RENEW - Chronicles: Rediscovering Who We Are and Why We're Here - Sermon Study Guide #14 - Rediscovery of God's Compassion and Our Commission

READ – 2 Chronicles 36:15-23

This final passage and conclusion to the book of Chronicles is not only the conclusion to the book of Chronicles (which starts with Adam and concludes in the author’s present day), it is also the grand finale of the Hebrew Bible of Jesus’ time (the Tanakh -the traditional Hebrew ordering of the Scriptures). This passage stands as a powerful reminder of why the people could still hold on to hope that God had not forsaken them (despite their continued straying) and of what they were called to as the people of God (their mission). It’s also the cliff hanger ending of the Old Testament that finds its final fulfillment in Jesus.

SUMMARY: As we discover and re-discover the compassion of God for us, we are renewed in our relationship with Him and we are propelled outward as people commissioned by God to show and speak compassion to others.

COMPASSION FROM GOD

Verses 15-16 summarize the whole history of God’s relationship to humanity from Adam onward. (Remember the 1st word in Chronicles, “Adam.”) The story of this relationship can be told as the intertwining and tension of 3 major themes – 1) the persistent compassion of God, 2) the persistent rejection of people and the 3) the passion of God against sin and suffering (wrath).

Theme #1 As we come to the end of Chronicles, the author emphasizes one thing he does not want us to miss about God’s role in this story – He is a God of persistent compassion. God’s compassion means that He longs to give us the remedy (v16) for all our sin and for the suffering in this world. It means he is full or readiness, sympathy and longing to relive and remove all human suffering and brokenness. This is his unchanging heart toward us. From Genesis 3 thru 2 Chronicles 36, the story of the OT is the story of a God who persistently sends his word out so that people would turn to Him and be healed.

Theme #2Verse 16 tells us how people respond to God’s persistent compassion – with persistent rejection. It’s not just any kind of rejection. It’s a rejection full of mocking, despising and scoffing at God and his call to turn to Him. The image is of a sick and dying people who not only refuse the medicine that could cure them, they mock and scoff at the physician’s offer.

Theme #3 - Verse 16 says God’s “wrath rose up against his people.” It is very difficult for us to reconcile the idea of wrath with a God of persistent compassion. What is wrath? Wrath can be defined as God’s passion against sin, evil and suffering in the world. Wrath, seen in this way, is a necessary component of God’s love, concern and compassion. How can he be indifferent toward the suffering, evil and injustice in the world caused by sin? How can he look the other way when people turn away from Him to their own hurt and the hurt of others?

The juxtaposition of these 3 themes raises all kinds of questions: How can the story move forward with the tension between these 3 themes? Will God’s compassion run out? Will his wrath lead him to forsake his people and his plan for the redemption of the nations? Will humanity ever receive the only remedy for their sin and suffering?

There’s a hint in Chronicles as to how the tension resolves. The book does not end with wrath and exile. Instead, it ends with a new beginning and a fresh start. Chronicles doesn’t end with wrath, it ends with compassion. Exile is not the last word, it’s return. This all leads us to the ultimate and final resolution of the tension between these 3 themes in the coming of Jesus and his saving work. In Jesus, we see the compassion of God in action through his entering into our sinful and broken world, his healing of human disease and brokenness, his exorcisms and his extension of forgiveness to the sinners and tax collectors at the margins of Jewish society. In Him, we see the persistence of the compassion of God in the flesh.

In Him, we also see the wrath of God most clearly. The One who was the remedy for sinners and suffers was mocked, ridiculed, scoffed at throughout his ministry and most of all – as he hung on the cross. Why? There He took on and received the full force and passion of God’s wrath against human resistance, sin and the source of suffering. At the cross we see our rejection of God’s compassion, God’s passionate hatred of our sin and God’s unrelenting compassion for resistant sinners. Only in the cross do we see how God can eliminate sin and not eliminate us. Since God’s wrath was turned toward Jesus, we can be assured that God is turned toward us in compassion always ready to comfort and receive us. Since Jesus rose from the dead, we can be assured that one day all our sin and suffering will come to an end.

