House Groups   restart on the week beginning October 7th

Venues and times

Mon 10am – Campbellii, School Lane, Gulval (next to Village Hall)

Wed 7pm (sometimes Thursdays) – 7 Reens Road, Heamoor

Thurs 2pm – The vicarage, Madron

Bible Notes to be used at groups or home from October to December – see below

We value reading and learning from the Bible since it is the foundation of our faith. Its teaching never goes out of date because God and people have not changed. In the Old Testament we read of how God made the world and tried to establish a relationship with us, which we kept breaking until we were almost completely out of touch with him. The prophets looked forward to a time when God would do something new to bring us back to God. This special agent or Messiah would be identified with God Himself.

In the New Testament we read of the coming to earth of this rescuer, Jesus. We read of his life, his teachings and miracles, his death and resurrection, God who became a man. We read then of what his disciples did in spreading the message about Jesus as rescuer. Paul and others write letters to encourage the early Christians in their relationships with the risen Jesus and with one another.

Our bible studies focus not on academic study but on finding out what the Bible is saying to us about how we should run our personal and church lives.

THIS term we focus on the adventures of the Israelites in Exodus, learning their lessons about what it mean to be te people of God and to journey with him

Introduction

A hard and desperate land  Who will best understand Exodus 1-11 ? Bricklayers and field workers under brutal oppression ? Those under threat of genocide in our world (1.22)? Women who fear God rather than man ? Those groaning under long-continued slavery  (2.23) ? Those overwhelmingly conscious of weakness or disability ? Leaders subject to serial belief and disbelief ? People whose sobbing is a sign of a crushed spirit (6.9)? People whose hopes for rescue and freedom have been repeatedly raised and dashed ?  Understanding the Bible with your heart is not a dainty business – there is agony, anger, disappointment and overwhelming weariness.

Stop ! Look !  Listen ! However, the Book of Exodus is a work of art. It is worthwhile to pay attention to every word. Those who copied the Hebrew text, to check on the accuracy of other transcription, counted, at the end of the first five books of the Bible, the number of paragraphs, sections, verses, words and even letters. Can it be worth such a painstaking effort ? I can only find out by attending to what is in front of me. I need to get my likes, my dislikes and my self out of the way and simply pay attention. The phrase implies something costly, which you expect to pay for something precious

Saviour, Companion and In-dweller  Exodus has 1210 verses. ‘Saviour’ might be the theme of 1.1- 13.16 (30%), ‘Companion’ for 13.17 – 24.11 (25%) and’ In-dweller’ for 24.12- 40.38 (45%). From the epoch-making, world-shaking events of the early story to every tassel in the tabernacle, it is the story of the love of a rescuing God

Session One    Changing – and dangerous times

Read  Exodus 1.1-22

After reading this chapter, I sit quietly and feel the terror in it, the escalation from enslavement to oppression to outright genocide. I note the verbs in vv11-14, and see how precisely the oppression is described with reference to bricks and mortar and work in the fields. The pharaohs had vast building projects – the pyramids of Sesostris III at Dashur alone needed 24,000 bricks. I picture the toiling Israelite men, loincloths stiff with clay, skin burnt by the sun, damaged hands and fingers, bodies smelly and unwashed.

Q1 Many people in our world still work like this. What can we do to relieve this oppression for others ? Where might it be happening close to home ? How might our experiences be at all like those of the Israelites ?

God had promised Abraham that he would become a great nation. Although Jacob’s descendants were just 70, the Egyptian king is anxious about their breeding and spreading like frogs (8.3). They are a security risk if they stay, and there will be a labour crisis if they leave.

Q2 Today we hear hate talk about foreigners and immigrant bashing. How does fear lead to this, and what bad things do good people do out of fear?

Q3 I thank God for the resourceful women (two are named) who frustrated Pharaoh’s plans. So much depended on these women, who are mentioned seven times ! How did they do it, and get away with it ?

