The Protector - Psalm 141:1-10

1.      When are we more likely to pray to God most fervently? (For most of us, it is when we are up against the wall, so to speak. We are in a desperate situation, trouble is upon us and we need help.)

2.      When you think of prayer what generally comes to your mind?

When I think of how I should pray, I most often think of the Model Prayer Jesus prayed in Matthew 6.

In our study today, David was in a difficult situation. He may have been fleeing from either King Saul or his own son, Absalom. But as we read his lament he seems concerned about being led into sin and asked God to keep him from this evil.

3.      Are you inclined to pray that God keep you from sin as well as protect you from your enemies?

As we look at Psalm 141, let’s try to figure out what or who is causing David the most distress!

 

The Plea! Read Psalm 141:1-2

 

1.      How would you describe David’s emotional state; Is he peaceful? Distressed? Calm? Anxious?

The word “Lord” used in verse 1 is the covenant name for God.

2.      How did David compare his prayers to what took place during worship in the Temple? (Prayers as incense and his praise to the evening offering.)

David had grown spiritually past his time in that he understood that he could approach God directly without a priest.

According to Exodus 30:7-8, offerings of incense were made in the morning and evening, and the raising of hands was a common practice in worship. It indicated both obedience and surrender.

3.      Why is an attitude of worship and surrender important when we are asking God to help us?

4.      Clearly, David was distressed and anxious when he went to God in prayer in this psalm. Why do we often treat prayer as a last option?

5.      What makes some people question whether God hears their prayers? (Maybe they haven’t maintained a close relationship with God during good times, so they wonder if God will hear then in their bad times.)

It is perfectly appropriate for us to ask God for help respectfully, but we don’t have to beg Him. He is persuaded by His love for us, not our fancy words or urgent pleadings. Tim Keller, (Pastor, theologian and Christian apologist) is quoted as saying, “We are more sinful than we ever dared believe…and more loved than we ever hoped!” But we certainly do not have the right to demand anything from God!

 

1.      How many of us need a “guard for our mouth”?

The Requests! Read Psalm 141:3-7

 

2.      Notice in verse 3, David asked for help with his speech, while in verse 4 he asked for protection from the wicked. How are these two requests connected?

3.      How do our words reveal our associations and relations?

4.      Many translations appear to interpret verse 5 as a faithful friend of David’s. How can we actually help each other obey God? (Because one Christian helping keep another in line with God’s Word is seldom done well or accepted well, many believers avoid this responsibility.)

5.      What excuses do we make for not helping a fellow believer in this area? (We say: “It’s not my business” or “They won’t listen anyway” or “They may say clean up your own life before you try to tell me how to live mine.”)

This is one reason we must live circumspect lives!

6.      Read verse 5. When have you seen a godly person who has exemplified this psalm for you? (We all need people who will tell us the truth, rather than reinforce what we want to hear. These people truly care, and this care brings us the direction and comfort we crave. If you listen and heed this friend, your relationship and fellowship will grow deeper!)

7.      Proverbs 27:6 says, “The wounds of a friend are trustworthy, but the kisses of an enemy are excessive.” Neither this verse nor Psalm 141:5 mean abuse or cruelty. What do they mean?

By the end of verse 5, David has shifted from talking about his own desire for accountability to praying that the wicked would be held accountable for their wickedness. This is not a vindictive prayer, he is simply asking for God’s justice to be carried out.

8.      What imagery is used in verses 6-7? (It is a sad fact, but sometimes evil people will not listen until they have suffered the consequences for their sin. Verse 7 seems to describe the righteous suffering at the hands of the wicked. Sheol seems to indicate that some had to suffer to the point of death.)

The truth is wicked people hurt others. David rightly yearned for this wickedness to stop. God also yearns for wicked behavior to stop. He weeps when people hurt each other. As certain wicked influences move out of the picture, teachable people find it easier to hear and heed God’s instruction.

9.      Who are a few people to whom you look to help you live a godly life and avoid temptation? (Wife; family; close Christian friends; in general, other Christian friends; lost people I may be trying to share the gospel with around me.)

 

The Promise! Read Psalm 141:8-10

 

David has shifted back to focusing on himself rather than the wicked.

1.      Notice verse 9. What are some examples of wicked behaviors and the nets those behaviors create? (Sins that are often acceptable in church—gossip can come in many disguises, cliques, critical words, racial prejudice, economic bias, etc.)

2.      When do even Christians create nets of evil?

3.      Why do we fall into those nets?

4.      How would verse 5 help with this?

5.      How does keeping our focus on Jesus help us avoid the traps and dangers found in this world?

6.      What makes recognizing Satan’s traps so difficult?

7.      David lived approximately 3,000 years ago. How long will your influence last? (As far back as we can trace my lineage we have had preachers in my family. My great, great, great grandfather; my great, great grandfather; my great grandfather; and an uncle were all preachers. That’s a period of about 200 years. My prayer is that I will have some influence to pass the gospel on down through future generations also.)

8.      What habits, persons, or daily decisions make focusing on God easier? (Sin and temptations are constantly before us, finding areas of weakness we didn’t even realize we had. God’s Spirit will empower us to be faithful no matter what tries to ensnare us.)

We must take both the power of God and the persistence of temptation seriously!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Satan will make sure there are traps and snares all around us, trying to destroy our life and witness. But the Holy Spirit indwells each Christian and will give us the power to resist the devil’s temptations.  Staying focused on Jesus, staying in His Word daily and listening to trusted Christian friends will help us see the traps and avoid them.

 

1.      How can you help a brother or sister along the way?

2.      What prayer requests have been made over the past few weeks that you have seen God answer?

3.      How did He answer them?

4.      How does seeing God’s answer to prayers give you the confidence to approach Him with your needs?

5.      When you face pressures or persecution, does your anxiety increase, or does your prayers and trust in God increase?

 

Father, thank you that we can worship You privately and together; we can seek wisdom and counsel from other trusted Christians; and we can trust Your protection from our adversaries.

Help us to turn to You this week, Father, for strength in our spiritual lives.

 

The Cleansing - Psalm 32:1-11

1.      How many of you like movies or books with sequels?

2.      What are some of your favorite series? (“Rocky,” 1, 2, 3, 4 etc. “Taken,” 1, 2.)

Many scholars believe Psalm 32 is the sequel of Psalm 51. After David confessed his great sin and repented he experienced God’s gracious forgiveness and his joy returned. We referenced Psalm 32:3 in last week’s study of Psalm 51 showing their close connection.

3.      The Bible clearly teaches that we were created for fellowship with God and to bring glory to Him. What happens deep inside us when we are not fulfilling our intended purpose? (The joy that God intended for us to experience is not there and we may even become bitter and resentful.)

When we, as Christians, are out of fellowship with God because of sin in our lives we may become obsessed with the thought that no one knows. We may fool others but the one person we can’t seem to fool is ourselves. And certainly we can’t fool God!

Psalm 32 is a psalm that proclaims the joy that David experienced after confession and repentance of his great sin with Bathsheba and murder of her husband, Uriah. That same joy is available to us.

David stood before the Lord justified. Justification is God’s gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ.

 

The Contrast! Read Psalm 32:1-4

 

1.      How would you describe the tone of the psalmist in verses 1-2?

2.      What different words are used for sin in these verses? (Transgression—stepping over the line, rebellion; Sin—missing the mark or falling short; Iniquity—Corruption or crookedness; and Deceit—not trustworthy, dishonest scales.)

3.      How was the psalmist’s body affected by his unconfessed sin? (His bones became brittle, voice groaned, strength was drained.)

4.      How would you describe the impact unconfessed sin has on a Christian?

5.      How would you describe the contrast between verses 1-2 and verses 3-4?

6.      What are the dangers of refusing to confess or trying to ignore our transgressions?

7.      What keeps people from admitting a sin when the impact of doing so can be so freeing?

 

The Decision! Read Psalm 32:5

 

1.      What do you suppose gave David the courage to stop trying to hide his sin?

2.      What are some ways people try to deal with the guilt of sin other than confessing it to the Lord?

3.      In what ways have you personally learned the hard way that nothing besides confession will work?

4.      It took quite some time for David to come clean, and even then it was only after Nathan confronted him. Why does it often take people so long to ask forgiveness? (Sometimes we think time will ease the pain but it only gets worse.)

5.      What would it take for you to confront someone of their sin?

6.      What keeps us from confronting others of their sin?

In Psalm 51:13 David said he would teach others God’s ways. He made good on his promise here in Psalm 32.

7.      What benefits await those who confess their sins to God?

8.      Which benefit provides the greatest motivation for confessing?

9.      How is the guilt of our sin taken away? (It is almost impossible for us to believe that our guilt can be taken away. I have read many stories of prisoners saying, “There is no way God could forgive what I have done.” While some sins we classify as worse than others, sin is transgression against God’s law and the smallest sin still disqualifies us from being accepted by God. Jesus died for the worst serial killer and the one who simply told a “little white lie.”)

 

The Counsel! Read Psalm 32:6-9

 

The first word of counsel David gave was for people to pray to God when He could be found. In other words, pray before it’s too late. During Noah’s day there came a time when it was too late—when God closed to door of the ark time was up! Although the Lord is full of mercy and compassion, there is a limit to His patience, according to Romans 2:4; 1 Peter 3:19-20; and 2 Peter 3:9.

1.      What is the second word of counsel, according to Psalm 32:9?

2.      Acting like a stubborn mule may come naturally to some of us. What “bits” might God use to direct a person His way? (The misery that David has already mentioned plus others. Sometimes the guilt and the natural consequences of our sin will turn our head in the right direction!)

Many of us have probably been captivated by someone’s dramatic testimony of sin and forgiveness. You may have a dramatic conversion story yourself. But if we aren’t careful, we can find ourselves more interested in the lurid details of the past to the point that we glorify the sin over the forgiveness. In Psalm 32 and 51, David never brought up the details of his sin. Instead, he remained focused on God’s forgiveness.

3.      What principles should we follow when sharing our life experiences with others? (Stay focused on God’s saving grace, mercy and forgiveness. Confession should only be as public as the sin. If I have wronged one of my children, then I need to go to them with confession and ask for forgiveness not the whole community.)

4.      How can sharing lessons learned help both the one hearing and the one telling?

 

The Conclusion! Read Psalm 32:10-11

 

1.      How would you contrast the pains of the wicked with the joys of those who actually obey God?  (The old phrase “day and night” comes to my mind. Heartache and joy. Pain and relief. Frustration and satisfaction.)

2.      What are the root causes for these differences? (The wicked reap the harvest of being opposed to the will of God and it is impossible to have joy in that condition. Perhaps temporary happiness but it is only temporary!)

3.      What makes people assume the opposite is true—that joy comes to those who do whatever they want to do? (That is Satan’s lie!)

4.      When we, as Christians, confess our sin and God forgives, why do we sometimes not feel forgiven? (Ashamed of our actions. Know others know. Don’t feel worthy. Don’t believe God has truly forgiven. )

We must believe God, not our feelings! (1 John 1:9)

Those who respond to God’s offer of forgiveness not only find love and gladness; their behavior generates it for others. Think for a moment about the good created by lives surrendered to God’s will!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

As Christians, we must confess our sins to the Father or face the possibility of becoming spiritually despondent. We can find rest and mercy when we confess our sins to the Father. He desires nothing greater than to forgive us. We can encourage others in our spiritual life, teaching them from our experience. We should respond to God’s forgiveness with gratitude and joy!

 

The way we live out forgiveness is as important as the way we turn from sin! Teach others about God’s mercy, grace and forgiveness!

 

In the context of Psalm 32, the righteous ones who are upright in heart are people who have confessed their sin, received God’s forgiveness, enjoy God’s protection, walk according to God’s direction, and joyfully bear witness to the blessed life of being clean before God. Such a life is worth celebrating.

The Confession - Psalm 51:1-17

When I was about 10 years old I spent a Friday night with a cousin who lived in town. My family lived in the country. On Saturday morning we were typical boys looking for something to do. My cousin was three years older than me, although we were close to the same size. He suggested we go over to the black school in town. He said we could get in and get us a coke out of the machine there. Although I knew it was wrong, I went along because I thought he’s older and knows that we will not get into any trouble. Well we got caught by a janitor and he just made us leave. I was petrified that he would tell our parents or the cops and we’d be in big trouble. Nothing happened the rest of that day or on Sunday. On Sunday night the guilt became so heavy I had to tell my mother what we had done. She said we were wrong, of course, but that I shouldn’t ever do that again and she didn’t think I should worry about it anymore. (We didn’t get a coke either!)

The point here is: I had to confess before I received any release from my guilt. (I never spent the night with that cousin again.)

 

Guilt, like unconfessed sin, eats away at our very soul until we are completely consumed!

 

Psalm 51 is unlike any psalm we’ve studied so far in this unit. It is one of eight psalms of penitence, meaning it is an expression of repentance and a plea for God’s cleansing from sin.  This psalm is attributed to David, after Nathan confronted him with his greatest moral failure—adultery and murder!

 

(Relate the account of David’s act of adultery with Bathsheba and how David was responsible for Uriah’s death, and his confrontation with the prophet, Nathan, approximately 9 months after David’s sin.)

Guilty As Charged!

1.      Who was hurt by David’s sin? (God allowed the consequences of David’s sin to be carried out to the fullest.)

Read Psalm 51:1-5

2.      Why do you think David was so quick to confess and ask for God’s forgiveness after Nathan confronted him? (I personally believe David was eaten up with guilt. Every time he saw Bathsheba he was reminded of his rebellion against God.)

3.      Do we ever convince ourselves that we are above God’s Law, that it doesn’t apply in this circumstance and God will overlook it this time?

4.      What attributes of God does David appeal to in verse one? (Grace, faithful love and abundant compassion.)

5.      What different words are used in these five verses to refer to the wrong David had committed? (Rebellion and sin.)

6.      Is there a difference between “rebellion” and “sin”? If so, what? (Rebellion is a conscious decision to go against an established standard after considering the issue.)

7.      What words did David use in asking God to rid him of his guilt? (Blot out, wash away, and cleanse.)

8.      What does David’s use of these three different terms say about his desire for God’s forgiveness?

9.      Against whom had David sinned? (Bathsheba, Uriah, their family and of course God.)

10.  Why did David say he had sinned only against God? (Ultimately all sin is first and foremost against God, and He is the one we must answer to!)

11.  What does verse 5 indicate about how heavy David’s guilt was on his heart? (It was almost as if every act he had ever committed was sinful rebellion against God.)

