Category: The Story Guides

The Story: Week 6 Guide (Ch. 7)

General Resources:

Week 6 Resources:

The Story – Chapter 7

Introduction

This week we take on some challenging stories as the Israelites begin to settle in the Promised Land and expel the Canaanites who lived there previously. And as is so often the case, we a wonderful example of faith where we’d least expect it – a Canaanite woman who risks her own life to help two Jewish spies. If you don’t have The Story book, you can read Joshua chapters 1-2, 6, 8, 10-11, and 23-24.

Chapter 6 – In the book it’s called The Battle Begins

After 40 years, the people of Israel are given a second chance to do what they failed to do the first time – to enter into the Promised Land. But the people who will not enter the land are not those who left Egypt 40 years ago. All of those who were slaves in Egypt had died, except for two, Joshua and Caleb. Upon Moses’ death, Joshua becomes Israel’s new leader.

God’s promise to Abraham over 600 years before was about to turn into reality. Joshua had spied out the land as a young man and trusted God to give it to the Israelites as God had promised. Now he sent two spies into Jericho to appraise the land. They were hidden in the house of Rahab, a prostitute who protected them from the king of Jericho. She boldly confessed her faith in the LORD as the one true God who had given the land to Israel. The spies responded to her faith by agreeing to save her whole family when they attacked Jericho.

This new generation of Israelites had heard the stories about crossing the Red Sea on dry land; now, they experienced something similar as they walked across the Jordan River into the Promised Land on dry ground.

God’s directions as to how to defeat the walled city of Jericho were pretty unorthodox. The priests marched the Ark of the Covenant around its walls each day for six days. On the seventh day, they marched around the city seven times, and on the seventh circle, they blew trumpets and shouted. Amazingly, the walls of Jericho collapsed! Jericho was destroyed and Rahab and her family were saved. (Good thing, because Rahab pops up later in Matthew 1:5, as one of Jesus’ ancestors.)

This chapter describes Israel’s many military victories in the land of Canaan and ascribes them to God, who brings God’s judgment on the Canaanites. After taking the entire region by force, Joshua divided up the land by tribe as Israel’s inheritance.

The chapter closes with Joshua’s final words as he recounts the stories of God’s faithfulness and deliverance, noting that while God will keep His promises, he will let people choose whether or not they will participate in what God is doing. He reminds that people that they must choose for themselves who they will serve.

Discussion Questions

As you read, remember there are discussion questions for each chapter beginning on page 473 of the book and also questions that can be found on The Story bookmark (which are also on our website). Also, feel free to consider some of the questions below:

  1. God called his people to take a big risk when he called them to take the land. They felt like grasshoppers among the people of that land (The Story, 61).  Do you sense that God is placing some challenging opportunities in front of you or your congregation? What risks might God be asking you to take?
  2. The spies entered Jericho secretly and were hidden from the king by the prostitute Rahab. What other choices could Rahab have made regarding the spies? What was the risk she was taking by hiding them in her home?  Why do you think she took this risk?
  3. God gave Joshua assurances to face the coming battles, but Joshua still had to act in faith. Are you facing any battles in your life right now? How can God’s presence and promises impact the way you may choose to cope with them? 

  4. The annihilation of the Canaanites is understandably very disturbing. Much like the flood story, it is described as God using Israel to bring judgment on the Canaanites who were really evil. How does this image of God fit with popular understandings of God? How does it fit with your understanding of God?
  5. What questions came up for you while you were reading this chapter?

 

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The Story: Week 5 Guide (Ch. 5- Deliverance / Ch. 6 – Are We There Yet?)

General Resources:

Week 5 Resources:

The Story – Chapter 5

Introduction

In this chapter, we finish Exodus as we look at Moses interactions with God and the receipt of the Ten Commandment. If you don’t have The Story book, you can read Exodus chapters 19-20, 24-25, 32-34 and 40.

 Chapter 5 – New Commands and a New Covenant

The journey had begun. And, like all journeys, there is a “from” and a “to.” God saved Israel from slavery, and He saved them to become a holy nation – set apart for His purposes. God intended Israel to be different than the pagan nations surrounding them; they were called to honor God and to point others to this LORD. Just weeks after the exodus, God inaugurated a new covenant with Israel that, if obeyed, would shape them into the holy nation that He intended them to be.  At Mount Sinai God gave Moses the Ten Commandments – God’s expectations for His covenant people.

