A Maskil of Asaph (Psalm 78)

Scripture Text:

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Psalm 78

The celebration over the completion of the temple is only symbolic of the greater joy that has been brought to the people of this restored nation. There are many struggles still ahead and more opposition to come, but the people are no longer in captivity and those who have chosen to return are no longer in a foreign land. With the house of God now restored, the nation’s new life has begun in earnest.

These feelings are reflected in a number of psalms which give praise to God for hearing the people’s prayers in captivity and for being faithful in His promises of restoration. The 11 psalms that follow concludes our study of the book of Psalms.

Questions:

1. What were your favorite stories when you were younger?

  • Aesop’s Fables?
  • Mother Goose?
  • Grimm’s Fairy Tales?
  • Home-spun stories?
  • Bible stories?
  • Others?

2. What are the favorite stories for any children you may have (at home, in school, in church)?

3. Who is the keeper of your family stories and traditions? Do you ever hear of times when your folks or grandparents were young? What warning to future generations is implicit in their oft-repeated stories?

4. People in Biblical times did not have universal access to scripture. What took the place of history books, schools and seminaries (verses 1 – 8)? What does this believer want future believers to know and not forget about God? What would happen if the next generation forgets? Whose responsibility is it to see that they remember (see also Deuteronomy 6:6 – 9)?

5. Who are the men of Ephraim (verses 9 – 11; see also Jeremiah 31:5, 6)? Who does Ephraim come to symbolize as the list of sins grows (verses 8 – 11)? How could anyone forget such acts of God? What difference should these miracles of the past make in their present lives?

6. What test do they put to God (verses 18 – 20)? What test does God put to them (see Exodus 16:16 – 20)?Why do they demand further proofs of God’s covenant love? What moods does God alternate between (verses 21 – 24, 30, 31)? Why does God save them only to kill them (see Numbers 11:33, 34)? What limits to divine patience do you see here?

7. How do you characterize the role Israel relegated to God (verses 32 – 39)? What name would you give to the “game” Israel plays with God?

  • the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak?
  • flattery will get you anywhere?
  • lip service only?
  • insincerity?
  • let’s buy some time?
  • good start, but no follow through?
  • all head, no heart?

8. Why does God have mercy on humans (verses 38, 39)? Is it fair for God to expect more from “a passing breeze”?

9. What is Israel urged to remember (verses 40 – 55)? What plagues of Egypt underscore the psalmist’s point?

10. What events from the times of Joshua and Samuel are recalled (verses 54 – 66)? Why does the psalmist say the Lord “abandoned the tabernacle of Shiloh” (verse 60; see 1 Samuel 4:1 – 11)? How did God put the Philistines “to everlasting shame” (verse 66; see 1 Samuel 5:6 – 10)?

11. In the psalmist’s mind, why did God have the Temple built in Judah (verses 67 – 69)? Since the Temple was built by Solomon, why does the psalmist sing the praises of David?

12. What is Asaph’s message to Ephraim? To Judah? Will his generation avoid the mistakes of the past?

13. What portion of this long poem is devoted to: the sins of the people? God’s judgment? God’s forgiveness?

14. Does this psalm leave you hanging? How did the New Testament writers pick up where Asaph left off (see Matthew 2:6; John 10:1 – 18; Revelation 7:17)?

15. How do you feel about God’s involvement in the staging of your own continuing story?

  • God has written every chapter?
  • God is seen between the lines only?
  • God is in the audience?
  • God is the director?
  • God is hogging center stage?

16. Would you like your part or God’s part in that script to be re-written? What ending would you prefer?

17. What lesson would you like to pass along to the next generation? What historical example would you use to make your point?

18. Since all people as a group create the environment in which children grow up, should parents solely be responsible for their nurturing? How can you take a more active role in helping the children in your neighborhood? In your church?

19. Why doesn’t God perform the same miraculous deeds as in Bible times? Is God sleeping? What deeds could you point to as evidence to the young that God is “awake”?

20. When does your patience run out? When do you feel like “abandoning your people”? How do you resolve the problem of your people going “the wrong way”?

  • let the people go?
  • increase the consequences?
  • withdraw your blessing?
  • keep forgiving?
  • begin again?
  • no good resolution yet?

21. What story of God’s past dealings with you can you “remember” in times of temptation, forgetfulness and doubt you still face?

Special Note:

Next post is scheduled for Monday September 4.

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Completion and Dedication of the Temple (Ezra 6:13 – 22)

Scripture Text:

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Ezra 6:13 – 22

With the encouragement of Haggai and Zechariah, the work of the temple goes forward to completion in the year 516 BC. Even though this new sanctuary lacks the splendor Solomon’s temple, the people nevertheless greet the day of completion with joyous celebration.

1. What project was years in the making for you? How did you celebrate? With whom?

2. Who oversees the work on the temple (verses 13 – 18)? Who else is involved? How so? Whose authority seems to prevail? Who gets credit without being on the scene?

3. How does this temple dedication service compare with the previous one (verses 16 – 18; 2 Chronicles 7:1 – 10)? How do you account for this rather poor showing? Second time around is no big deal? A small temple deserves a token sacrifice? Israel is impoverished by a prolonged building project?

4. Priests, Levites, the exiles, and converts all celebrate the Passover (verses 19 – 22). What must each do to participate (see Exodus 12:43 – 50; Numbers 9:1 – 14)?

5. What half-done project does God want you to carry out with diligence? Why not get on with it?

6. How does an outsider get to celebrate the sacraments in your church tradition?

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The LORD Promises To Bless Jerusalem (Zechariah 8)

Scripture Text:

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Zechariah 8

1. Did you ever fall out of favor with a good friend or break up with a boyfriend/girlfriend? Over what issue? Did you ever reconcile? Who made the first move? What did you gain by mending the relationship?

2. Zechariah foresees countless benefits concerning Jerusalem getting back together with her Lord. Can you find 10 of them in today’s text?

3. What moral force is given to each blessing by the constant refrain “the Lord Almighty says”?

4. What will it take to restore the people to covenant favor and be given these blessings (verses 14 – 17)? What gap lies between promise and fulfillment? Between desire and delivery?

5. What is God’s answer to the Bethel group’s question concerning fasts (verses 18 and 19; see also chapter 7:2, 3)? What does this indicate about the health of the relationship between God and His people?

6. What role will a restored Israel play in the worship of God and His witness among the nations (verses 20 – 23)? How will other nations express their desire to know God?

7. When  parents, preachers, salespeople or politicians make too-good-to-be-true promises. are you initially trusting or are you mostly skeptical? What does your response depend on?

8. What difference does it make when God promises you something? Which of the blessings promised in Zechariah have you seen come true for spiritual Israel and the Christian Church? Which promises are yet to be fulfilled?

9. Right now, does your relationship with God feel like “feast” or “fast” (verse 19)? Explain your answer.

10. One sign of a restored Israel is that people the world over will say, “let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you” (verse 23). What does this say about the need for you and your church to grow in worship and witness? In your community, who else has a worship service or outreach program that attracts you?

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