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.

 

TiO 15 – The Story – New Commands and a New Covenant

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The Main Idea

As the people of Israel begin their trek through the wilderness God stops them for a while and begins to put some form to his relationship with them. To this point, God (Yahweh) was relatively unknown to the people, but in their escape from Egypt they saw close-up what he was capable of. Now it was time for God to reveal his holiness through laws and guidelines for his relationship with the people of Israel.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: Outside of the sun, can you think of other things which are intensely good but very dangerous if your approach them without caution?Q2: What is the balance to be struck between seeing God as holy and seeing God as approachable?
Q3: What did you hear on the weekend or read in Chapter 5 that was new or that you saw in a new way?

We all have stories of our acknowledgement of the holiness of God and our wavering allegiance to him. Q1: Can you recall an incident when you were keenly aware of the holiness of God? Talk about that.

Q2: Are there places or times (not necessarily specific events) when the true nature of God is evident to you? Tell the group about that.

It is easy to look back at the people of Israel or the followers of Jesus and laugh at how little faith or commitment they had to God. But often, when we stop to think about our own lives the same kinds of weaknesses are revealed.

Q3: Do you have specific events in your life that demonstrate your lack of faith in God?
Q4: Have you seen God come through for you despite your lack of faith? Tell the group one of those stories.Q5: Do you struggle to be faithful to God (or trust in him) when he seems silent? What do you do in those circumstances?

Pray for consistency in your life of faith: specifically, that circumstance would not dictate your level of trust in God and that you would regularly be reminded of how holy he is.

 

TiO 45 – The Story – New Commands and a New Covenant

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The Main Idea

As the people of Israel begin their trek through the wilderness God stops them for a while and begins to put some form to his relationship with them. To this point, God (Yahweh) was relatively unknown to the people, but in their escape from Egypt they saw close-up what he was capable of. Now it was time for God to reveal his holiness through laws and guidelines for his relationship with the people of Israel.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: Outside of the sun, can you think of other things which are intensely good but very dangerous if your approach them without caution?

Q2: What is the balance to be struck between seeing God as holy and seeing God as approachable?

Q3: What did you hear on the weekend or read in Chapter 5 that was new or that you saw in a new way?

Dig a Little Deeper

The people of Israel have been traveling for three months since they escaped from Egypt. They enter the Sinai desert and stop in front a a mountain, Mount Sinai. All the action of Chapter 5 takes place on and around this mountain.

Act 1: the Preparation (pp. 59-61)

“”Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.”

Chapter 5 begins with the people of Israel, having travelled for three months since leaving Egypt, stopping in the Sinai desert in front of a mountain, Mount Sinai. Here God declares to Moses that he will meet with him but that the people need to be prepared for this meeting by washing and performing cleansing rituals. God is holy and so the people must prepare to meet with a holy God.

Act 2: The 10 Commandments (pp. 61-62)

“‘You shall have no other gods before me.’”

Once the preparation is complete, Moses goes up onto the mountain and meets with God. There he receives a long list of laws which define how the people are to act in order to be seen as the treasured people of God. The most famous of the long list of laws are the 10 Commandments.

Act 3: The Exuberance of the People (pp. 62-63)

“When Moses went and told the people all the Lord’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, ‘Everything the Lord has said we will do.’”

The initial reaction to the commands of God is enthusiasm and exuberance. With one voice and wholeheartedly they proclaim that they will obey God’s commandments to them. A sacrifice is done to seal the covenant.

Act 4: Moses Meets with God (p. 63)

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain and stay here ….’”

Moses returns to the mountain to meet with God. He is there for 40 days and God speaks directly to him.

Act 5: The Sin of the People (pp. 64-67)

“When the people saw that Moses was son long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, ‘Come ,make up gods who will go before us.’”

Being an impatient and fickle people, the people of Israel grow tired of waiting for Moses to return. Fearing that this God, and his servant Moses, have simply abandoned them, they demand that Aaron, the priest and brother of Moses, make them new gods to serve. Aaron makes them a calf made of gold and a giant party breaks out. Moses returns and this does not go well for the people: not only is God angry at their sin but thousands of them are killed by those faithful to God and his commands.

Act 6: Repentance and Reconciliation (pp. 67-70)

“The Moses said to [God], ‘If your Presence does no go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are please with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?’”

God tells Moses that he is already tired of the fickleness and sin of the people and that he is going to send them away but he will not accompany them—keep in mind that as they travelled they were still accompanied by a pillar of smoke (in the day) and a pillar of fire (in the night). Moses pleads with God: “If you do not go with us then were are going to stay right here.” God relents and their journey continues.

Looking back at the story, there are two themes: the holiness of God and the fickleness of the people of Israel. God wants to give guidance to the people about how to approach him, knowing that approaching God in an unworthy manner will mean death. And so he has the people prepare and then he gives them commands which will allow them to ….

