way around. And on that journey, we have to find out if our faith is enough to sustain us on that journey.

 

Icebreaker

What is something that you learned the “hard” way?

 

Scripture Reading

Exodus 13 & 14

 

Discussion Questions

Read Exodus 13:1-16.

  1. God is telling Israel to do certain practices in the future. What are they and what are their significance?
    Leader’s Note: The consecration of the first born and the avoidance of yeast corresponds to the final plague in Chapter 12. Use this chance to recap the story of  the plagues and Moses’ role in helping deliver Israel. 
  2. This is the second time God outlines the feast of Passover for the Israelite community, and the first rule God gives them. Why do you think this festival is so important? What is it doing for Israel?
  3. Why is retelling the story of God’s redemption important? How do you retell that story?

Read Exodus 13:17-22.

  1. God already concerned about something in regards to Israel. What is it and why do you think that is?
  2. Verse 17 says God did not take them out of Egypt the most direct way. Why did God need to take them that way?
  3. In the final verses, God chooses to lead the people in a way he never has before. Why?
    Leader’s Note: God’s presence as a pillar of cloud/fire throughout the desert wanderings was unique in Israel’s story, but the verses, and later parts of the story, indicate it’s purpose was to lead and protect a fickle people.
  4. Have you ever felt like God was leading you in a direction you didn’t feel like going? What did you do? How did it work out?

Read Exodus 14.

  1. What surprised you as we read through this well-known story?
  2. What is Israel’s response when Pharaoh decides to pursue them? What does God’s response reveal about Him?
    Leader’s Note: God essentially complains about them complaining, but quickly steps in to rescue them. This pattern will repeat itself over and over again in the desert.
  3. What is God’s purpose in defeating Pharaoh’s army so completely?
    Leader’s Note: Besides saving Israel,  verses 17-18, God says this is to gain glory in the eyes of the Egyptians, to demonstrate His power so that all of Egypt knows that He is Lord.
  4. The final verses say Israel “feared” the Lord. Is this an appropriate response to God? Why/why not?
  5. Where do you find your self in the story? Do you feel like Moses, the Israelites, the Egyptians, God? Why?
  6. Nothing in this story was the usual way to deliver a people from oppression. Why do you think God go out of his way to do it this way?
  7. We all need help getting delivered from something. Have you ever had an Exodus experience in your life?

 

Diving Deeper: Hardening Hearts

  1. Exodus 14:4 & 14:8 talk about God “hardening” Pharaoh’s heart. This is often a troubling passage for people, as Pharaoh’s hardness of heart led his army to be drowned. What do you think it means when God “hardens” Pharaoh’s heart?
    Leader’s Note: “In his copious work on biblical figures of speech, E.W. Bullinger listed several ways that the Hebrew and Greek languages used verbs to mean something other than their strict, literal usage… Bullinger’s fourth list of idiomatic verbs deals with active verbs that “were used by the Hebrews to express, not the doing of the thing, but the permission of the thing which the agent is said to do” … When the text says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, it means that God would permit or allow Pharaoh’s heart to be hardened.” See full text.
  2. Have you ever found yourself reacting against the inevitable? Why? What did it get you?
  3. In what ways do you respond to God like Pharaoh does here?

 

Helpful Resources

Who Hardened Pharaoh’s Heart?

Kenneth Samuel: The Long Way Around

Exodus 13:17-17:16: Unbroken Bones (Jewish Commentary)

 

 

The Reunion Team

LENT at REUNION – A progressive fast

LENT at REUNION – A progressive fast

Six Weeks in the Desert

Lent is a season of preparation. It’s a season where we give up good things so we can focus on better things. It’s not a rote ritual of fasting simply so we can fulfill a religious requirement. It’s an opportunity to give up some things for a season, so we can focus on Jesus and align our hearts with his.

In many ways, Lent can feel like a desert; it can be dry, difficult, and go on forever. Yet, the challenges of Lent can also allow us to experience the joys of Easter anew. As we learn to give up things we often take comfort in, we learn again to put our trust and hope in Jesus.

Fasting Together

Below are descriptions of what we will be giving up as a community. You’ll notice it’s a progressive fast where we will add a new thing each week. This is part of the journey. Each week, we will give up something new, decreasing the amount of creature comforts we rely on as we go deeper into the desert-time of Lent.  Every weekend, we will break our fast to rest and celebrate the goodness of God in this season.  See the image below for a quick overview and to follow along each week! 

Prepare. Fast from eating when the sun is up. Once the sun goes down, have a meal.

Alcohol. Let go of your wine, beer, and spirits.

Sweets. Say goodbye to things with added sugar and sugar substitutes.