Unfortunately, even as Moses was receiving God’s commandments, the Israelites were forgetting that they had just promised they would obey all that God said. While Moses was on the mountain with God, the people began worshipping a golden calf, causing Moses to shatter the Ten Commandment tablets when he came back and saw what they were doing.

When God proposed to send Israel on to Canaan without Him, Moses prayed for God’s presence to remain. God graciously agreed and promised He would remain with Israel, in the form of a cloud over the Tabernacle. After spending forty days with the LORD on Mount Sinai, Moses came down with two new tablets of the covenant law. Moses’ face was so radiant after time with God that he had to be veiled because the people were afraid. 

Discussion Questions

As you read, remember there are discussion questions for each chapter beginning on page 473 of the book and also questions that can be found on The Story bookmark (which are also on our website). Also, feel free to consider some of the questions below:

  1. Moses was an intermediary between Israel and God. Has there been someone in your life who prayed for you, helped you see God’s will, or acted as a spiritual mentor? Would that type of relationship be a blessing to you today? How could you seek it out? How could you do this for someone else?
  1. The Lord spoke to Moses “as one speaks to a friend” (p. 67). What was there about Moses that God found so pleasing? How would you rate your relationship to God, from 1 = Total Stranger to 10 = Close Friend. Why do you rate it that way? What can you do to be in a closer relationship with God?
  1. When Moses comes down from the mountain for the first time and gives the people the law they rejoice saying, “everything the Lord has said, we will do.”  Yet when Moses returns up the mountain and stays longer than they expect they quickly become afraid. They turn from worshipping God to worshipping an idol they forge out of their melted-down jewelry.  Why do you think it was so easy for Israel to slip from covenant affirmation to idolatry? Have there been times in your life you felt God had left you or found it hard to wait on God?  What sustained you in those times? 
  1. What role do the Ten Commandments play in your life with God? Should and/or how can they play a more significant role?
  1. The Israelites’ journey through the wilderness is one with both great victories and terrible defeat. How do you see God relating to his people when they lose faith in His promises? Is he consistent? How do you relate to God in the midst of great times or great struggles in your own life? How have you seen God respond to you during these times?
  2. What questions came up for you while you were reading this chapter?

The Story – Chapter 6

Introduction

This week we look at parts of two rather difficult books to read – Numbers and Deuteronomy, as we explore the Isrealites journey through the desert and Moses farewell discourse. If you don’t have The Story book, you can read chapters 10-14, 20-21, 25 and 27 in Numbers and chapters 1-2, 4, 6, 8-9, 29-32 and 34 in Deuteronomy.

Chapter 6 – Are We Almost There Yet? (In the book it’s called Wandering, but we’re calling it Are We Almost There Yet?)

God’s plan was clear: deliver His people through a series of miracles, defeat their enemies, give them a covenant and set of laws to make them a chosen nation, and provide them a land of promise. Simple, right? God speaks, the people listen. God delivers, the people believe. God provides, the people trust. Well, maybe not so much.

God always held up His end of the bargain: He always provided, always delivered, always kept His promises. It turns out the people were equally consistent: They always forgot, always questioned, always rebelled. Their lack-of-faith list was long. When daily bread fell from heaven, they craved a taste of Egypt. Even Moses’ siblings, Miriam and Aaron, grew jealous and undermined their brother’s leadership.

When they neared the Promised Land, Moses sent twelve leaders to spy out Canaan. Ten of the twelve said the cities were too strong, the people too big, and God was too small. Only two, Caleb and Joshua, trusted God enough to encourage Israel to go and take what God had given them. But the people complained and failed to believe.

So, Israel spent the next forty years wandering aimlessly in the wilderness. The faithless generation would die out before they set foot on the other side of the land of promise. Only Caleb and Joshua would outlive them all to eventually cross over into their inheritance. (Even Moses ignored God’s commands at one point, so he too did not enter the Promised Land.) Before his death, Moses commissioned Joshua as Israel’s new leader.

