Kings, Prophets, and Mission – Elisha
Read: 2 Kings 4: 1-7
In verse 1, this widow faced economic disaster in addition to grieving the loss of her husband. According to Israelite law, people could sell themselves or members of their family into slavery to pay off a debt. The Hebrew slave would be set free and released from any remaining debt in the seventh year of their slavery. Some specific human rights of the slave were included in the law. This emergency and temporary economic solution reflected the Hebrew history of once having been enslaved in Egypt and redeemed by God with compassion as his valued and chosen people (Exodus 21:1-11; Deuteronomy 15:1-18 and 23:12; Jeremiah 34:14).
The prophet Elisha responded to the desperate and destitute widow with compassion, dignity, and respect. He did not immediately give her a bag of money. Instead, he asked a question, acknowledging she may already have the key to the solution in her possession. He listened to hear how God was already working in this woman’s life through what God had provided.
- When you see someone’s daily needs are not being met, how do you respond? What responses to poverty have you seen and what messages have these communicated to the impoverished person? What responses communicate God’s love, compassion, respect, and value to someone today who is unable to meet his/her basic needs?
- In verse 2, the woman facing tremendous uncertainty for herself and her family was unable to recognize what she had as something that God could bless and use. Stop and consider what God has provided for you, materially and otherwise. How has God used these things to bless you? How does God want to bless others with these things?
- Most forms of modern economic slavery are destructive to the human being. Some examples are various forms of abuse, prostitution, selling human body organs, homelessness, human trafficking, child abandonment, and child labor. In what ways is your church addressing systemic evils locally and in other countries? How can you replace these evils with redemptive and restorative systems that reflect God and his mission?
Kings, Prophets, and Mission – Ahab and Elijah
Read: 1 Kings 16:30-33; 18:1-2; 18:16 – 19:18
God directed his prophet Elijah to confront King Ahab and the Israelites about their Baal worship. Following a dramatic display of the Lord’s power and victory over Baal, a mass conversion of the people, and a mass execution of the Baal prophets, the Baal-worshiping queen issued a death sentence for Elijah. Fear caused Elijah to flee into hiding in the southern Arabian Peninsula.
- What question does God ask Elijah in verses 19:9 and 19:13? For God’s mission, who knows where we are most needed? In 19:4-5, Elijah gave up and quit, but God wanted to work through Elijah more (see 1 Kgs 19:15-16; 19:19-21; 21:17-29; 2 Kgs 1). Who knows when our contribution to God’s mission is complete?
- List the works of the Lord in the entire scripture passage. Then read Elijah’s response in 1 Kings 19:14. Elijah chose a pitiful desperation plea over a word of praise and thanksgiving. Can we be so blind from our concerns that we fail to see what God is doing around us and praise him for it? Could Elijah’s response be the reason the Lord chose to replace him?
- In these passages, God worked through a gentle whisper in an empty desert, and a fiery, public, mountain-top experience. Are you listening for what the Lord wants to say, regardless of the delivery method? Are you willing to serve where, when, and in the situations God chooses in his mission?
SONGS AND MISSION – PART 2, PRAISING GOD BEFORE THE NATIONS
Read: Psalms 67, 96, 138, and 145
The promise that God would bless all peoples and nations on earth through Abraham’s offspring (Genesis 12:2-3; 18:18-19) was embraced in the understanding and songs of the Israelites during the kingdom period. The Israelites were to maintain their relationship with Yahweh in the Promised Land. As they continued to obey him, they would experience his blessings. The nations would wonder who the god was whom they served and the Israelites were to point the peoples to Yahweh. Their relationship with Yahweh was to model and witness to the rest of the world God’s character (who he was), how he related with his people, and how he sustained them. The Israelites looked forward to the time when all members of creation would know and worship Yahweh.
- What reasons do these Psalms give for telling the nations about Yahweh?
- What are some of your favorite songs in which the community of believers praises God for who he is and calls others to join you in praise?
