TiO 45 – The Story – God’s Messengers

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The Main Idea

With the Kingdom of Israel divided in two and most of the kings rebelling against God, the narrative turns to the spokesmen of God, the prophets. It is their words and their story that will be heard through to the end of chapter 21 (the Old Testament). In chapter 15, we hear the story of Elijah and Elisha, prophets of God.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: How Is the word “prophet” used in society today?

Q2: Do you know of anyone in modern times who was/is considered a prophet (the label does not have to be accurate in order to be applied to people)? Who is it and why does he or she get that label?

Q3: Do you think that there are still prophets in the church today? Why or why not?

Q4: Elijah was one of two people in the Bible who we are specifically told did not die. Who was the other? (hint: Genesis). 

Dig a Little Deeper

With the Kings of Israel and Judah following their own path God takes a more subversive approach to speaking to the nation of Israel and to leading: he raises up prophets. Prophets, the mouthpieces of God who call people back to God. It is not that in the time of the divided kingdom prophets are a new thing. We have been hearing about prophets since Moses, who spoke to the Pharaoh of Egypt and the people of Israel on behalf of God. And in the more recent history of Israel we heard of the prophet Nathan who set David back on the proper path after David sinned with Bathsheba. But now we see the prophets rise as the true champions of the people and the true voice of God. They do not conquer with military force but with the truth and by the power of God.

As a bit of background to the stories in chapter 15 here are some things to keep In mind:

1) The focus of Chapter 15 is on the Kingdom of Israel which, at the beginning of the chapter is being ruled by Ahab and his wife Jezebel

2) Abandoning the true God (Yahweh) always means embracing another deity. In the case of Ahab, that was Baal. Baal was a term meaning “the Lord” and had been applied to a variety of deities, but this was probably Hadad, the god of the Canaanites.

3) We are still in a time in history where even monotheistic cultures, like the people of Israel, believed that the gods of the other nations were real, just less powerful than theirs. So, the idea that Baal could answer when called upon was not seen as a ridiculous notion, perhaps not even to Elijah.

Introduction (pp. 203)

“Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Giliad, said to Ahab, ‘As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain In the next few years except at my word.’’

That is quite an introduction to Elijah. We know nearly nothing about him and have heard nothing from this prophet before these words are written. And then, BOOM, he shows up, tells the king that there will be a drought and then goes to hide in the wilderness, fed by ravens, for three years.

Act 1: Elijah and the Prophets of Baal (pp. 203-206)

“Elijah went before the people and said, ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.’”

Elijah issued a challenge: prepare an altar and then call on your God. Baal did not answer but God did and all of the false prophets were killed. Ahab the King remained unconvinced and unrepentant.

Act 2: Elijah Meets with God (pp. 206-207)

“Then a voice said to [Elijah], ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’

“[Elijah] replied, ‘… I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.’”

“The LORD said to him, ‘… Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.’”

Elated at his win over the prophets of Baal but terrified of retaliation from Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, Elijah runs into the wilderness. There he calls on God to kill him. But God revives Elijah and they have a conversation and Elijah is given instructions about the end of his life: delegate your responsibilities to others, you are not alone.

Act 3: The Transition to Elisha (pp. 207-209)

“Elijah went up to [Elisha] and threw his cloak around him.”

God had told Elijah to anoint Elisha to take over the job as God’s prophet and so Elijah gave his cloak to Elisha as a sign. Elisha left everything and followed Elijah who was soon swept up in a whirlwind with a chariot of fire and horses. At that time Elisha was recognized as the successor to Elijah in the role of the prophet of God.

Act 4: Elisha and the Shunamite Woman (pp. 209-211)

“When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD … The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.”

Elisha struck up a friendship with a Shunamite woman who became his patron, offering him food and lodging whenever he was In town. She had been unable to have children and Elisha prayed for her and she had a son. When the son died of an illness, she called for Elijah who, in turn, called on God to heal the child and he was brought back to life.

Act 5: Elisha Thwarts the Army of Aram (pp 211-212)

“‘Do not kill them, [Elisha] answered. ‘Would you kill those you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.’”

