1. Name some individuals in your life who brought you the Word of God even though they seemed to have been working behind the scenes. In what ways are you doing the same for someone else?
The identities of Elasah and Gemariah would not be known to us if they had not undertaken the task of taking Jeremiah’s letter to the captives in Babylon. The message was a blessing to all who heard it. Ask the class to share stories about individuals who have been a special inspiration and blessing because they brought God’s Word. Next, ask the class to mention the names of those they are blessing through the Word. Discuss ways class members can take the good news of Jesus to many more. Talk about specific methods that can be used (examples: helping a neighbor to take care of an elderly person, or babysitting for a non Christian single mom).
2. What steps do you need to take so you can adjust your purposes to God’s purposes in your current situation?
Personal expectations of “the way things should be” can cause us to miss some of the blessings that God has in store for us while we’re in the middle of very uncomfortable situations. The exiled people wanted to return to their homeland. But God said they could be blessed if they would settle down in the new place and live their lives as if they were back in Judah. God is very capable of bringing blessings to us wherever we are.
One specific step to take is to choose to focus on God rather than the problem or the person that is causing you difficulty. Maintain this focus by regular prayer and devotions. Scripture that deals with the power and sovereignty of God can be particularly helpful.
3. How can your church help fortify Christians so they can discern between God’s message and the messages of false teachers?
Christians can be warned that people have a tendency to seek out the messengers who will tell them what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear (2 Timothy 4:1-4). The challenge of every congregation is to communicate the entirety of God’s Word clearly, no matter how uncomfortable that may be.
Beyond that, Christians can be taught ways to study the Scriptures productively. If we could narrow down Bible study principles to a single, most important idea, that idea would be context. Much doctrinal error springs from failing to pay attention to immediate and larger contexts. Learning to discern the characteristics of false teachers is also important. Such folk may insist that they are the only correct teachers, requiring listeners to accept only their words. They will resist examining what other Christians have taught through the centuries, and they will be good at playing to the whims of the audience (compare Matthew 7:15: 3 John 9. 10; Jude 4, 12).
4. How do you encourage those who have lost trust in God because God did not respond in the way they expected?
One way to dislodge conclusions reached while playing the blame game (“This is all God’s fault”) is to ask the person how he or she arrived at those conclusions. Hearing their own reasoning bounce off the wall and come back into their thinking can cause some people to question their own conclusions.
Asking the person to list all the possible ways and times that God could use to bless them is another way to disrupt this all-or-nothing thinking. Sharing the focus of today’s text may help them see that God may bless them in a much larger context than simply providing a short-term answer for them.
5. How can the account of God’s actions with Judah serve as a model for parents as they deal with the misbehavior of their children?
There should be clear communication about expectations and the consequences if those expectations are not met. When punishment begins, there must be an indication of the ending time of the punishment. This picture should include a description of what a full restoration of privileges will look like. The possibility of a fully restored fellowship with the parent is vital. The goal of child rearing is to raise a responsible, Christian adult. This “long view” is crucial.