Meat. Cut meat from your diet.

Caffeine. Put away the coffee, soda, and tea.

Social Media. Do without things like Facebook, Twitter, etc.

TV & Movies. Turn off the screen and dive into the Bible and quality time with others.

Things to Remember
Here are just a few things to keep in mind during the season of Lent.

Put down to Pick-up. Lent is not about suffering aimlessly. As you put down things, make sure to pick up habits that deepen your faith like prayer, bible study, and reflection.

Be Smart. Some fast items can be difficult/dangerous for small children, the elderly, or pregnant and nursing mothers. Make sure to fast in a way that preserves your health.

Follow Your Conscience. Some things we have chosen to give up as a community might not feel like much a sacrifice or may be too burdensome for some reason. It is okay to add or take away as your conscience lead.

The Reunion Team

Discussion Guide: Genesis 37 & 45

Discussion Guide: Genesis 37 & 45

In the quest to achieve our goals and our dreams, things often end up far different than we imagined. Getting what we want might take us down paths we never intended, some of them for better and some of them for worse. This week, we’ll look at two bookends of Joseph’s story in Genesis, the moment he receives his dream and the moment it was revealed. What has changed in Joseph between these two points, and what can that tell us about learning to trust in and walk humbly with God?

 

Icebreaker

What is the craziest dream you ever had (that you can remember) ?

 

Scripture Reading

Genesis 37:1-34 & 45:1-15

 

Discussion Questions

Read Genesis 37:1-11

  1. How would you describe the family dynamics of Jacob’s family in this passage?  Is that significant?
    Leader’s Note: Verse 2-4 illustrate an ongoing that there is longstanding enmity between Joseph and his brothers. This is not helped by Jacob’s preference for Joseph. It is also good to remember that Joseph is the eldest child of Rachel, Jacob’s favorite wife. His older brothers are the sons of Leah, Jacob’s first, but less favored wife.
  2. If you were Joseph, would you tell your brothers and parents about this dream? Why/why not?
  3. What sort of person does this section portray Joseph as? Is this someone that should be emulated?
    Leader’s Note: While it might be hard for us to see, these passages go out of their way to represent Joseph as a prideful and disrespectful. His tattling (v.2) and dreams (V.5,9) are meant to convey someone who is a bit full of themselves.

Read Genesis 37:12-34

  1. What did Jacob hope to accomplish in telling his dream? What did it actually accomplish?
    Leader’s Note: Jacob’s brothers call him “that dreamer” before choosing to throw him down a cistern. It is clear that his dream only worsened an already tense family system. 
  2. What are the various plans that the brothers come up with? What figures stand out?
  3. What sort of characters are Judah and Reuben in this story?
  4. They did not have a clear plan when they threw Joseph into the cistern. Why then did they take the ring and the robe? What does it point to?
    Leader’s Note: These were symbols of Jacob’s love for Joseph. By stripping them off of him, they are responding to their significance.

Read Genesis 45:1-15. 

  1. A lot happened in Joseph’s since what we just read. Can anyone sum it up?
    Leader’s Note: Here is a quick recap: Joseph is sold to Potiphar > Accused of sexual assault by Potiphar’s wife > Imprisoned > Interprets dreams in prison > Interprets Pharaoh’s dream > Made a high official to help prepare Egypt for famine > His brothers arrive to get grain from Egypt during famine > Joseph provides them grain, but tricks his brothers by hiding silver in their grain pouches (making it appear as if they stole from him) 
  2. How does this moment relate back to Joseph’s dream? Was the interpretation he had in Chapter 37 correct?
    Leader’s Note: Joseph frames his dream in the context of God’s plan. Rather than rejoicing in the fact of his prominence over his family, he is overcome with joy for his ability to be reunited with them and to care for them.
  3. How does Joseph treat his siblings? How does this compare to their relationship in Chapter 37?
  4. How does Joseph appear different on this side of his journey? What is different about him?
    Leader’s Note: Joseph’s arrogance and pride at the beginning of the story worsened an already tense situation. Here, he exhibits humility. Having gone through so much, and having had to learned to trust God, he seems to recognize that he is only a small part of God’s larger plan.
  5. Have you ever been through a tough experience that taught you something valuable? What was it like? What did you learn?
  6. Is humility an important part of the Christian journey? Why/why not?
    Leader’s Note: 2 Corinthians 1:9-10 says, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Humility is not  achieved by putting down the self; it is  achieved in rejoicing in who Christ is, and what that means for us and everyone around us. 

 

Diving Deeper: Judah’s Change of Heart

Read Genesis 44.