- In the Old Testament, the Israelites witnessed about God by living in relationship with him (modeling as an example) and telling about (pointing to) him when the nations observed or came to them. This is different than the type of witness found in the New Testament of the call to Go, as one being sent out to the nations, to tell about God and his salvation (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 10:2-3; John 20:21). Describe the most common and most effective type(s) and examples of witness to the nations used by your local church. Would God want you to try a new type, method, or example of witness to the nations?
- How can we experience now a little bit of what it will be like when all of creation worships Yahweh?
SONGS AND MISSION – PART 1, GOD OF THE UNIVERSE
Read: Psalms 47,65,98,99,103 and 113.
The Psalms are a collection of songs sung by the Israelites in worship from the time period in which the kings ruled. As reflected in the Psalms, the Israelites knew Yahweh as righteous, just, merciful, compassionate, loving, and faithful. He is the Creator of all things. He is sovereign, ruler of the entire cosmos, and judge. Being just, he punishes sin, wickedness, and worshipping the creation instead of the Creator.
- The Psalmist called all of God’s creation to praise and worship him out of love and adoration. Why does the Psalmist do this? See Psalms 67 and 84. What will happen when the entire creation worships God?
- Read Psalms 66:8-12 and 9:7-19. How can the Israelites rejoice from God’s judgment? Why would ‘the nations’ (those who did not worship Yahweh) rejoice from God’s judgment?
- The universal calls to praise are found among other songs which request very particular blessings for the nation of Israel as God’s chosen people and severe punishment for their enemies and ‘the wicked’. How should we understand these seemingly conflicting notions of selective exclusivism vs. universal inclusivism? Nationalism vs. all peoples? Harsh punishment vs. multi-cultural, -national, and -ethnic gatherings of worship in unity?
- The Psalms give us a God-centered perspective of the cosmos, his ordering, and his rule. What other perspectives compete with this understanding of how the world works? How does our perspective influence our purpose, activities, and understanding of God’s mission?
THE TEMPLE AND MISSION
Read: 1 Kings 8:1-30, 41-43, and 52-61.
God promised to David that his son would build the temple. The temple symbolized that God chose Israel to be his people and he chose to dwell among them. It reminded them of God’s covenantal and unique relationship with them, which included their deliverance from Egypt (Exodus 6:6-8; 19:4-6) and part of the covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3). The completion of the temple fulfilled both the promise to David, and was to contribute to the fulfillment of the remaining part of the promise given to Abraham: “…in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Solomon prayed during the temple dedication for the last part of the promise to be fulfilled (1 Kings 8:43, 60). He understood that when all the peoples of the earth know and call on God’s name, they will be blessed. Solomon believed the temple would be the location where Jews and foreigners who were attracted to Yahweh would come, such as the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10:6-9). However, if the king and Israel did not uphold their part of the covenant (to worship God alone and obey him), God’s mission would be disrupted and the effects of sin would follow. The wisest and wealthiest king of that time learned this the hard way (1 Kings 11:4-12).
- In 1 Corinthians 3:16, our bodies are referred to as God’s temple, where the Holy Spirit lives. Is the joy from having my life fully surrendered to God’s will an attraction to God for others?
- Today, many foreigners come to our cities due to unemployment, poverty, war, persecution or oppression. How do we see foreigners – do we welcome and help them, do we tolerate them, do we pray for them, or do we wait for the day when they will go home? Do our actions, behavior, words, and spirit with foreigners attract people to the Lord Jesus Christ or repel them?
- What are some specific ways that Christians disrupt God’s mission to people from other lands? What are some specific ways that Christians can join with God in his mission to people from other lands?
DAVID AND MISSION – PART 2, THE DAVIDIC COVENANT
Read: 2 Samuel 5:12; 2 Samuel 7:8-16; 2 Samuel 7:22-29; 1 Chronicles 16:7-36; Psalm 89:19-37.
David believed that God’s promise to establish David’s family forever on the throne of Israel was part of the fulfillment of the promises with Abraham and the Israelites. David was selected as God’s chosen king, as the Israelites were selected as God’s chosen people. Through this kingship, God would protect and bless them forever. He would use Israel to demonstrate to the other nations his love, holiness, and sovereignty so that all people would know and worship him.
