Table of Contents (click on link below to jump to that topic)
- Moses: Following the lead of Love
- David: Wait on Love
- David: Run with Love
- Solomon: Obey in Love
- Job: Suffer in Love
- Isaiah: Trust in Love
- Jeremiah: Hope in Love
- Ezra and Nehemiah: Build on Love
- John: Believe in Love
- Romans: Because of Love
The first man we’ll study on our journey is Moses. That name, I would guess, conjures up a mental picture for most of you whether it be an image of Charlton Heston from The Ten Commandments (Charles 20 as my grandfather called him) or an angelic old man to whom you could never relate. Well, he did become an old man, his face did radiate God’s glory later in his life, and he may have even looked something similar to Mr. Heston’s portrayal, but I want to emphasize that Moses was just an ordinary man that God chose to use in extraordinary ways. If we see Moses this way, we’ll start to see how we are more like Moses than we ever thought.
Before we get into the meat of this study of God’s unfailing love as seen in the life of Moses, we need to go over some background information on Moses. For some of you this is a review of things you’ve learned before, but try to picture an ordinary man just like someone you know rather than the Moses you have built up in your mind.
Read Exodus 1:22-2:10 then answer the questions.
- Give two words that best describe the actions of the women in this passage: Moses’ mother, Moses’ sister Miriam, and Pharaoh’s daughter.
- How did God provide for Moses and his family in this passage?
Historians are not positive as to which Pharoah this passage refers, but it is interesting to note that one of the possibilities is that Hatshepsut was the woman who rescued Moses. She was married to Pharaoh Thutmose II and was unable to have children of her own and saw Moses as her way to provide an heir to the throne. It is unclear why an Egyptian royal would “feel sorry” for a Hebrew baby boy who was condemned to die other than the explanation that God uses anyone He needs in order to fulfill His purpose.
After being raised in Pharaoh’s house, Moses still knew who he was. Look at verse 11 in chapter 2. Moses “went out to where his own people were.” Moses then kills an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew. This is where we realize how human Moses is. After trying to hide the murder, Moses is found out by Pharaoh and runs for his life to the desert of Midian.
Moses stays in the desert for some time. He marries Zipporah and has a son. Moses was content, or so it seems, in the desert while the people of Israel were suffering in their slavery. It is then that God’s plan for His people, the Israelites, becomes clearer to those involved. This wasn’t the beginning of God’s plan, for He had been working in miraculous ways from the beginning of Moses’ life. However, it isn’t until Moses is forty that God is ready to reveal His amazing plan to Moses.
Read Exodus 3:1-15.
- What is God’s plan for Moses and for His people the Israelites?
- God makes several statements about who He is or what He would do for Moses. Which of these statements would most encourage you if you were Moses?
Moses ultimately obeys God and is given a helper named Aaron who will speak for him to Pharoah. God uses ten different plagues to display His glory and convince Pharoah to free the Israelite people from their slavery. If you’re not familiar with this part of Moses’ story, I encourage you to read through chapters seven through twelve in Exodus.
As I look back on how God prepared Moses for this wonderful role of leading the Israelites, I find it amazing how the pieces of God’s brilliant puzzle fit together.
1. Moses was raised in Pharoah’s home and was later used by God to confront Pharoah. Who better to do this than a man who knew Pharoah better than any other Jewish slave?
2. Moses, although raised in Pharoah’s home, knew he was not an Egyptian, and he had sympathy for the Israelites.
3. Moses tried to run away from Pharoah and his homeland, but God called him back to the one place and the one person he would have never gone to on his own.
This study is written to help us better grasp the idea of God’s unfailing love and how it is always working and moving in our lives, and we’ll see that through the lives of those we’ll study in this book. But however much we study His love, we’ll never fully understand it, so don’t think my reflections are the end all, be all on this topic. They don’t even cover the surface. At the end of each day, I will ask you to reflect on your own life so that you can look back and maybe see how parts of the puzzle of your life make more sense as they are placed together by His loving hands.
****************************************************************** Is there something that you didn’t want to do or had to do unwillingly, but looking back now you see how God used it to bring you where you are today? Explain.
Today we will really delve into Moses and the Israelites realization of the role of God’s unfailing love in their lives. Before you can appreciate something for what its worth, you first have to acknowledge that it is there. In today’s reading God’s chosen people will recognize God’s unfailing love.
After Pharoah freed the Israelites, they made a run for it. They knew the Egyptians were in hot pursuit, so God’s people were prepared to do battle. It was smart of them to think that this was not the end of their troubles, for it wasn’t.
Read Exodus 13:17-14:4.
1. How was God leading the people of Israel? What route did He have them take?
2. Did God’s plan make sense to the Egyptians? To the Israelites? Why or why not?
Not only is God taking them the long way around, but He is leading them in directions that would appear that they are lost. Have you ever felt like that? Many times I would have loved it if God had a suggestion box. Most of my notes would have said something like this:
· Are you sure this is the best use of my time? Wouldn’t it be faster if we did it my way?
· God, I think I’ve learned this lesson now. We can move on past this obstacle.
· Why are we going this way? The higher paying job with great benefits is over there.
Any of these sound familiar to you? So far we’ve seen what God is doing that doesn’t make much sense, but He has given us His reasoning for it.
Reread Exodus 14:4. Why is God leading His people this way? It isn’t about the Israelites, is it? It’s about displaying God’s glory to the Egyptians. How many times do we think its about me or my life? That great job would be great for me. Having a child is what I want. Being married is my goal. But God doesn’t work His plan for our glory; it is for His glory. I think a second title for this study could be It’s not about me.
I went to a first birthday party where the grandfather of the birthday boy kept shouting out to the little guy, “It’s all about YOU.” I think this is what the world is shouting out to us, but this is just the opposite of what God is whispering to us right now. Don’t make Him have to shout it.
Well, God certainly shouted His glory to the Egyptians as He rescued His people from their captors who continued to pursue them.
Read Exodus 14:10-31.
3.) List all the things God did to protect Israel from Egypt.
4.)Seeing all God had done, what were the reactions of the Egyptians before they perished and the Israelites after they were rescued?
Now we come to the key moment in the recognition of God’s unfailing love. After seeing the powerful hand of God deliver them from their enemies, the people of Israel began to praise God through song. In this song they praise God for saving them, for His majesty and holiness. If you have time, read the entire song in Exodus 15:1-18, but I especially want to focus on verse 13:
“in your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed.”
Moses has just acknowledged that it is the Lord’s unfailing love that is leading His people. What does the word unfailing mean? If you have a dictionary look up the definition and write it here.
Some synonyms of unfailing are never ceasing, unending, dependable.
Look back at what the Israelites were saying in Exodus 14:10-12. Do you think they would say that God’s love was never ceasing at that point in time? Would they call their Lord dependable? I doubt they would even want to call Him their Lord. They were ready to give up and go back to living as slaves, but God continued to work in their situation. What did God tell Moses and the people to do in verse 15? Move on!! They were crying to Him and complaining about their situation, but God knew what He was going to do, so He told them to keep going.
Oh, how many times I have stopped and complained to God about one thing or another, and His response has been just keep going. Even in writing this study I kept running into distractions and obstacles, but God’s command was to keep going-move on. Regardless if my daughter stopped napping, and I no longer had enough time, regardless if I had other “important projects” to finish, He kept saying to me move on.
What a blessing was waiting for Moses and God’s chosen people when they kept going. They were able to see God do the “impossible.” The glory of God was displayed for the rest of history. Now they were able to see that God did not fail them. His powerful, unfailing love was leading them all the time to the amazing miracle He had waiting for them.
What obstacles get in your way as you try to meet daily with God?
What obstacles are in your way as you try to obey God in a bigger issue in your life?
Yesterday we read how Moses and the people of Israel realized that God’s unfailing love was leading them. Today we will see if they continue to follow His lead or question Him instead.
If you’ve ever been on a diet or set a goal of some type, how many days pass by before you mess up or miss the mark in some way? If you’re anything like me, it probably doesn’t take long. Usually within the first 72 hours I have been tempted with some irresistible desert or something comes up and I can’t exercise that day and there goes my goal. Didn’t take me long to get off track and forget about the bigger picture. Sure sounds like the Israelites soon after the miracle at the Red Sea.
Read Exodus 15:22-27.
1. What were the Israelites upset about?
2. How did God provide for their needs?
How quickly the people of Israel complained about not having anything to drink. They questioned God’s leading because they were thirsty, and the only water available seemed to be the bitter water of Marah. They are so quick to question Moses, and Moses cries out to the Lord. Moses goes to the Lord, and the Lord gives them yet another miracle and the water is sweet.
God again shows His dependable, unfailing love which provides for all their needs and gets their attention. Why does He want their attention? Why does He want them to know that He is a good, loving God? Look again at what He asks them to do in verse 26. Would you obey the rules and laws of someone whom you thought did not care about you? It is so much easier to trust what someone says when they’ve proven themselves as dependable and trustworthy. The first time a child jumps off the couch into his father’s arms, he is usually a little hesitant, but once his daddy catches them and he is safe, he sees this game as fun and will be ready to do it over and over.
God has yet again proven His unfailing love to His people, and He uses this opportunity to remind them to follow Him, to follow His commands and decrees. Why is it so important for them to obey these rules? He tells them specifically. They will be protected from disease. Hard to imagine life without the CDC, Health Department or local news channel. We have so many sources of information telling us how to stay healthy, but the Israelites did not have this knowledge back then. They only knew how to live the way they had seen other people live, and the Egyptians were not the example the Lord wanted them to follow.
Look at verse 25 it says in the NIV that God tested them. When I was an English teacher, I would test my students to see if they had learned all of the material I had taught them. God tests us sometimes for a similar reason. He wants to see if we are learning who He is and what He says. I believe God was testing His people on two important lessons here at Marah.
1) Know He’s in control- the people were upset about water they weren’t able to drink. They were focused on what was wrong with their circumstances.
2) Obey His commands- God is very clear that the focus is on Him and His commands rather than the circumstances the Israelites were facing. They are worried about drinking water. God gives them sweet water and later He brings them to Elim with twelve springs and seventy palm trees. He shows His goodness and graciousness, but is also very specific about what is expected of them.
In verse 26, what are the four things God asks of His people
-listen carefully to His voice
-do what is right in His eyes
-pay attention to His commands
-keep all His decrees
Notice who the focus in on. It’s on Him. I especially like how the scriptures say to do what is right in His eyes. So many people in our society have differing opinions on what is right and tout the philosophy to do what is right for you in your situation. But God is very specific in this verse about whose opinion really counts in regard to whether something is right or not (and it doesn’t say Oprah or Dr. Phil in my Bible).
Let’s not miss the last part of verse 26. What will happen if the Israelites obey God’s commands? Let’s see, disease or obeying God. I think that that would be a no-brainer for me, but I know its much easier said than done. The key is who the focus in on. Just like we learned yesterday, it’s not all about me. If my thoughts are focused on myself, chances are I’m not going to be thinking about God’s unfailing love so much, let alone His commands.
And God again shows what amazing blessing He has in store for His people by taking them to Elim. He has an oasis waiting there for them to contrast with the bitterness of Marah. Life can indeed be bitter. It might feel that way for you right now. You are just waiting for a break, a little sweet water for your parched soul. Well, my friend, if you’re following the lead of God’s unfailing love, He won’t leave you wandering in the desert forever. There is an Elim waiting for you. I don’t know where it is or when you’ll experience it, but He has a better place in store for you. He has a better Elim in store for all of His children-called Heaven.
Some of my favorite verses are found in Psalm 34:8-10. I especially like the end of verse 10. I challenge you to memorize these scriptures and pray them back to the Lord. Thank God for the assurance that you will not lack any good thing when you seek Him.
Do you feel that you are in Marah or Elim right now and why? Which lesson is God trying to teach you at this place in your life, that He is in control or to obey His commands and why?
Have you ever wondered prior to boarding a plane for a long trip who you will be sitting by? If I’m traveling alone, I often wonder who I’ll be seated next to because that person will in some sense be my traveling companion for the next few hours. I wonder if my mystery buddy will be a talker, a snorer, a screaming child, or a cougher. I think I’ve had all of the above at one time or another and each traveling companion provides an entirely different experience. What type of traveling companion do you think God would be?
Read Exodus 33:12-17.
1) Who will be Moses’ traveling companion?
2) Who does Moses want to go with him?
Moses is asking for help on this journey. These people he is leading are not the easiest group to deal with, so God graciously comes to Moses’ aid and gives Himself. Then I love what Moses says after God says His presence will be with them, “Well, I hope it’s your presence because if you don’t go with us, then we’re not moving. Besides that if you don’t go with us, how will we be any different from any of these other people”(Carisa’s paraphrase). If God isn’t with us, if He isn’t leading us then how does our life look any different from anyone else’s? Our lives should look different from the rest of the world’s if He is truly leading us because His path is definitely not the same path as the worlds.
Look up the following verses and compare God’s way to the world’s way
1 Cor. 1:18
Moses knows that the presence of the Lord must be with Him at all times. After God assures Him of this, Moses wants more assurance or should I say insurance. My husband and I don’t agree all the time on insurance companies. He wants us to go the cheapest route; whereas I would rather know I have a good agent to help me. Moses wants to know exactly who God is, how good He is, so He asks God to show His glory. That’s a pretty bold request in my opinion. Moses has just seen many miracles, but now he wants to see the real deal-he wants to be sure.
Read the following verses in Exodus to see God’s response: Exodus 33:18-34:8.
1) How does God describe Himself the first time?
2) How does God describe Himself the second time He passes in front of Moses?
I want to take a closer look at how the Lord describes Himself to Moses the second time. These verses are key in understanding who God is, and once we better know who He is we will be able to trust Him more, so let’s look at them in detail.
Please list synonyms or definitions for these attributes of God. Take your time and truly dwell on what each of these mean.
Slow to anger-
Pretty amazing list isn’t this? This is who God is. If someone asks you who He is, here it is, but I think one very important word is missing from this list.
Look back at Exodus 34:6-7. What word does God use to describe Himself twice that is not listed above? That’s right-Lord. This is a common religious word, but what does it really mean? It must be important since God says He is The Lord twice.
This is God’s proper name. In Hebrew His name is Yahweh. He is the Lord, Yahweh. There is also another definition of Lord. One definition states that “Lord” has the general meaning of “ruler, commander or one who possesses authority” (Laymans 474). Yes, God is the Lord. He has authority over everything, but they key question is this: Is He our Lord? Is He the Lord of you or your life? Does He have the authority in your life or are you holding onto something you don’t trust Him with? Is He the ruler of your life who directs and leads you? Is He your commander who calls the shots for you every day? Before you say “well not exactly” or “yes, but…” look back at the list at the top of this page. Are you all of these things at all times? Absolutely not. Then why don’t you let the one who is all of these at all times control your life?
This is what God was trying to tell Moses and the Israelites. He wanted them to know who He is and to trust Him. God is unfailing love. He wants us to follow His leading. But many people don’t follow Him and they end up doing things and committing sins that the holy, loving God cannot approve of. Yes, He is always loving, compassionate and slow to anger, but He is also always just. He punishes the guilty and those who are guilty will suffer the consequences of their actions. The consequences of sin and not following God’s lead of love are even passed down to future generations. We’ll see more of this in tomorrow’s lesson.
This leads us to the question of how can God accept us as sinners if He hates sin? There is only one answer and His name is Jesus. God gave His only Son to die on the cross for you and me so that we could have eternal life with Him in heaven. If you believe Jesus died for you and have accepted Him as your Savior, then God does not see you as a sinner any longer. He sees you as His beautiful child covered and washed by the blood of Christ.
If you don’t know Him as your personal Lord, if you’ve never said yes to Him ruling and leading your life and accepting His Son as the savior for your sins, then I invite you to do that right now. Just tell God that you trust Him and believe that Jesus died so that you may live. Tell someone about your decision. Tell my, me e-mail address is at the back of the book. Get plugged into a Bible teaching church so that you can keep following God’s lead of love.
***********************************************************************List an area(s) of your life that you have not relinquished to God. Write a prayer to Him expressing your desire to give Him authority of your life and thanking Him for who He is.
Sometimes don’t you wish you could record a conversation you had with someone so you could play it back for them, and they would remember what they had told or promised you? Oh, the number of times I wish I had that super power. Since I don’t have that ability, I’ll just have to rely on the mind that God gave me to remember things. Scripture memorization is a great tool to keep your mind sharp, not to mention that it is more than a lifesaver sometimes.
Read Ps. 119:11
1. How can memorizing scripture help you?
Moses did not have a Bible to open up and read what God had told him. He had to rely on his memory. Do you know which of God’s words Moses had hidden in his heart? Let’s go to the source and see. Today’s reading is a little long, but hang in there to understand the whole picture.
We will begin in Numbers 13. This takes place about two years after the Israelites fled from Egypt. God has provided everything they have needed in the desert up to this point and has been leading them with a cloud by day and fire at night. The Israelites had just sent ten spies into the land where God had promised they would live. This is what happens when the spies return to their people to give their report.
Read Numbers 13:26-14:12.
2. What are the people complaining about this time?
3. What does God want to do to His chosen people?
You might be asking yourself did I read this correctly? God actually wants to destroy all the Israelites. Yes, you read it right. God is so frustrated that He wants to give up on these people and start over with Moses. Well, Moses can’t believe it either. Keep on reading to see his response to God.
Read Numbers 14:13-45
4. Write down the words of God that Moses quotes to dissuade God from destroying His people.
5. How will God punish the Israelites for not trusting Him?
Moses reminds God of His unfailing love. God doesn’t mind being reminded of who He is. He wants His children to know who He is. Tell Him and praise Him for who He is. If you feel alone, remind Him that He will never leave you or forsake you. If you have a whole lot more month than money left, remind Him that He has promised to meet all of your needs. If you aren’t sure what decision to make, remind Him that He has promised that He will lead you. You know why it is so important to know God’s promises and remind Him of them? Because you’re actually reminding yourself. If I am lonely and focus on the fact God is always with me, I will not feel lonely. If I focus on Him meeting all my needs, I will feel at peace about my finances. If I need guidance, I will seek His will for my life, trusting that He will show me His path.
God knows who He is and His promises for His children. He has never broken one promise, and He never will. He has shown the Israelites countless times that He will keep His promise of unfailing love. Unfortunately, He also will keep His promise of punishing the wicked. For their unbelief and inability to trust in Him, God promises that the Israelites will spend another forty years wandering around in the desert. Yet, I think the only thing some of them heard was that He would give them the land, or at least that is the only thing they wanted to hear because again they tried to go on their own. They didn’t want to follow God’s lead of love, and they went ahead of him and tried to enter the land on their own. What a mental picture I get of them being beat down all the way to Hormah.
We have learned from Moses and the Israelites how God has promised His children unfailing love. He has provided for them at the Red Sea, at Elim, and in the desert. Even through the next forty years of wandering in the wilderness God takes care of His children.
Read Deuteronomy 2:7 and Deut 29:4
6. What did the people lack while they were in the desert for forty years?
But we have also seen that when God’s children do not follow His lead of love that they will suffer for not trusting in Him. This is the same for you and me. When I don’t trust God’s plan for my life, and I step out ahead of Him or don’t want to keep moving forward with Him, then I might not be beat down all the way to Hormah or miss out on the springs and palm tress at Elim, but I will miss out on the blessings that God had waiting for me if I would have kept in step with Him.
Let’s keep following God’s lead of love. His unfailing love. Think of that word unfailing-it can’t fail you or me, so what do we have to lose?
How are you either jumping ahead of God or falling behind Him? Write a prayer of commitment to Him to stay on track with Him.
Memorize Exodus 34:6-7
This week we’ll begin a two-week study on the effect God’s unfailing love had on the life of David. When searching through the Bible for the words “unfailing love” I found that these words often came from the heart of this man of whom God said was “a man after his own heart,” so I am excited to journey with you over these next two weeks to get an even greater grasp on how wide, how deep is the unfailing love of God.
Today we’ll be doing a little background work into David’s life. Before I can plant a beautiful flower, I have to do the dirty work of preparing the soil. We’ll be doing the dirty work today in reviewing some familiar passages, but I want to make sure you know how and why David became king over Israel, God’s chosen people.
After the Israelites had been settled in the Promised Land for about 360 years, they desired to have a king for themselves. All the other countries around them had their own kings, so they wanted one for themselves (sounds like me in junior high). God warned them that having a king like everyone else was not necessarily a good thing. God wanted them to be solely dependent on Him and not a man with the title of King, but the Israelites insisted, so God gave them what they desired.
The first king of Israel was King Saul who was “an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites- a head taller than any of the others” (1 Sa. 9:2). Saul was king over Israel for forty-two years and as this time passed he became more confident in himself and in turn less obedient to God. The final straw came when God told Saul to completely destroy the Amalekite people and livestock, but Saul spared the king as well as the best of the animals (1 Sa. 15). Because of Saul’s disobedience (partial obedience is disobedience), God asked Samuel to anoint a new king over Israel.
Read 1 Samuel 16: 1-13.
1) What did God say He looks at when He looks at a person?
2) What was David’s job?
Now if I was tapped to be the next queen of anything, I think I would definitely tell at least one person probably more like as many as I could think of to tell them the good news about me. Then I would order my robe and crown and new letterhead with Queen Carisa embossed at the top and then I would most likely make a list of the chores that I could no longer do because I was queen. Good thing God has no royal plans for me; He knows my heart too well. What did David do after he was anointed king?
Read 1 Samuel 16: 14-23.
1) Where was David working when Saul came to get him?
2) What was David’s next job?
Not only did David not jump ahead of God and run with the whole king idea; he went right back to his day job, being a shepherd. That is a job with little to no glory. I’m sure the sheep were not at all impressed that their shepherd was a future king, but David did the job God gave him until God moved him on to the next task and God’s next step was to put him in the palace although still not on the throne. God had David’s name come up in conversation about being an outstanding harpist. So the future king is now playing music to calm down the current king when he is losing his mind. David then moved up from harp player to armor bearer, but still not king. Even after the big promotion to serving in the palace, David does not forget his shepherd responsibilities. We read in 1 Samuel 17:15 that David split his time between the palace and the sheep. This all shows that David was not concerned about his status or position in any kingdom except that of God’s kingdom.
Now let’s look at the one incident that catapulted or shot (pun intended) David into the limelight and got King Saul’s attention along with the rest of Israel’s. You have probably heard this story over and over, but try and look at it with fresh eyes.
Read 1 Samuel 17:20-51.
1) Why did the Israelites and King Saul doubt David’s abilities?
2) What did David say his credentials were to defeat the Philistine?
3) Who did David give credit to for killing the bear and lion?
4) How does David refer to himself in verses 34 and 36?
Most people would classify this story as one where the little guy triumphs over the giant, but I believe that looking at it in that way really misses out on what David himself realized. He didn’t see this as a little boy going to fight a giant. Who did he see the battle between? Look back at verse 37 in chapter 17. That’s right-David knew the battle was between the Lord and the Philistines. And the Lord is definitely bigger than any giant and the rest of his army.
I asked you earlier what were David’s credentials for fighting Goliath. He only needs to list one – The Lord was his deliverer. David’s heart was not focused on himself and what he had done or hadn’t done. He didn’t worry about the credit he was due either as a shepherd, musician, armor bearer or giant killer. He knew that it was all the work of God, and he was merely the instrument God has chosen to use. David’s heart was in the right place. This allowed God to use him in an amazing way.
This is why David will be the next king of Israel. He knows that the only thing on his resume that is needed for the position is the Lord. Because his heart is focused on God and what God can do, He is free to wait on the Lord to act rather than doing things on His own. I look forward to the rest of our study on David and pray that God will begin to bring our hearts into focus on Him!!
What are you giving yourself credit for? What are you relying on your own power to accomplish? Where is the focus of your heart? Be honest with God about this; He already sees your heart anyway.
We are focusing on David’s heart because that is what God says is the most important part of a person as we learned yesterday. David’s heart is focused on God and credits God for his accomplishments. Today we’ll see another aspect of how David’s heart is focused on God rather than himself.
In 1 Samuel chapter 18, we find that David has once again been called to the palace of the King of Israel, Saul. Saul is losing his mind and asks David to live in the palace and play music for him along with other tasks. Verse 4 in this chapter states that whatever Saul gave David to do, he did it so successfully that Saul gave him a high rank in the army. David was successful and promoted, but Saul became more and more jealous. Jealousy is often symbolized by a mean and vicious monster in literature and that is exactly what Saul is becoming because of his jealousy. Saul’s target is David. One day it would appear out of nowhere, Saul hurls a spear at David while David is so beautifully playing the harp for Saul. But really Saul has been feeding this monster within him for some time by feeling sorry for himself, thinking about how David is so successful while Saul is going insane. Verse 12 states very succinctly why Saul was the way he was, “Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with David but had left Saul.”
Saul’s plan to get rid of David begins to consume his life. He conspires to have David killed in battle, but again David is victorious and ultimately marries Saul’s daughter Michal as a reward for his accomplishments in battle (bringing Saul two hundred Philistine foreskins when Saul only asked for one hundred-now don’t you think that overachiever David really made Saul angry with that one). Saul sees David getting everything, victory after victory, his daughter’s hand in marriage, his son’s vow of friendship, and Saul becomes committed to the demise of his enemy David.
Read 1 Samuel 19:8-18.
David realizes that his life is in danger and escapes to save his life. With the help of his wife, Saul’s daughter Michal, David escapes to go see Samuel the man who knows that God has anointed David to be the next king. While David is hiding for his life before fleeing to Ramah, he writes a song to the Lord. This will be what we focus on today. We will see David’s heart through his song.
Read Psalm 59
1) To what does David compare those men who are coming after him?
2) Why does David ask God to arise and help him? (verses 3-4)
Have you ever suffered injustice? I have felt that I have been treated unfairly and unjustly at times during my life, and I was plenty upset by it, but never to the point of poor David. So I am amazed at his heart cry in the midst of his life being endangered. Let’s look at Psalm 59 more closely. David says that he has done nothing wrong. That is so correct. In fact, he has done everything right. He has been obedient to God, yet men are hunting him down to kill him. Some of us might say to ourselves well what’s the point of obeying God if I’m going to get treated this way, or obviously God doesn’t care about me or forgot about me, but David shows us why God trust him so much. Because David trusts God. When all around him are “dogs” waiting to kill him, David takes the time to get alone, cry out to God and ultimately praise God for what He is doing. Where is the focus of David’s heart? Yes, David is focused on God and what God can do in this situation. In fact, David is confident that God is going to work this huge problem out. David’s confidence lies in God in the face of injustice.