12.  What are some ways people sugarcoat or rationalize sin to deal with their guilt?

13.  Why is it easier to point out the sin in others than deal with our own sin?

To justify our sin we compare ourselves with others and began to feel pretty good about ourselves. But God’s Word is the standard, not other people’s actions. Sin is what God says it is!

The “man after God’s own heart” had become miserable with guilt and longed for the fellowship with God to be restored. Psalm 32:3 “When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long.” NLT.

Listen for the desperation in David’s pleas in these verses!

Plea For Cleansing! Read Psalm 51:6-13

 

1.      What confession in verse 6 did David admit about God’s requirements of him? (Integrity in his heart.)

2.      What things did David ask of God in these verses? (There is request after request to expunge this indelible stain of sin from him. It is almost as if David had something on his hands and had washed them numerous times and could not get them clean! But that is only David’s guilty feelings. When God cleanses us through the blood of Jesus, we are clean.)

David asked for both forgiveness and a changed life. That is what repentance means—going in the opposite direction, a new life!

3.      What does a right relationship with God look like?

4.      What role does forgiveness play in cultivating our relationship with God?

The word “Create” in verse 10 is the same word used in Genesis 1 to describe God’s original act of creation, and it is used in the Old Testament exclusively to refer to God’s act of creation. No one else can give us a clean heart when we sin—only God can!

5.      How would you describe a forgiven heart? (The joy has returned!)

6.      What actions are required for a person to have a pure heart?

7.      What is the role of the Holy Spirit in revealing sin in our lives? (See John 16:8 and 1 Cor. 6:11. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin. When we confess our sin Jesus’ blood washes the sin away and fellowship with God the Father is renewed.)

Verse 13 begins to show how God redeems our brokenness. David knew he would help other sinners return to God when he was restored. The next section of verses builds on this idea.

 

Deliverance Through Brokenness! Read Psalm 51:14-17

 

1.      What do you think David was thinking about in his plea in verse 14?

2.      What does David say pleases the Lord? (“A broken spirit and a broken and humbled heart.”)

3.      What are some things people do to try to appease God for their sin rather than confess it clearly? (Offerings, service, etc.)

The death of Jesus on the cross was the ultimate sacrifice for all sin—past, present and future. Nevertheless, God still seeks evidence of our sorrow and brokenness over sin, and until we repent and accept His cleansing for our sin, our relationship with God and our usefulness to Him will be hindered.

4.      How are remorse and repentance related?

5.      How are they different? (Remorse is simply feeling sorry for what you have done. Repentance is the heart felt desire to make a fundamental change in your heart to do what is right in God’s eyes from now forward.)

6.      Can you have one without the other?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

The only way to get rid of a foul odor is to get rid of what causes the odor. The only way to guard against stains is to eliminate those things that cause stains in the first place. Similarly, there are some sins we can avoid simply by removing the temptation to commit them.

Guilt is a good response to wrong doing or failing to do what’s right.

What is the difference between healthy guilt (from God) and false guilt (twisted by Satan)? (Sometimes, after we have confessed and repented of a sin, Satan keeps reminding us of what we did and tries to tell us that we really weren’t forgiven—that’s false guilt.

God’s Spirit convicts us of sin, produces fruit of the Spirit in us and creates a new heart in believers after we have confessed our sin and repented. Don’t let Satan tell you different!

 

Develop a habit of hearing God so accurately that you act upon guilt right away. Stop what’s wrong. Start what’s right.

Staying in God’s Word daily is the “how to” in this area of our lives!

 

Reread the entire psalm in closing!

 

His Faithfulness - Psalm 146:1-10

1.      Who are some people we place our trust in on a regular basis? (Doctor; Spouse; Close Friends; Other Drivers; etc.)

2.      What are some circumstances that cause us to feel betrayal? (Abused by a loved one; Cheated by a friend; Denied a promotion; Confidant breaks the silence; Betrayed by a spouse; Wrong medical diagnosis; etc.)

3.      How does experiencing betrayal in one relationship in our lives impact other relationships?

4.      What makes it so hard for people to move past what they perceived to be a betrayal?

5.      Do we ever feel that God has betrayed us?

When we place our trust in people, sooner or later we will be disappointed. Sometimes the betrayal by another person is intentional, sometimes not, but people will disappoint.

God is ever faithful to who He is and to His people. God truly feels with us, and He knows how to navigate us through life.

6.      What can cause us to get bitter and doubt the faithfulness of God in our circumstances? (See Eccl. 1:1-11. Here the writer had become “self-focused” and had lost his focus on God.)

 

Let’s see what the writer of Psalm 146 has to say about God’s faithfulness.

 

The Declaration! Read Psalm 146:1-2

 

1.      What one word describes for you the psalmist’s attitude toward praising God in these verses? (Give everyone an opportunity to voice their opinion.)

The word “Hallelujah” is a transliteration of a Hebrew word that literally means “Praise Yah”. Of course the implication of the last syllable is to finish the word “Yahweh.” One of my very favorite pieces of music is “The Hallelujah Chorus.” Take time to listen to it on “YouTube” this week. It will bless you.

The last five chapters in the book of Psalms all begin and end with “Hallelujah.”

The psalmist admonished his soul to praise the Lord and is determined to do so with his entire being.

2.      What does it mean to praise God with more than just your lips? (Praising God should be a lifestyle not an event.)

3.      What commitment have you made that is life-long—till you die?

Obviously, none of us have lived out our entire lives yet, and we don’t know the future. But the decision to praise the Lord is not dependent on present or future circumstances. The palmist made the declaration without knowing what his future held.

4.      Should circumstances impact our commitment to “sing to my God as long as I live?”

5.      Do people allow circumstances to have a negative impact on their praise offered to God? (Remember God is worthy of our praise because of who He is, not what He has done for us.)

6.      What are some of the challenges of praising the Lord all your life?

7.      In what ways does God show Himself faithful to believers today?

8.      What are some appropriate ways of declaring God’s faithfulness to us?

 

The Warning! Read Psalm 146:3-4

 

There is a great contrast between the first two verses and these two verses. When the psalmist warns us not to trust in man, we are led to think about God, who can save. When he wrote about man being mortal and finite, we can’t help but to contrast him to the immortal, infinite God.

1.      Why are people tempted to put their trust in human leaders instead of in God?

2.      What are the dangers of trusting in another person for one’s security and well-being?

3.      Do we tend to put our trust in “nobles? (Far too often we place our trust and hope in elected government leaders instead of God.)

4.      What do we believe people need most—government’s help, education’s help, financial help, or God’s help? (I am at rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him.” Ps. 62:1)

 

The psalmist not only warns us against trusting in people, he also gives us several reasons God alone is worthy of our trust!

The Worthy One! Read Psalm 146:5-9

 

1.      What are the ways listed here that God alone is worthy of our trust? (“Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them. He remains faithful forever, executing justice for the exploited and giving food to the hungry.” Frees prisoners, Opens the eyes of the blind. Raises the oppressed. Loves the righteous. Protects foreigners, helps the fatherless and the widow. Frustrates the ways of the wicked. These statements are certainly true spiritually and sometimes He accomplishes these things in a literal way.)

God is our Creator, Protector and King!

2.      What in these verses, and in your experience, confirms God’s trustworthiness? (God stays true in every situation, wisely executing justice and extending grace fairly. God can be trusted to remain faithful forever.)

3.      How does the list in these verses affect the way we praise God?

4.      How should it affect the praise of all God’s people?

5.      The psalmist declared his intention to praise God all of his life even when he didn’t know what the future held. As you look at verses 7-9 which of these circumstances are positive, and which are undesirable?

Of all the different people described in these verses, only the righteous and the wicked are what anyone could choose to be. Yet, God shows Himself faithful to every group described in this passage. He is even faithful to the wicked, because He has already promised that wicked ways lead to perishing (Ps. 1:6).

 

The Reality! Read Psalm 146:10

 

1.      What does the first line of this verse mean to you?

2.      What does work look like when God is our king? (We live and work to honor and praise our King. It should be a joy.)

3.      What do actions in our home look like with Him as King? (If we are all obedient to the same King it should be a place where peace reigns and God is honored.)

4.      What does solving problems look like when He rules? (Problems should be turned over to God. Read Phil. 4:8-9)

5.      In what circumstance is God’s faithfulness most treasured: in times of prosperity or in times of despair?

6.      How can believers show that they belong to God’s kingdom?

7.      What responsibilities come with being part of God’s eternal kingdom?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      How is trusting God active rather than passive? (It is a conscious decision!)

2.      Notice in your Bible again that Psalms 146-150 begin and end with praising God. What can we learn from this?

3.      How would it make a difference in your day if you began and ended each day with praising God?

4.      What can we do to help others place their full trust in Christ?

 

If you said no words, what would your actions teach about God?

How accurate is your picture?

Change your actions in the coming week to show praise to, and for, God in different ways!

His Love! - Psalm 136:1-26

1.      When you are with one of your small children or a grandchild and someone gives them something, what do you remind the child to do? (Thank the person for giving to them.)

2.      What makes giving thanks so important?

3.      What does a person’s willingness to give thanks to God reveal about his or her understanding of God?

Today we are looking at Psalm 136. It was written to be read responsive or sung antiphonally. But before we do that I want to read the entire psalm leaving out the “responsive” part so we can get a clear picture of what the psalmist was thankful for as he wrote this beautiful song. (Read the Psalm leaving out the responsive portion.)

Now divide the class into two groups and read the entire psalm responsively to get the full impact of this beautiful psalm.

 

We do not know the date this psalm was written. It could have been just after the exodus from Egypt, during the time of the Judges or after the return from the Babylonian exile. The important truths to remember is this psalm gives thanks to God and recalls again and again His unfailing love for us.

 

In Creation! Read Psalm 136:1-5

 

            The Hebrew word chesed is the main word in the refrain of Psalm 136, meaning His love is eternal. It is used almost 250 times in the Old Testament and has no exact English translation. Various translations have rendered it “faithful love,” “mercy,” “steadfast love,” and “lovingkindness.” It conveys the idea of “covenant love,” a love that is based on God’s promise to His people. Rarely is chesed used in reference to people; it is almost always used in reference to God’s faithful love toward us.

 

1.      Notice the names used for God in these verses. What do they reveal about His character? (God is thoroughly and consistently good. His character is steadfast, powerful, reliable, true, and trustworthy from first to last.)

2.      His supremacy? (Other gods exist only in the imagination of people. There are people we call “lords” but God is supreme above all! See Psalm 135:15-18.)

3.      His power? (Our finite mind cannot fathom the extent of God’s creation—it is limitless! Scientists estimate the diameter of the known universe as over 90 billion light years. That is distance you would travel going 186,000 miles per second for 90 billion years.)

4.      What do they say about how we should worship Him?

5.      How might a wrong view of God affect our worship of God?

6.      Why is it important for Christians to believe God created everything out of nothing?

It is humbling to realize that everything God created is for His glory and our good!

 

In Conquest! Read Psalm 136:10-15

 

1.      How would you describe what God did for Israel as recorded in these verses?

2.      What kind of impact do you think these stories had on the original audience for this psalm?

The Israelites often sang or wrote of their release from slavery in Egypt (examples are: Ex. 15:4; Josh. 24:6; Neh. 9:9; Ps. 106; Heb. 11:29). Verses 16-22 of Psalm 136 go on to talk about victories the Lord gave Israel once they left Egypt. Sihon king of the Amorites and Og king of Basham were enemy kings the Israelites conquered before they got to the promised land (Num. 21:21-25). This victory is referenced multiple times throughout the rest of the Old Testament.

It is a humbling thought to realize God took a nation of slaves and molded them into a victorious nation!

3.      Why is the act of remembering what God has accomplished in your life and that of your ancestors an important spiritual discipline?

4.      Why is it easy to forget God’s blessings?

5.      What are some of the pitfalls that come from forgetting? (Taking God’s blessings and mighty acts for granted!)

 

The previous verses emphasized what the Israelites were to remember. These next few verses focus on what God remembered.

 

In Compassion! Read Psalm 136:23-26

 

1.      Since we know God doesn’t forget anything, what does verse 23 mean? (From our point of view is seems that God forgets us when we are going through a difficult situation for an extended period of time. Then when He delivers us it’s like he just remembered us and our circumstances. The truth is: He was with us all the time working out everything for His glory and our good!)

2.      What does verse 25 teach us?

 

The Israelites always go back to the miraculous deeds God performed in the forming of their nation and sustaining them over the centuries. We should do the same in our times of thanksgiving.

In Psalm 136 we learn that God reigns with providential care over His universe, His creatures, and all of human history according to the purposes of His grace. Our appropriate response is thanksgiving!

 

3.      Why is giving thanks to God important for believers?

4.      How can you help others express their thankfulness to God?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

While the psalmist recognized the cosmic works of the Lord in creation, he spent more time thanking God for His personal care for His people.

We live in a hurting world.

 

What’s our role in providing love and resources, even though God is the ultimate provider?

As people made in God’s image, we are responsible to express His love, goodness, and mercy. He frequently works through people to meet the needs of others.

 

Evidently God led the psalmist to repeat the phrase “His love is eternal” for a reason! Perhaps it was to remind us of His great love for us and that we are to be at least one expression of that love for Him to those around us—after all we are created in His image!

God Revealed - Psalm 19:1-14

1.      How would you describe President Trump to someone who had never heard of him?

2.      How would you describe one of your grandparents to someone who did not know them?

3.      How would you describe your spouse to someone who had never met him or her?

4.      What are the different levels of relationship involved here? (One is general knowledge—information available to everyone. The second is special knowledge—available through a close relationship. The third is intimate knowledge—known only through a close, intimate relationship.)

God reveals Himself to us through His creation. We see such qualities as intentionality, orderliness, inventiveness, beauty, goodness, cleverness, uniqueness, steadiness and more.

5.      What do we know about our God who created both horses and zebras; badgers and beavers; robins and cardinals; cockatoos and buzzards—and the list could go on? (He is a creative God who loves variety!)

God reveals Himself through special revelation in His Word.

But God reveals Himself specifically through Jesus Christ.

Through each of these, beginning with His general revelation, we learn a little more about who God is and how He desires to relate to His creation.

The question each of us must answer is: How do we respond when God reveals Himself to us? In His general revelations do we ignore the evidence around us and proclaim God’s creation is simply a freak accident, a big bang that occurred from nothing and made something? In His special revelation do we ignore His Word and proclaim this doesn’t apply to me? In His specific revelation do we proclaim this as simply a fairytale made up by weak dreamers?