As with the other covenants with Abraham and the Israelites, this special privilege included certain responsibilities. A list of expectations for the king had been given to Moses in Deuteronomy 17:14-20, just as expectations had been given to Abraham and the law had been given to the Israelites. As God’s mission has a universal scope, the king and Israel also would be expected to be a living witness to the nations about God.
- Compare the covenant made with David to those made with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 18:17-19; Genesis 22:17-18,) and the Israelites (Exodus 19:3-6; Deuteronomy 14:1-12 and 26:16-19). What privileges and responsibilities are in each?
- In 2 Samuel 7, God promises to establish David’s throne forever. Matthew 1:1-17 traces the lineage from Abraham to David to the Messiah. How would you explain to someone how David’s kingdom is still established today? Which privileges and responsibilities apply today?
- There are many instances in scripture where David calls to the Israelites, other kings and nations, different members of the creation, and the whole earth to praise and worship God. See Psalm 40:9-10; Psalm 86:9; Psalm 103:22; Psalm 138:4-5; Psalm 145:10-12 and 145:21. In what ways do you and your church encourage different groups in all the earth to do the same?
DAVID AND MISSION – PART 1, A MAN AFTER GOD’S OWN HEART
Read: 1 Samuel 16:6-13; 2 Samuel 22:1-23:5; Psalm 40:1-10; Acts 13:22.
After Saul failed to worship God alone and attempted to control God’s mission, God chose a new king for Israel. This time it was someone after God’s own heart. In the Hebrew understanding, the heart was the seat of the will; therefore, God’s will was David’s will. David understood that God’s will was for all of creation to know and worship him (1 Chronicles 16:23-36). David served God and relied on the daily strength the Lord gave him, not his own. Recorded in the scriptures are descriptions of his righteousness, justice, faithfulness, obedience, and his conversations and intimacy with God (2 Samuel 22:21-25; Psalm 5:4-8; Ps 7:8; Ps 26; Ps 40:1-10). God’s choice in David was unlikely to the world: the youngest brother, an unrespected profession, and a family heritage including a prostitute, an adulteress, and an immigrant.
- God’s statement in Acts 13:22 comments first about who David was as a person, and second, his ability to perform and accomplish for God’s purpose. David’s ability to do and lead as a king resulted from his capacity to be. His identity was not subject to his performance; his performance was subject to and resulted from his character. What does this say about the importance of being in relationship to doing? If God were to make a statement about my character and identity, what would he say? How do I give God the opportunity to cleanse and prepare my heart for when God asks me to participate in his mission?
- In 2 Samuel 22:21-25, David gives a positive testimony about his actions, as in Psalm 26. Yet David was not perfect; two examples of his sins and God’s judgment are found in 2 Samuel 11:1 – 12:20, and 1 Chronicles 21. When confronted with his sin, how did David respond? How did God respond to David?
- How does one rely on the Lord’s strength instead of on one’s own (1 Samuel 30:6; 2 Samuel 22:33)?
A KING FOR ISRAEL AND MISSION
Read: 1 Samuel 8; 1 Samuel 9:15-17; 1 Samuel 10:1; 1 Samuel 10:6-9; 1 Samuel 10:17-25; 1 Samuel 12:6-25; 1 Samuel 13:11-14; 1 Samuel 15:16-16:1.
The period of the judges includes many instances of Israel’s failure to worship and serve God alone, as his holy people in a witness to the nations. The culmination of their failure is found in 1 Samuel in their request for a human king to lead their people in order to be like the other nations around them. Even though Israel rejected God as their king, God’s love for all people and his intent to use the Israelites to fulfill his mission of redeeming, reconciling, and restoring creation did not change. God was willing to appoint Saul to be king and to work through him and the Israelites if they would worship, serve, and obey him. When Saul failed to serve and obey God, another king had to be chosen who would serve God and wanted to participate in his mission.
- God chooses to use human beings as his channels for his mission to the nations and invites us to participate in it. We have the choice to join him, and he sometimes adjusts his plans to reflect our choices, as in the example of appointing a king for Israel. What does this tell us about the value God holds in our participation in his mission?
- The Israelites allowed insecurity, fear, political might, and unrighteousness to turn them from serving and obeying God alone. What distractions, temptations, and concerns tempt you and your church from an unswerving obedience, holiness, and faithfulness to God alone? What are the most helpful ways to avoid these snares?