Despite all that God has brought them through during their escape from Egypt and the three months since, the people of Israel are fickle, turning to their own solutions for guidance as soon as they feel Moses has been away too long. This will be the pattern that marks them throughout their history: they are quick to praise God but quick to abandon him when he is silent.

  1. Holiness

Through Chapter 5 the holiness of God is shown. Holiness, at its most basic, means “set apart.”

Q1: In what ways does God show his “set-apartness” to the people?

Despite being set-apart, chapter 5 shows that God wants intimacy with Moses and with the people.

Q2: How do the people and Moses prepare themselves to be in the presence of God?

  1. Fickleness

In chapter 5 the people of Israel show themselves to be fickle, changing allegiances frequently.

Q3: What specific events in chapter 5 show the people of Israel going back and forth from following God and then, seemingly, abandoning him?

Q4: What are the consequences of their fickleness?

Next Steps

We all have stories of our acknowledgement of the holiness of God and our wavering allegiance to him.

Q1: Can you recall an incident when you were keenly aware of the holiness of God? Talk about that.

Q2: Are there places or times (not necessarily specific events) when the true nature of God is evident to you? Tell the group about that.

It is easy to look back at the people of Israel or the followers of Jesus and laugh at how little faith or commitment they had to God. But often, when we stop to think about our own lives the same kinds of weaknesses are revealed.

Q3: Do you have specific events in your life that demonstrate your lack of faith in God?

Q4: Have you seen God come through for you despite your lack of faith? Tell the group one of those stories.

Q5: Do you struggle to be faithful to God (or trust in him) when he seems silent? What do you do in those circumstances?

Pray for consistency in your life of faith: specifically, that circumstance would not dictate your level of trust in God and that you would regularly be reminded of how holy he is.

 

TiO 15 – The Story – Missional Excuses

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The Main Idea

After many blessings and curses in his life the whole family of Joseph and his brothers are living comfortably in Egypt. But in Chapter 4 the tide changes and the Egyptians, fearful of the success of the people of Israel, devise many ways to oppress them. The rest of Chapter 4 is God’s deliverance of the people of Israel from the hands of the Egyptians and the beginning of their journey to the land that God had promised Abraham in Chapter 2.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: Have you ever had an experience where you ended up somewhere where the Pharaoh was different and you had to start all over again gaining a reputation? This could be school, work, or a group you are a part of. Tell that story.

Q2: Have you ever been to a desert? Talk about the experience and then speculate what it would be like to wander for 40 years in that desert.

Q3: Sometimes we have to prepare a long time before we can do a job or a task. Do you have a story like that, where you had to prepare for years (or decades) before your job became clear and you could finally begin to do it?

The theme of deliverance is ongoing in the lives of the followers of Jesus. 1) we think of our initial deliverance from Sin: the power of the world over us and the release that comes as we begin to follow Jesus. 2) there is also the deliverance that comes to us day to day as we live our lives and we overcome, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the constant pull of sin in the world and in our own bodies and minds.

Q1: What parallels to your own life do you see in the story of the deliverance of the people of Israel, as found in Chapter 4 of The Story? Share those stories with your group.

Q2: What temptations do you struggle with? What do you need deliverance from?

Pray specifically for each other for those temptations and struggles that are mentioned. Rather than simply praying out in a circle do something new this week in your prayer time. For each member of your group, form a circle, put your hands on him or her, and pray specifically for strength to overcome the sin and to break its power in his or her life.

TiO 45 – The Story – But God…

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The Main Idea

In chapter 3 we see one primary story, the story of Joseph. This is the story about a flawed family and the son who experienced hardship and grace and then was able to dispense grace in return. Joseph’s life was success followed by tragedy at regular intervals: His brothers, Potiphar, Pharaoh. In the end, Joseph’s faithfulness set the stage for the beginnings of the nation that God promised to Abraham.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: Many of us heard Bible stories when we were children, at home, in Sunday School, or in other places. What Bible story from your childhood do you remember as being most significant? Why?

Q2: Have you seen a Bible story that was made into a movie? Talk about your impressions, good or bad, of these stories.

Q3: Have you ever had a moment where someone granted you a significant amount of grace in a circumstance? Tell that story.

The story of Joseph is difficult to hear because in it we see a guy who followed God but we see that his desire to follow God got him into trouble with people. Through all of those circumstances we see Joseph coming back time to his reliance on God and dispensing grace to the people around him.

Q1: Are you currently in a situation where you are (or should be) giving out grace to someone who has wronged you? Share that story if you can.

Q2: What is your response when someone else can give you grace but does not? What can the story of Joseph teach us about those circumstances?

Dig a Little Deeper

Joseph’s life was not boring, full of excitement you might say. And at each exciting turn came both the taste of success brought about by God’s work in his life, and the tragedy that came because of the sin of others.

