STORIES OF SCARCITY AND ABUNDANCE IN THE BIBLE. Taste & See A LENTEN STUDY GUIDE

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1 STORIES OF SCARCITY AND ABUNDANCE IN THE BIBLE Taste & See A LENTEN STUDY GUIDE

2 WEEK ONE PASTOR MELISSA SCHASER Passover The origin of Passover is in Exodus 12, when God instructs Moses and Aaron about how to prepare the Passover feast. Throughout the biblical text, Passover holds three distinct purposes: first, to immediately protect the Israelites from the final plague, the death of the firstborns, in Egypt; second, to perpetuate the memory of God bringing the Israelites out of Egypt, thereby strengthening their identity and trust in God s provision; and third, to prepare for Jesus, the Lamb of God, whose final Passover celebration on this earth we now call the Last Supper, and whose sacrifice takes away the sin of the world. PROTECTION 1 Before the Passover text in Exodus 12, we find the Israelites enslaved in Egypt and awaiting God s redemption that will lead them to the Promised Land. God reassures Moses of His promises in Exodus 6:1-8. Read this passage and describe the attitudes of God, Moses, and the Israelites. Which character do you resonate with in this phase of your life? 2 Moses doubts his ability to communicate with Pharaoh, claiming that he is not a good speaker (Exodus 6:12). Name one instance when you relied on God s strength and ability rather than your own to accomplish something He called you to do. Pharaoh refuses to listen to Moses and Aaron and set the Israelites free, so God inflicts ten disasters among the Egyptians (cf. Exodus 7:14-12:30). After God announces the final disaster, the death of the firstborns, we read in Exodus 9:12, God hardened Pharaoh s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land/country. This sounds troubling to many of us, because it sounds as though God is forcing Pharaoh to contradict God s will. However, if we look at the 3

3 Hebrew, the word translated to harden is chazaq, which actually means to strengthen. Additionally, while we now know that the human brain is the source of thought, the Israelites believed that the heart (in Hebrew, the lev) was the source of contemplation and knowledge. With this in mind, what is often translated hardened Pharaoh s heart should really be translated strengthened Pharaoh s mind or will. We already know that Pharaoh did not want the Israelites to leave the land of Egypt, and with the proper translation of this verse, we realize that God didn t harden Pharaoh s heart against the Israelites; rather, God allowed Pharaoh to follow through with what he already desired to do. 3 The story of Pharaoh s resistance shows us that God will accomplish what He desires, despite our attempts to stop Him. What is one way that you can entrust a challenging area of your life to His will? Read Exodus 12. Through Moses and Aaron, God instructs the Israelites to take a lamb for each household and slaughter it at a specific time, then to spread the blood onto the doorposts and beam over the door of the houses where they are eating. He then instructs them how to cook the lamb, how to eat it, and what to eat along with it. God says that when He sees the blood, He will pass over their door and will not inflict the death of the firstborn on their household. In this way, God offers the Israelites protection through the gift of the Passover meal. 4 God extends His protection to us in so many ways. How have you felt God s protection in the past year, and what is one area of your life in which you want to evoke God s protection today? Say therefore to the people of Israel, I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD. Exodus 6:6-8 (ESV) 4

4 PR ESERVATION God instructs the Israelites to celebrate Passover annually, as an act of remembrance of God s faithful redemption while they were enslaved. In his book What Every Christian Should Know About Passover, Rabbi Evan Moffic writes, The ancient Israelites journey began in tragic circumstances. They experienced four hundred years of bitter slavery. Yet, after God leads them to freedom, they do not define themselves as victims. Rather, they hold the first sacred Passover meal telling their story of God s redemption. 5 The Passover meal evokes both grief about the Israelites slavery in Egypt, and faith in God who delivered them from it. This ritual offers a time for Jews to remember their story and to make meaning from it. Which rituals or celebrations do you and your family partake in throughout the year to remember God s faithfulness? 6 Can you think of some of the peaks and valleys in your faith journey over the past five years? How has God brought you through them? PREPARATION When John the Baptist sees Jesus in John 1, he proclaims, Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29). Throughout the gospels, Jesus postures Himself as the sacrificial Passover Lamb. 7 After reading Exodus 12, describe the role of the lamb in Passover. What are the physical qualities of the lamb? What is its function? The blood of the lamb is painted on the doorposts and the beam over the door of Israelite households to identify them as God s beloved people amidst the death of the firstborn Egyptians. Later, the lamb serves as a marker of remembrance that God redeemed the Israelites by bringing them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. Romans 3:22-26 states, For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to 5

