This workshop leaderís Bible study is a historical, theological, and contextual introduction to the Ten Commandments rotation of Kirk of Kildaireís Faith Quest workshop rotation program.† It is intended to provide workshop leaders with:
∑ A historical context for understanding the Bible story.
∑ A Biblical context for reading and teaching the story.
∑ The theological basis for the concepts to be taught to the children.
In Kirk of Kildaireís Faith Quest program, workshop leaders attend a one-hour Bible study two weeks prior to the start of a new rotation.† This Bible study helps workshop leaders understand how the concepts to be taught to the children are derived from the Bible story and how the lessons in the rotation fit together to reinforce the concepts.† It also provides an opportunity for the workshop leaders to grow in their own faith and understanding of the Bible.
It will be helpful to have a chalkboard, whiteboard, or flip chart for writing down questions or observations during the Bible study.
Note:† This is not a comprehensive study of the text, but only a few notes to help provide context and background for workshop leaders.† Consult titles cited in the reference list at the end of these notes for more information.
††††††††††† Exodus 20:1-17
††††††††††† Jeremiah 31:33b (CEV) "I will write my laws on their hearts and minds.† I will be their God, and they will be my people."
1. God wants to be in a special relationship with us.
2. God is active and presents in all parts of our lives.
3. People are precious to God so we should love and care for other people.
4. God gives us rules to show us how to live with God and with others.
5. When we obey God's laws we show that we love God.
∑ If workshop leaders do not know each other, give them an opportunity to introduce each other and say which workshop they will be leading.
∑ Begin the Bible study by praying for Godís guidance as teachers begin a new rotation.
Ask a workshop leader to read the text aloud.† Since this rotation focuses on an entire chapter, you might want to divide the reading among three or four workshop leaders.
Ask the workshop leaders what questions came to mind as they heard the story or read it before the Bible study.† Write down any questions that arise and will need to be answered during the Bible study.
††††††††††† As with the book of Genesis, it is most appropriate for us to understand Exodus as "theological and keygmatic" rather than as historical (Fretheim, 7).† Those who wrote it were "persons of faith who were concerned to speak a word of God to other persons of faith, who in turn would have heard it as word of God" (Fretheim, 7).† Although it describes events that would have occurred in the 13th century BC,† it is believed that the book of Exodus was probably compiled from a number of sources and was completed in its present form during the 6th century BC while Israel was in exile (Brueggemann, 680).† Jerusalem had been destroyed and the people were living in exile being governed by foreign powers.† Given this, Brueggemann says that Exodus should "be understood as a literary, pastoral, liturgical, and theological response to an acute crisis" (680).
††††††††††† The overall sequence of the book of Exodus according to Brueggemann is "from liberation to covenantal law to abiding presence" (682).† The whole purpose of God's liberating action in the beginning of Exodus is so that the people can live in a covenant community with God (Brueggemann, 682).† Roughly, Exodus includes the following sections:
Ch. 1-15:21††††††††††† Liberation
Ch. 15:22-18††††††††††† Wandering in Wilderness
Ch. 19-24††††††††††† Law and Covenant
Ch. 25-31††††††††††† Plan for Tabernacle
Ch. 32-34††††††††††† Fall and Restoration of Israel
Ch. 35-40††††††††††† God Fills the Tabernacle
††††††††††† Walter Brueggemann identifies four theological themes in the book of Exodus:
††††† Liberation:† A movement from oppression to freedom that is brought about "through the holy intentionality of a 'new God', whose name is known only in and through this wondrous happening" (Brueggemann, 679)
††††† Law:† God is not limited to a certain arena but is involved in all aspects of Israel's personal and public life.† This law is God's law - it is grounded in God's "holy authority" and comes from God's own mouth (Brueggemann, 679).† God is available to the people through human mediators - in this case Moses.
††††† Covenant:† The purpose of the law is to make a covenant, "a binding relation whereby Yahweh and Israel are intimately, profoundly, and non-negotiably committed to each other" (Brueggemann, 679).
††††† Presence:† There is a demonstrated concern for how God will continue in a concrete way to be present with Israel.† Israel develops the idea of a tabernacle that is permanent yet movable (Brueggemann, 680).
Israel is a new type of community unlike any that has been seen before - "the recipient of God's liberating power, practitioner of God's sovereign Law, partner in God's ongoing covenant, and host of God's awesome presence" (Brueggemann, 680).
Overview of Exodus 20:1-17
††††††††††† The giving of the law, the Ten Commandments, is here connected to the revelation of God to the people of Israel.† The person of God and the law God presents cannot be separated.† More particularly the laws are "given in the context of the Sinai covenant" and they provide God's vision for what the relationship will be like (Brueggemann, 839).† Also, they "are given with the authority of Moses" and they are connected to the liberation story (Brueggemann, 839).
††††††††††† The commandments are thought to come in two parts or tablets:
1. V. 1-11 concern relations to God
2. V. 12-17 concern the neighbor (Bruggemann, 839)
The connection between the tablets is that in order to understand how to relate our neighbor, we must first know how to relate to God (Brueggemann, 839).† It is a mistake to separate the two or concentrate on practicing one group more than the other.
††††††††††† Both Fretheim and Brueggemann encourage us not to consider the Ten Commandments as limited and static or to consider these ten laws as the only and most important principles to live by.† They are "dynamic. . .† open to a fresh hearing" (Brueggemann, 683).† There is evidence that the Israelites viewed them in this way and we too may feel that some things need to be added or expanded on.† They are at least "an indispensable starting point for our ongoing ethical task" (Fretheim, 222).
††††††††††† How are the themes listed at the introduction to this study carried out in the story about the giving of the Ten Commandments?
Liberation:††††††† Through God's command to worship no other gods before Yahweh, the Israelites are free to serve God and God alone.† They have been freed from having to live in oppressive or life-diminishing circumstances by being called to live in a covenantal community.
Law:†††††††††††††††† Terence Fretheim points out that the law is given after the community has already been liberated and redeemed.† "The law is not the means by which the relationship with God is established; God redeems quite apart from human obedience" (Fretheim, 22).† The main focus of the law presented here is to demonstrate God's vision for the ordering of life, the community and the world.†
Covenant:†††††††† The presentation of the law leads to the covenant that God will make with the people later in Exodus.† The laws give the people an idea of what being faithful to God's covenant will involve (Fretheim, 219).† Again we are reminded that "the law is not a means by which one is made a member of the community of faith" but is given to those who have already been redeemed (Fretheim, 206).
Presence:††††††††† God is present and active in all aspects of life - personal, religious, economic, political.† God cannot be contained, controlled or limited.
Ask each workshop leader to summarize his or her workshop.† As they do so, point out the concepts that each lesson reinforces.† Ask workshop leaders if they have any questions about the logistics or practical application of their lesson.
God wants to be in a special relationship with us.
God is active and presents in all parts of our lives.
People are precious to God so we should love and care for other people.
God gives us rules to show us how to live with God and with others.
When we obey God's laws we show that we love God.
Return to the questions that were gathered at the start of the hour.† Have they been answered?† Are there any further questions about the Bible story or about the lessons?
Close the Bible study with a prayer.
Brueggemann, Walter. "Exodus." New Interpreter's Bible, vol. 1. Leander Keck, et. al. editors. (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1994), pp. 677-687 and pp. 839-853.
Fretheim, Terence E. "Exodus." Interpretation. James Luther Mays, et. al. editors. (Louisville, John Knox Press, 1991).