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Monday, September 26, 2016

Halfway between Samuel and John (maybe)

Starting the second year of our journey through prophets, and trying to remember where we were in the first year... The first study in Daniel will be posted tomorrow.

(27) PART 2 - The End is Not The End

Here’s where we were in our Minor Prophets’ study at the end of last year:
The nation was split in two---Israel and Judah. Half went into exile when Israel was conquered by Assyria. And now the nation has been split again. Half have gone into exile again (conquered by Babylon). Meanwhile nothing remains to tell anyone this land belongs to God.
1.       To what extent is the land of Israel special? Ancient religions thought their gods ruled over locations. Is that what Judaism believed? Is it what we believe? How does it color our attitude to the new nation of Israel?
2.       To what extend should it be clear that a land belongs to God? Should it be written on their money, or is it more important that faith be written in their hearts?
3.       What do we worry more about—our land and its laws, or God and the law of love that saved us?
4.       If we lost everything, what would we worry more about—what we’d lost, or staying true to God?
5.       How hard would it be to trust God in exile?
a.       What kind of “exile” can you imagine falling on American Christians today?
b.      Do you think fear of exile would make us more or less faithful to God?
c.       And would exile itself make us more or less faithful?
God’s people have lost God’s country, God’s favor, and God’s Temple. It’s no surprise they spent a lot of time thinking about the end-times. But why do we? And what else do you think would concern God’s exiled people?
1.       If you couldn’t go to church, how and where would you worship God?
2.       If you didn’t have a Bible, how would you recover God’s word?
a.       What would be your attitude to any recovered words?
3.       If you didn’t have a national identity, how would you rebuild one? And what “national identity” would be worth rebuilding?
In Jerusalem, Jeremiah continues to prophecy to the remnant. In Babylon, Daniel will become a great prophet for the exiles in the present, in the immediate future, and in the end-times. In Israel, Ezekiel will speak to another remnant and try to restore order. In Edom, Obadiah is going to speak to those who pour scorn on God’s people. And the end will not be the end.
God’s people will return, and Zechariah, Haggai and Malachi will continue to prophecy. Prophecies of Isaiah will prove remarkably relevant to their present situation, so much so that many writers imagine some of Isaiah’s original prophecies were revised to emphasize their relevance, or that followers of the prophetic school of Isaiah were still at work.
1.       Have you ever seen sets of Bible verses collected together because of their relevance to a particular issue?
2.       Have you ever collected favorite Bible verses? How and why?
3.       What sort of “Bible” did the Jewish exiles have at that time anyway? And how might exile have helped shape the Bible as we know it?
As time goes on, the prophecies of Daniel will also prove powerful—not just in repelling invaders with their accuracy (Josephus says the book was used to distract Alexander the Great from invading Jerusalem!), but also in continuing to be relevant to later situations.
1.       What knowledge about Daniel do you already have? List anything that comes to mind, and add to the list below if you have other ideas.
a.       End-times prophecies?
b.      Birth of Christ prophecies?
c.       Rise and fall of nations?
2.       What attracts you to studying Daniel?
a.       and what makes you less keen to read the book?
So here we are. We really haven’t finished the Minor Prophets—there at least three still to go. We haven’t finished the study of Jewish history before Christ. And we’re about to read about the end-times… or are we?
Let’s start this second half of our studies with Daniel, follow the history of God’s people and the prophets God gave to them (whether we believe Isaiah is first-written, rewritten or revised, it’s still God’s word, and we still have plenty of passages unread), and end…

… with the rest of Daniel and the history of the world, leading up to that prophet we promised to end with when we began this journey—John, son of the mother who prayed, just as Samuel was.

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