5 show God s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Just as God passed over the homes of the Israelites who had the blood of the lambs on their doorposts, so also God now passes over the sins of those who have been forgiven by the blood of Christ. 8 What is one way that you celebrate the forgiveness and protection you have received in Christ? 6

6 WEEK TWO PASTOR MELISSA SCHASER Elijah and the Widow We worship a miraculous God. A God who loves to show up and provide for us, even in the most difficult circumstances. This week we get to explore a story where God provides food in the face of scarcity and life in the face of death. Read 1 Kings 17: God tells Elijah to go find a widow whom God has instructed to care for him. He finds the widow and she brings him water, but when he requests bread she responds, I don t have any food; only a handful of flour in a jar and a bit of oil in a bottle. Look at me. I m collecting two sticks so that I can make some food for myself and my son. We ll eat the last of the food and then die (v. 12). Elijah meets this woman when she is in a time of desperate need, and yet God says that she is the one who will care for him. It seems as though God brought them together so they could care for each other. Think about your relationships. Who has God brought into your life at just the right moment? Who are the people who most influence you now? 2 This passage is from Elijah s perspective, but let s consider the widow s perspective for a moment. She and her son are starving to death, but God has called her to care for Elijah, a man that God is sending to her. What do you imagine she was feeling in that moment? Can you name a time when you were struggling, but still chose to reach out to someone else? Read Matthew 14: Like Elijah in 1 Kings 17, Jesus provides both food and healing for those in need, and these gifts are welcomed. Many of us prefer to give care and gifts and struggle to receive them. When was the last time you allowed someone to care for you, or you accepted a gift from someone else? Do you find that you prefer to give or to receive gifts and care? 7

7 In 1 Kings 17, the widow, her son, and Elijah live on the flour and oil that God provides them. God meets their need, and none of them complain. In comparison to the ancient Israelite world, we now live in a culture that offers such variety and choice. In fact, many of us perhaps relate more to this comic than to the parable of the Feeding of the 5,000: 4 Often we believe we know what we need, but God has a different plan in mind. How have you seen God provide for you in ways that differ from what you asked of Him? 5 As the widow s son becomes progressively sicker, the son eventually dies and Elijah calls out to God. 1 Kings 17:22 tells us, The Lord listened to Elijah s voice and gave the boy his life back. And he lived. Often people ask whether God truly listens to prayer. Have you ever wondered if God listens? How have you experienced God listening and responding to you in times of need? 8

8 In order to heal the boy, the Bible tells us that Elijah stretched himself over the boy three times and cried out to God (1 Kings 17:21). After Elijah stretches himself out three times, God heals the boy. Read Mark 10: When Jesus predicts His own death, He proclaims that He will rise again three days after His death. Healing is a complicated and often difficult topic, and it touches many different facets of life. In 1 Kings and in Mark we witness physical healings, yet in many other instances in the Bible and in our everyday lives, we can feel God offering us emotional, spiritual, and relational healing. 6 Name one instance when you have felt God s healing presence in your life. How did your life change because of the healing? What is one area of your life in which you are currently seeking healing? 7 The passage concludes with the healing of the widow s son and the widow s declaration, Now I know that you really are a man of God, and that the Lord s word is truly in your mouth (1 Kings 17:24). Name how Elijah demonstrated God s love for the widow. What practices of Elijah s can we put into practice with one another? What is one way we can offer care and one way we can receive care this week? 9

9 WEEK THREE PASTOR JAMES MADSEN Feeding of the 5,000 The Feeding of the 5,000 is the only miracle that is included in each of the four Gospels. In the Gospel of John, Jesus uses the miracle as the backdrop to explaining to us that He is the Bread of Life and that the abundant life is found in Him. Read John 6: How do you see the concept of bread being different in Jesus day than it is today? 2 What lesson is Jesus trying to teach the disciples through the feeding of the five thousand? 3 In verse 15, Jesus saw that they wanted to try to force Him into being the kind of king they wanted. Why do you think they wanted a new king? What do you think their idea of a true king was? When have you had expectations for Jesus that were not what He promised? Read John 6: Tim Keller states that often we are more interested in getting stuff from God than we are in actually being in relationship with Him. Do you agree or disagree? Why? 10

