The Unknown Known - Acts 17:16-34

1.      What kinds of questions about God do people face that causes them to search for answers?

·         Why do bad things happen to good people?

·         Does God really love me?

·         Can we really have a personal relationship with God?

·         Is there really a God?

·         Is there really only one God?

·         Does God really care about me?

·         What happens to me after death?

·         If God really cares about me why won’t He solve all my problems?

2.      Who is at the center of most of the questions we have concerning God, our relationship with God and the future? (ME!)

3.      What sources might someone consult to find answers to these questions? (Internet, experts, friends, mentors, counselors; ministers; trusted scholars; lastly—God, Himself; etc.)

Notice the title of today’s study: The Unknown Known. Paul encountered people who were honestly searching but somehow still missing the point!

 

At the close of last week’s study Paul and his traveling companions, left Philippi and went to Thessalonica. There they had some success sharing the gospel, but once again Jews became jealous and brought them before the local officials with this accusation: “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too” (17:6).

From there they went to Berea where once again they were attacked by the Jews. To save him from the Jews, Paul was sent to Athens. He told Silas and Timothy to join him there as soon as possible. In Athens Paul went to the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews and witnessed daily in the marketplace. 

As Paul went around the city he saw many pagan idols. Athens was the home of Socrates and Plato, the adopted home of Aristotle, Epicurus, and Zeno. The Epicurean and Stoic philosophers took Paul to task on his teachings. 

Read Acts 17:16-21

The philosophizers interpreted what Paul was saying as introducing two foreign gods they had never heard of, Jesus and Anastasis—the Greek word for resurrection! So they invited Paul to come to their assembly and share his ideas/beliefs.

Note: The Areopagus was not only a place but the name for the group of philosophers who met there.

 

Unknown God! Read Acts 17:22-23

 

1.      What about these people enabled Paul to be able to speak to them about Jesus?

Paul showed quick thinking, agility, and wisdom in seizing this opportunity to share the truth about Jesus!

2.      How did Paul get their interest immediately?

3.      How does the idol “To an Unknown God” in Athens reflect man’s search for meaning? (To avoid overlooking any particular “god” they erected an altar to an unknown god in case they left one out.)

Idolatry, then and now, indicates that people are searching for something more in this life. The need to worship an unknown god proves that man is still searching for something more. Accepting anyone and everyone’s version of “god” is an oxymoron. To accept Yahweh is to exclude all others! And to say you are free to worship what or whomever you choose is to say, “I can create my own god” which makes you god and creator! Foolishness!

4.      What can we do to develop the kind of mind-set that led Paul to seize the unique opportunity to share Christ?

5.      What barriers might we have felt in Paul’s situation?

6.      What misconceptions do people have about life and deities?

7.      How could those misconceptions be used to initiate a conversation about the gospel?

 

The Known Creator!

As someone Reads Acts 17:24-29 as we all listen for claims Paul made about God.

1.      What claims did Paul make about God? (Creator of all that exists; Lord of heaven and earth; does not live in shrines; needs nothing we can give Him; all men came from one man; God established boundaries and times; we have a need to know Him and He isn’t far from us; we were made in His image.)

2.      What misconceptions about God does Paul address in this passage?

3.      How are those same misconceptions expressed today?

4.      How does a Creator God who wants to have a personal relationship with people compare to the idols the Athenians worshiped? (The idols were made of gold, silver, or stone. Notice they are man-made—man is the creator of his own god.)

5.      Which of the Ten Commandments does this passage bring to mind? (Exodus 20:4)

Paul told them that God is the Creator of all nations from one man. He made the world and everything in it. He provides everything people need. God does not need anything from humans, but Paul explained that God created us so we would seek out a relationship with Him. There is a God-shaped vacuum in every person’s heart.

 

Judgment by the Son! Read Acts 17:30-31

 

1.      What key word in verse 30 does Paul use that might have offended those listening? (Those listening considered everyone who did not believe in the idols as they did to be ignorant. But Paul declared God to them so they were no longer ignorant but in need of repentance.)

Repentance by the Athenians would require that they turn from their ignorance and idolatry and submit to the true knowledge of God made clear in the coming of Jesus! Paul extended here a direct invitation to receive Christ, the very reason he launched into a discussion of the unknown god.

For those who have heard the gospel and rejected it, the Day of Judgment would be better for Sodom and Gomorrah than for them (Matt. 10:15).

2.      How does an understanding of God’s righteous character help us understand His judgment? (Jesus is the standard!)

When we talk to unbelievers about the reality of the judgment day, we can point to Jesus’ resurrection as proof that He is alive and will one day judge every person who has ever lived.

3.      In what ways is God’s requirement for repentance fair to everyone?

 

Split Decision! Read Acts 17:32-34

 

1.      What reaction did the people have to Paul’s message? (There were skeptics, those interested and some receptive.)

People today have different views about the dead. One of Christianity’s distinctions is a living Lord who died for the sins of the world. Although He died, He arose from the dead and now lives forevermore.

2.      How might a person’s past understanding get in the way of them following Jesus?

As we seek out people in our circles of influence who do not yet know God, we should look for natural connecting points that allow us opportunities to share about who God is and what He has done in our lives.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

1.      What are some ways people might be religious without being Christian? (Mormonism; Jehovah’s Witnesses; Armstrongism; Unification Church; Christian Science; Unity School of Christianity; Spiritualism; Scientology; New Age; Judaism; Hinduism; Hare Krishna; Transcendental Meditation; Buddhism; Islam; Baha’I World Faith; etc.)

2.      Who do you know that may be religious but not Christian?

3.      How can you be used to share the gospel with them in a loving way?

 

People are searching for the truth about God and a meaningful life. Ask God to lead you to someone who needs to hear the gospel. Start a conversation with that person. You may want to suggest that the prevalence of idolatry reflects man’s search for meaning and the need for something or someone to worship. Rely on the Holy Spirit to lead you and to speak to them as you share Christ!