 

In Psalm 19, the psalmist described two ways God has given us to help us know Him better. We can learn about God by observing His creation, but He also reveals Himself through His Word.

Seen In Creation! Read Psalm 19:1-6

 

1.      What are the various ways creation is personified in these verses? (Declare; proclaims; pour out speech; communicate knowledge; their words; pitched a tent; rejoices.)

2.      Notice all the synonyms for “tell” in verses 1-2. What is the psalmist teaching us through these words?

3.      What do the heavens and sky proclaim about God? (The heavens declare the glory of God—the visible representation of the invisible. They also declare the work of God’s hands, communicate knowledge even without words.)

Glory refers to God’s manifested power and revealed character. God’s glory is the outshining, or the expression, of His character.

All people are accountable to God since He reveals Himself through His creation!

4.      How do you make sense of the apparent contradiction between verse 3 and 4?

Read Romans 1:19-23.

When our Astronauts made their first trip to orbit the moon they read from Genesis 1:1. After the first Russian Cosmonauts made his trip into space Nikita Khrushchev is quoted as saying “Gagarin flew into space, but didn’t see any god there.”

5.      What do the images in verses 4-6 teach us about God? (Consider one image at a time. Pitched a tent for the sun; groom coming from the bridal chamber; athlete running a course; rising from one end to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.)

God created nature. Nature is not God, so there is never a place to worship it. Nature reveals some of the glory of God, it is not God!

Also note that God created time, but He is not bound by it. God also created the physical laws that govern the universe but He is not bound by those laws!

6.      What conclusions can we draw about God by observing His creation? (God is great, mighty, powerful and supreme!)

7.      What misconceptions about God might people draw if they only depend upon what they see in creation? (God is withdrawn from us and is not interested in a relationship with His creation.)

We’ve looked at God’s general revelation to us now we will consider His special revelation to us.

Seen In His Word! Read Psalm 19:7-11

 

The name used for God in the first 6 verses is “Elohim”. The name used in verses 7-11 is “Yahweh,” which was God’s special, covenant name revealed to His people Israel. Most English Bibles render it Lord.

1.      “Instruction,” “testimony,” “precepts,” “command,” and “ordinances” are all synonyms for what? (God’s law.)

God’s Word provides people with an infallible guide for living in right relationship with God! The law in God’s Word is meant to free us, not place us in bondage. Contrary to what many people believe, a life of freedom comes only by being obedient to God’s instructions. He created us and knows what is best for us.

2.      How did the psalmist describe each of these synonyms for God’s law and the benefit of obedience from his perspective?

 

God’s Law               Described              Benefit Received

 

Instruction                 Perfect                        Renewing one’s life

Testimony                  Trustworthy              Making one wise

Precepts                     Right                           A Glad heart

Command                   Radiant                       Making eyes light up

Fear                            Pure                            Enduring forever

Ordinances                 Reliable/righteous    More desirable than

                                                                        gold/sweeter than

honey.

3.      Can we say that everything that is said here is true of Jesus? (Yes! Jesus is the Word made flesh! Therefore all of the truths here are true of Jesus!)

4.      What is the final conclusion the psalmist made about God’s Word in verse 11? (We are “warned by them” and “there is great reward in keeping them.”)

5.      How does God’s Word help us avoid dangers and traps?

6.      If we know there are benefits to keeping God’s Word, why do we so easily choose to disregard or disobey it?

7.      How does your life show that you treasure God’s Word?

Celebrated in His People! Read Psalm 19:12-14

 

1.      How does the focus shift here? (Isn’t this a normal, logical progression as we read God’s Word and allow it to penetrate our heart with its truth?)

2.      What happens in our lives as we read and meditate on God’s Word? (Sin is revealed for what it really is. As we apply God’s Word to our life hidden or unintentional sin is revealed. We become convicted of our intentional sin.)

3.      How do we deceive ourselves about our unintentional sins? (Both intentional and unintentional sins rule over us.)

4.      How do we deceive ourselves with intentional (willful) sin? (We think we choose freedom when we choose sin. Yet the result is always bondage to sin. The only true freedom is found in Christ!)

God’s Word will always lead us into a greater awareness of our own sinfulness. This isn’t necessarily meant to make us feel more guilty but to make us more like Jesus.

5.      What role does Scripture play in revealing our faults and sins?

6.      How does God use Scripture in our lives to correct us so we can better reflect His character?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      How can the truths described in verses 1-13 become realities in our lives? (Put verse 14 into action.)

2.      How can Psalm 19:14 serve as a daily prayer?

 

God’s Spirit will help us control our words, before they exit our lips.

We can’t control what thoughts enter our minds, but we can control what thought we entertain or eject.

Our words and our hearts determine the actions we choose.

 

Challenge: Every morning for the next seven days pray Psalm 19:14 and watch for the ways God answers!

 

Close by praying Psalm 19:14.

The Creator - Psalm 95:1-11

1.      What is your favorite hymn?

2.      What is your favorite hymn of praise?

3.      How would you describe the difference in the hymn “How Great Is Our God” and “Worthy of Worship”? (The first one is proclaiming God’s greatness to others, while the second hymn is addressed directly to God.)

Many of our favorite hymns proclaim God’s greatness, along with other descriptions of Him but are not addressed directly to Him. Not that these other hymns are not good but we need to sing hymns addressed directly to God as well. “Amazing Grace” is most likely the most favorite hymn of all time, but it is a hymn of testimony not praise to God, although it does cause people to praise Him. While hymns of proclamation are appropriate in our services, hymns of worship are addressed TO God, not ABOUT God!

            The subheading for Psalm 95 is “Worship and Warning.” This tells us that this psalm is a combination psalm that leads us to worship and cautions us to watch our attitude toward God!

“This psalm may have been composed for the Festival of Booths. This weeklong feast celebrated the ingathering of the harvest and commemorated Israel’s exodus out of Egyptian slavery. During this sacred holiday, the Israelites erected temporary living quarters to remind them of God’s providential care during the years when the nation wandered in the wilderness. Booths were not indications of privation and poverty but were symbols of protection and preservation. Living in booths for a week reminded Israel of God’s protection during a critical period of its history.” (From your Personal Study Guide, page 63)

In our text today we will address four of the six basic journalism questions: What? Who? How? And When?

 

What? Read Psalm 95:1-2

1.      How would you characterize these two verses, worship or call to worship?

2.      What does the psalmist specifically call for the people to do? (Shout joyfully; shout triumphantly; enter His presence with thanksgiving; shout triumphantly.)

3.      What causes believers to feel this way?

4.      Based on this passage, how would you define worship?

5.      What elements should be included in worship?

6.      What phrase does the psalmist use to describe God? (“The Rock of our salvation.”)

7.      How does verse 1 free you to sing to God whether you think you sing well or poorly? (Singing in the Bible is not a talent for a few but a command for all people. Many translations use the word “sing” rather than “shout” here, and one even encourages us to “make a joyful noise.”)

8.      What might shouting joyfully to the Lord look like in corporate worship? In privacy of your home or car?

Singing and shouting to God without right actions is not worship: read Amos 5:23-24.

True worship begins in the heart, not the lips!

 

Who? Read Psalm 95:3-5

 

1.      The answer to the question of who we are to worship should be obvious. How do these verses describe God?

2.      How do the descriptions that the psalmist used differ from how we might describe God?

Verse 4 teaches us that God is present at the deepest depths and the highest heights of creation. For the ancient Israelites, Mount Hermon would have been their highest reference point at 9,100 feet. The Dead Sea would have been the lowest point they knew at 1,400 feet below sea level and 120 miles away from each other. Today, our knowledge of the world is more expansive. We know that Mount Everest at 29,028 feet is the highest point on the planet, and the Challenger Deep in the Pacific Ocean (36,200 feet) is the lowest. But regardless of whether you are an ancient Israelite or you live today, God is present in every dimension of creation. He is there because He made it.

3.      Does our increased knowledge of our planet increase or diminish our worship of God?

4.      In what ways does the earth point to the greatness of God as Creator?

5.      How does the fact that God created you motivate you to worship Him? (We should be reminded that as our Creator, God knows our hearts and sees our actions and motivations infinitely more than we could ever understand.)

6.      How is worship more than a feeling? (We worship God for who He is not what He has done or will do! He is worthy of worship simply because of who He is!)

When we notice we’re worshiping something else, including our own opinion, we must deliberately redirect our affection to God. God’s Spirit in us will help us do this.

7.      How is obedience an act of worship? (It acknowledges God as our Sovereign Lord through our actions!)

 

How? Read Psalm 95:6-7a

 

1.      What attitude or character trait do you associate with kneeling and bowing down?

2.      Beyond physically bending our knees, how are we to show humility before God?

The psalmist further reinforced a posture of humility by comparing us to sheep.

3.      What do you remember about sheep from our study of Psalm 23?

4.      How is the image of sheep a fitting metaphor for the relationship between God and His people?

5.      What do you appreciate about being one of God’s sheep?

 

When? Read Psalm 95:7b-11

 

Summarize or read Exodus 17:1-7 where the people of Israel were without water and grumbled against God and Moses.

1.      Instead of grumbling and complaining against God because they had no water, what should have been their attitude? (First, thankfulness to God because He had delivered them from Egyptian slavery. Second, an attitude of faith that God would provide and excitement to see how He would provide.)

2.      Where was the people’s focus when they were without water? (Self! Instead of excitement about how God would provide.)

3.      Why is it so hard for us to maintain humility?

4.      What makes hardheartedness appealing? (Our sinful nature keeps our focus on “self”.)

5.      How is our worship of God influenced by our faith in God?

6.      What are the dangers of failing to worship God?

7.      How do we enter into God’s rest?

8.      What blocks us from entering His rest? (Lack of faith.)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

People were created to live in relationship with God and a natural outflow of that relationship would be to worship God.

What evidence do you see of this foundational need to worship?

 

We all worship something. The Spirit motivates believers to worship God through the fruits of the Spirit. These are obedient actions, not feelings.

Notice that the fruits of the Spirit are missing when a person worships self or possessions or any other entity.

 

Chorus to “Worthy of Worship”:

You are worthy, Father, Creator!

You are worthy, Savior, Sustainer.

You are worthy, worthy and wonderful;

Worthy of worship and praise.

 

Close with a prayer of praise!

His Presence - Psalm 84:1-12

1.      When you think of going to the following places what emotions do you feel: Home; Parents Home; Children’s Home; Wal-Mart; Bass Pro Shop; Shopping in general; Church?

2.      Why do we associate certain places with particular emotions?

3.      What are some places that have special emotional significance for you or your family?

4.      Do you ever find yourself humming or singing a hymn on your way to church? (I must confess I do. It is not uncommon for me to be singing a hymn on my way to church.)

5.      Why do you think a person would be singing a hymn on their way to worship? (Anticipation of being with God’s people and praising God together for all He has done and will do in our lives.)

Psalm 84 is classified as a Royal Psalm. It offers prayers for God’s blessings on Israel’s King with some hint of messianic fulfillment. Although not a formal classification it could be called a Psalm of Assent. It is thought that it was sung as pilgrims made their way to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple. Their excitement grew as they got closer and closer to Jerusalem.

One of the descendants of Korah wrote this Psalm. The sons of Korah were “gate keepers” at the Tabernacle and later on the Temple.

Listen for hints of their excitement!

 

The Passion! Read Psalm 84:1-4

 

1.      What words or phrases describe how the psalmist felt about God’s dwelling place? (Lovely; Even birds nest there; Those who reside there are very happy.)

2.      What words or phrases describe how the psalmist felt about God Himself? (Lord of Hosts; My King and my God; Praise You continually.)

3.      What one emotion seems to describe how the psalmist feels about both God and His house? (The psalmist wrote “I long and yearn for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God.”)

4.      Why did the psalmist associate the presence of the Lord so closely to the Temple? (The Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant was located, was where the High Priest went in once a year to sprinkle the blood of the sacrificed lamb, and it was associated with the very presence of God! It was thought of as God’s dwelling place here on earth.)

5.      Have you ever long for, yearned for, cried out for the presence of someone?

6.      What role does passion play in worship?

7.      How does the expectation of God’s presence impact that passion?

8.      Where is God’s dwelling place here on earth now? (The hearts of the believers.(1 Cor. 3:16 “Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you?”)

9.      What is the role of a particular place in feeling close to God? (Of course, God is everywhere but His presence is felt more strongly when God’s people are gathered. In Matthew 18:20 Jesus says, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.” His presence is manifest in the company of two or more gathered in His name. See Heb. 10:25.)

God is everywhere simultaneously, yet He promises that when His people gather in a designated place to worship Him and seek Him, He will meet with them there and reveal Himself to them.

Selah—Most likely a musical notation meaning to pause.

 

The Priority! Read Psalm 84:5-7

 

1.      How did the people described here make worship of God the highest priority? (They were on a pilgrimage to the temple to worship. The trip is characterized as having difficulties and hardships, but also as energizing to those making the journey, because they knew the joy of worship that awaited them.)

The Valley of Baca (Bay kuh) wasn’t necessarily a place but a metaphor. Baka derives from the Hebrew term meaning “to weep.” So the valley of Baca is similar to Psalm 23’s “valley of the shadow of death” (KJV).

2.      What is the value of God’s presence for the psalmist?

3.      How does God’s presence serve as a source of strength? (Finding strength in God is not a sign of weakness but instead is our source of happiness. God meets us in our weakness!)

4.      How do we go “from strength to strength”? (As we are strengthened through one crisis our faith is stronger and in the next crisis face we should be stronger.)

5.      How do strong decisions and actions encourage further strong decisions and actions? (We must be certain we are waiting on the Lord for our directions.)

The experience of worship can bend our question marks into exclamation points!

6.      How does God’s presence serve as a source of strength?

 

The Prayer! Psalm 84:8-9

 

1.      What is the specific prayer in verses 8-9?

2.      Who is the psalmist praying for, and why? (For the King of Israel. That God would consider the King and bless him.)

3.      How is a godly king/leader a shield for his people?

4.      Why is it so important that God direct the king/leader?

5.      How did the realization that God anoints rulers and leaders impact how the psalmist prayed?

The word “anointed” referred literally to the king of Israel, but it is also reference to Jesus, the coming Messiah. The Hebrew word translated “anointed one” is where we get our word “Messiah.”