Discussion Questions

As you read, remember there are discussion questions for each chapter beginning on page 473 of the book and also questions that can be found on The Story bookmark (which are also on our website). Also, feel free to consider some of the questions below:

  1. The Israelites’ journey through the wilderness is one with both great victories and terrible defeat. How do you see God relating to his people when they lose faith in His promises? Is he consistent? How do you relate to God in the midst of great times or great struggles in your own life? How have you seen God respond to you during these times?
  2. Moses called the people of Israel to a life of obedience, promising that life and blessing would flow from it. With such a clear blessing extended to us, we still find it difficult to remain obedient. What role, if any, do you think “remembrance” has in remaining faithful?
  3. Israel believed the report of the faithless spies out of fear. What do you think was the cause of their consistent lack of faith and trust?
  1. God punishes Miriam and Aaron for slandering Moses (p. 74). Have you ever had to deal with lies spoken against you? How did you handle it? How did Moses handle it, and what does God do in response?
  1. Despite his years of service, Moses’ disobedience kept him from entering the Promised Land. What did Moses do wrong? Do you agree with the punishment? What does this teach you about God’s expectations for leadership?

6. What questions came up for you while you were reading this chapter?

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Week 4 Reading Guide (Chapter 4 – Deliverance)

General Resources:

Week 4 Resources:

The Story – Chapter 4

Introduction
This week we enter the second book of the Bible – Exodus, which continues the story of God’s redemptive plan through God’s chosen people. If you don’t have The Story book, you can read Exodus chapters 1-7 and 10-17.

Chapter 4 – Moses: Let My People Go

In chapter 3, we looked at how God rescued his fledging people from a famine by moving them to safety in Egypt. However, after Joseph and the Pharaoh who knew Joseph died, things started going downhill for the Israelites.

As we pick up the story, four hundred years have passed since Joseph’s family came to Egypt, and the Israelites were suffering as slaves under the current Pharaoh. Moses, the one whom God will select to deliver God’s people from Egypt, was born during the rule of a Pharaoh who required that all baby Hebrew boys be killed. However, Moses life was spared when Pharaoh’s daughter rescued him from the Nile and then raised him as her own son.

Moses grew up in the palace but was seemingly still sympathetic to the plight of his people. When he killed an Egyptian taskmaster and was forced to flee, Moses became a refugee in the land of Midian where he married and began tending his father-in-law’s flocks. After 40 years (when Moses was about 80), he encountered a burning bush, through which God spoke to him and commissioned him to be Israel’s deliverer. Moses doubted his own qualifications and abilities, but God responded with the guarantee of God’s presence.

Moses returned to Egypt with the promise of God and the support of his brother Aaron. As expected, Moses’ demands of freeing the Hebrews were met with Pharaoh’s stubborn refusal. So God sent a series of plagues and a cycle of challenge began: the plague strikes, Pharaoh relents; the plague stops, Pharaoh changes his mind. Then a final plague – the death of the firstborn – occurred throughout Egypt except in those Hebrew households where the doorposts of the house were covered with lamb’s blood. That night the angel of death would come and “pass over” the blood stained houses, preserving the lives of those inside.

The Hebrews left Egypt, but later an enraged Pharaoh took off in pursuit. Trapped between his powerful army on one side and the Red Sea on the other, Egypt’s victory appeared certain. But God split the sea in two and the people walked to safety on dry land. When Pharaoh’s army followed, the seas returned and the army was destroyed.

Israel then embarked on what turned out to be a very long journey to the Promised Land. Early on, the people began grumbling over the lack of water and food, but God again proved `faithful by providing water, manna, and quail to sustain them.

The story of God’s people had just begun. And in God’s deliverance of his people from Egypt, we see a hint of things to come, as many years later, Jesus would come as God’s perfect Passover Lamb and secure deliverance for all people.

Discussion Questions
As you read, remember there are discussion questions for each chapter beginning on page 473 of the book and also questions that can be found on The Story bookmark (which are also on our website). Also, feel free to consider some of the questions below:

Moses

  1. When God calls Moses from the burning bush and reveals he will be sending Moses to speak to the mighty pharaoh of Egypt Moses feels inadequate. Moses begs God to select some else. Instead God tells Moses he will empower him and also raise up his brother Aaron to help him. Have you ever felt God was calling you to work for God in the world, but been fearful that you could not accomplish what God was asking of you? At those times, have you ever discovered strengths you did not know you had either in yourself or in those in the community around you that helped you live into God’s purpose?
  2. When Moses asked for God’s “official” name, God replied: I AM WHO I AM. Why do you think God identified himself that way? What is the significance of that name? What does this name for God tell us about God?
  3. You may never have seen a burning bush, but you probably have experienced “standing on holy ground” – a time when
you definitely felt the presence of God in your life? What was that like? How can that experience help you as you face the daily challenges in your life?

