These Bible studies are designed to use in small groups. They may provide a useful introduction to a meeting where different topics from the Guide are being discussed. Choose a study that will be linked to the topic you plan to study or that is relevant to your situation. During the studies, encourage people to think about what they read, to discuss the meaning and the implications of what they learn and, finally, to pray together about what they have learnt.
BIBLE STUDY 1 Water for life
The Bible has over 300 references to water and another 80 on rain.
- Which is the first verse that comes to your mind when you think about water?
The Bible looks at water in many different ways, using it as a symbol of destruction (Genesis 6-9), cleansing (Exodus 30:18), blessing (Jeremiah 17:8) and spiritual need (Psalm 42). Read Deuteronomy 28:12 and Psalm 65:9.
- What is the Bible saying here about our need for water?
- What does it say about God’s provision for our spiritual needs?
BIBLE STUDY 2 Spiritual cleansing
In the early chapters of Leviticus we learn of many rituals that were used to bring cleansing (Leviticus 16:4, 16:24 and Leviticus 17:15).
Read Psalm 24:3-4.
Reflect on our need for spiritual cleansing. Jesus’ sacrifice provides us with means for spiritual cleansing.
- Are we careful to keep our spiritual bodies clean?
Read Isaiah 41:17 and reflect on God’s promises to us.
- What can we do in our community to ensure that the poor and needy can receive God’s gift of water?
Pray and consider God’s provision of water and its symbolic meaning.
BIBLE STUDY 3 Water as a symbol of blessing
In the Bible, water is used as a symbol to show several different aspects of God’s power. It can be used as a symbol of cleansing, as in the ceremonial washings of the Old Testament sacrificial system (for example: Exodus 30:18-21). It can be used as a symbol of destruction as with flooding (Genesis 6-9:17). But the most common use of water is as a symbol of blessing.
One of the many passages in the Bible which uses water to symbolise blessing is Isaiah 35. Much of the book of Isaiah concerns Isaiah’s prophecies of God’s judgement on the sins of the people. But this chapter looks ahead to God’s glorious promises to those who trust him.
Read Isaiah 35:1-7.
- Why did the desert suddenly burst forth with joy?
- What were the signs of this joy – both in the desert, and in the lives of those who believe?
Read Isaiah 35:8-10.
The highway is God’s path for us – the path which leads to eternal life. Remember that Isaiah wrote this prophecy hundreds of years before the coming of Christ.
- What signs are there in your life of the joy of trusting in God?
Pray that as the desert brought forth streams and springs of water because of God’s presence, we also will be filled with the joy of believing and trusting in God.
BIBLE STUDY 4 Sanitation
Read Deuteronomy 23:12-14.
There is very little teaching in the Bible about sanitation apart from these verses. The Israelites were given these clear instructions thousands of years ago. However, a huge number of people still lack access to good sanitation.
- What responsibility do we have to ensure that everyone has adequate sanitation today?
Verse 14 talks about how this command was given to keep the camp holy, but the practice would also have kept the camp healthy. God was aware of the need for good sanitation long before people understood about the diseases caused by poor sanitation. Physical cleanness is linked to moral holiness.
- How much do our sanitation practices and personal hygiene show that we care about our own health and the health of our families?
- How does our way of life cause others to suffer illness because of lack of hygiene in and around our homes?
BIBLE STUDY 5 The Bible’s teaching on hygiene
The Bible’s main teaching about physical cleanliness appears in Leviticus 11-15. Some of the rules may seem strange and harsh to us. However, our modern understanding of how many diseases are transmitted shows other rules to be very sensible.
Read Leviticus 11:32-40 and 13:29-59.
The need for isolation and washing is often emphasised. Even today it may be difficult to distinguish between different types of infection and it may be better not to take chances. The transmission of diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis through blood and other body fluids shows clearly the need for care.
Read Philippians 2:4.
- What impact do our lives and hygiene practices have on others?
- How can we ensure that we consider the needs and interest of others first in terms of hygiene or cultural practices?
- Are others put at risk by our own poor hygiene? Is this a Christian attitude? (Philippians 2:4)
BIBLE STUDY 6 Holiness in practice
Read Leviticus 19:1-18.
The command to ‘love your neighbour’ first appears in Leviticus 19:18. It summarises verses 1-18, which contain various Old Testament rules and regulations. Look at this passage in Leviticus. Divide the commands (verses 3, 4, 9, 12, 14, 16 and 18) into those concerned with:
- worshipping God
- personal holiness
- holy living standards in relation to other people.
These commands are given with a note of authority. Whose authority is this? Note the general nature of some commands (verses 2, 3 and 11) and the precise detail of others (verses 5-9, 13 and 14). God wants us to be holy, both in large matters and in the small details of our daily lives.
- In verses 9 and 14, how does God’s law make provision for the poor and for ‘outsiders’?
- How can we care for the disadvantaged as individuals, within our family, and within our church?
- How can we express love and care for those suffering from ill health in our community?