6.      Does God still anoint leaders/place them in leadership today?

7.      What is our responsibility to our leaders today? (We have a God given responsibility to pray for our leaders, whether we like them or not! 1 Tim. 2:2)

 

 

The Presence! Read Psalm 84:10-12

 

1.      Why do you suppose Psalm 84:10 is so favored and frequently repeated? (Being a “doorkeeper” in the house of the Lord was a menial task. Remember the writer of this psalm was a descendant of Korah, and they were the “gatekeepers” in the house of the Lord.)

2.      The psalmist declared the joy of being in God’s presence even in an outer court. Why is being near God so valuable? (Being near God equips us to have the characteristics He has. After all, aren’t we to be like Jesus! The best way is to be near Him!)

3.      Verse 11 is the only place in Scripture that “God is a sun.” In what way would you compare God to the sun for us? (Without the sun everything on earth would die. God is literally the light or life for us!)

4.      How is God our shield?

5.      What is the condition here for God to give grace, glory and good to His people? (Integrity.)

6.      We generally know what it means to live with integrity in our daily lives but what does it mean to worship with integrity?

7.      How does God’s indwelling presence help us live with integrity?

Happiness results when we put our complete trust in the Lord!

8.      What modern-day illustration might convey the same trust as the psalmist expressed?

9.      What makes God’s presence so compelling?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

·         Believers are to worship God passionately in light of who He is.

·         God offers strength for life to those who seek to worship Him.

·         Believers are to pray for their leaders and for God’s direction as they lead.

·         Believers are to respond to God’s presence with worship and praise.

I love the word synergy! It means the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. In our context, it means that there is such a connection among individuals that it is better than what each one would be individually! We are stronger spiritually together than we are individually. Pray for each other and support each other as well as our leaders!

Our Response - Psalm 138:1-8

(Give each person a large paper clip and ask them to bend it into several different shapes. Give them a few moments to complete their task of bending the paper clip.)

Say: Your paper clip represents your life. We might be shaped in ways we didn’t anticipate, but we’ll end up better liking the person we become if we learn to give God thanks in all situations for the work He is doing in and through us. Read 1 Thess. 5:18!

(Reshape your paper clip to look like a person bowing.)

When we make thanksgiving and praise to God a daily habit we are changed more into the likeness of Jesus!

 

Psalm 138 is a thanksgiving psalm, which means it was a response to something God had done for the psalmist, David. In this Psalm, David stated that he would give God thanks with his whole heart. That may not always be our first instinct, but as we strengthen our allegiance to God, it will become more and more natural.

 

Give God Thanks! Read Psalm 138:1-3

 

1.      What phrase expresses David’s sincerity in giving thanks?

2.      What does it mean to “halfheartedly” do something?

3.      How would you describe doing something “with all your heart?”

4.      What makes the difference in “halfhearted” and “wholehearted”?

5.      Before whom did David say he would sing praise?

We can’t see heavenly beings with our physical eyes. And at the time David was writing this psalm, the temple hadn’t been built so he was bowing toward the Tabernacle. A thankful heart does not depend on what can be seen with our eyes.

6.      What may cause a person to hesitate in giving thanks to God?

7.      What roadblocks get in the way of a person developing an attitude of thankfulness?

Read verse 3 again. Note that David was referring to a previous experience—he has shifted from talking about what he would do to what had happened in the past.

8.      Would anyone like to share an experience when God answered a specific prayer?

9.      What motivates a person to express thankfulness?

10.  Are some motives better than others?

 

This psalm seems to indicate that thankfulness is a matter of willingness. Thankfulness is often expressed for what God has done. But worship is expressed for who God is. In the next section, let’s pay attention to why David wrote that all earthly kings will worship the Lord.

 

All Kings Will Bow! Read Psalm 138:4-6

 

God has a special relationship with His people, Israel. Israel is the nation to whom God has made specific promises of blessing. Yet, verse 4 says that all the kings on earth will thank God when they hear what God has promised.

1.      What generally happens when an earthly kingdom is vanquished by another?

2.      What will happen when earthly kingdoms are concurred and subjugated by the Lord? (It is cause for thanksgiving and praise!)

3.      According to verse 5, why would other kings of the earth sing of the Lord’s ways? (“The Lord’s Glory is Great.”)

Although God’s promises were made to Israel, God is clear throughout Scripture that all nations will benefit from the blessings God poured out on His chosen people. When God first blessed Abraham, He told him that He would make Abram into a great nation (see Gen. 12:3). Ultimately, this promise has its fulfillment through Jesus Christ, who, though He is a descendant of Abraham according to the flesh, is the Savior of all people through His death and resurrection (see Rom. 1:4).

4.      Which is a better motivator of thankfulness to God: love or fear? Why? (Some kings would be prompted out of thankfulness for the Lord’s promises, ways, or greatness, and others would give thanks out of fear for God’s recognition of their haughtiness and for their own failure to recognize the humble.)

5.      How does God treat the humble? (See James 4:10, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.” See 2 Chron. 7:14.)

6.      What is God’s attitude toward the proud? (See James 4:6; Prov. 16:18—“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Prov. 11:2—“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” Prov. 6:16-19 “There are six things the Lord hates, no seven things He detests; haughty eyes, …”)

Sadly, sometimes our thanks might be self-focused rather than God-focused. God sees through our arrogant or haughty attitudes.

 

In our last few verses for today, we’ll see how David expressed confidence in God’s love, omniscience, and power.

God Will Fulfill! Read Psalm 138:7-8

 

From the time Samuel anointed David to be the person God had chosen to replace Saul as king of Israel he almost always faced danger from some enemy. Initially it was Saul, then other armies, then his own son, Absalom. David was well acquainted with danger. But David’s enemies failed because he trusted God, not his own skill. No foe could take David’s life as long as he gave it to God!

1.      What three conclusions had David come to realize in verse 8? (David’s life had meaning; God’s love is eternal; and God would complete what He had begun in David’s life.)

2.      How does enduring a danger or a trial make a person more aware of God’s will and working in his or her life? (What we believe about God shapes how much we let Him guide us.)

3.      How does enduring it foster a thankful attitude?

4.      How has God’s extended hand equipped you to manage danger, anger, or unexpected obstacles?

5.      How can we work for God’s purpose despite setbacks? (God is very practical and will use many means to help us fulfill our purposes in Him.)

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Looking back over these eight verses actions for which the psalmist was thankful are: God’s constant love, constant truth, answering prayer, increasing strength, noting the humble, recognizing haughtiness, helping with anger from enemies, extending His strong hand, fulfilling His purpose, and eternal love.

1.      What are some ways we can develop a truly thankful attitude toward God?

2.      How can we express joyful thanks to God when we feel grumpy, entitled, frustrated, or otherwise unthankful?

We know the “church answers,” but still struggle to choose thankfulness.

Like David, we can choose “I will” with such actions as naming elements to be thankful for even amidst the junk, talking to God about our frustrations and knowing He’s been there, or by taking “every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).

 

We give thanks to God not for everything, but “in everything” (1 Thess. 5:18). This can only be done through the power of God’s Spirit!

 

Our challenge: Create a habit that will ensure regular thankfulness to God. Will it be a dialogue with Him while taking your shower, a calendar reminder, or something else?

 

Make thankfulness and praise to God a lifestyle!

The Shepherd - Psalm 23:1-6

(Make three columns on the board. Label them “First Person”, “Second Person”, and “Third Person”. List the singular, plural, and possessive pronouns below each one: 1st Person: I, we, me, my, mine, ours; 2nd Person: you, yours; 3rd Person: he, she, it, him, her, they, them, his, hers, theirs.)

Engage the class in the following discussion:

1.      Which pronouns would you typically use in a conversation with a friend?

2.      Which would you use providing eyewitness testimony? Writing a history paper? Singing a love song? Writing a letter to the editor? Recapping a game you watched on TV? Praising God? Praying to God?

Psalm 1, which we studied two weeks ago used third person pronouns. Psalm 78 gave the history of God’s faithfulness and Israel’s unfaithfulness. Almost every pronoun is third person. But Psalm 23 is different. Every single verse in the psalm has at least one first-person pronoun, and there are even a few second-person pronouns. There’s a reason Psalm 23 is one of the most beloved chapters in the entire Bible: it may be the most personal of all the Psalms! We hear it quoted and even used as a prayer at times.

 

Psalm 23 is a thanksgiving psalm, which means it was a response to something God had done for the psalmist—in this case David.

David knew about shepherding so he described God as his Shepherd. Let’s learn a little more about how God shepherds us!

 

(Read the first two paragraphs of Understanding the Context in the Personal Study Guide.)

Provides! Read Psalm 23:1-3

 

1.      Who is the Shepherd? *(Yahweh, God the author; God the Son, our Savior, Creator of all that exists; God the Holy Spirit who lives in the believer.)

2.      What is the relationship of the shepherd to his sheep? (Many times he was the owner, protector, guide, companion, and savior—he was everything to the sheep!)

3.      What words or phrases from these verses are especially comforting to you right now?

4.      What does the Shepherd provide for the sheep? (Everything they need!)

5.      How often do you see sheep lying down in a field?

*Sheep do not just take care of themselves. They require, more than any other class of livestock, endless attention and meticulous care. It is almost impossible for sheep to be made to lie down unless four requirements are met. 1-They refuse to lie down unless they are free of all fear. 2-They must be free from friction with others of their kind. 3-They must be free from torment by flies or parasites and 4-They must not feel a need of finding food.

6. How does each of these conditions apply to us as God’s sheep?

Sheep are afraid of swift running water and will not drink. Also, it is dangerous for them because if they slipped in the running water, their wool would become soaked and they would likely drown. What a peaceful picture is painted here! They are led to still waters to satisfy their thirst.

6.      What path does the shepherd lead them along?

Sometimes, sheep fall over on their backs, or “cast” and need someone to set them on their feet again. They can become “cast” by lying down on a really soft area of grass and just roll too far or perhaps the wool coat has become too heavy with briarsand such that they simply fall over. They must be helped to their feet or they will die. They have fallen by the wayside.

7.      How can we as Christians become “cast” and need help getting back to where we need to be?

8.      How specifically do you see God, as the Shepherd, give life to you daily?

9.      What keeps people from recognizing God’s involvement in providing these things?

10.  The shepherd metaphor was very understandable to the ancient Hebrews, but not many of us today have firsthand experience with sheep and shepherds. David drew metaphors from his life experiences. How would you convey the biblical truth in these verses using contemporary analogies from your own life experience?

Truths we find here is that it is important to rest at times—resting is not a sin—that is one way God renews us! Phillip Keller shares in his book “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” that when he was in the field with his sheep they were at ease and unafraid. That sounds a lot like John 10:14 “I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep and they know Me.”

We are led in the right paths “for His name’s sake.”—for His glory!

 

Guards! Read Psalm 23:4

 

Notice that David had stopped talking about the Lord and now spoke directly to the Lord.

1.      Who is there with the sheep in this dark valley?

2.      How did the sheep get in this valley? (The indication is that the Shepherd led them through it. Perhaps they needed to pass that way to get to greener pastures across the way.)

3.      Why is it important to have a personal relationship with God when we are going through dark valleys?

4.      Why isn’t it enough during these times to simply “know about” the Lord?

5.      How do sheep express trust in the shepherd? (They are calm, unafraid and obedient.)

6.      In what ways is obedience a function of trust?

*The staff is essentially a symbol of the concern, the compassion that a shepherd has for his charges. No other single word can better describe its function on behalf of the flock that that it is for their comfort. Whereas the rod conveys the concept of authority, of power, of discipline, of defense against danger, the word “staff” speaks of all that is longsuffering and kind.

The rod and the staff are tools of both correction and guidance.

7.      How has God walked with you and shown you what to do during a dark or dangerous time? (God not only goes with us, but He shows us what to do when we suffer or during quiet, rightness, wrongness, darkness, danger, plenty, and goodness.)

It is always important to wait until you hear from God!

8.      How does God’s presence in the good and bad times bring comfort to us? (Sometimes we are in difficult situations because of bad choices. Often God’s guidance helps us completely avoid darkness or danger. Sometimes, however, following the right path leads us directly through the dark valleys. Following the wrong path always leads us toward unnecessary dark valleys.)

While we are in our darkest valleys, God is not only with us, but He also continues to provide for our needs!

Hosts! Read Psalm 23:5-6

 

Some scholars think the psalmist has shifted to a banquet metaphor in these verses and some believe he is still talking about shepherds and sheep. If the psalmist is talking about a banquet host, we see them eating while onlookers come into the room. We see this in Luke 7:36-50 where Jesus was invited to a Pharisees home for a meal and the sinful woman anointed His feet with oil.

To anoint the guest’s head with oil was to honor them.

Most likely, however, the entire psalm is comparing God as David’s shepherd. Phillip Keller was trained as an aerologist at the University of Toronto and spent many years in agricultural research, land management, and ranch development. He also owned and operated a sheep ranch for eight years. He has firsthand knowledge of sheep and how to take care of them. He says at certain times of the year good grazing land is hard to find, and the sheep have to be herded high in the mountains to flat pastures known as mesas or tablelands. Mesa means table. In the spring the shepherd begins to prepare these mesas for summer feeding. Then just before the sheep arrive he takes a supply of salt and minerals to be distributed over the range. He also looks for and gets rid of the poisonous weeds or plants to avoid grazing in those areas. In other words, he is preparing the table for the sheep. He also says that pests are a real problem in the summertime, especially nose flies. The shepherd will prepare an ointment to smear over the sheep’s nose and head as a protection against nose flies.

As David thought about all the things God did for him, he was overwhelmed; therefore he said “My cup overflows.”

1.      What is indicated here by the Lord preparing a banquet feast for us in the presence of our enemies?

2.      What characteristics of God give confidence in times of trouble and in times of prosperity?

3.      How do these two verses encourage a person facing a time of trouble?

4.      How do these verses bring perspective to those experiencing a time of prosperity? (David highlighted the place where divine provision and protection was constantly available: in the house of the Lord!)

What a great thought that goodness and mercy pursues us!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

Jesus referred to Himself as the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11). All the promises we see in Psalm 23 have their fulfillment in Christ (see Matt. 11:28; 28:20)

 

Let’s recite this beloved psalm in the King James Version as we close.

 

Psalm 23

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:

He leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul:

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 

Close with prayer!

