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Opening Question

Do you ever fear that God isn’t who you hope He is?

The examples this week of “crucible” experiences are Abraham, Job, Hosea, and Paul. Each were asked to endure hardship, but each also was faithful. But the lesson is more concerned about how God might be perceived through these experiences than the lessons learned by each hero of faith.

Abraham’s Test
When Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac, all hope in God’s promise to make Abraham the father of many nations would seem to have been squelched. Today, most modern people recoil at such a request, and some people and faiths believe it was Satan, not God, who demanded the child-sacrifice. Certainly there were nations around Canaan who offered human sacrifices to various gods, and around the world for that matter. But the Creator God would be different, wouldn’t he? Abraham’s willingness to give up Isaac is made more remarkable when coupled with Isaac’s consent to be the sacrifice. Read Genesis 22 again.

What would have been Abraham’s conception of a God who at once promised him children, performed a miracle healing Sarah’s womb, then asks Abraham to take the promised one’s very life?

How does Hebrews 11:17-19 inform our understanding of Abraham’s faith during testing? Are we at the point where we believe God can and will raise the dead, even giving life to our dead hearts now?

After reading Hosea 1-2, we can learn a number of things about God’s character, and also Israel’s. But as our lesson asks, we need to consider Hosea’s picture of God. Gomer returned again and again to unfaithfulness, and Hosea was asked to do more than just accept the pain of rejection, but to put himself in a place to be repeatedly hurt, and suffer again and again. Surely a good God of love wouldn’t ask him to do such a thing…

What made Israel’s sin so hurtful to God, and how does Hosea experience that pain? What must Hosea have thought of a God who asked him to be hurt repeatedly? How does the book itself paint God’s love for Israel, assuming Hosea had a role in it’s recording?

Does God expect us to act in similar ways to people who hurt us today or are unfaithful? Or was this just a one-time example for Hosea-Gomer and God-Israel?

Job Again
Read through the first couple chapters of Job. While one of the most ancient documents in Scripture, it is certainly not primitive. In fact, literarily, Job is one of the most complex pieces of literature in the world. The narrative drives the later poetry and is resolved in a return to narrative. The opening verses tell us of the reasons for his suffering. And God not only allows it, but brings Job’s name up intentionally as an example of righteousness and faithfulness in the midst of a crooked, Satan-led world.

What can we know of Job’s view of God as the “Great Controversy” rages without his full knowledge? Why does he continue to trust and worship God in spite of the loss and grief?

Missionary Pain
A family joined Adventist Frontier Missions, and traveled to a foreign land, all with the hope of sharing the good news of Christ’s love and soon return. While there, the father and husband died tragically. How could God let missionaries, those serving Him, suffer and even die in their mission? Why didn’t He intervene, and protect? We ask prayers of protection, but sometimes it appears God ignores them and instead lets people suffer.
The stories in Acts and the Pauline Epistles make clear that Paul and other early missionaries faced similar difficulties. Read 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, 6:1-10, and 11:20-30.

Paul continued on through tremendous opposition to his ministry. What drove him? Why didn’t He just give up? And how in the world could he maintain his faith in a God who led him “by the Spirit” into such conditions? Surely God could have spared him…

Closing Comments
Each of these figures suffered, sometimes without knowing fully why, but never lost faith that God was still worthy of following, of worshipping, of honoring. It may feel like such faith is beyond you, but remember that each trial that comes is preparation for greater faith!

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