January 5 Curriculum

kthomasLearning Groups Curriculum

A way in the wilderness

January 5, 2020 (click here for PDF version).

 

Overarching theme:

In 2020, FUMC will be a Go church!

 

Instructions:

When using this material as teacher, feel free to pick and choose the point you want to emphasis in the lesson. The format of the curriculum is designed to have an abundance of information in which to refer as desired.

 

Core Point

The past is the past. There is nothing that can be done about it. The past can only be used to gain wisdom for the future. What can change is the future. When we, as God’s people, are willing to follow God in our daily lives, God will make a good way in the future. The way may be bumpy at times and have curves, but the process will be filled with God’s love and grace.

 

Book of Ezekiel and Jeremiah:

The book of Isaiah is an expansive writing of the activity of God through many centuries. The name Isaiah means, “The Lord Saves.” There appears to be three distinct writers of Isaiah that span the centuries of history contained in the book. Isaiah, himself, was a prophet to Jerusalem in the early 8th century B.C. He was sophisticated, had strong relationships with King Ahaz and Hezekiah, and a strong understanding of Israel’s history. He wrote during the difficult period marking the expansion of the Assyrian empire and the decline of Israel. In the writing, the reader will read about the destruction of Judah, but then read about how God will restore the people from captivity.

The book of Jeremiah focuses on the prophetic mission of Jeremiah which started with the thirteenth year of King Josiah (about 627 BC) and finished in the eleventh year of King Zedekiah (586 BC). At the time of its writing we do not have any clear evidence, but the stories are from the timeline given earlier. The book gives an account of the prophetic ministry of Jeremiah, whose personal life and struggles are shown along with a narrative of the most tumultuous times in the history of Judah and Israel. The empire of Babylon was on the move, as was prophesied, and eventually ruled the territory of Judah. The meaning of Jeremiah’s name is uncertain, but may include “The Lord exalts” and “The Lord establishes,” but a more likely proposal is “The Lord throws,” either in the sense of “hurling” the prophet into a hostile world or of “throwing down” the nations in divine judgment for their sins (The International Bible Society). Jeremiah’s contemporaries were possibly Habakkuk and Obadiah with Zephaniah having come before. Jeremiah’s ministry was to prepare Judah for the impending invasion and then how to move past it to what God would do to restore them. In the midst of disaster and struggle, hope can prevail and God can restore. Jeremiah, like Jesus, was sent to give a message of hope about God’s work of grace in the world. If only, the people would choose to change their ways and receive it.

 

Reflect on this Scripture:

Isaiah 43:16-19 New International Version (NIV)

16  This is what the Lord says—he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters,

17  who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again,  extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:

18  “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.

19  See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

Jeremiah 2:13 (NIV)

13  “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

 

Questions to Ponder:

What jumps out at you from this passage?

To what part of history is Isaiah referring?

In looking at the future what do we need to do? Why?

What is God doing?

What are the two sins, and how can we understand them?

 

Commentary:

Isaiah is taking imagery from the Exodus. Remember, God used Moses to bring the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage and slavery. When the Israelites left Egypt, God led them through the parting of the sea which then filled in when the Egyptian army tried to pass. The army was wiped out and the Israelites were able to press on through the desert to the Promised Land. In verse 19, Isaiah refers to a new thing that God will do. Rather than a way through the sea, it is a way through the wilderness. The wasteland will have streams of water, rather than a desert. Powerful imagery for describing a way towards restoration and salvation from the Israelites’ history. Jeremiah describes what got the people in such a difficult place. The Israelites’ sin of not following God got them into bondage again, but God is going to restore them again in a different way than before.

What is the lesson to be learned? God’s people sin, mess up, stray from God, and need restoration. We all need forgiveness for our sin. We all need to be cleaned up from our messes. We all need reminding of how to daily be the right path of God. We all need wisdom from God to thrive on our journey. What we have done is in the past, so let it be in the past. Allow the past to give us wisdom in the future. The negatives of the past do not have to define us. It is the future, living in God’s grace that can empower us to new life. What are you looking for?

 

Questions to Ponder for accountability in the group:

What is your broken cistern before God?

What does your wilderness, or wasteland look like?

What is a stream in your wasteland look like?

What is something new that God may call you to do this year?

What do you think God is trying to do in your life this year?

What do you think God wants to do in the church this year?

 

Activity of for the life of a disciple:

1. Remember to find encouragement for the day by reading the daily devotional from FUMC.

2. Focus on this scripture this week: Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?   I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

3. Focus on doing one thing this week that will make your spiritual life deeper in God’s grace?