During Elisha’s lifetime, Israel was at war with many of the neighbouring countries. During the war with Aram God revealed their battle plans to the army of Israel through Elisha. Discovering that Elisha was a dangerous asset, the King of Aram sent men to capture Elisha. Instead of capturing him, the army of Aram was captured by the army of God (soldiers and chariots of fire) and rendered blind. Elisha then led the blind men into the heart of the Israelite stronghold of Samaria. However, Elisha counseled kindness rather than killing and when they regained their sight the army of Aram were treated to a banquet and sent back to their king. This stopped the war.

Act 6: Amos and Hosea and Things to Come (pp. 213-217)

During the time when Elisha was prophet in Israel other prophets arose to warn the people of the Northern Kingdom (Israel) of the consequences of failing to follow God. Two of these prophets were Amos and Hosea. Sadly, Israel did not heed the warnings, as we will see in the chapters to come.

Looking back at the story of the prophets, it is clear that the monarchies of Israel have been failures, just as was predicted back in chapter 10 when the people called for a king and Saul was crowned. Since that point God had moved through the king, when they would listen, and as the king went so too did the people. However, it was clear by the end of chapter 14 that this was not working. The kingdom had been divided and very few kings followed God. And so God raised up prophets to speak to the people on his behalf.

Q1: According to the stories In Chapter 15, what was the role of the prophet in Israel? What kind of activities were they known for?

Q2: After Elijah’s victory over the prophets of Baal he went into a deep depression. What was his response to this depression? What was God’s response to Elijah?

Q3: Discuss the effectiveness of Elisha’s response to the capture of the soldiers of Aram. What were the risks and benefits to kindness rather than killing in that case? 

Next Steps

Kings, prophets, the Word of God, the wisdom of people. Those are recurring themes in The Story thus far but they are also themes in our own lives. The definitions have changed a bit, for example, we have exchanged kings for politicians and celebrities, but we still tend to listen to those four voices when we are looking for truth.

Think about the influences around you when you need to make important decisions.

Q1: How do you think you aught you rank these influences, from most to least (discuss):

         Politicians and Celebrities

         Church Leaders

         The Bible

         The Wisdom of Friends/Family/Acquaintances

         Your own wisdom (or wisdom you get directly from God)

Q2: How do you actually rank these Influences (based on your own experience)?

Q3: Discuss your Influences and what you should or could change about them.

As you consider the voices of influence in your life pray that you would cultivate a listening ear for the right voices ad learn to disregard the voices that can do you harm.

 

TiO 15 – The Story – God’s Messengers

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The Main Idea

With the Kingdom of Israel divided in two and most of the kings rebelling against God, the narrative turns to the spokesmen of God, the prophets. It is their words and their story that will be heard through to the end of chapter 21 (the Old Testament). In chapter 15, we hear the story of Elijah and Elisha, prophets of God.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: How Is the word “prophet” used in society today? 

Q2: Do you know of anyone in modern times who was/is considered a prophet (the label does not have to be accurate in order to be applied to people)? Who is it and why does he or she get that label?

Q3: Do you think that there are still prophets in the church today? Why or why not?

Kings, prophets, the Word of God, the wisdom of people. Those are recurring themes in The Story thus far but they are also themes in our own lives. The definitions have changed a bit, for example, we have exchanged kings for politicians and celebrities, but we still tend to listen to those four voices when we are looking for truth.

Think about the influences around you when you need to make important decisions.

Q1: How do you think you aught you rank these influences, from most to least (discuss):

Politicians and Celebrities, Church Leaders, The Bible, The Wisdom of Friends/Family/Acquaintances, Your own wisdom (or wisdom you get directly from God)

Q2: How do you actually rank these Influences (based on your own experience)?

Q3: Discuss your Influences and what you should or could change about them.

As you consider the voices of influence in your life pray that you would cultivate a listening ear for the right voices ad learn to disregard the voices that can do you harm.

TiO 45 – The Story – A Kingdom Torn in Two

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The Main Idea

The Kingdom of Israel is divided by internal strife and the disobedience of rulers and the people. While each ruler and tries in his own way to reunify they are always prevented from doing so by their own arrogance and disobedience. Over the course of many years very few rulers of either Kingdom show themselves to be fully devoted to God, as David had been.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: Consider the division of North and South Korea. What personal characteristics of the leaders of both countries will be required to make reunification possible?

Q2: Think about past friends (or family) with whom you used to be close but no longer are: what circumstances caused this?

Q3: Do you have a story about reunification with someone from your past? Tell that story to the group.