Look at verses 8 and 9. David sees the situation not as just his problem, but as something that the Lord is in control of and that puts a whole new light on the danger, which “was real enough on the human level, but it was ridiculous when seen from the standpoint of the throne of God.” (Phillips 157) David sees God laughing at the preposterous attempts of Saul to thwart God’s purposes. God will go before David, and David will gloat over those who are against him. Now that is confidence.
There is one more important thing we need to see. In verse 6 we see that it is evening when these “dogs” have come to attack their prey, but look how David closes the psalm. Read verses 16 and 17 again. Did you see it? David is so confident in his Lord that he says he will be singing of God’s unfailing love in the morning. David knows he will make it through the night and will be praising God the next morning.
David takes time to write this song of praise to God in the midst of tremendous danger and uncertainty. In fact David wrote this song with the intention of it to be used in Passover festivities. David’s focus is not on his circumstances, but rather on his creator. He is not cowering from his enemies, but confident in His God. I love how John Phillips sums up David’s attitude, “David looked back over the past at God’s unfailing protection of Him. He contemplated his future, so uncertain from the human point of view, with Saul’s unrelenting persecution, yet so absolutely sure in the light of his anointing and God’s faithfulness.”
************************************************************************Are you focused on your circumstances and problems or is your confidence in God and what He can and is doing in your life? Pray that you will see your situation from the standpoint of the throne of God.
When I was in high school, I vividly remember one Sunday school lesson. We had to talk to someone next to us for one minute I think. Not hard right? Wrong. You could not talk about yourself. We couldn’t use the words “I” or “me.” I clearly remember how hard this was, and it really got my attention at how often I do think about myself instead of God or others. Our words are a clear signal as to what is in our thoughts, in our heart.
In today’s study on David we’ll see how a man’s words show who he really is.
Read 1 Samuel 22: 6-23
- What does Saul find out from Doeg?
- What does Saul want done to Ahimilech and the priests of Nob?
- Who fulfills Saul’s orders?
David has been discovered because he went to Ahimilech for help. When confronted by Saul, Ahimilech does not deny helping David and in fact pleads David’s case before the King of Israel. I think everyone but Saul knew the truth; that is why no one except Doeg was willing to kill Ahimilech and his family of priests, but Saul was not interested in the truth; he was interested in himself. Look at verse 8 again. How many times does Saul use a personal pronoun referring to himself or his son? Eight times. In just this one verse we see where Saul’s heart is. He is focused on himself, his kingdom. He has completely forgotten about God and what God wants for Israel. He is king of the Israelites, but forgets how David helped these people escape their enemy. Saul is only concerned about himself and is jealous of all the praise that David had received.
Doeg is a man after Saul’s own heart. He is also concerned with himself and his tongue tells on his heart as well.
Read Psalm 52.
- How many times does David refer to Doeg’s words or speech?
- Where does Doeg place his trust?
- Where does David place his trust?
David wrote this psalm after learning of the murderous acts Doeg committed against the priests of Nob. He refers several times to Doeg’s speech, how he boasts, “his tongue plots destruction;” he has a “deceitful tongue.” Doeg’s speech shows David and us his heart. Doeg was focused on himself, what he had done and what he could accomplish. He would tell lies probably so that he would appear even better than he was. He would boast of the evil he had done and most likely exaggerated to make it even worse.
How frustrating to see those who do evil appear to get away with it. I like to watch tv shows or movies where the bad guy loses and the good guy wins although those lines are becoming blurred in today’s society. I can’t imagine how heartsick David was when he heard what Doeg had done, but rather than give up or get revenge he goes to God. He is not focused on himself like Doeg. David’s words show us that David’s heart is focused on God and is confident that God will bring His righteous justice to Doeg. How does David begin verse 5? The NIV says “Surely.” David is sure, he is confident that God will bring Doeg down to everlasting ruin.
Note also that because David is focused on God rather than himself, he has an eternal outlook on the situation rather than a earthly one. David knows that Doeg will receive everlasting ruin. We are eternal beings. Where we spend that eternity makes all the difference. Doeg may be enjoying the “good life” for now, but in the eternal plan he would be suffering forever. David closes the psalm by glimpsing into eternity where he would be praising God “in the presence of your saints.” I think David is referring to the priests of Nob. David is taking comfort in the fact that one day he would be in heaven singing praises to God right next to those men of God who were murdered for obeying God.
The key to this psalm is where do you put your trust? Wherever you put your trust is where your focus is, and most likely your speech will give others an insight into that truth. Doeg trusted in himself and his wealth; God can take that away in an instant. David trusted in God’s unfailing love. As a result, he could praise God in the midst of unspeakable horror and injustice. David saw himself as an “olive tree flourishing in the house of God.” The olive tree has to be in the house of God to flourish, not in a dream home or the mall or a new car or great career. David was living in a cave on the run with all the lowest of the low, yet he was a flourishing olive tree.
I looked up the characteristics of an olive tree and here is what I found: Did you know that an olive tree requires a long, hot growing season to properly ripen the fruit? I think David definitely would say he was enduring a long and hot season in his life, but, oh, what beautiful fruit God would bring about. Also, the olive tree stands out from others because of its leaves. “In an all-green garden its grayish foliage serves as an interesting accent. The attractive, gnarled branching pattern is also quite distinctive.”(crfg.org) Are you standing out from others like David or are you blending in? Is the pattern of your life distinctive, different from the rest of the world? Olive trees are long lived with a life expectancy of 500 years. Your eternal life expectancy trumps that by forever. The trees are also known for their tenacity “easily sprouting backeven when chopped to the ground.” (crfg.org) David probably felt that he had his feet taken out from under him when he learned of the murder of his friends. But he was right back up confident in God’s justice and praising God for His unfailing love.
What does your speech say about you? Do you talk more of what you are doing rather than what God is doing for you? Are you an olive tree flourishing in the house of God, or are you being uprooted because your trust is placed in someone or someplace else?
Yesterday we saw how our speech reflects our thoughts, what is inside our hearts. David’s speech was focused on God because his heart was focused on God. We’ve seen that David’s focus on God’s unfailing love brought him incredible peace and joy in the midst of incredible trials and danger. My life is definitely not as tumultuous as David’s as I hope yours isn’t either, but I still yearn to experience that joy and peace in the midst of my daily struggles. I know that my heart must be focused on God. This is not easy to do; I know as I struggle to find 15 minutes a day of quiet solitude with two preschoolers running around my house. Some days I wish I could change my name because mommy is just being used way too much. But alas, here I am. God has been faithful again to me today, and both kids are asleep, and I have time to study His word. God has shown His unfailing love yet again to me.
Now how can I keep my heart focused on His unfailing love/ How can we set our eyes and thoughts on Him rather than those people and situations around us that so often disappoint us? Let’s look at another trial from David’s life and learn a few keys to unlocking the life that is focused on God.
Read 1 Samuel 24:1-7
1. Where were David and his men living?
2. Why did Saul enter the cave?
3. What advice did David’s men give him?
Now if you think God doesn’t have a sense of humor, I think this story might change your mind. David and his men are hiding for their lives in a cave in the middle of a desert, and who happens to come in because he’s really gotta go? Now of all the places Saul could go, I find it so funny that God has him in such a vulnerable and humble state right in front of David and his men. Definitely not a royal position. David’s men are sure that this is from God, and now is David’s chance to kill the king. David even entertains the thought and cuts off a piece of King Saul’s robe, but because He is more focused on God than himself, he realizes that he has jumped ahead of God and not acted with God’s blessing. His friends see the situation one way and suggest it is God’s will, but David knows better and goes against the urging of his friends. Hence, the first lesson to staying focused on God’s unfailing love is that popular opinion is not always right. Even in church, popular opinion can be the wrong step to take.
A few years ago I started graduate school with the intent of getting my master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. About halfway through, we started our family. My goal was that when our second child was a few months old, I could return part-time because I needed to finish before I lost all the hours I had already completed. Common sense and popular opinion said I should finish, yet I knew in my heart that God did not want me to finish. Why? I had no idea. It didn’t make any sense to me, but I remained obedient and didn’t return to school that fall. About a month or two later, I was in a Bible study and through the words of my teacher, God confirmed why He didn’t want me to return to school. I felt such an amazing joy and peace that I had done His will rather than my own. It still does not make sense logically because in a sense I wasted all that time and money, but God does not accomplish His will according to what makes sense to us, our time, or our wallets.
God did not work in David’s situation according to what made sense to everyone around David. God was still working on the situation; it wasn’t time for David to take over. Because David was focused on God’s unfailing love, he was able to see that the popular opinion in the cave wasn’t the right thing to do. “For the wisdom of the world is foolishness in God’s sight.” 1 Corinthians 3:19
Read 1 Samuel 24:8-15.
4. What did David do when he came out of the cave?
5. Who did David say he was trusting for justice?
I am yet again amazed at David’s attitude. I really doubt that I would have the same attitude if placed in a similar situation. What amazes me? Did you catch what David does with his body when he comes out of the cave? That’s right, he bows down to Saul the king. He sees Saul as God’s anointed, the King of Israel, rather than his enemy who his hunting him down to kill him. The second lesson I think we can take from David here is that when we are focused on God’s unfailing love; we must be willing to be in uncomfortable positions. David was living in an uncomfortable position. He was living in a cave in the desert of En Gedi. He exits the cave and bows down before the man who is trying to kill him. But David’s heart is not focused on his uncomfortable physical position, but rather his position under God’s unfailing love.
Read Psalm 57:1-11.
5) In verse 1 where does David say he takes refuge?
This psalm was written while David was hiding in a cave from Saul in the same desert we find him in in 1 Samuel. David finds peace in the midst of the storm, or disaster as he calls it, in the shadow of the wings of God. He says his soul takes refuge in God. He is focused on the safety of His life because of God’s mercy and unfailing love rather than the uncomfortable temporary position he is in the middle of.
I don’t know where you are in life right now. Maybe your job is testing you or your family has abandoned you. Maybe you’re living in a city where you feel all alone or you’re in the house most days with little people who don’t seem to appreciate you. Regardless of your physical position, if you are a child of God, you can securely and peacefully rest in the shadow of His wings even in the midst of chaos around you. Let him surround you with His truth and love.
What is keeping you from focusing on God and His unfailing love for you? Are you listening to popular opinion rather than the truth in His word? Are you focused more on your uncomfortable position rather than resting in the shadow of His wings?
We are continuing today to look at how David stayed focused on God’s unfailing love despite the turmoil in his life. Yesterday we saw that he was able to go against popular opinion and endure uncomfortable positions because his heart was fixed on God. Today we will look at two more characteristics in David’s life that are an example to us of what a life focused on God’s unfailing love should look like.
After David bowed down to Saul, what do you think was Saul’s reply? Let’s find out.
Read 1 Samuel 24:16-22.
1) What did Saul say about David?
2) What did he ask David to do?
3) Where do they go after their encounter?
It’s easy to miss, but its there. Do you see it? Where does David go after Saul admits that David will be the next king? That’s right, David goes back to the stronghold. He still knows that Saul cannot be trusted, and he should wait on God rather than trust in Saul. Unbelievable patience is what characterizes the life focused on God’s unfailing love. David is still willing to wait on God to take care of Saul. He still knows that God is working on the situation, so he returns to the cave. It’s a good thing too because Saul did not give up trying to kill David. He went on the hunt again for David, and yet again the Lord allowed them to cross paths, and David showed his unbelievable patience by sparing Saul’s life.
Read 1 Samuel 26:7-8:1.
4) Why did David say he would not kill Saul?
5) In whom does David place his trust for his reward?
6) What does Saul say he will not do anymore?
Saul tells David that he would not harm him, but David still did not trust the word of this man, so he took an escape route to the land of the Philistines, his enemy. God protected David’s life because David trusted in Him. David was patient and waited on God to make the move to return David to Israel rightly without any guilt on David’s hands.
In verse 1 of Psalm 57, David says that he will take refuge in the shadow of God’s wings “until the disaster has passed.” He was patiently waiting on God to take care of the situation rather than jumping ahead of God and taking care of it himself. It is hard enough to be in an uncomfortable position, but then to patiently wait on getting out of it is harder, but remember God is always with us and is protecting us if we are willing to stay under his wings of protection. God also promises that when a test or temptation arises, He will never give us more than we can bear without giving us a way out (see 1 Cor. 10:13). This is one of the first scriptures that I truly committed to memory, and it has blessed me many times over. Wait patiently as David did for God to do the acting so that you can stand back in awe of what He will do for you, and then He will get all the glory.
David’s heart was totally focused on God. He trusted God. Why was He so confident in God and willing to wait on God to save his life?
Read Psalm 57 again.
Did you notice what David says about God in verse 2? He knows that God will fulfill His purpose for Him. Do you remember what God’s purpose for David is? David has been anointed to be the next King of Israel. David is confident that God will do exactly that. He even says in verse 7 that his heart is steadfast, fixed.
“I will cry unto God Most High.” This name for God occurs only here and in the previous psalm. Usually the compound name is Jehovah Elyon or El Elyon. Here it is Elohim Elyon- the Creator Most High, God the Supreme Ruler, the Final Authority. He is God Most High “who performeth all things for me.” The word translated “performeth” is gomer, which occurs only five times in the Bible- all of them in the psalms. It is rendered “perfect,” “bring to an end,” “cease.” God Most High can certainly perform! He can bring our threatening circumstances to a sudden end anytime He wills. In the meantime He puts them to work! Which is just what Paul says: “All things work together for good for them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.” (Phillips 137)
This verse from Romans is such an encouraging verse, and you may have heard it before. Have you read the verse that follows? “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son.” Predestined is another word for purposed. What is God’s purpose for His children, for you? To be conformed to the likeness of His Son. God will use all the chaos or quiet around you to make you more like His Son.
In order to stay focused on God’s unfailing love, we must do other things as well, such as ignoring popular opinion, enduring uncomfortable positions, and being unbelievably patient all the while knowing that God knows where we are and is taking us to exactly where He wants us to be, more like Jesus. His purpose not ours.
Pray that your heart will be steadfast, focused on God’s unfailing love for you regardless of your circumstances.
Memorize Romans 8: 28-29.
Remember that David was confident that God according to His unfailing love would fulfill His purpose for David. David trusted God to take care of Saul so that David would eventually be crowned King over Israel. That day finally came.
Read 1 Samuel 31:1-6.
1) What happened to Saul in battle?
2) How did Saul die?
I find it interesting that Saul even in death did not trust God. He took his own life in his hands when his armor bearer would not kill him. God was still in control, however, and now was His purposed time for David to take over. David has been waiting for Saul to die and you might think he would throw a “Finally, I’m the King” party. I probably would have, but David is a man of integrity. He mourns and weeps for the loss of his king and his best friend, Jonathan. His first thought is not of himself. He is an example to the nation of Israel and to us of true humility and graciousness in the death of King Saul whom he knew was the Lord’s anointed.
Read 2 Samuel 2:1-7.
3) What does David do before returning to Judah?
4) Why does David reward the men of Jabesh Gilead?
David still does not jump ahead of God. He inquires of the Lord if it is the right time to go back home. It appeared that the disaster had passed for him, but he still waits on God’s answer rather than just his view of the situation. We often view our circumstances through our own eyes rather than through God’s all knowing, eternal eyes. We think if it looks good then it must be a God thing, so we do it, but we forget to ask God if it really is what He wants for us. David wanted to do God’s will because it is the perfect plan, not just what appeared to be the perfect plan at the perfect time. God did give him the go ahead (v. 1) and even told him exactly where to go.
Once there, David asserts his leadership skills by rewarding the men who buried King Saul. David rewards these men for their faithfulness to their king, thus encouraging their faithfulness to his rule as king over Judah. He asks that God bless them for their act of kindness and he will do the same. His first decision as king is one of wisdom and humility. Already the people would want to follow his leadership.
Notice that David is still only King of Judah. There are still several more things that must take place for him to become King over the entire nation of Israel. One important step is the little matter of Saul’s family members who feel that they are entitled to the throne. Do you remember from last week the vow that David made to Saul that he would not harm any members of Saul’s family? Well, David kept his word. Even in the midst of the war between Saul’s family and their followers and David and his followers, David was innocent in the killing of any of Saul’s family members. He even punished his own followers if they had killed a member of Saul’s family. When David arrived at the top, he kept his promises. We have so many examples of modern day leaders and politicians who have not kept their word once they achieved the office they had set out for. You and I may not be a king or governor, but have we kept our word? If we told the kids we would do something, did we do it? If we promised our friend or family member that we would keep in touch, have we checked in on them lately? No matter what our station or situation in life, we must keep our word. People are watching us to see if we live what we say.
Read 2 Samuel 5:1-5.
5) How old was David when he became king of Israel?
6) How long was David’s reign?
David was anointed by God to be Israel’s king when he was just a boy. He was finally made king when he was thirty years old. God’s timing was perfect. God brought up David to be a man of integrity and humility; all this time he was waiting for God to fulfill his promise. It might appear that you are enduring a very difficult situation for such a long time without any improvement or anything to show for it, but God is working behind the scenes. He might be working on you molding and shaping you to be conformed to the likeness of His Son. He might be working on others around you to get them where they need to be first. God can see the whole realm of eternity from beginning to end, so He knows what is best for you and me in the very, very long run. He proved Himself faithful to David. He has done the same thing here for us. We have seen He is a God of unfailing love. In His love, He will not fail us. We just have to trust Him.
If you’re waiting on God, are you still protecting your witness and integrity?
If you are experiencing the joy of His fulfilled promises in your life, are you keeping your own word to others and maintaining an attitude of humility?
David, after finally being anointed king over the entire nation of Israel, did not rest on his laurels. He got to work. He began working on God’s plan for His people. David was busy conquering Jerusalem, defeating the Philistines, and he brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. God told David He would bless David and his family, and that He would use them for His purposes, which brought about a humble prayer from David expressing his gratitude for such a great blessing.
Read 2 Samuel 7:18-29.
1) For whose sake has God done all these great things?
2) Whose name did David want to be great forever?
David gets it. He knows that all of God’s blessings are about God and God getting all the glory. David knew that it was ultimately God who did all the work in the situation; David simply obeyed and remained faithful, so it was God to whom all the glory was do. Even when God chooses to bless us, it is for His ultimate glory. If we forget that even the blessings of God are about Him, and we think that they are more about us, then we will lose focus and get off track.
David, yet again, maintains his integrity by keeping his word to King Saul that he would protect Saul’s family. He found out that Saul had a grandson who was still living, Mephibosheth. Mephibosheth, who was crippled in both feet, was brought to David’s home and Scripture says “He ate at David’s table like one of the king’s sons” (2 Samuel 9:11).
David continued to fulfill his duties as king of Israel by defeating the enemies of his country. He did what was right for God’s people. Until one spring.
Read 2 Samuel 11:1-2.
1) What were kings to be doing at this time?
2) What was David doing?
David is about to get in trouble here because he is not doing what he should be doing. He is not staying on track with God. I think this might be what happened. David may have thought that he had done so much already that surely his army could handle it on their own while he stayed at home in the palace and relaxed just a little. Now there is not anything wrong with relaxing (the favorite pastime of all busy moms like me), but there is something wrong with it or anything else for that matter when it is what we want for ourselves rather than what God wants for us. So David probably wants to just take it easy for once, and I would have to say that he would get my vote for deserving a break, but again it’s only God’s vote that counts. For some reason he cannot sleep, or maybe he has been lying around on his bed and decides to go up on the roof of the palace. Why would he do that? I think maybe he wanted to look around at his kingdom. Take it all in. Relax and enjoy the moment.
I have been watching the winter Olympics this past week, and one highly favored skier had a horrible crash as she was skiing her downhill course. A competitor was commenting on the difficulty of the course and needing to stay focused and said, “If you relax for a bit, it will catch you.” Her comment reminded me of David and of these verses:
Read 1 Corinthians 10:12-13.
I think his focus at this moment was on himself and what was his or so he thought. He thought he was standing firm; he had a firm kingdom. He was ready for anything. But he should be careful because here comes the temptation. While he’s up there admiring his kingdom, he sees someone that catches his eye.
Read 2 Samuel 11:2-5.
3) What was Bathsheba doing?
4) What does David do when he finds out who this beautiful woman is?
David is already focused on himself, so he’s not too concerned with God’s plan at this point. He sees this beautiful woman who is taking a bath, and his first reaction should be to look away or leave or to take the way out that 1 Corinthians 10:13 speaks of, but no; he stops and lingers and thinks about her. He then takes it one step further and sends someone to find out who she is. Then he digs his hole even deeper by calling her to his palace. He might as well just keep the shovel out because he likes to dig his holes deep. He sleeps with her, and she becomes pregnant. David is caught up in himself and his sin at this point. He is not thinking about God’s desires or commands even, so he thinks it’s easier if he just takes care of this problem himself rather than confess and repent. If you have time, read the remainder of this chapter in 2nd Samuel, but I will quickly summarize what happens. David brings Urriah, Bathsheba’s husband, home from battle with the intention that Urriah would sleep with his wife and would never guess that she was pregnant with another man’s baby. But Urriah was not focused on himself and refused to even go home because his men along with the ark (God’s presence) were still out on the battlefield. David even tried getting Uriah drunk, but to no avail. So David digs in deeper and sends Urriah to the frontlines with the intention of having Urriah killed in battle. Urriah does die and after Bathsheba’s time of mourning is over (possibly seven days), David marries her and she gives birth to a son.
Read 2 Samuel 11:27.
5) How did David try to make things right regarding his sin?
I remember my father telling me when I was a teenager that two wrongs don’t make a right. God doesn’t want us to try and clean up our messes by ourselves. He simply wants us to confess our sin to him and stop doing what we are doing and turn back to him. Get back on his plan rather than our own. If we’re focused on trying to fix things so we don’t get in trouble, then our focus is still on ourselves rather than pleasing our Lord. David tried to make his sin right by marrying Bathsheba, but God is more concerned about our hearts than how circumstances appear on the outside. Just because they were legally married, did not erase the sin David committed. Only God can take away sin. We still have to deal with the consequences of our sin, but we are forgiven.
It is amazing to me how quickly David appeared to fall completely off track. We might think that we would never commit such vile acts, but it just takes one little step off God’s path to totally end up lost in the middle of a much deeper hole. It just takes a moment for our eyes to focus on what we want, and we end up missing God’s best for us.
Are you about to take a step off God’s path or are you already digging yourself a hole? Confess your sin to God and ask him to help you as you get back on His path and focus on him.
David might have believed that no one was the wiser about what he had done, but God knew, and God is a just God. He wanted David to be in a right relationship with him, so God called on Nathan to confront David with his sin.
Read 2 Samuel 12:1-12.
1) What did David say must happen to the rich man?
2) What did Nathan say would happen because of David’s sin?
David quickly called for the death penalty for the rich man who killed the poor man’s lamb. We also quickly judge others when we fail to deal with our own sin. In Matthew 7:5 Jesus says that we have to take the huge log out of our own eye before we can even begin to see the little speck in our brother’s eye. Nathan got David’s attention. Nathan simply revealed the truth of David’s sin to him and the consequences that would be coming. Unlike some of us, it didn’t take David long to realize his sin.
Read 2 Samuel 12:13-14.
3) Who took away David’s sin?
4) What did David do for God to take his sin away?
In these two verses did you notice David doing anything? Did he volunteer for a nonprofit organization? Did he go to church every time the doors were open? Did he even offer a sacrifice? No, he simply confessed his sin against God. Notice he says he has sinned against the Lord. His focus is now repositioned on God. We may sin against someone, or we may think no one is hurt by our sin, but we always sin against God and that is the big deal about sin. At some point in confessing and repenting of his sin, David wrote an amazing song to the Lord showing us his heart.
Read Psalm 51
5) What quality of God does David refer to when asking for mercy?
David calls on God’s unfailing love to give him mercy. David trusted in God’s unfailing love when he was waiting on God to work and now that he has been running away from God in his sin, he calls on God in his unfailing love to forgive him. God has the same unfailing love for you his child. You simply need to ask for his forgiveness. First John 1:9-10 says that “If we confess our sins, He (God) is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” We have all sinned. We have all sinned today. Therefore, we all need to daily come to God and tell him we agree with him that what we have done is wrong and then with his help stop doing that. I yelled at my kids out of anger and frustration this morning. I have asked God for forgiveness and He has cleansed me of all my sin even those that I don’t even remember. But I also need to get rid of my anger and stop yelling at my kids.
Let’s look again at Psalm 51 to get a better idea of what a heart that is truly sorry or repentant looks like. In verses 3-5 we see that David takes his sin seriously. He realizes that his sin is a problem and doesn’t try and sugarcoat or justify it. He knows that ultimately it is God that he has sinned against. He has failed to meet God’s standard. He says that he has done what is evil in God’s sight. This is important to note because we should judge our actions and motives by God’s standards not the world’s standards. The world, even our friends, will make excuses for our sin, oh they won’t miss that extra change they gave me, oh it doesn’t hurt to flirt a little, one look at that website or magazine won’t affect me. Jesus says in Matthew 5:27-28, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Carisa’s paraphrase of this would be: You’ve heard it on TV or from your self-help books that you just shouldn’t go all the way, but I (Jesus) tell you the truth that even if you lust after that person then you have already sinned as if you had committed adultery.
God is much more concerned about our heart, our motives, then we think He is. This is why in verse 6 David says that “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.” God wants His truth to penetrate all of us deep down to the core. He doesn’t want us going through the motions; He wants our actions to be the byproduct of what is already in our hearts.
David asks for God to cleanse him from his sin and then he will be able to hear joy and gladness. Despite our best efforts to cover up our sin, it affects our lives in ways we may not even realize. Sometimes I feel a bit off or like I’m just having a bad day, but I have to tell you that most, if not all of the time, I feel like that it is a result of my prayerlessness or lack of time spent in the word. I can even rationalize that I just don’t have time today, or I’m too tired to get anything out of it, but God knows my heart. He wants all of me to be obedient to Him.
Then notice in verse 10, whose job is it to create a pure heart in us or David? Right, God. We can’t change our heart. Only God can. That is why it is essential that we are completely focused and steadfast on Him. Speaking of steadfast, David asks God to renew a steadfast spirit within him. Steadfast, focused. That is the heart that fully trusts God’s unfailing love. David knows that he got off focus; he wasn’t steadfast in his walk with God. May we be steadfast in our walk with Christ. May we have our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
Ask God to reveal any sin to you that you have not confessed to Him. Read and meditate on Psalm 51:10-12. If you truly desire it, then ask God to create a pure heart in you, a steadfast, willing spirit.
