« January 2, 2022 | Main | January 16, 2022 »

January 9, 2022

Year 2 - Week 19 (January 9-15, 2022)

Day 1 (Monday)

Exodus 15:1-21

Before the Christmas/Theophany recess, we were reading about the Patriarch Abram, and how he left his ancestral city of Ur and followed the call of the Lord to go into a strange country, where God would make him into a new nation, a people called by the name of the Lord. We will leave Abram behind now, and see what happened to his descendants.

Abram was re-named Abraham (which means father of many nations), and had a son according to God’s promise, Isaac. Isaac had a son named Jacob, whom God renamed Israel, and Jacob/Israel had twelve sons, and they eventually ended up living in Egypt due to a famine. They stayed there for 400 years, and grew into a numerous people, and the Egyptians became afraid of them, so they enslaved them and began to kill all the baby boys that were born to Abraham’s descendants.

One of these baby boys, however, was saved by God through the cleverness of his mother and the mercy of the daughter of Pharaoh, who adopted him and raised him as her own. When he grew up, he ended up having to flee from Egypt, and went out into the wilderness, where he settled with a tribe of traveling herdsmen. He married and had two children there, but one day God spoke to him up on a mountain, and told him to go into Egypt and deliver God’s people from slavery. God told him to tell Pharaoh that the nation of Israel was His firstborn son, and that if Pharaoh did not let them go, God would bring justice upon Pharaoh and the people of Egypt for the murder of the baby boys of the Israelites, and would kill the firstborn children of the Egyptians.

When Moses went to Egypt, his brother Aaron was sent by God to meet him, and together, they went to Pharaoh to deliver God’s message. This is where we will pick up the story.

Bricks without Straw

5 Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, so that they may celebrate a festival to me in the wilderness.’” 2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should heed him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and I will not let Israel go.” 3 Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has revealed himself to us; let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness to sacrifice to the Lord our God, or he will fall upon us with pestilence or sword.”

4 But the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their work? Get to your labors!” 5 Pharaoh continued, “Now they are more numerous than the people of the land and yet you want them to stop working!” 6 That same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people, as well as their supervisors, 7 “You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as before; let them go and gather straw for themselves. 8 But you shall require of them the same quantity of bricks as they have made previously; do not diminish it, for they are lazy; that is why they cry, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.’ 9 Let heavier work be laid on them; then they will labor at it and pay no attention to deceptive words.”

10 So the taskmasters and the supervisors of the people went out and said to the people, “Thus says Pharaoh, ‘I will not give you straw. 11 Go and get straw yourselves, wherever you can find it; but your work will not be lessened in the least.’” 12 So the people scattered throughout the land of Egypt, to gather stubble for straw. 13 The taskmasters were urgent, saying, “Complete your work, the same daily assignment as when you were given straw.” 14 And the supervisors of the Israelites, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten, and were asked, “Why did you not finish the required quantity of bricks yesterday and today, as you did before?”

15 Then the Israelite supervisors came to Pharaoh and cried, “Why do you treat your servants like this? 16 No straw is given to your servants, yet they say to us, ‘Make bricks!’ Look how your servants are beaten! You are unjust to your own people.” 17 He said, “You are lazy, lazy; that is why you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.’ 18 Go now, and work; for no straw shall be given you, but you shall still deliver the same number of bricks.”

19 The Israelite supervisors saw that they were in trouble when they were told, “You shall not lessen your daily number of bricks.” 20 As they left Pharaoh, they came upon Moses and Aaron who were waiting to meet them. 21 They said to them, “The Lord look upon you and judge! You have brought us into bad odor with Pharaoh and his officials, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.”

22 Then Moses turned again to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have you mistreated this people? Why did you ever send me? 23 Since I first came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has mistreated this people, and you have done nothing at all to deliver your people.”

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (The Leader should note that the English translation can make it seem like God is playing tricks with Pharaoh, asking him to just let the Israelites go for three days, and promising that they’ll come back later, when there is in fact no intent for them to return. This is just a problem of the translation. When it says, “Let my people go,” the clear meaning in the original is “free/release/let go completely of your power over my people.” The statement of the three day journey is not intended to promise a return afterward, but to express that the Israelites will go completely out of Egypt, a three day journey beyond the border. The point is that they are going to leave Egypt, and not come back. When Pharaoh refuses, saying that he doesn’t know Israel’s god, he is saying he doesn’t believe Yahweh exists, or has any power. He only believes in himself and his own divinity. In following this refusal with the command to require bricks to be made without providing straw, his intent is to discredit Moses & Aaron, to make the Israelites hate them; and as we can see, his methods are effective. Moses’ prayer to God is clearly frustrated, but God’s response will be clear and powerful, as we will see in the coming weeks. Finally, we should note that God is being merciful to Pharaoh; for what he has done in murdering the countless baby boys of the Israelites, he and his people are deserving of much worse, but God is giving him a chance to escape that punishment and simply let the people go. He is not making a good start at receiving that mercy, though.)

