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.

TiO 45 – The Story – The Battle Begins

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The Main Idea

Now that Moses is dead the leadership of the people of Israel falls to Joshua. You’ll remember that he was one of the spies (along with Caleb) who was confident that the people of Canaan would fall in the face of God. The story of Joshua is one of obedience and a renewal of the idea that God is a holy God and that the land needed to be prepared for his people to live in it. There are, frankly, some hard and bloody incidents in Joshua but through it all the supremacy of God over all the nations and the need for the people of God to be pure comes through clearly.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1:  Finish this sentence: “War, what is it good for?”

Q2: Do you come from a pacifist tradition? How were you taught (school, home, church) to view violence?

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

Dig a Little Deeper

The people of Israel enter the promised land. But, between them and “happily ever after” stand the people who inhabit their fortified cities.

Act 1: The Taking of Jericho (pp. 89-93)

“Then the LORD said to Joshua, ‘See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.’”

Having forded the Jordan river the people of Israel found themselves at the barred gates of the city of Jericho. However, beforehand they had secured the collusion of Rahab, an inhabitant of the city, and they had been able to get advanced information about it. Strangely, God did not ask the people to attack immediately but, instead, had them march around the walls before, finally, God’s hand moved, the walls fell down, and the victory was secured. Everything in the city was killed or destroyed except for Rahab, whose family was preserved and who became a descendant of Joseph, the father of Jesus.

Act 2: The Ups and Downs of Ai (pp. 94-95)

“Twelve thousand men and women fell that day—all the people of Ai.”

For the most part the armies of Israel enjoyed success as they moved across the land of Canaan. Ai was a notable exception, and this because of the disobedience of one man, Achan. However, once this was taken care of the defeat of Ai could be executed.

Act 3: Five Kings and the Defense of Gibeon (pp. 96-98)

“So Joshua marched up from Gilgal with his entire army, including all the best fighting men. The LORD said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you.’”

As a leader, Joshua seemed consistently wise and attentive to God. With one exception, he made a treaty with Gibeon, one of the nations in Canaan. Having done this, Israel was compelled to come to the aid of Gibeon when a coalition of 5 kings attacked Gibeon, partly as a ploy to draw Israel into someone else’s war and weaken them. However, once again, God was with the armies of Israel and they prevailed and the 5 kings were killed and their land taken.

Act 4: Enemies Rise and Fall (pp. 98-99)

“The LORD said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid of them, because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them, slain, over to Israel.’”

As the victories of Israel over the nations In Canaan mounted the remaining kings became more nervous. But none of the alliances that were formed were ever a match for God and his people. And so, finally, the land was completely conquered.

Act 5: The Death of Joshua (pp. 99-102)

“So Joshua took the entire land, just as the LORD had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions. Then the land had rest from war.”

Once the land had been conquered Joshua’s task was complete. And the land had rest from war and finally Joshua died. But before his death Joshua reminded the people of the faithfulness of God and their need to continue to be faithful to him. And he declared what he desired for the whole of the people, “‘But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.’”

Looking back at the story, there are two themes: the holiness of God and the two-sided relationship between God and his people. Of note is also the recurring theme of “strong and courageous” and the complete lack of complaining that comes with obeying God and victory over their enemies.

  1. The Holiness of God

The holiness of God is not a new theme. We’ve encountered it specifically as the people approached Mount Sinai and we have seen what happened to the people when they violated God’s holiness. After all of the explaining of the violence and war and the need to rid the land of the people who lived there, we encounter the need for the people of God to clear the evil from the land before they can settle there. And this is because a holy God needs a holy people and makes his people holy. This realization that God is holy (set apart) and that his people are also to be holy (set apart) is one of the reasons that the land and cities needed to be cleared before the people of Israel could live there. This does not make us feel better about all of the carnage and death but it is a reason for it.

Q1: What examples are there in this chapter of the consequences of not recognizing the holiness of God or his command that his people be holy (set apart)?

Q2: What do you think of the idea that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are radically different?

  1. The two-sided relationship between God and the people of Israel

The covenant that God made with Abraham and the promises that God has made since that promise were never one-sided. God had conditions to his blessing. The people were to serve him and be obedient. This chapter shows how well things could go if the people listened to God and did what he asked.

Q3: What conditions are placed onto the people in terms of their side of the blessing of God, that is, in order for God to bless them, what did they need to do? Can you give examples from chapter 6?

Q4: Are the blessings of God and his grace the same thing? Give examples from the chapter.

Next Steps

War and the bloody nature of ancient near-Eastern society is a stumbling block for some people as they consider the Old Testament as a description of God and his relationship with people. It is clear from chapter 6 in The Story that sometimes God comes with a sword and that sword is wielded by his people. As followers of Jesus we acknowledge the Old Testament and the New Testament in combination as the written revelation of God’s relationship with human beings. So, we cannot avoid talking about these things.

Q1: It has often been said that many Christians have Sunday School ideas of the stories of the Bible, that is, we read a story in a children’s Bible and from that point forward we understand the details of that story as the sum-total of the facts. Are there stories from your childhood (or adulthood) that you see differently now that you are looking at them more closely?