David was truly repentant of his sin against God as we saw yesterday. God was faithful to forgive David of all of his sin just like God is faithful to forgive you and me. Although we are forgiven, we still must deal with the consequences of our sin. I like how the Wycliffe Bible Commentary describes the consequences of sin. “Sin has two results-it separates a man from God, and it produces evil effects in the world. The first of these can be canceled by forgivesness, but the second remains. The tragedy of human history is that the evil effects of sin are not always nor wholly borne by the sinner.”
As we will see in today’s study, David suffered the consequences of his sin and those consequences not only affected him, but his family and the entire nation of Israel as well.
Read 2 Samuel 12: 7-14.
1) What were the three consequences David would suffer due to his sin?
2) Would David die for his sin?
Nathan told David that the sword would never depart from David’s house, that David’s wives would be raped in broad daylight, and that his son with Bathsheba would die. Shortly after Nathan left David’s home, the child born out of David and Bathsheba’s affair died. Even in the midst of dealing with the effects of sin, God does not abandon us. We may be rightly suffering the consequences of our disobedience, but God’s hand of unfailing love is still holding us and even blessing us. God blesses David and Bathsheba after the death of their first son, by giving them Solomon whom the Bible says, “The Lord loved him.” God is still working in the midst of our suffering. God’s unfailing love doesn’t stop even when we are being disciplined by God. In fact, God, through the words of Solomon, tells us that God’s discipline is a sign of God’s love for us.
Read Proverbs 3:11-12 and Hebrews 12:4-13.
3) Whom does God discipline?
4) Why does God discipline?
The writer of Hebrews and David would agree that discipline is not pleasant; it is downright painful at times, but it is still accomplishing the good that God has planned for us in conforming us to the likeness of His Son. Most of us who are parents can attest to this as well. We discipline our children because we love them. We want the best for them and sometimes what they want to do or have done is not the best, and discipline is needed to get them to realize this. I have had to discipline my son on several occasions for trying to climb up our bookshelves. He loves to climb; it is fun to him, but he does not realize how quickly that bookcase can fall over on him and seriously hurt him. I love him and don’t want him to be injured, so I discipline him to teach him not to climb on the bookshelves. He doesn’t like the discipline, but he is learning not to climb.
The topic of parenting and discipline is one that David was not too familiar with. He was probably one of those hands off parents and maybe left discipline up to the mothers of his children or the palace guards or maybe his children were never disciplined. Whatever the reason, David needed to discipline and get involved in the lives of his children, and he didn’t. This becomes the source of strife and rebellion within David’s family and the nation of Israel.
Read 2 Samuel 13: 1-22.
5) What did Amnon do to Tamar?
6) What did David do when he heard about Amnon’s actions?
David was furious over what Amnon had done, but he did not punish Amnon in any way. David did not act as either a loving father or a just king in this situation. Because his father did nothing, Absalom took it upon himself to avenge what had been done to his sister, so Absalom had Amnon killed. Later in chapter 13 when David finds out that Amnon was killed by Absalom, we see that David mourned for his son Amnon and Absalom fled. Absalom was probably very upset at his father for not only not protecting Tamar, but after Absalom was gone for three years his father still had not spoken to him. David would definitely not win the father of the year award. His lack of being involved in the lives of his children would plant seeds of rebellion in the heart of Absalom.
David had allowed Absalom to return to Jerusalem, but for another two years while living in the same city, David still did not see his son. Finally they were brought together and David gave Absalom a kiss, but for Absalom this sign of love and forgiveness was too little too late, and he went on a mission to overthrow his father. Within four years, Absalom is able to “steal the hearts of the men of Israel” (2 Samuel 15:6) and take over the country. David was once again on the run for his life. The sword was definitely remaining in David’s house.
Absalom, after seeking advice from his not so wise counselors, slept with his father’s wives on the roof of the palace in the sight of all Israel to further enact revenge on his father; thus, fulfilling the final consequence that Nathan had warned David about. Yet, even in the midst of this new threat on his life and to those he loved, David still trusted in God. He most likely wrote Psalm 63 during this time in his life while he was hiding in the desert of Judah from his son Absalom.
Read Psalm 63 noting what David desires.
David has gone from the palace in Jerusalem to a cave somewhere in the desert. His family and country are being taken away from him, yet the only thing he says he desires, that he seeks or yearns for, is God. He says that God satisfies him as if he was eating the richest of foods. David does not desire the palace, possessions or even power that have been taken away. He longs for God. David is only satisfied by God; he is not satisfied because of his circumstances. Paul says much the same thing in Phillipians 4:12-13 that he has learned to be content in any circumstance because it is Christ who strengthens him. David found his contentment and strength in God regardless of what was going on around him.
Where do you find your satisfaction and strength? What does your soul cling to or follow hard after?
Absalom’s rebellion did not last forever. David’s son was killed in battle and David mourned for him. David won back the hearts of the people of Israel and was restored to his position as king. He continued to seek the Lord in his decisions. When he was guilty of sin again, in taking a census that God told him not to take, he was again very repentant and built an altar to the Lord. As a result of his sin, 70,000 Israelites died in a plague. David learned again the hard way about the seriousness of sin.
As the end of his life neared, David made sure that everyone knew that he appointed Solomon as the next king of Israel just as God desired. Upon announcing that Solomon was king, David gave his son important advice we all should take to heart.
Read 1 Kings 2:2-4.
1) What did David tell his son to do?
2) What would be Solomon’s reward if he did this?
Not long after this, David died. He reigned forty years over Israel.
David did not lead a perfect life, but his life is a wonderful example for us because his desire, his focus was on God. He is so much like us. We won’t ever be perfect either, but we should strive, moment by moment, to keep our focus on God.
There is one more psalm that David wrote that sums up his life. Most theologians believe he wrote this psalm when he was at peace near the end of his life. In Psalm 18, David writes about all that God has done for him throughout his life. He reflects back on God’s unfailing love.
Read Psalm 18
3) What descriptions of God, who he is and what he did for David, mean the most to you?
I noticed how many times David referred to God as his rock and his strength. I thought this was an interesting description of God of all the things he could say about God. This caused me to focus on why he would use the metaphor of a rock. A rock is hard. A big rock is practically immovable. Even a small rock is very stable. I can take a small rock and throw it on the ground or against the wall and chances are it won’t break. I can kick a rock and burn it even and it will remain. Other objects are not like this. I can tear apart the grass in my backyard with my hand. It will dry up if we don’t water it, but the rock will still be there. The trees in my yard can be burned up or torn down into small pieces, but I’d have a much harder time destroying that rock.
Life is going to fail us. Our circumstances are not stable. Our families are not faultless. Our jobs are not truly secure. Our kids are not perfect. Our health will not last forever. Our bodies are not immortal. Our homes are just temporary. Our money can vanish right before our eyes. So, what can we rely on? Where do we find our stability? What can we depend on? The Rock. God.
David realized this. He knew God’s unfailing love. This is why he focused on God rather than everything that was going on around him. He knew that God in His amazing love was always there despite enemies, homelessness, betrayal, loss, and even sin. David found stability, dependability in the only thing that would not fail him, God. Let us learn to be like David and keep our focus on God.
Memorize Hebrews 12:2 (if you really want to challenge yourself, then memorize verses 1 and 3 as well).
What has God in His unfailing love done for you? Praise Him for who He is and what He has done.
Does it ever seem to you that God keeps saying the same thing over and over to you? I don’t know how many times in my life, God seems to repeat himself to me. My pastor, Bible study book, my child’s lesson, and even the DJ on the radio will say the same thing over and over to me. Even while I’m writing this study, God keeps speaking to me about His unfailing love. We are teaching our kids in church about Jesus’s love and a friend gave me a CD full of songs about God’s love for us with a song titled “Unfailing Love” that I play over and over.
God is good to us in that, I think, He knows we are (at least I am) a little bit hard headed (okay I can be a lot hard headed), and He needs to repeat Himself to us so that we hear His message loud and clear. I don’t know if Solomon was a stubborn man, but God seemed to say the same thing over and over to Him. This week we’ll study what God was telling Solomon and Solomon’s response. I am praying that you have an open heart and mind to what God is telling you this week because He tells us all the same thing He kept repeating to King Solomon.
Solomon was appointed by his father David to be the next king of Israel. Soon after he was appointed king, Solomon began fulfilling his duties as king, but he knew that he would not be a successful leader on his own. One night in a dream the Lord asked him a question. Let’s see if Solomon’s response would match how we would answer God’s question.
Read 1 Kings 3:5-15.
1) What did God ask Solomon?
2) What was Solomon’s reply?
3) What did God grant Solomon?
Of all of the things I would ask for, I’m not sure I would be so quick to think of wisdom. Thank goodness God was asking Solomon and not me. Because Solomon only requested a discerning heart, God said that He would give him fame and riches as well. Not a bad way to start off as king of Israel. God also said that He would give Solomon one more thing as well, a long life. But in order to have a long life, what must Solomon do? Right there in verse 14, God says that Solomon must walk in His ways, obey His statutes and commands, and he would have a long life. Do these words sound familiar to you? They should sound familiar to Solomon because as his father was dying, he gave Solomon the same advice. We read last week in 1 Kings 2:1-4 that David advised his son that even as the king of Israel, Solomon should keep the decrees and commands of the Lord.
Before we go on with the command to obey, let’s see if God was faithful to keep His word to Solomon (We know He did, but lets remind ourselves of His faithfulness and truth).
Read 1 Kings 3:16-28.
4) What was Solomon’s dilemma?
5) What was his decision?
Did you catch the last verse? The people of Israel were amazed at Solomon’s God-given wisdom. I think this verse is so neat because we see that God kept His word, Solomon used his wisdom well, and God received the glory. God doesn’t bless us so that we will lie around doing nothing but enjoy our blessings. He blesses us so that we will bless others, and He will get the glory. Our blessings are wonderful for us to enjoy, but their main purpose is to give glory to God.
The two blessings in my own life that come to mind are my children. They are such a joy and delight (although you may have to remind me I said that some moments of the day). I enjoy them. But you know what, when I see them I am amazed at what an awesome God we have that He can create such miracles. He gives the blessings; He gets the glory.
Chapter four of 1 Kings goes on in greater detail about the wisdom, wealth and fame of Solomon. Verses 29 of this chapter says that Solomon’s understanding “was as measureless as the sand on the seashore.” God kept His word by blessing Solomon and continued to show His unfailing love to the king of Israel.
Some of you may be thinking well that’s all good and nice to be Solomon, but there is no way I could ever compare to him. I’m not smart and could really use some of that wisdom that Solomon had. Did you know that God promises to give you all the wisdom you need as well?
Read James 1:2-7
6) What should you do if you lack wisdom?
7) How should you ask?
James is very clear that in whatever trial we are enduring at the moment, we can and should persevere and even count it all joy. One reason why we can do this regardless of the problem is because of what he says in verse 5. God will give us wisdom for the situation, and He will give it generously. We must only ask and believe that He will do so. What a wonderful God we serve who gave Solomon what he needed to rule the nation of Israel and gives us exactly what we need to endure our trials today. “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).
Are you lacking wisdom in a certain problem? Have you asked God?
With the other blessings God has given you, are you using them to give Him glory?
Besides Solomon’s wisdom, he is known for one other thing he did and that is building the temple for the Lord. Today we will see how Solomon was obedient to God’s command to build the temple.
Read 2 Samuel 7:8-16.
1) Who is hearing God’s command in these verses?
2) Who does God say will build the temple?
3) In verse 13, what is the temple to be built for?
Do you remember that David had desired to build a permanent temple or house for God? God told him, however, that his son would be the one to build the temple. The temple was to be built for God’s Name. I don’t know how many times David told his son Solomon about God’s plan to build the temple, but it is clear that Solomon understood that this was his duty, and he understood why he was to do it.
Read 1 Kings 5:2-7.
4) Why does Solomon say that it is the right time to build the temple?
Solomon understands that it is God who has given him this peaceful season so that he can devote his time and energy to building the temple. Solomon even quotes God’s words to David in saying that the temple was to be built in His Name. Solomon begins this great task by seeking out the finest products available such as the cedars of Lebanon. He is using the wisdom God blessed him with to enlist the help of King Hiram and the Sidonians (verse 12).
It is amazing to me to see how God uses the blessings He has given to Solomon so that Solomon is able to carry out the commands that God had given him. Did you know that God does the same for us? He has given us everything we need to be obedient to His commands. 2 Peter 1:3 says that “His (God’s) divine power has given us EVERYTHING we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” You have everything you need to obey Him today. Praise God because He knew I couldn’t do it on my own.
Solomon’s wisdom in carrying out this project of building the temple astounds me. He hired 30,000 Israelites to help gather the wood from Lebanon. Since Lebanon was not nearby, he set up a schedule where the men would work for one month in Lebanon and then return home for two months. It seems like a simple concept, but I’m sure it brought about huge rewards when the men who had just returned from spending time with their families came back to work happy and rested.
Solomon also understood the seriousness of the task at hand. He had a reverence for the temple even while it was being built. He had the rocks hammered and shaped at another site so that there was no loud hammering taking place at the temple location. Solomon even covered the inside of the temple with pure gold. Chapter six of 1 Kings goes into greater detail about the specifics of the temple. If you have time, I encourage you to read it to see the beautiful detail with which it was built and adorned.
While building the temple, the Lord spoke again to Solomon.
Read 1 Kings 5:11-13.
5) What does God ask Solomon to do?
6) What will God do if Solomon obeys?
God promises that if Solomon obeys all of His commands then He will fulfill His promise to David, and He will live among the people of Israel and not abandon them. I’d say those are pretty good reasons to obey God. Well, Solomon does complete building the temple. He then furnishes it according to God’s regulations and has the ark brought to the temple. God’s presence filled the temple, and Solomon led the nation of Israel in a prayer of dedication.
Read 1 Kings 8:22-30, 54-61.
7) With whom does God keep His covenant of love (verse 23)?
8) How many of God’s promises to Moses had failed?
Solomon saw the big picture. He reminded the Israelites of how faithful God had been to them from the very beginning. He reminds them of their need to wholeheartedly follow and obey God’s commands. Verses 31-53 contain the rest of the prayer of dedication in which Solomon asks God to forgive them of their sin when they disobey, and he speaks of specific situations in which they might disobey or encounter serious consequences because of their disobedience. The temple Solomon built for the Lord was awesome. The beauty and majesty of it only give us a glimpse of the glory of God.
But here’s the kicker, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). The Israelites lived before Jesus had come to die for our sins, so they were not blessed with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. You and I, however, when we accept Christ as our Savior are given the Holy Spirit who then lives inside us to help us and to guide us, to comfort us and to convict us of sin.
Read 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.
9) Do our bodies belong to us?
10) What should we do with our bodies?
God commands us to honor Him with our bodies. Solomon honored God with the construction of the temple. We are to honor God by giving of our lives so that God can use them. Let us keep our bodies from sin and harm so that God is able to use us for His glory.
Are you honoring God with your body? Are you taking care of your body as the temple of the Holy Spirit? Ask God to reveal to you how you can better care for His temple.
Yesterday we read the prayer Solomon prayed at the dedication of the temple. I want to look back at verse 22 quickly before we go on today. I’m not sure what translation of the Bible you have, but sometimes I enjoy reading the New Living Translation. This is what verse 22 says in the NLT, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in all of heaven or earth. You keep your promises and show unfailing love to all who obey you and are eager to do your will.” Solomon recognizes God’s unfailing love in his life and the lives of the Israelites, but he also knows that God shows His unfailing love to those who obey. I really like the way this says those who are “eager” to do His will. I am eager about a lot of things and most of them are probably what I want to do, but frankly I think I need to be more eager about doing God’s will.
Today we’re going to look again at obedience. That seems to be God’s theme with Solomon as it is with you and me. As we think about obeying, keep the word eager in the back of your mind.
God spoke again to Solomon after the dedication of the temple. Let’s read what he told the King of Israel.
Read 1 Kings 9:1-9.
1) What did God say about Solomon’s prayer of dedication?
2) What are the rewards if Solomon obeys God? What are the consequences if he or his family does not obey?
God is very clear with Solomon about His expectations and the results if His commands are obeyed or disobeyed. He even says that Solomon must not only obey, but his sons must as well. How important it is for those of us who are parents to teach our children to obey. I have been reminded that the reason I must teach them to obey me is so that they learn that they are obeying and must continue to obey God. Now here’s
where the whole eager attitude comes into play. When I ask my daughter to do something, I sometimes get the reply, “Just a second.” (You know she picked that exact phrase up from me, don’t you?) She wants to finish doing whatever she is doing before she obeys my instructions.
I’m afraid that you and I do the same thing sometimes. God commands us to love our neighbor and our reply might be “I’ll love them when they apologize to me for littering on my lawn.” God commands us to love Him first with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, but somedays I’m afraid our answer is “after I’m finished taking care of myself and my wants, then I’ll have time for you as I’m drifting off to sleep tonight.”
The consequences of our sin of disobedience may not be exactly the same as what God spelled out for Solomon, but there are consequences. God uses these consequences to get us back on track. You probably already know that the Israelites did not obey God, and He ultimately allowed the temple to be destroyed just as He had told Solomon he would, but that comes after Solomon’s death.
Before we go forward too far, let’s see what else Solomon accomplished while he was king of Israel. Solomon had a lot of building projects such as his palace and ships, and his fame continued to spread around the world. Ever heard of the Queen of Sheba? Well, she’s in the Bible, and she came to visit King Solomon to see what all the fuss was about.
Read 1 Kings 10:1-13.
3) Who does the queen give praise to when she meets Solomon?
I like this story because we see the queen of another country, who at first did not believe what she had heard about Solomon, and then once she sees it with her own eyes, she realizes it’s true. Then the best part is when she praises God for all that He has done to bless Solomon. She even recognizes God’s eternal love.
You and I most likely do not live a lifestyle anywhere near that of Solomon nor are we as wise as Solomon was, but we can still be an example to others of what God has done. We are promised His wisdom when we need it, we are promised that He will meet all our needs, along with so many other blessings He has poured out on our lives. So here’s the question? When people come into our homes or get to know us, will they see what God has done? Will they recognize God’s eternal love in us?
Solomon used his blessings to glorify God and witness to others. We all have been given different blessings and as a Christian we all have at least one spiritual gift that we need to be using to bring glory to Christ and draw others to Him. In 1 Timothy chapter 4, Timothy is speaking to leaders of the church. I think what he says in verse 16 is applicable to us as well, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” We need to watch our life because we are witnessing to others whether we like it or not. Some people will try and test us just as the Queen of Sheba had set out to test Solomon. I pray that you and I will be able to stand the test, persevere, and show them the unfailing, eternal love of God.
What are you doing to show others the eternal love of God? What should you be doing?
Ever wonder why there are certain rules and commands. Why does God ask us to do something or not do something? I wonder if Solomon questioned any of God’s commands. Maybe in his wisdom he was sitting around one day and was thinking, “I wonder why God says we can’t intermarry with certain women. These women are beautiful surely they can’t be all that bad. After all, I am King Solomon. What could go wrong?” Well, Solomon chose not to follow that one command that God gave the Israelites that they should not intermarry with the people of other pagan nations. I think he missed the part where God said that Solomon needed to follow ALL His commands and decrees. We can’t forget the “all” part either. It’s right there in 1 Kings 9:4 that we read yesterday. Well, maybe Solomon just forgot because by the time we get to chapter 11 of 1 Kings things start to go downhill for Solomon.
Read 1 Kings 11:1-13.
1) How did Solomon love these women?
2) How many wives did Solomon have?
3) What did Solomon build on a hill east of Jerusalem?
4) What did God say would happen as a result of Solomon’s sin?
Solomon decided to break this one command that God gave thinking it wouldn’t be such a big deal and then before you know it, he has seven hundred wives. You think that might be punishment enough and alert Solomon to his sin. But look in verse 2 about his attitude. He held fast to them in love. What does that mean? It means he was clinging to them. He did not want to give them up not even for God.
When my son was one year old he loved the remote control to the TV. We didn’t let him play with it, but sometimes he would get a hold of it. When he did get it, he would cling to it. I told him to give it to me, but he would not. I would have to use a lot of my strength to pry his little fingers off of it. This is how Solomon was clinging to these women. He would not obey God; he wanted his toys if you will.
Now God even told Solomon and the people of Israel why He set this rule; He did not want their hearts to be turned toward the gods that these other people worshipped. I guess Solomon thought that would never happen. But God is always right!! Solomon began to follow after these other gods, and then he built altars for these gods so that his wives could offer their sacrifices. So God has to discipline Solomon for his sin and will take the kingdom away from his son.
God was so specific when He spoke to Solomon previously telling him exactly what to do and exactly what would happen if Solomon disobeyed. But Solomon disobeyed anyway. God kept his word and placed Jeroboam as king over Israel, and Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, only ruled over Judah.
Are you a little frustrated like I am that Solomon was so dull that he did not get what God had said? Well, I should be just as frustrated with myself because I often do the same thing. I will choose my way over God’s way. But then God allows me to deal with the consequences of my sin so that I can draw near to him again.
I guess near the end of Solomon’s life, God got his attention and Solomon realized the effects of his sin. He realized what was truly important in life. The book of Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon and it summarizes everything he had learned in life about what is truly important. He starts off the book by stating that everything is meaningless. He then narrows down what everything is such as pleasures, wisdom and folly, work, and riches. By the time he comes to the end of the book, he gets to the heart of the matter and tells us what is most important.
Read Ecclesiates 12:13-14.
5) What is the whole duty of man?
6) What will God do?
Solomon realized at the end of his life that although life gets very complicated it really is rather simple – Fear God and Obey Him. I wonder if this sounded familiar to Solomon. God says the same thing to the people of Israel.
Read Deuteronomy 10:12-13.
7) What does the Lord ask?
8) Why does He say to do this?
Did you catch why God says to fear Him and obey Him? He says right at the end of verse 13 that it is for our own good. God does not give us a bunch of rules to see if we can walk a spiritual tightrope. He gives us His commands to protect us from evil. Remember we are studying about God’s unfailing love. Even in His commands to us, He shows us His unfailing love. He loves us and wants what is best for us. His commands keep us in His will, the best for us.
Are you clinging to anything that God wants you to give up? Is there something that is keeping you from loving Him with your whole heart? Pray and ask God to help you remove it from your life so that you can experience His best for you.
Fear is a popular topic in our culture today. We have named phobias for just about everything. There is even a show on TV in which contestants subject themselves to scary or even gross situations to win money. Because of all this, I would guess that fear is seen as a very negative concept. You may even see someone wearing a shirt or driving a car with a bumper sticker that says No Fear. You really think they don’t have any fear? Well, they should. We are commanded to fear God. So, what does this mean? Carisa, I thought you said that God had unfailing love for us, so why should I be afraid of Him?
If there was a lion laying down in front of me, and I had no fear at all of the lion, what would I do? I would go pet it, then I might try and ride the lion. I would climb up on his back and grab hold of his mane and try and go for a ride. I would try and control the lion if I had no fear of him. Now, I know better. I know that in reality the lion could kill me if I tried to approach or handle him. My fear of the lion keeps me in a safe place away from him.
I know also who God is and what He has done and can do. Let’s see what God says He has done when He answers Job.
Read Job 38:1-18.
1) What are some of the things God has done in these verses?
God goes on describing His power and majesty to Job. If you have time keep reading all that He says in these few chapters. God tells Job all this to remind him of his place, so that Job is not still questioning what and why God has allowed this to happen to Job. When Job realizes his position before Almighty God, then he is able to love and appreciate God as is right.
God is amazing and awesome, yet He still loves me. I fear Him for who He is, but I also love Him for who He is. Fear in this case is right and good. If I fear God, I know that He is in control, and I won’t try to take over the control from Him. If I love God, I desire to please Him, and I do that by obeying His commands. I like the way they Wycliffe Bible Commentary explains this, “True fear and true love are complementary and inseparable. They are the response of a true heart to God’s majesty and goodness, respectively, and together they are productive of wholehearted service in obedience to all God’s good pleasure”(169).
Hopefully this helps explain what Solomon means by “fear God”. Now what about that almost overwhelming idea of obeying God? You might think that it is just too hard to obey God. There are too many commands. Did you know that Jesus made it simple for us? The Pharisees were trying to trick Him and asked Him to name the greatest commandment. Jesus was not tricked and gave them the two greatest commandments.
Read Matthew 22:37-39.
2) What is the first?
3) What is the second?
Jesus says that all of the law hangs on these two commandments meaning that if we can just get these two down, we will be okay. Love God and love others. Sounds simple right? Yes it is simple, but too many times I choose myself over loving others. I will get angry at my husband for not helping me rather than loving him and letting him relax after work. I will spend time watching my favorite TV show rather than encouraging a friend or playing with my kids.
Right before He was to be crucified, Jesus gave His disciples some important final words or instructions.
Read John 15:5-17.
4) How will we remain in Christ’s love?
5) How will we have Christ’s joy in us so that our joy is complete?
6) What is Christ’s command?
If we obey Jesus and love each other sacrificially and unselfishly, then we will remain in His love and will have His joy in us.
Jesus is not trying to be a killjoy by giving us His commands. In fact it is just the opposite, obedience to His commands is the only way we’ll be able to experience true joy. If I love my husband and let him relax rather than stewing about him lying on the couch while I’m cooking, we’ll both be happier at dinner. If I play with my kids rather than watching TV, then I will experience the joy of their laughter.
Solomon may have thought at the moment he married that first woman from another nation, that God’s command was too hard to keep. You may have thought just today that I can’t love my spouse all the time; he or she is just too difficult. I hope you find the following verses encouraging.
Read 1 John 5:2-5
7) God commands are not what?
8) Who overcomes the world?
Not only are God’s commands not burdensome (our attitudes about them are what is burdensome), but God promises that we, if we are in Christ, have overcome the world. That even includes your boss, your spouse, your mother-in-law. What wonderful news that God is who He is and that He gives us His unfailing love so that we can in turn love others.
Memorize 1 John 5:3-4.
Who do you need to show love to? Write out specifically how you will show love to them this week.
Of all the people in the Bible, one of my favorite men is Job. In some ways I feel like I can relate to him, but in other ways I am so glad that I cannot relate to him. This week we will be studying Job. Job trusted in God’s unfailing love when everything around him was falling apart. Our lives may not appear to be in shambles like poor Job, but we suffer just as he suffered. The way we act while we are suffering is the key. Let’s begin to learn from Job how to trust in the midst of turmoil.
I don’t know how many of you have three year olds right now, but if you do, I feel for you. We are having a time of dealing with my daughter’s whining about almost everything. When she asks for something, she usually does not ask, she whines. When she doesn’t get something, then the tears come and the voice turns shrill and here we go, another turn into Whinyland, a place where mommy (sad to say) often loses patience. My daughter wants something a certain way, and if it is not exactly the way she wants it, then she is not happy. It is also sad to say that her mommy is like this sometimes too, except she is a lot older than three and should know by now that whining does not get you anywhere. In fact, the Bible says that we should do everything without complaining (whining) or arguing (I know that because that verse is on our refrigerator right next to the consequence for our daughter’s whining).