10 5 When they asked Jesus, What must we do to do the works God requires? (v. 28), what answer do you think they expected from Jesus? 6 The primary work of the Christian is to believe in Christ. What does Jesus mean by this? What are synonyms for the word belief? Why does it seem easier to do works for God than do the work of God as Jesus describes it? 7 Consider the core needs of the human heart: Love Acceptance Belonging Purpose Security Identity How do you generally try to get these needs filled in your life? What can be problematic in trying to fulfill these needs? Where in your life do you experience anxiety, control issues, anger, or disappointment? 8 Jesus declares that He is the Bread of Life. He is the very source not only of eternal life but everything our heart needs for the abundant life. The Bible promises us that these things are found in Christ just by believing in Him. Try to think of a Bible verse for each of these core needs that supports the promise that these things are found in Christ: Love: Acceptance: Belonging: Purpose: Security: Identity: 11

11 For bonus study, here are some additional verses you can look at: Love: 1 John 4:10, Romans 8:35-39 Acceptance: Ephesians 2:9-10 and 1:4, 1 Thessalonians 2:4, 2 Corinthians 10:18 Belonging: Galatians 3:26-29 and 4:6-7 Purpose: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 Security: Ephesians 1:13-14, Hebrews 13:5, Romans 8:39 Identity: 2 Corinthians 5:17 All of these promises are true for us in Christ. What do we need to receive them? Faith! Each moment, rest in the finished work of Christ! We have to choose to believe these are true for us through Christ. As we place our trust in who Jesus is and what He has done for us, we realize all that He has secured for us as co-heirs with Him. Read this excerpt from Jennie Allen s article God Doesn t Need You to Try So Hard from Christianity Today: We Are Not Enough We cannot do this ourselves. We have to be saved. If you re exhausted from the struggle to prove yourself, you are not alone. We are so often dragged along in the darkness, unable to save ourselves from our thoughts and from our shame and from our mistakes. We try to slap self-esteem tactics on our fears, but they don t stick because, well, it s true: We are not enough. This would be a terribly depressing thought if it weren t followed by the most freeing truth in all of eternity: God knew we would never be enough. So he became enough for us. Jesus is our enough. The truth that we are not enough and Jesus is enough isn t just good news on the day that God saves us. We need to preach that truth to ourselves and each other every day. We have been rescued from a life of striving today. Learning from Jesus For the last year I have studied the life of Jesus through the book of John. How did Jesus carry the biggest mission of all time without striving? What did he believe about eternity and his Father and this life? How did he move into and through suffering? How did he live with all this incredible, enormous weight that should have been on his life? Jesus lived with a deep security in His identity. He lived settled, content, dependent, with nothing to prove and with a clear goal of displaying His Father s love to every person he encountered. Jesus was a shocking display of God during the time he lived on the earth. Actually he still shocks us as we look at the way he lived, what he valued, and how he loved. He challenged the 12

12 norms of his society, and he showed us how wrong we, as humans, can be about who God is and what he wants from us. Colossians 1:15 says that Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God. Jesus was fully man and fully God, and he lived fully engaged with his whole heart, mind, body, emotions. Fully connected to his Father and to the people around him. Fully present through the pain and the joy. Fully aware of the need around him and the part he was to play to meet it. Fully satisfied in his identity and his place in his Father s story. Fully confident in his Father s provision to accomplish his purpose. When we see Jesus, we see God. We see what he is like, how he would live, what he would do, what he wants from us or better yet what God wants for us. I Am Not Encountering Jesus in the past year has built this new way for me, this new path to knowing him better and living in his strength and abundant grace and letting the Spirit work through me instead of striving. I have found this pattern in Jesus s life: He says, I am the Bread of Life. He is the Bread of Life. We are not. He says, I am the Light of the World. He is the Light. We are not. He says, I am the Door. He is the Door. We are not. He says, I am the Way, the Truth. We are not. He is enough. We are not. I ve lived so thirsty because I thought I knew where the water was. I believed it was on the other side of that ever-moving thick black line of expectations that begged me to cross it, and to get there I d have to muster up the necessary resources from within me. That is why I was so tired. I was trying to be bread and light and life and enough, and I couldn t ever seem to do it. But what I thought was a great disappointment was actually the greatest mercy God has ever shown me. We rarely go to drink unless we are thirsty. To feel our thirst is one of God s greatest gifts to us. To recognize our need for God is the beginning of our finding him. 9 What do you hunger for in life? What desires never seem to be satisfied? 13