Dig a Little Deeper

Chapter 13 of The Story ends with Solomon being promised that God’s judgement will fall on the house of David and that the Kingdom will be torn from his family and put into the hands of someone not in his family line. And so chapter 14 picks up this narrative. The Kingdom is divided in two: Jeroboam, a member of Solomon’s court will be king of Israel and Rehoboam, the son of Solomon will be the king of Judah. But neither king follows God’s instructions and so we see the beginning of the fall of both Israel and Judah, a circumstance from which neither will recover. From this point forward they are doomed to be a conquered people—although this does not happen for a few chapters.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you study this chapter, because there are two narrative threads which do not really cross each other:

1) Under Saul and David the twelve tribes of Israel (named after the sons of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel) were united as a formal political unit in addition to being a religious one.

2) In this chapter the Kingdom of Israel is split: the northern Kingdom retains the name of Israel and the southern Kingdom gets the name Judah.

3) The northern Kingdom consists of 10 tribes and is ruled by Jeroboam who is not a member of Solomon’s family.

4) The southern Kingdom consists of 2 tribes (Judah and Benjamin) and is ruled by Rehoboam, Solomon’s son.

5) The city of Jerusalem, where the temple that Solomon built was located, continued to be the centre of worship for all of the people of Israel but was located in the north of Judah, the southern Kingdom—that is important to keep in mind as you consider Jeroboam’s response to the question of people leaving Israel to go to Jerusalem to worship.

6) At the time of the divided Kingdom the population of Israel as a whole was about 5 million people. It is probably the case that those populations were roughly divided in half between the northern and southern kingdoms.

7) There was never a real reunification. By the time of Jesus the territory of the Jews (which was occupied by Rome) was roughly ancient Judah and the province called Samaria (into which Jesus travelled a few times) was roughly ancient Israel.

Act 1: The Kingdom Is Divided (pp. 193-195)

“So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David [Judah] to this day.”

After promising Solomon that the Kingdom would be torn from his hands God sent a prophet to appoint Jeroboam, a member of the royal court but not of the royal family, King of Israel. When Solomon died Rehoboam (his son) took over the throne and Jeroboam took off to Egypt to live in exile. He returned with a delegation of the people of Israel to petition the king (Rehoboam) to cut back on forced labour and taxes but Rehoboam refused. Ultimately, this resulted in a rebellion, led by Jeroboam, and the kingdom was divided—Jeroboam leading Israel (north) and Rehoboam leading Judah (south).

Act 2: Jeroboam Rebells Against God (pp. 196-198)

“Even after this, Jeroboam did not change his evil ways, but once more appointed priests for the high places from all sorts of people.”

The first story we hear after the dividing of the Kingdom is Jeroboam’s. Despite being chosen by God to take over from Solomon, Jeroboam is too practically minded and this compromises his obedience to God. His concern? That people from Israel would travel to Jerusalem (in Judah) to worship in the temple, thus causing his people to change allegiances and depose him. So, for practical purposes, he created idols inside of his territory and told the people to worship them: which the people in his kingdom seemed to do so gladly. This was the beginning of the rebellion of Jeroboam and the story culminates in the death of his son and the declaration by the prophet Ahijah that God was turning his back on Jeroboam.

Act 3: Rehoboam Rebells Against God (pp. 198-199)

“Judah did evil In the eyes of the LORD.”

Despite being the heir to the throne of Solomon, despite having the centre of the faith of the people of Israel in their territory, the people of Judah rebelled against God and Rehoboam led that rebellion. He installed false gods and embraced foreign religions.

Act 4: Civil War (pp. 199-201)

“There was continual warfare between Rehoboam and Jeroboam.”

From this point forward there was war between Israel and Judah. Kings came and went, some were good but most were bad. And God did not bless either nation because they both did evil and refused to be fully devoted to him.

Act 5: The Rise of Ahab, A Really Bad Guy (pp. 201-202)

“Ahab son of Omri did more evil In the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him.”

Just when it seemed that things could not get worse, Israel ends up with Ahab as king. But, that is a story to be told in the next chapter. And while Ahab’s rise was horrible, it also signaled a new rise: the rise of the prophets of God.

 

Looking back at the story of the divided kingdom, the primary theme seems to be “do not let the wisdom of your heart overshadow the wisdom of God” or “seek God’s will first.” This is seen time and time again in the hearts and decisions of the kings.