Knowing that I shouldn’t whine or complain and not doing so are sometimes two very different things. I am a planner. I like organization. I like to know what is going to happen and what I am doing, what time I need to be there, what I need to bring, etc. I like details and to see that there is a plan and it makes sense to me. Well, God does not work this way. He doesn’t give me a detailed plan of my life and say “Here you go. This is the plan just so you know what is coming tomorrow and this is exactly how I am going to take care of it.” That would not require any faith or trust on my part. You know what He does? Instead of giving me a detailed plan, He asks me just to trust Him.
Now in the mornings when I pray, I pray that I would do what God wants me to do because for too long I was sticking to my to do list and would get upset (okay whiny) if my plan did not work out. Job is an excellent example to me and you of how our day or life for that matter will not always work out according to our plan, and how we can trust in God in the process. Now let’s start reading about Job’s very bad day.
Read Job 1:1-5.
1) What kind of a man is Job?
2) What would Job do for his kids?
These first five verses let us know what kind of a man Job is. The Bible describes his as blameless and upright. Job is a good guy, a very good guy. Blameless means you could not accuse him of any wrongdoing because he lived a good life. Now know that he was not sinless. Only Jesus lived on this earth and was without sin. Job did his best to live rightly before God.
Did you notice the next two things the passage says about Job? Do they sound familiar to you? Job feared God and shunned evil, which is another way of saying he obeyed God’s commands. Let’s see what did we learn from last week that was so important? That’s right. We should fear God and obey His commands. Well Job had that lesson down already.
Job also was a caring father who regularly made sacrifices on behalf of his children, just in case his kids sinned and did not repent. He was a good man and a loving father. God was pleased with him. Let’s read what God says now.
Read Job 1:6-10.
3) Who is having a conversation in these verses?
4) Why does Satan say that Job is such a good guy?
Satan is checking out the earth and God says, “Have you seen my servant Job over there. He’s a great guy.” Satan says of course he’s good because you have blessed him and protected him from harm. Now if you took away everything he has, I know he’ll blame you and good guy he’ll no longer be.” This is lie that Satan loves to tell us. He wants us to believe that our faith is only dependent on the circumstances in our lives. Some of you may even think this. After last weeks lesson, you may be thinking to yourself, “Now if only I can fear God and obey His commands really well, then my life will get better. That’s gotta be the secret to getting a husband or wife, or getting pregnant or getting that dream job or home or paying off the bills or even not getting sick.” But God never makes us that promise. He doesn’t say we will live a perfect life according to our perfect plans if we fear and obey Him. Again, my three-year-old daughter thinks that every time she eats all her dinner she should get a surprise. Sometimes there’s no yummy surprise at the end. We fear and obey God because of who He is and because we love Him not because of what He can do for us or give us as super neat blessings.
Well, continue reading and see who was right God or Satan (okay we know that God is always right, but let’s see just how right on He is).
Read Job 1:11-22.
5) What happened to Job?
6) What was Job’s response?
I still get chills when I read verse 20, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” God was so right and Job was so faithful. How far I have to go because honestly I don’t think my immediate reaction would be one of praise. I would probably revert into three-year-old mode. Job did not blame God. He blessed God. Thank God for Job’s example.
Are you doing more blaming God or blessing God? How many times this week have you reverted back to acting like a three year old? Confess it to God. “If you confess your sin before God, He is faithful and just and will forgive your sin and purify you from ALL unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
Well, if you think things were bad enough for Job, they are just about to get worse. Have you ever felt like that? That you have suffered enough; you’re at the end of your rope and then bam you are hit with something else. How did you respond when you took the next hit? Today we’ll see how Job responds to another aspect of suffering.
Read Job 2:1-3.
1) Who is God talking to?
2) How does God describe Job?
Do you remember everything Job has already suffered. Let’s recount his losses. He has lost all of his livestock and servants and then all of his children died. He doesn’t have a whole lot left. Yet how does God describe him? God says that Job is his servant. I’m not so sure that I would still have a servant’s heart if I had just suffered that much, but Job is the same as he was before his family and possessions were taken away from him. That is integrity-a character trait that is not seen enough in our culture and dare I say even our churches.
Integrity. What does it mean? Webster’s dictionary defines it as the state of being entire. What does that mean? Well are you entirely who you say you are? If you say you follow God and trust Him, do you still follow Him and trust Him if He leads you down a road you said you never wanted to go? Are you still following Him and trusting Him if your spouse has been diagnosed with terminal cancer? Are you still following Him and trusting Him if you have not been able to find a job for six months? Are you still following Him and trusting Him if your children are rebelling against you and God?
Job was the same man after losing so much as he was when he seemed to have it all. His state of being was entire. He was entirely upright and honest. He didn’t just say all the right things on Sunday and behave a different way with his friends on Monday. He was following God entirely, with his whole heart, soul, mind and strength. That is integrity.
Now Job seems to have suffered enough. What else could happen to him? Let’s keep reading.
Read Job 2:4-10.
3) What does Satan say will cause Job to turn his back on God?
4) What is God’s command to Satan and does Satan obey?
5) What does Job’s wife say he should do?
6) What does Job not do (verse 10)?
Has anyone ever said to you, “Well, at least you have your health”? I have heard people say after terrible disasters that they were grateful they were alive and healthy even when they had lost everything. A healthy body is a precious blessing. Job no longer had this. He had terrible sores all over his body. If I have just a little canker sore in my mouth that tends to be enough to make me want to lie in bed and be in a bad mood. I cannot imagine the pain of having sores all over my body.
Job is in pain and upset. He is so upset that he sits down among ashes and scrapes his body with a broken piece of pottery. He is in distress. This is just the time that he needs his wife to encourage him and support him, but she too fails Job. She tells him just to curse God and he will die. I think it is interesting that she is encouraging him to forget about his integrity and to die. She does not have any hope to offer her husband and sees death as his only option. I suppose that she wanted to die after losing all her children and possessions; she was looking only at her circumstances and forgetting about God. Job did not forget God. He knew that God was still in charge when he corrects his wife by saying, “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?”
This idea of accepting both good and trouble from God is not a popular one. Many people today believe that if you are obedient to God then He will pile blessing upon blessing upon you, and your life will be wonderful. This is not how God works. Let’s look more closely at what God’s word says.
Read Romans 8:17-18.
7) Since we are God’s children, what are we?
8) What do we share with Christ?
9) What is not worth comparing?
What an awesome truth that as children of God, we are co-heirs with Christ. Being a co-heir with Christ sounds great. What a position and it must lead to a wonderful, perfect life. Do you remember that even though Christ was perfect, He suffered death on a cross? As co-heirs with Christ, we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory. Paul says that our current sufferings are not worth comparing with our eternal glory. You and I often forget that this world along with all of its possessions and pain is just temporary. Our physical pain is temporary. Our emotional pain is just temporary. As a child of God, one day you will be in heaven praising the Lamb of God and all your pain will be gone. It will be worth it.
Read John 16:33.
Jesus assures His disciples of two things. First, they will have trouble in this world and secondly, that He has overcome the world. We live in a temporary world. We have to endure trouble here, but we cannot forget part two of the equation. There is eternal life in heaven coming to those who believe. Take heart-He has overcome the world.
Are you focusing on your temporary pain or your position as a co-heir with Christ? Are you accepting both good and trouble from God? The only way to have peace in the midst of trouble is to be in Him. (John 16:33) Pray and commit to be found in Him and not in yourself or your circumstances.
Read Job 2:11-13.
I began outlining this chapter several months before I actually began writing it, so I look back over my outline and notes as I sit and type out the ideas into actual sentences and paragraphs. Today as I sit down to write I have to share with you what God has been doing in my life since I began writing this chapter.
First of all, my notes for this day three of the Job chapter say “others speak” to Job and “what to do and not to do” when your friend is in mourning. Today I looked over those words and it brought me back to what happened nearly a month ago. I had just come home from working at Vacation Bible School at our church, and my mother who had been at my house caring for my son told me that she thought something very sad happened to our neighbors. Judging by all the police activity and goings on she thought that our neighbors little baby girl had died. Our sweet neighbor confirmed through his tears that his daughter had passed. As I sat down next to his wife and searched for words to share with her, God reminded me of what I had been studying in Job. That Job’s friends just sat with him and cried with him and didn’t say a word. That is exactly what I did.
We often say we don’t know what to say to someone who is grieving. Most of the time we don’t have to say anything; just be there for them, mourn with them. I am so glad that God reminded me of what to do and what not to do that day and as these weeks have passed.
(The death of this beautiful little girl makes no sense to me. I kept thinking of Job and how he must have felt yet he still praised God. This baby was not even my own and yet I could not praise God in the midst of my sadness. I had more questions on my mind than praise. But God continued to use His word and prayer and a song to speak to me. He showed me that He is holy. He is always holy regardless of the circumstances. What is going on may not make sense to me, but He never changes and He is holy; therefore, I will praise a holy God.)
I’m sure that Job’s friends were a source of comfort for him this first week they were with him. Even though they spoke no words, they were there for him. And when Job finally spoke, they listened. However, his friends comfort turned to questions. Let’s see first what Job said.
Read Job 3:20-26.
1) What does Job long for?
2) What is the only thing Job says that he has?
Job is in anguish over his losses and he longs to die. He says that he has no peace only turmoil. I’m sure his friends were very concerned when they heard Job speak because he is obviously depressed, so they begin to try and figure out what is going on. They try and understand why everything happened. They begin to make assumptions as to why Job is suffering.
Read Job 5:17-18.
Job’s friend Eliphaz is speaking in these verses, and from what you read what do you think Eliphaz is assuming about Job? Eliphaz refers to the discipline of God. He thinks that Job is suffering because he has sinned and all that has happened in Job’s life is God’s way of correcting him. Now, I’m pretty sure that the last thing Job wants to hear is that on top of everything he’s gone through, he did something wrong and God is punishing him. Eliphaz is quick to judge Job’s situation. In fact, Eliphaz is not the only friend of Job’s to assume that Job is suffering because he has sinned in some way. Each of Job’s friends comes to the same conclusion that Job has done something to deserve the losses he has endured.
We may or may not have said the same things to Job as his friends did, but we all too often make assumptions or judgments on why something has occurred and why God has allowed or not allowed something to happen. I remember hearing theories about why God allowed New Orleans to be flooded by Hurricane Katrina. I even thought about the reasons why it must have happened. But I am quickly reminded of a verse, which has become a comfort to me when I have so many questions for God. As I look at these verses now, there is a date next to them in my Bible when God used them to speak so clearly to me during a time of loss and questioning.
Read Isaiah 55:8-9.
3) Who is speaking?
4) How are we not like God?
These verses comfort me to know that I am not like God. My thoughts about a situation can’t be compared to God’s. He clearly tells us in these verses that His thoughts are higher than ours, and His ways are higher than ours. It is not our responsibility, nor our place, to think we know why God did something. Job’s friends shouldn’t have asserted why God allowed Job to suffer. God’s actions and reasons for doing or not doing something are not even in our range of comprehension, so we should not try to second-guess Him. God is holy, righteous, and pure in everything that He does even if we do not understand Him.
Have you been questioning God about why He has done something in your life? Acknowledge His holiness in all His actions. Thank Him that His thoughts are not like yours.
Have you ever read a book that has an introduction? I’m sure you have. What is the purpose of the introduction? Right, to introduce what will happen in the story, to set up what is next. Better yet, think of an introduction given right before a speaker begins to speak. The person introducing the speaker gives the audience a brief (hopefully) summary of the speaker so that the audience knows the speaker a little better and hopefully this knowledge makes for a better audience.
As I was studying Job, I likened the next friend of Job’s, Elihu, as a type of introduction to the real person we want to hear from, God. We’ll spend more time today reading God’s response to Job, but let’s quickly look at what Elihu has to say.
Read Job 32:1-5.
1) What was Elihu feeling and why?
2) Why did he wait to speak?
Elihu is younger than Job’s other friends, so he politely waits his turn to reply and although Job’s other friends were insistent that Job has sinned and concerned with what he had or had not done, Elihu is more concerned with God’s part in Job’s situation. Let’s read just a little of what Elihu had to say about God.
Read Job 36:22-33; 37:19-24.
3) Who is Elihu praising?
4) How does Elihu describe the greatness of God in these verses?
5) Why can we not present our case to God?
Elihu is beginning to understand the focus of Job and his friends on the greatness of God. God is so great that in verse 26 he says that God is beyond our understanding. This phrase in Hebrew means “we do not know.” Even with all of man’s study, we cannot fully grasp or know how great God is.
Up to this point in Job, Job has been making his case before God asserting before God and his friends that he had not done anything to deserve the situation he is in. Elihu tells Job that we cannot present our case before God because of our darkness. We are in the dark compared to God. The word darkness also means black. We have no sight or grasp of the situation because we cannot see at all compared to all that God is and knows.
At the end of Elihu’s remarks, God enters the discourse. Elihu has introduced the idea of the majesty and awesomeness of God, but now Job will hear for himself from God.
Read Job 38:1-18.
6) What has God done that displays His majesty?
God begins by asking who darkens His counsel. This word darken that God uses is nearly the same Hebrew word that Elihu used to show that we are black or in the dark compared to God. The word counsel also means plans or purpose. Job is darkening the purpose of God because he has no knowledge at all of what God is doing and why. We can see this for ourselves because we were able to read at at the beginning of Job why all this happened and that Job and his friends are pretty much clueless.
So to illustrate to Job how clueless and powerless he is, God begins to describe all that He has done and is doing. Just in these few verses we see God’s majesty in the creation of the world. He measured it and set it in place, and I love this part, He did it “while the morning stars sang together and the angels shouted for joy.”
God gives very specific examples of His power and majesty, His knowledge and strength through chapters 38 and 39. Set aside some time today or this week to read these chapters and meditate on all God says to Job. Then you will have a greater understanding why Job replies the way He does to God.
Read Job 40:1-5
How simple is Job’s answer, “I am unworthy. I put my hand over my mouth.” Job’s reaction to God should be ours. We are so unworthy. We should simply put our hands over our mouths because our comments and questions are like pitch-black darkness compared to God. I can think of so many times that I have questioned God and wondered if He really knows how I am suffering or what I am dealing with. I should have just kept my mouth shut.
My daughter likes to show me things, and she typically will put the object right in front of my eyes. Have you tried to focus on something right in front of your eyes? Try it right now. You can’t really tell what it is because it’s too close for your eyes to focus on it correctly. I think this is similar to our view on life and suffering sometimes. We are too close to our suffering or problem to truly understand God’s plan. God doesn’t see each individual problem we have in isolation. He sees the world in the whole span of time. He has an eternal view of things and knows how our trial fits into the larger scheme of His purpose and glory. When I cannot make out what my daughter is trying to show me, I ask her to hold it back away from me so that I can see it better. When I have a different view and take a step back, I then can see what she is holding. We all need to see our trials from a different view. We need to see things from an eternal perspective and trust that the holy, majestic God who holds the world in place also holds us in His hands.
Read Romans 8:17-18. Focus on eternity today, the future glory that will be revealed in us rather than any present suffering you are enduring.
Job seemed to understand that he was unworthy of questioning God. He simply covered his mouth in response to God’s questions to him. But God was not finished explaining His power and majesty to Job. In God’s second speech to Job, God uses strong, powerful animals as examples of His power and majesty. These animals are called the behemoth, meaning beast, and the leviathan. Although we may not exactly know what type of animals these are, it is clear that they are very strong and dangerous. They are creatures that man cannot control, but God created and could subdue these animals.
Read Job 41:1-11.
1) What will happen if Job lays a hand on the leviathan?
2) What belongs to God?
God explains to Job that if he cannot even stand up and confront the leviathan, than how could he confront God. God is showing that it is much more dangerous to confront Him than to confront this dangerous animal.
Look back at verse 11. God asks Job, “Who has a claim against Him that He must pay?” God does not owe anyone. Job may have thought that because he was a righteous, upright man who was full of integrity that God may have owed him something. But we all are sinners who fall short of the glory of God. If God owes us anything, it is death because of our sin and His holiness. Yet, so often we think that simply because we are living a good life and not hurting anyone and going to church and even giving our money to the church that God owes us something. God clearly states in verse 11 that He does not owe anyone anything. In fact, He states that everything under heaven belongs to Him.
Read Job 42:1-6.
3) What does Job say that God can do in verse 1?
4) What does Job say He had spoken about in verse 3?
Job has completely realized that God is all powerful, all knowing and in complete control of the whole world. He acknowledges that he has spoken about things that he did not know and does not understand. I really like what Job admits in verse 5. He says that although he has heard of God, now his eyes have seen Him. Have you simply heard of God, but not truly experienced Him with your own eyes? I think many of us know about Jesus, but not enough of us have allowed ourselves to be put in a place where we experienced total dependence on God’s provision for our lives. We do not dig into the Bible enough to find out more about who God is. We are not in prayer enough to bow our knees in submission to God’s will for our lives.
God restored Job’s life. Job was blessed with even more in the second part of his life. He had more children and livestock. The book of Job closes by stating that Job died old and full of years. I guess you could say he lived happily ever after.
Did you know that as children of God we also will live happily ever after? Unlike Job, some of us will not experience this until heaven. We are not guaranteed happily ever after here on earth. Most of us will not be as rich as Job. Some of us will not live even half as long as Job. We will suffer here on earth, just as Job did. Just as Peter did.
Peter was one of Jesus’ disciples. He was blessed to be able to walk and talk with Christ. He saw the miracles and ministry of Jesus firsthand. Although Peter knew Jesus, he still denied him three times before Jesus was crucified. He must have felt horrible and ashamed of himself. But that wasn’t the end of the story. Jesus came back and ministered to Peter after the resurrection. Peter experienced the forgiveness of Christ and saw the power of His resurrection.
Peter also suffered for his belief in Christ. He was persecuted along with many other Christians. He writes the letter, 1 Peter, to the believers who have been scattered throughout other nations because of the persecution of the church.
Read 1 Peter 1:3-9.
5) Where is our inheritance? What cannot happen to it?
6) In what can we greatly rejoice?
7) Why do we suffer in trials?
8) What is the goal of our faith?
Did you notice as you read these verses that Peter is focused on eternity. He is not focused on the problems and struggles of this temporary world, but he sees everything with an eternal perspective. Despite the discouraging situation he and others are in, he is encouraged by the blessings of God. Some of the blessings he names are a living hope, inheritance in heaven, God’s power shielding us, faith, inexpressible and glorious joy, and salvation of our souls. Peter reminds us that the grief we suffer in all types of trials is just for a little while. In the meantime, God uses these trials to refine and purify our faith.
Isn’t this encouraging to you? It sure encourages me. There is one more verse from the second of Peter’s letters that is important to know.
Read 2 Peter 1:3-4.
9) What has God’s divine power given us?
10) How can we escape the corruption in the world?
God has given us everything we need for life and godliness. Sometimes in the midst of suffering, we think God gives us a free pass card on obedience. Because we’ve had a bad week, we don’t need to obey. Because we’re in physical pain, we do not have to fulfill our responsibilities. Because we’re so tired from being up all night with a sick child, its understandable that we lashed out at our spouse. This verse tells us that there is never an excuse for sin. No matter how much we are suffering, we still need to be obedient.
Do you remember at the beginning of the book of Job we read that in all of Job’s suffering he did not sin? God gave Job everything he needed for life and godliness even in the midst of suffering. God has given you and me everything we need for life and godliness, and on top of that He has also given us His great and precious promises so that we can escape the corruption of the world. We never have an excuse to sin.
This chapter on Job has taken me the longest to write. A lot has gone on in my life during the time I’ve been studying Job. I already mentioned the death of my neighbors’ baby. I have also been dealing with unexplained pain. During my trials, this verse has been an encouragement to me. I know that despite my pain, God has given me everything I need to be the wife and mother He wants me to be. Despite my grief, God has given me everything I need to keep going (life) and keep going well (godliness).
Praise God for His power and majesty. Thank God that through that same power and majesty He gives you everything you need for life and godliness.
Memorize 2 Peter 1:3.
Do you have a friend who will tell you the truth even if you do not want to hear it? Let me give you an example of what I mean. I vividly remember sitting at a church softball game when I was in middle school and my mom correcting me for being rude to one of her friends. I did not like being told the truth, but I needed to hear it. I was rude and I needed to be corrected. Do you have someone in your life who will be honest with you? You should. God’s chosen people also needed someone to be honest with them, so God found Isaiah.
The prophet Isaiah is the next person we are going to study on our journey of learning about God’s unfailing love. Isaiah was a man chosen by God to tell the people of Judah, the truth they needed to hear. What he had to say was not what the people wanted to hear, but because they were no longer following God’s commands, they needed to be corrected.
Before we jump into what Isaiah had to say, we need to understand why God instructed him to say it. What had the people done to merit this stern talking to? To find this out, we need to jump back to Solomon. Remember him? Do you remember what happened to the nation of Israel because Solomon did not obey the Lord’s commands and worshipped other gods? God said that the nation would be divided and that Solomon’s son Rehoboam would only rule over the southern kingdom of Judah. Well, we’re going to quickly go over what happened after Rehoboam was on the throne and how quickly God’s people forgot about Him.
Rehoboam took the throne in Judah in 930 B.C. He was their king for seventeen years. During the majority of this time he set up idols and worshipped them. Abijah was on the throne next and ruled with wickedness for three years. King Asa took over as ruler of Judah in 910 and led the nation back to God. He was in charge for forty-one years and during that time he removed the idols and shrines to other gods as well as rebuilding the altar of God. His son, Jehoshaphat, did what was right in God’s eyes as well; however, he did not remove the “high places” where people worshipped other gods, “and the people still had not set their hearts on the God of their fathers” (2 Chronicles 20:33).
For the next 100 years the kings of Judah would go back and forth between being a wicked king or a good king, but even the good leaders did not completely remove idol worship from their land. Because the sin of idol worship was never fully dealt with, the people continued to seek other gods rather than the one true God. Because of their stubborn, wicked ways, God chose Isaiah to confront the people with the truth about their sin.
Read Isaiah 1:1-3.
1) What four kings did Isaiah’s prophecy concern?
2) What had God’s children done?
God is very clear in these first few verses of why His people need to repent. He says they have rebelled against Him. In verse 2, it is clear that God sees His people as His children. He says that He not only reared them, but He brought them up. The Hebrew word here for brought them up is rum, “to raise up”. This is different from the Hebrew word usually associated with bringing up children, gadal, which simply means “to raise”. But God raised His children UP. He established them into the great nation that they were. All through the early books of the Bible, we see how God provided for His people. He brought them to the promised land so they could be free from slavery. He defeated their enemies. He made a covenant of unfailing love with them, yet they turned their back on Him.
God says in verse 3 that even animals like the ox and donkey know who provides for them. They go back to their owner who feeds them. But His people do not even recognize Him as the one who provides for them. Why do you think they do not recognize God as their provider? Is it possible that they, like many of us, start experiencing success and think it comes more from us than God. We think we have our home because our jobs pay so well and enough food on the table because we are good with the grocery budget.
When my son was beginning to talk and one of his favorite things to say, while he threw his arms up in the air, is “I did it.” It could be just the smallest task, and he was so proud of himself and yelled out for all to hear that he did it. One day I realized that I do the same thing. Oh, I don’t do it out loud for everyone to hear, but I do it in my mind. Even writing this study, when I finish a chapter I will say to myself “I did it.” Do you see where my focus is? That’s right on three people: me, myself and I. I don’t mean to disrespect God, but if I start giving myself too much credit in the little things how quickly am I patting myself on the back for the big things?
I am sure that the people of Israel (including Judah) did not wake up one day and just forget who provided for them. It took time. Parents forgot to remind their kids who really provided their food. Grandparents didn’t tell the stories of how God took care of them. Leaders began taking credit for successes in battle. Before long, the people did not recognize God as their provider, their father, their all in all. They began to think to themselves, “We did it,” and we can do it better. We don’t need all His laws and commands.
Read Isaiah 1:4-6.
3) How does Isaiah describe the people of Judah?
4) How are they suffering?
Isaiah begins to paint a picture of how bad things really are for this “sinful nation.” He calls them a people loaded with guilt, children given to corruption. They are injured, yet they persist in rebellion
Read Psalm 38.
David’s symptoms of pain and guilt are much like that of Judah. But the key is in verse 18. He confesses his sin. He is troubled by it. Are we troubled by our sin? Are we confessing our sin to God? The people of Judah were not troubled by their sin. As we just read, they persisted in rebellion. As we begin to dig deeper into the book of Isaiah, keep in mind the difference here. We will never be a perfect people, but our reaction when we recognize sin in our lives is the important part of living in Christ.
Is any sin troubling you? Confess it. Ask God how to remove it from your life and what to think of or do instead.
If you have your hands raised to say I did it, raise them in praise to God for what He has done for you instead (I’m right there with you).
Some of you may have seen one of the commercials on television in which a person tells where they were on the morning of September 11, 2001. I am sure most of us can say exactly what we were doing when we saw or heard what had happened. Even though we all experienced the same tragedy, people reacted in many different ways. Some were in church prayer services while others were in bars. Some quickly moved on with life and yet some still live in fear. How we react to life changing moments such as these can say a lot about who we are and where we place our trust. Today we will look at a life changing moment in Isaiah’s life and see how his reaction was the right one.
Read Isaiah 6:1-4.
1) Who did Isaiah see in his vision?
2) Where was the Lord seated?
3) What was around Him?
4) What were the seraphs calling out to each other?
Around the year 740 B.C., when King Uzziah died, Isaiah experienced this amazing vision. He saw the Lord seated on the throne and seraphs flying above Him. What is a seraph? The original Hebrew word used means “burning one,” so these creatures probably had a fiery appearance as well as having six wings. Did you notice that two of their wings were covering their eyes as if they could not look upon the Lord? If they could not look at the Lord, I believe what they were calling out to each other is the reason why. They were calling out to each other about the Lord’s holiness. Before we go any further, let’s make sure we understand what holy really means.
The Hebrew word for holy means set apart, different, unique. In the early books of the Bible, holy is used to describe things set apart such as the seventh day because God blessed it. The ground where Moses stood before the burning bush was holy ground. Anything that symbolized where God was was considered holy or set apart. Not until Leviticus do we see where He calls Himself holy.
Read Leviticus 11:44.
5) What does God ask the Israelites to do? Why?
