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January 16, 2022

Year 2 - Week 20 (January 16-22, 2022)

Day 1 (Monday)

Exodus 6:1-13; 26-30; 7:1-7

Last time, Moses and Aaron met with Pharaoh for the first time, and gave him the message that God had told them to give him, commanding him to let the Lord’s people go. Pharaoh refused, and denied the existence of Yahweh, saying that he did not know him, and would not do what he said. He then proceeded to punish the people of Israel, in order to turn them against Moses and Aaron and ensure their subjugation. Moses complained to God about this result; this time we will see what the Lord says to him in response. (Note: every time we see the text say “The Lord,” we need to remember that the original Hebrew reads “Yahweh”, and that this is the name of God which we translate into the Greek as Ὁ Ὤν, and which we translate into English as “He Who Is”.)

Israel’s Deliverance Assured

6 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh: Indeed, by a mighty hand he will let them go; by a mighty hand he will drive them out of his land.”

2 God also spoke to Moses and said to him: “I am the Lord. 3 I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name ‘The Lord’ I did not make myself known to them. 4 I also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they resided as aliens. 5 I have also heard the groaning of the Israelites whom the Egyptians are holding as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant.

6 Say therefore to the Israelites, ‘I am the Lord, and I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7 I will take you as my people, and I will be your God. You shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has freed you from the burdens of the Egyptians.

8 I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’” 9 Moses told this to the Israelites; but they would not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and their cruel slavery.

10 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, 11 “Go and tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites go out of his land.” 12 But Moses spoke to the Lord, “The Israelites have not listened to me; how then shall Pharaoh listen to me, poor speaker that I am?” 13 Thus the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, and gave them orders regarding the Israelites and Pharaoh king of Egypt, charging them to free the Israelites from the land of Egypt.

Then the text gives the genealogy of Moses and Aaron, how they were the descendants of Jacob’s son Levi, and who all their family were. Then it continues:

26 It was this same Aaron and Moses to whom the Lord said, “Bring the Israelites out of the land of Egypt, company by company.” 27 It was they who spoke to Pharaoh king of Egypt to bring the Israelites out of Egypt, the same Moses and Aaron.

Moses and Aaron Obey God’s Commands

28 On the day when the Lord spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt, 29 he said to him, “I am the Lord; tell Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I am speaking to you.” 30 But Moses said in the Lord’s presence, “Since I am a poor speaker, why would Pharaoh listen to me?”

7 The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. 2 You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his land. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and I will multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. 4 When Pharaoh does not listen to you, I will lay my hand upon Egypt and bring my people the Israelites, company by company, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. 5 The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out from among them.” 6 Moses and Aaron did so; they did just as the Lord commanded them. 7 Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three when they spoke to Pharaoh.

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (The Leader should draw attention to the name of God as it is present here in this text, as we noted in the introduction. Otherwise, it’s important to sum up the thread of the narrative here. Pharaoh has refused to let the people go, and Moses has brought this issue to God. God has reminded Moses that He is God Almighty, and that He is now revealing Himself in a special way to the children of Israel, so that they even know His Name now. Then, when Pharaoh refuses to even recognize Yahweh as God, the Lord responds with an insult, by not letting Moses speak to Pharaoh anymore, but establishing Aaron as the spokesman/prophet for Moses. This is a diplomatic insult; it conveys to Pharaoh that Pharaoh isn’t of a high enough rank to even talk to God’s messenger, but that God’s messenger (Moses) needs a messenger to speak to Pharaoh. The message sent by this is that Pharaoh is himself a pawn, a servant of greater powers, the demons that he worships as gods, but that Yahweh is God Most High, with no peer or equal, the one against whom those demons rebelled.)

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)

St. Anthony the Great

As the last great persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire was winding down, and it came to be an easier life to be a Christian in the world, and many of the great and powerful in the empire were becoming Christians, the first stirrings of what eventually became Orthodox Christian monasticism began out in the desert of Egypt. One of the great early monastic saints was St. Anthony. Since we celebrate his feast day this week, on the 17th, we will read one of his most commonly quoted sayings; this is often written on the scroll in his hands in icons depicting him.

St. Anthony the Great on Humility

“Abba Anthony said, ‘I saw the snares that the enemy spreads out over the world and I said, groaning, “What can escape from such snares?” Then I heard a voice saying to me, “Humility.”’”

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 it is precisely humility which Pharaoh lacks in the Day 1 reading, and which God is showing him that he needs. Pharaoh is enslaved to evil powers precisely because he believes their lies that he is himself a god, that he is great and powerful and has no peer. God is actually being merciful to Pharaoh, then, in humiliating him, in giving him the opportunity to see and accept the truth, and be freed from the demons to whom he is in fact enslaved. For all of us, then, it is essential that we not think too highly of ourselves, and that we turn to the Lord for mercy and salvation. This is the first and last and constant action of the Christian life.)

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 6:30-44

Last time we saw that the news of the preaching of the Apostles when Jesus sent them out had become known to Herod the king, and that he was worried that John the Baptist, whom he had killed, had come back to life, and that this was who Jesus was. We then heard the story of how John the Baptist had died. This time, we return to the story of the Lord, as the apostles return from their preaching.

Feeding the Five Thousand

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.

33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

35 When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; 36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?”

38 And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties.

41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And all ate and were filled; 43 and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (The Leader can point out many lessons here, including the revelation once again of the Divinity of the Lord, that He is able to multiply the fish and the loaves and feed so many people. But I suggest focusing on the fact that Jesus wants His Apostles to take care of the people, not just to do miracles and accept their praise. The gifts of the Lord are not given for the sake of pride and power, but for the sake of service and love. The Apostles were happy to preach and exercise authority on behalf of the Lord, but were less willing to accept responsibility and care for the people who followed the Lord. They eventually learned this lesson, as all of them ended their lives in martyrdom for the Lord and the Gospel and the Church. The lesson for us, when we see problems in the world, is that we should not at first say to ourselves “God should do something about this,” but rather that we need to see what we can do to attend to those problems ourselves, even as we also entrust ourselves and those we serve to the Lord.)

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?