 

A Changed Family Acts 16:22-34

1.      Who here has received some good news this past week?

2.      Some news is simply too good to keep to oneself and must be shared. What is the typical kind of news that people just can’t wait to share with each other? (New job. Engagement. Expecting a baby. Won the lottery!—Ha! Ha!)

3.      Can you think of a time when you have directly influenced someone for good or for bad? (Could be a fashion trend you set; a time you got someone else in trouble; a person you mentored. Etc.)

4.      While we are on the subject: Do you think a family or a culture has more influence on a person’s life? (A Christian family goes to church together, but there is so much more. A Christian family strives to live out the teachings of Jesus in their home as an everyday lifestyle. And yet, we all know of situations where a person was raised in a Christian family and went astray—the Prodigal Son. Some return and some don’t.)

When a person’s life is changed by the good news of Jesus Christ they are a new person. As a result, they desire to share with others, especially family members, the difference that Jesus has made in their lives!

 

The Situation!

 

Last week we left Paul and Silas in Derbe and Lystra where they had enlisted Timothy to go with them. They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia and found themselves in Troy. There a Macedonian man appeared to Paul in a vision pleading with him to come over to Macedonia and help them. They went there and the first convert in Europe was a lady named Lydia at Philippi. They stayed there for some time and were harassed by a girl who had an evil spirit in her. Paul had finally had enough of her badgering and commanded the spirit to leave her, which it did. Because her owners had lost their source of income they incited a mob against Paul and Silas. They were arrested, beaten and thrown in prison. We will study verses 16-19 in greater detail two weeks from now.

 

Read Acts 16:19-24

 

1.      Who was responsible for what happened to Paul and Silas?

2.      What actions were taken against Paul and Silas?

3.      What was the charge against them? (They were seriously disturbing our city! See verse 21!)

4.      What was the number one job of the local authorities in Roman occupied cities? (Keep the peace! Any type of unrest was snuffed out promptly.)

Then the “mob” joined in and the magistrates acted quickly! As was the case most of the time, the charges were false!

5.      What are some concerns that keep people from accepting Jesus Christ as Lord today? (Some of the reasons people don’t accept Jesus include pride, doubt, shame, or feelings of unworthiness. Unbelievers can also be hostile to Christians when they perceive that the message of the gospel threatens their economic livelihood. Many also don’t want to give up their sinful lifestyle.)

 

The Opportunity! Read Acts 16:25-28

 

1.      How did Paul and Silas respond to their imprisonment? (They maintained a positive attitude. Although they were in a physical prison, they were spiritually free to worship God. Instead of wallowing in misery, they prayed and sang hymns of praise to God!)

2.      We are told only that the other prisoners were listening to them not their reaction to them. What do you think they were thinking at this point?

Paul and Silas’s worship of God became a witness to the other prisoners. When other people see believers praising God in spite of their difficult circumstances, our worship becomes a witness!

3.      Ask yourself: If I was in the same circumstances as Paul and Silas, how would I be responding?

4.      What can we learn from Paul’s example of peace and joy in the midst of hardship? (God is in control at all times!)

5.      How did Paul and Silas demonstrate confidence in God?

There is nothing quite like suffering to teach us what true joy is all about. While we don’t long to experience suffering, God will use our circumstances for His good (Rom. 8:28; Jas. 1:2-4).

6.      I imagine the earthquake woke the jailer. Why would he kill himself?

7.      Why weren’t all the prisoners gone? (They were most likely in shock at what had just happened.)

 

The Conversion! Read Acts 16:29-32

 

Note that Paul stopped the Jailer from killing himself.

1.      How do you think Paul and Silas’s response to being imprisoned and not leaving when the opportunity presented itself, opened the door to reach the Jailer with the Gospel? (A jailer’s life was at stake if his prisoners escaped. After a violent earthquake shook the prison’s doors open, the jailer took desperate measures.)

2.      Why do you think the Jailer came in before Paul and Silas trembling?

3.      What prompted the Jailer to ask about receiving salvation? (Because Paul and Silas demonstrated their faith in God through worship, the jailer wanted to know more about this God they served.)

As we live out our faith in Christ, life’s problems can create opportunities to witness to unbelievers.

4.      What is your answer to the question asked by the jailer? (Discuss how you would answer his questions in groups of 4 or 5 briefly.)

 

Notice Paul included the jailer’s entire family in the good news!

The Transformation! Read Acts 16:33-34

 

1.      What tangible difference can be seen in the jailer as a result of his belief in Jesus? (The jailer and his family washed the wounds of Paul and Silas. Also, they were all baptized, the jailer provided a meal for them in his own home. The jailer was filled with joy because he and his household believed in Jesus.)

2.      What evidence can be pointed to today that indicates a person is a follower of Jesus? (When people come to know Christ, there will be evidence of good works because of their belief in Jesus. The transformation in people’s lives because of their belief in Jesus produces evidence observable to others.)

 

Read Acts 16:35-40

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Conversion is the first step in a process of lifelong transformation.

1.      If transformation leads to observable demonstrations of faith, how do we explain the lack of ministry by such a large number of people who claim to be Christians? (There are two possibilities that present themselves immediately: 1—The individual never believed in the first place. 2—Those who are believers failed to disciple the new believer effectively!)

2.      With whom in your family can you share the gospel of Jesus?

3.      What kind of example are you setting before others who need to hear the gospel of Jesus?

4.      Does your life make others “thirsty” for Jesus?

 

Pray asking God to provide opportunities to share the gospel of Jesus and the boldness to do so!