- Compare Jesus’ response to temptations in Luke 4:5-8 with Saul’s (1 Samuel 13:5-14; 15:16-24). Is there some part of your heart that needs to be changed or surrendered so that God can use you in his mission?
RUTH AND MISSION
Read: Ruth 1:1-4:22.
The book of Ruth is a story about two women, who were widowed, refugees, poor, and destitute with no financial or physical security. Both of them experienced life as a foreigner and ethnic minority in another country. Past issues and tensions between Israel and Moab also likely negatively influenced relations for them. In the midst of economic, social, cultural, political, and gender marginalization, extraordinary acts of commitment and faithfulness abounded. Just as God actively orchestrated provision for these women, he also provided for Israel in the birth of Obed, who would become the grandfather of King David.
- In what ways was God faithful and committed to Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz? In what ways were these characters faithful to each other?
- Look at Genesis 12:2-3, Judges 2:10-13, Judges 21:25, Ruth 1:1, Ruth 4:17, Matthew 1:1-17. In light of these verses, in what ways was God faithful and committed to Israel? In what ways is God faithful and committed to all people?
- Through Boaz’s acts of compassion, kindness, respect, and responsibility, he redeemed Ruth, her family relations, social status, property, livelihood, and security. How was Ruth’s redemption similar to the comprehensive redemption offered to all people by our ultimate Redeemer, Jesus Christ?
- In hindsight, Israel and all people desperately needed the person and commitment of Ruth for her contribution to our salvation and God’s mission of redemption and restoration. Do we view and value marginalized individuals with this same potential dependency and appreciation? Why?
- What societal expectations in your country exist for meeting the needs of women, widows, refugees, the poor, foreigners, ethnic minorities, disabled, or other marginalized people? What needs are not being met? How can you and your church communicate God’s love, valuing, and faithfulness to marginalized people?
WAYWARD GENERATIONS AND MISSION
Read: Judges 2:1-3:6; Judges 6:11-16.
The book of Judges describes a time in Israelite history when there were many failures in faithfulness: to God; to his covenant; and to his mission for Israel to worship and serve Yahweh alone in witness to the nations of his love for them. Fourteen times the writer of the book of Judges declares periods when the Israelites “did evil in the sight of the Lord,” or did not allow the Lord to be their king and everyone did as they pleased (3:7; 3:12; 4:1; 6:1; 6:7-10; 8:27; 8:33-34; 10:6; 10:10-16; 13:1; 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). When the Israelites suffered the effects of their disobedience and turned to the Lord for help, God was faithful, compassionate, gracious, and sent judges to deliver them from their oppressors.
- Within one generation which knew Joshua, another one arose which did not know the Lord personally or serve him in his mission. How are you and your church introducing the next generation to God, his mission, and what he has already done?
- Who influenced you the most as a child or youth and why?
- How are you modeling for the next generation what it means to listen and be willing to follow God’s will for their lives? Do the children and youth you know understand that God may ask them to do something for his mission, such as he did with Gideon?
- Are you willing to send your sons, daughters, and other relatives if God calls them to go somewhere for his purpose or serve in full-time ministry?
RAHAB, NAAMAN, THE QUEEN OF SHEBA, AND MISSION
Read: Joshua 2:1-11; 1 Kings 10:1-9; 2 Kings 5:1-15.
Each story is a cross-cultural encounter, involving Israelites and Gentiles from different nations and backgrounds. Rahab was a female prostitute in Jericho. Naaman was ill with leprosy and a successful army commander in Aram. The Queen was a wealthy political ruler from southern Arabia. Each of these people first heard about the Lord from witnesses. Confirmations of these reports followed from foreign Israelite spies, Elisha the prophet, and King Solomon. Rahab, Naaman, and the Queen responded with praise and proclamation of God’s sovereignty. God revealed himself to each person as they were in their particular place in life. Their lifestyles, associations with other gods or beliefs, social status, ethnicity, nationality, gender, or health did not prevent God from reaching them and working in their lives.