COMMISSIONED BY GOD

The final two verses not only show us how God’s compassion continued for his people in bringing them back to the land, they function as a reminder of the calling the people had who returned from exile. The people who had experienced compassion from God are the people who are commissioned by God. The two always go together. Renewal of relationship with God always leads to a renewal of mission. The people who returned to land were not just called to come and enjoy life there but were called to join in God’s mission of rebuilding. Many scholars note the parallels between Jesus’ “Great Commission” in Matt. 28:18-20 and this commission in 2 Chron. 36:22-23. Jesus appears to have had this in mind as he commissioned the church to mission.

Based on this connection, one application of this text is that each of us, individually, and every church, corporately, are called to be known as people and communities of persistent compassion. By what we say, how we say and what we do we are called to show the world the remedy of the gospel for all our sin and suffering.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

1.       What about the passage and/or sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?

2.      Read over the definition of the compassion of God in “theme #1” above. What difference would it make in our suffering and in our struggles with sin if we were convinced God was compassionate toward us like this? What makes this hard for us?

3.      Is it difficult for you to attribute wrath to God? Why or why not? Does the definition of wrath above help you make sense of how God can have wrath and love? Also, it was noted in the sermon that the passage speaks of God’s wrath in both an “indirect” (v 17) and “incongruent” way (i.e., hundreds of years of abandoning God vs. 70 years of exile). Using the descriptions below, discuss how these two concepts

·        The indirectness of God’s wrath is shown in passages like Romans 1 (verses 19, 24, 26). It was captured by CS Lewis when he wrote, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done."

·        The incongruence of God’s wrath and compassion was described by AW Tozer when he said, “God has a safety lock on his wrath and a hair trigger on His mercy.”

4.      How does the gospel answer to the tension in these 3 themes produce in us a great humility (I never knew how great my sin was!) and a great boldness? (I am more loved and cared for than I ever dared dream!)

5.      Our Commission should be shaped by compassion in at least 3 ways:

·        What we say – Why is it important that we listen and feel with others before we speak?

·        How we say it - Francis Schaeffer wrote, “Biblical orthodoxy without compassion is surely the ugliest thing in the world.” Do you agree? How do Christians communicate the truth of the bible without compassion? What does it look like to communicate truth with compassion?

·        What we do – What place should acts of compassion on those who are suffering have in our mission? Why is it so difficult for most of us in suburban OC to consistently commit to make room for this in our lives?

 

RENEW - Chronicles: Rediscovering Who We Are and Why We're Here - Sermon Study Guide #13 - Rediscovery of Courage

READ – 2 Chronicles 15:1-5

Asa’s story is meant to be read as a story of courage. The hinge of the story is in v. 7-8. A prophet comes to Asa and says, “But you, take courage!... as soon as he heard these words – he took courage.” What resulted from this call to courage and Asa’s resulting acts of courage was a massive renewal in Judah. The turning point in the story is courage. That’s how courage is often presented in the story of Scripture. It’s the thing that leads to a turning point of renewed faith and renewed faithfulness in calling and mission. Courage is that thing we need (that gift from God) to get unstuck and overcome the spiritual inertia in our lives.      

SUMMARY: God calls for us and provides us with courage to lead us to turning points of renewal, commitment and mission.

The need for courage - Asa’s story highlights two times in our lives when courage is especially needed:

1) Times of Comfort – The unexpected feature of this story is that Asa and Judah were in the middle of a time of great prosperity and comfort when the prophet showed up calling for courage. In all the other places when courage is called for in Scripture, it’s to prepare a person/people for a great challenge. (Examples: Moses to the second generation in Deuteronomy, Moses to Joshua as he takes over his leadership, David to Solomon in building the temple, Hezekiah to the people of Judah surrounded by the powerful Assyrian army.) What’s the challenge here? It’s the challenge of comfort. Courage is needed to face the challenge of comfort – which comes in the form of spiritual complacency and drift.