Strengthened - Acts 15:36-16:5

1.      What are some ways God has used an ordinary person in your life to minister to you during a difficult time?

2.      How do you respond to the idea that God invites people to be part of His work?

3.      In what ways does this excite and scare you at the same time?

4.      Who did God use to help the church in Jerusalem accept Paul into their fellowship in Acts chapter 9? (Barnabas.)

As we study today about faithful servants in the church, keep in mind that while Paul, Barnabas, John Mark, Silas, and Timothy became legends for their faith, they were, in the context of their time, simply ordinary men!

After reading the Book of Acts through Acts 15:35 would you have ever imagined that Paul and Barnabas would have such a sharp disagreement that they would each go their own separate way!

5.      Is it okay for mature Christians to disagree so sharply that they go their separate ways? (Yes! There are times when Christians may disagree on negotiable issues. At times we just agree to disagree!)

We always want to know which party is in the wrong. We may never know until we get to Heaven and then it will not matter!

As we study today, look for how God worked His will, even in the midst of a sharp argument between two respected leaders in the early church!

 

Parting Ways! Read Acts 15:36-39

 

(Point out the locations where Barnabas and John Mark went.)

1.      How would you defend Paul’s position on not taking John Mark with them on this missionary trip? (Paul was called to be a leader, therefore, he wanted a faithful team to serve alongside him in the work of the ministry. Paul did not think John Mark was reliable because he had abandoned the team on their first missionary trip. Paul was more “black and white” on his outlook than Barnabas.)

2.      How would you defend Barnabas’ position on taking John Mark with them? (Barnabas was called to be a mentor to other believers. He had mentored Paul when no one else trusted him. Now, Barnabas was passionate about mentoring John Mark because no one had confidence in him. Barnabas thought John Mark needed to be mentored in order to overcome failure and fulfill God’s call upon his life.)

3.      Did both Paul and Barnabas have legitimate arguments for their views on inviting John Mark?

4.      How does God’s purposes for each of our lives take us in different directions and yet all within God’s will? (We are each assigned unique roles in God’s plan for mankind. God used Paul and Barnabas’ differing viewpoints for His good; instead of one ministry team going on a single mission trip, now there were two ministry teams going on two mission trips.)

5.      The fact is that despite their differences, neither Paul nor Barnabas abandoned their mission. What does this fact say to us when we have sharp disagreements with other believers? (When we disagree with other believers we don’t just quit altogether. Sometimes we just drop the issue and move on with our mission.)

6.      What did Paul and Barnabas understand about God’s call and purpose in their lives?

7.      How did that understanding impact their decision to part ways?

 

A New Team! Read Acts 15:40-16:3

 

(Identify the locations Paul’s team visited.)

1.      How did Paul build a ministry team after losing Barnabas as a partner? (Paul recruited Silas to serve alongside him on the next mission trip. Paul had gotten to know Silas during the Jerusalem Council and the subsequent delivery of the letter from the apostles and elders in Jerusalem to the congregation in Antioch. During the trip, Paul met a young man named Timothy in Lystra. Because the believers in Lystra and Iconium spoke well of Timothy, Paul sought to add him to the ministry team. Paul became the mentor and great encourager of Timothy!)

Paul was on the lookout for reliable leaders he could add to his ministry team. In the same way, we are to disciple people to join us in the work of ministry.

2.      It is important for us to find partners to assist us in ministry. How can we find people of like mind to join us in our ministry?

3.      Why would Paul have Timothy circumcised, especially after reading the letter from the church in Jerusalem? (It was well known that Timothy was half Jewish. So as to remove any stumbling block or hindrance in Timothy’s future ministry, especially among the Jews, Paul had him circumcised. Now there would be no barriers between the Jews and Timothy. However, note that Titus, a Greek, was not required to be circumcised [Gal. 2:3]. The Jewish believers would not be offended if he was not circumcised because Titus was a Gentile.)

In 1 Cor. 9:19-23 Paul says in verse 22: “I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some.”

4.      What are some ways we can incorporate the principle of “becoming all things in order to win some?” (Without compromising our commitment to Christ we should be willing to do whatever is necessary to reach people with the gospel message. It is important to be sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit in doing this!)

 

Growth Seen! Read Acts 16:4-5

 

1.      What phrases in these verses show the effectiveness of their mission?

2.      As the disciples grew spiritually what was the result seen in the community? (More people became believers!)

The delivering of the Jerusalem Council’s message was a form of discipleship, as it helped the believers grow in their doctrine, especially concerning salvation!

3.      What is God’s purpose in our ministries to unbelievers and believers? (Our ministry to unbelievers is to share the gospel. Only the good news that Jesus saves can change lives. We are called to share this life-changing hope. Our ministry to believers is to strengthen their faith. Believers are encouraged to grow and become spiritually mature. As a result, believers are strengthened and equipped to go out and share the gospel with unbelievers.)

We, as individual believers, are to be growing spiritually which spills over into our ministry. Linda Thompson thought of these two questions to challenge all of us to consider our spiritual growth:

4.      If every believer was as committed to giving financially to the church and missions as I am, how would God’s work be impacted?

5.      If every believer was as committed to serving in God’s kingdom as I am, how would God’s work be impacted?

 

6.      If every believer was as spiritually mature or as spiritually immature as I am, how would our world be impacted?

7.      Read Acts 16:5: What summary statement could be written about First Baptist Church, Ardmore, OK?

8.      Can we claim spiritual maturity that does not lead to greater evangelistic activity?

9.      What kind of balance should be struck between evangelism and discipleship in your life?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      How can we begin to partner with others in our church to share the gospel with unbelievers and strengthen other believers? (“Love Ardmore”; Mission Ardmore; stay actively involved in S. S. class; enroll in discipleship classes; Pray for God’s leadership; seek out ministry opportunities; etc.)

2.      What actions will you take to be more involved in evangelism and discipleship?

This week invite one or more believers to join you in serving others. Encourage them to discover their spiritual gifts, and take the time to show them how they can be partners in the ministry with you.

