Israel's Mission Discovery Guide: A Kingdom of Priests in a Prodigal World

Israel's Mission Discovery Guide: A Kingdom of Priests in a Prodigal World

by Ray Vander Laan


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310810612
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 06/30/2015
Series: That the World May Know Series
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 477,856
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Ray Vander Laan is the founder of That the World May Know Ministries and creator of the Faith Lessons video series with Focus on the Family. An ordained minister, he holds the chair of biblical cultural studies as a religion instructor at Holland Christian Schools in Holland, Michigan. He and his wife, Esther, have four children and fifteen grandchildren.

Read an Excerpt

Israel's Mission Discovery Guide

A Kingdom of Priests in a Prodigal World

By Ray Vander Laan, Stephen Sorenson, Amanda Sorenson


Copyright © 2015 Ray Vander Laan
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-310-81061-2




The Bible opens with the story of God bringing order out of watery chaos. His amazing creative work accomplished, God entrusted it to the care of our human ancestors, Adam and Eve. He gave them the responsibility to care for it and the freedom to choose how to rule and manage it. From that point on, the biblical story reveals a series of disappointing choices made by God's human partners that resulted in the return of chaos to God's created order.

Adam and Eve chose to eat from the one tree God had forbidden. Their oldest son, Cain, murdered his brother, Abel. With each passing generation, humankind became increasingly corrupt and wicked. By the time Noah entered the story, the heart of God was deeply troubled because "every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time" (Genesis 6:5). In order to end the evil, God wiped the human race from the face of the earth, sparing only the family of Noah because he was a righteous man who walked with God. But even the cleansing of the Great Flood didn't change things for long. Noah's grandchildren refused to "fill the earth" as God had instructed, preferring to settle together and make a name for themselves by building a city with a great tower — as if to challenge God himself (Genesis 9:1 – 11:8).

Surprisingly, God did not give up on his human partners! After generations of silence, the story picks up again with Terah, Abraham's father, leaving Ur of the Chaldeans (believed to be near the city of Mosul in northern Iraq) to move his family to Canaan. They did not complete the journey, but settled in Harran, a few miles north of today's Turkish/Syrian border (Genesis 11:27 – 32). After Terah died, God commanded Abraham to leave his present life — land, community, and even family — and "go to the land I will show you." The offer came with the promise of great blessing — a message of hope and mission not just for Abraham, but for him to be a conduit of God's blessing to all people on earth (Genesis 12:1 – 3).

God was asking Abraham to turn his back on the life he had known and to become his partner in redeeming a world in chaos! In a dramatic reversal of the choices many earlier characters in the biblical story made, Abraham committed himself to do what was right and just in the eyes of the Lord. Responding in faith, he left Harran. From that point on, Abraham would be different; he walked God's path and taught his children to do the same:

Then the LORD said ... "For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him."

Genesis 18:17, 19

Whereas Adam and Eve failed to faithfully obey God, Abraham eagerly demonstrated what a faithful partnership with God looks like. By choosing to be God's partner in restoring shalom to a world in chaos and bringing alienated sinners back into relationship with God, Abraham became a model for all who have come after him. The Jewish writer, Matthew, certainly intended to communicate more than just biological descent when he began Jesus' family tree with Abraham. Although Abraham could never effect the changes in a sinful world that the Messiah did, this Bedouin nomad lived in a way that showed how the world could be when God's people live according to his design. Since everyone who places his or her faith in Jesus is in effect a child of Abraham (Galatians 3:7 – 9), let's discover more about this faithful partner who lived to be a blessing to everyone he met.

Opening Thoughts (3 minutes)

The Very Words of God

The Lord had said to Abram, "Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you.

"I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

Genesis 12:1 – 3

Think About It

In the Bible story, the Lord is portrayed as the One who redeems his people and calls them to be his "partners" in redeeming others. In Western Christianity, we tend to think of redemption as being synonymous with salvation. While there is no doubt that the reality of God's salvation is included in what it means to redeem, the word actually has a broader meaning in the context of the Bible.

Talk for a moment about what is involved in redeeming something or someone. What examples of redemption can you think of (in history, contemporary life, or the Bible)? What does the act of redeeming indicate about the value of what is redeemed? Who redeems, and why? What is the response to and result of redemption? What insight do these observations give you into the broader meaning of redeem?