God asks His people to consecrate, devote or set apart, themselves and to be holy because He is holy. Why is God set apart? He is the Creator, Ruler of all. He is without sin. He is perfect in all His ways. We were studying in Job of all He has done. He left Job speechless and without an argument. God is holy. He is set apart because He is so much above and beyond what we can imagine. The whole earth is full of His glory.
What do you do when you meditate (really think about, fix your mind) on God’s holiness? What is your response to a holy God? Let’s look at Isaiah’s.
Read Isaiah 6:5-7.
Isaiah says, “Woe to me,” or he is ruined or destroyed, because he a man with unclean lips saw “the King, the Lord Almighty.” He realized his unworthiness to look upon the majesty of God. Much like Job, Isaiah realizes he must be silent. However, the seraph comes and places a coal to his lips to atone for his sin. God took care of Isaiah’s sin, so it no longer separated Isaiah from God. Hallelujah that our sin too has been atoned for by the blood of Jesus Christ. Now that Isaiah realizes the guilt of his sin is gone, he can answer when God speaks.
Read Isaiah 6:8-9.
6) What is God asking for?
7) What is Isaiah’s response?
Isaiah offered himself to God. He simply said, “Here am I, send me” when God was looking for someone to send. We may not have had a vision of God like Isaiah, but we certainly have the Scriptures to show us the majesty and awesomeness of God. We also have the forgiveness of sins, so what keeps us from saying “here am I” and offering ourselves to God? What do I mean? Why don’t you go grab your checkbook and your calendar and then tell me to what you are offering your life? Is it the soccer league or work or even a “good” organization? God wants us to offer our lives to Him. God is probably not asking us to stand out on a street corner and tell others about impending destruction, much like Isaiah, but He does ask us to go and tell others about Him. Sadly, we often do not even make it to the house right next door to us and share with them the good news of Christ.
Isaiah said “yes” when God called him. God even told him that the people would not listen. As you read the next several verses, it is important to realize that God is not literally telling Isaiah to say these words to His people, but He means that Isaiah might as well tell them these words because they will not listen to anything he says anyway.
Read Isaiah 6:9-13.
God tells Isaiah that the people will hear him but will not understand. They will see him, but they won’t perceive the truth he is telling them. Isaiah has a very hard job ahead of him. He is to tell people the truth even though he knows they won’t listen.
There is one more nugget of truth to gain from these verses. Look back in verse 10 and notice that God calls their hearts calloused. Think about a callous if you have ever had one. It doesn’t start off very big, but it can get much bigger and harder if the condition that is causing it does not change. Their hearts were this way. They became hard over time. Let’s look at another verse that mentions calloused hearts.
Read Psalm 119:70.
Did you see the prevention for a calloused heart? Delighting in God’s word. My prayer is that you and I wake up in the morning yearning to hear from God, to dig into His word. We will get a glimpse of His majesty. Then I pray that we will be like Isaiah and say “Here am I Lord. Send me.”
Are you “here” (available) for God to use? If not, remove the things that are keeping you away from Him. Take time to look over your money and time; they are great clues as to what is more important than the King, Lord Almighty seated on His throne.
The book of Isaiah can be divided into two sections. The first part deals with the call for the people of Judah to repent. The second part involves God’s promise for future blessings for these same people. The book as a whole has so many wonderful passages and we lack the time in this study to go into all of them, so we’ll briefly look at one chapter in which we will see God’s warning for His people and then in days four and five we will look at other chapters dealing with God’s future blessings.
Read Isaiah 30:1-5.
1) What word does God use to describe His children?
2) Who are the people of Judah going to for help?
3) What does God say will be the result?
God says that His children are obstinate. This is definitely not a word that I would want God to use to describe me. It means rebellious, stubborn. The dictionary says obstinate means not yielding or stubbornly adhering to one’s opinion or purpose. I guess in one sense obstinate would be good, but for the people of Judah this was not a compliment. They were stubborn in their ways. They were adhering to their own opinions, their own purposes rather than consulting with God about His purpose for them.
What exactly were their plans? They were forming an alliance with a pagan nation, Egypt. They were seeking help from Egypt (remember this is the very country from which God delivered them earlier under the leadership of Moses). This alliance was not what God wanted for them. Rather than going to Him for help, depending on Him, they are looking to another country that had nothing to do with God. God says that in their doing they were heaping sin upon sin. They were digging their own hole deeper and deeper. Have you been there, stuck at the bottom of your own hole that you’ve been digging at hard and long? God wants so much more, so much better for His people, but they do not consult Him.
The people of Judah think that their plans will bring them help and “advantage” because Egypt was a great nation, but God says that ultimately it will lead them to shame and disgrace. We sometimes do the same thing. We see someone (or something) who we look to because they seem to have it all and surely they can help us and give us an advantage. But it is God who truly has it all. He controls it all, so why so often do we look to Him last?
Read Isaiah 30:9-14.
4) What do the people want to hear?
5) What does the Lord say will happen to their sin?
The people of Judah were tired of hearing the truth, or what was right. They only wanted to listen to pleasant things. They didn’t want to be confronted any longer with the “Holy One of Israel.” They knew that hearing about God and His holiness would just be another reminder of their sinful condition. They were building a wall so that they would not have to deal with their sin, but God said their wall was about to come crashing down.
This is why examining ourselves before Christ is so important. We need to deal with the sin in our lives so that we do not build up any walls that God will have to tear down.
Read Psalm 139:23-24.
6) What does David ask God to do?
There is no way that we will recognize every sin in our life because our standards are not like God’s standard of holiness. That is why we, like David, should ask God to reveal sin in our lives that we are not aware of.
Read 1 John 1:8-10.
7) What can we not claim?
8) What will God do if we confess our sins to Him?
Verse 9 of First John is one of the most precious promises in God’s word. If you have never memorized this verse, it is a good one to add to the treasure in your heart. How wonderful to know that God will not only reveal sin to us, but then if we confess it, He purifies us from all unrighteousness.
What an amazing work God does in our lives. He wanted to work in the lives of the people of Judah as well, but we’ve read that they are choosing to ignore His truth and are substituting it with “better” sounding ideas. I have to admit that sometimes I do the same. At times I would rather do what sounds good to me at the time rather than do what is right.
God gives His people the answer to their problem. Read on in Isaiah 30 to find what it is
Read Isaiah 30:15-22.
God tells His children that if they would repent (confess their sin and start doing what is right) and rest in Him they would be saved. By quietly trusting in Him, they would find strength. But they were too busy digging their own hole to rely on God. All the time God was there longing to be gracious to them.
God wants you to wait for Him and His timing rather than picking up the shovel ourselves to dig a little deeper. He will give you the right direction at the right time (His time). Blessed are all who wait for Him!
Are you repenting and resting in God’s salvation? Are you quietly trusting God or are you looking for your own horse to take you out of your situation?
Thank God that He rises to show you compassion and that He is also a God of justice.
After warning the people of Judah of the consequences of their sin, the second half of this book or prophecy focuses on the long-term future for God’s children. One might think that their future was only one of destruction and disgrace and that all hope was lost. This is not the case with God’s unfailing love. God did not forget His people. He invites them to come back to Him.
Read Isaiah 55:1-7.
1) Who does God invite?
2) What does God offer them?
3) What kind of covenant is God offering and what is it based on?
God’s invitation here opens with the Hebrew word “hoy,” a word used to get the people’s attention. Have you ever been to a baseball game when the guy selling cracker jacks comes around and offers to sell his snacks? He doesn’t quietly walk around and wait for people to ask to buy a box or two. He is yelling loudly to get people’s attention. And the really good “salespeople” have their own yelling style almost like a song that stands out above the rest of the conversations going on. I imagine that this is how God is calling out to people. “Come!” “Hoy!” Except God’s invitation is much better than cracker jacks and the little prize inside.
God is offering to meet our needs. The thirsty will find waters, not just a bottle of water, but waters. Those who have no money will find wine and milk and will eat what is good and nourishing, the richest of foods. Not just a snack to tide them over, but the best. You see God does not offer what we want or what sounds good at the moment. This is what the world offers, but this is not the best for us. God offers what we need – His unfailing love. The covenant of love that He gave to David, He also gives to us.
Look back at verse 7. What does God give to the one who turns to Him? That’s right, He gives His mercy. How does God pardon? He freely pardons. There are no strings attached to God’s forgiveness and unfailing love. We don’t have to jump through hoops or attend so many church services or give so much money for God to forgive us and love us. He gives us His love freely. Because of His great love for us, we should then want to worship with others and give our money back to God.
Does it make sense that a holy God would love sinful men and women? No, it does not make sense to us, but let’s read on in Isaiah to see why we don’t understand.
Read Isaiah 55:8-11.
4) How do God’s ways compare with ours?
5) What does God’s word accomplish?
God’s ways are higher than ours. His plans and thoughts are superior to ours. We cannot understand why God forgives us and gives us His unfailing love because our thoughts and understanding are inferior to His.
Do you see the focus here is on His thoughts, His ways (plans) and His word (in verse 11)? God says that His word will not return empty, but it will accomplish God’s purpose. It is not my words that are blessed, but it is His word. As a teacher, it is so freeing to know that God blesses His words and not mine. If it is God’s word and not my own that I am sharing, then I can rest in the fact that His word will accomplish what He desires. It has nothing to do with my word, my plans or desires or purposes.
Read Isaiah 40:6-8, 12-17
6) What are the people compared to and what will happen to them?
7) What will happen to God’s word?
8) What are the nations compared to?
I am not a history genius, but I know that there have been many powerful rulers in the past, but they no longer hold the power they once had because they are dead. Think of Hitler. He had so much power, but only for a short time. He thought he was accomplishing his purposes, but ultimately he died along with the disastrous vision he had for the world. Only God’s word stands forever. Only God’s purposes stand firm.
What should our response be to our God who holds time in His hands? How should we live as a result of knowing and believing that God’s word and plans are firm and eternal? Remember we began this day’s study by looking at God’s invitation. He is calling those who are thirsty and poor and hungry to come to Him. He is calling out to us, so what should be our reply?
Read Isaiah 40:28-31.
Did you catch the one thing that we are to do in these verses? There is just one. It’s in verse 31. Take a second look. Did you see it now? Hope in the Lord. The one thing we are to do in response to God’s invitation is to place our hope in Him. Sadly, we put our hope in so many other things such as our money, our job, our spouse, our health etc. This is exactly what the people of Judah did. They put their hope in their own purposes and plans. They depended on their own power. But God says that we are to only put our hope in Him.
What is the result when we do hope in the Lord? We will renew our strength. Another way to say this is that we will exchange our strength for His. Would you rather have your own strength or the strength of the God who is the Creator of the ends of the earth? Let’s all put our hope in Him, rely on His plans rather than ours, then we will be soaring on the wings of eagles together.
On what are you putting your hope? If your hope is anywhere other than God, ask for His forgiveness and place your hope in Him.
Praise God that His ways are higher than yours and that His word is eternal.
After accepting God’s invitation to unfailing love and putting our hope in His plan and His eternal word, it is only right to praise Him. Today we will look at a prayer of Isaiah’s in which he praises God for His love and calls on God for assistance.
Read Isaiah 63:7-9.
1) What will Isaiah tell or speak of?
2) What did God become in verse 8?
3) What did God do in response to the people’s distress?
Isaiah says that God has done many good things for the people of Israel according to His compassion and kindness. Has not God done many good things for us as well? One of my favorite songs is “Everything You Are” and the chorus of praise reminds me of Isaiah’s words:
Your mercies stretch across my life as far as I can see
I know from experience that You are good indeed
I stand here in amazement of Your awesome majesty
Words cannot describe O God everything You are to me
Isaiah knew from experience, as did the people of Judah, of all that God had done for them. If you cannot say the same thing, my prayer is that you will truly put all of your faith and trust in God, and you will see as I do that He is a God of love and faithfulness, and you will join me in singing this song of praise to Him.
I used to be an English teacher, so sometimes it’s the small words in Scripture that stand out to me the most. Today we will be looking at some small, but very significant words. The first word is in verse 10, let’s see if you can find it.
Read Isaiah 63:10.
Did you see it? Right there at the beginning of verse 10, right after we read that God carried His people, we see the little word “yet.” This little word is a conjunction, meaning that it connects two ideas, but these ideas usually contradict each other. Here the two contradictory actions are 1) God redeemed, lifted up, and carried His people - YET- 2) they rebelled.
Now we’re going to start looking at a chain of events describing the actions of God and the people of Judah. After the people rebelled, we see another little word in verse 10, “so,” which is another conjunction connecting the action of the people’s rebellion with God’s response that He turned and became their enemy.
Read Isaiah 63:11-16.
4) What do the people recall or remember?
5) What do they say is withheld from them?
6) What conjunction is used in verse 16?
7) What is God referred to in verse 16 (hint: it start with the letter “f”)?
Isaiah remembers all that God had done for them during the time of Moses. He recalls how God rescued them and guided them. Now on behalf of the people of Judah he questions why God is withholding His tenderness and compassion from them. In verse 15 the original Hebrew text uses the term “agitation of intestines” instead of the word tenderness. Have you ever heard someone say that they love someone so much it hurts? I know I have said it about my kids. Sometimes when I look at them, I get this ache in my stomach because I love them so much. This is exactly what God’s children want God to feel for them. What they do not understand is that He still loves them. He still aches for them. This is why He sent Isaiah to them to tell them the truth that they do not want to hear. When I am disciplining my children for disobedience and they think I do not love them, I love them the same. At the time, I have to show it through discipline in order to protect them or to help guide them into better behavior. I am still their mother even as I discipline them. In the same way, God is still the Father of His people even if He is not rescuing them from their circumstances.
Read Isaiah 64:1-5.
8) What does Isaiah pray that God would do in verses 1 and 2?
9) On whose behalf does God act?
Isaiah prays that God would come down in power and shake the mountains then the nations and people would tremble before Him. They would be put in their place. Isaiah acknowledges that God does amazing things for those who wait for Him to act and willingly obey, but he also knows that the people of Judah are not waiting on God. Rather they are continuing in their sin. He then asks an important question, “How can we be saved?”
Read Isaiah 64:6-7.
Their righteous acts are like filthy rags. No one can call on God’s name or lay hold of Him. The apostle Paul, in the book of Romans, contemplates his similar situation. In chapter 7, he explains that he does things that he doesn’t want to do (he sins) and the good things he does want to do, well, he doesn’t. (Sounds a lot like me, how about you?) But Paul comes to a conclusion and arrives at the answer to the question that Isaiah is asking.
Read Romans 7:24-25.
10) Who will rescue Paul (and you, me, Isaiah, and the people of Judah) from this body of death (our sin)?
Isaiah’s question and Paul’s sin has a simple one word answer – Jesus! Thanks be to God who gave us His son Jesus to die for our sins. Our righteous acts, like filthy rags, would never be enough, so God gave us Jesus.
Read Isaiah 64:8.
11) Who is the potter? Who is the clay?
YET. There is that little word again. Despite our attempts to plan and control our own lives, God ultimately remains the potter and we are the clay in His hands. The people of Judah started to think they were the ones shaping and molding their lives and their future. That is when things became messy for them. Let us learn from them that it is easier if we relax and place our lives in God’s hands of unfailing love.
Memorize Isaiah 55:8-9.
Are you allowing God to mold you and shape you into the likeness of His son, or are you trying to jump out of His hands into your own big mess on the floor?
Did you ever get in trouble by one parent and then when the other parent found out you heard it all over again? Well, the people of Judah are about to hear it all over again. They still have not wised up as to how off track they are, so God is enlisting another prophet to tell His children to repent.
The prophet Jeremiah began his ministry in 627 B.C. This is over fifty years after the prophet Isaiah had died, but the problems remained much the same. The people of Judah even had a good, wise king named Josiah who loved the Lord and led their nation for thirty years; however, they still continued in their sin. Therefore, God calls another prophet to His people to warn them of the consequences of their sin.
Read Jeremiah 1:1-10.
1) How long had God known Jeremiah?
2) For what task did God set Jeremiah apart ?
3) What was Jeremiah’s excuse and God’s response?
4) Did you notice any similarities between Jeremiah’s calling and Isaiah’s calling?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if God were to speak to us just like Jeremiah and tell us exactly what He wants us to do? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if just like Jeremiah God told us that He had a plan for our lives before we were born? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if God even assured us that in spite of our weaknesses and fears that He could still use us and that we need not be afraid? Well, the truth is wonderful. He has done all this for us. Let’s look into how we know this.
Read Psalm 139:13-16.
5) Who created you?
6) What does God know about your life and when does He know it?
God knows you just like He knew Jeremiah. He knew you before you were born. All of the days of your life are known to Him before you were even born. It is so comforting to me to know that the Holy perfect God, Creator of the universe knows what is going to happen to me tomorrow let alone thirty minutes from now. I can just trust Him; He knows the ending.
Between now and then what does God want me to do?
Read Matthew 22:37-39; 28:19-20.
7) Who does God want you to love?
8) What other actions does God command us to do?
God clearly commands us to love Him and love others and in loving Him and others we are to go and tell them about His love, teaching them all that God has commanded. Let’s start at home. Are you loving God and obeying His commands? Are you showing love to your family? I know you love God and love your family, but are you showing them that you love them? Are you telling your family and friends about God’s unfailing love? Are you teaching them about God’s word or discipling someone else outside of your family?
You see God has clearly told us what He wants us to do. We just want a specific itenirary for our life that says at 8am go to the grocery store and when the clerk asks you how you are doing tell her that you find your joy in God’s unfailing love. We want to know the specifics because we think we will be better prepared, but God also gives us a command about our preparedness.
Read 2 Timothy 4:2 and 1 Peter 3:15.
God says be prepared and ready all the time to gently share with people about the hope we have in Christ. We should not have an excuse, but we should always be ready to share the wonderful news of God’s unfailing love.
What about other excuses we might have. We might be like Jeremiah and say we are too young or we’re not a good speaker or we don’t have the gift of evangelism. But I didn’t read any loop holes or opt outs in any of these verses. My Bible didn’t say love your neighbors only if you feel like it. I didn’t read in Matthew anything that said you don’t have to go and tell others about Christ only if you’ve been to seminary. God does not allow us to make excuses. If we are not obeying His commands, then we are sinning.
Sound harsh? It’s really not if you know that God has given us everything we need to obey Him and walk in His way. In the next letter from Peter, God assures us that we can do it.
Read 2 Peter 1:3.
9) Whose power are we to use and operate on?
10) What do we have for life and godliness?
With God’s power we have everything we need. Same thing with Jeremiah. God assured Jeremiah that He would always be with him, that He would give Him the right words and rescue him. God has done the same for us. He has given us all that we need. Remember what we’re studying- His unfailing love. His love doesn’t fail us. In His love, God gives us all we need to live a life of obedience.
What excuses have you been using for not being obedient in all things? Ask for forgiveness and thank God that He has provided everything you need to obey Him.
Yesterday we saw how God called Jeremiah and what He asked him to do as we also saw the how and what of our own calling. Today we will focus on the why of God’s calling. Why did God call Jeremiah to prophecy to the people of Judah? Why does God call us to be His witnesses to the world? Let’s examine what God said His people had done that led to their need to be confronted.
Read Jeremiah 2:1-8.
1) What does God remember about youth or the beginning of the nation of Israel?
2) Who were the people now following?
God recalls the time when His people followed Him. He says they were devoted and set apart to Him. Like a new bride is devoted to and caught up in love for her new husband, so were the people of Israel. But their loyalty did not last long. They began following “worthless idols.” God asks them what He had done that they would stray so far from Him. Now this is a question not designed to blame God because God causes no one to sin (James 1:13); He is asking them this question so they will see that they had no reason or excuse for being unfaithful.
The people of Israel were on a downhill path to destruction because they were no longer in love with God; they were no longer wholeheartedly living for Him. The people of Israel weren’t the only ones who lost their love for the Lord. Let’s see what Jesus said about the church at Ephesus.
Read Revelation 2:1-6.
3) What does Jesus commend the church for doing?
4) What does Jesus hold against them?
Although the church at Ephesus was working hard and persevering along with not tolerating wicked men, Jesus says that they had left their first love. Notice who did the leaving here. It was the church that left just as it was the Israelites that left God to follow worthless idols. Jesus tells the Ephesian church what they need to do to get back on track. He tells them to remember, to repent and to do. He wants them to remember what they had done at first, how they were devoted to Him with all their hearts. Then they are to repent, or turn around, and do those things that they had done at the beginning.
We see here that not only is God’s unfailing love for us important, but we must make our love for Him the number one priority in our lives. We must love Him with all our heart, soul and strength. If we are not doing this first and foremost, then we can expect to get off course just as the church in Ephesus and the people of Israel.
Read Jeremiah 2:11-19.
5) What had the people exchanged in their lives?
6) What are the two sins that they committed?
God again makes the point that His people chose to abandon Him and follow after worthless idols. They exchanged their glorious God for things that did not profit them. Then God says they committed two sins and uses a cistern as an example to show these two sins. A cistern was a pit or hole that people would dig in the ground to hold water. Today most of us enjoy the modern convenience of ample water just by turning on the faucet. The Israelites, however, had to make their own holding tanks to collect rainwater so that they would have water whenever they needed it. They would work hard at digging these cisterns. This would take time and a lot of energy (makes me appreciate my faucets a whole lot more), but water is necessary for life so the work was essential. Now what if I decided that I didn’t need my running water anymore. I wanted to dig my own cistern to collect rainwater, and then I could carry it back and forth from the hole in the ground to my house whenever I needed it. That would be foolish of me to trade my running water for the use of a cistern.
This is what God is showing the people that they have done. He reminds them that He is has everything they need, a spring of living water that never runs out. Yet, they have forsaken Him and dug their own cisterns, which don’t even hold water because they are broken. Wow, how could they be that foolish? Yet, we are often just this way. We trade our time with the Lord for watching TV. We trade our wisdom from God’s word for the latest self-help book. We trade our trust in God for working so hard to work out our lives in our own power.
Look back at verse 19. God says it is evil and bitter for these people to forsake the Lord and have no awe of Him. Remember back to Solomon where He said that the key to life was fearing God and obeying His commandments. This is exactly what God is saying. He says we should be in awe of Him, fear and revere Him, and follow in His way (meaning obey His commands) not forsake Him.
At some point the people of Judah tried to make amends with God. They put together some offerings and sacrifices to try to please God, yet their hearts were still not devoted to God.
Read Jeremiah 3:10, 6:20, 7:21-23.
God is very clear that He wanted their obedience, not their meaningless sacrifices. He wanted them to return to Him as their first love. We often do the same thing out of desperation. We offer God our money or time by going to church, yet He is not first place in our lives. He wants our love and then everything else will fall in its place. We will give our money because we love Him. We will go to church because we can’t wait to worship Him and fellowship with others who love Him too.
Let’s you and me not go out digging our own holes that end up empty. Remember from where you have fallen, repent, and do the things you did at first.
Read Jeremiah 17:5-10. Are you trusting in man or the Lord? Remember, He knows your heart.
We have seen how God’s children were once again disobedient and had forgotten God and followed their own way of life. Jeremiah, however, was not like the rest of the people. He remained set apart for God and God used him as a prophet to Judah. But Jeremiah grew tired of seeing the disobedience of the people. He brings his complaint before God in Jeremiah chapter 12.
1) What does Jeremiah ask God about?
2) What does Jeremiah want God to do about the people?
Have you ever felt like Jeremiah wondering why the wicked seem to prosper? Jeremiah tells God that He is righteous, yet in the same prayer questions His justice. The prophet seems to be talking out of both sides of his mouth. Yet, isn’t this what many of us think as well? We say that we trust in God, yet we then question why Johnny So-and-So seems to have it all even though he’s having an affair, or why Sally Always-looks-Great has such a big house even though she is not as good of a Christian as we are.
Well, Jeremiah might not have used the same examples, but he didn’t think it was fair that these wicked, faithless people seemed to have it so easy. Jeremiah was remaining faithful to God, yet in the previous chapter we read that people were plotting to kill him. People hated him because he was always confronting them with their sin. That’s not really such an easy life now is it? Surely God would sympathize with Jeremiah and answer his prayer, right? Let’s see God’s answer.
Read Jeremiah 12:5-6.
3) To what does God compare Jeremiah’s situation?
4) Who does God tell Jeremiah not to trust?
If Jeremiah was expecting an “I’m so sorry, let me make it better for you” answer from God, he must have been shocked to hear God’s answer. God says something like “Hey there Jeremiah, how do you expect to run a marathon if this little 100 yard dash is too difficult for you?” God is essentially telling Jeremiah that he’s tripping himself up over the small issues in life so how does he expect to handle the really big problems when they come up.
Isn’t this so like us? It’s in the small things that we take our eyes off God and start looking around at others that we get tripped up. Every time I drive by the neighborhoods around me and wish that I could have a big house like theirs or a fancy car like that, I am really questioning God’s sovereignty in my life. How then do I expect to handle the really big issues that I may have further down the road in my life? It’s not just in the big issues that I need to keep focused on God. The real battle is in the routine, everyday life around my house.
Well, I didn’t mean to spend so much time on this, but it is so important. Let’s not get hung up on the small issues. You know the other day after I was studying this passage, we made a run to the store to get some things. Well, somewhere between getting in the van with two preschoolers and trying to have them try on shoes, I realized I was tripped up by the small things. I had lost my patience and self-control. If I had been focused on Christ and showing His love to my family rather than attempting to finish my to-do list, then I would have not stumbled over the small stuff.
Well, God made this point to Jeremiah because He knew what was down the road for the prophet. Major struggles were about to come into Jeremiah’s life. We don’t have the time in this study to dive into each verse and chapter detailing the trials of Jeremiah, but to quickly summarize them, Jeremiah’s life was threatened, he was thrown into a cistern, he was imprisoned, and his city Jerusalem was captured and some of the people were exiled into Babylon. I wouldn’t want to be in any of these situations. God knew that these major trials would be coming for Jeremiah, which is why He told him to get ready to race with real horses.
I’m jumping ahead a little. Before we read further in Jeremiah, let’s make sure we understand what has happened to the nation of Judah
Read 2 Kings 23:29-24:17.
5) What happened to King Josiah?
6) What happened to the next king, Jehoahaz?
7) Was King Jehoiakim good or bad?
8) How long was Jehoiachin on the throne of Judah?
9) What happened during Jehoiachin’s reign?
Okay so are you confused yet? I know all these names sound alike so let’s quickly review. Josiah was a good, God honoring king. He died and his son Jehoahaz took over. He only ruled for three months and then his son Jehoiakim took over. He ruled for eleven years and did evil. Because he had no integrity, King Nebuchadnezzar from Babylon came in and took over and used Jehoiakim as a puppet king. The next king was Jehoiachin and during the three short months that he was on the throne, King “Neb” of Babylon came in and took al the good things from Judah from gold to people.