 

Profile of John Mark

(In Members PSG, p. 49)

 

·         Writer of the Second Gospel

·         Son of Mary, in whose house the Jerusalem church met        (Acts 12:12)

·         Barnabas’s cousin (Col. 4:10)

·         Companion of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:38)

·         Cause of a split between Paul and Barnabas when he left them during the first missionary journey (Acts 15:39)

·         Was with Paul when the apostle wrote Colossians (Col. 4:10)

·         Referred to by Paul as “useful to me in the ministry”                   (2 Tim. 4:11)

·         Described by Paul as a coworker (Philemon 24)

 

 

Profile of Timothy

(In Members PSG, p. 51)

 

·         Friend and trusted coworker of Paul (Phil. 2:19-22)

·         Had a believing Jewish mother and Greek father (Acts 16:1)

·         A native of Lystra; well respected by believers there             (Acts 16:2)

·         Was taught the Scriptures by his mother and grandmother      (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15)

·         May have been converted on Paul’s first missionary journey  (Acts 14:6-23)

·         Paul required him to be circumcised (Acts 16:3)

·         Recipient of two of Paul’s letters (1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2)

Available to All - Acts 15:1-35

(Show the group a gift wrapped package and identify the contents.)

1.      This is a gift of love offered completely free to someone in our group. Who would like to have this gift and would accept it absolutely free? (As for a show of hands.)

Before you can receive this gift, however, you must lift this bag of potatoes or (apples, etc or some other ludicrous act) over your head and walk around the room. (If the person complies, reward them with the gift.)

2.      How did it make you feel when I offered a free gift to anyone who would receive it?

3.      How did it make you feel when I added another ludicrous step to receiving this gift?

While God carefully planned, executed, and communicated the plan of salvation, humanity has a tendency to try to add on requirements to God’s free gift through Jesus Christ alone!

 

Introduction! Read Acts 15:1-5

1.      What is at issue here in the church at Antioch?

2.      What action did the church body take?

3.      On their way to Jerusalem what did Paul and Barnabas do as they passed through the towns and cities? (They shared what God had done through them among the Gentiles. Note that before Jesus’ death and resurrection when a Jewish person went from Galilee to Jerusalem they would cross over the Jordan River and go down the east side of the river and cross back over near Jericho to avoid going through Samaria.)

4.      What was the response of the believers in these places where Paul and Barnabas shared these testimonies? (Note that at this point they did not mention the issue above in Antioch!)

Note when they arrived in Jerusalem and gave their report, there were believers from the party of the Pharisees who wanted to put additional requirements on the Gentile converts—you have to be like us!

No Distinction! Read Acts 15:6-11

 

1.      What words in this passage describe the process of salvation? (“Hear the gospel message and believe”; God “gave the Holy Spirit”; “cleansing their hearts by faith.”; “we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus in the same way they are.”)

2.      What was Peter’s experience in Acts chapter 10 about taking the gospel message to the Gentile Cornelius?

3.      How would you summarize Peter’s argument? (God makes no distinction between Jew and Gentile. He saves both groups of people the same way. Peter emphasized this point of view by reminding the Jerusalem Council that the gentile believers received the Holy Spirit just as the Jewish believers did.)

Peter also reminded them that He had previously shared with the Gentiles and they had also received the Spirit.

4.      What significance did the gospel being inclusive of different people groups have for the Jews? (God created all people and He sent His Son to purchase salvation for anyone who repents and believes. Their attitude should have been such that they were excited that they were selected as the “messengers” to take the gospel to a lost and dying world!)

5.      What significance did the gospel being inclusive of different people groups have for the gentiles? (As the old hymn proclaims, “I am so happy in Christ today, as I go singing along the way. I am so happy to know and say Jesus included me too.”)

6.      What unbiblical stipulations are placed on people today before being accepted into a local church? (These may not deal so much with salvation as they do to be accepted into the church membership. Re-baptized; exercise of closed communion—only church member may participate; etc)

7.      How do those stipulations compare to what was being faced by the early church?

8.      What beliefs are non-negotiable? (We can deal with the communion issue and even the baptism issue but when someone wants to add on a requirement to salvation we must stand our ground!)

Read Acts 15:12-23 The whole church took action on this issue!

Clearly Peter had already come full circle in his understanding of how different people groups are saved: the same way he was. Now it was time to help the believers in Antioch come to full understanding, too.

Clear Expectations! Read Acts 15:24-29

 

1.      To whom did the church in Jerusalem send this letter?

2.      Why did they send representatives from the church to accompany Paul and Barnabas?

3.      From where do most misunderstandings about salvation come? (Certainly not the Bible. They come either from people’s ignorance or misinterpretations based upon incomplete reading of Scripture, traditions, or cultural expectations, which muddy understanding.)

4.      Where do we turn for clarification of biblical issues we may disagree about? (The Bible, prayer and leadership of the Holy Spirit. Noting that there are some negotiable issues that we will just agree to disagree on.)

5.      What expectations do believers face as recipients of salvation? (The gospel makes a clear difference in people’s lives. Knowing Christ begins a lifelong process of following Him in the power of the Holy Spirit. The transformation that takes place demonstrates to unbelievers that Christians are called to be lights in a dark world! But our lives are different because of what God has done not to earn what God has done in saving us.)

6.      What is the significance of the actions prohibited? (As believers, our testimonies are effective when we avoid idolatry and immorality. This is why the letter from the Jerusalem Council listed four things to avoid and mentioned that the Gentile believers would do well if they did indeed avoid those things. Read 1 Cor. 8:13)

Note these requirements were to help them maintain fellowship with the Jews and adapt God’s standards for Christian living!

7.      What standards should a church use when communicating appropriate ways of living out the Christian life today? (Scripture.)

8.      What does the passage say guided the Jerusalem Council? (The Holy Spirit!)

These are not the kinds of commands that the Judaizers were trying to burden the Gentiles with but encouragement to live up to a Christian life worthy of their calling!

