A Cure For Indifference – November 23, 2014
Jonah 4 is the chapter that everyone tends to forget. The book doesn’t resolve with a happy ending, but rather leaves us in suspense wondering how Jonah and Nineveh end up. Jonah is indignant that God has been so gracious towards Nineveh, and accuses God of being too kind. Instead of God rebuking Jonah, He questions him, revealing his self-centeredness and indifference towards Nineveh. It leaves us questioning our own souls, and whether self-righteousness and indifference hinder us from joining God in His mission.
1. What do we learn in this chapter about God’s compassion
2. Give an example of when God’s grace towards someone has offended you.
3. How does God’s heart towards Jonah and Nineveh help us to overcome indifference, and leave our comfort zone to ‘teach people their right hand from their left?’
The God of Mercy and Mission – November 16, 2014
Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, which is present day Iraq, was the most powerful, wealthy and violent city in Jonah’s time. No army in their right mind would try and overthrow it. But God sent Jonah, an army of one, to overthrow Nineveh, to bring them to repentance and faith in God. But first God had to overthrow Jonah, who was a willing prophet but a reluctant missionary. The irony is that it seemed to be harder for God to change Jonah than it was for Him to change Nineveh. God’s salvation of Nineveh, despite Jonah’s bad attitude and bad theology, highlights God’s sovereignty to save people despite us. What He needs though is our willingness.
1. God is shown in this chapter as gracious yet persistent in His commission to Jonah to preach to Nineveh. God is by nature a sending God. How would you describe your response to the mission of God?
2. Jonah’s idols seemed to be nationalism and self-preservation. (2:8) What are the idols that keep you from obeying His Great Commission?
3. Even though Jonah went with a bad attitude, and bad theology, he went to Nineveh with boldness. God shows his power to save despite us. Tell a story of how God has saved someone who seemed unredeemable. Who do you feel God is calling you to be bold towards? Pray for each other for boldness.
True Salvation – November 9, 2014
Chapter two is primarily a poem, a psalm of Jonah revealing something of a change of heart. Where he had been running from God, he is now thanking God for salvation from certain death. His predicament, however, is that he is stuck inside of a large fish. Jonah details the help of the Lord and reaffirms his trust in God’s salvation and deliverance. God then causes the fish to vomit Jonah onto dry land.
1. Ongoing repentance is often neglected in the life of a Christian. How can you ensure ongoing repentance in your own life?
2. Jonah found the salvation of the Lord from certain death. In what area do you feel you need the salvation of the Lord in your life right now?
3. What areas of your life do you struggle to trust God’s sovereignty? What areas do you find it easy?
Unbelievable Story – November 2, 2014
Jonah was one of the rare prophets that prophesied good things for Israel, indicating a recapturing of land and expansion of their borders under Jeroboam II. But when God asks Jonah to prophesy a warning to Nineveh, a sworn enemy of Israel, he refuses. Jonah flees by ship in the opposite direction of Nineveh, fearing that if God spares this evil city, they will survive to harass Israel as they had done in the past. As Jonah’s flees, God sends a storm to arrest him in his path and turn him back to His original plan and purpose. But Jonah persists, opting instead to be thrown overboard to quell the storm and save the pagan sailors aboard. The pagan sailors fear the Lord, but Jonah is left to his death until God sends a fish to swallow him. Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.
1. Jonah’s disobedience is almost unbelievable because it seems so clear what God wants him to do, yet he refuses. How are you in danger of refusing a similarly clear call to obey God in your life?
2. Not only does Jonah refuse to do what God says, but he buys a ticket to flee in the other direction. Where do you choose to invest your time, money and energy, meanwhile avoiding God’s commands?
3. What command of Jesus do you most struggle to obey? Please pray for one another, for it is by God’s grace that we are empowered to obey.
Faith Refined – October 26, 2014
Peter wrote in his first epistle that our faith in Christ Jesus faith is more precious than gold. He also compared the testing of our faith to the refining process of gold, which is purified and made more valuable by fire.(1 Peter 1:7) We have been looking at the refining process of Habakkuk’s faith. It begins with him wrestling with God in the valley of doubt and complaint, and then progresses to him waiting as a watchman on the wall for God’s answer to his complaints.