  1. What is going on here? Why is Joseph doing this to his brothers?
  2. How has Judah’s response and concern for Benjamin different from his concern for Joseph in Chapter 37?
    Leader’s Note: There are many parallels to early chapters and parts of Joseph’s story. See this helpful commentary for a step by step guide.

 

Helpful Resources

Eerdmans Commentary on the Story of Joseph

A Jewish Perspective on Joseph

 

 

The Reunion Team

Wrapping up Exodus

Wrapping up Exodus

The folks at Bible Project and their video resources have been some of our best friends during our “Garden to City” journey. Check out their video helping explain some of the complexity of the last half of the book of Exodus!

Chris Hall

Lead Pastor

Exodus Guest Post – City Collective Church Chattanooga

Exodus Guest Post – City Collective Church Chattanooga

Throughout the year we are partnering with City Collective Church in Chattanooga as they walk through the Bible in a year as well. We will share resources, blog posts, and encourage one another as we all work towards this goal. Here is a great post, from their lead pastor, Matt Moore, helping us understand the beginning of Exodus and where God is taking us in this journey.

 

Exodus and the Power of God

Understanding the way something begins, I think, is vitally important to understanding that thing itself.  Sometimes, we are tempted into thinking that the story of Israel’s exodus from Egypt is a story separate and apart from the stories we’ve read in Genesis over the last month or so.  That was the story of creation and the patriarchs; this is the story of Israel, the plagues, and of Moses and such.  One of the most life giving parts of reading the Bible as we are – as part of a plan – (along with the awesome, seriously, they’re really good, resources that we have access to) is that it invites us to read the story as a cohesive unit.  What we see in Exodus is the continuation of the creative, redemptive work we’ve seen God at the center of from page one of Genesis.  As a matter of fact, it seems to me that what God does on a macro level in creation we see him do in the particular context of the nation of Israel in Exodus (just look at the language of Exodus 1:7 and compare it to the language of Genesis 1:28).  So, what does the way in which Israel’s Exodus starts teach us about God that is congruent with what we’ve already seen and learned about his character in Genesis?

The first 15 or so chapters of Exodus tell the story of a contest between God and Pharaoh.  Those of us who have been reading the story already know this isn’t going to end well for the man on the throne in Egypt.  But, it’s important that we read it well and see the dynamics of power and how they are at play in this story. In doing so, I think, we can learn something important about God’s Kingdom at this juncture of the story that we can and should carry with us as we continue reading.

So, at the very beginning of the story of the exodus, we see Pharaoh using his power to oppress and to take life.  He’s most likely the most powerful person on the planet.  It is in that context that we see a dynamic begin to emerge that is all too common in the human experience – a dynamic between having power and the desire to protect that power at all cost. He fears the strength of the Israelites and orders the Hebrew midwives to kill the baby boys so that they do not become too strong and overtake Egypt.  God’s desire for Israel (and they’re the same words God speaks to Adam and Eve in the beginning of Genesis) is that they would be fruitful and multiply.  Pharaoh steps in, claims to be the authority in that place, and seeks to put an end to the creative power of God that is on display both in creation and in Israel.  God’s power creates and sustains.  Pharaoh uses power to oppress and to destroy.  Death is a hallmark of the kingdom of the Pharaoh; life is only of Yahweh.  From the very beginning the lines are drawn in the sand and we’re about to see who’s take on life is right.

It’s also really important that we see the way that God demonstrates his power over Pharaoh.  In the story of the baby boys and the midwives we see that God gets glory over the king of Egypt through the faithful response of a few relatively powerless people.  It’s subversive, and it’s unexpected, and, it’s beautiful.  The plans of the most powerful man on Earth spoiled by two women who were slaves in his empire but faithful to the King of the universe.  Or, as the people of Israel prepare to leave Egypt after God systematically dismantles the powers of the Egyptian gods in the plagues (that’s another blog post in and of itself) we see that it is the women of Israel who take all of the riches of Egypt with them as they leave.  Again, God works to turn both ancient and modern understandings of power on their heads.  We see a God who chooses to partner with those who were marginalized and oppressed in the pillaging of Egypt – the most powerful nation on the planet.

They question for us today as followers of Jesus informed by the good character of God as displayed in the exodus story is, “Whose understanding of power will we live by?”  In so many ways, this story invites those of us reading it thousands of years later to consider whether or not we’ve bought into the Pharaoh’s understanding of life or if we will faithfully participate in the story God continues to write.

