What images, stories or verses come to mind when you think of Israel? Why do these stand out?
What are the key features of God’s Covenant with Abraham and Sarah? What was its purpose? Can you think of any current examples of covenants? Are any of those examples helpful in understanding God’s covenant with humanity?
N.T. Wright says in Simply Christian that the history of Israel is the “story of going away and coming back home again - of slavery and exodus, and exile and restoration” As you look at the Old Testament, what examples of “slavery and exodus, of exile and restoration” can you think of?
What examples of “slavery and exodus, of exile and restoration” are part of your own experience?
Read Genesis 12: 1-3, Genesis 15 - what are the promises that God makes to Abraham? What is Abraham’s responsibility to the Covenant? What does that tell you about the nature of the Covenant God makes with His people? Read Jeremiah 31: 31-34 - how is the New Covenant God makes with His exiled people different than the one God made with Abraham?
“Election” is the idea that God chose a specific person (such as Abraham or Jacob) or a people (the Jews themselves) for a particular purpose. What do you think of the idea of election? Does God choose - and much more challenging, chose against - certain people? How is being God’s chosen people both a gift and a burden?
How do each of the following elements fit into the story of Israel? What is their importance to that story?
How will each of these going to be transformed to bring hope to the Jews for a more glorious future?
What is at stake in locating Jesus firmly in the context of 1st Century Judaism? How many things can you think of that were Jewish about Jesus? How does knowing the history and story about Israel help you in understanding Jesus and His ministry?
N.T. Wright in Simply Christian says that “what happened in Jesus of Nazareth was the very climax of the long story of Israel” Do you agree? Is the story of Israel finished when Jesus arrives on the scene?
What parts of the Old Testament do you need to dig deeper into to get a fuller understanding of God’s plan not just for Israel. but for the whole world?
Abrahamic Covenant: Genesis 12:1-3; 15:1-6, 17:1-8
Messiah: 2 Samuel 7:8-17, Isaiah 9: 1-7, 11:1-12, Micah 5:2
Suffering Servant: Isaiah 42: 1-9, 52:13-15, 53:1-12
Fate of Israel: Romans 11:25-36
God of Abraham, we are people with a story to tell to the nations. Help us understand that it is only when we celebrate the Jewish heritage of that story that it we tell it rightly. As we enter into the story ourselves, may we, like Abraham and Sarah, be willing to be led in new directions so that our lives might become a source of blessings for all humanity.