The Bramble King: Abimelek (discussion questions)

Flawed Heroes Series Gfx_App SquareHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “The Bramble King,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This message continues our series, “Flawed Heroes” from the book of Judges. This week we looked at the life and demise of Abimelek in Judges 9.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Answer one of these two questions:
    • Who would you describe as one of the greatest leaders of the last 100 years, and why?
    • Who is someone that you know personally that you respect as a leader, and why?
  2. This week, as we continue our “Flawed Heroes” series, we look at one of the lowest points of the book of Judges with the character of Abimelek in Judges 9. There is a lot to learn here, so take a moment to prepare your heart, asking God to speak to you through His word. After that, read the entire passage out loud.
  3. The story of Abimelek is connected to the story of Gideon (also known as Jerub-baal) in Judges 6-8. What do we know about Abimelek, the end of his father’s life, and the attitudes of the tribes of Israel at this time (see especially Judges 8:22-35)?
  4. What happens in Judges 9:1-5? What does this tell us about Abimelek’s character and the character of the leading citizens within Shechem? (Note: the word translated ‘citizens’ of Shechem in the NIV has the sense of ‘lords’ or ‘leaders’; see the ESV, NASB and NLT.)
  5. Jotham, the youngest son of Gideon, survives the massacre of his siblings and offers a prophetic message against Abimelek couched in a parable in 9:7-21. When he describes Abimelek as a thornbush seeking to shade the other trees, why is this both ridiculous and foolish?
  6. Have you ever sought to find refugee or help from an untrustworthy person or source? What happened? How might Jotham’s words guide us here?
  7. The uprising against Abimelek is guided by God (9:22-24). What does this tell us about both the power and character of God?
  8. The rebellion by Gaal son of Ebed (9:25-41) is short-lived and ends poorly for all involved. Why do you think the people of Shechem were drawn to Gaal?
  9. As Abimelek’s wrath is poured out on Gaal and his army, then the people of Shechem, and the neighboring town of Thebez, we see an ironic answer to Abimelek’s promise in 9:2. What does this tell us about appearances and empty promises?
  10. Abimelek’s death is a dishonorable finish to a dishonorable life. Judges 9:56-57 serve as a commentary on the life and wickedness of Abimelek and Shechem. There’s a saying that people get the leaders they deserve. What does Abimelek’s story tell us about true leadership? What are the spiritual issues underlying the disasters of this chapter?
  11. What is one thing that God is speaking to you through this study today? If you are on your own, take a moment to write it down, pray about it, and then commit to sharing that with one person this week. If you are with a small group, share your answers together and then pray for each other.

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The Bramble King: Abimelek

Flawed Heroes Series Gfx_App WideWhat happens when the leaders who present themselves to us offer false hope and peace?

This past weekend at Eastbrook I delved into that question as we continued our series, “Flawed Heroes” from the book of Judges looking at the life of Abimelek in Judges 9. Abimelek, whose name means ‘son of the king’, is the illegitimate son of Gideon (also, Jerub-Baal), one of the most well-known of the judges. The hopeful beginnings of Gideon’s life and service as a judge leads to 40 years of peace for the land, but his final days lead back into the failures of idolatry and injustice (Judges 8:27). Abimelek leaps forth from this place of corruption into a misconstrued sense of leadership soaked with evil and violence. Abimelek’s life leads us to ponder the statement: be careful what sort of leader you look for…you just might get it.

You can watch the message here, following along with the outline below. You can also follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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The Right Woman for the Job: Deborah (discussion questions)