DVD Notes (31 minutes)

Partners in making God known

Life in an ancient city

The patriarch's role and responsibilities

Go'el— "to redeem"

Beth ab—"the father's house"

Using the resources of the Father's house





Redeem with everything you've got!

DVD Discussion (8 minutes)

1. In what ways does what you learned about Arad and the lifestyle of people who lived there help you to better understand the world of Abraham? What particularly impressed you?

2. What has been your impression of a patriarchal society, and in what ways do the cornerstones of the ancient Hebrew patriarchal society — go'el, meaning to "redeem," and beth ab, meaning "the father's house" — differ from what has been your understanding?

3. Throughout human history, God has always sought to redeem and restore his lost children to his house. We sometimes think of the lost as pagans and sinners who need to be saved. Although that is true, redemption is bigger than that. How does our attitude and motivation toward those who are lost change when we see them as God does — as his very own children — children who are in great trouble, overwhelmed by debt they can never pay, lost and cannot find their way home?

4. At Mount Sinai, God gave the Hebrew people a mission: to be a kingdom of priests who would extend God's reign by obeying his commands and putting him on display so that all people and nations would be drawn to him. Hundreds of years earlier, the Hebrews' ancestors, Abraham and Sarah, were already living out that mission. They provided for the Hebrews — as well as for us — a powerful example of how to be God's partners in redeeming and restoring his lost children.

a. In what ways does Abraham and Sarah's response to their three visitors reveal the depth of their commitment to live out that mission in their world?

b. What might a similar commitment to restoring the lost to God's beth ab look like in our world?

Small Group Bible Discovery and Discussion (13 minutes)

Extending the Blessing of the Beth Ab

Life in the ancient Middle East centered around the extended family or household, which was called the "father's house" or beth ab in Hebrew. Such a family could comprise thirty, fifty, or more people representing several generations: the head of the family (known as the patriarch), his wife or wives, his younger brothers, unmarried children, and married sons with their families (a woman customarily joined the beth ab of her husband). The patriarch controlled all family resources, using them to protect and care for each family member. In this setting, the beth ab was the context through which each member was connected to the rest of society. If a member lost connection to the family due to oppression, capture by enemies, poverty, or bad choices, the patriarch was responsible to restore the "marginalized" member to the family. Anyone who found himself or herself without a beth ab was in serious trouble. Widows and orphans were particularly vulnerable because they had no means of support or protection outside the beth ab.

1. Abraham was a patriarch with a mission. He recognized his role as God's partner in extending the Father's house to bless all people and nations and to put God on display in such a way as to attract those who were estranged from him, so that they could experience restoration to the beth ab. Let's see how Abraham (and Sarah) modeled this mission when three total strangers suddenly appeared at his desert home. Read Genesis 18:2 – 8.

a. What do we learn about Abraham's servant heart? (See Genesis 18:2 – 5.)

b. What evidence do we see that Abraham taught his family about caring for people in need — the poor, the oppressed, the alien — according to God's desire? (See Genesis 18:6, 19; 19:1 – 3. Note: As Abraham's nephew, Lot had previously lived in Abraham's beth ab.)

c. What indicates that Abraham spared no expense in serving his three guests? (See Genesis 18:6 – 8.)

2. Matthew began his gospel by identifying Jesus as a descendant of Abraham (see Matthew 1:1 – 17). With what mandate does Matthew end his gospel, and what earlier command and promise does it echo (see Genesis 12:1 – 3; Matthew 28:19 – 20)?

a. According to Paul, what connection do believers have to Abraham through Jesus? (See Galatians 3:14, 29.)

b. What, then, is the mission of God's people today?

3. When Jesus taught about the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 13:33 and mentioned the large amount of flour made into bread, what story would the Jewish people — who knew their Scriptures very well — have likely remembered? What picture would it have given them about the kingdom of heaven, the Father's house?

Faith Lesson (4 minutes)

The mission that the God of the universe entrusts to his people — to display his character by demonstrating compassion for those in need — began in ancient times in the Negev desert with Abraham and Sarah. It continued throughout biblical history with significant moments in which God's people acted similarly and brought lost children back into the "Father's house." We have been given a truly amazing privilege and responsibility to share through our actions and words the message of redemption that God offers to everyone in our broken world.