Q4 What was their motivation that enabled them to overcome fear ? What fears does my Lord deliver me from ? What increases respect (awe, adoration) for us ?

Session two       Forty years flash quickly past

Read   Exodus  2.1-25

Q1 Today’s story covers  40 years and four scenes. What are they?

There is nothing of Moses’ upbringing, the Jethro bit is unexplained, and there is along gap at v23. The chapter ends with a gong sounding, reminding us that, in thick darkness and deep groaning, God is active.

Q2 Ramases II had 59 daughters – see how God sent that particular one at that moment to rescue baby Moses ! What coincidences have you experienced ,where you see God as working ?

Q3 What resourceful women do we encounter ? What do they do ?

The central word in vv1-10 is ‘baby’. How many other ‘children of destiny’ do you know in the Bible ?

Q4 Things seem to go off course in vv11ff. Do you take heart from knowing Moses was fallible ? What does his action lead to ?

Q5 Moses flees randomly, but finds a protector and supporter in Midian. He also finds a wife. What might Moses have learned there ? What is significant about Moses’ name for his son ?

Q6 Moses is not yet named as God’s chosen; all we hear of is a long time of suffering before God acts. Have you experience times when God doesn’t seem to answer ?

Moses is seen to echo other parts of the New Testament – he was a ‘good’ baby – as everything God made in Genesis; he was found in an ‘ark’ among the reeds (Red or Reed Sea), he is called a ‘judge’ and he is a rescuer.

Session three               Do you know his name ?

Read   Exodus  3.1-22

Our story, which has rushed through eight decades in the last two chapters comes to a juddering halt today in front of a bush in the back of beyond. The rabbis said that God spoke to Moses from a thorn bush to show that He can shine through us also.

Q1 We meet the word ‘holy’ for the first time in the Bible – holy through the divine presence, of which fire is a symbol. How would Moses have understood God’s instruction to remove his footwear ? Have we lost a sense of holiness today ? Are we in awe of the God who calls us by name ?

Q2 The chapter doesn’t just describe who God is, but what he does. What does God say in v7 ?

Q3 Imagine the shock when God says to Moses ‘You are the One’. What reasons would Moses have to disqualify himself ?

Q4 What does God get him to do ? What would he have thought about that call ? Has God ever asked you to do something which looks difficult or even dangerous ?

Q5 Underneath all this change is the God who IS (not WAS).  What for you is the chief defining characteristic of God ? What in the encounter in the bush does Moses have to take with him ?

Q6 What Hittites, Perizzites etc. am I looking for God to help me to overcome on my way to the land ‘flowing with milk and honey’ ? What images might work to whet people’s appetite for heaven today ?

Session four         The excuses we give

Read  Exodus  4.1-17

The signs and wonders aren’t just arbitrary magic tricks; they are designed to speak to the Egyptians, where Pharaoh’s head-dress incorporate a cobra and where skin diseases were rife, where the Nile was the country’s life-giver, and where the Pharaoh had an official called the ‘Mouth’ to speak for him.

Q1 Would being able to perform miracles help you act for God ? Why doesn’t this promise of God help Moses to volunteer for action ?

We are told that Moses was an extremely humble person (Numbers 12.3). In this chapter we learn that humble people can be extremely stubborn. Moses’ excuses end with ‘Send someone else’.

Q2 Have there been times in your own life where you have been disobedient, but where you have dressed up the excuse as humility ?

Q3 Moses describes himself in v10 as ‘heavy of mouth and heavy of tongue’. God replies with ‘Am I not the Lord ?’ When do we make our own failings and weaknesses an excuse for hanging back or backing out ? How does this verse remind you that the way you are has not escaped the notice and design of God’s loving providence ?

God does not take ‘No’ for an answer, but he answers Moses’ reluctance with kindness. He arranges for Moses to share the load of responsibility and leadership with his brother Aaron.

Q4 What could you do if you had help ? Has God anticipated  Moses’ reluctance ? Are there things you can do while needing others to do what you can’t ?