Secure Encouragement! Read Acts 15:30-35

 

1.      How did the Christians in Antioch respond when they heard the letter?

2.      How can believers encourage new Christians in their faith? (The Jerusalem Council took the opportunity not only to write a letter to address certain concerns, but they also sent a delegation to confirm their decision verbally.)

The example they left for us is to follow up personally when we address the questions or concerns of new believers.

3.      What is our church’s relationship like with other churches in our area?

4.      What are some ways we can bridge racial, economic, or locational gaps to work together to reach more people in the community? (Our outreach through our Mission’s Committee is making a difference in our community. I’m not aware of all that is happening but FBC is involved in numerous mission projects right here in Ardmore.)

As we work in harmony with other churches in our area, we display God’s love more effectively to those around us than we can individually.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

We must:

·         Stand firm on non-negotiable issues with love and respect.

·         Present the gospel clearly to all people.

·         Help new believers understand how to live the Christian life.

·         Pray for those who try to add to the requirements for salvation. A salvation by works is no salvation at all!

Pray that FBC, Ardmore would be obedient to taking the gospel around the world, starting here at home!

Misguided Worship - Acts 14:8-20

1.      How would you define “worship” as a noun? (Worship: The feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity.)

We usually think of “worship” in terms of a verb: Show reverence and adoration for a deity, or honor with religious rites.

2.      What are some examples of ways to facilitate both public and private worship? (Setting; planning; solitude; focus attention on God; praise for who God is; attitude of thankfulness for what He has done; humility; expression of our heartfelt worship through music; etc. The music expression may vary based on culture and background. In Africa their expression of worship with drums may seem foreign and even inappropriate to us.)

Read Psalm 150.

3.      What do we learn from this beautiful psalm? (Worship is about the One being worshiped and the attitude of the heart, not the instrument used in worship!)

4.      What are some examples of how worship may be misguided? (When we are more interested in the form of worship than we are about the One who is the object of our worship.)

Many times we sing songs in our worship that is “about” God but not directed “to” God. Both have their place but, I think sometimes we are singing “about” God when we should be singing “to” God! After all, we come to a worship service to worship God not just to tell others “about” God! For example, the hymn “Worthy of Worship” is addressed “to” God while the beautiful hymn “Amazing Grace” is a testimony about what God “has done”. We need both!

5.      If you seriously evaluated your worship of God would it be about adoration toward Him or more focused on the style?

 

We saw last week that God had done a wonderful work in and around Antioch of Pisidia. But, the Jews incited the people against Paul and Barnabas and they stirred up persecution against them so “they shook the dust off their feet against them and went to Iconium.” Acts 13:51. The Jews followed them and again stirred up the people against them. So they went to the Lycaoinian towns called Lystra and Derbe. We find in our focal passage today what happened in Lystra!

Healing! Read Acts 14:8-10

 

Verse 7 states that Paul and Barnabas “kept evangelizing”!

1.      What would most of us have decided after being run out of several towns where we had been preaching the gospel? (This must be a sign from God that we are not supposed to do this!)

2.      What acts of worship can be seen here? (The proclaiming of the gospel; jumping up and walking around.)

Paul’s sermon took a dramatic turn when a supernatural healing took place.

3.      How did Paul know this man had enough “faith” to be healed? (We must assume the Holy Spirit communicated this to Paul. When people demonstrate attentiveness to God’s Word, they display open minds to God’s work.)

4.      Are we so sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit that we are able to discern His leading?

5.      What purpose did the healing of the crippled man serve? (God uses His power to gain our attention and draw people to Himself.)

6.      Can you think of recent situations where God has used astounding events to draw attention to Himself? (Hurricanes; floods; fires; and even miraculous healings of people.)

Note some of these are “acts of nature” and while God may not have caused them He certainly uses them to get our attention and show His great love and mercy in astounding ways!

7.       What evidence do you look for to discern that God is at work around you? (When we become aware of God speaking to someone, we should encourage them to respond in obedience.)

 

Such a spectacular display of God’s power had an immediate dramatic effect not only on the crippled man but others who witnessed the healing.

Reaction! Read Acts 14:11-13

 

1.      What in these verses might be construed as worship? (People started talking in an excited tone; They started calling Paul and Barnabas by these special names; a sacrifice was being prepared.)

2.      Why didn’t Paul and Barnabas understand immediately that the people’s worship was misdirected? (The people were speaking in a local vernacular unfamiliar to them.)

3.      How can worship be misguided today? (We interpret what we see through the lens of our experience rather than God’s Word or the leadership of the Holy Spirit.)

4.      What are some ways people misunderstand or misinterpret God’s work today? (Medical miracles are attributed to a doctor or the science of medicine in general. Healed relationships are attributed to a counselor/pastor. Etc.)

5.      Why do some people incorrectly attribute God’s work to other people or circumstances? (Unbelief.)

Redirected! Read Acts 14:14-18

 

1.      How would you describe the actions of Barnabas and Paul? (They were horrified and urgently implored them not to do this terrible thing—give worship to them that was God’s.)

2.      What were the potential dangers if Paul and Barnabas had accepted the praise from the people?

3.      Are we ever tempted to take the praise of people which really belongs to God?

4.      What did Paul emphasize about God in his short speech? (God gives general revelation to everyone that He alone rules over creation.)

Understanding that God is our Creator teaches us He is the Author and Giver of life.

5.      Paul and Barnabas just barely managed to prevent the sacrifice. What attitudes did Paul and Barnabas display in pointing the people to Jesus?

6.      How can we present the gospel clearly to someone who has not heard about Him? (Just as Paul has demonstrated in all of his sermons, we start with what the people do know. Paul noted that God provided for their physical needs. And then He preached to them Jesus!)

As Christians, we should be careful to give credit to God for all the good things He brings into our lives and not take credit for them ourselves!

