As a backdrop to this study, read about Mount Moriah. You will see the theme that will be developed as you respond to the questions below.
For a printable version of the study, click here.
- After finally providing the son he had promised to his faithful servant Abraham, God told Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, (See Genesis 21:1-14) to him.
a. In what sense was this a desert experience for Abraham and in what sense was it not?
b. What did Abraham trust God to provide in the desert? What kind of faith did it take for Abraham to hope and believe in God’s future provision?
c. How did God provide what Abraham needed?
d. What was Abraham’s lasting testimony of what God had done for him on that mountain? (see v. 14)
- When God led his people out of Egypt and into the unforgiving deserts of the Sinai Peninsula, what had he already provided for them that would help them to survive their desert journey? (see Exodus 15:27; Numbers 11:31-32; Deuteronomy 8:4.) Note: Several ministries of mercy, Christian and otherwise, have adopted the name Elim.
- After meeting with his people at Mount Sinai and establishing a covenant with them, God commanded them to build a sanctuary in which his presence would live among them. One might not expect that the Israelites, who left Egypt in a hurry, would have the resources they needed to complete the job. How had God provided exactly what his people needed to obey his commands? (See Exodus 3:21-22; 31:1-11; 35:4-10; 35:20-29; 36:2-7;37:1)
- How did God provide for you in 2011? How will you be looking to God to provide for you in 2012?
Suggested memory verse: Psalm 52:8-9
But I am like an olive tree
flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love
for ever and ever.
For what you have done I will always praise you
in the presence of your faithful people.
And I will hope in your name,
for your name is good.
Shade is scarce in the desert lands of the Bible. So desert travelers learn to appreciate even the smallest areas of shade where the temperature drops a few degrees and the wind feels just a little cooler. In the shade, one can rest for a bit before venturing into the heat again. Even the shade of a small bush can make the difference between living or dying.
For a printable version of this study, click here.
Retama raetam is adapted to survive extreme drought conditions. Its roots go deep into the earth, while the slender branches reduce the amount of surface area exposed to dry desert air. While it does produce very small leaves, they are quickly dropped in order to conserve water. The fallen leaves make sitting or lying under the tree more comfortable than lying on the hard ground.
What the Bible describes as a bush or tree in the desert near Beersheba is most likely a broom tree. The broom tree was significant in the scriptures in a few places.
- When Abraham sent away his son, Ishmael, and the boy’s mother Hagar, they wandered in the desert near Beersheba. They went into the desert with only the food and water they could carry on their back. Read about this in Genesis 21:8-20. Do you think Abraham was cruel in doing this? What happened when their water ran out and death seemed imminent?
- After a dramatic event in which God’s power was displayed, Elijah ran into the desert near Beersheba when his life was threatened by Queen Jezebel. Read I Kings 19:1-8 and describe Elijah’s condition after a day in the desert.
- Read Isaiah 25:4. Given what we have learned about the desert lands of the Bible, how might your understanding and expectation of God’s provision – "refuge", "shelter", and "shade" – differ from how people of the bible might have expected God to fulfill these descriptions?
- How have you found "shade" in the difficult times of your life and how has it been "just enough"?
- Read Exodus 15:22-27. What hardships did the people face? What was their solution? How did God show Himself to be a trustworthy provider?
Why do you think God choose not to reveal ahead of time what to expect or how He would provide?
Suggested memory verse: Jeremiah 17:7-8
But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.
He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.
During their forty years in the desert, Israel was transformed. The Israelites came out of Egypt as emancipated slaves with a vague remembrance of their God and little awareness of their identity. Through a journey of struggle and hardship made possible by the daily experience of God’s ever-present love and provision, they came out of the desert as a people with a faith, a book, and a culture. No wonder the desert became a central theme in the faith life of God’s people. It was not just a place through with they passed; it was how they gained a way of life, an identity; it was part of their very soul.
