Thoughts: When the rich man had been condemned to hell, he begged Abraham to warn his five brothers who were leading decadent lives to forsake their sinful ways, so they would not go to hell as he had.
But Abraham said, “they have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.”
How much do we hear and understand and remember from the books of Moses and the prophets? The first five books of the Bible are known as the books of Moses, but who are the prophets? Which Old Testament books did the prophets write? And what is this about major and minor prophets? Were they in leagues, or something?
The five sinful brothers could have found the guidance they needed in Micah 6:8.
“…what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justice,
and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
Discussion: What Old Testament books deserve more attention than many churches currently give them?
Activity: Much of Numbers is not riveting reading, but when you read Numbers 6:24-26, you will receive a blessing.
Thoughts: I remember hearing the word “mammon” during a tedious (to me) Sunday night church service where I was a small and reluctant member of the congregation. It was a new word to me. It sounded slimy and evil, and bits of scripture confirmed that was indeed bad – for example, “the unrighteous mammon” and “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
The word “mammon” has never arisen in any conversation I which I have been a part. I have heard it used only in scripture readings and sermons, and then rarely. The concordance lists it as used four times in the bible. The dictionary accords it five lines and two definitions. Should “mammon” be revived? Used? Explained? Emphasized?
Discussion: What is your reaction to words like “troth,” “begat,” “firmament,” “swaddling”?
Activity: Drop a Biblical word into a conversation this week and watch for the reaction.
Thoughts: Which one of you, with one lost sheep out of 100, leaves the 99 other ones and chases down the single one that wandered away, and doesn't come back until you have found him? Nobody. No one does this.What about when you find a lost penny? We especially don’t call friends and neighbors together for a party only to spend more money feeding and entertaining them than what you found was worth. I mean why bother looking for the coin at all, if you’re just going to blow more money anyway? It’s insanity. Nobody does this. Except Jesus. Jesus does this. Jesus leaves the 99 to search for the lost. Jesus sweeps the house and then throws a party when the lost are found. It’s totally and thoroughly insane. And, that’s why the Gospel is such Good News. When a soul is lost, the soul is missed, longed after, and not only worth the search party, but worth the celebration when the soul is brought back into the family. And, of course, this story cuts two ways. When I read this, I can’t help reading myself into the story as the sheep, as the coin. The lost one. The sheep that's wandered too far. The coin that slipped out of the pocket and into the deep cushions of the couch.
But there is Good News! Our God is the God of the lost, and the God who celebrates when the lost are found. Jesus is the Savior who “welcomes sinners and eats with them.” This is something for us to celebrate. Something for us to be excited about. Something for us to get others excited about. No—the church isn’t meant for us to stand by and watch the lost be lost. No, the followers of Jesus are the ones who follow Jesus. And not just to the cross. But to the field and the valley and the mountains, looking through the fluff for a well-loved and well-lost sheep. We’re the ones who are to be pulling the world’s refrigerator out from the wall or moving the couch cushions to find the long-lost treasures underneath that are so to precious to God. No matter how far it may be out of our way, or how dirty it is in the crevices of our lives. We are called to follow Jesus and leave the 99 to chase the 1 with him. Every time.
Discussion: Who do you most often connect to in this scripture? The Shepard? The Sheep? The Coin? How can you chase the lost sheep and coins with Jesus in your life daily? Is that something you already do or is it out of your comfort zone?
Activity: Be those people this week. Someone you know, whether they are in your family, your friendship circle, or a coworker, is a lost sheep or coin. Maybe they don't know it. Or maybe they do and they don't know where to begin. Be the person that eats with them this week. Literally or figuratively. Leave the comfortable 99 to go find that one.
Thoughts: Jesus tells the crowds following him that they must hate their fathers, their mothers, their wives, their children, their brothers, their sisters, and even their own lives. Deliberately, Jesus names the people who are traditionally dearest to us, concluding with our own lives.
One commentary explains Jesus’ use of the word “hate” as “vigorous, vivid hyperbole.” Literally, “hyperbole” means “to throw beyond.” Did Jesus intend to throw his words beyond what his followers could understand or accept?
Without pausing, Jesus goes on to give two examples of people who need to plan ahead. The man who wants to build a tower needs to know he has enough money to finish it. If he can build only the foundation, people will ridicule him. Likewise, a king with a small army would be foolish to make war against a king with a bigger army. The weaker king should see terms of peace from the stronger king.
Is there a connecting thread among these three brief scenes? Lack of dedication in a potential follower of Jesus – lack of money to finish a tower – lack of troops to engage in war?
Discussion: Is it more hyperbole when Jesus says his disciples must give up all of their possessions?
Activity: Think of a material possession which you love. How precious is it? Is it invaluable? Irreplaceable? Would you be willing to give it up...not just temporarily but for good. Your favorite blanket? Your TV? Your phone?
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