- According to Joshua 2:9-11, the people’s hearts feared and acknowledged God’s sovereignty before the Israelite spies arrived. How has God worked (or is working) in the hearts of people in your city to prepare them to hear God’s message?
- Naaman expected a spectacular power display to cure his leprosy (2 Kings 5:11-12). Instead, God chose to work through the faith of a Jewish-hostage-slave-girl-child and a foreign prophet, and the humility of the muddy Jordan River. In what unexpected ways have you seen God work to reach people in his mission?
- The Queen of Sheba was overwhelmed by what she saw in King Solomon’s palace. What gifts, talents, achievements, or personal qualities have you seen others use to point people to God?
- As in these examples, sometimes we are sent to “the nations” and sometimes “the nations” are sent to us. How does God want to use you to reveal himself to people in the nations? How does God want to use your church to reveal himself to people in the nations? Are you willing to listen to people in the nations for something God may wish to say to you?
JOSHUA AND MISSION
Read: Deuteronomy 31:3-8; Joshua 1:1-18; Josh. 22:1-9; Josh. 23:1-24:13.
In accordance with his earlier promises to Abraham and to Moses, God called Joshua to participate in his mission by leading the Israelites into Canaan. This included entering a foreign land, going to war to take possession of it, and dividing it between the tribes. While it is difficult to understand why killing and war are part of God’s mission story, this was not an open authorization for war. The instructions were for a specific time and place, and only when the Israelites remained faithful and holy, or set apart for God to use. War and killing were not a national right or for defending human interests. Rather, they were reserved for times instructed by God with the outcome decided by God (11:20; 23:3; 23:9-10; 24:11-13). While God promised to go before them and be with them, courage and absolute obedience were required of all the Israelites for the task or they would fail (7:11-13; 23:12-16).
The purpose of God’s mission was that all people would know the Lord (4:20-24). Indeed, Rahab and the people of Jericho, all of the kings west of the Jordan (and presumably many people in their kingdoms), and the Gibeonites came to know of Yahweh, the God whom the Israelites served (2:9-11; 5:1; 9:1-3; 9:8-11). Joshua saw how God used him to fulfill the promise and he encouraged the Israelites shortly before his death to continue in completing their task.
- How does this perspective of war differ from wars which are declared by nations and won by military strength, technology, and strategy? Or from wars to defend people, ideologies, or human rights?
- Consider Joshua 4:20-24. How important is it to remember the purpose of God’s mission while completing the tasks he gives to us? Why?
- God told Joshua to lead a group of wandering tribes to conquer many settled nations. Has God ever asked you to do a seemingly impossible task? What was your response?
- If God told you or your church to do a specific task, what things might discourage or distract you from continuing in absolute obedience? How could you overcome the temptations and faithfully complete God’s task for you?
THE MOSAIC COVENANT, THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL, AND MISSION – PART 2, THE NATIONS
Read: Exodus 19:3-6; Exod. 33:14-16; Exod. 34:10; Leviticus 20:22-26; Lev. 26:11-13; Numbers 15:14-16; Deuteronomy 4:5-8; Deut. 7:6-9; Deut. 12:29-31; Deut. 26:16-19; Deut. 28:1; Deut. 28:9-10.
There are two main groups of people identified in these scripture texts: the people of Israel, and “the nations.” The people of Israel were set apart by God to be his holy people and treasured possession. By entering into the Mosaic covenant, they received his blessings and the accompanying responsibilities.
The nations are the second main group of people. As with the covenant made with Abraham, the Mosaic covenant had a purpose beyond the relationship between God and the people of Israel. The purpose included “all peoples on earth” (Deut. 28:9-10). The nations would see the presence of the Lord dwelling among the nation of Israel, the awesome work of the Lord, and a righteous and just society. The people of Israel were to be the example, or showcase nation, to the rest of earth’s human population. As the people of Israel worshiped God alone, the nations would also have the opportunity to know who the Lord is, be redeemed, and be made holy. If people from the nations wanted to permanently live among them and become holy, God would accept them with the same responsibilities as those with a Hebrew origin.
- What kinds of blessings and responsibilities accompany the Mosaic covenant?
- What do these verses tell us about God’s mission?