BIBLE STUDY 7 Seen and unseen
Microbes are invisible, yet they spread causing sickness, diarrhoea and even death. We need to keep ourselves and our water and food clean.
Sin, like microbes, can also be hidden and increasingly damaging if not controlled. Even when a person looks clean and free from sin on the outside, their hearts may not be clean.
Read Matthew 23:25-28.
- What did the Pharisees look like on the outside?
- What were they really like?
- Would Jesus say anything different to our religious leaders or to us today?
- The Pharisees looked really clean. Does this story help our understanding of microbes and their impact?
Read James 1:13-15.
- What happens to uncontrolled evil desires?
All we think and do matters. Our words and actions are multiplied either by Satan or by God.
- Do our thoughts and actions spread evil or help to further God’s Kingdom?
Meditate on 1 Corinthians 10:31.
BIBLE STUDY 8 Feet washing
There are many references to feet washing in the Bible (Genesis 18:4; 19:2; 24:32; 43:24; 1 Samuel 25:41 and 1 Timothy 5:9-10). Washing feet was not done just for reasons of hygiene but also to make visitors feel comfortable and welcomed.
Read John 13:1-17.
- What is said about Jesus in verse 3?
- What does he do in response to this? (verses 4-5) ¡ How does Peter react to Jesus washing his feet? (verses 6-9)
- What cleanliness is Jesus talking about in verses 10-11?
- What challenge are we given in verses 12-17?
Read Luke 7:36-50. Here we read about another shared mealtime.
- What does Jesus say in verse 47 that inspires the woman to wash, kiss and perfume his feet?
- Do we love him as this woman loved him?
- How might we ‘wash the feet’ of those in our community?
BIBLE STUDY 9 The need for cleanliness
We need clean water supplies and food to keep us healthy and growing. The physical and spiritual parts of our lives are linked. Each affects the other part. Physical washing can be symbolic of spiritual cleansing. The Old Testament provides many examples of the need to clean ourselves before worshipping God.
Read Genesis 35:1-5.
- What did Jacob’s household do before building an altar to God?
- What impact did they then make on the towns around them?
Read Exodus 30:17-21.
What did Aaron and his sons do before entering the Holy Tent of Meeting or making offerings?
Read Numbers 8:5-15.
- In verses 11 and 15, what did God command Moses to do to the Levites (verses 5-6) to prepare them for the work of the Lord?
- In Hebrews 10:22, what are we able to do when our ‘bodies are washed’ and our ‘hearts are clean’?
BIBLE STUDY 10 Washing clean through baptism
Baptism involves a symbolic cleaning and washing away of our sin.
Read Romans 6:1-14.
In baptism we are buried with Christ, dying to our sin. Then in unity with Christ we are raised to a new life. How does God then use us? (see verse 13).
Read Mark 1:1-5.
- In verse 5, what did people do at their baptism?
- What did they receive in verse 4?
Why are we called to be holy? See for example Leviticus 20:7; Isaiah 6:3 and Ephesians 1:4. What happens when we are not? See Isaiah 35:8; Ezekiel 36:20-21 and Ephesians 5:5.
BIBLE STUDY 11 The result of being clean
Dirty water has only limited uses such as watering crops. As it is cleaned and purified, it can be used for washing, cooking and drinking to sustain life. Similarly, God can transform our lives.
Read Ephesians 5:25-27.
- How did Christ make his church holy?
- How do we continue to make the church dirty and unholy by our lives?
- What is the result of Christ’s sacrifice for our church today?
- How does God help us get rid of the bad things?
God became man in Jesus so that we might become children of God (John 1:12-14) and God’s chosen people (1 Peter 2:9-10).
Read 2 Timothy 2:20-21.
- What happens once we have been cleaned from dirty or unholy things?
Read John 4:13-14 and John 7:37-39. Jesus gives us a very special ‘water’ to help us live for Him.
- What is this water?
- Are we blessed by this water?
BIBLE STUDY 12 Staying clean
Once we have clean water supplies and healthy well-cooked food we need to protect them. What forms of protection have we learnt about in this Guide?
- Are we using the forms of protection that we need in our community?
Read Ephesians 6:10-18. Once we have come to God, he helps to defend us against Satan’s attacks if we use the armour he provides.
- How does the Belt of truth set us free (John 8:32) and clean us? (John 17:17)
- In 1 Thessalonians 5:8, how will the Breastplate of righteousness keep us free from sin through self-control?
- In Isaiah 52:7, what is the purpose of our feet in sharing the gospel?
- How will the Shield of our faith keep us safe? (See 2 Chronicles 20:20; 1 John 5:4)
- Are we wearing the Helmet of salvation by trusting in God? (See 1 Thessalonians 5:8-10)
- How does the word of God act like a sword? (See Jeremiah 23:29)
- How are we using all these different parts of God’s armour in our Christian life to protect us?
- And overall we have the weapon of prayer (verse 18) to protect all we do so that we are ‘strong in the Lord and in His mighty strength’.
Take some time now to pray for God’s protection in all we do.