2) Times of Trouble – In 15:3-6, the prophet speaks of times of distress, brokenness and trouble. Most scholars think he is referring to the times of the Judges. Azariah seems to be saying to a comfortable people, “Trouble will come – brokenness and distress is a part of your story.” Azariah’s words are meant to instill courage as he reminds the people that trouble is often where we seek for and find God and trouble is where we learn to seek Him – not what we can get from him. We can take courage because God is present and at work in any trouble we face. 

THE SOURCE OF COURAGE

If courage is called for in times of comfort and trouble (all the time!), the natural question is – where do we get courage? The answer from the story of Asa is courage doesn’t come from looking to what’s within you, it comes from looking at who is with you. But there’s a tension here. Verse 2 says, “The Lord is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, he will forsake you.” The truth is that cycle of verses 3-6 play out in every person’s story – God always fulfills his part in verse 2, but we break ours. We try to do life without him, we seek other things instead of him, we forsake him. This happened in Asa’s life (see Chapter 16) and in Judah’s story. What will end the cycle?

The Answer is not our courage - it’s the courage of Jesus that ends the cycle. He fulfills the conditions of v2 for us so we get the blessing of courage.

·        Jesus, the One who was with God the Father from all eternity, left his place of comfort to be with us. He courageously left behind comfort to enter into our broken world to be with us.

·        Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He sought out sinners and broken people, entering into the messiness of our sinful world to find the lost.

·        In his greatest act of courage, the One who always enjoyed the love and favor of the Father, who would never forsake Him, was forsaken for us. On the cross, He cried out, “My God My God why have you forsaken me?” He became forsaken for those who forsake God, so we would never be.

The source of our unshakeable courage is the courageous seeking & suffering love of God for us in Jesus. Because He is with us, we can re-write 15:2 in this way: The Lord is with us even when we try to live without Him, He seeks us when we are lost and finds us, He was forsaken, so we will never be forsaken. When we believe this – we can have unshakeable courage to do whatever God calls us to do.

THE MARKS OF COURAGE

Chapter 15:8-15 show us the marks of gospel courage – what it looks like when we believe God is with us and will never forsake us. Here are 3 ways gospel courage leads to renewal in our lives:

1.       Gospel courage empowers us to put away our idols (v8) – When we have the courageous love of Jesus, the idols we substitute for God for security and comfort become “detestable.” What can compare to Jesus’ love for us and the Father’s all-powerful presence and care?

2.      Gospel courage is contagious – Asa needed to hear the call to courage from Azariah. The people needed to hear the call to courage from Asa. What resulted was a massive gathering of covenant renewal. We need people to speak gospel courage to us in our comfort and in our trouble.

3.      Gospel courage leads to wholehearted commitment – Joy and rest were poured out on the people when they sought God with their “whole desire.” Because Jesus gave everything for us to free me from the death we deserve; He deserves all our commitment and love.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

1.       What about the passage and/or sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?

2.      It was said that conviction (something is right or true) PLUS calling (God is calling me to act in this situation or context) isn’t enough for us to overcome our inertia. We also need courage. Do you agree? How have you or are you experiencing this in your life?

3.      Why is courage needed in times of comfort? How do you think our comfortable lives in OC are spiritually challenging? What role can courage play in freeing us from the idol/lethargy of comfort?

4.      We are used to hearing calls of courage pointing us to look within to summon inner strength and resolve – how is the biblical call for courage different? What difference does this make?

5.      How does the courage of Jesus become for us the source of our courage to follow Him? What difference does it make that we can “rewrite verse 2” in the places where we need courage the most? Apply this to specific places in your life where you need courage. 

6.      Which of the 3 marks of courage do you most want more of/need more of in your life? What would it look like to trust that God’s presence and power are sufficient for you to take steps of obedience in this area?

