Report PLT Nepal 2018-02-26 ----03-09

The environment

We – LarsOlov Eriksson and Simon Johansson – went together with the assignment to teach on the Old Testament prophets during the assigned time frame. We shared the teaching. You can see the timetable and there you can also see how we divided the tasks between us.

The teaching took place in the Bijaya church in Panauti, but we stayed in a hotel some distance away from there – about 25 minutes by car in Nepalese traffic conditions – in Dhulikehl. The name of the hotel was D-woods and was run by a group of Hindu guys, with whom we got along well and to whom we could give our testimonies in the evenings. We could tell that they were interested in our faith. One of them took a special responsibility to make sure that the food we were served wouldn´t make us sick, and he really tool pride in serving us and made varied dishes for us for breakfast as well as for dinner. We especially got to like momos . Steamed dumplings with minced meat served with a spicy sauce. During daytime we had our meals at the church, where we had the teaching, most of the time we had chicken with rice and some kind of lentil soup or sauce. We were also served lots of tea with lots of sugar in it, which we both appreciated, since we don´t like coffee. The last two nights of our stay in Nepal we stayed in a hotel near the Katmandu airport with one of the world´s oldest Hindu temple sites (which we visited one evening) within walking distance, and there festivities, cremations and commerce took place in a fine mess.

Our impressions from the country as such are that it is very beautiful, with high mountains, hills, valleys and terraced cultivations, but there is also a lot of littering up, especially along the roads. People were very nice and open and friendly towards us. We never felt pressured or threatened, not even when we took evening walks on our own.

All the practical arrangements concerning travels and such went vey well and we never had any problmes with the luggage or money or bureaucracy. None of us had any stomach problems or any other illnesses, except for Simon having a really bad cold the whole time.

Timetable and teaching

The teaching went roughly according to the timetable we had drawn up beforehand, and it turned out that we had divided the tasks quite well. We attended each other´s lessons and thus we could know what would come up and could fill in. On some occasions we were also able to challenge each other, which added dynamics to the teaching and set an example for the students. We think that the teamwork between us teachers contributed to the teaching in a very positive way.

We were told that 29 church leaders had announced their taking part in the course. We kept meticulous statistics of the participation, which turned out to vary quite a lot. On one qccasion only were all present. Otherwise the attendance was as follows (we counted them in the mornings, at lunchtime and late afternoons)

Date                         morning                           lunch                 afternoon
26 February                       19                                  25                                     25
27 February                       17                                  23                                     23
28 February                       18                                  23                                     24
1 March                                26                                  26                                     25
2 March                                24                                  26                                     25
4 March                                22                                  26                                     27
5 March                                25                                  26                                     26
6 March                                24                                  26                                     24
7 March                                24                                  25                                     24
8 March                                27                                  29                                       27
9 mars                                 27

We don´t have any good explanation to why the attendance looked like that, and we never got any answer to who took part. Some of them were pastors, that´s quite clear. Some were church leaders of some kind, and some were interested lay people, probably with some kind of assignment like cell group leaders. However, all of them seemed very interested and took part with great enthusiasm.

We devoted the entire first week to the book of Isaiah. The second week we dealt with the rest of the Old Testament prophetic books. The teaching consisted of lectures and exercises, and we think that this contributed to maintaining a big level of interest and commitment. We also tried to vary the exercises to help the participants learn different bible study methods and also get to think about more complicated issues.

The contents of the course

Here is a somewhat more detailed overview of the contents of the course plus the discussion topics we gave to the participants to work with and then give an account for. All the answers were written down on big sheets of paper, that the leader of the course Mankaji Tamang collected and saved.

1. The first week (The book of Isaiah)

Introduction to the OT prophets (loe).

An overview of the scripture prophets and others called prophets in the OT. The calling of the prophets and their different roles. A recapitulation of the messages of the prophets with special attention on the pattern judgement and salvation (we returned to the pattern later on) An overview of the period of time in the history of Israel, during which the prophets worked.

Some words on the transition from the spoken word to writing them in a book.

Exercise 1: What can we learn from the OT prophets? Are there any prophets today? How can we discern true prophets from false ones?
Exercise 2: Compare the stories of calling Moses (Exodus 3) and Isaiah (Isaiah 6). Similarities and differences? Try to find a pattern how the calling happened. . Share your own experiences of being called.