Rejected! Read Acts 14:19-20

 

1.      What were the contributing factors that led to Paul’s stoning? (In essence Paul had told them that the gods they worshiped were worthless. Then when the Jews from the other towns came and got the crowd all worked up the outcome was predictable.)

2.      What happened after Paul was left for dead outside the city?

3.      What do you find remarkable about this outcome?

4.      To what lengths might a person go to discredit or silence the gospel message today? (We see people taken to court and sued over their religious freedom of expression. Sometimes their homes, families, or businesses come under attack.)

5.      What can we learn from Paul’s response that might help us deal with efforts to discredit or quiet the gospel message today? (After the message has been shared and rejected, move on to places where the gospel has not been heard.)

6.      Would I have the courage to share the gospel in the face of persecution? How about without any persecution?

(In Romans chapter one Paul shows how we move to idolatry to depravity!)

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Our focus has been on worship and the Object of our worship.

Our challenge is to do our part to keep worship pure. Worship belongs to God, and we should be pointing people to Him and stay out of the way!

1.      What encourages you to continue sharing the gospel despite misunderstandings or rejection from others? (The difference I see in people who have heard and accepted the gospel.)

2.      Someone took the risk of sharing the gospel with you, are you willing to take the risk of rejection and share the gospel?

Pray: Father search our heart and reveal attitudes that may need to change. Also give each of us the courage to share the gospel!

The Gospel Message - Acts 13:26-39

1.      What is one of the most memorable sermons or speeches you’ve ever heard?

2.      What made that particular sermon or speech memorable? (Ask them to highlight the contents of the sermon or speech.)

Great speeches or sermons usually include a challenge that calls people to action. It may be that God used a sermon to call you to action for Him. Such was my case in July 1974 when God used a sermon at Ridgecrest, NC, during a Sunday School leaders retreat to speak to my heart. Isaiah 40 was the text and verse 31 was the focus—“but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.”

 

Today we resume our study of Acts. We’ve already learned from our previous study that Luke was almost certainly the author of Acts and the Gospel bearing his name. Both were addressed to the same person and the first chapter of Acts overlaps with the last chapter of Luke. Together these two books comprise one fourth of the New Testament.

 

The first half of Acts records the spread of the Gospel from Jerusalem to the Gentiles at Antioch of Syria. After spending about a year there the Holy Spirit told them to commission Paul and Barnabus to take the Gospel message further west. The remainder of the book of Acts records the spread of the Gospel at least to Rome. And there is strong indication that Paul wanted to go on to Spain.

Paul and Barnabus set out on their missionary journey going to Seleucia, sailed to Cyprus and went to the towns of Salamis and Paphos. They then set sail again to Perga in Pamphylia. They continued on from there to Antioch of Pisidia. As was their custom, Paul and Barnabus went to worship at the synagogue on the Sabbath and Paul was asked to speak. Paul started with the Israelites in Egypt and brought them to Jesus’ crucifixion.

Crucified! Read Acts 13:26-29

 

1.      Who are the two groups that Paul addressed? (The Jews, as would be expected but there were also Gentiles who worshipped Yahweh—God fearers!)

2.      What was Paul’s message about?

3.      To whom did Paul refer? (Paul was addressing a group who had never heard the Gospel and certainly not the name of Jesus.)

He started with what they already knew and explained that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Scriptures they studied weekly.

4.      What specific Bible prophecies did Jesus fulfill in His coming and crucifixion on the cross? (Born of a virgin; rejected by His own; was to die on a tree; counted among the condemned.)

5.      What do the actions of the people of Jerusalem teach us about humanity and our need for a Savior?

6.      How does the message of the gospel speak to the needs of modern man today? (We seem to think we are too sophisticated to need a Savior! However, man is sinful and in great need of a Savior. The message of the gospel tells all of us how to receive salvation. But too often we lack the humility to admit our need!)

7.      How do people reject Jesus today despite knowing that He died for them?

The story of Jesus never ends at the cross and Paul’s sermon did not stop there either!

 

Resurrected! Read Acts 13:30-37

 

1.      How important would you say are eyewitness accounts of events that seem impossible? (The Holy Spirit draws people to believe but our testimony gives the Holy Spirit the starting point to help people believe.) Read 1 Cor. 15:1-8.

Read Isaiah 55:3 and Psalm 16:10

2.      Why did Paul use these references to add weight to his point? (These were people familiar with the Scripture and by pointing out how Jesus fulfilled these passages helped them believe.)

3.      How do these eyewitness accounts and Scripture work together to give us confidence in the resurrection today?

4.      The doctrine of eternal life is very clear in this passage. How did Paul make that point?

Have a member read the paragraph from page 16 of the PSG “Key Doctrine: Justification

“Justification is God’s gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer into a relationship of peace and favor with God.”

 

5.      How does what Jesus has done for us motivate us to witness to others? (What are some ways we can embrace our responsibility as witnesses to speak about how Jesus has changed our lives? Encourage someone to share something God has done for them as they feel led.)

 

Merely explaining the death and resurrection of Jesus falls short of communicating the complete gospel message. Paul’s message did not end there!

Proclaimed! Read Acts 13:38-39

 

1.      What does the word “therefore” in verse 38 indicate? (The real point of the message is about to be delivered.)

2.      What would you say to a person who claims there are multiple ways to God and His heaven? (The gospel of Jesus Christ is distinctive in that it does not depend upon me or my good deeds. Forgiveness of sin is available only through the person and work of Jesus! Only a faith based relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ will put us in right standing with God and allow us to enter His heaven!)

3.      How does the news of the gospel exceed the Law of Moses? (The law is limited because it cannot justify us. The law can only show us what we have done wrong. The gospel of Jesus Christ provides justification from sin, which is something the law could never do.)