RENEW - Chronicles: Rediscovering Who We Are and Why We're Here - Sermon Study Guide #12- Rediscovery of Service

READ – 2 Chronicles 10:1-19 & 12:1-8

2 Chronicles 10-12 tells the story of King Rehoboam. Rehoboam was the son of King Solomon and the grandson of King David - the two greatest kings of Israel. David and Solomon built the nation of Israel into an empire and ushered in the most prosperous golden age Israel had ever known. Rehoboam’s story is about how this golden age ended and how the great kingdom of Israel broke down and divided.  One of the most important themes in Rehoboam’s story is the theme of service, or servanthood. The words serve/service (in Hebrew, abad) appear at the beginning of his story (10:4, 10) and again at the end (12:8). What we learn is that both of Rehoboam’s major failures as king had to do with a failure to serve – to serve the people as a servant-leader and to serve God alone as Lord and King.

SUMMARY: We learn to be a servant to others when we learn the difference between serving God and all the other things we serve. Serving God alone frees us to serve others joyfully and selflessly.

SERVING OTHERS

When Rehoboam became king, a meeting was called by the northern tribes of Israel. There they told Rehoboam what life was like under the reign of his father Solomon. He had made their service harsh (i.e., forced labor) and put a heavy yoke on them (likely high taxes to fund his building projects). They pledged to serve Rehoboam if he would lighten their load. When Rehoboam consulted the experienced advisors to his father Solomon, they urged him to be kind to them and win their service through granting their request. But Rehoboam chose to listen to the advice of the companions he had grown up with and to tell the people, “You think my father’s yoke was heavy, mine’s heavier. I’m harsher, I’m badder and stronger than my dad!” Rehoboam missed his opportunity to serve the people as king and to win their service. From that moment the kingdom of Israel was divided and fractured. The rupture in the kingdom of Israel was never repaired.

We can learn two things from this:

1.       Serving others means listening to the needs of the communities God places you in. 2 Chron 10:15 exposes Rehoboam’s failure – “So the king did not listen to the people.”  He listened to his pride. He listened to his fear.  Communities and relationships will always fracture when there is a failure to listen.

2.      Serving others means guarding the unity of the communities God places you in. How easy to divide. It only takes a harsh response; a selfish and uncaring reply. How hard it is to maintain unity in any community, organization or family.

SERVING GOD

Chapter 12 picks up Rehoboam’s story after Chapter 11 tells us about three good years of his rule in Judah becoming stronger and established (12:1). It was then that he abandoned the “the law of the Lord.” This means he began worshiping and serving the idols of the surrounding nations. This led to God teaching Rehoboam and

Rehoboam had 2 major failures as a king. Failure #1 was a failure to serve people. Failure #2 was a failure to serve God. One of the main things we are supposed to see in Rehoboam’s story is how the 2 are always linked together. This is what God almost always teaches us when our relationships, communities or churches break down and fracture.  In 12:8 God lets us in on his plans to teach Rehoboam and the people- “the difference between serving me and serving the kingdoms of other lands.”

The lesson God is teaching here has three underlying pieces:

1.       Everyone serves something – As much as we like to think we are our own masters, Jesus says everyone who sins is a slave to sin (John 8:34) and no one can serve two masters (Matt 6:24). To be human is to serve something. We will serve God as Lord– as we were made to do – or we will serve a substitute god/lord.

2.      What we ultimately serve determines how/if we serve others. All other masters give us a heavy yoke and keep us from serving others in love. For example: The master of ambition and success uses people to get ahead. The master of lust uses people as objects of pleasure. The master of approval uses people as means for our own self-justification. The master of comfort only serves people when it is convenient.

3.      Knowing God’s service sets us free to serve others. In serving God, we find true freedom.

THE GOD WHO SERVES

To know God’s service is to know Him as the God who serves. The starting news of the gospel is that God – the only rightful Lord and Master – is a God who doesn’t demand or force us into servitude. He doesn’t put a heavy yoke on us or call us to harsh servitude. He wins our service by serving us! And in his service, we find our true freedom. In Luke 22:27 right before his death, Jesus told his disciples, “I am among you as the one who serves.” This is the key to understanding the cross. On the cross, Jesus was serving us to the uttermost by giving his life as a ransom for us (Mark 10:45). A ransom is the required payment to set slaves free from a debt of servitude. Even though we owe God a debt of infinite service (our lives), Jesus took this debt upon himself. The cross breaks our enslavement to sin and idols by the power of selfless service of God Himself.