- In considering God’s mission and purpose, is there any people group that is more important than the others? Why?
- What blessings and responsibilities accompany followers of Jesus?
- What is my responsibility to the nations? What is our church’s responsibility to the nations?
THE MOSAIC COVENANT, THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL, AND MISSION – PART 1, A HOLY PEOPLE
Read: Exodus 19:3-6; Leviticus 11:44-45; Lev. 19:1-2; Lev. 20:7-8; Lev. 20:22-26; Lev. 22:32-33, Lev. 26:11-13; Deuteronomy 10:12-16; Deut. 14:1-2; Deut. 26:16-19.
Following the covenant made with Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3), and the dramatic rescue of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt in the exodus, God revealed another covenant. The Mosaic covenant was spoken to and through Moses to the people of Israel. It revealed in detail how God’s mission would continue. This small, unorganized ethnic group would be a people set apart from other nations and known as the people or nation of Israel. By setting them apart, God made them holy. They would be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exod. 19:6), that God would use to carry out his mission through them.
In order to maintain this holiness, God gave detailed instructions for all aspects of life to reflect the worship of the Lord alone. From the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20) through Deuteronomy, God gave tabernacle, dietary, legal, civil, social, physical, environmental, sacrificial, ritual, and priestly instructions. As God dwelled among them and these practices were followed, the nation of Israel would be uniquely defined from all others around them.
- Have you been redeemed, set apart, made holy? When and how?
- In what ways have you allowed the worship of God alone to permeate the aspects of your life? Are there any aspects of your life that still need to be permeated or made holy (relationships, family life, work, school, time, entertainment, finances, church involvement, attitudes, success, use of power or authority, etc.)?
- Consider your church community, including worship, fellowship, events, administration, outreach, and service to others. Are all aspects permeated with holiness? If not, which area(s) need to be redeemed for God to carry out his mission through them?
MOSES, THE ISRAELITE SLAVES, AND MISSION
Read: Exodus 6:6-8; Exod. 7:4-5; Exod. 7:17; Exod. 8:10; Exod. 9:13-16; Exod. 14:17-18.
From a burning bush in the desert, God called Moses and gave him an assignment (Exod. 3 – 4:17). Leading a nation out of slavery, through the desert, and toward the Promised Land was the task. While God could have chosen to end the Israelites’ slavery in a number of different ways, his chosen method through Moses had certain purposes beyond their freedom. He wanted the Israelites and all other nations to know him as Yahweh, the Lord, the Almighty, the living God above all other gods, the “I am.” God’s mission behind his chosen method, including Moses’ involvement, the plagues, the signs, and the exodus, was for people to know him, both in terms of knowledge and in relationship with him. It is amazing the extent to which God will go to make himself known to us!
- How does God make himself known today to individuals? And to nations?
- In what ways does God use us to make himself known to others?
- Are you willing to be used by God in his mission and for his purposes?
- How can God use me and my church for witnessing to people in other nations?
THE PATRIARCHS AND MISSION
Read: Genesis 26:2-5, 26:16-17, 26:26-29; Gen. 28:10-15; Gen. 39:2-6; Gen. 41:38-40; Gen. 45:4-7; Hebrews 11:8-22.
God revealed his mission to Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3. Isaac, Jacob and Joseph were taught about God’s mission and his promise from their fathers and grandfathers. Isaac and Jacob each have recorded accounts of God confirming his covenant and mission through them. While a specific encounter of God reconfirming his covenant and mission with Joseph is not recorded in Genesis, Joseph’s understanding of God’s purpose to save lives and fulfill the promise through him is clear (Gen. 45:5-7).
Each of the patriarchs received and responded in faith to God’s covenant and his mission. While they lived among the Canaanites and Egyptians who worshiped other gods, they remained faithful to Yahweh and believed his promise. Their choices and actions reflected the purpose God had for them. Their children and the indigenous people groups around them recognized Yahweh from the patriarchs’ faith, choices that honored God, and God’s blessings.
- Do our children and grandchildren see us choose to honor and worship God in our everyday lives and lifestyles? Do they know why we do this?
- Do we teach our children about God’s mission, their role in it, and how to respond to him?
