Though the reading assignment for the day was to take us into chapter 20, our discussion ventured about as far as chapter 5. This isn’t a bad thing! Let it be a comfort to those who might not have completed all the reading. Let it be an invitation to sit longer with familiar stories, to wonder more deeply about what is going on. A prayerful Bible study moves somewhat unpredictably. Maybe we move through many chapters in two hours, or maybe we spend two hours with a few verses. The Word moves with us wherever and whenever we’re willing to take it; we just have to give it some of our time.
The book of Exodus brings us to a time when Joseph’s wise kingship has been forgotten and the new king of Egypt fears the growing multitude of Hebrews. During our “nuts and bolts” discussion, we talked about how often fear-of-the-underdog or fear-of-losing-power recurs through time, including today. We also gave notice to the women who play significant roles at the beginning of Exodus: Shiphrah and Puah (thank you, dear midwives!); Moses’ mother and sister; and Pharoah’s daughter. Before we broke into our groups, we took time to talk about Pharoah’s heart, which led us to the fruitful discussion of what it means that God gives us choice. That we have free will gives us the opportunity to turn toward God and live in the paradoxical freedom of complete surrender. Free will also gives us the ability to turn away from God or be estranged from God and live into the consequences such a choice entails.
As is often the case, we re-discover that the lives of a people so distant from us in time and space still relate to us in many ways and continue to inform us about our own relationship with God and others. We might have to get past thinking that we can only relate to Moses through Charlton Heston. (Maybe watching Cecil DeMille’s Ten Commandments and fact-checking with a Bible would be a good exercise for you!) To engage with the readings from Exodus, we might
- imagine ourselves as one of the characters in the scene where the midwives were confronted by Pharoah
- contemplate with the phrase “I AM WHO I AM” on our breath, or
- evaluate our lives (or our week!) using the Decalogue as our measure.
There are many ways we can take the words of Scripture and invite them to reveal something about where God is in our lives today. We might even reach a place where we realize God is sending or has sent us to do important work. Are we at a place where we realize God has been and is with us every step of the way? If we’re not there for ourselves, it’s a worthwhile exercise to see where God is in relation to the people whose stories we read, paying particular attention to the ones that sound familiar to our own.