13 WEEK FOUR PASTOR MELISSA SCHASER Manna in the Wilderness and the Bread of Life In this week s lesson, each text explores God s willingness to provide for our physical and spiritual needs. While waiting on God and wondering about His plans for the future can certainly occupy much of our hearts, God tells the Israelites to trust Him to provide for tomorrow, and Jesus promises the crowd that whoever comes to Him will never hunger again. 1 Name an experience where God provided for you. What preceded the event? Had you been praying for God to show up, or did God meet an unspoken need? 2 Read Exodus 16:2-3; 17:3-7, and John 6: What are some attributes that describe the attitudes of the people in each text? In each text, the people name an instance in which God has provided for them in the past. In Exodus 16 and 17, they describe God bringing them out of Egypt, and in John they remember how God fed their ancestors manna in the wilderness. Despite God s previous faithfulness, they question whether God will provide for their current needs. 3 People in the biblical text occasionally struggle with spiritual tunnel vision, the tendency to focus solely on the present and lose sight of God s larger plan for our lives. How can you relate to that tendency? What helps you to step back and look at the bigger picture? 14

14 4 What do you do when you find yourself doubting whether God will provide? 5 Read Exodus 16:15-21 and John 6: What are the similarities and the differences of the bread described in each text? 6 John 6 tells us that Jesus is the bread of life, and that whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty (v. 35). However, Jesus also teaches us to pray, Give us this day our daily bread (Matthew 6:11; Luke 11:3). What does it mean for us to feel satisfied in God, and to still turn to Him daily with our needs? 7 What are the differences between physical hunger and spiritual hunger? How do you experience God s provision meeting your physical and spiritual needs? (Think back to last week s lesson.) As well as physical hunger, man also suffers from another form of hunger that cannot be sated with ordinary food. It is a hunger for life, a hunger for love, a hunger for eternity. Jesus gives us this nourishment or rather, He Himself is the living bread that gives life to the world.... It is not a simple form of nourishment to sate our bodies, like manna; the Body of Christ is the bread of the last times, able to give life, eternal life, because the substance of this bread is Love. Pope Francis 8 What is the hope of Jesus as the Bread of Life? How does Jesus being the Bread of Life relate to the sacrament of Communion? 15

15 WEEK FIVE PASTOR JAMES MADSEN Parable of the Wedding Banquet The Kingdom of Heaven is the redemptive rule or reign of God in Christ. Jesus is saying the Kingdom is both a present and a future reality. Rabbis often taught in parables to give snapshots of their lessons. Jesus parables seemed to bring both clarity and confusion, depending on the condition of the listener. There are two parables that are very similar comparing the Kingdom of the God to a banquet. One is in Luke 14: For our study, we are focusing on Matthew 22:1-14. Read Matthew 22:1-14. Much of Matthew s teaching is asking the question, Who will enter the Kingdom of Heaven? The two parables in chapter 21 and this one here address this issue. Jesus message of who would enter the Kingdom was surprising to His audience. 1 In Jesus day, a wedding banquet was a joyous, often weeklong celebration, in which most of the town was invited. It was an event not to be missed! What is your idea of an event or celebration that you do not want to miss out on? 2 Who are those who have rejected God s invitation in this parable? (See also John 1:11-12.) How can that serve as a warning to us inside the Church? 3 What are some of the excuses people have today for rejecting Jesus? 16