Session five     A brave, decisive woman

Read   Exodus  4.18- 5.1

Q1 At the start of this section Moses is ready to make a return. What does God have for him which makes it easier for him to go there ? What support are you grateful for, and aware of, that you have on your journey of life ?

Q2 The staff is significant, even though its time has not yet come. What things do you have which you value in the carrying out of your work for God ?

This chapter brings us to face strange, troubling things about God: his anger (v14), God seeking to kill Moses (v24); the threats to Pharaoh (v22,23); the first occurrence of the ominous threat that God will harden Pharaoh’s heart (v21). We are called not to understand but to trust- to trust Christ.

Q3 Why do you think God is acting and speaking the way he is ? What is Moses supposed to learn ?

A critical issue in this puzzling story is Moses’ failure to circumcise his son. We know that God commanded this in Genesis  17, but we don’t know why Moses didn’t. Thank God for his wife who saves the day !

Q4 When has another person, close or not so close, exposed something you have failed to do ? How much are you conscious of obedience as part of your walk with God ? How does our full freedom depend on our following his will ?

Q5  We meet Aaron. He not only has to come into the desert to meet his errant brother, but also has to come quickly up to speed with God’s plans. Family members aren’t automatically impressed with what we say or do as Christians, but he quickly accepts his part of God’s call. When other people want us to join in with things, how do we know God is behind it ?

Session six                   ‘You have made us stink’ !

Read   Exodus 5.1-21

There are several voices in eleven conversations in our reading. The tones vary from arrogance to threat to exasperation to circumlocution. The whole dialogue swings between ‘This is what the Lord says’ and ‘This is what Pharaoh says’. One group says nothing – the people. They have no energy or skill in talking – they just work, work, work endlessly.

Q1  Anger leads Pharaoh to ask ‘Who is the Lord ?’ Why does he say this ? Does he realise Moses and Aaron have lied in v1 and v3 ? Why did they say that ?

We experience vertigo looking down from the pyramid of oppression stretching from Pharaoh on his throne to the youngest Israelite child searching for sticks of straw. We remember those enslaved in systems of exploitation in our world – sweatshop factories, desperate farmers, indentured labourers, child slaves, sex workers, the sick, the starving, the abandoned.

Q2 What can we do to change the plight of those who are virtual slaves? Are we cynical or pessimistic about the little we can do ? Who can we help where we are?

Q3 In  4.31  the people ‘believed and worshipped’ ? So what has changed  between then and 5.21 ? How did trust evaporate ? Where does anger and accusation come from ? Why is there so much anger in our society ?

Q4 In v21 the people hurt Moses and Aaron by suggesting that their efforts to do good have simply made things worse. Have you experienced this ?

Session seven         Four things the Lord has done and eight things he will do                                                                                                                                            (The Gospel of Exodus !)

Read  Exodus 5.22 – 6.12

Today’s reading is bracketed by Moses’ anger and frustration. He acknowledges Pharaoh’s actions, but he accuses God of doing evil to people (NIV – ‘trouble’)

Q1 Are there times that you are able to be angry and straight with God ? What actually makes Moses angry ? What does he go back to in his anger ?

Q2 Moses says, ‘Is THIS what you sent me for ? (v22). What is your ‘THIS’ which is causing you grief at the moment – the thing which you resent, which you find so hard to bear ?

Q3 God’s reply to Moses’ blustering and desperation is so wonderfully generous that this section is called ‘The Gospel of Exodus’. Note the phrase ‘mighty and outstretched arm’, echoing through the OT. What does that image say to you ?

Q4 Four times God reminds Moses ‘I am the Lord’. How many verbs are used to describe what God has done and what he will do ?

Q5 What more do you want him to be and to do for you ? How can you be sure he will do everything he has promised ? What are we told here about what erodes the Israelites’ trust ? What erodes yours ?

Q6 Who do you know who is so demoralised that they are deaf to God and to his friends ? Has anything worked for you to help them ?