Q1: On page 192-193 we see the first major decision of Rehoboam. What do you see as his mistake? What is the result of his decision?

Q2: On page 196 we see a major decision that Jeroboam makes regarding worship of God. What causes him to make this decision? In practical terms, what are the good and bad aspects of his decision? What is the result of his decision?

Have someone read the middle section on page 199 of The Story (1 Kings 14:29-15-8).

Q3: How is David contrasted with the other kings of Judah? What are the essential characteristics that David had that the other kings of Judah did not?

Next Steps

Two Kings, two Kingdoms. But neither king followed God and so the people went where the kings led. No one was devoted to God. All taking their own path because of personal ambition, desire, fear, or simply practicality. This is a theme which began with the first humans, Adam and Eve, has plagued the human race throughout our existence. As Todd said in his sermon, “These guys were setup for success and they managed to blow it anyway.” Choosing the right actions, the actions that God wants, is hard. Never too hard, but often hard.

Q1: Are there areas in you life in which making the right choice (the hard choice) is hard or impractical or inconvenient? Think about these things and share them if you are able.

Q2: What concrete actions can you take to set yourself up for success in areas where you find yourself failing: either occasionally or habitually? Share those thoughts with your group.

Pray together for your areas of failing, that you might be fully devoted to God not just in your desires but in you’re actions as well.

 

 

TiO 15 – The Story – A Kingdom Torn in Two

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The Main Idea

The Kingdom of Israel is divided by internal strife and the disobedience of rulers and the people. While each ruler and tries in his own way to reunify they are always prevented from doing so by their own arrogance and disobedience. Over the course of many years very few rulers of either Kingdom show themselves to be fully devoted to God, as David had been.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: Consider the division of North and South Korea. What personal characteristics of the leaders of both countries will be required to make reunification possible?

Q2: Think about past friends (or family) with whom you used to be close but no longer are: what circumstances caused this?

Q3: Do you have a story about reunification with someone from your past? Tell that story to the group.

Two Kings, two Kingdoms. But neither king followed God and so the people went where the kings led. No one was devoted to God. All taking their own path because of personal ambition, desire, fear, or simply practicality. This is a theme which began with the first humans, Adam and Eve, has plagued the human race throughout our existence. As Todd said in his sermon, “These guys were setup for success and they managed to blow it anyway.” Choosing the right actions, the actions that God wants, is hard. Never too hard, but often hard.

Q1: Are there areas in you life in which making the right choice (the hard choice) is hard or impractical or inconvenient? Think about these things and share them if you are able. 

Q2: What concrete actions can you take to set yourself up for success in areas where you find yourself failing: either occasionally or habitually? Share those thoughts with your group.

Pray together for your areas of failing, that you might be fully devoted to God not just in your desires but in you’re actions as well.

 

TiO 45 – The Story – Standing Tall – Falling Hard

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The Main Idea

The people of Israel demanded a king and God gave them one. And this changed the course of the history of the people of Israel for centuries. And it all started with Samuel and Saul.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: Without escalating to physical violence with others in your group, talk about how do you feel about Canada retaining its connections to the monarchy of Great Britain?

Q2: If you were “King of the World” and you had the ability to make one law, what would it be?

Q3: Given that being a monarch comes with it a lot of obligations and protocols and restrictions, if you had the choice to be a royal, would you? For example, would you marry into the royal family of Great Britain?

Dig a Little Deeper

In the narrative of the Old Testament, the books of 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel follow a connected story with Judges. So, as we begin the story of Samuel Israel is being led by the second-last judge, Eli the priest. But chapter 10 of The Story is not about Eli, it is focussed on Samuel, the last judge, and the transition to the Kingdom of Israel with Saul as king.

Act 1: The Birth of Samuel (pp. 129-131)

“So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, ‘Because I asked the LORD for him.’”

During the judgeship of Eli we meet Hannah, one of two wives of Elkanah. Despite the love that Elkanah had for Hannah, she could not have children. Hannah bargained with God: if he would give her a son then she would give this child back to God as his servant. In the course of time, God granted Hannah her desire and she gave birth to a son who she named Samuel. True to her word, Hannah took Samuel to the temple and, explaining her vow to Eli, left Samuel in Eli’s care to serve in the temple.

Act 2: Samuel the Judge (pp. 131-135)

“The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the LORD. The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.”