The law condemns, but the gospel saves!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Few of us will have the opportunity to share the gospel from a church platform or in public meeting places. However, each of us may create opportunities to share with friends, family members, and acquaintances. The reason Paul got straight to the point and urgently shared the gospel of Christ, His death, and resurrection was to help others discover how to have eternal life. Have you received Jesus Christ as your Savior? If you have, are you sharing that message with others?

 

Paul gave us a great outline to use in sharing the gospel:

·         The Law reveals our sinfulness by showing us precisely what we have done wrong.

·         God sent His Son to provide salvation for anyone who believes in Him.

·         The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecy. Therefore, our faith in the person and work of Jesus is grounded in actual historical events that confirmed the truth of Scripture.

·         Because of the resurrection of Jesus, we serve a living Lord who wants us to proclaim the good news of salvation so others may believe.

 

Thank our Heavenly Father for sending His Son for us.

Pray for opportunities to share the gospel and the boldness to share.

Ask God to lay a lost person you may know on your heart!

Set Futures - Leviticus 26:1-45

1.      What are some skills you have that requires practice? (Play the piano; cooking; carpentry; artist; athlete; teacher; etc.)

2.      What do you do that requires intentional practice?

3.      What benefits have you seen as a result of that intentional practice?

4.      What are the benefits to practicing a skill or a talent? (To become accomplished at the skill or talent. There are many people who have raw talent in a particular area but it requires focused, intentional practice to become the best you can be.)

An Apprentice is defined as: “A person who works for another to learn a trade.”

5.      In what since is the Christian life an “apprenticeship”? (God told the Children of Israel, “be holy for I am holy” in at least nine different places. Lev. 20:26 is one place. It takes focused attention and intentional effort to follow God’s command for us to be holy! That is the only standard we are to use for living!)

Holiness is the standard for living out our lives as Christians.  We are to give focused attention to living holy lives and there is no greater call to live for God than in the instructions God gives His people here in Leviticus.

God is fatherly in His attitude toward all men. He teaches us, disciplines us and sets the example for us to emulate, both here in the Old Testament and the New Testament in the person of Jesus!

 

Today, as we conclude our study in Leviticus, we will see how God promises to bless those who are faithful and obedient to Him and to discipline those who are not.

Promise! Read Leviticus 26:3-13 Everyone listen carefully for God’s promises to the Israelites.

 

(Write on the board: “If …,” “Then …”

1.      What are the “If” conditions God asked of the people of Israel? (List them on the board.)

2.      What are the “Then” promises God made to them? (List them on the board.)

3.      How does the future promised by God motivate a person to pursue obedience and holiness in this life here and now?

4.      How would you compare life in Egypt with a life filled with God’s faithfulness and blessings?

We can trust God to remove our heavy yokes and guide us, like the Israelites, into a life filled with His faithfulness. He knows how to bless and guide His children.

The Israelites’ actions did not determine their status as God’s people—that was settled! But their obedience or disobedience to God had implications on their fellowship with God, the fulfillment of His purposes for them, and their flourishing within the world.

 

God offered a bright future and a secure peace to those who faithfully obeyed His statutes and commands. Now let’s look for the warnings God issued.

Warning! Read Leviticus 26:14-16

 

(Finish the “If---Then” chart.)

1.      What do you think motivates a person more—a blessing or a warning?

2.      Can you have one without the other?

3.      How is facing a hardship as discipline an act of God’s mercy?

4.      How would you describe the relationship between love and discipline? (In parenting we want the best for the child more than we want what is easiest or most pleasant. In marriage personal discipline is required in order to care for and serve the spouse more than one’s own self.)

A relationship void of discipline is a relationship void of truth and true love!

 

            During the 400 years of the Judges God gave Israel opportunity after opportunity to repent and follow Him. They would turn back to God for a while then turn away again and God would bring judgment. The cycle repeated itself numerous times.  One particular Judge stands out in light of the consequences mentioned here, that is Gideon. Where was Gideon threshing wheat?—in a wine press! Why was he in the valley winnowing wheat instead of on a hilltop?—the enemy would take their wheat! You can find that account in Judges, chapters 6-8. Exactly what God said would happen if they didn’t follow His commands and statutes.

 After the monarch type of government was established nothing really changed. By the fourth king the nation was split into two nations—Israel and Judah. Judgment was brought on Israel (the northern kingdom) in 722 BC and it was never reconstituted as a nation. The Southern Kingdom lasted until 596 BC and was defeated by Babylon, but God brought them back 70 years later and is the modern nation of Israel today!

As parents sometimes we think, well I’ll give them one more warning and maybe they will do what I told them to do. I wonder if God thought about sending one more prophet like Isaiah or Jeremiah before bringing judgment on His people!

 

God’s warning against disobedience was clear: personal hardship and defeat at the hands of the Israelites’ enemies would be the result. Now let’s look for the grace and hope that God offers, even when His people choose disobedience.

 

Return! Read Leviticus 26:40-45

 

(Complete the “If…Then” chart.

 

God is faithful, even when His people are not. In this passage God clearly states that He remembered His promises to the forefathers of the faith. Ultimately, those promises would find their fulfillment in Christ Jesus.

1.      What are the necessary ingredients for a return to fellowship with God? (Confession of sin and repentance. God asked that the Israelites own their sin by confessing it personally and as a people. God has always been most interested in the heart of His people. Genuine repentance before God allows the fellowship between Him and the people to be restored! Remember, as Christians, our relationship is always secure!)

2.      How does the certain promise of restoration through Jesus give you hope for yourself and your people? (Restoration is God’s specialty! He restored the Israelites physically and restores all His people spiritually. No situation is too far gone for God to restore. His power to rebuild and redeem has no end! The only thing God takes more delight in than restoring a wayward child is that child never leaving.)

3.      Why is it important for Christians to view repentance as a constant pursuit in their daily lives? (We sin every day on some level. We need to stay “fessed” up!)

