If you have been witnessing to a Jewish person who has shown an interest in Jesus or in spiritual matters at all, invite him or her to study the Scriptures with you. Your Jewish friend may resist starting out in the New Testament, and messianic prophecy could be confusing for anyone who doesn’t have a good Bible background. Most Jewish people, however, are receptive to reading from the Torah (Pentateuch) or the Psalms.
Our Liberated Wailing Wall team leader, Garrett Smith, suggested the following study guide. He finds Numbers 21:4-9 very effective as a first” Bible study with a Jewish person, but you can use the same guidelines for any text you choose.
I. Choose a text that relates to a gospel truth about God or the human condition.
In this case, we have chosen Numbers 21:4-9.
II. Establish the Setting of the passage.
Before reading the passage with your friend, establish where and when the account is taking place. That makes it more interesting and provides a point of reference.
Example: This happened near the end of the 40 years that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness after God brought them out of Egypt. They had observed the first Passover. Then they had crossed through the Red Sea and received the Ten Commandments.
III. Read the passage together.
Give the person the verses to read aloud. If the individual can personally discover what you want to teach, he or she will “take ownership” of it.
IV. Ask leading questions.
Ask what the person has just read. Your questions should lead him or her to find a basic principle of the gospel within the text.
Q: In verses 4-5, what were the people doing?
A: They were complaining against Moses and God about the food and water.
Q: In verse 6, what was the penalty for their complaining against God?
A: God sent serpents among the people and many died from the snake bites.
Q: In verse 7, how did the people react?
A: They confessed their sin against
the Lord and asked Moses to intercede for them.
V. Point out associative observations.
1. The people had to use an intercessor rather than go directly to God, didn’t they?
2. Do you suppose the people would have realized their sin if God hadn’t penalized them for it?
Q: In verse 8, what did God do?
A: He had Moses build a “fiery” serpent on a pole. When the people looked to it, they would be saved.
Q: Did God answer the people’s prayer to take away the serpents?
A: No, he didn’t take away the serpents; He provided a way for the people to be healed.
Q: Do you think the people would have learned anything if God had just taken away the serpents?
A: The people probably would have done the same thing again. This way, every time they were bitten, they would remember their sin, have to look up to the serpent God had provided, trust Him and rely on His mercy.
VI. Introduce a transition to the New Testament.
Example: Do you know that Yeshua (Jesus) spoke of this story in the New Testament? Let’s look at John 3:14-17.
(Again, describe the setting)
In verses 1-2, Yeshua was having a conversation at night with Nicodemus, who was a well respected rabbi.
(Again, ask questions)
Q: In verse 14, what did Yeshua say about this story in the Torah?
A: He made an analogy between the serpent and himself (Son of Man was a messianic title Jesus took for Himself). He said that in the same way the serpent was put on the pole, He must be lifted up.
Q: What does lifted up mean?
A: To be crucified.
Q: In verses 15-16, how did Jesus connect the two events?
A: He said that in the same way the Israelites looked to the fiery snake and were saved, they could look to Him and believe and be saved.
VII. Conclude with a parallel.
Example: In the same way that the Israelites rebelled against God, we all have rebelled against Him. We all have a terminal illness called sin. Just as the penalty in the wilderness was physical death, the ultimate penalty for sin is spiritual death—eternal separation from God. In order to be healed and live, the Israelites had to look in faith to the serpent on the pole. In the same way, each of us today must look to Yeshua (Jesus), that we may live forever in God’s presence.