Let My People Go

  1. When Moses tells Pharaoh to set the Israelites free, Pharaoh responds by increasing their workload. Can you think of a time when you were obedient to God, but the situation worsened instead of improved? How did you react? Are there any lessons you can learn from this situation?
  2. This is another one of those difficult stories for me. I wonder why so much suffering took place before the Israelites  were allowed to leave Egypt? It becomes even more confusing when I read that periodically “ God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” (See for example, The Story at p. 50) Why do you think God would do that? How does that square with the God you know?
  3. Only days after being set free, the Israelites complain, saying they want to go back. Have you ever been tempted to return to a past way of life, even when you know it will be destructive? What happened? What lessons can you learn from that experience?

Overall

  1. God provides food and water for the Israelites while they are wandering in the desert. Can you think of a time when God met your need (emotionally, physically, spiritually, financially, etc.) in an unexpected way. How did this impact you and those around you?
  2. We all have our “ I could never” and “I hope God never asks me to . . .” moments. Where are the places you tend to resist God’s call in your life? What things are you sure you could never do? Is there anything about Moses story that helps you with your own moments of insecurity and doubt?
  3. What questions came up for you while you were reading this chapter?

What questions came up for you while you were reading this chapter?

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Week 3 Reading Guide (Chapter 3 – Joseph: From Slave to Deputy Pharaoh)

General Resources:

Week 3 Resources:

The Story – Chapter 3

Introduction

We’re already into Chapter 3 this week – Joseph: I Dreamed a Dream. Many of us know Joseph’s story from the musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, but the biblical story is even more fascinating.  (Note that this chapter is called Joseph: From Slave to Deputy Pharaoh in the book, but we’re calling it Joseph: I Dreamed a Dream which sounds more fun. It’s chapter 3 regardless of what we call it.)

If you don’t have The Story book, you can read Genesis chapters 37, 39, 41-48, and 50. (Those of you reading The Story actually come in right after the Technicolor coat part, so if you want the whole story, you’ll want to go back and read Genesis 37: 1-11.) Remember, The Story is easier to understand because it has eliminated chapter and verse numbers and some of the more confusing parts, but it’s exactly the same wording as in the NIV Bible.Chapter 3 – Joseph

In chapter 2, we looked at how God called one couple (i.e., Abraham and Sarah) to travel to a place God would tell them. God promised to make their descendants into a great nation, to give this nation a land in which to dwell, and to bless all other nations through them. God then continued to use Abraham’s son and grandson (Isaac and Jacob), to accomplish God’s unbreakable promises.

In Chapter 3, God continues to partner with people to carry out God’s redemptive plan. Here we look closely at the story of Joseph, Jacob’s favorite son, who is betrayed by his jealous brothers and sold into slavery. Joseph ends up in Egypt with a job as manager of Potiphar’s household. God blessed Potiphar (one of Pharaoh’s officials) because of Joseph, and Potiphar was therefore pleased with him.

It turns out Potiphar’s wife was also pleased with Joseph, but for different reasons. After rejecting her advances and refusing to sleep with her, she accused him of rape and Joseph was sent to prison.

But even in prison, God was with Joseph. Joseph’s good character was noted and, once again, he was promoted to manager within the prison. He ended up interpreting some dreams for two of Pharaoh’s court officials who were in prison with him. Pharaoh eventually hears of Joseph’s talents and summons him to interpret one of his own dreams. When Joseph successfully does so, Pharaoh promotes him to second-in-command of all of Egypt. 

Joseph’s first task – to implement a plan to storehouse food and sustain Egypt during a coming worldwide famine. This famine also impacted Joseph’s family in Canaan, and most of brothers went to Egypt to buy food. After some testing to see if his brothers had changed at all from the men who had sold him into slavery 20 years ago, Joseph ultimately revealed his identity.  Then Joseph’s father Jacob, his brothers, and all the extended family moved to Egypt where they would survive the famine, and God would in fact safeguard his people and his promises. Indeed, as Joseph points out to his brothers at the end of the story, even though their act of betrayal was meant for evil, God used it for something good.

