August 29, 2021
Order of Worship:
Last week in our series Exodus: Journey to Deliverance, Moses heard God’s call to go back to Egypt. In today’s scripture reading, the confrontation with Pharaoh begins. May we encounter this sacred story with fresh ears as we pray the Spirit opens our hearts to the lessons of the Word:
- While Moses has returned to Egypt, he wasn’t necessarily anxious to take up God’s mission. Read Exodus 4:1-13; what are some of the objections Moses raises to God’s plan? What sort of qualities does it take to be a good leader of people or prophet of God; which of these qualities does Moses have or lack? Have you ever felt that God had called you to a service or ministry that you weren’t qualified for; what did you do?
- Moses and Aaron are going to be in this ministry together every step of the way. Why is it essential to have partners in mission? What particular gifts do each of them bring that allow them to accomplish more than they might alone? One of the ordination vows for a deacon or elder in the Presbyterian Church is a promise to “be a friend among your colleagues in ministry, working with them subject to the order of God’s Word and Spirit;” how would/do you live this out?
- “I will multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt” (verse 3) God tells Moses. Much has been written about the nature of the plagues in Exodus 7-10; people have searched for proof of the accounts and for scientific explanations. Theologians have speculated about God’s intentions behind these signs and why particular calamities were chosen. When you read about the plagues in Egypt, what do you feel? Are you sorry for those who are suffering, or do you imagine this to be God’s just punishment for enslaving the Israelites? Do we see any “plagues” in our world today – natural disasters, climate change, drought and famine – and when we do, are we likely to attribute them to God’s action? What positive and negative theology might such a perspective lead to?
- Pharaoh’s “hard heart” is also the subject of much discussion in both the Jewish and Christian theological communities. The phrase means for a heart (which in Hebrew is not only where emotions reside but also the mind, understanding, basically the whole inner self) to be firm, unyielding, or stubborn. As the plagues continue, Pharaoh’s heart only gets harder. It seems to be the nature of stubbornness to increase over time; how often have you witnessed someone fully commit to an idea or stance, and when they are challenged, they find it easier to “double down” than to admit a mistake or change direction? What role might humility play in ‘softening’ hearts; how do we cultivate such an attitude?
There is a lot going on in the world today that might break your heart. There is much that we can’t understand or explain. I pray that wherever this finds you, may you see the ‘wonders’ of God at work in the world, the light that shines even in the darkest places.
Shalom to you all,
Pastor Maggie Rust