It is at this point when so many good people from Judah were taken into captivity (one of which was Daniel) that we pick back up with Jeremiah and his dream about figs.
Read Jeremiah 24:1-10.
10) What do the good figs represent?
11) What do the bad figs represent?
When the nation of Judah was overtaken and many of her people taken captive, it was clear that things were bad. This is exactly what God was talking to Jeremiah about when He referred to Jeremiah being able to manage in the “thickets by the Jordan” (Jer. 12:9). Yet God is still good, and He assures Jeremiah through this dream about figs that God is still in control even if it seemed that He was not. God told Jeremiah that while the captives (good figs) were in Babylon, He would “watch over them for their good,” and He would bring them back to their home.
God assures us of the same thing in Romans 8:28-29. Remember that God is in control of all the details both large and small.
Are you getting tripped up by the things of men or stumbling in safe pasture, or are you in the middle of a race with horses? Trust in God that He is working out His perfect will for your life by using both the small and big issues of life.
Many Christians may not know the story of Jeremiah. They may not understand the context of his situation. But it is likely that they are familiar with one verse in this book that we will study today. Any guesses as to what it is? Jeremiah 29:11. Can you quote it? This is actually my husband’s favorite verse in Scripture, so I have known this verse by memory for some time, but it wasn’t until I was studying Jeremiah for this book that I understood the context of it and that has made this verse more special for me.
Remember that a large number of people from Judah are being held captive in Babylon. Among them were great men like Daniel and his friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. I cannot imagine being held captive in a foreign country for one day let alone seventy years, but this is the situation for many of God’s chosen people. I imagine that some of them felt as if God had abandoned them, but He had not. God used Jeremiah to write a letter to the exiles encouraging them and assuring them that He was still working out His plan.
Read Jeremiah 29:1-9.
1) Who carried the letter to the exiles?
2) What did God instruct the people to do?
3) What did God not want the exiles to do?
When things do not go according to our plan, sometimes we have a tendency to just give up, quit trying. God did not want His people to give up. He is very specific in His commands to them to continue living. He wanted them to build houses, get married, have children, and be prosperous. He wanted them to pray for the prosperity of Babylon. That would be a hard one for me I think, but in the New Testament we again have the command to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Mt. 5:44). God tells them why they should want and pray for Babylon to prosper. Did you catch it in verse 7? God tells them that if Babylon prospers, then they too will prosper. How wonderful of God to tell the captives “the why” in this situation. We often don’t know why God asks us to do certain things but we know that His way is best. He shows His people here that they will prosper if the Babylonians prosper; that is why they should be praying for their enemies.
God is also specific about who the exiles should not be listening to. The diviners and prophets among them may have been having dreams and saying things that sounded good to the people because we see here that they were encouraging this, so they obviously must have liked what they heard and wanted more of it. We see similar warnings from God elsewhere in Jeremiah. He tells His children to stop listening to all the pleasant things they were seeking out because although it sounded good it was not the truth. How often do we also want our ears tickled with what sounds good. We don’t want to be confronted with our sin, so we would rather hear a motivating sermon about how much God loves us. We don’t want to hear about commands in scripture to put the needs of others above our own, so we seek out pleasant books telling us how we need more time and money for ourselves. God’s word may not always be pleasant to hear, but it is the truth, and it is what is best for us. So let’s continue to see what God’s best is.
Read Jeremiah 29:10-14.
4) How long does God say they will remain in Babylon?
5) What plans does God have for His children?
6) When will God’s children find Him?
What a comfort to know that even though they will be in Babylon for seventy years, the exiles can trust that God is working out His plan in their lives. His plan is one that gives them a future and a hope. His plan was to prosper them, not to harm them. The circumstances may have looked quite the opposite at that exact moment, but behind the scenes and in the long term God was working out His perfect plan to bring them back to their homeland.
I imagine that a letter like this could not have been more comforting to the exiles. What a blessing for them to be encouraged so specifically by God. He is specific in encouragement and warning to them. He encourages them by stating that they have a future and hope. These two words are coupled together because they describe each other. The future is one filled with hope and the hope that they have is because of the wonderful future they have in store. Everyone ultimately has a future, but it may not be one of hope. Isn’t it wonderful that as a child of God our future and hope are synonymous.
These aren’t the only two concepts that we find connected in this passage. Look at the conditions to God’s listening to us. God says that when His children call out to Him and come and pray to Him, then He will listen. Calling out to Him and coming to Him in prayer are describing each other. You may have heard someone call out to God in desperation, but they may not then come to Him in prayer. Coming to God in prayer means humbling ourselves before Him. We admit our dependence upon God when we come humbly before Him in prayer seeking His will and not our own.
God also states that we will find Him only when we seek Him with all of our heart. The word heart does not refer merely to our emotions, but to our mind and soul, our whole being. Only when we wholeheartedly, with all that we are, seek Him will we find Him. I have to admit that wholehearted would not describe a lot of the times that I “seek” God. I rush through my prayers to get on to the next thing on my list or I quickly read through several verses in my Bible without meditating on them and applying them to my own life. This is not wholeheartedly seeking God. This is just going through the motions. This is exactly what the people of Judah and Israel had done. They were just going through the motions without devoting their whole hearts to God.
What a fool I am to not actively and wholeheartedly seek the Lord who has such a wonderful hopeful future planned for me. Let us seek Him with all that we are, for all that He is is more than enough.
Come humbly before God and ask His forgiveness for not seeking Him wholeheartedly. Praise Him for His plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and hope.
We have seen through this weeks study of Jeremiah all that the people of Judah endured because they were unfaithful to God. We know that they endured seventy years of captivity in Babylon and hard times even before that at the hands of their enemies. Through all this we saw Jeremiah remaining faithful to proclaim the truth of God. Although he remained God’s prophet and an instrument in God’s hands, he was still a human being, just like you and me, and he reacted emotionally to the trials he endured.
Jeremiah is known by some as “the weeping prophet”. There are others who say that by today’s standards he would be given the label “depressed”. We saw just a glimpse of this in our study on day three when Jeremiah was discouraged that it seemed that God’s justice was not being carried out. This was just a taste of how sad Jeremiah became at times because of his own suffering and the suffering of his nation as a whole.
We see Jeremiah’s sadness in the book of Lamentations. Jeremiah wrote this book shortly after the fall of Jerusalem, which occurred in 586 B.C. If you have time you can read in detail Jeremiah’s description of his lament over the fall of his country and the exile of his people, but for time’s sake we will just look at one verse that poignantly summarizes Jeremiah’s sorrow.
Read Lamentations 2:11.
1) What has Jeremiah been doing?
2) How does Jeremiah describe what is going on within him?
3) Why is he so upset?
Jeremiah has been crying for a long time. He is saying that his eyes are spent or are failing him because he has been crying for so long. Have you ever cried so much that you don’t have any tears left to shed? This is exactly what Jeremiah is describing. He also refers to a torment within him. In the original Hebrew language he actually uses the word “bowels” as if they are burning. One way to translate this would be that he is saying that his stomach is in knots. I’ve never had an ulcer, but I imagine that this would be a similar feeling. His body is physically suffering because of his emotional suffering. Isn’t this much like depression? You may have even seen the commercial stating that depression hurts everywhere. It is not just an emotional pain, but a physical pain as well.
Read Lamentations 3:1-18.
4) How does Jeremiah describe his pain in verse 4?
5) What does Jeremiah say God has done in verse 7?
6) In verses 17-18 what does Jeremiah say he does not have?
We see again Jeremiah’s description of physical pain. He goes on to say that God has weighed him down with chains. In the original Hebrew he describes his chains as heavy. And in verses 17 and 18, Jeremiah states that he does not have peace or hope. As a child of God these are two of the most precious gifts I cherish, God’s peace and hope. Jeremiah feels as though he has lost these. Notice that we are talking about his feelings here and not that God has actually taken away His peace and hope from Jeremiah. We just read yesterday that God said that He had given His people hope, so we know that He has not actually taken away peace and hope from Jeremiah. It is just that Jeremiah feels as though he does not have either at that time.
This lesson is one on feelings. We see Jeremiah’s feelings of sadness and depression. We see how downcast he is and also how he is suffering physically because of his sadness. We know from Scripture that not only Jeremiah, but David and Job among others describe physical pain and suffering that accompany the emotional pain and stress they are enduring.
This whole study of God’s unfailing love was born out of a time of grief and loss in my life. I remember the sadness and sorrow I felt. I also remember the physical pain in my chest and having the doctor check my heart just to make sure I was not having a heart attack as it felt I was. My body was reacting physically to the emotional pain I was experiencing.
Yet in the midst of this time of pain, God led me to Lamentations chapter 3. He showed me His word, His promises, His truth and He gave me the idea for this study. It is amazing to me how He worked a future and hope through my trial. Let’s read now what God said through Jeremiah, and I pray that it blesses you as it has blessed me.
Read Lamentations 3:19-27, 31-33.
7) Why does Jeremiah have hope?
8) Why are we not consumed?
9) What is new every morning?
In verse 19 we see Jeremiah thinking and remembering all that he has suffered. Then in verse 20 we see the transitional word “yet”. What has happened here? Jeremiah has stopped thinking about all that he has suffered and has instead called to mind or literally “caused to return” his mind to the following promises of God and therefore he now has hope. Remember he just said that he felt as though he had no hope and now that he has fixed his thoughts on the truth of God’s word, he has hope.
What truth is he dwelling on? He is not consumed because of God’s great love. God’s compassions never fail and are new every morning. God is good to those who hope in Him and not their circumstances. Therefore, Jeremiah says he will wait for the salvation of the Lord. But how does he say he will wait? He will wait quietly. This one adverb, quietly, spoke so much to me. I wanted to continue in my barrage of questions to God about why I had to go through this trial. I was willing to wait for an answer, but was still throwing up questions. Instead I needed to wait quietly. It was not until I was quiet and patient that I was able to hear God speaking to me. Had I not been quiet and listened to Him rather than continuing to question Him, I would have never had the blessing of studying His unfailing love.
And His unfailing love is what He made so clear to me in verse 32. Though He brought me grief, He would show me compassion because of His great unfailing love. We see that His motivation is not to harm us, but in all He does He is motivated by His love for us. What a comfort to know that although God allows grief and trials in our lives that is still part of His overwhelming plan of great unfailing love for us.
Memorize Lamentations 3:32.
Praise God for His unfailing love, for His compassions that are new every morning. Put your mind on His promises rather than your present circumstance.
We ended last weeks study in a bad place for the people of Israel. They were captive in a foreign country, forced to leave their homes in Jerusalem. But God promised them that this captivity would not last forever. He said they would only be exiles for seventy years, which may feel like an eternity, but it is definitely a short stay within God's big picture. Wouldn't you know it, God kept His promise. You know there are not a lot of things you can count on, but you can always count on God keeping His promises. If He says He will do it, He will do it. Just like His unfailing love. Hence the combination of those two words. It's not just His Love; it's His unfailing Love.
This week we will study two men who led the Israelites upon their return to Jerusalem, Ezra and Nehemiah. Today let's first read how the Israelites were freed from their captivity in Babylon.
Read Ezra 1:1-11.
10) Which king decrees that the Israelites may$return to Jerusalem?
11) What were the people to build in Jerusalem?
12) What were the Israelites to be provided from other people living in their area?
13) How many articles of gold and silver did the Israelites collect?
If reading this passage quickly, one might overlook God's role in this situation, but let's not miss what God does here. In verse 1 we read that the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus, the king of Persia. Why did God do this? He was fulfilling His own words spoken through the prophet Jeremiah. We read this last week (Jer. 25:11-12). God was keeping His promise and to do so He moved or stirred the king's heart so that the king would act on the behalf of the Israelites.
King Cyrus decreed that God's people could return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. But he also instructed other people, their neighbors, to give them gold and silver and other goods to assist with the construction process.
Then in verse 5 again we see God moving. He moves in the hearts of His people to get them to go back to Jerusalem. The Israelites and King Cyrus were not acting merely out of their own desires and dreams, but God moved in their hearts so that they would do His will. There is not a formula which explains exactly how God moves in the hearts of His people. I don't know exactly how He does this because I'm sure it is as different as people are different. God doesn't work inside a box. Some might expect God to reveal Himself in a big flash of lightning or a loud burst of thunder. But do you remember the story of Elijah? God chose to reveal Himself not in the wind, earthquake or fire, but in a gentle whisper. Our hearts must be tuned to God so that when He does quietly stir our hearts, we will hear Him and obey.
Because of God's initiation, people responded and the Israelites had more than enough to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. They gathered 5,400 articles of gold and silver not including other goods and livestock. We see in chapter 2 just how many people returned to Jerusalem.
Read Ezra 2:64-70.
5. How many people returned from exile?
6. What did they give upon their return?
7. What did they do next?
Upon the return of nearly over 40,000 Israelites to Jerusalem, a freewill offering was taken. We see that some of the heads of families gave on their own because they wanted to and more gold and silver was added to the treasury for the rebuilding of the temple. The building did not start right away as the people first settled into their own towns.
These few verses may not say much, but it shows me where the hearts of some of the people were. They were focused on God. Moving is not an easy task. It is expensive, let alone a move to a different country after a time when you were in captivity. Most people might want to hold on to all their money to ensure they had what they needed to get settled in. But we see here, that some of God's children understood that all that they had belonged to God anyway, so they gave freely to Him rather than store up treasures for themselves in their new homes.
Lately, it seems like we have been invited into so many nice homes that are so much bigger and better than ours, and as I've told my husband on several occasions, “I have the new home bug” now. But we know that now is not a good time for us to move, nor is a bigger, better house a good reason for us to move. This passage reminds me that I have been too concerned with storing up treasures here on earth. Not only my financial resources, but my thoughts and plans should be on storing up treasures in heaven. Maybe instead of looking at homes on the internet, I could spend time writing an encouraging note to a friend or doing more study in God's word. I know I need to be part of the “some” we see in verse 68 who gives to God first rather than to themselves.
Read Ezra 3:1-13.
8. What did the Israelites begin to build in the seventh month?
9. In spite of what obstacle did they continue to build the altar (verse 3)?
10. What did they begin to build in the second month of the second year?
11. What were the differing reactions of the people to seeing the completed foundation?
We see again the focus of the heart of God's people. The first thing they built was the altar. They didn't start with a beautiful building; they started with an altar so that they could bring their sacrifices and offerings before the Lord. Remember, this was before Jesus' death on the cross, so they needed the blood of an animal to atone for their sins. Their focus was not on the external things that looked nice, but on the most important thing, the altar, so that their relationship with God was right.
Did you catch what did not keep them from building the altar in verse 3? That's right, their fear. We see that “despite their fear” or their “terror” of the people around them, they continued not only building the altar but offering sacrifices. How often does our fear keep us from obeying God? I'm afraid to even count how many times my fear of people simply laughing at me or questioning me prohibits me from sharing what God's unfailing love has done in my life. The Israelites were in fear of their lives. They were afraid these people would kill them, yet they obeyed God.
They ultimately began building the temple in the second year after their return to their homeland and upon completing the foundation, they praised God for His love that endures forever. In other words they praised God for His unfailing love.
What is one practical way you can store up treasure in heaven today rather than treasure on earth? Focus on God's unfailing love, not your fear, and do it.
How nice it must have been for things to seem to be returning to normal for the Israelites. They were back in their homeland and had settled into their own towns. They had rebuilt the altar of the temple and completed the foundation for the new temple in Jerusalem. They must have felt that things were finally going their way. Yes, they had opposition, but this was always something they had dealt with. They continued building the temple and living their lives in freedom. They would probably tell you that life was good. However, it’s often that when we’re on the mountaintop, living the good life, that we let our guard down and find ourselves quickly back in a hole somewhere.
Read Ezra 4:1-5.
1) What did the enemies of Judah offer to do?
2) Was their offer accepted? Why or why not?
3) What did the enemies then set out to do?
I am quickly becoming aware as I write this study that more often than not I am in a spiritual battle. The people of Judah were also in a spiritual battle. Their enemies had learned that they were rebuilding the temple of God and they were not happy about it. They were scheming to attempt to halt the process. Their first attempt to thwart the rebuilding was to infiltrate their enemy, the Israelites, as to somehow stop the work. I’m sure they seemed so kind when they offered to help with the work. After all, they said they believed in God too. Thankfully, Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, along with the people knew better and did not allow them to help. At first glance, this might seem rude to turn down help, but let’s read what God said about these people.
Read 2 Kings 17:32-34.
We see that these people did not truly worship God. They might have seemed to worship Him, but then they went off to worship their other gods. In verse 34 it is clear that ultimately they did not worship God nor follow His commands. How could they then build a temple to God if they did not believe in Him or follow Him? The people of Judah recognized the hypocrisy of their enemy and knew they had no place in the work of rebuilding, so their enemy had to move on to Plan B.
They “set out” to discourage the process. They even hired people to work against them. This would be like hiring building inspectors who keep rejecting the work or making up things that ultimately frustrate or defeat the building process. However, the people of Judah kept working. Plan C was then enacted.
Read Ezra 4:6-7,11-16.
4) When did the enemy send the letter?
5) What did they warn the king of in the letter?
The enemy is not dumb by any means. They took advantage of a new king and at the beginning of his reign they wrote him a letter. They warned him about these “rebellious” people who were rebuilding their city so that they could one day rebel against him.
Well, the king answered the letter by stating that the rebuilding of the city should stop. Notice a problem here? The letter and the king are talking about a city, but that is not what the people were rebuilding. They were rebuilding the temple, but the enemy twists and distorts the truth so that it is no longer the truth. The people of Judah thus believed the lie that they were to stop rebuilding the temple and they simply halted their work. As simple as that, they quit. No appeals made, no investigation into the how or why this was happening. They simply accepted the word of their enemy and did not rebut it. I wonder why they gave up so easily. Could it be they were tired of the work and wanted to go back to their own homes? Maybe they were just tired of fighting against the enemy, and it was easier to give up. Whatever the reason, they gave up for about ten years. Imagine the work just left there for that long without attempting to complete it.
Well, God had had enough. Ten years was too long for the people to sit back and let the temple sit unfinished, so He raised up two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, to exhort the people back to work.
Read Haggai 1:1-11.
6) What had the people been saying according to verse 2?
7) What had the people been doing instead of building the temple?
8) What had God done as a result of their disobedience?
In yesterday’s lesson we saw that the people were focused on building the temple. Their focus was on God rather than themselves, but oh how quickly that can change. We see here that they kept saying it was not the right time to continue with the rebuilding of the temple. Why did they keep using that excuse? They were too busy building their own homes to take time for God’s house. They were investing all their time, money and energy into their own homes while God’s house lied in ruins. Sound familiar? We too often invest all of our time, money and energy into building our own little kingdoms rather than building God’s kingdom. As one of my favorite songs says, “How can I further Your kingdom, when I’m so wrapped up in mine?”
God’s people were being disobedient. They no longer were placing God first in their lives, so they suffered the consequences of their actions by God bringing a drought upon their land. I think they had become caught up in their blessings and lost sight of the One who was blessing them, so in order to get their focus back on Him, God had to take their blessings away.
The good news is that the people got the message and began the work of rebuilding the temple once again. But there is one more very important message that God had for them before they started.
Read Zechariah 4:6-10.
How did God say the work was to be done? Not by might, nor by power, but by His Spirit. Do you think this is why they got off track in the first place. They had been working under their own power and might and simply got tired of the work and fighting their enemies on their own.
You see we are not to go through life working under our own power. God is very clear in the book of Ephesians of how we are to operate.
Read Ephesians 6:10-18.
9) How are we to be strong?
10) Why do we need to do this?
It could not be any clearer. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but it is a spiritual battle against the spiritual forces of evil, the devil, who seeks to devour us like a lion. This is why we need to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. This is why the people of Judah needed to work in the Spirit of God and not their own might and power.
They did begin to do so, and we quickly see that God blessed them. They did face opposition again, but this time as we read in Ezra 5:5, God’s eye was on them. This implies “the attentive care that one exercises in behalf of the object of his concern” (net). God was fighting for them and using King Darius, who issued a decree that the rebuilding was to continue and that no one was to interfere with the process; the temple was completed.
Read Ezra 6:16, 22.
The people of Judah celebrated with joy because they understood that it was God who did the work. It was God who used King Darius to help them. They worked under God’s Spirit rather than their own power and were blessed to see the completion of the work on the temple. They again saw that nothing can stop God from accomplishing His plans.
What spiritual battles are you fighting today? Are you fighting under your own strength or in God’s mighty power?
As the mother of two preschoolers, there is a big focus on letters around our house. You know the alphabet kind, the type cookie monster loves to gobble down. Probably at this moment you would find some type of letter or paper with letters written on it in each room (most likely on the floor) of our house. So since my mind is already in that mode, I thought I would carry it into today’s study. The letter of the day is “P”. As we complete our study of the book of Ezra today, we will focus on words that start with the letter “P”.
Actually today is exciting because it is the first we read of the man Ezra. Let’s begin by finding out what kind of a man he is.
Read Ezra 7:1-10.
1) In what was Ezra well versed?
2) What had the King Artaxerxes of Persia given to Ezra?
3) To what had Ezra devoted himself?
Ezra sounds like a great man. He must have been for the king of Persia to grant him not only permission to leave Babylon, but whatever else Ezra asked for. Not only did Ezra know the law, God’s word, but he devoted himself to studying and obeying it as well as teaching the law to others. Ezra sounds like a man of integrity. His focus was on God.
Now to our first “P” word. Continue reading in verses 11 and 12 and see if you can find the “P” word that describes Ezra. Did you find it? Right, Priest. Ezra was a priest; he was even a direct descendant of Aaron the priest. Ezra was not just a priest in name, but as we will continue to see, he was completely devoted to and focused upon God.
The remainder of chapter seven details the letter King Artaxerxes gave to Ezra explaining all the gold and silver that was to be given to Ezra and his “brother Jews” and the freedom they had to travel to Jerusalem from Babylon. The kindness of the king to Ezra is apparent in the letter, but Ezra knows full well that the grace bestowed to him was not just a whim of the king, but it was from God Himself.
Read Ezra 7:27-28.
4) Who does Ezra praise for the king’s generosity?
5) Why does Ezra take courage for his trip to Jerusalem?
It is clear in Ezra’s response to the king’s letter, that his focus in on God. He gives God all the glory for his opportunity to go to Jerusalem. Ezra understands that all this is a direct result of God’s plan and blessing, not man’s plans or work. Ezra then says that he can take courage because he knows that God’s hand was on him. It is important for Ezra to take courage because this journey would not be easy.
The distance from Babylon to Jerusalem was about 900 miles, and this was done by good ol’ foot power. I hate to think of driving 900 miles, let alone walking. Remember it’s not just the walking either that is difficult. They do not have anywhere to stay, and they can’t count on a McDonalds being on every corner, so Ezra knew he had to trust in God during such a difficult journey.
Read Ezra 8:21-23, 31-36.
6) How did Ezra begin the journey?
7) Who protected Ezra and those traveling with him?
8) After resting for three days in Jerusalem, what did they do?
Ezra began the four month journey focusing on God through fasting and prayer, and once they safely arrived in Jerusalem, the focus was again on God through offering and sacrifices. All praise went to God for their protection. They arrived in Jerusalem with every article of gold and silver that they left Babylon with. God truly protected them from their enemies and bandits.
Upon their arrival in Jerusalem, Ezra encounters a problem. This is our next “P” word – problem. Let’s read on to find out what it is.
Read Ezra 9:1-2.
9) What had some of the people of Israel done?
10) Who led the way in this sin?
The problem is clear. The people of Israel, led by their leaders and officials, had intermarried with women from the clans of their enemies. This is truly sleeping with the enemy. We see why this is such a problem in verse 2. The people of Israel were a “holy” race. Remember we studied that holy meant set apart. However, God’s children could no longer be set apart if they were mingling in with their enemy. This is not a racial problem. It is a spiritual problem. If the people of Israel, who worshipped God, began marrying and having families with the enemy who worshipped other various gods, they would no longer be set apart or different. They would begin to do just as those around them did. We have already seen this proven true in other times in the past of the people of Israel, but it is clear that some of them had not learned anything from their prior mistakes.
This brings us to our next “P” word, Position. Upon hearing about the problem, note the position Ezra takes.
Read Ezra 9:3-15.
11) What is Ezra’s reaction upon hearing of the sin of the Israelites?
12) What did he do at the evening sacrifice?
13) Who did Ezra say had sinned?
Ezra is broken over the sin of the Israelites. He takes the position of mourning; he tears his tunic and pulls his hair. In verse 5, the original Hebrew word for self-abasement “refers to the self-abasement that accompanies religious sorrow and fasting” (NET). Ezra’s position is one of brokenness and sorrow over sin. This is something very foreign to us. The position we usually take on sin is one of rationalization. We rationalize or justify why we sinned; we try to explain it away and do not take it seriously. As we read earlier when studying David, we are to be broken and contrite over our sin. If we do not take the correct position or attitude regarding our sin, then we will not set out to avoid it the next time we are tempted.
Ezra then takes the position of prayer and pleads with God out of a broken and contrite heart. Notice the pronoun he continues to use in the prayer. He does not accuse the Israelites of sinning and keep pointing out that “they” had sinned, rather he uses the pronoun “we.” He says that “we have disregarded the commands” because he knows that even though he may not have intermarried like the others, ultimately he too is sinful and unrighteous and at the mercy of a holy God.
Because of the great example Ezra set for the people, they too confessed their sin.
Read Ezra 10:1-4, 11-12.
We finally see the punishment, or consequences, for their sin. After confession, action is needed and that is to separate ourselves from the sin that entangles us. For the Israelites who had intermarried, that meant they had to separate themselves from their wives. I’m sure this was not an easy task, but often the consequences of our sin are not fun to deal with; however, by experiencing the consequences we hopefully learn from the seriousness of our sin not to continue to give into that certain temptation.
What position do you take about your sin? Are you justifying your actions or are you truly broken by your sin, confessing it to the Lord and separating yourself from that sin?
As we ended our study in the book of Ezra yesterday, the people of Israel were repenting for their sin of intermarriage. Today we will check back in on them and see how they are doing as they continue to rebuild their nation. The book of Nehemiah is where we will get another glimpse into the lives of God’s people. When the book of Nehemiah begins, about 90 years have passed since the first group of exiles returned to Jerusalem from Babylon, and about 70 years have passed since Ezra was able to make his way to Jerusalem. A lot can happen in that amount of time as we will find out today.
Read Nehemiah 1:1-11.
