11 August 2019

Joshua 5:1–9

You’ve been literally following (cloud by day; fire by night) God for 40 years. In that time, you’ve eaten mysterious white stuff that shows up at dawn and melts by noon. Your clothes and sandals don’t wear out. Water mysteriously appears in the desert. In other words, 40 years of nothing much. Nothing much? Seriously? Isn’t just that short list above enough? Apparently not.

The covenant of circumcision between God and Abraham was abandoned. Many scholars have concluded that as circumcision was also practiced by the Egyptians, there was some sort of circumcision ban for the Israelites. While the Scriptures do not say that, there was an issue revolving around Moses’ son not being circumcised (Exodus 4:24–26), which would indicate that Moses did not practice it. At the same time, circumcision was part of living out the law.

Despite the Abrahamic covenantal requirement. Despite its requirement for Passover, being part of the tribe, or participating in the communal religious life, circumcision wasn’t being done. Were the Israelites completely clueless, including Moses? One could argue that the adults were circumcised. They just didn’t circumcise their sons (i.e., pass on the faith and covenant). Is that really any better?

What was God thinking? Throughout the journey, the Israelites were tested and tried. Yet, circumcision didn’t come up. Other tests of faith occurred, but this still didn’t come up. It almost seems that God wrote them off…not completely, but that they had lost their place as THE people who went into the Promised Land.

In a blood action (blood representing life), the Israelite males were circumcised. God’s words made it clear that the time of the desert journey was over. There was a new path and a new journey before the Israelites. It was now the next generation’s responsibility to carry things forward, and the did. However…

“That whole generation was also gathered to their ancestors. After them, another generation rose up who did not know the LORD or the works he had done for Israel.” —Judges 2:10

1) Traditions and habits intended to develop and trained often get tossed aside because they are the “old way”. What traditions and habits have you dismissed?

2) We are quick to see our traditions and habits being discarded, but fail to see those that we discarded. Why is that?

3) New traditions and habits can be just as powerful as old ones. What new ones can you help to build and pass on?

4) No tradition or habit is any good unless effectively passed on to the next generation of believers. What will you do to pass it on?

10 August 2019

Esther 4, Jeremiah 29:4–14

“Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this” Ester 4:14

“The LORD called me before I was born. He named me while I was in my mother’s womb.” Isaiah 49:1

“I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born. I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5

It sounds so wonderful, at times, to know that God as set a plan in place for us. The problem is that most people who share such a setting apart are few and far between. For whatever reason, God speaks to some, and not to others. God sometimes speaks once, and then nothing.

On the other hand, often the dreams and desires of our earthly parents feel more like a dead weight than helpful. Perhaps it’s that, “they don’t really know me” feeling is part of it. We don’t have that excuse with God.
However, if we look at those in the Scriptures who had that God called me to experience, it generally didn’t include gentle and warm stories. It often involved heartache, courage, loss, pain, slavery, exclusion. It wasn’t fun. A lot of us understand that truth, and yet still ache to hear God call us.

1) Do you think the desire for God’s call is our God-ly wiring, or do you think is because of the distortion we experience because of sin?

2) Even people who have “heard” from God often still seek it. Why do you think that is?

3) What are ways you should be looking to hear from God?

9 August 2019

Haggai 1:4–14, Amos 7:10–17

It would be nice if nice things just happened. It would be nice if all the stuff that needs to happen, just happened. It doesn’t work that way. Someone has to take responsibility.

God had fulfilled his promise that the remnants of Israel would return from exile. Now they were starting to recover and thrive. They had homes, buildings not tents. They were rooting themselves back into the land. At the heart of their thought processes, one would think that God would be front and center. It seems, however, that this wasn’t the case. Despite their return to the land and their homes, they were merely surviving, not thriving.

Haggai goes to them and pronounces that they have their shelter. God should now have a place for them to worship Him. To their credit, they listened. The house of God was rebuilt. God blessed the people again.

Amos, on the other hand, did not receive a positive reception. The response of the powerful was antagonistic, at best. Amos was a prophet when the nations of Israel and Samaria were at relative peace, had mostly restored the boundaries of David and Solomon, and were doing well. The nation was doing well. Actually, the powerful were doing well. The powerful were living lives of excess, and not thinking about tomorrow.

God did not respond well to their selfishness. God informed them that the exile was certain and that all they treasured would no longer be there. That made them very unhappy to hear these words. They wanted to silence them.

Haggai and Amos faithfully delivered God’s words. The people responded quite differently.

1) How are you responding to God’s call on your life? Are you more like those who responded to Haggai or those who responded to Amos?

2) We often look at the superficial and say we’re fine. We often do not see the truth. Where are we not fine? Where are you not fine? Where is the church not fine?

3) Being faithful to God’s house, and being faithful to God’s church often have tension between them. Why do you think that is? What can you do to ease it?