Q2: Have you ever been asked by someone who is not a Christian to justify the God of the Old Testament? What did you say?

Q3: “Be strong and courageous.” How does that apply to your life, right now?

Q4: Did you take on the challenge to not complain last week? How did that go for you?

Share with each other about your need to be strong and courageous in the week to come. The pray for each other.

 

TiO 15 – The Story – The Battle Begins

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The Main Idea

Now that Moses is dead the leadership of the people of Israel falls to Joshua. You’ll remember that he was one of the spies (along with Caleb) who was confident that the people of Canaan would fall in the face of God. The story of Joshua is one of obedience and a renewal of the idea that God is a holy God and that the land needed to be prepared for his people to live in it. There are, frankly, some hard and bloody incidents in Joshua but through it all the supremacy of God over all the nations and the need for the people of God to be pure comes through clearly.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1:  Finish this sentence: “War, what is it good for?”

Q2: Do you come from a pacifist tradition? How were you taught (school, home, church) to view violence?

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

War and the bloody nature of ancient near-Eastern society is a stumbling block for some people as they consider the Old Testament as a description of God and his relationship with people. It is clear from chapter 6 in The Story that sometimes God comes with a sword and that sword is wielded by his people. As followers of Jesus we acknowledge the Old Testament and the New Testament in combination as the written revelation of God’s relationship with human beings. So, we cannot avoid talking about these things.

Q1: It has often been said that many Christians have Sunday School ideas of the stories of the Bible, that is, we read a story in a children’s Bible and from that point forward we understand the details of that story as the sum-total of the facts. Are there stories from your childhood (or adulthood) that you see differently now that you are looking at them more closely?

Q2: Have you ever been asked by someone who is not a Christian to justify the God of the Old Testament? What did you say?

Q3: “Be strong and courageous.” How does that apply to your life, right now?

Q4: Did you take on the challenge to not complain last week? How did that go for you?

Share with each other about your need to be strong and courageous in the week to come. The pray for each other.

TiO 15 – The Story – Wandering

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The Main Idea

The people of Israel leave the foot of Mount Sinai, having camped there for a year, and move towards their goal, the promised land of Canaan. But their grumbling and complaining catches up to them and they cry out to be allowed to return to Egypt, even after 2 of their spies say that God will give them the land of promise. As a result, they end up wandering in the desert as they await both the deaths of the generation who escaped from Egypt and, sadly, of Moses himself

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: How do you feel about snakes?

Q2: If you could choose only one food to eat for a whole year, what would it be?

Q3: What questions or insights about this chapter of The Story did you come away with?

A few years ago there was a campaign, started by a church in the United States, to encourage and remind people not to complain. They created and sent out rubber bracelets that had printed on them “No Complaining”. It was a rousing success, at least in that church. People stopped complaining and, instead, began to focus on those things in their lives that were blessings from God. Despite seeing God work, we often look back to more stable times and long for “Egypt”.

Q1: Are there times in your past that you look back fondly on and long to recapture? These are not nostalgic memories like “Wasn’t it nice when our kids were younger” but, instead, times that you really desire to return to so that you can avoid the trials of the present. Talk about those times and why you long to be there and not where you are.

Q2: Have you experienced the deliverance of God from hard times? In what way does (or can) this knowledge of deliverance help as you face the present or the future?

Q3: Do you complain a lot? Do other people think you do? Would it be possible to go a week, a day, an hour, without complaining? How would a focus on blessing in all circumstances change the way you live?

Challenge: go for a day without complaining. When you do feel like complaining turn that into positive action, encouraging or frank communication, and a refocus on the goodness of God. Be prepared to report back to your group next week about the results of this experience.

Pray for each other as you seek to live a life of celebration for the goodness that he has given and the trials he has brought you through.

TiO 45 – The Story – Wandering

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The Main Idea

The people of Israel leave the foot of Mount Sinai, having camped there for a year, and move towards their goal, the promised land of Canaan. But their grumbling and complaining catches up to them and they cry out to be allowed to return to Egypt, even after 2 of their spies say that God will give them the land of promise. As a result, they end up wandering in the desert as they await both the deaths of the generation who escaped from Egypt and, sadly, of Moses himself.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: How do you feel about snakes?

Q2: What kind of birds do you like to eat the most?

Q3: If you could choose only one food to eat for a whole year, what would it be?

Q4: In thinking about Jon’s sermon, what questions or insights about this part of The Story did you come away with? 

Dig a Little Deeper

The people leave Sinai but despite the continual provision of God they continue to complain at every turn and in every circumstance.

Act 1: God Sends Quail (pp. 71-73)

“‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, then you will eat meat.’”

It seems that no matter what God provides to the people of Israel they always have something to complain about. So, in the previous chapter they complained that there was no food and God provided manna, a substance that seems to have been like wafers baked from seeds. But the people complained. So, they demanded meat and God provided it. But he was not happy that he had to do this in the midst of their complaining and so accompanying the quail that he provided, he also made them sick and many people died.