2. Introduction to the book of Isaiah (loe)

Emphasis on the significance of the introductory verses of the book (Isaiah1:1) and an overview of the kings and the period of time, during which they worked; quite simply the historical situation when the prophet worked (this was also brought up for the other prophets; we stresssed the historical situation to help the participants see how concrete the messages of the prophets are). The macrostructure and the theology of the book of Isaiah (this we returned to for the rest of the prophetic books)

Exercise: Read Isaiah5:1-7 very thorougly together and answer the following questions:
Try to put structure to this part of the chapter. Who is ”the beloved one” in verse 1? What does the vineyard refer to? What is the message then and now? Finally compare the parable of Jesus in Matthew 21:33-44 and discuss the connection between the two passages.

3. Isaiah 1-12 (SJ)

Going through central themes in these chapters, like judgement and restoration for Jerusalem, what sins are mentioned causing the coming judgement, what God has to say about empty and meaningless religion, plus the prophecies of the coming messianic king. Focus was also on how God reveals himself in these chapters, especially in chapter 6, and on the fact that a biblical prophecy can have several times of fulfilment.

Exercise 1: Read Isaiah 6 and answer the following questions: What does this account of calling say about God? What impact did God´s holiness have on Isaiah?
Execise 2: Read Isaiah 11: 1-9. Who is this passage speaking about and why? What is this person going to do and how? When will this be fulfilled?

4. Isaiah 13-39 (loe)

Going through the structure of this long not so well-known passage of the book of Isaiah, focusing on the geography in chapters 13-23 (the map then became a very useful help we returned to time and again)

Exercise: Read Isaiah 35 together and talk about what God is promising and when it became a reality.

5. Isaiah 40-43 (SJ)

About the changed historical situation (the exile in Babylon), going through the structure in chapters 40-48 to see recurring patterns and recurring messages; how God answers the accusations from the people that he has abandoned them (answers that we too can learn from); what ”the servant” can refer to in these chapters – namely both Israel and Messiah.

Exercise 1: What is the message to us today from Isaiah 40: 27-31? What does ”waiting for the Lord” mean? When and where can this message be especially applicable?
Exercise 2: Read Isaiah chapter 43 individually. Pick a verse that speaks to you in a special way and motivate your choice.

6. Isaiah 44-48 (SJ)

Continuing the themes started on in the earlier passages.

Exercise: Read Isaiah 44:9-20. What is the criticism from God/Isaiah against the idols? What are the differences between the Lord and the idols? How can you apply this and preach this to your countrymen today? (considering the fact that Nepal has a strong polytheistic religion and culture). This exercise was especially interesting for us to listen to, since the Nepalese christians had a lot to teach us con sidering their culture.

7. Isaiah 49-55 (loe)

Going through structures and the use of ”the servant” in this passage. A detailed study of Isaiah 49:1-7; 50:4-11; 52: 13-53:12 and 54:11-17 (four different passages on the servant) In the study of Isaiah 53 there were also the connections with the NT and the structuring of the passage to see the pattern of greatness-humiliation – elevation.

Exercise 1: Read Isaiah 53 carefully and note how the life of Jesus is foretold in the passage.
Exercise 2: Read Isaiah 55 and answer the question of what kind of thirst is referred to.Then make a short draft of a sermon on a line in the text (four groups were given a line each: verses 2b, 3a, 6, 8) The group who got 2b, gave us the following draft: l Listen! a. listen for what is good (cfr 2 Tim3:16) b. Seek the righteousness of the Lord(cfr Matthew 6:33) c. Obey God (cfr Matthew 28:18-20) ll. Be on your guard against what is evil (cfr Galatians 5: 19-21 and Ephes. 2:22) lll. Be contenst with what you´ve got (cfr 1 Tim 6:6; Hebrews 13:5).

8. Isaiah 56-66 (SJ)

Going through the structure of thse chapters, using a more ”visual method” we had drawn on the board showing a clear centre in chapters 60-62 and the prophecy of the Messiah. It was fun to see how many of the participants discovered this , once they could see the structure so clearly. Then we went through the contents and central lines of thought in the different passages.

Exercise 1: Read Isaiah 61:1-4. Who is ”me” in verse 1 (who is speaking)? What is the ”the good news”? Who are ”they/them” in verses 3 and 4? Then compare this text with Luke 4:16-21; what are the differences and why?
Exercise 2: Read Isaiah 65:17-25. What does the ”For/Because/Behold” found at the beginning of these verses mean? Compare this text with Isaiah 11:1-9. What are the similarities and differences? Has anything new happened since chapter 11? Study the text closely. Do you find things and details described differently from what you imagine ”heaven”?

