(This article can also we found on our website at
http://www.bethelkingston.com under the tab called “Blog”)
This touching base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community. God’s Word needs to be discussed in community.
Every person has a few “hot topics” in their life. Think about some hot topics in your own life: what makes them hotter than others? Have you ever found yourself in a group discussion where the topic was hot? Was that an uncomfortable experience? How do people often relate to hot topics? How did (or does) your family handle hot topics?
On Sunday we looked specifically at Deuteronomy 7:1-2 and 20:16-17 (please read the surrounding verses to understand the context.) What makes these verses hot? What makes you uncomfortable? What are the reasons given for the destruction of these nations? Does the reason that is given satisfy your discomfort? Can you imagine how a seeker would respond?
Comment on the following statements:
“When I introduce the Bible to my friends outside the church, these passages jump out at them, and they wonder how a nice guy like me could be so excited about what seems to them a barbaric book.” (McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy)
“...regardless of your best answers you are still left with something that makes us uncomfortable, something we wish God had done another way.” (Wright, The God I Don’t Understand)
On Sunday I gave the scenario of talking to a friend at a party and having her ask the question about how a loving God could order the execution of the Canaanite nations. Discuss the following responses.
1. Our response needs to reveal our own personal discomfort with these kinds of texts (I am assuming you are uncomfortable about these issues like myself)
- What harm can we do if we don’t allow people to wrestle with the mystery of these kinds of texts?
- Can you give examples of where Christ followers try to make excuses for God’s actions rather than just allow the text to speak and accept some of the mystery?
2. The Bigger Conversation
On Sunday I drew a round circle on an easel representing a table. I said that in order to gain greater clarity on the character of God and His conduct, we need to engage in the bigger conversation of Scripture. We need to invite others to the table. As a group (or an individual) draw that circle and review what I said about:
- Rahab (Joshua 2:9-11) This story of salvation is so important that it is mentioned three times in the New Testament. Rahab enters into the genealogy of the Messiah (Matt1:5), she is included among the models of faith (Heb. 11:31) and she is held up as an example of proving faith by action (James 2:25)
- David (David was not allowed to build the Temple because the blood of war was on his hands)
- Paul (Romans 15:7-12)
What does the bigger conversation reveal about God’s character and conduct?
Who else from Scripture would you invite to the table?
“No single story, not even Jesus’ story, can tell the whole Story. We need them all.”
(McKnight, The Blue Parakeet)
The Bible illustrates that there is a bigger conversation going on.
The point I was attempting to make on Sunday was that if we just listen to one section of Scripture, we will not see the bigger picture of who God is and what He does. By engaging with the bigger picture we get a balanced perspective. This leads into a problem for many Christ followers. They don’t read the whole counsel of Scripture. They have their favourite books or sections (Old Testament versus New Testament) and by not reading the whole they get a distorted picture.
On a personal note, who (biblical writer or name of biblical book) do you need to be engaging with more? (i.e. when was the last time you read Habakkuk or Job?)
3. God’s Sovereign Justice
When we engage with the bigger conversation we realize that God did not shoot first and ask questions later.
Discuss how these difficult texts are not examples of genocide but justice?
“The action of Israel against the Canaanites is never placed in the category of oppression but of divine punishment operating through human agency.” (Wright, The God I Don’t Understand)
When we read and understand the context of Genesis 15:16 we realize that God waited 400 years before acting? Does this represent God’s anger or patience? Would you have waited longer?
Discuss the following:
“I think in these kinds of situations God can’t win at the poll of public opinion. If He doesn’t act in judgment, we accuse Him of indifference. In how many situations around the world today do we wish God would act in divine judgment? But, when He does act we criticize Him for being unfair… an ‘angry God, some bloodthirsty bully’, to use Richard Dawkins’ own words.”
So, how would you answer the person at the party that night? I think I might add one more person to the bigger conversation - Christ. If in fact He is God in the flesh, then the bigger conversation tells me this: while I may be uncomfortable with God’s judgment of the sin of the nations in the Old Testament, I must equally wrestle with a Holy God who is willing to come in flesh and take onto Himself all forms of human sin - of which He was not guilty – so that I might live! Where is the justice in that? The innocent suffering for the guilty, and the guilty potentially walking free while the Innocent One suffers!
The response God asks of me to this scene of injustice, the cross, is not to earn what God did for me but to repent of my sin so that I may truly live. The cross represents what has been in abundance from Genesis to Revelation - Grace!
Please pass along any questions your group has on this issue. We may take time at the end of the series to respond to a few of them.
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (.)
1 Peter 3:15, NIV
*Please note that Bethel Church does not necessarily endorse all of the author’s opinions in this book.