Eli was punished for his sin and the sins of his sons and when he died Samuel became judge and prophet in Israel. But as Samuel grew old the people of Israel rejected his sons as leaders because of their sin and corruption.

Act 3: The Choosing of a King (pp. 135-138)

“So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, ‘You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.’”

The nation of Israel had, to this point, been distinct from the other nations. Rather than a king, who ruled them they were ruled by God, who guided judges. But, using the corruption of Samuel’s sons as an excuse for change the people demanded a king. And so God gave them what they wanted, warning them, through Samuel, that in giving them what they asked for they would get far more (or less) than they anticipated. Samuel, guided by God began a search for a king in Israel. This search culminated in the choosing of Saul to be king.

Act 4: Saul the King (pp. 139-143)

“And you will realize what an evil thing you did in the eyes of the LORD when you asked for a king.”

Saul was not all bad. But his reign suffered from two things: first, God did not bless the nation because they had sinned In asking for a king In the first place; and second, Saul was not very wise and he made bad choices at almost every turn. Chapter 10 ends with Saul disobeying God and sparing the Amalekites, thus setting up a transition to a new and better king.

Looking back at the story of Samuel and Saul, the primary theme is “be careful what you ask for”. When the people demanded a King they seemed to believe that this would make them successful and would allow them to avoid the issues that came with the corruption of the judges and their families. But God warned them of two things:

1) Demanding a King was a rejection of God: God made it clear that by choosing a King the people of Israel were rejecting the leadership model that God had put into place. He wanted to lead them through the guidance of judges who clearly saw and demonstrated the supremacy of God. But the people rejected that: they wanted a king like the other nations had.

Q1: In comparing the leadership of a judge (like Samuel) to a king (like Saul), what differences do you see between the way each led—try to stick to judge vs king rather than comparing Samuel to Saul.

Q2: Why did God want judges as leaders rather than kings?

2) Demanding a King was a longing to be like the other nations: As the people of Israel entered the promised land God cleared a way for them and cleansed the land so that they could live as a holy (set apart) people. But not all of the nations who lived in Canaan were removed and there was constant communication and intermarrying between Israel and the other nations. So, not only did they get exposed to the religions of the other nations but also to their systems of government: overwhelmingly monarchies.

Q3: What were the pitfalls in Israel wanting to be like other nations?

Next Steps

Having a king has its advantages. Kings make clear rules and are there to interpret them for us. Kings provide us with a sense of identity. But most importantly, kings are tangible, we can touch them and see them. And so we choose our kings. We want to be like the other nations and so we choose kings of money and ideology. And too often we either reject God or we move him down in importance and ask him to fall in line with our real kings. We set up money as king and then ask God to bless our money-making projects. We set up a particular political ideology as king and then we ask that God would make that ideology supreme. We set up the pursuit of pleasure as our king and then ask that God bless the things that we pursue. We rarely think about these as kings in our lives but, as Bob Dylan said, “you gotta serve somebody”. God does not say that money or power or fame or politics or pleasure are wrong, what he does say is that they are not to be king in his place.

Q1: How do you demonstrate the Kingship of God in your life?

There have been debates in the recent history of the followers of Jesus about how we describe our place in the world. We use the word “Christian” to describe who we are and then a million other words to describe what we do.

Q2: Is there a difference between a Christian who is a politician and a politician who is a Christian?

Does one of these phrases more accurately describe Biblical kingship?

If you substitute your role in society—doctor, carpenter, student, mother, executive—for “politician” in the question, does that change your approach to the role (or roles) you have?

Pray that you would discover how God’s kingship can be made visible in your life.

 

 

TiO 15 – The Story – Standing Tall – Falling Hard

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The Main Idea

The people of Israel demanded a king and God gave them one. And this changed the course of the history of the people of Israel for centuries. And it all started with Samuel and Saul.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: Without escalating to physical violence with others in your group, talk about how do you feel about Canada retaining its connections to the monarchy of Great Britain?

Q2: If you were “King of the World” and you had the ability to make one law, what would it be?

Q3: Given that being a monarch comes with it a lot of obligations and protocols and restrictions, if you had the choice to be a royal, would you? For example, would you marry into the royal family of Great Britain?