After this last execise of the week, we had time for questions, and we had the first evaluation, that the participants gave individually and in writing. We gave them two questions: 1 What have you learned about the book of Isaiah during this week? Write a few things.

2 How do you want to make use of what you have learned and to whom would you like to pass it on?

The second week (the rest of the prophetic books)

1 Introduction to the book of Jeremiah and Jeremiah 1 and 12 (loe)

Focus on the information given in Jeremiah 1:1-3 and the names of kings you find there. The biography of the prophet.

The macrostructure of the book and the conclusions that can be drawn from observations made. (By now the participants knew that we found structure very important and they smiled each time we mentioned it). The theology and themes of the book. A close-up study of Jeremiah 1:4-19 and 12:1-13.

Exercise 1: Examine the structure of the calling of Jeremiah in Jeremiah1:4-19 and compare with this calling with the stories of calling already studied (Mose and Isaiah) to see if anything new can be found.

Exercise 2: Read Jeremiah 12:1-13 carefully and answer these questions: What does Jeremiah ask for? What is God´s answer to him?

2 Jeremiah 1-52 (SJ)

A brief revision of the macrostructure of the book. Then closer studies of chosen text passages , namely 7:1-15; 9:23-24 (coupled to 22:16) ; 18:1-11; 20:1-18; 29:1-14 and 31:31-34. Special focus was put on chapter 29, that went through verse by verse.

Exercise 1: What is the main point in Jeremiah 18:1-11? What does this text tell us about God? How can this be preached today?
Exercise 2: (after the detailed study of chapter 29) How can we as Christians apply this mesage to our lives in our world today? ( especially the thought about seeking ”the best of the city” in the exile and how we as Christians can have the right approach to the world.)
Exercise 3: Jeremiah 31:31-34.
1 Look at the passages right before and after this text (31:27-30 and 31:35-37); what are these passages about? How doesa it all fit together? 2. What was the problem with the old covenant? What is different about the new covenant?

3 Introduction to the book of Ezekiel and Ezekiel 1-32 (SJ)

About the historical context, mainly from the first three verses in the book; about the prophet as a person and his calling (the first three chapters), structuring his calling and the different parts of it; A brief overview of the macrostructure of the book; Going through the central themes of the book.

4 Ezekiel 33-48 (loe)

Emphasis on the distinguishing feature of the book, that it is written in the I-form. The overarching structure of the passage. Ezekiel 34 as a background to Jesus´teaching about the good shepherd. Ezekiel 37 and its literary context, special focus on the promise of a new covenant in Ezekiel 36. The closing visions of the book.

Exercise 1: Read Ezekiel 34 carefully and answer the following questions: Who rae Israel´s shepherds? What are their wrongdoings? What is the result of them? What will God do? What does God promise to his people?What will come out of God´s handling the Israelites? What does this teach us about Christian leadership?
Exercise 2: Read Ezekiel 37:1-16 carefully and answer these questions: What does God show Ezekiel? What is Ezekiel prophesying? What happens as he is prophesying? When God explains to the prophet what is happening, he speaks of the ”graves of Israel”. What does that refer to?

5 The book of Daniel (SJ)

A review of the historical situation and the Babylonian kings mentioned in the book (who they were and when they reigned); Going through important themes and aims of the book; Overview of the structure of the book – in two different ways, to show that it can be done in different ways; Overview of the contents of the different parts of the book, with focus on keys of interpretation, for instance the statue in chapter 2 and the points of the historical accounts.

Exercise: From Daniel chapters 1-6, in what way is Daniel a role model for us today? There were also a few questions on how certain details of the book can be interpreted , but w chose to mainly focus on the more prominent features. LarsOlov went through some clarifications concerning apocalyptic literature in the session that followed this one.

6 Introduction to the minor prophets and the book of Hosea (loe)

A general overview of the book of Twelve prophets and its contents and a closer look at the book of Hosea and its distinguishing features. Once again the importance of the introductory verse (Hosea 1:1) and the structure and theology of the book. A close study of Hosea 1-3 and 11:1-11 plus exercises.