Flawed Heroes Series Gfx_App SquareHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “The Right Woman for the Job,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is part of our series, “Flawed Heroes” from the book of Judges. This week we looked at Judges 4-5.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you ever been thrust into service or responsibility in an unexpected way or at an unexpected time? How did you respond?
  2. As we continue our “Flawed Heroes” series at Eastbrook Church, we turn to Judges 4:1-5:31, which recounts the story of Deborah and Barak. Whether you are on your own or with a small group, begin your study in prayer, asking God to speak to you through His word, and then read the entire passage aloud.
  3. From Judges 4:1 and 5:6 we know this story happens after the time of Ehud and at the same time as Shamgar (3:31). According to 4:2-3 what challenging situation does Israel finds themselves in now?
  4. Deborah looms large in this portion of Scripture as easily one of the most respectable characters in the entire book of Judges. What is her role according to 4:4-7 and 5:6-7?
  5. Barak is from the northern areas of Canaan beyond the Sea of Galilee. Deborah sits as prophet in the central area between Ramah and Bethel. Why do you think Deborah summoned Barak?
  6. Why do you think Barak wanted Deborah with him? What repercussions did Deborah say this would have for Barak?
  7. Have you ever felt the need to know that God was with you in a particular season or situation? What did you do?
  8. The battle swiftly goes to Israel because of God’s power (4:11-15), but Sisera, the enemy general runs away. What happens to Sisera according to 4:16-21? What does this mean for Barak (4:22)?
  9. The summary description in 4:23-24 reminds us that God has been at work. How have you seen God at work in this story from start to finish?
  10. Judges 5:1-31 is a poetic expression of celebration for the victory related in Judges 4:1-24, similar to the expression in Exodus 14-15. Some scholars think this is one of the oldest portions of the Bible. Why would poetry and song be the appropriate response to the deliverance recounted in Judges 4?
  11. Throughout the story of Deborah and Barak we see that God is at work. How has God been at work in your life in significant ways? While most of us aren’t poets or song-writers, how might you write your own psalm of praise to celebrate what God is doing? This week, take some time to write something like that down. Share it with someone – maybe even your small group – as your public praise of God for His goodness.

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The Right Woman for the Job: Deborah

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This past weekend at Eastbrook we continued our “Flawed Heroes” series based on the book of Judges by looking at a series of unlikely heroes from Judges 4-5. Deborah looms large as the most respectable character in the entire book. Barak, although a reluctant deliverer, is used by God. Jael, a foreigner with no standing in society, finds glory as God delivers the enemy into her hands. Take a look with me at three unlikely heroes and consider whether God might not want to take ordinary people like you and me to make unlikely heroes of us.

You can watch the message here, following along with the outline below. You can also follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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Lead with the Left: Ehud (discussion questions)

Flawed Heroes Series Gfx_App SquareHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Lead with the Left: Ehud,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is the third part of our series, “Flawed Heroes” from the book of Judges. This week we looked at Judges 3:12-30.

Discussion Questions:

  1. When have you experienced help from another in the midst of personal need? What happened?
  2. We continue our “Flawed Heroes” series at Eastbrook Church by looking at the story of Ehud found in Judges 3:12-30. Whether you are on your own or with a small group, begin your study in prayer, asking God to speak to you through His word, and then read the passage aloud.
  3. Background: With this week’s study we enter the stories of individual judges. The major judges are Othniel (3:7-11), Ehud (3:12-30), Deborah & Barak (4:1-5:31), Gideon (6:1-8:32), Jephthah (10:6-12:7), and Samson (13:1-16:31). Interspersed within these larger accounts are many other, shorter stories of minor judges. Most of the stories of the major judges follow a four-part structure: 1) Israel’s sin & disobedience, 2) punishment of that sin & decline, 3) repentance from sin, and 4) deliverance by God through a judge & restoration.
  4. Judges 3:12-14 sets the stage for Ehud’s arrival as a deliverer. What is the problem with Israel that leads to their oppression?
  5. What do you notice about Ehud and his calling as a deliverer from 3:15? How does he prepare for the task according to verse 16?
  6. While it is possible that the Benjamites were ambidextrous (see Judges 20:16), it is possible that Ehud’s left-handedness was related to a physical defect, or at least was seen as such by the culture of the time.
  7. How would you describe Ehud’s actions and strategy in 3:17-23? Why do you think this was effective with King Eglon?
  8. The delay of the servants (3:24-25) allows Ehud the chance to get away and instigate a rebellion against Moab (3:26-29). What words would you use to characterize Ehud’s leadership here? In 3:30 it is important to notice that Ehud’s efforts bring the longest stretch of peace (80 years) to the land.
  9. Look back over the entire story and consider what God’s role in this story was from start to finish. What is God doing?
  10. What is one thing that God is speaking to you through this study or something that you need to consider in greater depth? Write that down and pray about it. If you are studying on your own, commit to sharing that with someone this week. If you are in a small group, take some time to discuss and pray about these things together.