Kings are tangible, we can touch them and see them. And so we choose our kings. We want to be like the other nations and so we choose kings of money and ideology. And too often we either reject God or we move him down in importance and ask him to fall in line with our real kings. We set up money as king and then ask God to bless our money-making projects. We set up a particular political ideology as king and then we ask that God would make that ideology supreme. We set up the pursuit of pleasure as our king and then ask that God bless the things that we pursue. God does not say that money or power or fame or politics or pleasure are wrong, what he does say is that they are not to be king in his place.

Q1: How do you demonstrate the Kingship of God in your life?

There have been debates in the recent history of the followers of Jesus about how we describe our place in the world. We use the word “Christian” to describe who we are and then a million other words to describe what we do.

Q2: Is there a difference between a Christian who is a politician and a politician who is a Christian? Does one of these phrases more accurately describe Biblical kingship? If you substitute your role in society—doctor, carpenter, student, mother, executive—for “politician” in the question, does that change your approach to the role (or roles) you have?

Pray that you would discover how God’s kingship can be made visible in your life.

TiO 45 – The Story – The Faith of a Foreign Woman

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The Main Idea

Regular people. Living regular lives. Wondering if God is even noticing them. The story of Ruth is a story of two women … and a God who has not forgotten them.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: Have you ever lived somewhere temporarily, that is, an extended time somewhere that was not a holiday? Tell that story.

Q2: Have you ever visited a country or city where the predominant language is one that you do not speak? How did you feel in that circumstance? 

Q3: Have you ever been told that Winnipeggers have unusual cultural customs? Name some practices that Winnipeggers have that you believe (or have been told) are unusual. 

Dig a Little Deeper

The story of Ruth is an anomaly in the Old Testament. It while the story states that it is set in the time of the judges it is almost entirely without context. We know very little of what is going on in the rest of the world or in the life of the people of Israel with the exception of a small collection of people, focussed on Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz.

Act 1: The Preamble (pp. 121-123)

“Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons …. After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.”

Naomi and Elimelek, Jews from Bethlehem, moved to Moab along with their sons, Mahlon and Kilion. The sons married women from Moab, one of these being Ruth. However, within ten years of moving all three of the men were dead and the family of women, none of whom had any children, was left without any support: no income, no family, nothing that was familiar. So, Naomi, the now-head of the family, decided to move back to Bethlehem. Because the widows of her sons were from Moab, Naomi released them from any obligation to her and encouraged them to go back to their homes and remarry. Ruth refused to leave and so ended up in Bethlehem with Naomi.

Act 2: Ruth Meets Boaz (pp. 123-124)

“Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, a man of standing from the clan of Elimelek, whose name was Boaz.”

In order to support herself and Naomi, Ruth gleans in the field of Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s husband. To allow the poor to be cared for, God had decreed that harvesters in grain fields should leave some grain behind for the poor to gather for themselves. In the midst of this, Naomi has an idea: Ruth should marry Boaz.

Act 3: Ruth Marries Boaz (pp. 124-127)

“Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, ‘Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion, and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife ….”

Through a strange courting ritual, which involved Ruth sleeping at the feet of Boaz, a meeting at the city gates, and the exchange of sandals, Boaz and Ruth get personally connected and they eventually marry.

Act 4: The Descendants of Ruth and Boaz (pp. 127)

“Then Naomi took the child [of Ruth and Boaz] in her arms and cared for him … And they named him Obed He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.”

Because the sons of Naomi were dead, and because Boaz had purchased the property of Elimelek from Naomi, his first son became the heir to the line of Elimelek—remember, of course, that this culture was patriarchal and so all families were defined by the men. This made Obed the “son” of Naomi and an ancestor of David, the King, and Joseph, the human father of Jesus.

Looking back at the story of Ruth, we can see primarily two themes:

1) The extraordinary nature of the ordinary: Throughout her sermon, Patti talked about “ordinary people living ordinary lives.” In the story of Ruth there is nothing extraordinary, except, perhaps, the level of tragedy experienced in the family of Naomi. But yet, this story has been preserved in Scripture and demonstrates clearly the blessing that God brings to people who live upright lives.

Q1: While ordinary at the time, there are a lot of cultural practices that are spoken of, or implied, in the story of Ruth. Identify as many of these practices as you can and talk about them.

Q2: Ruth is identified as a Moabite. We’ve encountered Moabites recently in The Story. What story did we find them in (hint: check chapter 8)?