Even though God answers in a way that he does not expect or like, Habakkuk submits to God’s inscrutable ways and writes down God’s answer on stone tablets. In the last chapter, Habakkuk’s faith has burst into a song of praise. He is now worshipping a God that is beyond His control; a God that He trusts.
He has scaled the mountain of his doubts like a deer, and he is full of confidence and joy. His circumstances have not changed but God has enabled him to rise above His circumstances in faith. This is a picture of refined faith. His song of faith requests God to reveal his power, remembers the moments in Israel’s history when God showed up in power, and resolves to worship God no matter what the circumstances are.
1. Tell of a situation or season where your faith was tested by fire.
2. Habakkuk’s song closes with a resolve to worship God ’though the fig tree does not blossom and there be no fruit on the vine.’ This is remarkable faith. How is He able to do this and what can we learn from Him?
3. Habakkuk remembers the moments in which God broke through for His people to bolster his faith. He asks God to show up for Him in the same way. What have aspects of past revival do we need in our day? Pray for this as a group.
The Just Shall Live by Faith – October 19, 2014
Habakkuk reads like a personal journal between a prophet and his God. His wrestle of faith means that he does not edit his questions, doubts and complaints to God. This dignifies our wrestle of faith. However, he also resists the temptation to edit out the difficult aspects of God’s character: His sovereignty, His judgement, His restoration of Israel in His way and time. This is an equally important part of growing in faith. Faith is the major theme of Habakkuk. “The just shall live by faith,” is the seed that flowered into Paul’s understanding of the Gospel of justification by faith. It was what sparked the Reformation through Martin Luther’s conversion. Habakkuk’s faith moves him to pray for God to redeem and revive His people as in the days of Exodus.
1. How do you resist the urge to edit your questions and issues before God?
2. What aspects of God’s character to you find yourself editing?
3. What is your understanding of ‘justification by faith?’ In the Puritan’s three part definition of faith being ‘knowledge, receiving knowledge, and trust in that knowledge,’ where are you?
The Wrestle of Faith – October 12, 2014
If Haggi was the building prophet, and Hosea the marrying prophet, then Habakkuk was the wrestling prophet. His name means to wrestle and embrace. He does both, wrestling for faith in the face of wickedness and injustice while he embraces a God who is beyond his control. He was a contemporary of Jeremiah which places him around 640BC– 609BC, just before the time that Babylon carried Israel into exile. In chapter 1, Habakkuk brings two complaints before God. First he complains about God seeming indifference in the face of injustice, and secondly he complains that God’s solution of raising up the wicked Babyloians to judge Israel, seems inconsistent with His character. While God answers are unusual to say the least, it is important to remember that God dignifies Habakkuk’s wrestle of faith by giving him the burden in the first place, by listening to his complaints and by answering him.
1. Habakkuk wrestled with God without abandoning him. How can we wrestle with God in a way that drives us towards him rather than away from him?
2. God’s answer to Habakkuk’s complaint was unexpected and offensive. Tell of a time when God answered you in a way you didn’t expect or want, and how it turned out.
3. God told Habakkuk to write down the vision of what He would do. How does vision sustain you in the face of difficulty or delay.
The Gift of Discipline – October 5, 2104
In the book of Hosea, God calls a prophet to marry a prostitute in order to demonstrate how the unfaithful people of Israel have prostituted themselves to other gods. This illustration is meant to be a stark portrayal of their sin that gets their attention and explains why He is going to punish them. Much of Hosea’s message detailed how God would discipline the Israelites, but it also contained God’s plan to restore them.
1. What is your experience with discipline and what are the first things you think of when you think of discipline?
2. In Hosea 2, God describes restoring the Israelites in the wilderness. Even though it is often seen as a difficult place, can you relate to being in the wilderness or being restored in the wilderness?
3. Describe a time when discipline yielded the peaceful fruit of righteousness and brought about the kingdom in your life.