Mark Fairweather Tall
Bible Study for small groups
I was asked a question on Sunday: “Could you write a Bible Study to help us think through the events of the last few days?” My initial thought was, “How on earth do I do that?” There is no specific Scripture that we can turn to in order to gain a Biblical perspective on what it means to leave the EU. There are Christians on the side of ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ who are equally passionate that their views are in line with what God would want. The nation is divided, political parties are divided and the reality is Christians are too. Within the church and even within a Bible Study group, there may well be people who hold very different opinions… and hold them strongly. This makes it a very difficult subject to study in a group. However, we are at a significant time in the life of our nation, and the Church (Nationwide) needs to be handling this in a mature way that provides an example for the rest of society. That can only happen as we discuss the issue, agree to disagree on some things but unite around important principles that we share. I hope this might help in some way.
We are going to read a passage from the book of Jeremiah. This is the situation: Jerusalem was invaded in 605BC by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The King of Judah paid money and gave treasures in order that Nebuchadnezzar might withdraw. He did so but took some from Jerusalem and relocated them to Babylon. A few years later the King of Judah stopped paying money to Babylon. In 598BC, the army of the King of Babylon returned. The result was the same and more people were exiled to Babylon. They were living in uncertain times due to the political situation they faced.
1) What do you think it felt like for the people who were exiled to Babylon? What would be the main issues they faced?
For the leader: Gain initial responses and draw if not covered, follow up with
How might they have felt about Jerusalem? (disappointed, wondering where God was, angry)
How should they live in Babylon? (should they rebel, believe everything is going to be all right soon or get on with life?)
Read Jeremiah 29:4-14
For many, one of the problems of the referendum campaign was “how do we know who to believe?” For the exiles there were two voices: Jeremiah, who was saying ‘Babylon is in charge now, submit to them’ and Hananiah who was saying, ‘everything is going to be all right within the next 2 years’.
2) Who are the main voices people have been listening to in deciding who to vote for in the referendum? Whose voices do you think we are most likely to be listening to in the coming months?
3) Read v4-6 again. Jeremiah was clear that what he was writing was from the Lord. What can we do as Christians to ensure that we aren’t shaped in what we think by politicians and the media but by what God is saying?
In v4-6, Jeremiah is basically telling the people to ‘get on with living life’. However, in doing normal, everyday things, they also have a responsibility
4) Read v7. What are the two values that are to underpin how the exiles live?
5) How important do you think the following issues were for people in voting whether to ‘Remain’ or ‘Leave’?
a) Sovereignty and ability to make our own laws; b) Immigration; c) Security and peace; d) Trade and the economy
e) The cost of EU membership; f) Travel and living abroad; g) Other (share with the group)
6) What values do you think God might want us to have as a nation going forward? What do the following Bible verses contribute (if anything!) to our understanding of this? (Invite different people in the group to look up the following verses)
Genesis 17:3-8; Deuteronomy 4:5-8; Isaiah 58:6-8; Luke 4:16-21; Romans 13:1-5; Ephesians 2:11-21
In v7 Jeremiah tells the people to see the peace of the city. There is a lot of strong feeling about the issues and result of the referendum. Read Matthew 5:9
7) We aren’t all going to agree on these matters. What does it look like to disagree well?
8) How might Christians be ‘peacemakers’ in the coming months?
The most well-known verse of this scripture is Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”. People often take this to mean everything is going to be OK in the short-term. However, Jeremiah actually says that this will occur in 70 years. He is telling them that the promise of this verse is not something they will experience in their life-time. This verse is a special verse that reminds us that our identity is not ultimately found in the nation we are born into. It isn’t found in whether we are a part of the EU or not. Our identity is found in Jesus and who we are in Him.
9) It might be straightforward to say this, but what are the challenges to living by this at this time?
10) What do you think are the main issues we should be praying about for the UK in the coming weeks?