 

*”A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” by Phillip Keller © 1970 Zondervan Publishing House

The Past! - Psalm 78:1-39

Write on the whiteboard/blackboard or large sheet of paper: “Those who do not learn from history…”

1.      Point out the phrase: how would you complete this famous quote? (…are doomed to repeat it.”)

There are some variations of this that have been thought up through the years, for instance—“Those who don’t learn from history will wind up in summer school.” I’m living proof of that prediction.

2.      How would you describe the general tone of the original quote? (That the outcome will not be good, perhaps even disastrous.)

3.      Based on your own experiences or the state of the world today, do you think this saying is true?

4.      What is necessary to keep from repeating history? (We must know history to avoid making the same mistakes our ancestors made.)

Psalm 78 called for Israel to learn lessons from their history. Like Psalm 1, which we studied last week, Psalm 78 is a wisdom psalm. Its purpose is to teach not only the Israelites something but us as well.

Psalm 78 is rich with stories of historical events—plagues that led to freedom form Egyptian slavery, God parting the Red Sea, God’s provision of food during the journey, rebellion expressed through building high places to worship false gods, God residing among the people in the tabernacle, God choosing David to lead Israel, and more.

 

Teach for the Future! Read Psalm 78:1-4

 

1.      How are our children to learn about their heritage?

2.      What is Asaph going to share in the following verses?

3.      Is this just a good idea Asaph came up with or does this practice go much deeper? (Read Deut. 11:18-21)

4.      What is it that will bring success in our lives and nation?

Read Psalm 78:5-8

5.      What were parents to teach their children? (According to verse 5, fathers were to teach their children God’s law. Hebrew poetry often emphasized repetition of ideas rather than sounds. Thus, “testimony in Jacob” and “law in Israel” are synonymous.)

6.      Why were they to teach these truths of Israel’s history and law to their children?

7.      What are some ways people teach future generations about God and His love besides telling?

8.      What types of teaching will most likely touch a future generation?

9.      How might you put God’s faithfulness into one sentence stories? (This Psalm shows two ways to live—respect and obey God, or ignore God and assume you’re smarter than Him.)

10.  Who in previous generations taught you about God?

The natural order of humanity is to drift toward decay. It takes intentional effort for us to grow in love and obedience toward God. This is true of old and new generations as well. That is why we are commanded to keep God’s word constantly on our minds!

 

(If time permits read Psalm 78:9-31. If not summarize these verses.)

Remember the Past! Read Psalm 78:32-37

 

1.      The Scripture records the tendency for God’s people to turn from God, fail, receive God’s discipline, and then return to God. What clues do these verses give for why this happens? (The people did not “believe” God. In other words they did not place their confident trust in Him. They tried to use “flattery” in their insincere worship.)

2.      For what reasons might a person risk lying or being unfaithful to God?

Even people who crossed the Red Sea and recipients of God’s miraculous feeding refused God’s loving direction. The people’s repentance was insincere and self-deceptive. They had a form of belief that responded to God’s judgment and not His compassion.

3.      Conversely, what would lead someone to be sincere in repentance and trust of God?

4.      How can we demonstrate our faith and trust in God to our children?

5.      How have people in our day, tried to “rewrite” history to suit what they would like for it to be? (Some would say our ancestors came to this country for reasons other than religious freedom. Some would say that the U. S. A. is an aggressor nation, trying to impose our lifestyle and beliefs on others! They would teach our children that God’s Word is not truth and not what our nation was founded upon!)

Read Numbers 14:34: (Highlight the Sinai Desert on a map.) The Israelites rebelled against God so they received His righteous judgment. They would wander in the desert for 40 years, until every adult 20 years old and older died, except Joshua and Caleb. Numbers 1:46 lists the number of fighting men at more than 600,000 so if they were all married, that’s a total of 1.2 million people. That’s one funeral every 17 minutes! While verse 35 indicates that some did repent when they remembered God as their rock and Redeemer, they always seemed to lapse back into unfaithfulness.

6.      Read Psalm 78:35: How does this verse motivate us to desire to be faithful to God? (Seeing God’s character should draw us toward Him. When we focus on God’s character, our faithfulness grows out of gratefulness rather than the fear of getting caught.)

7.      How did the people, as a whole, demonstrate insincere hearts toward God in verses 35-37?

8.      How do people do the same today?

9.      Why do tragedies cause people to turn to God?

10.  How would you define the difference between a genuine turning to God and a temporary turning to God?

 

These verses paint a grim but accurate picture of human nature. Thankfully, it isn’t human nature that saves us. Verses 32-37 talk about what the people did in spite of God’s goodness. Verses 38-39 talk about what God did in spite of the people’s wickedness.

 

Compassion in the Present! Read Psalm 78:38-39

 

1.      What word gives us hope here in the face of God’s righteous judgment? (Atoned!)

2.      How did God atone for the guilt of the people? (God’s plan has been the same from the very beginning—He would send His Son to atone for our sin! Jesus was the substitute sacrifice offered for our sin!)

3.      How does God’s compassion shown in the past give us hope for the present?

4.      What is the connection between God’s compassion and humanity’s limitations? (God provided what we could never be—the perfect sacrifice for atonement for our sin!)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Think back for a moment about what your parents passed on to you and what you are passing on to your children. Whether it’s cooking or changing a tire, there is value in all the things we try to pass on to our children.

1.      But what are we doing to pass on those lessons that have eternal significance?

2.      What did you learn today about human nature and God’s compassion?

3.      What are some ways our S. S. class can teach younger individuals about God and His compassion for humanity?

4.      What examples of God’s faithfulness can you site in your life right now, regardless of good or bad circumstances?

 

We can learn from the past as we observe God’s faithfulness in contrast to humanity’s unfaithfulness.

The Path - Psalm 1:1-6

Today we begin a thirteen week study of all or portions of thirteen different Psalms from the book bearing that name. That is hardly the proverbial “drop in the bucket” when considering there are 150 chapters in the book of Psalms. This book contains the longest chapter (119) and the shortest chapter (117) in the Bible. In has the center chapter (117) and the center verse (118:8) in the Bible. It is the most quoted Old Testament book in the New Testament. It was written over a period of 1,000 years with numerous authors including David, who wrote roughly half of them, Moses, Asaph, sons of Korah, and Solomon. Forty eight are anonymous.

There are psalms that address virtually every possible human emotion—there are emotional cries to God for deliverance; expressions of gratitude to God for His abundant blessings; declarations of the greatness of God; Prayers for God’s blessings on Israel’s king, some with messianic implications/fulfillments; celebrations of God’s rule over all His creation; expressions of contrition and repentance; practical guidelines for godly living. There are even psalms that call for God’s righteous judgment to fall on the wicked.

The psalms of wisdom, like the other wisdom books—Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes—have both indisputable truths and general truths. Just when I think I understand all God is saying to me He speaks a new truth! We will never plumb the depth of God’s Word!

Dr. Robert Smith Jr. shares this thought: “The Psalms invite us to come close so that we can see the windows of the psalms turned into the mirrors of our lives.” As we read the Psalms we find ourselves saying “This is my story, this is my song; Praising my Savior all the day long!” “It’s not what we get from God that we need most; it is God Himself.”—again Dr. Smith. The Psalms help us understand and express our emotions to God, even our frustrations! God can handle it!

            Psalms 1 and 2 serve as an introduction to the book.

The Path of Life! Read Psalm 1:1-3

 

1.      What does the first line of verse 1 tell us about the “state of being” of a person on the path of life? (Happy.)

2.      What does worldly happiness depend upon? (Circumstances.)

3.      What does God’s definitions of happiness depend upon? (Relationship with Him. It is a deep down contentment.)

4.      How many different paths are there for a person to take in life according to Scripture? (Matt. 7:13-14—narrow way and wide way. Why should we be surprised when we read the same idea expressed is different areas of Scripture—All is God inspired!)

There are only two roads; one is God’s way, which leads to life. The other way presents itself in many different forms, but it leads to the same destination—destruction!

5.      What progression do we see in verse one for one headed down the wrong path? (Walk, stand, and sit. We all must be very careful about our close associations!)

Also notice the progression of the wrongdoers. They are described as wicked, then sinners, then mockers of those who chose not to go down the wrong path! We must refuse to take ungodly advice, refuse to walk down a sinful path and refuse to make fun of the truth.

6.      How do we balance expressing love to ungodly people while refusing to be influenced by them?

7.      Where does the godly find delight?

8.      What does it mean to meditate on God’s Word?

9.      What word picture does the psalmist paint to depict a person who has chosen the right path?

10.  What is the godly fruit that God desires for His followers to produce?

11.  How can worldly wisdom hinder growth?

12.  How does reading the Bible nurture the development of this godly fruit? (It is the nourishment needed for spiritual growth!)

The fruit of the Spirit is produced as God’s Word is absorbed. But as apple trees produce apples, so disciples should produce disciples as we saw last week in Matthew 28! In John 15:1-5 Jesus says “I am the vine and you are the branches…” We must abide in Him if we are to produce fruit!

13.  How might our lifestyle or daily schedule change if our delight in and meditation of God’s instruction increased?

It is only by remaining on the right path that we can experience our full potential God planned for us! “I know the plans I have for you…”

 

The Path of Death! Read Psalm 1:4-5

 

1.      What is the state of being for the person on “The Path of Death?”

2.      What is chaff? (Chaff is the husk that contains the precious grain. It is worthless. The righteous was compared to a perennially watered tree that is permanent and prosperous. The wicked is compared to the chaff of wheat that is worthless and blown away by the slightest gust of wind.)

The wicked are the opposite of everything that is said about the righteous in verses 1-2. We can assume that if the happy person does not follow the advice of the wicked, the wicked person does, and so on for the other descriptions from verse 1. However, there are specific details about what the wicked won’t do in verse 5.

3.      What is it that the wicked will not do? (One translation says the wicked will not “stand up in the judgment.” See Phil. 2:9-11)

4.      How should God’s warning about the future of the wicked affect us?

5.      How should we feel?

6.      What should we do?

7.      How can we share God’s truth in love with those who are in rebellion against God? (We must build a relationship with them to “earn” the right to share with them.)

We cultivate blessing when we follow God in daily routines, remaining focused on being obedient to Him. Falling for the deceptive advice of the wicked leads to instability, worthlessness, and destruction.

 

 

 

The Conclusion! Read Psalm 1:6

 

1.      What does this verse teach about the security of those who follow God?

2.      How does this security impact our behavior?

3.      Does this verse mean that the “righteous” will not ever have any problems? (Certainly not! As Bro. Tommy Higle shared with us last Sunday, God allows us to have problems to DIRECT us; INSPECT us; CORRECT us; and PERFECT us. But be assured, He is right there with us helping us be more like His Son, Jesus through it all!

4.      What is the fate of the wicked in verse 6? (While God is aware of them He does not interfere as they suffer the consequences of their choice of paths.)

The righteous aren’t right with God because of the good things they do: We don’t become righteous because we avoid following the advice of the wicked, taking the path of sinners, or joining with mockers. We are righteous because we have been saved by faith in Christ Jesus. Our actions and behaviors reflect our salvation. They don’t contribute to it.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      What illustration from nature would best describe your spiritual life right now?

2.      If you have felt more like a tree planted by streams of water, is it because you have maintained the spiritual disciplines of delighting in God’s Word and meditating on it?

3.      On the other hand, if your spiritual life has been more like chaff, is it because you haven’t been avoiding the behaviors of verse 1?

4.      Reflect: What might you need to change in your life? Or What good things are you doing that you need to make sure you keep doing?

5.      How difficult is it to keep from eavesdropping on the advice of the wicked; or walking with those we know to be wicked; or sitting with those who mock righteousness?

Embracing godly wisdom is more than intellectual ascent. It affects every area of life. It is a conscious decision to take the right path. Look back at decisions you made yesterday. For which did you follow “the advice of the wicked”? Which followed “the pathway of sinners”? Which delighted in “the Lord’s instruction”?

 

Thank God for watching over the way of the righteous, and ask Him for the strength to continue on the path of life!

What Do We Do Now? - Matthew 28:16-20

   Last Sunday we saw the religious leaders prod the crowd witnessing Jesus’ crucifixion to mock Him, even those being crucified with Him mocked Him. A supernatural event took place as darkness fell over the area for three hours. This was obviously a physical darkness but it also represented a spiritual darkness, the darkness of man’s sin. Then with a final cry and at precisely the right time, Jesus willingly died for our sin. The temple curtain was torn from top to bottom, an earthquake split stones, and people were resurrected from their graves, in much the same way as Lazarus. An interesting point to take from that lesson was that Jesus gave up His life, it was not taken from Him. He waited to die until the three o’clock hour when the priests would be at the temple and would witness the tearing of the curtain and man’s new access to God with the curtain removed. Jesus was in control all along, sovereign over the very timing of His own death.

 

   In today’s lesson we see that Jesus instructed us to go and make disciples. So how do we do that? We each have a skill, we each have a place to teach that skill and we can use various methods to teach. We are to use our skill or skills to make disciples of Christ. We can do this knowing that as believers we have the light of Jesus’ power and presence.

  

Read Matthew 28:16-17 “Worship”

   How did the disciples immediately respond when they saw Jesus after His resurrection? They worshipped Him, but some doubted. Even today, we see responses to Jesus ranging from belief and acceptance to questioning and doubts to rejection.

   What might have motivated them to worship?

   What might have caused them to doubt?

Think of all they had experienced over the past few days. Their emotions were shot, they were both overjoyed and bewildered.

   What should we do with our doubts? Give them to God. God can handle our honest doubts and questions when we earnestly seek Him. We can have doubts while we worship. Even so, God desires for us to move from doubting to faith and obedience.

   What was the significance of Jesus accepting their worship? By accepting the disciples worship, Jesus showed Himself to be the Lord. Remember when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He quoted Deuteronomy 6:13: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only Him”.

 

 

 

Read Matthew 28:18 “Power”

   Pg. 136 of the Quarterly has an interesting question: Why would it have been important for the disciples to understand the magnitude of Jesus’ authority? Why is it important for believers today?

   What was the scope of Jesus’ authority? Jesus had authority before the resurrection, but through the resurrection, God the Father granted Him “all authority” over creation. To help explain His authority consider having someone read these verses: Matt. 7:29, 9:6-8, 21:23.

   What does Jesus’ power mean for us? Jesus’ declaration of His authority over all creation immediately precedes His commission for us to “go…and make disciples”. Look at how “therefore” links this verse 18 to the next verses.