Here are some of the deserts that have been so formative in the lives of God’s people. Locate
- the Sinai Desert (including the Desert of Sin and Desert of Paran)
- the Negev Desert (including the Desert of Zin)
- the Judea Wilderness
Some of the deserts where God encountered His people
Discovery and Discussion Questions (click here to download a printable Word version of these questions)
- When the exodus was coming to an end, what did Moses say was God’s purpose for leading his people into the desert after he had delivered them from Egypt? (See Deuteronomy 8:1-5)What difficulties did God bring upon his people, and how did he care for his people at the same time?
- What kind of relationship did God want to have with his people, and what was required of his people for this kind of relationship to develop? (Exodus 19:3-6)
- Read Psalm 78:10-54 (long passage but fairly dramatic!); Ezekiel 20:6-20; and 1 Corinthians 10:1-11. In light of these passages, discuss the following questions:a. In what ways were the Israelites dissatisfied with God’s provision and unimpressed by his miracles?
b. In what sense might we respond the same way when we are going through desert experiences?
c. What impact did God want his miraculous provision to have on his people, and what finally got their attention?
d. What do you think is the key to noticing what God may be trying to teach us when we go through desert experiences?
- Despite the sins of his chosen people, how did God prove himself faithful in the desert, and what did he at last accomplish? (see Psalm 77:11-20; Jeremiah 2:1-3)How does this relate to what God might want to accomplish through our desert experiences?
This week’s suggested memory verse is from Isaiah 49:10:
They will neither hunger nor thirst,
nor will the desert heat or the sun beat upon them.
He who has compassion on them will guide them
and lead them beside springs of water.
As you see, the title of our study is “Iron of Culture”. For a really interesting, brief look at” Iron Technology, the Philistines and the Israelites”, read this. This week we also take a closer look at the battle between David and Goliath. If you like, read all about David and how he first came to meet Saul in I Samuel 16. You might remember Preston mentioning that David was the only King of Israel who ever cast out a demon. The account is in Chapter 16. This is an interesting backdrop to the story of David and Goliath in I Samuel 17.
Here is the amazing sculpture of David by Michaelangelo. Opinion is divided as to whether this depicts David just before or just after he killed Goliath. Below David is a photo I took of the entrance to the Accademia di Belle Arti where David is displayed in all his glory. I took this photo when we were in Florence in September. Just as David came out of obscurity as a simple shepherd boy, this famous statue of him resides in a museum with an equally obscure entrance!
Here are some questions to consider for this week’s study.
- As the Israelite and Philistine armies faced one another in the Valley of Elah, the great disparity in the quality of their military equipment was evident. Read the following references and write down the military equipment available to each party.
- In David’s mind, what was really at stake in the contest between Israel and Goliath? (See I Samuel 17:26,45)
- David’s response to Goliath’s verbal attack provides great insight into David’s faith in God and his understanding of the nature of the battle with Goliath. (See I Samuel 17:45-47)What, from David’s perspective, was the battle about?
What, then, would be the outcome?
- What do you think God wanted to demonstrate by choosing David – young shepherd with a sling – to fight Goliath?
What conclusions can we draw from this story about the way in which God uses people – and their most basic talents and simple tools – to accomplish his purpose?
- Because of what the Messiah has accomplished, what protection do we have , what weapons can we use, and what hope can we cling to as we stand firm in the fight against evil?
This week’s suggested memory verse is from Deuteronomy 7:21:
Do not be terrified by them, for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a great and awesome God.
The walls of Jericho fell in approximately 1400 BC. Samson was born about 350 years later, in the time of the Judges. Samson was given physical and spiritual power in order that he might go against the Philistines, the enemies of Israel. This week’s study is about God’s desire for His people to confront the godless culture in which we live. I’m not sure He wants us to throw burning foxes into wheat fields! However, there is definitely a faith lesson here as we listen to God’s voice as spoken through His word.
The scripture readings are embedded in the questions. The memory verse is after the map. By the way, check out a region called the Shephelah on the map as well as city called Beth Shemesh. The video takes us to that geographic region.