It’s when we see the costly servanthood of God for us, that we are set free to selflessly serve others. We are no longer enslaved to comfort, control, approval or success because we have the approval of God in Jesus and we know our Father will take care of all our needs.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

1.       What about the passage and/or sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?

2.      Have you ever been a part of a great community/organization that broke down and fractured? What was that like? How did a failure of servanthood contribute to the conflict?

3.      Why does a failure to listen often lead to a breakdown in relationship and community? Where do you most struggle to listen in order to serve?  

4.      Read Eph 4:1-3. Why is unity something we can’t take for granted – especially in the church – but must work for and toward?

5.      Do you agree that our failures to serve people are always linked to a failure to serve God first? How has God or is God teaching you any of the 3 underlying pieces of this lesson (mentioned above)?

6.      How does knowing that God is a God who serves set us free from a heavy yoke and harsh service? How have you experienced this? How does knowing God has served us in the gospel enable us to serve others even when it’s costly to us?

RENEW - Chronicles: Rediscovering Who We Are And Why We're Here - Sermon Study Guide #11 - Rediscovering Grace

READ – 1 Chronicles 33:1-20

Chronicles is written to provide stories about the past so that God’s people might have hope for the future. 2 Chronicles 33 describes the lowest point in Judah’s rocky royal lineage in the rebellion and subsequent renewal of King Manasseh. As many scholars point out, Manasseh’s life is evaluated in the strongest negative language possible in Chronicles. He was a bad guy. But more than Manasseh’s flawed moral character, this story is written to give us hope that where sin increased, grace abounds all the more.

SUMMARY: Renewal comes when we are awed by God’s grace.

1. GRACE SEEKS US IN OUR LOSTNESS

2 Chronicles 33:1-9 is a litany of Manasseh’s moral compromise and failure as a leader of Judah. In fact the parallel account of Manasseh’s reign in 2 Kings 21 credits Manasseh with the destruction of Jerusalem and the national exile into Babylon.

But aren’t these accounts of supposed Old Testament atrocities just religious peccadillos? Granted, Manasseh was guilty of the child sacrifice of his sons, but aren’t things like rebuilding unorthodox worship sites, seeking out fortune-tellers, etc. just alternative spiritualities—are they really sufficient to provoke God to anger (v. 6)? Manasseh’s actions were manifestations of his (and our) lostness. Just like Manasseh led the whole nation “astray” (v. 9), Isaiah the prophet said that we all like sheep have gone astray (Isa 53:6). We often don’t recognize or show gratitude for the success and gifts that God does give to us. Instead, like sheep, we get lost—nibbling here and there in our careers, addictions, and distractions. But grace says that God is a Good Shepherd who specializes in seeking lost sheep. That’s why God “spoke” to Manasseh and the nation (v. 10), through His prophets. That’s why God still confronts us with His Word today.

2. GRACE LOVES US IN OUR SINFULNESS

The shocking reality about grace is its God’s love for sinners, not His tolerance for sinners. In the catalogue of Manasseh’s sin (vv. 1-9), twice we’re told that Manasseh did more evil than the godless nations who occupied the land prior to Israel’s arrival (vv. 2, 9). That’s Bible-speak for, Manasseh was just the worst. But several commentators point to the reference to God’s “forever” covenant in vv. 4, 8. In essence, what the text is saying is even when Manasseh was intent on sinning with a “high-hand” and deliberately flaunting it in God’s face, God was intent on preserving His unshakeable promise in the midst of human rebellion.

