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 Ruth: new life in poverty
Read Ruth 1. A famine in Judah caused Naomi and her family to migrate to Moab where her husband and sons both died, leaving Naomi and her daughters-in-law in poverty.
- Discuss the response of Ruth and Orpah to Naomi’s insistence that they remain in their own land. What would your response be if faced with leaving your own country in such a situation?
Read Deuteronomy 24:19-22 and Ruth 2. Naomi and Ruth returned to Judah after hearing that food was available again, even though Naomi had lost her land rights when her husband and sons died. However, Jewish law permitted the poor to gather leftover grains at harvest time. Ruth found support as she gathered leftover grains on land that turned out to belong to one of Naomi’s relatives.
- What led Ruth to the fields of Boaz?
- Why did Boaz respond in such a caring way?
- What provision do our laws and customs make for the poor to obtain food?
- What is the role of our traditional practices in caring for those in special need?
- Are these still relevant in our modern world?
- How do these practices need to change with the modern world while still retaining their value?
BIBLE STUDY 2 Ruth: restoring the victims of famine
Read Leviticus 25:25-28 and Ruth 3 and 4. Under Jewish custom there were several ways in which the poor were given opportunities to rebuild their lives. One was the custom of gleaning (see Study 1), another was the Jubilee principal of forgiving debt and restoring property (Leviticus 25:8-22). Another custom was that if someone became poor and lost their property, their nearest family member should redeem the land and return it to them.
- Why do you think Boaz agreed to help redeem Naomi’s land?
Discuss the traditional ways in which your society allows people who have become poor to rebuild their lives.
- Boaz’s actions meant that Naomi would have descendants to maintain her family line. How important is this?
- How did God bless the lives of Ruth and Boaz?
BIBLE STUDY 3 Nehemiah: inspiration
Read Nehemiah 1 and 2:1-10. The Babylonian army had destroyed the city of Jerusalem, including its wall, and the people had either fled to Egypt or been forced to move to Babylon. Some years later people began to return but were not welcomed by the new Babylonian rulers. They lacked leadership and had no vision for the future.
- Nehemiah accepts his people’s responsibility for the disasters that came upon them. Should we also accept responsibility for some disasters? If so, what kind?
- What causes Nehemiah to take such a bold step?
- What did Nehemiah ask from the King?
BIBLE STUDY 4 Nehemiah: careful planning
Read Nehemiah 2:11-20.
- What does Nehemiah do first?
- How does he deal with opposition?
Chapter 3 goes into the detail of how different families took responsibility for rebuilding sections of the wall. Read this through and see if you can work out how many different families were involved.
- What are the benefits of delegating work in this way?
Read Nehemiah 4. Even when our work is directed by God, we may not remain free from danger or opposition.
- How does Nehemiah react to the threat of violence?
Nehemiah faced many other difficulties from corruption and attempts to kill him. However, he persisted and was eventually successful, as we read in Chapter 6:15-16.
BIBLE STUDY 5 Nehemiah: restoring order
Once the rebuilding work was complete, Nehemiah’s work was far from finished. A number of other responsibilities remained to restore society.
Read Nehemiah 7:1-3.
- What did Nehemiah look for in choosing good officials?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages in choosing to work with family members?
- Not all societies are the same. What is appropriate in your society?
Read Nehemiah 7:4-73a (but don’t try to read verses 6-65 aloud!).
- In a disaster records are often lost. Why is it important to restore good records?
- What were the immediate benefits of registering all the families who had returned from exile?
Read Nehemiah 8:1-12.
- How did Nehemiah make sure that the people both heard and understood the words of God?
- Do you also rejoice when God’s word is made clear to you?
The people stayed to listen to God’s law for seven days (8:18-19). This is still remembered by the Jews and known as the Feast of Tabernacles. Then they confessed their sins and renewed their covenant with God (Chapters 9 and 10). People were then ready to move back into Jerusalem (11:1-2) and leadership roles among the Levites, the priestly tribe, were allocated.
Finally Nehemiah organised the dedication of the wall.
Read Nehemiah 12:27-31 and 38-43.
- Nehemiah could have returned home after finishing the building work. Why did he stay?
- Why is it important to take time to celebrate God’s goodness and faithfulness?
BIBLE STUDY 6 Habakkuk: joy in the face of disaster
The book of Habakkuk has just three chapters. Because of the note at the end of the book, it is thought that Habakkuk was a temple musician and he certainly wrote in poetic language. Chapters 1 and 2 describe a conversation between the prophet and God about the future of the nation of Judah.
Read Habakkuk 3:1-2. Habakkuk pleads with God for the sake of his people – not for anything good they have done (or not done) but only because of God’s character and mercy.
- What effect does this have on people?
- Should we always pray in this way during difficult situations?
Verses 3-15 describe in poetic language how God has shown his wrath in previous times.
Read verses 3:16. When we know that difficulties are coming, we will always be fearful.
- How does his faith enable Habakkuk to wait? Would this be our reaction to approaching disaster?
Read verses 17-19. The prophet looked back on the great things God had done and was filled with joy. He was determined to remain joyful in the Lord since even when all possessions have gone, God remains. When we meet with great difficulties in life, Habakkuk’s words may bring encouragement. Our faith in Christ prepares us for every event life may throw at us. Habakkuk relied on God and not on human strength. In the end God will indeed bring his judgment upon the wicked.
- Discuss how you respond to Habakkuk’s positive view in the time of disaster. What can we learn from him?
BIBLE STUDY 7 Paul: encouragement during crisis
Paul was imprisoned for the sake of his beliefs. He knew that he had done nothing to break any laws and after several years he appealed for his case to be taken before the Emperor Caesar in Rome. Eventually Paul and some other prisoners were taken by ship to Rome.
Read Acts 27:1-2 and 9-12.
- Paul was correct in seeing that disaster lay ahead. Why was he able to see this more clearly than the ship’s captain?
This passage is a good example of how disaster could have been prevented through being prepared. What would have happened if the centurion had listened to Paul rather than the master? Discuss reasons why he listened to the master rather than Paul? Discuss some situations where disaster has come because good advice has been ignored in favour of an easier option.
Read Acts 27:13-26.
- How much warning did the ship’s crew have of the storm?
- How did the crew respond to the danger they were in?
- How did Paul respond to the danger they faced?
Read verses 33-44.
- Despite the fact that their lives were all in danger, Paul remains calm and practical. How did he share his faith with those on board?
- What was the eventual outcome of Paul’s witness and close relationship with God?
BIBLE STUDY 8 The need to prepare for the future
Proverbs talks a lot about wisdom, and how providing for the future is a godly characteristic.
Read Proverbs 6:6-8. The ant is given as an example of how work can prevent disaster in the future.
- How can we learn from the example of the ant, and encourage others in the community to contribute to the necessary work that can prevent disaster?
Read Proverbs 21:20.
It is considered wise to have stores ready for times of need, and foolish to use up all you have unnecessarily.
- How does this verse help us understand the need to be ready for difficult times? What examples can you think of in your situation where this verse is applicable?
Read Proverbs 31:21. This passage tells us about the godly wife. She makes provision for times of need. She does not fear the cold season because she has prepared herself for it.
- What example would we give from our own culture of how a good wife is prepared for the future? Discuss this more widely as a principle for being prepared within the community.
- Are there other passages that you can think of in the Bible where being ready is praised? You might like to consider Genesis 41:35-36, Matthew 25:4.