- Do our lives reflect the fact that God has a distinct purpose for us?
- How can our lives be long-term examples of faithfulness to God and who God is?
- Do all of my choices honor God?
- Do people “from the nations” recognize God at work in my life? What is their response?
ABRAHAM AND MISSION
Read: Genesis 12:1-4a; Genesis 18:1-19; Genesis 22:1-18
Following the idolatry and confusion of Babel, God chose Abram or Abraham. With a specific purpose in mind, God gave him some instructions and the promise of incredible blessings. God’s purpose in blessing Abraham was not just for Abraham alone, but for all the families, nations, peoples, and generations of the earth. Responsibility accompanied the blessing; Abraham was blessed to bless others! In order for God’s blessing for humanity to be fulfilled, Abraham needed to “keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice” (Gen. 18:19). Faith in God’s promise and absolute obedience to God were required (Gen. 22:11-12 and 22:16-18). Abraham received the promise first (without doing anything to earn it), but he needed faith and obedience for the different parts of the promise to come to fulfillment.
- Describe God’s purpose or mission through Abraham, including the initiator, the objective, the accomplices, how the mission would be accomplished, and when.
- Noah and Abraham were especially instrumental in God’s redemption and restoration plan for humanity and all of creation. What does this tell us about human participation in God’s mission?
- In this order, read Acts 3:11-26, Gal 3:6-9, and Gal 3:29. According to these passages, Christians are heirs of the blessing and the promise. How are you doing with the accompanying responsibility, faith, and obedience?
- In what ways could my obedience to God bless multiple ethnicities, countries, and generations?
BABEL AND MISSION
Read: Genesis 11:1-9; Acts 2:1-11; Revelation 21:1-8; Revelation 21:22-27.
In Babel, motivations of self-glorifying arrogance and fear of insecurity and isolation prompted the building of a tower. Instead of trusting in God for his provision, they chose to “play god” or become like God, as in the Garden of Eden (3:5, 3:22). Ironically, instead of accomplishing their goals, their idolatry resulted in more of what they wanted to avoid: no reason for racial arrogance or self-glorification, the lack of security from the inability to clearly communicate, and isolation from scattering. God divided the nations in physical proximity and understanding. He held true to his promise in Genesis 9:15 not to destroy humanity and the rest of creation when judging sin and while continuing his mission of redemption and restoration.
The effects of sin began to be reversed at Pentecost. By the ministry of the Holy Spirit, Jews “from every nation under heaven” came together; they understood what the Galileans were saying in their own language; and God was glorified (Acts 2:5-6, 11, 41). This reversal will be complete when God’s mission is accomplished with a new heaven and a new earth. Diverse nations will gather together as one in Christ; there will be no fear, mourning, crying, death, or pain; the God of all knowledge will live among them thereby eliminating confusion; and he will be glorified on his throne with the Lamb (Rev. 21:3-6, 21:22-27).
- Conflict, division, and misunderstanding between nations is a regular part of our world. What examples are there of people from different nations gathering together in a non-exclusive manner as one in Christ?
- What attitudes, behavior, systems, or structures contribute to continuing division in our society today? What contributes to unity while embracing diversity today?
- According to Rev. 21:26, “People will bring into it the glory and honor of the nations.” How can the uniqueness and splendor of different cultures and nationalities glorify God within our local church congregation now? Our district? Field? Region? Global church? How can the various Christian denominations and traditions that profess Jesus as Lord in my community glorify God in unity?
- Is there any thing that my local church or I should change to contribute more to God’s glorification and his mission being furthered?
OUTSIDE OF EDEN AND MISSION
Read: Genesis 4:1-26; Genesis 6:1-7:12; 8:13-9:17.