3. GRACE CROWNS US IN OUR SHAMEFULNESS

As a result of Manasseh’s sin, God leads him into personal exile into Babylon. He is bound, disgraced, humiliated, and physically tormented. He would have been made a public spectacle of shame as a warning to other political leaders. He is a king without a crown. That could have been the end of Manasseh’s story. But thank God for v. 13. God not only returns Manasseh from exile, He restores him to his position as king. God takes the worst king of Judah and reinstalls him with all the dignity, honor, respect, and glory that a king would receive. Why?

Because God’s grace is the full re-granting of our inheritance after we have royally screwed up. Mercy would be God releasing Manasseh from exile. Grace is God restoring the crown. Mercy is not getting what you deserve, cancelling the million dollar debt; Grace is getting what you don’t deserve, crediting your account with a million dollars.

What’s the catch? There isn’t any. Grace is gloriously and wondrously free. What’s the cost? None to you, but everything to another king in the lineage of Manasseh, King Jesus. He was the perfectly obedient son and epitome of moral beauty—but He underwent an exile of agonizing shame, torture, defeat, and the exile from God’s presence on the cross, completely losing His crown so that it could be given to us.

4. GRACE FREES US FROM OUR SELFISHNESS

See where Grace leads Manasseh in vv. 14-17? The king who once was attempting to bend reality to his own will through sorcery, who degraded God’s image-bearers through child sacrifice, who distrusted God’s provision and promise and tried to secure happiness through his own performance, that king is now engaging in massive religious and social projects for the glory of God and the good of the community.

Grace operated in Manasseh’s life in at least three ways. First it worked by humbling him before God in prayer. Second, it freed from Manasseh’s quest for religious and social approval by showing him the favor of God in the face of God. Third, grace is seen in Manasseh’s life by his pursuit of the religious and cultural flourishing of his neighbors. Grace frees us to be a servant to everyone.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

1.       What about the sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?

2.      What is your reaction to stories like the one about convicted serial killer Jeffery Dahmer’s conversion in prison? Does that bother you? Are you skeptical?

3.      Manasseh led Judah astray. That’s a good summary of the human condition: we are continuously going astray and getting lost, like sheep. Maybe you aren’t completely lost, but nibbling here and there. Are there areas of your heart and life where you feel like God is distant? How might God’s Word be calling to you?

4.      When you think about how God thinks of you—what do you imagine the look on His face to be? How would believing the astounding news that God is delighted in you, smiles on you, dances over you, is crazy about you change your week?

5.      Are there individuals or people who you think are beyond the reach of God’s grace? Who are they? How do you think grace might transform the way we see other people—even the people who wrong or offend you?  

RENEW - Chronicles: Rediscovering Who We Are and Why We're Here - Sermon Study Guide #10 - Rediscovering Scripture

READ – 2 Chronicles 34:14-22

The story of Josiah comes near the end of the book of Chronicles. In fact, Josiah is the last king to receive a “good” report from the sacred story chronicler of Israel’s history. Before him, his father and grandfather had brought the nation to its spiritual low point. After him, his son Jehoahaz begins Judah’s final descent into the ruin and tragedy of exile. In between such stark and sober reminders of how far away we can wander from God, Josiah’s story gives hope and direction for all who seek to see their lives renewed in relationship with God.

SUMMARY: God brings renewal to our lives through the discovery and continual rediscovery of His voice speaking to us in Scripture - his written word.  

THE POWER OF SCRIPTURE

When Josiah became king of the nation of Judah, he stepped into a miserable spiritual situation. For 57 years, his grandfather Manasseh and his father Amon had abandoned their faith in the God of Israel and sought to eradicate any and all memory of Him from the land. In large part they succeeded. The temple was filled with the idols of the surrounding nations. The sacred scrolls of Scripture were hidden and forgotten. The people followed the cue of their leadership and no longer believed in or followed the God of the Bible. If we think the Bible is marginalized and neglected in our day – it was far, far worse when Josiah began his reign.

