Guests: Carl Cosaert and Zdravko Stefanovic
Many Christians speak of the so called “Old Testament God” as a God of wrath and violence. I held a similar view until a class forced me to read extended portions of the Old Testament narrative in a short period of time. As I read, I found myself struck, not by God’s wrath and judgment, but his patience and his mercy. During the course of this quarter’s lessons, I hope that we have all caught a glimpse of God’s faithfulness and forbearance . Time and again, we have seen how Old Testament couples failed each other and failed God. Yet, through it all, God did not give up. He continued to work to bring restoration. He acted as a faithful spouse, doing all that was possible to save the “marriage” with his people, Israel.
1. In Jeremiah 2:1-2, the LORD instructs Jeremiah to go to Jerusalem with this message: “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert, through a land not sown.”
* This sounds almost like a honeymoon. How realistic is this memory? Did such a honeymoon period ever exist–or is this an example of God’s focus on the positive? If such a happy time did exist, how long did it last?
* When God first called Israel, did he ever expect her to be faithful? Is faithfulness even possible (See Joshua 24:19-24)?
* Why is the unfaithfulness of God’s children so graphically described in the Old Testament? Doesn’t this make it more difficult for us to admire and respect the men and women of the Bible?
* What are the advantages of such an unvarnished and blunt approach?
* Is our culture too concerned about appearances? Should we be more open about our failures and sins, or, do we already share more than we should?
2. The Old Testament prophets certainly pronounced messages of judgment on Israel. At the same time, they also spoke of forgiveness, second chances, love, and restoration. One such passage is Jeremiah 31. Read again vs 31-37.
* What phrases in this chapter are especially comforting to you?
* How is this “new covenant” different from the covenant God made with Israel as they came out of Egypt?
* According to these verses, what would you say is God’s ultimate desire for his people?
* What other passages or stories speak to you of God’s faithfulness?
3. These lessons have now come to an end, but there is an invitation which remains: an invitation to respond to the God we have talked about this quarter. He is the God who loved us before we were lovely. He is the God who took us back when we were unfaithful, and he is the God who still works to win our love in return. May we each respond to this amazing God who patiently draws us with loving-kindness (Jeremiah 31:3).