16 4 King Jesus invitation is to partake in the Kingdom of God. He is inviting us to taste and see that the Lord is good. His invitation is come to me, whoever you are, wherever you have been... just come and receive. I am the bread of life (paraphrased from Matthew 11:28, Matthew 9:13, John 6:35). At times, we seem to try to satisfy ourselves with the crumbs of this world, instead of feasting on the abundance of God. What are some practices that help you taste and see that the Lord is good? 5 In order to receive this invitation of grace, we need to know that we need grace. What helps you see your need for a Savior? 6 We are also called to share God s invitation of grace with others. Who is God calling you to invite? If you could share with them this invitation in a couple sentences, what would you say? 7 What does the wedding garment represent in this parable (vv )? See also Isaiah 61:10, Romans 3:22, 1 Corinthians 1:30, and Philippians 3:

17 The Heidelberg Catechism Question 60 gives us more insight into how we receive this robe: Question 60 How are you right with God? Only by true faith in Jesus Christ. Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all God s commandments and of never having kept any of them, and even though I am still inclined toward all evil, nevertheless, without my deserving it at all, out of sheer grace, God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me. All I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart. 8 What would you say is necessary in order to receive this robe of Christ s righteousness? What encouragement do you find in this statement from the Catechism? 18

18 WEEK SIX PASTOR MELISSA SCHASER Anointing at Bethany In our text this week, Jesus accepts a dinner invitation from a Pharisee. When Jesus arrives at the Pharisee s house, He enters and sits down at the table for the meal, like most of us would do today. Little did the Pharisee know that a sacred interruption would soon take place. Read Luke 7: How have you experienced fellowship around a dinner table? Do any meals feel especially meaningful to you throughout your year? From our vantage point, the beginning of the story seems ordinary: Jesus enters the Pharisee s house and sits down. However, in the first century Israelite world, guests had different expectations for hospitality than we hold today. Both Jesus and the Pharisee would have cleaned up and may have worn expensive perfumes or oils to prepare for the evening. Then, when Jesus entered his home, it was customary for the host to greet his guest with a kiss on the cheek, water to clean his feet, and possibly even oil for anointing at some point during the meal. The Pharisee refuses Jesus each of these kindnesses. 2 Name an instance when you were shown generous hospitality. What are ways that we today can show God s love through hospitality to others? 19

19 After Jesus and the Pharisee sit down at the table, a shocking intervention takes place: A woman described as a sinner enters the Pharisee s home weeping and uses her tears to wash Jesus feet. After kissing them, she dries His feet with her hair and pours perfumed oil on Him. This woman flips the script of what should have happened during the meal. While the Pharisee denies Jesus a kiss of greeting, this lowly woman kisses His feet; while the Pharisee withholds water for Jesus to wash His feet, she uses her tears and hair to wash and dry them; and while the Pharisee refuses Jesus oil to anoint Himself, this poor woman pours expensive perfumed oil over Him. 3 In this passage, we watch the wealthy and powerful fail to welcome Jesus, while the poor and sinful honor and care for Him. Why do you think the Pharisee refused Jesus the welcome He deserved? 4 So often our pride can get in the way of us welcoming God and other people into our hearts and lives. What is one area of your life that you feel you need to welcome God into a little bit more this week? Can you think of one person who you should reach out to and welcome into your life? 5 The woman in this passage showed true devotion to Jesus by sacrificially offering Him expensive perfume and by humbling herself to wash His feet with her tears and use her hair to dry them. She had fully invested herself in caring for Him. In what way do you sacrifice most for your faith? Is it in your time, money, relationships, or something else? 20

20 When the Pharisee rebukes Jesus for allowing the woman to wash His feet and show Him her devotion, Jesus offers him a parable (v ). In the parable, a leader forgives the debts of two men who owe him money. One man owed the leader a lot of money, and the other owed him a lesser amount. Jesus asks the Pharisee, Which of them will love him more? The Pharisee surmises that the man who had the larger debt forgiven will love the leader more, which Jesus affirms as the correct answer. He explains to the Pharisee that her many sins are forgiven because she loved with abundance, for he who is forgiven little, loves little (v. 47). 6 What do you see as the connection between forgiveness and love? 7 Romans 3:23 tells us that, All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We share in the collective experience of being indebted to God. How have you personally felt God s forgiveness in your life? 8 Jesus offers the woman forgiveness from her sins. Jesus teaches us to pray, Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors (Matthew 6:12). What is one way that you can offer forgiveness to someone in your life this week? Who should you forgive because Christ has forgiven you? 21

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