But Chapters 34 and 35 of 2 Chronicles tell us that an unprecedented renewal of repentance and renewed commitment to one true God happened under Josiah’s reign. 2 Chronicles 35:18 tells us nothing like it even happened in the days of David and Solomon. “Throughout his reign they did not turn aside from following the Lord, the God of their fathers.” How did such a dramatic spiritual renewal happen? It was the rediscovery of Scripture that was the turning point.

The written word of God, “the book,” carries with it the very power of the voice of God. (See 1 Thess. 2:13.) It is powerful enough to bring renewal into our lives and relationship with God no matter how low we go, how far we stray or how resistant we are.

REDISCOVERING THE POSTURE FOR HEARING SCRIPTURE

The mere presence of Scripture didn’t result in the massive corporate renewal. The rediscovery of Scripture must be accompanied by a rediscovery of the posture for hearing it that unleashes its transformative power in our lives. Josiah’s story shows us three postures that unlock this power:

·        Tenderhearted Posture – The prophetess Huldah tells Josiah – “because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard his words… God says ‘I myself have heard you.’” It was the tenderness of Josiah’s heart that opened his life up to renewed relationship with God. The opposite of a tenderhearted posture for hearing Scripture is a hard-hearted posture. Why do we harden our hearts? Isn’t it to protect them, to guard them from rebuke and painful change? Surprisingly, though God does rebuke Josiah deeply, he speaks tender words of peace and removes all judgment from him. The tenderhearted always find that God never wounds us or breaks us without healing us and restoring us with words of grace and forgiveness.

·        Personal Posture – A personal posture hears God’s word as directed to us personally with specificity to our lives and situation and prayerfully lets the Bible read us (not the other way around). Instead of standing over the Bible in judgment, or standing beside the Bible to judge others, a personal posture kneels under Scripture.

·        Communal Posture – Listening personally does not mean listening only privately to God’s word. Josiah needed help to apply the Scriptures to his life. He asked his friends to “inquire” of the Lord as to how what he read should impact his life. We all need the outside experience, perspective and wisdom of others to respond rightly to God’s word.

REDISCOVERING THE HERO OF SCRIPTURE

The hero of Josiah’s story is clear – it’s Josiah. When he was king, the people were faithful. As soon as he died, the people went astray again. What’s the lesson? It’s not enough to look at Josiah as example. We must also see that the story presents him primarily as hero. His story was meant to instill hope in the original readers not to give up on another king from David’s line who would come to lead the people in a rediscovery of Scripture and its renewing power.

The Bible tells us that a hero-king did come. He was a king with a fully tender and humble heart, a perfectly obedient life built on obedience to God’s word and he celebrated a Passover that exceeded even Josiah’s. This, of course, is King Jesus. At his Passover meal, he spoke of establishing a new covenant for covenant breakers. In this covenant, he would give his obedient life and spill the blood of his tender heart in their place. He did all this so that people would rediscover the heart of the Scriptures – the story of a Savior-hero who came to do what we never could. When we read Scripture looking for more to do, we miss the whole point of the book. We’re meant to read Scripture looking for Him – as we find Him, we discover the renewing power of his gracious word.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

1.       What about the passage and/or sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?

2.      How would you describe your relationship to the Bible currently? What would you say are the most significant obstacles for you in having a vibrant and consistent practice of hearing/reading Scripture?

3.      Josiah’s story demonstrates the power of God’s written word (“the book”). Where do you most need to hear the powerful word of God bring renewal to your life? Has God been bringing any passages to mind?

·        OPTIONAL GROUP EXERCISE: Have group members share other passages of Scripture that are relevant to each members’ response to question 3. Pause to pray Scripture into each person’s needs/circumstances.

4.      Which of the three postures listed above do you find most difficult? Why? Would you add any other postures that have brought the Scriptures alive to you?

5.      How can we tell if we are taking a hard-hearted posture to Scripture? How has God softened and humbled your heart to get his word into your life?

6.      Read Luke 24:27. The resurrected Jesus explained that Scripture could only be rightly interpreted and applied if we realize that it’s not a book that gives us instruction to be our own hero; it’s a book that is about him. Why is it so important that we rediscover the hero of Scripture?