1.) Who is Nehemiah?
2.) Nehemiah is notified of what problem in Jerusalem?
3.) What is Nehemiah’s reaction?
Once Nehemiah, cupbearer to the king in Babylon, heard that the walls in Jerusalem had been broken down and the gates had been burned, he sat down and wept. He then mourned, fasted and prayed to God. Does his reaction to a troubling situation remind you of someone else we have studied? Exactly, Ezra. Right off the bat we can see that Nehemiah has a heart for the Lord just as Ezra did. He is concerned about the sin of his people and also uses the pronoun “we” when referring to their sin. He does not blame the people in Jerusalem, but includes himself among those who have not obeyed the Lord.
The position of cupbearer is not one that we are too familiar with in our society with all our scientific advances. But back in this time, there was no other way to test the king’s food and drink to see if it was safe other than to let someone else try it first. This was Nehemiah’s role as cupbearer. He was trusted by the king and loyal to him, but ultimately Nehemiah was loyal to God, so he understands that he has the perfect opportunity to ask for the king’s assistance.
Read Nehemiah 2:1-9.
4.) How did Nehemiah feel about asking the king for help?
5.) What did he do at the moment right before he asked?
6.) Why did King Artaxerxes grant Nehemiah’s requests?
I wish I could have been there to see Nehemiah, despite his fear, ask the king for help. What a wise man Nehemiah was for praying for God’s help right before the moment he spoke. Too often I speak before praying and then my prayer comes later and ends up being something like “God, please help me undo the mess I just made with my own tongue.” We should all turn to God first to ask for his help. We know from James 1:5 that God gives us wisdom in the trial if we just ask for it.
Nehemiah is well aware that the king gave permission simply because God was in control. Nehemiah does not take credit because of his good relationship with the king or because of his eloquent request. And then he gets right to work delivering the letters, so he can begin his travel to Jerusalem. Remember his journey will be the same distance as Ezra’s, but he also has the blessing of army officers and cavalry traveling with him. Isn’t God good to provide for him that way?
Nehemiah then arrived in Jerusalem and inspected the walls and gates for himself. He had not told anyone why he was there and in wisdom wanted to make sure he knew the exact situation before he went before the people with a plan. He then proposes the rebuilding of the wall and gates to which the people agreed and began working on.
Almost as quickly as the rebuilding began, so did the opposition. Isn’t it often like that? We begin working for God, and it seems Satan is right there immediately discouraging us and tempting us to give up. I’ve experienced that just writing this study. However, God has given us everything we need to be victorious in His power. Let’s continue reading to see how Nehemiah relies on God’s wisdom and power for victory.
Read Nehemiah 4:1-23.
7.) What was the first thing Nehemiah did when the opposition began to speak up against the work?
8.) Upon discovering the plot of the enemy to attack, what was Nehemiah’s response?
9.) After the workers were tiring and the enemy had become more threatening, what did Nehemiah have the people do and what did he tell them?
We will all face opposition, trial or temptation throughout our lives, and Nehemiah’s example here is a good one to learn from, so let’s look closely at what he does. The first thing Nehemiah does upon hearing of the enemy’s plan was to pray to God. He asks for God’s involvement in the situation. He prays specifically for God to turn the insults around and give the enemy over to their own sin. All too often prayer is not the first action we take. We might seek the advice or involvement of our spouse, our friend, our neighbor rather than going first to God and seeking His help in the matter.
After Nehemiah prays, then he gets right back to work, and we see in verse 6 that they had already completed half of the wall. Notice that Nehemiah prayed and then continued doing the work God had already commanded him to complete. Sometimes after praying for God’s help, we are tempted just to sit back and wait for Him to do all the work. We might not take any action for ourselves. However, we are still to obey God and continue following Him after we pray for His help.
As you continued reading this chapter, did you notice a pattern? Nehemiah prayed first and then continued the work. Prayer and action. This is the pattern that we should follow. When Nehemiah prayed first, he sought God’s wisdom. We know from James 2:14-17 that whenever we truly seek God’s wisdom in our current trial or situation, He will give us the wisdom we need. We clearly see that here for Nehemiah. Nehemiah, through God’s wisdom, enacted new defensive strategies such as posting guards by family along the wall as they worked. Then he broke up the workers in half; half of the men were to continue building, and the other half were to stand guard with swords and spears. Nehemiah also made it clear that while they were enacting these new plans, that it was really God who was the great and awesome one, and it was He who was fighting for them.
Okay, so you might be thinking “that’s a nice story, but I won’t be building a wall with spear in hand anytime soon.” What will you be doing? What trials do you often face or are you struggling with right now? Let’s say that you are struggling with the sin of outbursts of anger. First, you should pray and ask God for his help and wisdom in the trial. Focused on Him, you should remember that you have the power of His Holy Spirit living within you. He’s right there to help you overcome. Then you should, with God’s help, make a plan of action. A great place to start is in God’s word. Look up verses that relate to anger and find one or two to memorize. You might make a plan that each time you are tempted to lash out in anger, you will stop and say the verse to yourself or even aloud if you can several times and then you are already moving your focus off yourself and your anger, and onto God and His truth for you.
I don’t know what you are struggling with, but I know that if there is not something at this moment that comes to mind probably by the end of the week, or even today, there will be something you battle. I’m right there with you. Let’s follow the example of Nehemiah and pray first and then act within God’s will.
Identify something you are struggling with, pray about it and then see what God’s word says you should do. Write out a plan of action and carry it out the next time you are tempted.
Nehemiah and the people of Israel continued to face opposition as they rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem. They continued to rely on God as they battled their enemy and continued in obeying God as they worked on the wall. Today we are blessed to read of the completion of the wall.
Read Nehemiah 6:1-16.
1.) How did the enemy attempt to get Nehemiah to stop working on the wall?
2.) In verse 9 what did Nehemiah pray for God to do?
3.) Who were the two “ring-leaders” of the opposition?
4.) How many days did it take to complete the wall?
5.) What was their enemies’ reaction when they heard the wall was finished?
Tobiah and Sanballat, leaders of the opposition, tried time after time to get Nehemiah to come down from the wall. They wanted to kill him. The enemy was getting desperate as they saw the wall becoming higher and higher. However, Nehemiah remained focused on God and relied on God’s power to strengthen his hands so that the task would be completed. Nehemiah checked all that he heard against God’s word. Even the plan about going to the temple might have sounded good for a moment because the temple was not a bad place to go, but Nehemiah knew that it was not where God wanted him. God wanted him to continue the work.
I’m sure this task seemed long and arduous for the people of Israel. It may have felt like it lasted a long time as their bodies and hands grew tired, but finishing in fifty-two days is very impressive. Their enemies were stunned and afraid, and it was even clear to them that it was only with God’s power that the wall was rebuilt. God again received the glory. In His wonderful plan, this struggle was used to show His power and might. What might have seemed hard and bad at the time, was achieving a far greater purpose of bringing praise and glory to God. You know, He does the same for us. God uses the hard situations, the trials of our lives, to draw us near to Him and conform us to the likeness of His son (Ro. 8:28-29).
Changing gears for a moment. Do you remember what the sin was that the Israelites committed before Ezra came to Jerusalem? The sin of intermarriage, right. We went into a little bit of why this sin was dangerous for the Israelites. Today we get to see that played out in Scripture.
Read Nehemiah 6:17-19.
6.) Who did the nobles in Judah continue to communicate with?
7.) Why were many under oath to Tobiah?
8.) What did the nobles tell Nehemiah about Tobiah?
9.) What type of letters did Tobiah send Nehemiah?
We’ve read a lot about Tobiah. He was very busy scheming and planning how to thwart the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Tobiah, as we see in these verses, had friends in high places in Judah. How could these “noble” men be friends with Tobiah, who is opposing them? Verse 18 holds the answer. He was married to an Israelite woman and so was his son. Two women from the tribe of Judah had chosen to intermarry with two men from the tribe of their enemy and now the enemy was right in their midst. There was no getting rid of him in their eyes because he was family now. They even went so far as to continue to tell Nehemiah of what a great guy Tobiah was. All the while Tobiah is sending letters to intimidate Nehemiah.
This is a clear example of why God gives us His commands. He doesn’t command us to do or not do certain things because He is some detached God who just likes to order us around. He gives us His commands because they are what is best for us. His commands protect us from evil. Had the people of Israel not intermarried, they would have been protected from the infiltration of the enemy. God’s commands are part of His unfailing love for us. Yet we often look at His commands as just a list of do’s and don’ts that keep us from having fun. Rather, they are part of His love letter to us. They keep us from experiencing trials and situations that might harm us. We might miss out on maybe an hour or two of what seems fun at the moment, but we also don’t have to experience the weeks, months and even years of hard consequences that follow that short time of “fun” that God warned us not to partake of.
So if God’s commands are so good for us, how do we know what they are? Well, you’re doing it right now – studying His word. God has given His word, Scripture, to instruct us, so it is to our benefit to read it, know it and then live it. The people of Judah did not have the blessing of a Bible on the shelf. In fact, many of them did not know how to read. That is why God commanded them in Deuteronomy 6:7 to talk about them with their kids as they walked along from place to place and sat at home. Even though we now have the blessing of learning to read, we still should follow this command. My two year old son cannot read a Bible, so I make it a point to tell him a Bible story each day as I lay with him at rest time, and in that story I point out how God showed His love or protection to the character in that story just like he loves my son. And when he does learn to read, I plan to still talk about God’s word. Talking about God should just be natural. If He is on our mind, He will come out in our words.
The people of Judah, however, must have not been obeying God’s command because they did not know God’s word any longer. As the book of Nehemiah continues, Ezra comes back in the picture as he reads the Book of the Law of Moses to the people. They listened attentively (Neh. 8:3) to what Ezra read, and as they learned of new commands that God had given them, they carried them out.
Read Nehemiah 8:13-17, 9:1-4.
10.)From their reading of the law, what did they learn God had commanded?
11.)What did they do as a result of what they had learned?
12.)On the 24th day of the month what did they do?
The Israelites here are a great example for us to follow. They read God’s word, they learned from it and they obeyed it. They would learn something new and then carry it out. Whatever they had learned that day in their reading, they would do it. They wouldn’t just continue on living as they were without making any changes. It should be the same way with us. We cannot read our Bible or do our Bible study for today and then just go on with living the same way without making any changes. If you were to look in the mirror and notice a piece of food on your front tooth, would you just walk away from the mirror and not take the piece of food off your tooth?
Read James 1:22-25.
God’s word is active and living. It is designed to change our lives. God has given us His word and His commands because He loves us with an unfailing love. May we read His word and allow it to change us so that our reflection looks more and more like His Son, Jesus Christ.
Memorize James 1:22, 25.
As you have time today read Nehemiah chapter 9 and praise God along with the people of Israel for His great compassion and covenant of love.
When God first gave me the idea for this study, I went through the Bible looking up the verses that included the words “unfailing love.” I found that only in the New Living Translation were these words used in the New Testament and that they were only used twice and that is in the book of John. There is so much emphasis on God’s unfailing love in the Old Testament, yet really no use of the term in the New Testament. I found this very interesting and continued my study. The more I studied the more I realized why the term “unfailing love” was not used in the New Testament. It was replaced by another word. Let’s see if you can find the new word.
Read John 1: 14, 17.
1.) What was Jesus (the Word) full of?
2) What came through Jesus Christ?
What is the new word? Right, grace. In the New Living Translation they still use the words “unfailing love.” Verse 17 reads “For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ.” This is why we don’t read the words “unfailing love” in the New Testament because God’s unfailing love now had flesh and was called Jesus. Jesus is God’s gift of unfailing love to you and me. God gave His Son for us and we call that grace. Grace simply means that God has given us what we did not deserve. We don’t deserve Jesus; we don’t deserve God’s unfailing love, but He still gives it to us.
So we see that there is a switch in terminology between the Old and New Testaments, but why is this necessary? Let’s think back to Nehemiah. We left Nehemiah and the people of Israel just as they were rediscovering God’s law that had been passed down from Moses. The people were learning commands from God that they had not heard before, and they made an oath to God that they would follow all His commands. They started off well, but then guess what happened? They fell right back into the pattern of disobeying God. They started intermarrying again, worshipping other gods and before long they were right back where they started.
This is the same pattern we have seen them fall into throughout this study. They would obey and then slowly fall down the slippery slope of disobedience. Why did they continue to repeat this pattern? Because they were sinful people, just like you and me. We too fall into the same pattern of sin. We try and try in our own strength to be good enough and we never are. God gave the Israelites His law through Moses to show them that they could not do it on their own. Bruce Shelley explains this very well, “The law of God was given for a time to convince men of their inability to fulfill the will of God and to leave them with no option except to embrace the good news of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection” (20). Shelley points out that “the institutions of Jewish life, the law and the temple, were temporary. God intended them to point beyond themselves to the coming Messiah, who would fulfill all righteousness for all people. The old Testament’s central purpose was to promise the Messiah” (14). God knew that His children could not ever be good enough. So even while He loved them in the midst of their sinful ways, He always had in the works a better way. They just needed to see that they needed it.
This is what we find in the gospel of John. We read of Jesus Christ – the only way to God, unfailing love in the flesh.
Read John 20:31.
3) What is John’s reason for writing this book?
4) What is gained by believing in Jesus Christ?
The entire book of John is written so that the reader would believe that Jesus is the Son of God and in doing so John says only then will you have life. This is what the Israelites were missing; they were missing life. They were going through the motions of the law, but they were not experiencing the abundant life that God had designed for them.
Now let’s jump into the book of John so that we too may truly believe in Jesus Christ and also experience abundant life through Him.
Read John 1:1-13.
5) Who was with God in the beginning?
6) Who was a witness to the light?
7) Did the world recognize the Light?
8) Who has the right to become children of God?
This passage can be a little confusing, but let’s tackle it anyway. John describes Jesus as “the Word.” Before Christ came, God’s people only heard God’s word and His commands through the prophets. Now God will give His Word directly to them. He will no longer need to use a prophet, for He will be speaking to them in the flesh. John is stating that Jesus is God, and now He is the Word to which they are to listen.
Some people thought that John the Baptist was the promised Messiah, but the writer John makes it very clear that John the Baptist was only a witness to the light, which is Christ. John then compares Jesus to a light; He is the true Light. Yet the world did not recognize that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah that had been promised in the Old Testament. The Jews knew that God had promised them a better way, a Savior. However, they had their own idea of what this Savior would look like and what He would do for them. They thought He would be a king that would give them freedom from all their enemies. Christ is the King of Kings, but He came to give us an even better freedom, freedom from our sin.
Notice now in verse 12 who has the right to become children of God. It is no longer just the Jew, but anyone, or “all”, who receive Jesus and believe in His name have the right to become children of God. No longer was God’s unfailing love reserved only for the Jews, but God extended His love to all of us who accept it. What a marvelous gift!
Read John 1:14-18.
9) What did the Word become and where did He dwell?
10) Who made God known?
John then explains that the Word, God, became flesh and lived among men and He was full of grace and truth. And although no one had ever seen God, God made Himself known to us by giving us Christ.
We have seen God’s unfailing love displayed in His relationship with the Israelites, now in this chapter on John, we will see God’s unfailing love in flesh. I am so excited to continue this study and especially these final two weeks with you. Let’s press on together as we marvel at God’s unfailing love.
Are you a witness to the Light as John the Baptist was? How brightly is the Light shining within your life?
Have you ever seen someone holding up a sign in the endzone of a football game that read “John 3:16”? You most likely know this verse by heart if you’ve been in church for any amount of time. John 3:16 is probably the most quoted verse of the Bible. It is used so often because it perfectly sums up the entire message of the Bible. Today we will be studying this verse, but before we start there, let’s start at the beginning of chapter three of John so that we understand the context of the verse.
Read John 3:1-9.
1.) What group does Nicodemus belong to?
2.) What did Nicodemus say that Jesus was?
3.) What does Jesus tell Nicodemus is necessary to go to heaven?
4.) Does Nicodemus understand what Jesus is talking about?
Nicodemus was a Pharisee and even a member of the Jewish ruling council. This means that he knew the scripture (the Old Testament) very well. He had either heard about Jesus performing miracles or had witnessed them for himself and came to Jesus at night to find out the truth about this man. Some theologians believe that Nicodemus came at night because he had to be secretive about meeting Jesus because of his position, or he might have come at night simply because that was the only time Jesus was not ministering to someone else. Regardless of the reason, it is clear that Nicodemus did not let the time of day deter him from talking with Jesus.
Nicodemus said that he knew that Jesus was a teacher from God. He does not say that Jesus was the Son of God, but just says that He was a “teacher.” Nicodemus also says that God must be “with” Jesus; he does not know that Jesus is God in flesh. This is why it is clear that Nicodemus does not understand who Jesus is and what He is offering Nicodemus. So when Jesus tells Nicodemus that the only way he can go to heaven is by being born again, it is no wonder Nicodemus has no idea what Jesus is talking about. He thinks Jesus is talking about physical birth, but Jesus is talking about spiritual birth in God or born of the Spirit.
Nicodemus must understand the truth. He must know that the only way to heaven is to “be born again.” The meaning of this is clarified further in the passage, but it is important to note what Nicodemus did think would get him into God’s kingdom. Nicodemus as mentioned earlier was a Pharisee. This means that he put all of his faith into the law. He believed that if you obeyed the law to every exact minute detail then you would go to heaven. He believed that if he was just “good enough” and didn’t break the law that he had nothing to worry about.
If you ask people today why someone should go to heaven, it is common to hear the same reply. A lot of people, even in churches, think that if they are good enough or do good works then they will go to heaven. But it is very clear in John 3:16 that good works are not the way to heaven; it is simply believing in who Jesus is and what He has done for you that you could not do on your own. Nicodemus thought he could do it on his own, so do a lot of other people. But Nicodemus did not really understand the Scriptures that he had attempted to live by.
Read Psalms 14:2-3.
God says in these verses that there is no one who is good. Compared to His holiness there is not one person who is good enough on his own goodness to go to heaven. Nicodemus either overlooked these Scriptures or more likely he thought they didn’t apply to him. Either way he did not understand the true meaning of the Scripture, yet as Jesus points out he was supposed to be a teacher to others.
Read John 3:10-15.
5.) What did Moses lift up in the desert?
6.) Who also must be lifted up?
We may not be familiar with this passage of Moses, but Nicodemus was, so we need to understand what Jesus was referring to before we move on. In Numbers chapter 21 we read that the Israelites are wandering through the desert after God rescued them from slavery in Egypt, and they begin to whine and complain. They question God why He would bring them out in the desert just to die because they think they don’t have bread, and they don’t like the food God has already miraculously provided for them. As a result, God sent poisonous snakes to attack them. The people then came to Moses and confessed their sin. In order to stop the attack and the deaths of others, God told Moses to make a snake and lift it up on a pole and all those people who looked at it would live.
This is exactly what happens to us. We are dying because of our sins, but God lifted up Jesus on a cross and all those who look to Jesus and only Jesus then they will have life, eternal life in heaven.
Read John 3:16-21.
7.) What did God not send Jesus to do?
8.) Why did God send Jesus to the world?
9.) What do people love instead of light?
Some people view Jesus and the Scripture as a message of condemnation. But God is very clear that He did not send Jesus to condemn the world, but to save the world. So what keeps people from believing in Jesus, receiving the “Light of the World?” They love the darkness more than the light. People love their sin. They are afraid of their sins being exposed. Some people even think they have done too many bad things for Jesus to love them. Did you read a disclaimer in verse 16 that read unless you do something really bad? I didn’t. My Bible says “whoever” believes in Jesus will have eternal life. There is no fine print excluding anyone.
I know my grandfather had a hard time realizing that no matter what he had done Jesus still died for him. He thought that he had to become good enough before God would accept him. Thankfully, he realized that “whoever” included him and he believed in Jesus and now is in heaven praising our Savior. I am so thankful that “whoever” includes you and me. We are all so unworthy of God’s unfailing love, His son Jesus Christ, yet God saved us from dying in our sin. Hallelujah, what a Savior!!
Thank God that “whoever” includes you. Praise Him for His unfailing love.
If you haven’t already believed in Jesus, “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead and you will be saved.” Tell someone in your Bible study or church if you did this today, so they can encourage you and celebrate with you. If you don’t have a church or a Bible study group, find a Bible believing church near you and share with someone there the decision you made. God designed for His children to walk together as we walk with Him.
Yesterday we read in John 3:16 that “whoever” believes in Jesus would have eternal life. Today we will continue in chapter 4 and see a woman who fits “whoever.” She might think that her past would disqualify her, but Jesus knows her past and still offers her the same thing He offers us - eternal life and His unfailing love.
Read John 4:1-6.
1.) Why did Jesus go through Samaria?
2.) Why did Jesus sit down by the well?
Before we get into the bulk of the story, it is important to note a couple of things. Verse 4 states that Jesus “had to go” through Samaria. This may seem like it is unimportant, but Jews never went through Samaria. The Samaritans descended from a mixed race of Jews; they were not fully Jewish, so the Jews avoided them completely and had nothing to do with them because they were not “pure.” Jews would even travel a much longer route to avoid setting foot in Samaria. Jesus was Jewish, yet His focus was on doing God’s will. He was not concerned about man’s opinion that is why He “had” to go through Samaria. He knew that it would bring glory to God if He ministered there to the woman at the well as well as many others.
It is sad to say, but if the story of my life was written down and the words “had to” were used, I think it would be more in the meaning of an obligation. Are we not sometimes like that? We “have to” go to church because we feel obligated not because our focus is on worshipping God. We “have to” minister to others because we feel obligated to sign up for something and look good instead of ministering to bring glory to God. Jesus was always focused on doing God’s will. He was not focused on Himself or what other people thought about Him.
Did Jesus become so focused on God that He ignored Himself completely? No, look in verse 6. It says that Jesus sat down because He was tired. Was it wrong for Jesus to rest because He was weary from the journey? No, He was taking care of His physical body and He was still ministering. It doesn’t have to be one way or the other. Christ is our example, and He shows us here that we can still rest and take care of our bodies and minister at the same time.
Read John 4:7-15.
3.) Who did Jesus ask for a drink?
4.) What did Jesus offer the woman?
5.) Why did the woman want the water Jesus was offering?
Jesus did an unspeakable thing in the eyes of many people in his day. He spoke to a Samaritan woman. She was not only a Samaritan, but a woman on top of that. She would have been ignored by the Jewish religious leaders, yet Jesus asked her for a drink. She was even shocked that He was speaking to her.
Jesus didn’t stop there. He offered to give her living water. Jesus was speaking of spiritual things, yet she, much like Nicodemus, did not understand what Jesus was talking about. She thought He was referring to physical water and thus didn’t understand His meaning. Again Jesus tried to explain to her that His water was different, but she still thought it was physical water that would keep her from having to return to the well.
Her focus was on earthly things while Jesus was trying to get her to see her spiritual needs. Jesus says that spiritually she can have a spring or fountain of water that wells up to eternal life. The original Greek word for fountain refers to the idea of an artesian well. An artesian well was one that was dug deep enough so that no pumping or work was required to get the water; it would naturally come up or well up due to the pressure. This is what Christ offers us, living water, eternal life, that we do not need to work to obtain.
Because this woman at the well still did not understand her spiritual need, Jesus had to draw her attention to it. Let’s read on to see how He did this.
Read John 4:16-26.
6.) Who did Jesus tell her to call?
7.) What did Jesus already know about her?
8.) What does the woman discuss with the man she thinks is a prophet (Jesus)?
9.) Who does Jesus tell her He is?
Jesus had to help this woman understand her need for salvation and His unfailing love. She had looked for love many times and lost. It even seems like she is giving up hope because after being married 5 times, she has not married the man she is currently living with. She is not abnormal. We all search for unfailing love. We typically expect our romantic relationships to give us unfailing love; however, no human relationship could ever give us unfailing love because people do fail us. Your spouse will not be able to comfort you perfectly, your kids will not always be there for you and will often disappoint you. There is no one who can truly give unfailing love except God.
This poor woman still does not get it. She says that Jesus must be a prophet and then proceeds to discuss the dispute regarding the true place to worship. Jesus is more concerned with who worships God, those who worship in Spirit and truth. He is concerned about the heart of the worship rather than the location of the house of worship. She then finally gets to the key issue at hand and says that she knows that the Messiah is coming. Jesus then tells her the wonderful news that He is right there with her.
The story doesn’t end here. The woman goes off and tells the people in her town about Jesus. She can’t keep the wonderful news to herself; she has to share the good news. Then the people come and hear for themselves the truth of Christ’s message.
This story is a wonderful example of how God offers us His unfailing love and how we should respond. Just like the Samaritan woman, we are the “whoever” who do not deserve God’s love because of our sin, “but God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Are you like the woman at the well sharing the good news of God’s unfailing love or are you keeping it to yourself?
The Samaritan woman that we studied yesterday quickly became a believer in Jesus. She was unlike many of the people during Jesus’ ministry, for most did not truly believe that He was the Messiah, the one who would save them from their sins. However, there were some who like the woman from Samaria, did believe that Jesus was the true Son of God. Jesus had a message for them. Let’s pick up in John chapter 8 to read His words.
Read John 8:31-36.
1.) Who does Jesus say is truly His disciple?
2.) What will His disciples experience when they know the truth?
3.) Who is a slave to sin?
4.) Who sets a person free from sin?
The first thing to notice in this passage is that Jesus is talking to those who believe that He is the Son of God, so if you are a believer then this passage applies to you and me as well. Jesus states that if you are really His disciple then you will hold to His teaching. What does this mean? It means to continue following or to abide in His word.
Abide is a word that John will refer to later in his gospel, so it’s important to understand the idea of abiding. We used to have a dog that taught me what abiding really meant. Max, our dog, loved to abide (or remain) in my presence. He would continually follow me. If I went to the kitchen to cook, he would lay at my feet. If I was sitting on the couch, he would sit beside me or at my feet. If I went to bed, he would want to lay right on top of my feet. He wanted to be where I was and followed me everywhere he could. If he was asleep and didn’t notice I had moved, he would, upon waking, immediately start looking for me. This is how we should be with Christ. Our life should be focused on our Lord. We should continually follow Him. How do we do this? By holding to His word, obeying what He tells us. That means we should live the way He instructs, not simply how we feel like living at the moment.
We don’t have time to go into all the specific lessons Jesus taught His disciples and those who believed in Him throughout His ministry, but we’ll look briefly at several important truths to live by that are recorded in the book of John. To make it easier to follow, we’ll use the acrostic “WORD.”
Read John 13:34-35.
5.) What is the new commandment Jesus gave?
6.) How will people know if we are a disciple of Christ?