Discussion Questions

As you read, remember there are discussion questions for each chapter beginning on page 473 of the book and also questions that can be found on The Story bookmark (which are also on our website). Also, feel free to consider some of the questions below:

Joseph and his Family

In Chapter 2, we saw how parental favoritism can be very damaging. If Jacob had learned from his parent’s mistakes, he might not have torn his family apart by showing Joseph favoritism. What are ways that parents can combat rivalry among their children? What are some practical lessons families can learn from their stories? Are there any “family history” issues you need to overcome or avoid?

How was it possible for Joseph to forgive his brothers? Is there someone in your life that has betrayed you or caused you an injustice? How can you move toward forgiveness? Alternatively, is there someone whose forgiveness you need to seek?

Here’s something I hadn’t thought of before when reading this story:  Joseph’s brothers had been lying about his disappearance for 20 years, and were afraid of how he might react, especially after their father’s death. They told Joseph a made-up story saying that Jacob had asked them to request that Joseph not harm them. Could it be that they were having trouble forgiving themselves? Is there a mistake you have made where you’ve found it difficult to forgive yourself?

Joseph in Egypt

Think about the injustices and betrayals Joseph suffered. If you had been him, are there places in his life when you would have been tempted to surrender your hope and trust in God? How do you keep hope and trust afloat in your own hard times?

What sustains you? 

What character traits do you see in Joseph that made Potiphar and the head jailer trust him? How might your boss or others close to you describe your character? What things can you do in your professional or personal life to increase others’ trust in you? 


Overall

Looking back on his life, Joseph said that what others intended for evil, God worked out for good. Can you think of a time when an evil has been done to you and it has turned out for good? How can you use this to help you in the future? What does this reveal about God?

Reflect back on the first three chapters of The Story. What family cycles emerge? What life lessons can you apply to your own life from observing these cycles?

What questions came up for you while you were reading this chapter?

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Week 2 Reading Guide (Chapter 2: God Builds a Nation)

General Resources:

Week 2 Resources:

Introduction

This week we look at Chapter 2 of The Story, which deals with how God starts to build a nation. We’ll look at the early patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and see how God blessed them to be a blessing to others.

If you don’t have The Story book, you can read Genesis chapters 12-13, 15-17, 21-22, 32-33 and 35. (There’s also a little of Romans 4 and Hebrews 11 from the New Testament thrown in, which gives you a clue as to how some of the New Testament writers understood these stories.) Remember, the Story book is easier to understand because it has eliminated chapter and verse numbers and some of the more confusing parts, but it’s exactly the same wording as in the NIV Bible.

Chapter 2 – God Builds a Nation

In chapter 2, we look at the beginnings of the nation God builds for God’s people. It is important to remember that even though God works through and with ordinary (and flawed) people, everything begins with God and God’s promises to make Abraham’s descendants into a great nation, to give this nation a land in which to dwell, and to bless all other nations through the nation of Israel.  

We then see how God uses broken people (remember those are the only kind of people God can use – we are all broken), to fulfill God’s unbreakable promises. On a day-to-day basis, God’s people continue to make bad choices that reflect their brokenness and the prevalence of sin in our world. Abraham and Sarah, waiting for years for the child God promised, opt for a workaround to conceive an heir through Sarah’s servant, Hagar. Isaac and Rebekah raise a very dysfunctional family. Jacob perfects the “workaround method” by conniving and cheating his way through life.

But despite their many failures, God’s people also respond in faith. Abraham picks up stakes and travels to a foreign land just because God said to. He gives his relative Lot the choice real estate, having faith God would still bless him. Abraham and Sarah, through laughter and tears, finally see God fulfill God’s promise through the birth of a son, Isaac. And in a dramatic (and today very morally ambivalent) episode, Abraham shows he is willing to go so far as sacrificing his only son, Isaac, just because he trusts God. (This foreshadows the willingness of God to do the same to his own Son.) Despite his many flaws, even Jacob (one of my least favorite biblical “heroes”) takes some significant actions based on his faith in God’s promises.