Act 2: Miriam and Aaron Complain (pp. 73-74)

“Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. ‘Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?’ they asked. ‘Hasn’t he also spoken through us?’”

As if Moses did not have enough problems trying to keep the people in line and trying to satisfy their requests, now his brother Aaron and his sister Miriam start to complain. You have to expect that the complaint about the Cushite wife is just an excuse because it seems that their real issue was being overlooked as leaders and prophets. God called a meeting, explained the favourable position that Moses had, and then struck Miriam with leprosy as a punishment. After a week of disgrace, Miriam was healed and she was able to enter the camp again—lepers were segregated from the rest of the people as some forms of it were very contagious.

Act 3: Spies in the Land (pp. 74-78)

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites.’”

At this point it seems like the wandering of the people of Israel has come to an end. They were three years out of Egypt and right on the border of Canaan, the promised land. And, seemingly, all it was going to take was a plan to capture the land and they would be home. So, they gathered together a representative from each tribe of Israel—one family grouping for each son of Jacob, later name Israel—and sent those 12 men into Canaan to survey the land and its inhabitants. Each came back and said, “The land is rich and there are powerful people there.” But only two said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” The people sided with the pessimists and God met out a severe punishment: no one who saw the miracles and power of God in Egypt—where everyone was begging to return—will see the promised land, that whole generation will die wandering in the wilderness.

Act 4: The Sin of Moses (pp. 78-79)

“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘… speak to that rock before [the people of Israel] and it will pour out its water.’”

Moses, furious with the people of Israel for, once again, complaining against God, makes a terrible mistake. Rather than doing what God tells him, and speaking to the rock to release its water, he raises his staff and hits the rock, not once but twice. And the rock produces water but the punishment for his disobedience is harsh: Moses will see, but not enter into, the land of promise.

Act 5: Perils in the Desert (pp. 79-83) 

“The whole Israelite community set out ….”

The people of Israel wandered for 40 years in the desert. Keep in mind that their wandering happened all within close proximity of their end goal, the land of Canaan. And not only did they grumble but they faced opposition in the form of nations who either would not let the people of Israel pass through their lands or who were outright hostile and sent armies to oppose them. Through all of this God was faithful to protect his people—even though he punished them occasionally for their continued ungratefulness.

Act 6: The Death of Moses (pp. 83-88)

“Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.”

While Moses was not allowed to enter into the promised land, God did allow him to see it. And, after blessing and challenging the people to serve God and obey him and after commissioning Joshua to lead the people in his place, Moses died.

Looking back at the story, there are two themes: complaining and disobedience and victory over enemies. Despite having recently (within about 3 years) seen God’s power as he defeated the Egyptians and delivered the people of Israel from them, the people of Israel complain. But, each time an obstacle came into their way God’s hand delivered them from the obstacle.

  • Complaining and Disobedience

Through the first half of chapter 6 we hear the complaints of the people. They are dissatisfied with the provision of God for them, they are tired of wandering, they want to go back to Egypt. Even Moses lets his anger cause him to falter in his trust for God. All of this dooms the generation who experienced the hand of God deliver them from Egypt to wander the desert, never being able to enter the land of promise, a land which remained only a few days journey from where they were during the whole of their 40 year journey.

Q1: Why did the people complain, that is, what situations throughout chapter 6 resulted in complaints?

Q2: What were the result of the complaints? What were the immediate results and what were the long-term results?

  • Victory over enemies

Once the fate of the people was decided in the middle of chapter 6—that they would wander in the wilderness for 40 years—the narrative turned to the resistance the people of Israel faced in the form of the inhabitants of their land of wandering. However, every nation that resisted the people of Israel was soundly defeated.

Q3: What were the circumstances of the military victories that the people of Israel experienced?

Q4: What purpose might God have had for aiding these victories? 

Next Steps

A few years ago there was a campaign, started by a church in the United States, to encourage and remind people not to complain. They created and sent out rubber bracelets that had printed on them “No Complaining”. It was a rousing success, at least in that church. People stopped complaining and, instead, began to focus on those things in their lives that were blessings from God. Despite seeing God work, we often look back to more stable times and long for “Egypt”.

Q1: Are there times in your past that you look back fondly on and long to recapture? These are not nostalgic memories like “Wasn’t it nice when our kids were younger” but, instead, times that you really desire to return to so that you can avoid the trials of the present. Talk about those times and why you long to be there and not where you are.

Q2: Have you experienced the deliverance of God from hard times? In what way does (or can) this knowledge of deliverance help as you face the present or the future?

Q3: Do you complain a lot? Do other people think you do? Would it be possible to go a week, a day, an hour, without complaining? How would a focus on blessing in all circumstances change the way you live?

Challenge: go for a day without complaining. When you do feel like complaining turn that into positive action, encouraging or frank communication, and a refocus on the goodness of God. Be prepared to report back to your group next week about the results of this experience.

Pray for each other as you seek to live a life of celebration for the goodness that he has given and the trials he has brought you through.