2) The plan of God is often unknown to ordinary people: While this is an ordinary story, we see the extraordinary place that it holds in the history of the people of Israel and in The Story of our salvation. The story of Ruth shows us that the extraordinary plan of God Is often composed of smaller ordinary stories of the faithfulness of his people.

Q3: How important is the narrative of Ruth in the larger context of the story of our salvation? Discuss this.

Next Steps

Most of us see our lives as ordinary. Even those who do extraordinary things often see those things as being exceptional within their own lives: and so they should. For most of our lives are spent at the mundane things: sleeping and eating and passing the salt to each other. So It Is easy to convince ourselves that we do not matter In the larger scheme of things. But all of the really extraordinary things that God has accomplished and will accomplish In the world has come through the work of people who are being faithful followers of Jesus.

In the book The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence Is described In this way:

“That he was pleased when he could take up a straw from the ground for the love of GOD, seeking Him only, and nothing else ….”

That describes the love of the ordinary as a love for God. And, when done for the love of God, the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

Q1: Do you ever feel like you are far too ordinary to be of use to the Kingdom of God? Does the story of Ruth change that perspective in any way?

Q2: What place does “faithful in the ordinary” hold in the life of the follower of Jesus? What ordinary ways are you (can you) contribute to the Kingdom of God?

Pray that you would find ordinary ways to be used by God to spread the gospel of Jesus.

 

 

TiO 15 – The Story – The Faith of a Foreign Woman

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The Main Idea

Regular people. Living regular lives. Wondering if God is even noticing them. The story of Ruth is a story of two women … and a God who has not forgotten them.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: Have you ever lived somewhere temporarily, that is, an extended time somewhere that was not a holiday? Tell that story.

Q2: Have you ever visited a country or city where the predominant language is one that you do not speak? How did you feel in that circumstance?

Q3: Have you ever been told that Winnipeggers have unusual cultural customs? Name some practices that Winnipeggers have that you believe (or have been told) are unusual.

Most of us see our lives as ordinary. Even those who do extraordinary things often see those things as being exceptional within their own lives: and so they should. For most of our lives are spent at the mundane things: sleeping and eating and passing the salt to each other. So It Is easy to convince ourselves that we do not matter In the larger scheme of things. But all of the really extraordinary things that God has accomplished and will accomplish In the world has come through the work of people who are being faithful followers of Jesus.

Q1: Do you ever feel like you are far too ordinary to be of use to the Kingdom of God? Does the story of Ruth change that perspective in any way?

Q2: What place does “faithful in the ordinary” hold in the life of the follower of Jesus? What ordinary ways are you (can you) contribute to the Kingdom of God?

Pray that you would find ordinary ways to be used by God to spread the gospel of Jesus.

 

TiO 45 – The Story – A Few Good Men… And Women

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The Main Idea

Obedience, apathy, and disobedience are a cycle. We see it clearly in the book of Judges. But every time the people of Israel fell away from God here was there to pick them back up when they called out to him.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: Do you see your life as a circle or a line? 

Q2: If given the opportunity, would you be a judge?

Q3: In thinking about Todd’s sermon, what questions or insights about this part of The Story did you come away with?

Dig a Little Deeper

The story of judges is centred on personalities but delivers a more profound message about how, when the people of Israel were not focussed on serving God, success fostered apathy and eventually turning from God.

Act 1: The People Forget God (pp. 103-104)

“After [Joshua’s] whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. And the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals.”

It did not take long before the people of Israel forgot God. Joshua was dead and so was the whole generation who, along with Joshua, had seen the hand of God as he delivered the promised land into their hands. And at that point the people forgot God and began worshipping the Gods of the other inhabitants of the land. So, God decided that rather than driving those people out of the land he would use them to test the people of Israel and to punish them for abandoning him.

Act 2: Othniel (pp. 104-105)

“The LORD gave Cushan-Risgathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him.”

The people of Israel were enslaved by Aram. God raised up a judge named Othniel and the land had peace for 40 years.

Act 3: Deborah (pp. 105-107)

“Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time.”

The people of Israel were enslaved by Jabin, king of Canaan. With Deborah’s leadership, Barak defeated Jabin’s army led by Sisera. Sisera, himself, was killed by a woman who pounded a tent peg through his head while he was sleeping. The land had peace for 40 years.

Act 4: Gideon (pp. 107-111)

“‘Pardon me, my Lord,’ Gideon replied, ‘but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.’

“The LORD answered, ‘I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.’”

