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Bible Study Guide for Sunday Nov 8, 2020

November 4, 2020
  • Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
  • Psalm 78:1-7
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
  • Matthew 25:1-13

Choose this day whom you will serve. The people of Israel have finally entered the Promised Land.  In Shechem, the same place where God had originally promised the land to Abraham’s descendants (Genesis 12:6-7) Joshua gathers the people together, recaps their history, and demands a decision. Will they serve the Lord who called Abraham, who freed them from slavery in Egypt and protected them through forty years in the desert?  Or will they serve the gods their people worshipped before Abraham?  Or in this new land will they assimilate with the Amorites and worship the Amorite gods?  The people say that they will reject other gods and serve the Lord.  Not so fast, Joshua says.  God takes this seriously and you have to as well.  You can’t go halfway.  The Lord will not be pleased if you choose the Lord now, but later also turn back to other gods.  If you do this, the Lord “will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.”  The people swear that they will serve the Lord and the Lord alone.

Since we have read the rest of the book, we know they don’t do it.  The rest of the Hebrew Bible shows the people continually failing to live up to this covenant, ignoring the prophets who seek to call them back to faithfulness, and then eventually God has had enough.  The Assyrians conquer the Northern Kingdom and then about a hundred and fifty years later the Babylonians conquer the Southern Kingdom and destroy the Temple.  Joshua warned them.

In the Gospel as well, our choices have consequences.  In Matthew 24, Jesus foretells the destruction of the Second Temple.  To drive the point home he then starts telling parables.  This one seems so harsh.  Why in the world wouldn’t the prepared bridesmaids share?  The bridegroom was about to arrive.  Would they have run out of oil immediately if they shared?  Would it have been the end of the world if they did?  What woman sends another woman out into the night alone?  It makes more sense if we think firstly about the bridegroom as Jesus and secondly about the meaning of “preparation” for the bridegroom’s return.  Jesus doesn’t expect us to stockpile supplies (in fact that is specifically condemned, see Luke 12:16-21) but to tend our own souls, to be people of faithfulness and generosity and love.  It’s not that such people are unwilling to share these qualities as much as it is impossible.  You cannot piggyback off of someone else’s faithfulness and virtue.  It doesn’t work that way.  The bridesmaids who expected to take advantage of someone else’s virtue found themselves unrecognized and shut out.

But with God that isn’t the end of the story.  The people of Israel violated their covenant over and over again and lost the Promised Land and went into exile, just as Joshua had warned them.  But that didn’t mean God had given up on them.  Seventy years later, the conquering Babylonians were conquered themselves.  The people could go back to the Promised Land, rebuild the Temple, and God renewed the covenant, writing it on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:31-34).  Our choices have consequences, but that doesn’t mean God will abandon us.  Jesus doesn’t ultimately leave us shut out and alone in the night.  Instead Jesus continually seeks to woo his people back, even when it takes a cross to do it.


  • The people of Israel were continually tempted to worship the gods of their surrounding society.  What “gods” does our society tend to worship?  Wealth?  Fame?  Power?  Pleasure?  What are some ways we tend to end up serving these?
  • If we didn’t know it before, we’ve learned this year that life is uncertain.  At any time we might meet Jesus, either because He has come again or because we die.  What does it mean to be ready to meet Jesus?
  • Have you ever recognized that God was seeking to woo you back?  What happened?

Author: Kristen Filipic


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