Discussion Questions

As you read, remember there are discussion questions for each chapter beginning on page 473 of the book and also questions that can be found on The Story bookmark (which are also on our website). Also, feel free to consider some of the questions below:

Abraham 


Abraham serves as the example of justification by faith. (Nowadays “faith” is often described as believing certain things to be true – what I call “head knowledge”. But I think  a better definition is “active trust, action based on your trust that something is true.”) How would you define “faith”? What are some acts that demonstrate Abraham’s faith? What demonstrations of faith can you identify in your own life?

The maidservant Hagar fled from Sarah’s harsh treatment. Alone, hurting and in despair, God saw her. But she also saw God, and declared, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” Can you remember a time when you have seen God acting in your life when despair and pain were present? How does it make you feel to know that you have been seen by God?

Abraham’s almost-sacrifice of Isaac poses a real moral dilemma. If we heard about someone attempting to sacrifice his child nowadays in response to a command from God, that person would be most likely institutionalized. And while many other places in the Old Testament condemn human sacrifice, here God seems to applaud Abraham’s obedience. How do you feel about this story? What lessons can you draw from it? What lessons should we not draw from it? How do you reconcile this story with Jesus’ commands to love our neighbors and pray for our enemies?

Isaac  

How long did Isaac and Rebekah wait for God to give them a child? (See Genesis 25:20 and 25:26)  What have you been praying for that seems to be taking a long time to be fulfilled?  Have you thought of ways to hurry it along? I must admit that I sometimes find it difficult to tell the difference between a situation where I am to wait on the Lord’s timing and a situation where I am being called to act in partnership with God’s timing. I think this is where a good prayer life and looking for God working around you is really helpful. Have you run into any situations like this in your life? What did you do? What did God do?

 Isaac is a great example of a parent with a pretty dysfunctional family. He favors one son, while his wife favors the other. Can you think of examples of dysfunction in your family or among your group of close friends? What can you do to reflect God’s grace in the midst of all that?

Jacob

In the midst of a deep, personal crisis in Jacob’s life, we read about a curious struggle in the wilderness (p. 23). In the end, Jacob’s name was changed to Israel because he struggled with God and man and overcame. (In the ancient world, a name represented the character of a person.) Can you think of a situation in your life that involved “wrestling” with God. If God was to change your name to represent the outcome, what do you suppose it would be?

Jacob said to Esau, “For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably” (p. 24). Esau showed grace to Jacob, despite Jacob’s poor treatment of Esau. By doing that, Esau demonstrated God’s gracious character. To whom do you need to show grace today?

Jacob is a wonderful example of how God uses flawed people to further God’s big redemptive mission. Jacob is both “faithful” and “flawed,” (which reminds me of Martin Luther’s statement that we are all “saints” and “sinners”). What are some examples of Jacob’s flaws? Where do we see his faithfulness? Where have you seen this same dynamic played out in your own life — faithful and flawed? How have you seen God show up despite your flaws, (and maybe even used your flaws for God’s purposes)?

Overall

What has God asked you to do recently?  What would it cost you to obey?  Consider Abraham’s age when he was called out of Ur, when he was promised a son and when he had Isaac.  What factor does age play in God’s calling?  Do you feel too young or too old, or inadequate in some other way?  Can you talk with God about those feelings to make sure they don’t stop you from doing what you believe God is calling you to do?

Last week we looked at Genesis as a book of “beginnings” or “origins.” Here we see the origin of God’s people of Israel. In the creation of the world, God spoke and it was so. Here in Chapter 2, we see God partnering more closely with humanity. What does that say about God? What are the ways in which God calls you to partner with God today?

What questions came up for you while you were reading this chapter?

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Week 1 Reading Guide (Chapter 1: Genesis)

General Resources:

Resources for Week 1:

Introduction 

This week we look at Chapter 1 of The Story, which deals with God’s good creation, humanity’s choice to reject God and go our own way, and the implications of that choice. If you don’t yet have The Story book, you can read chapters 1-4 and 6-9 of Genesis to get the same story.  (The Story book is easier to understand because it has eliminated chapter and verse numbers and some of the more confusing parts, but it’s exactly the same wording as in the NIV Bible.)

Chapter 1 – Creation: The Beginning of Life as We Know It.

