During the Year of the Bible, we will try out a different method of Lifegroup discussion… Rather than only focus on the Sunday morning message, we will try out having group discussion around the actual passages we are reading through. Give it a shot this week, and let me know how it goes! Lifegroup discussion questions are next up!
If you are the discussion leader, have everyone open to this page on their mobile devices. Take turns reading, asking questions, and discussing. Remember, this isn’t the place for theological argument. This is a place where we are learning to “love others” as we grow closer together in His Word.
Intro: Have Someone read this
As we saw last week, God answered the question that Genesis 1-11 poses of “how will the world be restored?” by promising to give old Abraham and Sarah a huge family, with as many children and grandchildren as the stars in the sky, and vowing to give this future family a great plot of land to live in. By doing so, God will establish them as a great nation that will one day help set the world right. But in a dark and ominous scene recorded in Genesis 15, God warned that this road to glory wouldn’t be easy:
As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” – Genesis 15:12-16
This eery moment looms like a dark cloud over the rest of the unfolding Genesis story. Abraham and Sarah do indeed have a child of their own, named Isaac. Isaac marries and has twins, one of whom is named Jacob. Then Jacob receives the name Israel and has 12 sons, the “12 tribes of Israel”. Abraham and Sarah are long dead but their family is indeed growing. However, all the while, the land which God promised to give to their descendents is still occupied and they cannot simply apply for asylum or a visa, so they are waiting for generations for God to provide a homeland. Then family strife breaks out and the older great-grandsons sell their little brother Joseph into slavery in Egypt. Years later, a famine breaks out and the remaining family flees to fertile Egypt to beg for aid, which they receive from none other than little Joseph himself who is now a high-ranking official under Pharaoh. Joseph forgives his brothers, brings his entire family into Egypt where they take refuge, and for a while all is well. What they meant for evil, God meant for good (Gen 50:20). For a few generations the family of Israel lives and multiplies in Egypt.
But it isn’t long before a new pharaoh and the local Egyptians begin to fear and disdain these Hebrew immigrants. They come to see Israel no longer as a welcome neighbor but as a threat to their nation, wealth, land, and religious culture. So they do what fearful empires have always done, racially segregating the Hebrews and submitting them to harsh slavery. Indeed, God’s dark warning to Abraham comes true. For 400 years they are immigrant slaves. By the time of the great Exodus which we’ll read and discuss next week, it’s been nearly 700 years since God made his covenant with Abraham and the promise of being a great world nation in a land of its own couldn’t possibly be further from reality.
How would you summarize the story of Genesis as it draws to a close in chapter 50?
(If you need some time to refresh, take a few minutes to look back over the book, reading some of the homework passages or any other sections that seem important to you)
Are there any parts of the story that simply don’t make sense to you or have been frustrating to read?
Are there any passages in Genesis that you think are key texts, meaning texts that are especially important in the overall message of the book?
Read Genesis 50:15-25 and Exodus 1 aloud together.
As Genesis concludes and the first chapter of Exodus opens, what do you think you as a reader are meant to be feeling? In other words, if you were to enter into the story, what kind of hopes, concerns, disappointments, or frustrations would the narrative draw out of you?
At this point in the story of the Scriptures, it would have appeared to enslaved Israel that God’s plans have gone terribly wrong. And the Lord has been absent for hundreds of years. Have you ever felt disappointed with life and God’s role in it and felt frustrated or hurt by his absence?
Though none of us have likely experienced physical and political slavery, Jesus said that “everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). In what ways are you enslaved? What is this slavery doing to you and how is it making you feel?
In closing, how can we encourage each other, and lift each other up? How can we be praying out of this slavery, and into the freedom of Christ?