I want to share with you an image that conveys a sense of the opportunity we have. It occurred during the filming of this session. In the tent of a Bedouin family, the family patriarch offered us fresh camel's milk. One could sense from his wife and eight children the honor we were being given. Neither our host nor his family drank but simply sat and watched in silence as they honored us with this symbol of great hospitality. We were of a different culture, race, nationality, and religion. They honored us anyway. It is hard to describe the overwhelming sense of appreciation we felt. It was as if God gave us a lesson in how we are to present ourselves and hence our God to those among us (or strangers who enter our lives) who are in need.

1. Jesus said to his disciples, "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:14 – 16).

a. What impact might those of us who claim to follow Jesus have on our increasingly secular culture if we imitate Abraham and Jesus — and display God and his ways by being a blessing to other people, whether they be friends or even enemies, strangers or well-known public figures?

b. As you think about your daily life, what opportunities do you have to put God on display — to be the light on a hill — and invite people to be redeemed and to experience the blessings of the Father's house?

2. Who are the marginalized people you see who live outside the family of God, and what blessings do they need that God has given you to share with them?

a. How eager are you to share God's blessing with them, and how much are you willing to sacrifice to do so?

Closing (1 minute)

Read Genesis 12:2 – 3 aloud together: "I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

Then pray, thanking God for the blessing of his beth ab, praising him for the miracle of his redemption that restores even the most broken, lost, and hopeless children to his faithful care. Thank God for the privilege of being a blessing to his lost children. Ask him to give you a willing heart, generous spirit, compassionate wisdom, and mighty strength as you seek to display to a watching world the God who redeems.


I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

Genesis 12:2 – 3

Restoring the Lost to the Father's House

In-Depth Personal Study Sessions

Day One | Partners in God's Redemptive Plan

The Very Words of God

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

1 Peter 2:9 – 10

Bible Discovery

Understanding the Big Picture of Redemption

Christians commonly think of God's message of redemption in the Bible in terms of the well-known words: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Although these words are an excellent summary of the gospel message, it is limiting to view God's redemptive work on our behalf as solely deliverance from sin's bondage, or salvation. Such a view is biblical, but in the words of Christopher Wright, "it is not biblical enough." Redemption in God's framework encompasses salvation — deliverance from — and more than that, it is restoration to.

The Text frequently uses redeem (Hebrew, ga'al) to describe God's actions as our Redeemer (Hebrew, go'el). God's plan for restoring shalom to his broken world includes rescuing alienated sinners and bringing them back into relationship with him, as well as restoring relationships with others and even with the creation itself. Restoring shalom is a mission in which God has given his people a vital role.

1. What understanding do you gain about the big picture of God's redemption from the following verses?

2. God acted to restore his lost children fully so that they would believe in him as the one true God, come to know him as their Redeemer, and in response serve him in faithful obedience and worship. What do the following verses reveal about God's full redemption of Israel, which involved political, economic, social, and spiritual deliverance and restoration?

a. Political (Exodus 1:8 – 14)

b. Economic (Exodus 3:8; 12:35 – 36; Deuteronomy 26:15)

c. Social (Exodus 2:1 – 2; 20:13 – 17)

d. Spiritual (Exodus 4:22 – 23; 25:8 – 9; 40:34 – 35)

3. Why did Jesus come to earth, die, and rise again — which resulted in people believing in him, trusting in him, and committing themselves to walk in the way of the Lord? (See Luke 1:68; Galatians 3:14.)


Excerpted from Israel's Mission Discovery Guide by Ray Vander Laan, Stephen Sorenson, Amanda Sorenson. Copyright © 2015 Ray Vander Laan. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Introduction, 7,
Session One Abraham and Sarah and Three Strangers, 15,
Session Two Israel at Sinai: The First Great Commission, 61,
Session Three Jesus Renews the Mission: Seeking the Lost, 105,
Session Four The Lost Son: In a Far Country, 153,
Session Five The Seeking Father: The Lost Son Returns, 195,
Notes, 239,
Acknowledgments, 247,
Bibliography, 251,