In chapter 1, we are introduced to the main character in the Bible. God is the main character, and is present from beginning to end, always loving and desiring to be in relationship with humanity. As we see throughout the book, God never gives up on us, even when we want nothing to do with God. In Chapter 1 we see God creating all that is, and we see God creating it good! God’s crowning achievement is humanity; we are made in the image and likeness of God.

But God doesn’t force relationships, so humanity is given free will. We can choose whether or not we want to be in relationship with God or go our own way. And when humanity first chose the latter (what is often called “the Fall”), sin and brokenness and separation enter the good world God created. That brokenness and separation affect not only our relationship with God, but also with each other, with the world around us, and even within ourselves. Everything was/is broken, and God’s plan to give us abundant life and live in intimate relationship with us was disrupted.

But God’s plan was not derailed, and God immediately set about redeeming the world and setting all things to right. Even when humanity becomes increasingly evil and corrupt, and God “regretted that he had made human beings,” God does not abandon humanity. However, by the end of the flood story, it is clear that humanity, even the best of us like Noah, cannot save ourselves. The remainder of the Bible reflects God’s actions to redeem creation, culminating in the sending of his Son. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

One more thing — remember, as we discussed in our fall sermon series on Biblical interpretation, Genesis was not written as a history book or as a science book, and should not be read as one. (This is particularly important to remember for these first biblical stories.) We want to keep in mind the literary genre of the stories in Genesis, and to interpret them like their first hearers would have understood them. Here’s a great quote from Ronald Hendel, who wrote the intro to my Harper Collins Study Bible:

“It is somewhat unfair to note the scientific inadequacies of Genesis, since it was not written to be a work of modern science. We need to learn to read Genesis as a book that speaks strongly to modern readers, but we need to read it on its terms, recognize its ancient voice, and not superimpose on it our own. It is a book of memories – of marvels and miracles, imperfect saints and holy sinners, a beneficent and often inscrutable God, and promises that bind the past to the present and the future. It tells us where we came from, not in the sense that the book is historically accurate, but in the sense that the book itself is our historical root. “

Discussion Questions

As you read, note the discussion questions beginning on page 473 of the book and/or the questions that can be found on the Story bookmark (which are also on our website). Also, feel free to consider some of the questions below:

Creation

  • What strikes you most about God’s creative ability?  How does God’s creativity apply to your life now? 
  • Several verses begin simply with “And God said, …” What does that say to you about God and God’s authority?
  • What do think it means to be made in the image of God (page 2-3)?   Of everything that God created, only humanity was “made in God’s image.” How does that make you feel? 

“The Fall”

  • God gave humanity free will. That means we can choose what we want to do, even when our choices conflict with what God wants for us. Why do you think God would give us free will if it means we can (and will) make bad choices?
  • Explain how Adam and Eve played the “blame game” (p. 5). Why do you think it is so hard for us to accept responsibility for our bad choices?
  • The relationship between God and humanity has now been broken, as has the harmony between and among people.  Even the earth itself no longer relates well to humanity. What examples can you think of in today’s world that reflect humanity’s and the entire earth’s brokenness?
  • Despite Adam and Eve’s disobedience, God sought a way to redeem the situation and their choices. What did God do in response to their bad choice? How has God responded to you in your life when you have made choices that ignore God’s desires for you?

The Flood

  • When God looked at the earth and saw that it was completely evil all the time, God “regretted that he had made human beings, and his heart was deeply troubled.” (p. 8) Our hearts are often deeply troubled when we observe the horrors of this world. How might you respond to someone who asks how a good God could allow so much evil to take place?
  • One could perceive God as vengeful and/or distant when reading stories like the flood. (Even us Christians may have some concerns after reading this story.) What, if any, concerns does this story raise for you? At the same time, chapter one is also filled with examples of God’s love and mercy. What examples can you identify?
  • God made a promise to Noah never again to destroy humanity with a flood and God confirmed it with a rainbow. What promises has God made to you?

 Overall

  • In our stories, we see God pursuing Adam and Eve after they had sinned, and God pursuing Cain even as Cain was steeped in anger. Can you think of a time in your own life that God has pursued you? How did God’s pursuit affect your relationship with God?
  • When you look at the lives of Adam, Eve and Noah’s family, how do you think God felt about their disobedience? Did it drive God away or drive him to try new ways to connect with them? Can you think of some ways that God trying to reach you?

What questions came up for you while you were reading this chapter?

 

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