 

Read Matthew 28:19-20a “Mission”

   See how “therefore” links the authority of v18 with the “go” in v19.

   What were the disciples supposed to do? The disciples were to share the gospel, but also they were to nurture the new converts as they grew into maturity.

   Why is baptism important after one has accepted Christ? Baptism is a public declaration of a person’s faith in Jesus, not a means by which a person is saved. It calls attention to the spiritual transformation that has taken place through the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

   As His followers, how are we to carry out Jesus’ instructions? Jesus instructed His disciples to extend their mission to the whole world. Christ still calls His followers to that today.

 

Read Matthew 28:20b “Presence”

  Jesus had commanded and taught the disciples for years. Now it was time for them to take the baton and continue His ministry.

   What did Jesus promise here? His presence, always.

   How do we see His presence in our lives today? We do not have to carry out the Great Commission in going and making disciples in our own power and strength; Jesus is with us “always, to the end of the age.”

   Does that promised presence serve as an encouragement to believers?

   What does it mean to you that Jesus will be with us always?

   At what times do you find this most strengthening and comforting.

 

Summary: How can we fulfill the Great Commission?

·         Pray, give, go

·         FBC Missions Task Force

·         Ardmore Team

·         Judea/Samaria Team

·         Uttermost Team

 

Remember that you don’t have to depend on your own limited strength or resources. Jesus has promised His power and presence to go with us. Look and listen for opportunities to share the gospel every day.

Crucified - Matthew 27:41-52

1.      Can you think of an actual incident where someone gave their life to save someone else?

2.      Do you think most people stop to think “If I do this it will cost me my life.”? (Many times it is simply a reaction to save someone else, without considering the danger to one’s own life.)

3.      There are numerous real life stories about people who have given their life for someone else. What is the difference in their actions and Jesus’ actions in giving His life for us?

 

Today’s study is about Jesus’ paying the ultimate sacrifice when He gave His life to save us for all eternity. When we study and reflect on His actions, we are led to worship Him, thank Him, and commit our life in service to Him!

 

Mocked!

 

After the mock trial before the Sanhedrin, Jesus was taken to Pilate. Pilate learned that Jesus was from Galilee and knew that Herod Antipas was in Jerusalem so he sent Jesus to him. When Jesus would not answer any of Herod’s questions or perform any miracles, he was sent back to Pilate. There was obviously an execution already scheduled for that morning. Pilate, in an effort to let Jesus go offered to release either Jesus or Barabbas, a notorious prisoner. But the people, led by the chief priests and the elders, demanded Barabbas be released and Jesus crucified. Then Pilate had Jesus flogged and handed Him over to the soldiers to be crucified. The soldiers mocked Jesus even more by putting a robe on Him and bowing down to Him and saying “Hail, King of the Jews!” they took thorns and fashioned a crown, mashed it on His head and kept hitting Him with a reed. Finally they stripped Him and led Him away to be crucified. He was placed between two criminals, who also mocked Him.

 

Read Matthew 27:32-40

 

Who were the people mocking Jesus in this passage?

From Jesus’ point of view it seemed that everyone was mocking Him. They nailed Jesus to the cross. The sign that was placed above Him on the cross was in the three common languages during that time period; Hebrew, Aramaic and Latin.

 

Read Matthew 27:41-44

 

1.      Who is mocking Jesus in this passage?

2.      If you were describing those mocking Him in terms we use in our church who would they be? (Pastors, staff, teachers and members.)

3.      Generally speaking, if the leadership takes a particular stand on an issue how do the people respond? (It is so important that we as leaders know the Scripture and take the right stand from God’s point of view.)

4.      How would you describe the way the chief priests, scribes and elders mocked Jesus? Notice in verse 43 they insinuated that even God didn’t want Him!)

5.      What is a “Paradox”? (“A paradox is a statement that, despite apparently sound reasoning from true premises, leads to a self-contradictory or a logically unacceptable conclusion. A paradox involves contradictory yet interrelated elements that exist simultaneously and persist over time.”)

6.      In what way was the statements the ridiculers were making about Jesus being able to save others but not being able to save Himself a paradox?

7.      Would they have believed if He had come down from the cross? (The answer is “no”. In Luke 16:31 Jesus said they would not believe even if someone was raised from the dead. That was proven when Lazarus was brought back to life. Faith that demands miraculous signs is an inadequate faith see Matt. 16:4.)

8.      Of those who mocked Jesus, who surprises you the most? (Perhaps the criminals. Although, one of them later repented, and Jesus promised him a place in heaven.)

All of these events took place from the time Jesus was nailed to the cross—around 9 A.M. (see Mk. 15:25)—and noon.

9.      How do you respond when people ridicule Jesus?

10.  What do you do when they mock you for your trust in Jesus?

 

Forsaken! Read Matthew 27:45-49

 

1.      What do we learn from the three hours of darkness about the nature of sin and the magnitude of its consequences? (Nature itself reacted to its Creator being crucified see Rom. 8:22.)

2.      Why darkness? What happened to cause this darkness? (Several possibilities have been proposed. Creation itself was in mourning; The Father turned away see Hab. 1:13; Some say a solar eclipse—that can’t be because that can only occur when there is a new moon and Passover takes place during a full moon; We really don’t know but for this one event a supernatural event took place that has never been repeated. Both physical and spiritual darkness covered the land!)

3.      What seemed to be the motive of the one who offered Jesus a drink? (He seemed to have compassion and mercy. The One who made the rivers and seas cried out “I thirst”—see John 19:28. In His great thirst He brought water to me.)

4.      What were the motives of those who wanted to see Elijah appear? (It had been prophesied that one like Elijah would come and Jesus Himself said John the Baptist fulfilled that prophesy.)

5.      Have you ever felt forsaken in the midst of some terrible trial?

6.      What renewed your faith that God will never leave you or forsake you? (The words Jesus cried out in torment at three in the afternoon were prophesied in Psalm 22:1. Imagine being in so much agony that you feel God has forsaken you! But because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross we have assurance that God will never forsake us see Heb. 13:5.)

 

There were seven recorded statements that Jesus made from the cross:

·         Luke 23:34—“Father, forgive them…”

·         John 19:26-27—“Woman, behold your son…”

·         Luke 23:43—“…Today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

·         Matt. 27:46—“My God, My God, …”

·         John 19:28—“I thirst.”

·         Luke 23:46—“Father, into Your hands I entrust My spirit.”

·         John 19:30—“It is finished!”

7.      What do these sayings, taken together, tell you about who Jesus is?

8.      How do they instruct you in living today as a follower of Christ?

 

Sacrificed! Read Matthew 27:50-53

 

1.      What events marked the death of Jesus? (The curtain separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple area was torn from top to bottom. It is said that this curtain was 4” thick, 60’ wide and 30’ tall. There was also a great earthquake and graves of the saints were opened.)

2.      How would you interpret the significance of these events? (All people now have access to God. Once again creation is reacting to God’s Son’s suffering and death. Jesus’ death made Him the Giver of our Spiritual life!)

Jesus’ death occurred at three o’clock, the time of the afternoon sacrifices at the temple. The priests would have been there to witness the curtain being ripped apart from top to bottom. This curtain, which separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place could only be entered once a year for the High Priest to make atonement for the sins of the people. The days of the High Priest making intercession for God’s people was over.

That curtain that had been a visual symbol of the separation between creature and Creator, between sinful humanity and the holy, righteous God was gone! Jesus is now our Intercessor!

3.      In what ways did Jesus’ death on the cross provide access to God for all people?

4.      What does it mean to you personally that you have access to ‘God through faith in Jesus?

5.      To whom could you tell this good news in the week ahead?

 

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Jesus’ death removed the great chasm between God and sinful humanity, making it possible for us to have an eternal relationship with God through faith in Jesus.

1.      Take time to reflect on your life when you were separated from God. What image from the crucifixion best illustrates your life at that time?

2.      What actions should you take as a result of remembering what it is like to be separated from God?

3.      How should we live in light of Jesus’ sacrifice for us?

·         If we have never asked forgiveness for our sins and placed our trust in Jesus, we can do that today.

·         As believers, we should live each day so that our words, attitudes, and actions reflect that Jesus is the Messiah and Lord of our lives.

·         We should live with thankfulness for the sacrifice Jesus made through His death, so we could have an eternal relationship with God.

 

It wasn’t the nails that held Jesus on the cross! It was His great love for you!

Take time this week to reflect on the sacrifice Jesus made for you. Remember the sin debt that each of us carries and none of us can pay. It is only accepting what Jesus did on the cross for us that we can be made right with God. Thank God for providing our way to Him!!

Loyal? - Matthew 26:62-75

1.      How do we show loyalty to our favorite sports teams? (Attend games, wear our team’s apparel, watch religiously when the team plays on TV, etc.)

2.      What causes some people to abandon their favorite team? (When the team falls on hard times and ceases to win. Sometimes when we are with a group of people who strongly support an opposing team.)

3.      What causes us to change our loyalty to a product or a business? (Target’s support of “unisex” bathrooms.)

The change of heart concerning a product or business may well be merited, because businesses are certainly not perfect, and we as consumers may sometimes realize our loyalties have been misplaced. But loyalty to our Father is never misplaced, not is loyalty to His Son, Jesus!

 

Today we will learn of unwavering loyalty as we observe Jesus’ loyalty to our Father’s plan of salvation. Following Him is easy at times, but under some circumstances it is much more difficult. In today’s Scripture text, Peter is given the opportunity to exercise loyalty under difficult circumstances, but fails the test.

 

As Jesus finished His third period of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane Judas and the soldiers came to arrest Jesus and take Him to the High Priest. Judas identified which one was Jesus by kissing Him on the cheek. Then they took Jesus to be tried at Caiaphas’ house where the Sanhedrin was gathered. They began the mock trial to support the decision they had already made about crucifying Jesus. Two of the disciples, John and Peter, had followed at a distance to see what would happen to Jesus. They entered the courtyard and warmed themselves by a fire near the proceedings.

 

Jesus was being questioned by Caiaphas, the high priest who ruled the Sanhedrin, the council that reigned over the Jewish people.

Affirmed By Scripture! Read Matthew 26:62-64

 

Caiaphas understood the divine nature of the Messiah. To be the Anointed One was to be equal with God. He also knew that to be the Son of God was to be divine. To these leaders, there was no greater crime that the blasphemy of claiming to be the Messiah!

1.      How did Jesus use Scripture to affirm His identity? (Jesus used Old Testament Scripture to confirm His identity in verse 64.

Read Ps. 110:1 and Daniel 7:13. “Son of Man” came from this passage, depicting a ruler who would come from heaven and rule over an eternal kingdom as opposed to an earthly kingdom, as many had expected.

Jesus affirmed that He was both Messiah and Son of God!

2.      What was the significance of Jesus’ pointing to Scripture in response to questions addressed to Him? (Although, He knew they would not accept Him, He wanted them to know that He was the fulfillment of the Scriptures about the Messiah and that He was not ignorant of the Scriptures.)

3.      How does Scripture continue to serve as the authority on Jesus’ identity? (It is the Word of God and a Witness by the Holy Spirit, Who inspired the writers of the Old Testament to write their prophecies. All are consistent with the unfolding events, even today!)

 

Denied By His Opponents! Read Matthew 26:65-68

 

1.      How would you describe the religious leaders’ response to Jesus’ revelation that He was indeed the Messiah?

2.      What did the tearing of one’s robe signify? (This was an expression of grief and an appropriate Jewish response to blasphemy.)

3.      Why did the high priest claim blasphemy?

These brutal men were religious leaders who believed in God. They should have worshiped and submitted to Jesus; instead they insulted and brutally assaulted Him.

4.      In what ways did the religious leaders misunderstand Jesus? (Their concept of the Messiah was a military leader who would establish an earthly kingdom. Jesus didn’t fit their concept.)

5.      What kinds of misconceptions do people today have about Jesus? (Some people acknowledge that Jesus was a prophet or teacher, but they fail to recognize Him as the living Son of God. Others ignore Jesus, as if He were just some character in a fairy tale. Many fail to acknowledge Him as the Son of God and the Savior of the world, much less their personal Savior.)

6.      Have the misconceptions about who Jesus is changed over the centuries?

7.      How does knowing the persecution Jesus faced help us as we face challenges to our faith today? (Verse 67 says the people “spit in His face and beat Him.” After blindfolding Jesus (Mark 14:65), they taunted Him, calling for Him to name who was hitting Him. If we receive any mistreatment because of our faith today, we can draw strength from knowing that Jesus stood firm in the face of even greater persecution.)

 

Now the focus of the scene changes to Peter.

Abandoned By His Friends! Read Matthew 26:69-75

 

1.      What evidence did the people nearby give for identifying Peter as a disciple of Jesus? (Their accusations indicated they had seen Peter with Jesus and his manner of speech indicated he was from Galilee. This is just like we can identify someone from the northeast United States as opposed to someone from the deep south.)

2.      How did Peter’s denial intensify each time He was singled out as being a disciple of Jesus? (The first time he simply said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” The second time he denied it with an oath, “I don’t know the man.” The third time Peter started to curse and to swear with an oath, “I do not know the man!” Peter stepped a little further away each time He denied knowing Jesus.)

We all respond perhaps a little differently but fear can have a tremendous effect on us.

3.       How far did Peter go in denying Jesus? (Just as Jesus had predicted, Peter denied Him three times. He denied even knowing Jesus, much less being one of His disciples.)

4.      What was Peter’s reaction when he realized the full measure of his denial? (Luke 22:61 tells us that at the very moment Peter denied Jesus the third time and the rooster crowed Jesus looked at Peter. Peter then went out and “wept bitterly”.)

It’s good to recall Peter’s comeback following the resurrection, when Jesus restored Peter—John 21. God gives second chances!

5.      What pressures could cause a person to hide his or her Christian faith today?

6.      How might we deny Jesus today? Through Words? Attitudes? Actions? (Sometimes we deny Jesus through the words we say or in the moments when we should speak up but remain silent. We deny Jesus when we place other things above our relationship with Him.)

 

Imagine the grief Peter must have felt when he realized the tragedy of his poor choice! Yet this was not the end to Peter’s story. Jesus didn’t turn His back on Peter or give up on him. Instead, He restored Peter (see John 21:15-19). As a result, Peter devoted the rest of his life to Christ!

 

Summarize and Challenge! 

 

Jesus could have called 12 legions of angels and the Father would have sent them according to Matthew 26:53! But He chose to surrender to the Father‘s will and suffer as no man has ever done.