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Israel's Mission Discovery Guide: A Kingdom of Priests in a Prodigal World 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Shopgirl152ny1 More than 1 year ago
This was a fascinating and informative DVD and discovery guide. I've seen many others in this series and I was excited to find out there was a new one. Learning about the cultural, spiritual and historical background was incredibly interesting and shed new light on stories I've heard all of my life. I took away a lot of new insight into these familiar stories. The DVD sessions were about a half hour long each and the book really went more in depth using the DVD as a launching pad. For each of the five sessions there was some background to the story, opening thoughts, a think about it section, guided notes to take as you watch the DVD, some discussion questions that point you back to the Bible for passages to read, a closing and verse to memorize. Then another section is for personal study with questions and deeper reflections for five more days. This brought in other Bible stories that pertained to the topic. There's fascinating background, maps, photos and explanation in sidebars. The topic is such an important one and really made me think about my role in reflecting who God is to His lost children and what more I can do to bring them back to Him. I highly recommend this set! I received this book and DVD from Litfuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.
booksandbeverages More than 1 year ago
It’s no surprise I love to travel and I love history. When you combine the two? That’s code for I’m interested. If you’re looking for a way to experience both, the latest in Ray Vander Laan’s That the World May Know DVD Study, Israel’s Mission, is one you need to check out. The history, the glimpse into the culture and world of God’s chosen people, Jesus and the biblical world all combined for an intriguing learning experience. With each lesson, Vander Laan not only provides a historical context, but also how it all relates to us and how we can apply that to our daily lives. The views of the land (like the Sinai Desert) were beautiful and I can only imagine how incredible they’d be in person. There was lots of scripture to following along and follow up for further study. This study was a reminder of our mission as believers in today’s world. In the later episodes, he used the story of the prodigal son to share even more about the times and culture. I really enjoyed diving more into all that that parable meant. The study guide is also a wonderful resource. Along with pages to follow along during the videos, there’s daily studies for the week. Full of questions to further your study, the book also includes more facts about the time and takes you deeper into scripture. Plus Randy has a lot of passion for teaching and sharing, so he holds an audience and keeps your attention. While this would be a great study to do solo, I think going through this with a group would be more rewarding – there are a lot of encouraging discussions to be had after each of these lessons. I can’t tell you how high the Holy Lands are on my travel bucket list! How about y’all? (Thank you to Litfuse for a copy of the book and DVD in exchange for my honest review) - See more at:
Heart2Heart More than 1 year ago
For some people to study subjects they want to know more about, some use books, reference materials of some sort, or a DVD which offers both an auditory and visual perspective, but when you pair these resources alongside your Bible to understand the meaning behind why God selected the Israelite people aside from all the other people living in the world, with a mission to bring the "sheep back into His kingdom," you want to probe into the context that really makes up a true Bible study. That is where the DVD, Israel's Mission: Experience the Bible in Historical Context, along with the book, Israel's Mission: Discovery Guide, from Ray Vander Laan, renowned teacher and historian of the "That the World May Know" series, comes into play. Using five very different segments from Abraham and Sarah and the three strangers, Israel at Sinai, Jesus Renews the Mission of Seeking the Lost, The Lost Son in a Far Away Country, and finally The Seeking Father: The Lost Son Returns, we can unlock the meaning behind God's plan to reclaim His world that had been broken by sin and to use people as His partners in that effort. By choosing a people, Israel, and a place, the promised land at the crossroads of an ancient world, to make His name known. By living in the Promised Land and obeying God's commandments, his chosen people couldn't help but display his character and make Him known to the entire world. Yet they struggled to be faithful. They were blessed repeatedly by God's hand, but turned away to worship the gods of the nations around them. Prophets of God called them back to Him, back to their mission, but when they refused God allowed pagan nations to conquer the land and carry His people away to foreign lands. The arena has changed in time, but the mission has not. God's partners have always struggled to carry out this task faithfully and this series and study is designed that people will seek to engage this culture and be a blessing to wherever God places us. Using real life locations through the DVD portion of this study, readers are engaged to revisit the Bible and see how even in modern day times, these lessons are still applicable. So many things from the Bible are culture based to apply to the people living in the areas at this time and for those of us that fail to really understand the concepts we miss how it applies to our life today. I received Israel's Mission DVD and Discovery Guide by Ray Vander Laan compliments of Zondervan Publishers, Focus on the Family and Litfuse Publicity for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation aside from a free copy of the DVD and Discovery Guide for a favorable review and the opinions found here are my personal honest ones. For me this series takes all the necessary learning elements, auditory, visual and kinetic and brings the Bible to life in a whole new way. From understand the culture references, to rereading the Bible and seeing it from a different perspective it encourages the reader and viewer to an entirely new perspective into understanding the Bible, God's great commission and how we all need to do our part to share it with a lost and hurting world. It allows all of us to become a kingdom of priests in a prodigal world! For me these both rated a 5 out of 5 stars.