Jesus is clear in His teaching that we are to love others; we are to Walk in love. We are to love others the way that He loved us. He loved us sacrificially all the way to the end. We too should love others sacrificially. We should make sacrifices for them not just when we want to, but all the time. In order to make these sacrifices that means we cannot be focused on ourselves; our focus must remain on bringing glory to God and doing so by demonstrating love to someone else even when it’s not convenient or easy for us to do.
Jesus also loved us first. We did not do anything to merit or deserve His love. We should also show this same love to others first. We don’t wait for someone to do something nice for us and then reciprocate. We love them even when we feel that they do not deserve our love. Jesus is very clear in His teaching elsewhere that we are to love our enemies, “do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Lk. 6:27).
Jesus then tells the disciples (back in John 13:35) that people will know that we love Him by how we love others. Does your waitress know you love Jesus by the way you show love to her? Do your neighbors know you love Jesus by the way you love them? More importantly, does your family (spouse, kids) know (is it evident) you love Jesus by the way you show love to (treat) them?
We are to Walk in His love. We are also to Obey because we love Him.
Read John 14:15, 21.
7.) If we love Christ, what will we do?
This is a great way to truly know if you do love the Lord. Are you obeying His commands? If you know what God has commanded, yet you choose not to obey Him, it might reveal that you truly do not love Him. We all slip up in sin sometimes, but if you are constantly choosing to disobey God’s commands, it is time for you to reevaluate if you really have a relationship with the Lord. Because if you truly love Jesus Christ, then you will obey Him.
Walk in His love. Obey because of love. Remain in His love.
Read John 15:4-5.
8.) How do we bear fruit?
9.) What can we do apart from the Lord?
It makes sense to us that if we cut a branch off the vine that it will no longer grow. It needs to be connected to or remain in the vine. Another word for remain is “reside.” It is evident to others that I reside in my house. My clothes are in the closet. I sleep in the bed here. I pull my car into this garage. I take care of this house and yard. It is clear that I reside at my house. It should be just as clear to others that I reside or remain in God. Why should we even attempt to do otherwise? We know that apart from Him, we can do nothing.
Finally, Don’t be troubled because His love wins!
Read John 16:33.
10.)Where do we find peace?
11.)What will we find in the world?
It is clear that we will find trouble and suffering in this world. We know that. But I think we forget that we also know the end of the story. Jesus has overcome the world. The victory is ours in Christ. Therefore, we don’t need to be troubled even though the world brings trouble because in Christ we have peace. That peace is only found in Him. It is not found in anything else, just Jesus.
Jesus’s message to us can be summed up in WORD:
Walk in His love
Obey because we love Him
Remain in His love
Don’t be troubled-His love wins!
If someone were to describe you, who or what would they say you love? Would they say you love your career, your car, even cats, etc.? Or would they simply say you love Jesus.
To be totally honest, I’ve been kind of dreading writing today’s lesson. I’ve been putting it off because I really do not know what to say.
We will read today about the ultimate example of God’s unfailing love – Jesus’ death on the cross. Actually, this is God’s unfailing love. This was God’s aim, His plan all along. All other times He has shown us His unfailing love, they have been glimpses of what He did for us on the cross.
Because of the importance of the cross and the tremendous love and pain and sacrifice involved, I don’t want to mess it up with my words or explanation. God again was good and showed me that I wasn’t supposed to say anything. He already said it all.
Yet I think everyone knows this story; what else could I say that they don’t already know. But God doesn’t want us to know the story just in our heads, He wants us to know it in our hearts. So, my prayer is simply that in reading today’s passage that you would not just skim or speed read to get it done and check off your list that you completed today’s lesson. But I pray that you would take your time and read with new eyes, read with a sensitive heart to the amazing, wonderful thing Christ did for us on the cross.
Read John 19:1-37 and Isaiah 53:1-12.
If you know this song or another song of praise for God’s unfailing love and Christ’s sacrifice at the cross, sing it out to the Lord.
When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it Lord that I should boast, save in the death of Christ my God;
All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.
See from His head, His hands, His feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown.
Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.
For most of my life I have always loved the words and promises in Romans chapter 8. In studying and writing this study I understand why. This chapter in Romans holds great truth, which applies to believers. These great truths apply because of God’s unfailing love displayed on the cross.
At the end of last week, we spent time meditating and dwelling on what Christ did for us on the cross. We learned that John wrote his gospel so that we would believe in Christ and how He was God’s unfailing love in the flesh. Only if we believe in Christ and in His unfailing love can we then experience and enjoy the promises in Romans 8. Let’s jump into God’s word and see what is ours because of love.
Read Romans 8:1.
1.) What is the first word in this verse?
Therefore. It’s just one word, but it’s an important one. Dictionary.com says that the word “therefore” is an adverb that means “as a result” and is used to introduce a statement resulting from, or caused by, what immediately precedes it. So, it is important before we move on that we understand what Paul has stated before chapter 8 because what he is about to say is a result of what he has already made clear earlier in the book of Romans.
Paul, much like a lawyer would, makes a case for the need for salvation or God’s unfailing love displayed on the cross in the beginning chapters of Romans. He begins with the problem of sin.
Read Romans 1:18-23, 28-32.
1.) What is God’s wrath against?
2.) Do men have an excuse? Why or why not?
3.) In verse 22 what did people claim to be and what did they become?
4.) In verse 28, what does it say God did as a result of their actions?
The downward pattern of our sin is evident in this passage and although for the sake of time we did not read it all, let’s see what God’s truth says about our sin. God’s wrath is being revealed against the wickedness of man (including you and me). We read here that we do not have an excuse to say that we did not know any better because God has made His eternal power and divine nature clear or plain to us through creation.
But in verse 21, we see that although they knew about God, they didn’t give Him glory or thanks. They begin going down the slippery slope of sin. Their thinking was futile; their hearts were darkened. And rather than worshipping God they worshipped themselves and animals. We may not be able to identify with the worship of animals, but we certainly understand worshipping ourselves, or placing ourselves and our wants and desires above anyone or anything else. That is foolishness even though we claim to be wise.
The passage goes on to describe how as a result of their sinful attitudes and actions, God gave them over to their sin and we see in verse 28 that He gave them over to a depraved mind “to do what ought not to be done.” Verses 29-32 describe this and also describe our society today.
Just in case we begin to think that we’re not this bad, we are set straight.
Read Romans 3:9-18, 23.
5.) Are we any better?
6.) Who is righteous?
7.) Who does good?
8.) What do we fall short of?
We are not any better. None of us seeks God or understands God on our own. Not one of us is righteous on our own. We are sinful, but God is set apart. Remember earlier in the study when we saw that holy really means set apart. God is set apart. He is not sinful like all of us. He cannot stand sin where we tend to seek it out. So we have a problem.
The sin problem is about to get bigger. How so? The law. God then gives us His law. We saw earlier in the study how impossible it was for the Israelites to obey all of God’s commands. So what is the point of God giving us the law?
Read Romans 3:20.
No one can keep all of God’s commands and become righteous. The law in fact reveals our sin more. Now we’re in a heap of trouble, and we need saving fast. What do we need saving from? Death. The consequence of sin is condemnation and death. Romans 6:23 states that the wages (payment) of sin is death. We needed saving. Isn’t it wonderful that this verse does not end right there. It goes on to say that the “gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We have had a lot of rain recently in Texas, and the flooding has been severe in many areas. There have been numerous high water rescues. Once tranquil, beautiful creeks have become raging rivers and many people have become trapped or swept away by the water. Some have found a limb or branch to cling on to. But what they really need is someone to save them, to lift them out of the water.
You and I (before Christ) were trapped in and being swept away by our sin. We tried in our own power to hold on to something to keep us afloat, but we needed someone to lift us up out of impending death. Jesus does just that. He lifts us up with His mighty nail-pierced hands out of our sin and carries us to the high, dry ground where God is waiting for us.
Read Romans 8:1-3.
This is the best news. Because of love, there is no condemnation. We are not condemned to death, but we have eternal life. We are not condemned to drown in our sins, but we have life and safety in Christ. Our sin was condemned on the cross. It was left there. It does not need to follow us around anymore. We have been set free from sin and death. Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Are you still trying to struggle by yourself to stay afloat? Allow Jesus to lift you up and set you free.
If you’re a believer, does your life and attitude reflect that of someone who has been set free from death, or are you still moping around like a condemned person?
Yankees vs. Red Sox. Cowboys vs. Eagles. Texas vs. OU. All of these are famous rivalries in sports. Each year you can (hopefully) count on a battle on the field to decide who has bragging rights until the next meeting between opponents. Did you know that we as believers in Christ are also involved in a battle. Our field is life and the battle happens every day. The rivalry is between flesh and the spirit.
Paul describes this battle perfectly in chapter 7 of Romans.
Read Romans 7: 15, 18-20.
1.) What does Paul not understand? Why not?
2.) Does anything good live in Paul’s flesh?
3.) What can Paul not carry out?
I cannot count how many times I’ve quoted this passage to myself because it seems that I am often in the exact same situation. I have done the very thing I just told myself I wasn’t going to do. With writing this study, for example, I have told myself over and over I need to just sit down and write, but I end up on the computer reading the news or community forum. The good, or the best thing, I could have done with my time I have not done. Even though I wanted to do it, I let my sinful nature, or flesh, control me rather than allowing God’s Holy Spirit to control me.
This is exactly what we’ll be studying today. Who is in control? Is it our sinful nature or the Holy Spirit? Let’s continue reading in Romans chapter 8 to see who should be in control and why.
Read Romans 8:3-4.
4.) Why was the law powerless to work in us?
5.) What did God do to help us?
6.) What is now condemned?
Do you remember that in the last lesson we learned that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus? Well, then here is the word condemned. Notice that it is not we who are condemned, but it is the sin in us that is condemned. Jesus took our sin upon Himself. Paul describes the result in Romans 6:6, “For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” The sin in us was condemned and it no longer masters or controls us. However, we often allow the sin to regain control and take a foothold again.
Yet, it is possible to live according to the righteous requirements of the law. That means that it is possible to do the good things we know that we are supposed to do. How you ask? By living according to the Holy Spirit and not according to our sinful nature. So, then how are we to do this? What does it look like to live according to the Holy Spirit? Let’s keep reading to find out.
Read Romans 8:5.
7.) Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what?
8.) Those who are in accordance with the Spirit have their mind set on what?
Before we move on let’s make sure we understand all the terms being used here. The NIV uses the word “live.” The more accurate word is “are.” That means that those who are according to the sinful nature are those who are not saved; they are not believers. Those who “are” in accordance with the Spirit are those who are saved by faith in Jesus Christ.
The term “mind set” is just that, a mindset or way of thinking; this is not simply referring to what preoccupies their thoughts, but an overall worldview. Those who are not believers have a different mindset than those who are believers. Those who are not saved have a worldview that revolves around them and what makes them happy and fulfills their desires. Those who are saved have a worldview that is centered on God, what pleases Him and what He desires for their lives. Sometimes we fail to see that lived out in some believers, but this should be the case for all true believers in Christ.
This verse sums up the difference between believers and non-believers very well. Hopefully, it is clear which camp you live in. It should be clear to those around you as well. People should know, as they see us live out our lives, that we, as Christians, are seeking to please God and fulfill His desires rather than pleasing ourselves and striving to satisfy our own selfish desires.
Paul continues to point out the differences between those who are in the sinful nature and those who are in the Spirit.
Read Romans 8:6-11.
9.) What brings death and is hostile to God?
10.)What is life and peace?
11.)As a believer, who controls us?
As Christians, we are controlled by the Spirit. Our body is dead to sin, yet our spirit is alive to righteousness. What wonderful news to know who is in control. The creator of the universe has placed His Spirit in us to guide us, yet we often go off on our own tangents.
My husband enjoys watching the travel channel and although I wouldn’t normally pick the same programs, I do often learn from them. In one show about cruise ships they explained how the captain of the cruise ship controls the massive boat. He uses the latest computer equipment and many other high-tech gadgets (I guess I didn’t learn all that much.) I have to admit the one time I went on a cruise, I didn’t give even the slightest thought to who was controlling the boat and how they were doing so. But let’s say that if on my next cruise, I decided that since I’ve done this cruising thing once before I am capable of controlling the ship and break into the control room and take over control of the boat. The idea is absurd. I would not only be totally confused and lost, but I would probably wreck the ship and hurt others in the process.
That is how absurd it is to think that we can take over control of our lives, instead of giving that control over to God and allowing His Holy Spirit to guide us. It is sad how many lives have been wrecked because someone took over control of his life instead of just leaving it in God’s hands.
Read Romans 8:12-13.
12.)In these verses, to what are we not obligated?
13.)How will we live?
You and I must put to death the deeds of the body. We must stop doing those things that our flesh desires. Our flesh has no control over us anyway. We just give the old excuse that we can’t control ourselves, but our flesh has no control over us. We have died to our flesh. It is the Spirit of Almighty God that lives in us. Let us act that way!
Is it clear to others who is in control of your life? If there is some part of your life that you have been holding on to, ask God for forgiveness and allow Him to take over.
If you happen to watch entertainment news, or even glance at the covers of those magazines in the grocery store checkout line, then you probably have seen the popularity of adopting kids from other countries. Every week it seems as if another actor or musician is adopting a child from a third-world country. I saw a cartoon the other day parodying the benefits these children will now enjoy because they have been adopted by the rich and famous. Yes, these children will lead much more privileged lives as a son or daughter of Mr. or Mrs. Hollywood.
Did you know that as a believer you have been adopted by the King of Kings (that is much bigger than Mr. or Mrs. Hollywood, by the way)? Let’s read about our adoption process.
Read Romans 8:14-17.
1.) Who are considered “sons of God”?
2.) What kind of spirit did you not receive?
3.) Who bears witness that we are God’s children?
4.) Who are we heirs of, and who are we co-heirs with?
If you are led by the Spirit of God, you are a child of God. God has adopted you. He is your Daddy, so you call Him Abba, Father. There is no more need for you to fall back into slavery to sin or fear, for He has set you free.
The Greek word that Paul uses for adoption is one that implies adoption as a son with full rights of inheritance. We are heirs of God. We are co-heirs with Christ. That is too much for us to comprehend in its entirety. As adopted children of God, we have inherited many tremendous blessings too numerous to count. In this passage we are able to see just a few of the blessings we have as adopted children of God.
Read Romans 8:18-25.
5.) What are the sufferings of this time not worth comparing to?
6.) What is creation experiencing now and waiting upon?
7.) What do we wait eagerly for?
You might be thinking, “Wait a minute. I thought we were talking about blessings, but these verses are talking about suffering.” You are correct. We see that as children of God we will suffer along with God’s creation. So where is the blessing in that? HOPE. We endure suffering with the hope that there is something better coming. This is unfailing love that although our circumstances might be failing us, God has something better planned for us in heaven.
In the midst of suffering, we are to be hopeful. We should be eagerly waiting for the redemption of our bodies. It is very clear in verse 24 that “in this hope we were saved.” Even though we do not see the glory that is awaiting us, we hope for it. We might only be able to see the mess and the stress around us, but there is a much better joy of finally being with Jesus. Creation even longs for the day when it is set free from its bondage and decay. How much more are we longing for our heavenly bodies that are set free from pain and suffering? We hope for this.
Look in verse 25 again. How should we be waiting for our hope to be realized? We should be waiting with patience, with endurance, with perseverance. Perseverance was our vocabulary word in school this week. We learned that we are to “keep on, keepin’ on”. The children of God are to keep on keeping on because we know we are living for an eternal reward that awaits us in heaven.
Read Romans 8:26-27.
8.) Who helps us in our weakness?
9.) What does the Spirit do for us?
Not only do we have hope, but we also have help. God has given us the Holy Spirit. The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We will surely find times of weakness in the midst of suffering, and God graciously grants us His Spirit who intercedes for us.
Have you ever been in such a hard situation that you do not even know what to begin to pray for? The Spirit is already interceding for you. The most important point here is that the Spirit is interceding for you according to the will of God. We may not know God’s will, so we do not know exactly what to pray for, but the Spirit does. And because the Spirit’s intercession is according to God’s will that means that God will listen and respond.
This leads us to another blessing that “we know” that God’s plan is good.
Read Romans 28:28-30.
10.)For those who love God, what things work together for good?
11.)To whose purpose have we been called?
12.)Whose image are we being conformed to?
Back in chapter one, I mentioned that a second title of this study could be “It’s not about me.” The fact that this life is not about our purpose, rather it is about His purpose, His plan, is a tremendous blessing of being a child of God. We can rest and know that He is working things out for our good. What is our good? It is not to get what we want. Our good is His purpose. Our good is being conformed to the image of His Son. Our good is that God has called us. Our good is that God has justified us. Our good is that God will glorify us.
It is God’s plan that has been at work throughout time. It is His purpose that we have seen working out for the good of His children throughout this study. His desire is not that we are happy go-lucky skipping easily through life. His purpose for us in all things is that we become more like Christ. In every situation of life, every circumstance, through suffering, through joy, God’s plan is that we reflect Him. That is good.
Some read Romans 8:28 and assume that good is what they want. We are sinful, selfish people. Our good would probably hurt people and only help us for a moment. Good is what God wants. His good plan has our eternal life in mind, not just our temporary situation. His plan is to glorify us in heaven not give us an easy life on earth.
In His unfailing love, God has given His children hope for the future, help through His Spirit in the present, and confidence while we know that His purpose is being worked out in all things in our lives.
Praise God that you are His adopted child and a co-heir with Christ. Praise Him for your hope, your help and His purpose for your life.
When you want to find something out, you probably ask a question. If you are lost, you ask someone if they will help you find your way. If you want to find out how someone is feeling, you ask them how they are doing. If you want to find out if someone understands what you just explained, you ask them a question and see if they can answer it.
Paul wants to make sure we understand the enormity of all that he has explained thus far in his letter to the Romans. He wants to know that we understand God’s love for us, and all that we have because of God’s unfailing love. So Paul asks a series of questions to get us to think about the depth and riches of God’s love in Christ. First, we’ll look at these verses together and then we’ll examine each individual verse.
Read Romans 8:31-37.
List the 7 questions Paul asks in these verses.
Question #1 – What shall we say to these things? Verse 31a
To what “things” is Paul referring? He is referring to those blessings that we have as children of God. Remember we have hope, the Holy Spirit and His purpose being worked out in our lives. We are co-heirs with Christ. So what then is our response? Do we continue living a defeated life, or are we living the victorious, abundant life that God has designed for us to live?
Question #2 – If God is for us, who can be against us? Verse 31b
The Greek word for “if” doesn’t mean that it is merely a possibility as we use the word “if,” but it means that it is certain. Therefore, a good translation is “Since God is for us, who can be against us?” It is hard for us to comprehend that statement that God is for us. My daughter has just started playing soccer. It is so cute to see these little 4-5 year old girls running around on the field chasing the ball. We cheer for both teams, but it is obvious who we are really “for.” My husband and I call out our daughter’s name, cheering for her, encouraging her, motivating her. That is just a glimpse of how God in three persons is for us. Christ and the Holy Spirit are interceding for us before the throne of God. God, our creator, is conforming us to the image of His Son. The best thing God did for us is found in the next verse.
Question #3 – He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will he not also with Him graciously give us all things? Verse 32
God gave His own Son for us. Will He then hold back something that is good for us? Some people might read the words “all things” and pull out their long list of wants and expect it to appear right before their eyes. But don’t forget the rest of Scripture we have been studying. “All things” isn’t our wants, it is what is best for us. It is what Peter is referring to in 2 Peter 1:3 when he states that God in “His divine power has granted to us all things that we need for life and godliness.”
Question #4 – Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? Verse 33
This is the first question for which Paul provides an answer. But before we get to that, let’s make sure we understand the question. The word charge here is from the Greek word “enkaleo” which means accusation or to call something against someone. The devil is referred to as the accuser in Revelations 12:10. He wants to accuse us so that we do not feel secure in Christ, for if we are not sure of our security in Christ then the chances are greater that we might stop walking with Christ. However, it is very clear here in Romans that although Satan or someone else for that matter might bring up some charge against you to make you doubt your salvation, it is God who justifies.
Earlier in chapter three of Romans, Paul explained that God justified us “freely.” The righteousness that God gives us is “through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Ro. 3:22-23). There is nothing we could do to earn our salvation, similarly there is nothing we can do to forfeit our salvation. We are secure in Christ.
Question #5 – Who is he that condemns? Verse 34
This question is along the same lines as the previous question. As a believer in Christ, we should never feel condemned. If we have sinned, we are to repent and get back in step with the Spirit. Satan wants us to feel condemned; however, because then we will not be walking with the Spirit because we are stuck in the mud of our self-condemnation.
The answer to this question is wonderful news. Christ Jesus is not condemning us, rather He is at the right hand of God interceding for us. He took our sins upon Himself and He is covering all of our sins with His blood, so that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
Question #6 – Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Verse 35a
Is there anyone that can separate us from Christ’s unfailing love? Sometimes we may feel that someone in our past stands in the way of Christ loving us completely. This is not the case. We might think that a current relationship with someone or even lack of relationship with someone is preventing God from loving us, but “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
No one can separate us from Christ’s love.
Question #7 – Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? Verse 35b
Obviously the trials listed in this question are understandably serious and severe, so I will not explain them here. Rather let’s look at the quote in verse 36; it is from Psalm 44:22. In this psalm, the writer acknowledges that God is the source of their victory, but then questions why they are suffering defeat even though they had not forgotten God or strayed from His path. They are just suffering simply for God’s sake. Yet it is because of something they had done. It is because of their righteous acts that they are suffering. I found a great quote this week from Warren Wiersbe about suffering and fiery trials. He wrote, “the world does not persecute religious people; they persecute righteous people.” The psalmist and Paul support each other in proving the point that believers will suffer and they may suffer greatly simply because of what we stand for and believe in.
At the end of this psalm the writer calls on God to “redeem us because of your unfailing love” and that is exactly what God has done. Look now at verse 37 for the answer.
Read Romans 8:37.
What is the answer to the last two questions?
The Greek word used for more than is “hyper” which means that is above or super. So you could say that we are “superconquerors” through Christ who loved us. You see this is God’s unfailing love. Even in the midst of very trying situations, we cannot be separated from God’s unfailing love. His love allows us to be superconquerors through Him. There is not any better news than that!
Which of these questions applies most to your life right now and why? Fix your mind on the answer to that question and that through Him you are more than a conqueror.
“For I am convinced” These are the first four words of Romans 8:38. These are the words we will focus on today. As we complete this study, ask yourself if you are convinced of God’s unfailing love. Paul says that he is convinced of God’s unfailing love. Paul then lists ten things that although might seem to be huge obstacles that separate us from God’s love they really are not.
Read Romans 8:38-39.
1.) List the 10 things listed that cannot separate us from the love of God.
2.) Where is the love of God?
Throughout this study we have looked at many lives that were changed by God’s unfailing love. The men we studied faced these 10 things on Paul’s list. I attempted to match them up and some of the men could fall into more than one category. If you would like, you can modify this list. It is just a starting point and means of quick review. Let’s see who we have studied and how their trial still did not separate them from God’s unfailing love.
1- death –Moses faced death. He faced the death of the Egyptian that he killed, yet God still chose to use him. He faced the death of all the firstborn Egyptian males. He faced the death of many of his own people as they wandered in the wilderness for forty years. Yet, all this death and even the death of his dream of experiencing the promised land did not separate him from God’s unfailing love.
2- life – Sometimes it seems like regular life often gets in the way and trips us up, so I’m sure any of the men we studied could fit into this group. We are going to look at David though. David had a promise of being king waiting for him, yet life kept on going despite the unfulfilled promise. When he finally was king, his son tried to take it away. The life of David is a reminder to us that all that life encompasses with its pains and pleasures cannot separate us from the love of Christ.
3- angels- Isaiah was the man who saw the angels and heard them singing “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.” Isaiah thought he was ruined because he was a sinful, unclean man who saw the Lord in all His holiness. Yet even this could not separate him from God’s unfailing love.
4-demons or heavenly rulers – Satan definitely qualifies as a heavenly ruler, and he had it out for Job. Yet even Satan’s attempts to get Job to abandon his faith in God were unsuccessful. Job was not separated from God’s unfailing love despite Satan’s desperate attempts to do so.
5- the present – Jeremiah endured captivity in Babylon. Despite the captivity, he was assured that God still had plans to prosper His people, to give them a future and a hope. The present circumstance of being held prisoner in a foreign land did not separate Jeremiah from God’s unfailing love.
6- the future – In the book of Ezra, we read about the Israelites release from captivity. Upon their release, they planned for their future freedom and the future rebuilding of the temple. They knew that they needed to complete it despite opposition. The man Ezra also knew he needed to make a trip to Jerusalem. He planned for this future trip, and God blessed Ezra with a decree from the king to make his trip possible. The future in both of these cases may have looked seemingly impossible. However, the future did not separate Ezra or his people from God’s unfailing love, for “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).
7- any powers – Ever heard someone say “the powers that be” said so or made something happen. Nehemiah definitely faced opposition from “the powers that be” in Israel (remember Tobiah), yet his resolve did not sway because his trust was in God. God’s unfailing love did not disappoint. Despite opposition, the wall around Jerusalem was completed.
8- height- Of all the people we studied, Solomon probably typifies the height of life. He had true God-given wisdom, riches, power, and fame. Eventually Solomon chose sin over obeying God, but God did not give up on Solomon and let the kingdom remain intact until Solomon’s death. Despite living “the high life,” Solomon still could not be separated from the love of God.
9- depth- I cannot imagine a greater depth than watching Jesus die on the cross. John was an eye-witness to Christ’s death. He understood the depth of pain and grief as he watched Jesus suffer in agony and then die. Yet the depth of this sadness gave way three days later to the ultimate triumph of God’s unfailing love in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
10- nothing else in all creation- Paul makes a fantastic case for God’s unfailing love. His arguments have been thorough and right on the mark. He sums it all up by covering all the bases in saying that nothing else in all creation can separate us from the Creator’s unfailing love in Christ Jesus our Lord.
On this journey through Scripture, we have seen how God’s unfailing love is woven throughout the Bible and finds its fulfillment in Christ Jesus. So now I must ask, are you convinced of God’s unfailing love? Are you convinced that nothing can separate you from His love? If you are convinced, then your life should be different. Your attitude should be different. We are not condemned; we are secure in God’s unfailing love. We are superconquerors through Jesus Christ. We should live with the assurance of God’s love in good times and bad. We should have attitudes of thanksgiving and praise in good times and bad. We should live confidently and victoriously in good times and bad.
Although people and situations will fail us, God in His holy, perfect, redeeming love will not fail us. Now let’s live lives that will help convince others of the same!