First United Methodist Church of Conway, South Carolina
Saturday, October 21, 2017

Week 4


Jan 18:        Exodus 5:1-6:27 – Bricks without Straw
As this saga begins, we see that the passage from Egypt to the Promised Land will not be easy. Difficulties and complications will continually complicate Moses’ task. Moses and Aaron appear before Pharaoh requesting time for the Hebrews to go into the desert to worship. Pharaoh not only refuses, he adds to the burden of the Hebrews. Pharaoh requires them to continue to make the same number of bricks, but the straw will no longer be provided for their work. They must also find their own straw! The Hebrews fail to keep up production, and the Egyptian overseers punish them. In response to the increasing oppression, the Hebrews turn against Moses and Aaron. When Moses complains, God repeats his call.
Why do you suppose God allows the lives of the Israelites to become so difficult? Perhaps God preparing them for what lies ahead? Have you experienced times of increasing difficulty in your own life, and looking back seen that God was preparing you?
Jan 19:        Exodus 6:28-8:32 – Plagues of Blood, Frogs, Gnats and Flies
Before the Aswan High Dam was built, the Nile River flooded annually. Silt in the swollen river gave the water a red tint which the Egyptians called the “blood Nile.” The silt-filled water of the Nile choked fish and caused large numbers of frogs to leave the river. On dry land, the frogs died from dehydration or disease. The dead frogs attracted flies and gnats. The first four plagues parallel these natural occurrences.  However, the Egyptians would have noticed three distinct differences from the normal occurrence - their increased intensity, that they start and stop at God’s command, and that the Israelites in Goshen are spared from these plagues.
Like many people in Moses’ day, the Egyptians worshiped gods of nature. The natural phenomena of the plagues correspond to popular Egyptian gods.  Clearly the God of Moses not only has power over nature, but over the Egyptian nature gods as well. How do you suppose the Israelites feel throughout these plagues?
Jan 20:       Exodus 9-10 – Plagues of Diseased Livestock, Boils, Hail, Locusts & Darkness
Flies often spread diseases, some of which cause infections and boils on both cattle and humans. Some scholars believe that the plague on livestock and the plague of boils are a result of anthrax, spread by flies.  Destruction by hail and locusts are not uncommon in the area. The plague of darkness may have been the result of a high altitude sandstorm. In recent years, our soldiers in Iraq have experienced this same kind of darkness. This would explain how the darkness could even be felt. Imagine the growing feeling of doom the Egyptians must have felt as the events of these two chapters unfolded - terrifying illness, destructive storms and plagues of insects that destroy their economy and food supplies. Again, the Israelites are spared this suffering. 
As soon as Pharaoh repents, God relieves the plagues. As soon as God relents, Pharaoh's heart becomes hard again. We have all witnessed people who turn to God in difficult times only to turn away when the hardship passes.
Jan 21:        Exodus 11-13 The Final Plague and the Passover
The death of the first born is the only one of the ten plagues that never occurs naturally. It is highly selective, both in the terms of victims and those who are spared death. The death of the firstborn sons reminds us of the fate Pharaoh had sealed for a generation of Hebrew babies in Exodus 1:22. This foreshadows the coming of Jesus and the deaths ordered by Herod after his birth. Consider other parallels between Moses and Jesus. 
The story of the Passover helps us understand our relationship with God, and God’s love for us. Consider the depth of God’s love and mercy on his (sometimes reluctant) followers. As you read, remember that Jesus spent his last week in Jerusalem at Passover.
Jan 22:        Exodus 14-15 – Crossing the Red Sea
Pursued by the Egyptians, the Israelites cross the Red Sea and begin a new phase in life. With emotions swinging drastically from celebrating to complaining they proceed toward the Promised Land.  It quickly becomes a pattern in their lives – complain about some need in life, and God provides. Then they celebrate. Another need arises, and the cycle is repeated. The Israelites continue to question God’s providence. They complain instead of simply asking for what they need.  
Jan 23:        Exodus 16-18 – Provision in the Wilderness
Even as God delivers the people from the Egyptians and provides them with water to drink and food to eat, the Israelites doubt and complain. God provides quail in the evening and manna in the morning.   As with the plagues, this may be related to naturally occurring phenomena in the Sinai. Even today, large flocks of migrating quail may be observed landing exhausted in the Sinai Peninsula. There they can easily be captured. Also, there is a sticky white substance that forms early in the morning on certain plants in the Sinai. It spoils in the heat of the day. This may be the substance the Israelites gather and eat as manna each morning
Notice the many ways God commands Moses to use his staff. The staff plays an important part in the war with the Amalekites. However, even with the powerful staff and God’s presence, Moses needs the help of Aaron and Hur. 
Jan 24:       Exodus 19-21 – Receiving the Law at Mount Sinai
Many people have noted that the first four commandments concern our relationship with God, while the final six commandments concern our relationships with one another. 
Notice the law concerning Sabbath rest. Remember the instructions about gathering food on the Sabbath. The instructions concerning Sabbath rest include the land. Notice God’s concern for all creation. How might we show appropriate concern and respect for God’s creation?