2) Where do we see Christ in this text; what is He saying or doing here?

3) Do we see ourselves and the Church in this text; what does it say about us?

4) What do you find difficult about this reading? Is there anything confusing about it, or anything that you dislike? (This is an open question, as always. )

5) Does this reading make you think that you need to change anything in your life?

Day 2 (Wednesday)

Apolytikion (Dismissal Hymn) of St. John the Baptist

This past Friday, we celebrated the Feast Day of St. John the Baptist, and on this coming Friday, we will read the account of his death from the Gospel of Mark. This makes today an appropriate time to read and discuss the Dismissal Hymn of the Forerunner. As a side note, the Dismissal Hymn (Apolytikion/Ἀπολυτίκιον) is the last hymn sung in the Vespers service, right before the Dismissal of the people at the end of the service, which is why it is called that. It can be thought of as the theme song of any given feast or saint, and often sums up the most important things about them.

Apolytikion of St. John the Baptist

The memory of the just is observed with hymns of praise; for you suffices the testimony of the Lord, O Forerunner. You have proved to be truly more ven'rable than the Prophets, since you were granted to baptize in the river the One whom they proclaimed. Therefore, when for the truth you had contested, rejoicing, to those in Hades you preached the Gospel, that God was manifested in the flesh, and takes away the sin of the world, and grants to us the great mercy.

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (The Leader should point out that in this hymn, we talk about St. John as being the greatest of the Prophets, because while all the Prophets had foretold the coming of Jesus Christ, John the Baptist not only saw Him in the flesh, but even touched Him and baptized Him in the river. Because of this great honor, the hymn says that St. John doesn’t need hymns to praise him, because the Lord’s words praising him glorify him more than a thousand hymns could. Finally, it makes the important point that St. John didn’t just proclaim the coming of the Lord while he was alive, but even after he was killed, he continued to be the Forerunner and herald of Jesus Christ, going before Him even into Hades, where he announced that the Lord was coming SOON to deliver the captives of sin and death from their slavery.)

2) Where do we see Christ in this text; what is He saying or doing here?

3) Do we see ourselves and the Church in this text; what does it say about us?

4) What do you find difficult about this reading? Is there anything confusing about it, or anything that you dislike? (This is an open question, as always. )

5) Does this reading make you think that you need to change anything in your life?

Day 3 (Friday)

Mark 6:14-29

Last time we saw Jesus go back to His home town of Nazareth, where the people who had known Him as a child refused to accept Him as the Messiah, and doubted and questioned and rejected Him. At this point, we saw the Lord send out the twelve disciples to preach the Gospel of His coming and His victory throughout the country, and they did so, and cast out many demons and healed many sick people, to the point that the name and actions of Jesus and His disciples became known more widely through the region. That is where we will pick up the story.

The Death of John the Baptist

14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”

17 For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. 18 For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him.

21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22 When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” 23 And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24 She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25 Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

26 The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (The Leader should point out that Herod seems, at first glance, better than Pharaoh. He doesn’t understand or submit to John, but he doesn’t reject him out of hand, and on occasion likes to listen to him. But at the end of the day, he is no better than Pharaoh; he is too attached to his own reputation with his courtiers and friends, on the one hand, and too enslaved to his passions and desires, on the other, to be able to hear and understand and submit and be saved by St. John’s preaching, and ultimately, he becomes the agent of St. John’s murder. This ultimately serves as a warning to us all, against succumbing to peer pressure, against the great sin of pride, and against the dangers of lust and the other passions. May the Lord deliver us from all these things.)

2) Where do we see Christ in this text; what is He saying or doing here?

3) Do we see ourselves and the Church in this text; what does it say about us?

4) What do you find difficult about this reading? Is there anything confusing about it, or anything that you dislike? (This is an open question, as always. )

5) Does this reading make you think that you need to change anything in your life?