Exercise 1: Read Hosea 1-3 and discuss the meaning of the imagery being used to describe the relationship between God and his people (the marriage). Also think about if there are other images in the Bible being used to decribe the same relationship.
Exercise 2: Read Hosea 11:1-11 thoroughly and answer the following questions: How is God described? What historical events are being alluded to? What is the message in this passage?

7 Joel and Amos (SJ)

Going through the structure of the book, the contents and central message. Main focus on the promise of the outpouring of the Spirit in Joel and on the first words of judgement from the perspective of the surrounding geography.

Exercise: Read Joel2: 28-32. Compare the text to Acts 2:16-21. What differences are there? How is this prophecy fulfilled in our days? This exercise inspired to read the text diligently and see details, many found it difficult to se the differences between the two texts, which became the starting point for a thorough overview including comments to the differences and what they could mean.

We had also planned an exercise for Amos, but we didn´t have to time to do it.

8 Obadiah, Jonah and Micah (loe)

Going through the books, focusing on their theologigal contents. The book of Obadiah as an example of dating where there is no date. The book of Jonah as an example of a book where the literary contents plays an important role rathe than the historical one. The book of Micah as an example of the close relationship between structure and contents.

Exercise 1: Read Matthew 12:38-47 and 16:1-4 and describe how the references to the book of Jonah are being used.
Exercise 2: Write a draft to a sermon from Micah 6:8 or 7:18-19. Two groups worked with each pericope.

9 Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah (SJ)

A brief overview of the contents of Nahum, focusing on what he has to say about God – the prophet has no difficulties in keeping intact a picture of God, wrath as well as goodness, punishment and grace.Focus on the dialogue between the Lord and the prophet that we can read about in Habakkuk. In Zephaniah focus was put on ”the day of the Lord” and what that represents.

Exercise: Headlines to different parts of the book of Habakkuk were distributed to the groups and they were asked to read through the book and match the headlines with the ”right” passages (chapter and verse).

10 Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi (loe)

Going through the three books with focus on their distinguishing features, the historical situation, structure and theological message. As for the first two books, also focus on the historical connection to the building of the temple. As for the book of Zechariah there is of course its apocalyptical character and also a little about how the apocalypse is expressed. In the book of Malachi something about the specific problems that the prophet deals with..

Exercise: When reading the book of Malachi, what are the more important problem you find that the Nepalese church is facing today that need be dealt with?

11 summing up the course (loe/SJ)

Here we tried from our point of view to summarize what we had had the desire to pass on with our teaching on the prophets in the OT, and we especially noted the following areas:

  • The double prophetic message of judgement as well as salvation as a constant theme.
  • The historical and geographic establishment of the OT prophets
  • The fulfilment of the OT prophecies : close in the history, through Christ the fulfilment of all Scripture, at the return of Christ and the last judgement
  • The importance of structuring and organizing the texts, also as a preparation for sermons
  • The teachings of the OT prophets on God, his attributes and his actions/works
  • The final exercise invited each participant to write his own short evaluation, answering the following questions: 1 What is the one most important thing you have learned during these two weeks? 2 What tools will you take with you from the teaching that you can use as a leader in your own church? 3 How can the message of the OT prophets help you in your own personal relationship with God? 4 What have you missed, anything you expected but didn´t get?

    The final evening we arranged a gathering and a dinner for all. There were singing and worship and holy communion (led by LarsOlov), personal prayers/intercession for each participant and testmonies from the participants.

    Some personal reflections

    It has been very rewarding to be able to do this together. Since we have different personalities we have learned a lot from each other and added to the practical teaching. We were quite simply a well functioning team, although we hadn´t worked together before. And we can recommend going two by two when/where it is possible to do so.

    Our interpreter did a great job. And we think that we had a good interpretation, considering that the participants laught at the right moments. At the same time it is of course not easy to know if everything we wished to pass on hit home. The cultural differences are big after all. However, we felt very close to many of the participants. They treated us with great warmth and gratitude, they took note very diligently, sometimes they had questions and they worked very energetically with the exercises we gave them and so on.

    It was also very encouraging to listen to testimonies and stories of how the participants had found faith in Jesus Christ and the gospel. Most of the ones we interviewed were former Hindus who had been saved after some miracles through prayers to Jesus, mostly healings. It seems that the Christian church is growing, despite the fact that open evangelization is forbidden in the country.

    LarsOlov Eriksson & Simon Johansson