- First Samuel describes many of the encounters between the Israelites and the Philistines that took place in the Shephelah. As you read highlights from just a few of these accounts, discuss the locations and circumstances, who God raised up to stand for him, what the odds appeared to be, and the results.
I Samuel 7:7-14
I Samuel 13:5-7
I Samuel 13: 16-18I Samuel 14:1
I Samuel 14:8-16
I Samuel 14:22-23
I Samuel 17:1-3
I Samuel 17:8-9
I Samuel 17:34-36
- Israel was certainly on the front lines in the territorial confrontations with the Philistines, yet it was difficult for the Israelites to avoid assimilating the values of the Philistine culture, so their influence for God was compromised. Where do you think the confrontation of cultural values takes place in our world today? What must we do to avoid compromising our values and influence for God?
This week’s suggested memory verse is from I John 2:15-17
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
Last week we crossed over the Jordan River. This week we begin to take possession of the Promised Land! The video and lesson help us to understand more about Jericho, the lowest (more than a thousand feet below sea level) and the oldest (dating back to more than 8000 BC) city in the world.
In preparation, it would be good to read Joshua 5-6. Here are the discussion questions based on these chapters.
- All of Israel camped on the plains of Jericho and prepared to possess the land God had promised them. While they were waiting for God’s direction, who appeared to Joshua, and how did Joshua respond to him? (See Joshua 5:13-14)
If you had been in Joshua’s shoes, preparing Israel to fight against the fortified city of Jericho, what would you have thought when you realized that the commander of the Lord had actually come to be with you?
- In Joshua 6:1-6, God gives Joshua his marching orders. What was unusual about the battle strategy God laid out?
From a human perspective, would this strategy work? Would you have been able to convince your army to approach a crucial battle in this way? Why or why not?
- In what ways did God clearly communicate that victory in this battle belonged to him? (See Joshua 5:14 and 6:2)
- What did Joshua and Israel do that showed they understood that the battle for Jericho belonged to the Lord? (See Joshua 6:6-21, 24)
This week’s suggested memory verse is from Exodus 34:10-11:
Then the LORD said: “I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the LORD, will do for you. Obey what I command you today.
Are you ready to get a bit soggy? The title of this week’s study is “Wet Feet”. The video and scriptures explore the importance of the Jordan River and what it meant to the Israelites.
Here are some scriptures you might want to look at in preparation, followed by a few of the questions we will consider.
- What kind of report did the spies, other than Caleb, bring back from their exploration of the land of Canaan?
- Who was ready to get their feet wet and why?
- The second time Israel was poised to enter the Promised Land, Joshua sent out two spies. How did their report differ from the first report? Who was ready to get their feet wet?
- What instructions were given to the people when it was time to cross the Jordan? Why were these instructions important as the people were ready to step out in faith to cross over?
And here are two questions for personal reflection:
- What is your “Jordan River”, the frightening barrier that keeps you from fully plunging ahead into the life God intends for you?
- Why is this barrier stopping you from taking possession of the “land” God has given to you?
This week’s suggested memory verse is from 2 Chronicles 20:17:
You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.
We are studying “Faith Lessons in the Promised Land”, a 5-week video series filmed on location in the Middle East.
The first lesson is titled Standing at the Crossroads and it focuses on Tel Gezer, one of the greatest tels in Israel.
In preparation for this lesson, you may want to read these scriptures and think about the questions that follow:
- Why did God choose Israel as the land where the plan of salvation would unfold? How is God’s intent for believers similar to God’s choice of the land for Israel?
- In what ways does God want his people to influence the world?
- The “standing stones” that the Israelites erected are testimonies to God’s actions in their lives. What specific events did the children of Israel mark with standing stones?
- How is your life like a standing stone? How does it tell others what God has done for you? Who has been a standing stone for you? How?
- The city gate was important in biblical times because it protected a city against invasion. It was also the place where the judges and rulers of the city sat. Give some biblical examples of judges who sat in the gate.
- How might a Christian “sit in the gate” in our culture?
It is suggested that we all memorize a verse each week. This week’s verse is from I Peter 2:12:
“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. “