This begins the story of Gideon. Through a complex filtering process, Gideon’s army was reduced to 300 men with pots, torches, and trumpets and God used that band of men to drive out the army of the Midianites. And the land had peace for 40 years.

Act 5: Samson (p. 112-119)

“Samson said, ‘Let me die with the Philistines!’ Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.”

Samson was a complicated man. Full of the Holy Spirit he often exercised very poor judgement in his personal dealings. However, God used him to lead the people of Israel and, in the end, to rid them of the oppression of the Philistines.

Looking back at the stories of the Judges, we can see the cycle of sin that the people of Israel found themselves in:

1) The people serve God: While a leader lived who had been the Instrument of God’s deliverance the people obeyed God with their whole hearts. Chapter 8 of The Story begins with a note about the end of Joshua’s life and how the people served God until the generation who knew Joshua were all dead.

2) The people drift from God: when each leader died so too did the passion with which the people served God. Eventually this drifting led to the worshipping of the God’s of the people In Canaan who were not Israelites. Sometimes this was a slow drift, other times It was as though the people were just waiting for a leader to die so that they could abandon God.

3) The people are defeated and enslaved: True to his words at the beginning of the chapter, when the people abandoned God he used the nations around to defeat and enslave Israel to teach them what life was like without God.

4) The people cry out to God: Eventually the people realized that being enslaved was not good and In their oppression they cried out to God.

5) God raises up a leader to deliver the people: God, always watching for true repentance, hears the cries f the people and sends a leader to deliver the people of Israel.

Sadly, this is not a series of events that happens just once, it is a circle where once the people are delivered they experience peace, serve God, but then drift away. Frequently the stories end with “the land had peace for 40 years.” While the number 40 is probably close to the actual number of years of peace, it is also an other way of saying “a generation of people.” So, as with Joshua, the pattern of serving God while the generation who experienced his deliverance lived continues. It seems as though the people all need their own experience of the dramatic deliverance of God.

Q1: Go through the stories in chapter 8 and identify the elements of the cycle of sin, watch specifically for phrases that are repeated exactly.

Q2: In the repeating cycles of sin what details are the same from story to story?

Q3: In the repeating cycles of sin, what details are different? How are they different?

Q4: Comment on the personality characteristics of the judges who are mentioned In chapter 8. In what ways are they the same as each other? In what ways are they different? What do you conclude about the kinds of people God called to lead the people of Israel?

Next Steps

It is easy to see the cycle of sin as it is played out in chapter 8. It is more difficult to see this cycle in our own lives, especially as we begin to drift. But for most of us, this cycle is present and we have to be watchful. However, as Todd said, we are never forced to go through the whole cycle. Repentance and forgiveness are always available and we can jump straight to deliverance and following again.

Q1: Can you identify specific points in your life where you drifted from God after following him wholeheartedly? Share these with your group if you are comfortable doing so.

Q2: What can you do to avoid this cycle? If you cannot avoid it, what can you do to shorten the time between times of wholehearted service to God?

Pray with each other about specific areas where you tend to drift from God. Pray that you will spend your time in wholehearted devotion to God and not drifting and experiencing the consequences of that drift.

 

TiO 15 – The Story – A Few Good Men… And Women

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The Main Idea

Obedience, apathy, and disobedience are a cycle. We see it clearly in the book of Judges. But every time the people of Israel fell away from God here was there to pick them back up when they called out to him.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: Do you see your life as a circle or a line?

Q2: If given the opportunity, would you be a judge?

Q3: In thinking about Todd’s sermon, what questions or insights about this part of The Story did you come away with?

It is easy to see the cycle of sin—following, drifting, enslavement, repentance—as it is played out in chapter 8. It is more difficult to see this cycle in our own lives, especially as we begin to drift. But for most of us, this cycle is present and we have to be watchful. However, as Todd said, we are never forced to go through the whole cycle. Repentance and forgiveness are always available and we can jump straight to deliverance and following again.

Q1: Can you identify specific points in your life where you drifted from God after following him wholeheartedly? Share these with your group if you are comfortable doing so.

Q2: What can you do to avoid this cycle? If you cannot avoid it, what can you do to shorten the time between times of wholehearted service to God?

Pray with each other about specific areas where you tend to drift from God. Pray that you will spend your time in wholehearted devotion to God and not drifting and experiencing the consequences of that drift.