 

What are some potential costs of remaining loyal to Jesus today?

·         Being a loyal follower of Jesus may mean experiencing ridicule or hardships.

·         We may find that family and friends misunderstand us and our allegiance to Jesus.

·         In some parts of the world, faith in Jesus could lead to physical persecution or even death.

In the coming week, reflect on Jesus’ position as Messiah and King. Ask yourself if you have given Him rightful priority in your life. Are you prepared to defend your faith when others question it?

Commit yourself again to loyal, obedient living as a follower of Christ!

 

Do I Have The Strength? - Matthew 26:36-46

1.      What sayings have you heard people use about facing very difficult situations? (Examples: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”; “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”; “Tough times never last, tough people do”.)

These quotes emphasize personal resolve.

2.      What can a person draw from when facing difficult situations that feed his or her resolve? (Support from friends and family. Our greatest source of strength comes from our Heavenly Father, no matter how difficult the situation is we are facing.)

Jesus had a wonderful Heavenly Father. Though Jesus doubtless spent time with His Father daily, He knew the time was near for suffering and sorrow in a way no one had ever, or would ever, experience. He did what any child would do; He ran for strength and comfort into the loving arms of His Father.

            Jesus and His disciples had finished their Passover meal. Jesus had shared the broken bread and cup that represented His broken body and shed blood. They walked out the East Gate of Jerusalem, across the valley to the Mount of Olives to a garden called Gethsemane. Here we see Jesus display His humanity perhaps more clearly than at any other time in His earthly life.

 

Committed To The Task! Read Matthew 26:36-39

 

1.      How would you describe the emotions we see Jesus express here?

2.      What did Jesus instruct Peter, James and John to do while He went a little further to pray? (In Luke 22:40, Luke records that Jesus said “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” I know Matthew records this later but it seems Jesus was expecting them to remain in prayer as He prayed.)

3.      In what ways did Jesus show His humanity in these verses? (As a man, Jesus was struggling in the same way we do. He knew the horror of physical suffering that was ahead of Him.)

4.      How did He show His divinity in these verses? (As the Son of God, Jesus was completely willing to go through the horror of death on the cross. But is the physical suffering all that Jesus would have to endure on the cross?)

5.      What was Jesus’ attitude as He faced impending death? (Jesus would have “this cup” pass from Him! In the Old Testament, “cup” is used to describe divine wrath and judgment—see Ps. 76:7-8; Isa. 51:17.)

6.      In what ways would Jesus suffer on the cross that no man has ever had to suffer? (Read 2 Cor. 5:21. Because Jesus would take upon Himself the sin of the world, the Father would turn away, unable to look upon sin. In a way that we cannot even begin to understand, the Father and Son were torn apart by my sin! Many people have been physically tortured and nailed to a cross, burned alive, covered with boiling oil and other hideous means of torturous deaths. But when Jesus bore the sin of the world He was separated from the Father, and it was more than He wanted to bear.)

7.      What emotional response do you have to verse 39?

8.      What did Jesus resolve to do in verse 39?

9.      How does verse 39 compare to your prayer practices?

10.  What does Jesus’ willingness to follow the Father’s direction reveal to us about His trust in the Father? (Jesus knew the Father possessed the power to provide a way to escape from those who wanted to kill Him, but Jesus completely embraced the will of the Father to the point of death on a cross.)

11.  When have you wrestled with God over a situation or hardship?

12.  Why is praying that the Father’s will be done such a hard prayer? (Sometimes our desires and the Father’s will are not necessarily the same. We might prefer an easier path when the Father’s will is a harder course. We might know God’s plan is best, but sometimes we still wish for a different outcome.)

Surrendering to God’s will is ALWAYS the best solution!

 

Asleep On The Job! Read Matthew 26:40-43

 

1.      How did Jesus’ disciples let His down?

2.      Do we ever “fall asleep” when we are supposed to be doing what Jesus told us to do? (We are imperfect, so we fail at times despite our best intentions. We sometimes choose our own sinful ways instead of living as obedient Christ-followers.)

3.      What instructions did Jesus give His “inner three” this time?

4.      For whom did He instruct them to pray?

5.      How did Jesus indicate that prayer would benefit Peter?

6.      What did Jesus mean by saying “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”?

7.      How is Jesus’ prayer here different from the first? (As Jesus faced the misery that awaited Him now, He demonstrated His own submission to the Father’s will without regard for what it would cost Him. There seems to be a progression in His prayer to more complete surrender.)

8.      What can we learn from Jesus’ prayer here to apply in our own prayer life? (It is not a sin to continue to pray to God about a particular situation numerous times. In fact, keep praying until you receive an answer, even right up to the time the final decision has to be made.)

9.      How can we support each other during hard times? (We need to be spiritually alert as we support each other in our Christian walks. Spending regular time in prayer and praying for each other are essential. Through prayer and words of encouragement we can help each other stand strong against temptation.)

 

Realizing The Moment! Read Matthew 26:44-46

 

1.      How might we be sleeping when we should be alert and praying? (The time had come for Jesus to pay the price for all the sins of humanity. We must guard against spiritual laziness. Are we prioritizing Bible study, prayer, and service in the kingdom? We want God to find us spiritually alert and at work when He returns!)

2.      In what way was this a defining moment for Jesus? (His first defining moment was at His baptism when He publicly accepted His mission as Messiah!)

3.      What role did Jesus’ understanding of His purpose have in His actions here?

4.      What steps can we take to recognize God’s work in our world? (Jesus prayed and committed to follow God regardless of the cost. Every believer is important and has work to do for the kingdom. Each of us should be doing our part in service. Your part in kingdom work is between you and God. And God will seldom tell you what someone else’s service is to be for the kingdom. Leave that up to God.)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      How should Jesus’ willing submission to the Father’s will shape our response when God calls us to action?

·         We should willingly obey God’s plan for our lives!

·         We should give thanks through our words and actions for the sacrifice Jesus made for each of us!

·         We should remain alert and faithful as we serve each day in God’s kingdom!

 

2.      What are some actions we can take to remain spiritually alert?

 

Consider your own situation and develop a list of practical steps you can take to help you stay spiritually alert and remain faithful to God’s plans for your life.

How Do We Remember? - Matthew 26:17-30

(Consider having some unleavened bread-bread made without yeast- and grape juice to use at some point in your lesson.)

1.      What are some key events we commemorate in our society? (President’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence’s Day, Veteran’s Day, and Christmas are the main days.)

2.      What are some key events we commemorate in our families?

What makes these days worthy of remembering? (These are days we pause to recall important happy events like marriage anniversaries, birthdays, etc.; Then there are days that are solemn remembrances of passed loved ones, joyous celebrations of freedom, and a day to honor those who sacrificed for the freedoms we enjoy.)

Today’s study is a time and ceremony set aside to remember the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made for each one of us. Jesus instituted this new ordinance after the observance of the Passover meal with His disciples. Passover marked the final plague in Egypt when all firstborns died, but the Israelites were unharmed because of the blood smeared on their doorposts. The unleavened bread reminded the people that they left Egypt with such haste that there was no time to put leaven in their bread.

The Lord’s Supper, as it has come to be known, commemorates Jesus’ sacrifice for our freedom from the bondage of sin. Here Jesus established a new covenant with God made possible through Jesus’ shed blood and broken body. In a sense Jesus did away with Passover and established a new commemoration of His broken body and shed blood!

 

Preparation! Read Matthew 26:17-19

 

Jewish people crowded into Jerusalem yearly for the Passover. They secured places to eat the Passover meal as families. Jesus and His disciples had become a family, and they needed an appropriate room. Jesus gave them directions as to where they could find such a room.

We don’t know how Jesus knew the man He sent the disciples to, but the point is that arrangements were made.

1.      What preparations had to be made for the feast? (One source said, “The lamb had to be taken to the temple to be slaughtered. The blood was poured on the altar. Then it was returned to the house and roasted. It had to be ready by sunset.”)

Jesus was about to fulfill and reveal a new meaning for the annual Passover feast. The purpose of the Lord’s Supper would be to remember the new covenant including Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, and promise of salvation to all who believe.

2.      What preparations should a person take when preparing to participate in a Lord’s Supper observance?

 

Betrayal! Read Matthew 26:20-25

 

1.      How did the disciples respond to Jesus’ declaration that one of them would betray Him? (They were “deeply distressed”, and each one denied that they would betray Jesus.)

2.      What do we notice different about how Judas addressed Jesus? (The other disciples addressed Jesus as “Lord”. Judas addressed His simply as “Rabbi” or “Teacher”, not Lord!)

What happened was all part of God’s plan, yet Judas acted of his own free will and faced judgment because of his betrayal. There is a vast difference in “foreknowledge” and “predestination”! God knew Judas would betray Jesus but God did not make him do it.

3.      What was the difference in Judas’s betrayal and Peter’s denial?

4.      In what ways can or do we betray Jesus today? (Some betray Him today by rejecting His gift of salvation and abundant life. Others betray Jesus in subtle ways—by not taking a stand for Jesus when the opportunity is there, by not sharing about the gift of eternal life we have received, or by not loving others as He commands us to do.)

In the observance of Passover the bread was dipped into a bowl of bitter herbs which represented the bitterness of the slavery the Israelites endured, their new meaning was the bitterness of Jesus’ suffering!

 

Remembrance! Read Matthew 26:26-30

 

Leaven was a symbol of sin, so unleavened bread, bread without yeast, was symbolic of a life cleansed of sin.

1.      What new symbolism did Jesus place upon the broken bread?

2.      The four cups during the Passover stood for the four “I wills” in Ex. 6:6-7; “I will bring you out; I will deliver you; I will redeem you; I will take you as my people”.

3.      How does Jesus provide these four things?

Jesus had made the Lord’s Supper a time of remembrance of His sacrifice, His broken body, and His shed blood. In verse 29, He shares something else to be remembered: that one day we will celebrate with Jesus in heaven. This is a wonderful promise for Christians to celebrate, anticipate, and remember as the Lord’s Supper is observed!

4.      What do Jesus’ actions in this passage reveal about His mission and purpose?

5.      In what ways does the Lord’s Supper motivate you to live differently in light of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection?

6.      How does remembering Jesus’ sacrifice help us in daily living? (If we do not remember Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, it’s easy to take for granted the price paid for our salvation. Remembering His sacrifice gives us strength and hope as we face each day’s challenges.)

7.      How can we keep the memory of these symbols fresh in our own hearts each time we take part in the Lord’s Supper? (Sometimes when we do things regularly we can start to feel like we are just going through the motions. We should never let the Lord’s Supper become a mindless behavior. Each time we approach the Lord’s Supper we can thank God for the sacrifice He made on our behalf and remember afresh the abundant life we have because of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection.)

 

 

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      Evaluate your observance of the Lord’s Supper: What does it mean to you?

2.      What element has today’s study brought to light that can make your celebration even more meaningful?

3.      What are the best ways we can remember Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf?

·         By thanking God daily for His provision and care.

·         By being diligently loyal to Christ.

·         By observing the Lord’s Supper regularly, always mindful of the price paid for our redemption.

 

Perhaps we can carve out some time this week to pause and reflect on the sacrifice Jesus made for you, individually. Then when you approach the Lord’s Supper, look at the table—the bread and the cup—with fresh eyes, appreciating all Jesus has done for you!

What About the Future? - Matthew 24:1-25:46

1.      What region of Israel were most, if not all, of Jesus’ disciples from? (Galilee.)

Read Matthew 24:1-2

2.      The indication is that the disciples were impressed with the buildings. Why might that be the case? (They were just as much in awe as we are when we leave our rural communities and go to the big city and look in awe at the massiveness of the buildings.)

Matthew 24 and 25 records another discourse Jesus used to teach His disciples. Recall, He is in the final week before His death and yet He has much to teach them. This is Tuesday and some scholars have called this “Teaching Tuesday”, because of the vast amount of teaching that seems to have occurred on this day.

The disciples were shocked, and perhaps a little confused, at what Jesus had to say about what was instore for the Temple complex in the future. “Not one stone would be left on top of another.” We know that this prophecy came true in 70 AD when Jerusalem was destroyed and the Temple completely demolished!

 

Jesus’ disciples were eager to know about future events concerning Jesus’ reign as king. Jesus had plenty He needed to teach them before the time came for Him to depart this world. In Matthew 24:3-35 Jesus taught about the signs of the end of the age, persecution that was to come, the great tribulation and the coming of the Son of Man. In our focal passage we will learn about the day and hour.

 

Be reminded! Read Matthew 24:36-41

 

1.      Just in your lifetime, how many different charlatans have claimed to know the day Jesus would return? (I can think of three personally, but I’m sure there were others.)

2.      Who knows the day of the Lord’s return and the end of time, as we know it?

3.      What did the revelation that only the Father knows the day and the hour Jesus will return teach us about Jesus?(While Jesus was fully God and fully human while here on the earth, Philippians 2:6-7 reveals to us “[He], existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity.” He willingly limited Himself from using His divine nature while here on earth.)

4.      How was the flood in Noah’s day similar to the return of Christ?

Noah was in preparation for the flood for over 100 years. He was building the Ark and yet it had never rained. In spite of the urging to repent and the evidence of Noah’s faith, the people refused to repent of their wickedness.

5.      What were the people doing during this 100 years Noah was warning them? (Carrying on with life as usual with no regard what so ever of the impending judgment that was to come.)

6.      How do many people respond today when urged to accept Christ before it is too late?

7.      How do you picture the people’s response the day the rains began?

8.      According to verses 40-41 what will happen on the Day of Judgment? (There are two ways to look at this passage. Since it comes immediately after the comparison of the great flood, many scholars believe the one left is the saved and the other swept away as in flood waters. Some have seen it as the rapture and the one taken is the saved one. Either way you must be prepared!)

9.      Why might it be important to be reminded of Jesus’ promised return?

10.  How should Jesus’ assurance about His return impact our actions?

11.  How can we be ready for Jesus’ return if we don’t know when it will happen? (We accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and then live each day as if He would return that day!)

12.  How can we help others to be ready for His return? (By reminding others in a loving way, that putting off the decision to trust Jesus is dangerous, because we do not know when He’s coming back. We can encourage each other to be ready for Christ’s return by regularly gathering for prayer, Bible study, worship, and service.)

Just as the flood during Noah’s time, the second coming of Jesus will be sudden, swift, and unexpected.