Act 1: Sold into Slavery (pp. 29-30)

“So [Israel] said to [Joseph], ‘Go an see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.’”

In Act 1 we carry on the story from chapter 2. As that chapter closed we heard of Jacob’s special relationship with his son Joseph, the special coat that he was given to wear, and the dreams that Joseph had. All of this was an incredible strain on his relationship with his older brothers. And that is where chapter 3 picks up the story.

Act 2: Potiphar and Prison (pp. 31-33)

“The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered.” That begins the story of Joseph in the house of Potiphar, his master. But, despite the blessing of God, Potiphar’s wife wants more than Joseph is willing to give and Joseph ends up in prison. While in prison he is seen to be a good and faithful man and in addition to being given authority over prison administration he discovers an ability to interpret dreams.

Act 3: Joseph the Governor (pp. 33-40)

“Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I had a dream and no one can interpret it.’”

And with that Joseph’s final blessing begins. He is made governor of Egypt and reconciles with his family.

Act 4: Jacob’s (Israel) Family moves to Egypt (pp. 40-42)

“And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night … ‘I am the God of your father … do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there.’”

And with that the family of Israel (for that is all they were at that time) moved to Egypt, the next step in their journey first to the land of promise—remember Abraham.

Looking back at the story, there are a few themes that occur:

  • Lack of Repentance

In the story of Joseph being sold into slavery and of Potiphar’s wife we see not only sin but the failure to repent even given the potential harm of the sin.

Q1: Joseph’s brothers formed a conspiracy to get rid of Jospeh. What were the consequences of that conspiracy?

Q2: Potiphar’s wife let her lust (or her power) overwhelm her ability to do the right thing. What was the result in her not (ever) admitting to what she had done?

  • God’s Blessing, Human Curses

Over and over we see the contrast between the blessing of God on Joseph and the consequence of the sin of others.

Q3: Looking at some or all of the stories, talk about the contrasts between God blessing and humans cursing Joseph.

Q4: In the stories we are told, how does Joseph react to both the blessings and the curses?

Next Steps

The story of Joseph is difficult to hear because in it we see a guy who followed God but we see that his desire to follow God got him into trouble with people. Through all of those circumstances we see Joseph coming back time to his reliance on God and dispensing grace to the people around him.

Q1: Are you currently in a situation where you are (or should be) giving out grace to someone who has wronged you? Share that story if you can.

Q2: What is your response when someone else can give you grace but does not? What can the story of Joseph teach us about those circumstances?

Pray that, like Joseph, you will embrace the grace that God gives and have the courage to dispense grace to those who do not deserve it, especially those who have hurt you.

TiO 15 – The Story – But God…

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The Main Idea

In chapter 3 we see one primary story, the story of Joseph. This is the story about a flawed family and the son who experienced hardship and grace and then was able to dispense grace in return. Joseph’s life was success followed by tragedy at regular intervals: His brothers, Potiphar, Pharaoh. In the end, Joseph’s faithfulness set the stage for the beginnings of the nation that God promised to Abraham.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: Many of us heard Bible stories when we were children, at home, in Sunday School, or in other places. What Bible story from your childhood do you remember as being most significant? Why?

Q2: Have you seen a Bible story that was made into a movie? Talk about your impressions, good or bad, of these stories.

Q3: Have you ever had a moment where someone granted you a significant amount of grace in a circumstance? Tell that story.

The story of Joseph is difficult to hear because in it we see a guy who followed God but we see that his desire to follow God got him into trouble with people. Through all of those circumstances we see Joseph coming back time to his reliance on God and dispensing grace to the people around him.

Q1: Are you currently in a situation where you are (or should be) giving out grace to someone who has wronged you? Share that story if you can.

Q2: What is your response when someone else can give you grace but does not? What can the story of Joseph teach us about those circumstances?

Pray that, like Joseph, you will embrace the grace that God gives and have the courage to dispense grace to those who do not deserve it, especially those who have hurt you.

TiO 15 – The Story – Come to the Altar!

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The Main Idea

This week began the second major arc in The Story, the preparation for God’s final act of reconciliation with humans. The Old Testament, as this is commonly referred to, is not an old and irrelevant story but is, in fact, essential to understanding the story of Jesus.

Chapter 2 from The Story recounts the stories of the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with a small, but significant character named Ishmael. The story of Abraham is, in so many ways, a story of altars.  One altar in particular. In the message this week, Todd called us to discover the six altars in the life of Abraham and a call to be altered…by God’s work at the altar.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: Have you ever seen an altar? Tell the story of the circumstance and the function of that altar.

Q2: Have you ever had to make a significant sacrifice? Why did you have to do it? What was the result?

Pray together for the things in your life that need to be sacrificed. Pray for courage and resolve.