Week 22: Joshua

Prepare these questions for Sunday, August 25, 2013.

The Book of Joshua is about, you know, Joshua. After wandering in the desert as punishment for their disobedience, the Israelites were finally on the cusp of invading and conquering the Promised Land (Canaan). Moses chose Joshua as his successor to lead the entire nation across the Jordan River and into the region that they had been promised by God. This book tells the story of that journey and concludes with the death of Joshua.  It was probably complied after Joshua's death (at least the death part was, obviously), although some portions may have been recorded by Joshua himself.

1. In Chapter 1 God commands Joshua to take the Israelites into Canaan. What advice or instructions does He give Joshua? What might have been the purpose of these words or phrases?

2. Describe the story of Rahab. Why would this detail be part of the larger story of the Israelites' taking of Canaan?

3. What happened at Jericho? Why might God give Joshua these instructions for taking the city?

4. Most of this book involves the conquering of the various peoples and cities in Canaan. Why would God require such strenuous fighting on the part of the Israelites to claim this land? What does it say that so many of the cities were destroyed?

5. In the last chapters of the book, Israel renews its covenant with God (that they will follow God and He will not leave them). Why would Israel need to keep renewing their covenant? In what ways do you relate to their lack of focus in their faith?

Week 21: Ecclesiastes

Prepare these questions for Sunday, August 18, 2013.

The name Ecclesiastes is generally thought to mean "teacher" or "preacher" and this book is written as though a teacher is giving advice.  The author may have been King Solomon, but that is not certain and it could just be a collection of teachings from several people.  This small book is not a story or history, but rather advice about how to pursue meaning in a broken world.

1. Chapter 1 includes two famous lines that are often quoted even in non-religious settings. Read verse 2 ("meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless) and verse 9 (there is nothing new under the sun). What do these verses mean and why would they resonate with so many people?

2. Chapter 3 begins with a beautiful poem (which also happens to be a song released by the band The Byrds in 1965). How could this "circle of life" concept be comforting? What other reactions or feelings does it inspire in you?

3. Read Chapter 5: 8-20. What is the main idea of this passage? How can you apply this advice to your own pursuits and desires for your life?

4. Ecclesiastes can be a depressing read (there is a lot of "meaningless" talk), but it can also be encouraging. It presents an uncertain world where hard work does not guarantee success or wealth, but where relationships (with friends or in marriage) are a source of real joy. How might the world be different if loving your friends and fearing God were the most valued priorities instead of the pursuit of wealth, power, or fame? How might your life be different if you focus on those priorities?

Week 20: Proverbs 10-31

Prepare these questions for Sunday, August 11, 2013.

1. Chapters 10-24 are advice from King Solomon and are often short, two-halved statements.  What recurring themes do you see in these proverbs? (ex., fear/knowledge of God, guarding your tongue)

2. Choose 1-2 proverbs to memorize that you could use to guide your own actions this week.  For instance, if you struggle with arguing with your family, Proverbs 12:16 might be useful for you.

3. The term "fool" is used often in this collection of wisdom.  Based on these verses, what makes a person foolish?

4. Proverbs 31 includes a poem known as "The Wife of Noble Character." After reading this passage, what words or characteristics do you think the author would use to describe a modern wife of noble character?

Week 19: Proverbs 1-9

Prepare these questions for Sunday, August 4, 2013.

The book of Proverbs is a collection of wisdom and advice that was meant to be passed down through the generations of the Israelites.  Many of the proverbs are attributed to Solomon, but there are also other authors and the book was not written in one sitting or even during one lifetime. It is often quoted and generally considered to be practical even in today's world.

1. Chapter 1 states the purpose of this book. In your own words, why was Proverbs compiled and written down?

2. These chapters usually begin with "my son" or "my sons." Why would the author use this address and how might that affect how they were heard or read in ancient Israel?

3. There are several major themes in these chapters-pursuing wisdom, fleeing adultery, warnings against folly. What pieces of advice stood out to you? Why?

4. These first 9 chapters are rather poetic. For instance, wisdom has a voice and a gender (it's a woman) and speaks directly to the reader. What might be the purpose of using such writing devices?  Do you think it is an effective way to communicate the message of the first chapters of Proverbs?