These passages contain the first recorded encounters between human beings and God outside the Garden of Eden. In chapter four, there are alternating accounts of human sin (4:3-5; 4:8-10; 4:23-24) and God’s actions of grace, judgment or justice, provision, and salvation (4:6-7; 4:11-15; 4:25). A similar alternating pattern is found in chapter six of human sin (6:1-2; 6:4-5; 6:11-12) and God’s actions of grace, judgment, provision, and salvation (6:3; 6:6-9; 6:13-8:19). Even when God was “grieved to his heart” and “sorry” that he made us, God still acted in the same way (6:6-7). In spite of our rebellion and his pain, his love for humans, who were created in God’s image, is demonstrated as he allowed the human race to survive (4:25; 5:1-2; 6:8-9; 7:1; 8:21; 9:1; 9:5-6). By sparing Noah and his family, all of humanity experienced physical salvation. This did not eliminate sin or its consequences. Because God is just, sooner or later judgment against sin comes even in the midst of his love. He has been faithful in his promise to limit his judgment method in never destroying all life with water again.
- What is the ultimate consequence of all sin?
- Reread Genesis 4:13-16, 6:5-8, and 6:11-14, as well as 2 Peter 3:3-9. According to these passages, why hasn’t God already given up on a world filled with sin and wiped us out? What is God’s mission in light of these verses?
- With the examples of humanity’s physical salvation from extinction and God’s faithfulness to his promise symbolized with the rainbow, how would you describe his commitment to the mission of spiritual salvation and reconcilement of humanity?
- Think of situations in our world today where it seems sin is out of control. In what ways do you see God’s grace and salvation in action?
- If God responds to us with grace, judgment or justice, provision, and salvation, as we join God in his mission, what should our attitude and response be to the wicked around us? How can we do this?
HUMANS, THE ORIGINAL SIN, AND MISSION
Read: Genesis 1:26-31; Genesis 2:7-9; Genesis 2:15-3:24.
God created one part of his creation in his image and full of his breath. Human beings were given the capacity to create, to make decisions, to think, to love, to have relationships, and have dominion over the rest of creation. This included the choice to obey or disobey God’s command to avoid eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Disobedience damaged God’s entire creation. The relationship between the Creator and his creation was distorted; humans had tried to become like or equal to God, rejecting the Creator and what they had been created to be. The relationship between humans was distorted; guilt, blame, and distrust were present. The relationship between humans and the rest of creation was distorted; abuse and death had entered the world, followed by God’s curse. The only one who could redeem this catastrophe and restore the creation was the Creator himself.
- According to these scripture readings, how would you describe the mission of God?
- Read 1 Peter 1:18-20. According to the text, the triune God knew that Jesus would come to die on earth to redeem a fallen world before God created it! What character qualities of God do these passages in Genesis and 1 Peter reveal to us?
- Would you consider God to be the first missionary? Why or why not?
- Consider the responses of Adam and Eve, and of God, after sin. In what ways are these responses similar or different today?
- Whom do you know who needs to hear God calling to them saying, “Where are you?
THE WHOLE CREATION AND MISSION
Read: Genesis 1:1-31; Genesis 3:13-19; Leviticus 25:23-24; Psalm 98:4-9; Hosea 4:1-3; Romans 8:19-25; Colossians 1:15-23.
After creating them, God looked and saw that each part of creation was good (Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25). As he looked at everything together as a whole, he saw “it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). Human beings were given the responsibility to tend, care for, and exercise dominion over the rest of creation, not to own or exploit. In the physical setting of earth, surrounded and supported by the other non-human parts of God’s creation, humans can learn who their Creator is and about his character; we learn about relationship; and we can mirror God’s image as we exercise dominion. Within this physical context which provides the essentials of human life for us, we learn love, humility, integrity, perseverance, endurance, joy, faithfulness, repentance, redemption, and hope. When humans sin against God and against each other, the rest of creation suffers with them, as it was with the original sin. Just as believers in Christ look forward to his return, so too does the rest of the creation as it hopes and yearns for complete restoration to fully worship the Creator in “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1)
- What do these scripture passages tell us about the mission of God?
- What role do the non-human elements of creation have for human beings in God’s mission? What role do human beings have for the non-human elements of creation in God’s mission? How would you describe the relationship between the human and non-human elements of creation?
- Read Psalm 145:8-21. What character traits of God are described in these verses that humans, who are made in God’s image, should mirror or imitate as they exercise dominion over the rest of creation?
- How does this influence choices we make concerning the non-human elements of creation?
- How can I participate with God in the restoration of the non-human creation?