 

Be Alert! Read Matthew 24:42-44

 

1.      What might cause someone to fail to stay alert concerning a possible upcoming event? (Uncertainty that it was really going to occur; weariness of waiting; no one else thinks it’s going to happen; etc.)

2.      Have any of you ever had your home burglarized?

3.      What would you have done differently if you had known that it was going to happen?

Unlike the person whose home was burglarized, we know that Jesus is coming! The hour will be a surprise, so we must expect the unexpected! Jesus’ return is also compared to a “thief” coming when we least expect it in 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10; and Rev. 3:3; and 16:15.

4.      What characteristics describe a person who is living in anticipation of Jesus’ return? (As the old song says, “looking toward the eastern sky. Will the sound of a trumpet be the next sound that I hear?” “What a Beautiful Day.”)

5.      What would you do differently if you knew the Lord was returning today?

Jesus continues His teachings along this line in Matthew 25. Jesus taught this same truth using the parable of the 10 virgins and the parable of the talents. Both of these parables illustrate the importance of being ready when the Lord returns!

 

Be Faithful! Read Matthew 24:45-47

 

1.      What does the faithful slave reveal that we should be doing while we await the return of Jesus? (Keep busy at the tasks the Master has given us. Live each day ready for the Master’s return.)

2.      What is the motivation of this servant, love or fear? (We do not serve God in order to gain possessions, but out of love for our Lord. Our reward is fulfilled when He says to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”)

3.      What characterizes the way a person tries to serve Christ if he or she is not motivated by love?

The faithful servant’s reward here is greater responsibility, just as it was with Joseph in Genesis! We demonstrate our love for Jesus when we stay focused on doing His work here on earth.

 

Be Warned! Read Matthew 24:48-51

 

1.      What does verse 48 indicate about the servant’s heart? (This verse points out that his actions were much more than an oversight or a mistake. This man also erred by his failure to be alert to his master’s return, even though he knew it would happen one day.)

2.      What does the “wicked servant” reveal about the fate of those who reject Jesus? (1-The death penalty; 2-placed with the hypocrites; 3-condemned to a place of eternal punishment where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”)

3.      What does this parable reveal about different attitudes people may have about Jesus’ return?

4.      How are these attitudes seen or expressed today?

5.      How would you respond to someone who asks how a loving God could send someone to hell? (God does not send people to hell. He has given all people free will, if we reject Him, hell is our choice and the punishment we deserve.)

6.      How is postponing a decision to accept Jesus the same as rejecting Jesus? (Since we do not know when Jesus will return, those who postpone the decision to accept Jesus are unprepared for His return. The moment Jesus returns, their delay becomes a rejection.)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Today we have been reminded and warned to be alert and to be faithful!

 

1.      What should we be doing daily to be prepared for Jesus’ return?

·         We stay ready for Jesus’ return when we prioritize our relationship with Him. We commit to regular Bible study, prayer, and worship, so that we continue growing in our faith.

·         We stay ready for Jesus’ return through ministry and service for God’s kingdom.

2.      How can we help those we meet be ready too?

·         We need to be bold in sharing the gospel message with all we meet. Don’t fear rejection or ridicule; just plant the seeds of the gospel message.

 

Ask yourself whether you’re ready for Christ’s return if it were to happen today. If not, what steps should you take to prepare yourself?

Are there family members and friends who need to hear about your faith?

Will you make the first move in sharing the gospel with them?

 

Remember, we are not to speculate about Christ’s return, just be ready. We are not on the “Time and Place Committee! We’re on the “Preparation Committee”!

 

Prayer.

Where Is Jesus? - Matthew 28:1-15

1.      If you could be an “Eyewitness” to any event in American history, what would you choose? Signing of the Declaration of Independence? Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address? The first airplane flight? The Atomic Bomb over Hiroshima? Victory in Europe Day?

2.      What Biblical event would you like to be an “Eyewitness” of? Noah’s Ark? Elijah’s “wheel in the middle of a wheel”? David’s defeat of Goliath? Jesus’ Resurrection?

3.      Why is eyewitness testimony so important in certain situations? (The best, most accurate information will come from people who actually saw the event happen.)

We will investigate eyewitness accounts that will provide documented proof that Jesus resurrected from the grave on the third day, just as He said He would do.

4.      Who were the first eyewitnesses that something supernatural occurred at Jesus’ tomb that first Easter morning? (As unlikely at it may seem it was the Roman guards who were stationed at the tomb to prevent the Disciples from taking His body.)

People all over the world celebrate special days throughout the year. Most are associated closely with their nation and wars they have won. Here in the United States the most popular such celebration is July 4th.

Easter is a day when Christians all over the world celebrate Jesus’ victory over sin, death and the grave! Because of this, our lives have undergone the most drastic, important, and wonderful transformation that could ever occur!

Before we get into our text for today, to get a feel for the mood Jesus’ followers were experiencing that Sunday morning watch this clip for “The Passion of The Christ” movie. (Show the clip about Jesus’ beating at the hands of the Roman soldiers, the road to the cross and His crucifixion itself.)

We live in such a sterile environment we forget what the followers must have experienced.

 

The Grave Opened! Read Matthew 28:1-4

 

1.      Why were the women going to the grave? (To anoint the body. See Mark 16:1-4)

2.      What did the women find when they arrived at the tomb? (They had been discussing how they were going to move the stone, but it was something they didn’t have to worry about. The Roman guards were as “dead men”. Either petrified with fear or passed out from fear.)

3.      What do verses 3-4 tell us about the angel and his actions?

4.      What do his appearance “like lightening” and his robe “white as snow” indicate about him? (His majesty and heavenly purity blended together perfectly in his brilliant display of glory. It was a reflection of God’s glory, from Whose presence he came.)

5.      What do we learn about these guards in verse 4? (These guards were trained soldiers who had been in battle and undoubtedly had faced horrifying circumstances, yet they were unprepared for an encounter with an angel of God. Fear gripped them so that they lost consciousness and even appeared dead.)

6.      What evidence do you see in these verses that point to a miraculous resurrection of Jesus?

As these women walked to the tomb in defeat, the disciples hid in fear and disappointment, but God was working to bring victory.

7.      Have you ever struggled with what you thought was a period of defeat only to realize later that God was at work to bring victory?

The religious leaders had insisted that Pilate post guards to secure the tomb. Their scheme backfired—the guards actually became witnesses to the fact Jesus’ body was not stolen by the disciples.

 

The Risen King Announced! Read Matthew 28:5-10

 

1.      Notice the angel invited them to see for themselves that Jesus was not in the tomb. What was the angel’s instructions to the women?

2.      What does verse 8 indicate to us about the fear the women felt as opposed to the fear the guards had felt?

Next, the women’s morning of surprises was punctuated with the biggest surprise of all. They saw Jesus! Jesus repeated the assignment the angel had given. Once we have worshiped there is always an assignment to be accomplished.

3.      Why is prompt obedience so important? (The more we trust God, the quicker we will respond in obedience to His plans for our lives.)

4.      What were the women’s responses upon encountering Jesus?

5.      How should we respond to the risen Savior today? (Our response should be that of worship and obedience.)

6.      How does Jesus’ designation of His disciples (who had earlier abandoned Him) as “brothers” encourage you?

7.      Do you think the disciples would believe what the women had to tell them about the resurrection?

We know from the other Gospels that Peter and John ran to the tomb to see for themselves! John believed but Peter still doubted.

 

The Cover-up Concocted! Read Matthew 28:11-15

 

Aren’t you glad we have learned from experience over the last 2,000 years and we don’t have to deal with cover-ups today!

 

1.      What motives were at work as the chief priests and elders devised their deceptive plan? (If the resurrection really happened, then perhaps Jesus was who He claimed—the Son of God. The chief priests could not risk this potential threat to their position and authority.)

For the Jewish leaders to accept the truth of Jesus’ resurrection demanded that they accept Him for who He was—Christ the Lord!

2.      What was their deceptive plan?

Just as it is with any deceptive lie it just didn’t make sense. If the soldiers were sleeping, how could they know it was Jesus’ disciples who stole the body?

3.      What punishment would the guards face for falling asleep while on “guard duty?” (Death! Plain and simple.)

4.      The concocted story was that Jesus’ body had been stolen by the disciples. How do people try to explain away the truth of Jesus’ resurrection?

5.      What are some of the problems with their explanations?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      Jesus conquered death, affirming His identity and giving all believers hope. What evidence causes you to believe and place your hope in the resurrection?

2.      Even when faced with the undeniable facts of Jesus’ resurrection some will refuse to believe in Him. What actions do you need to take to share the truth with these who have yet to accept Jesus and the truth of His resurrection?

3.      What biblical proofs do you find that present Jesus as the risen Son of God?

 

Consider reading the following Scripture passages:

Romans 6:4              

Romans 8:11                       

Romans 10:9

1 Cor. 15:12-19

1 Thess. 4:14-18

 

4.      Why was Paul so certain that Jesus had been raised from the dead? (He was an “Eyewitness” on the Road to Damascus!)

5.      How does the fact of the resurrection encourage you in your own spiritual walk? (What have I to fear, Jesus conquered sin, death and the grave and He’s my Lord!)

 

Offered to All? - Matthew 22:1-14

1.      How many wedding invitations do you receive each year?

2.      How do you determine which weddings you will attend and which you will not attend?

3.      How do you explain to the bride and groom that you must decline the invitation to their wedding?

4.      If you attend, how do you determine what clothes to wear? (We received an invitation this past year that specified “formal attire”. Most do not specify what to wear.)

Recall, Jesus had come to Jerusalem for the Passover. During the week He had several encounters with the religious leaders. They tried to make Jesus look bad in front of the large crowds that gathered everywhere He went, but He outwitted them each time. Jesus used a series of parables to illustrate spiritual truths that cut the religious leaders to the heart and infuriated them even more. They were more and more determined to get rid of Him. In today’s passage, Jesus tells a parable about a wedding banquet.

(A short disclaimer here: Parables generally have one or two main points of spiritual emphasis. We can’t give every small detail a special spiritual meaning.)

 

The Invited! Read Matthew 22:1-7

 

1.      Who are the characters Jesus used in this parable to this point? (King; son; servants; and invitees.)

2.      Whom does each character represent? (God; Jesus; servants of God—prophets, disciples, etc.; and Jewish people.)

The wedding feast would likely have reminded the Jewish leaders of the feast with the Messiah, which they were looking forward to when the Messiah arrived someday. One commentary stated that early on a notice would be sent out as to the day the wedding would occur so they could set it aside. Then on that day when everything was ready, those invited would be told to come. They should have wanted to make this small sacrifice a priority and go enjoy the feast with the king and his son.

3.      How many times did the king send out his servants and what does this represent? (Twice and it demonstrates God’s grace.)

4.      Why did those invited refuse to attend the feast? (They simply went about their daily business, unwilling to attend the feast.)

5.      How did some even act cruelly toward the king’s messengers?

All of these actions demonstrate a total disrespect for the son and the king.

6.      If you were completely honest, why do you attend most weddings you are invited to attend? (To show respect for the bride, groom, or the parents, or all of the above. You don’t want them to think you don’t care about this momentous event. Those invited in this parable didn’t care!)

Just as the king shows patience in verse 3, God shows His patience as He draws people to accept His invitation into an eternal relationship with Him through His Son.

7.      How does the response of the invited guests in the parable reflect the way people respond to God’s offer of salvation today?

8.      What causes people to respond in this way?

9.      What is the fate of those who show utter disrespect for the king? (The destruction of the city represents God’s judgment on people who do not honor and accept His Son. This parable is a picture of Israel and her rejection of the Messiah. It is also a picture of people today who reject Jesus as their Savior.)

 

The Gathered! Read Matthew 22:8-10

 

Now we have many guests attending the banquet.

1.      According to verse 10, what kinds of people were included? (Some scholars believe “evil and good” to be referring to Gentiles and Jews.)

2.      What does that say to us about the nature of God? (He loves and wants a relationship with everyone.)

The guests who came to the banquet represented Jesus’ followers. Jesus clearly expresses that there was a place in the kingdom for everyone, “both evil and good”.

3.      What should we be doing to ensure that everyone, “both evil and good,” hears the king’s invitation? (Through our prayers and monetary gifts, we can help spread the gospel across the globe. Right here in Ardmore, we are called to share the good news with “everyone” we encounter. We must do our part in sharing and then allow God to work in their hearts. Dr. Fannin puts it this way: IdentifyIntercedeInvite. A very simple way to remember that “I” am the one responsible to share the Good News of the Gospel!)

The servants gathered the available people to attend.

 

The Unprepared! Read Matthew 22:11-14

 

It was the custom in Jesus’ day for the host to provide attire in the form of a robe if someone came without one. Likely, the king provided a garment as a gift for those in attendance. There was no reason for someone to show up in his old street clothes, other than overt rebellion.

1.      What could this “wedding robe” represent? (The righteousness of Christ that all believers will be clothed with.)

This man was a “pretender”.

2.      What is the significance of the king addressing the man as “friend”?

3.      What consequences did he suffer due to his careless decision?

4.      What false assumptions or beliefs do you think contribute to people’s belief that they will gain access to heaven without faith in Christ?

5.      How should the doom of this unprepared guest motivate believers to share the gospel with clarity and urgency?

6.      Who called the man’s hand on not being properly clothed? (The king, not the servants. Perhaps we have a lesson to learn here. Only God really knows who belongs to Him and who doesn’t. We need to tread lightly in this area.)

7.      What was the man’s response when asked why he wasn’t properly clothed? (There was nothing he could say—he was speechless!)

8.       Jesus taught a lot about “hell”. What are some words He used to describe this awful place? (A place where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth”. Place of condemnation. Where the “worm doesn’t die and the fire is never quenched”. A place of torment. Place of separation from God forever.)

9.      How should the portrait of hell painted by Jesus serve as a motivator for believers?

“The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Salvation is offered to all, yet each person must respond in obedient faith to be a part of God’s kingdom.

 

How can we help those around us to join Jesus in God’s kingdom too?

Through our words and actions we should tell the gospel story of God’s invitation for all people to join His kingdom. We must remind ourselves that God holds us accountable for our response to Jesus, and eternal punishment awaits those who reject His Son.

 

Challenge:

Have I placed my trust in Jesus, declaring that I want to be a part of God’s kingdom?

If you have not made that decision, what keeps you from making it today?

If you have said yes to God’s invitation and put your trust in Jesus, where and how can you share that good news with someone else this coming week?