In Genesis, we see an all-powerful God create humanity and then partner with us in his ongoing creative work.  In Exodus, we see this God demonstrate his power over Pharaoh in the deliverance of a small nation of slaves through the faithful participation of some of the most powerless members of that people.  And, most clearly, we see the power of God on display in the life, death, and life of Jesus of Nazareth.  The Pharaoh of Egypt seeks to control and accumulate more power.  That’s the narrative of his kingdom.  And, if we’re honest it’s the narrative of the kingdoms in which we live most of our lives.  But, in the Kingdom of God we encounter one who calls us to faithfully follow as he gives his power away in service, in self-giving love and ultimately, in death.  In the ultimate paradox, the death of God demonstrates the power of his Kingdom.  God’s power proves too much for the Pharaoh and his armies in Exodus, and, praise God, it proves too much for sin, death, shame, and guilt in the story of Jesus and in our lives. The story of Jesus, the story of self-giving love and of relationship challenges any sort of narrative that puts us on the thrones of our own Egypt.

May we have eyes to see the way that God continues to work with Kingdom power among the displaced, the marginalized, and the forgotten as he continues to invite us into true, abundant life.

That, I think, makes for a really good beginning to this story.

-Matt

The Reunion Team

Discussion Guide: Genesis 32

Discussion Guide: Genesis 32

Giving up control is never easy, but sometimes it might be the only way forward. Ultimately, our efforts to control our destinies and manipulate our surroundings will never get us to where we are really meant to go and where we really yearn to be. This week, we’ll be discussing Jacob’s journey with God, his wrestling match with the divine, and the moment where he finally learns that limping through life depending on God is the only way he can walk into his destiny. Perhaps even we can learn how to say, as a modern sage once said, “Jesus, take the wheel.”

 

Icebreaker

What is a mistake that you would never take back? Why?

 

Scripture Reading

Genesis 32 & 33

 

Discussion Questions

Read Genesis 32:1-21.

  1. Can anyone remember the context of this story? Who is Esau and what happened between him and Jacob?
    Leader’s Note: Jacob is returning to the land where his colder brother Esau lives. In the past, Jacob tricked his father and stole the double-portion birth right of his older brother. Jacob is returning with the expectation that his brother will still be angry about this treachery.
  2. What is Jacob afraid of? What strategies does he use to alleviate these fears, and do they work?
    Leader’s Note: Jacob manages his fear and the risk in several ways: splitting his family, a midnight prayer to God, and sending a series of generous gifts to his brother ahead of him.
  3. Do you think Jacob’s prayer is sincere? What does it say about his relationship with God?
  4. Have you ever prayed a prayer like Jacob’s? Is that wrong or alright? Why?

Read Genesis 32:22-31.

  1.  In v. 22, Jacob continues to send everyone and everything in front of him. How do you think this reflects on his character?
  2. In v. 23, a mysterious man shows up and begins to wrestle Jacob. This is not a turn most of us would have predicted. Why do you think this is a fitting twist to the story?
  3. The mysterious man disable Jacob to stop him from wrestling, but he does not heal his wound. Why do you think the man disables Jacob, and why doesn’t he heal him afterward?
  4. The man renames Jacob, “Israel” because he had “struggled with God and with humans and have overcome” (Israel literally means, “wrestles with God”). Jacob lost the match, so in what way did he overcome?
    Leader’s Note: Andrew Bloom comments on this passage saying, “Jacob began the night believing his greatest need was to escape from Esau. He ended the night believing his greatest need was to trust in the blessing of God’s promise. And what changed him from fearing man to trusting God’s word was prolonged and painful wrestling with God.” Sometimes, wrestling with God over hopes, dreams, and doubts is the only way we can learn that trusting God is better than trusting in our own ability.
  5. “Israel” would come to be used as the name for all of Jacob’s descendants, and can even apply to those who are “grafted” into that family through Jesus (Rom. 11:24). Why do you think that is significant? What does it tell us about the sort of relationship God values?
  6. This passage does not identify the man as “God.” But, Jacob concludes that it is God, why?
  7. Have you ever “wrestled” with God? About what? What was the outcome?
  8. What “limps” do you have in your own life and journey of faith? Do they help you trust in God, or do you often find yourself continuing to wrestle?

 

Diving Deeper: Esau’s Response

Read Genesis 33.

  1. How does Esau’s response contrast with what Jacob was expecting?
  2. What do you think of Jacob’s response to Esau?
    Leader’s Note: Jacob essentially tricks Esau once again. Esau goes several days South to Mt. Seir, while Jacob travels North to Sukkoth. Despite his name being changed to Israel, Jacob is still acting like Jacob.

 

Helpful Resources

Commentary on Genesis 32:22-31

Commentary by Dianne Bergant on Genesis 32-33

Wrestlin’ Jacob, A Slave Song

 

 

The Reunion Team