4.      Read the following verses: Ps. 94:12, Prov. 3:12, Judges 2:1-2, Heb. 12:5-7, 1 Pet. 1:15-16. What do these passages reveal about God and His desire for His children?

5.      How do these verses change your perspective on God’s discipline?

 

God’s grace and forgiveness are not a license for us to go on sinning because He will forgive. God’s best plan for our lives includes a lifelong, loving obedience to Him.

 

Summary and Challenge!

 

1.      What blessings have you experienced as a result of being obedient to God, remembering that some blessings are found in what you avoided rather than in what you gained?

2.      What have you learned throughout this journey in Exodus and Leviticus?

3.      How can we help each other in our daily walk with God?

 

Our challenge: Yield yourself to God to be used in whatever way He chooses. Ask God to direct your life and renew your commitment to follow Him—wherever and whenever He leads!

 

Close with a prayer of commitment.

 

“If…..”

 

Follow my statues

Faithfully observe my commands

------------------------------------------------

You do not obey me and observe my commands

You reject my statues

Do not observe all My commandment

------------------------------------------------

Confess their sin and the sin of their fathers—their unfaithfulness

Humble their hearts

 

“Then…”

 

Give you rain at the right time

The land will produce its produce

Trees of the field will bear their fruit.

Threshing will continue until grape harvest

Grape harvest will continue until sowing

You will have plenty of food to eat

Live securely in your land

Peace to the land

Not be frightened

Remove dangerous animals from the land

No sword will pass through the land

You will pursue your enemies; they’ll fall by the sword.

Make you prosperous

Confirm My covenant with you

You will eat the fruit of last year’s crop

I will place My residence among you

I’ll not reject you

I will walk among you and be your God

You will be my people

-------------------------------------

I will bring terror on you

I will bring wasting disease and fever

You will sow your seed in vain for your enemies will eat it.

-------------------------------------

I will remember my covenant with them through their ancestors and restore their land.

Set Free - Leviticus 16:1-30

(Bring a backpack to class loaded with books so that it is somewhat heavy. Ask for a volunteer to wear it during class but say nothing about it until the closing. The longer we carry our heavy weight of sin the more difficult it becomes. If the person should take it off during the class then make the point at that time.)

 

We have been studying about sin and the sacrificial system God instituted to help the people come to terms with their sinfulness and the cost to restore our fellowship with Him after we’ve sinned.

1.      Do you think people today have a more lax view of sin than people one hundred years ago?

2.      Why do many people have a difficult time coming to terms with their sinfulness?

3.      When someone does realize they have sinned against God and yearn for the fellowship to be restored how is that person’s feelings described? (Guilt becomes overwhelming. Guilt is defined as “feeling responsible or regret for a perceived offense, real or imaginary.”)

Sometimes we may feel guilt for something that happened for which we had nothing to do with and were not responsible. But when we feel guilt brought on by God’s conviction in our heart that we have sinned against Him, that guilt is real!

4.      What can we use or do to clean a sin-stained heart and lift the burden of guilt?

God’s people in the Old Testament looked forward to “The” Sacrifice that would come in Jesus Christ. But in the mean time to cover their sin until it could we washed away by Jesus’ blood, God gave them the sacrificial system to teach them the heavy cost of sin and to point toward the perfect Sacrifice, the Messiah.

 

The function of the priests involved distinguishing “between the holy and the common, and the clean and the unclean” In chapters 11-15 of Leviticus God gave specific instructions regarding what is clean and what is unclean. The Lord set apart some animals as clean or acceptable to eat and designated others animals as unacceptable to eat. He then gave instructions to Moses and Aaron concerning uncleanness by contamination and the rites of purification. In chapter 16, God instituted the Day of Atonement. It was the 10th day of the 7th month on the Jewish calendar (Sept-Oct).

 

Preparing to Sacrifice! Read Leviticus 16:3-6

 

1.      How was Aaron to prepare himself according to God’s instructions? (Wash and put on linen garments, take a young bull for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering for himself and the priesthood, then take two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering for the people.)

2.      Why so much preparation to enter the presence of God and make atonement for the people’s sin?

3.      What mind-set do you think Aaron had when Moses told him what he would need to do in order to be prepared to carry out the atonement sacrifices for the people? (In preparing to be high priest, Aaron undoubtedly felt the burden of his own sin, as well as the sins of the people.)

Like children who come in from playing outside and are unaware of how much dirt they have accumulated, we too have difficulty realizing our own sin stains. God’s Spirit lovingly, though not always gentle, makes us aware.

4.      How does realizing the need for purity before God cause you to think about Jesus’ extravagant provision for you?

5.      How do we rightly prepare ourselves to enter into God’s presence? (We discussed last week the issue about coming into our worship services flippantly. May we make a conscience effort to come to worship focused on God.)

6.      When we come to our worship service are we more interested in seeing friends or that we are about to have an encounter with the Living God?

7.      Is it more difficult to prepare the internal or the external when it comes to preparing to be in God’s presence?

8.      Is there a level of reverence our dress should project at church?

Just as Aaron prepared himself to enter God’s presence, God’s desire is that our hearts be ready and right with Him when we come to worship. Now let’s look at the sacrifice Aaron brought.

The Chosen Goat! Read Leviticus 16:7-10

 

The word “azazel” is the Hebrew word translated uninhabitable place.

1.      How does the picture of the two goats give us a visual reminder of God’s justice, grace and forgiveness? (One goat was slaughtered, the other had the sin of the people placed upon it and was let go in the wilderness to demonstrate God’s gracious removal of Israel’s guilt and sin.)

2.      In what way was the Day of Atonement a temporary fix to the guilt and sin of the people of Israel?

3.      In what way is Jesus’ death on the cross a permanent solution to our sin problem?

4.      How does Jesus’ death give a believer confidence and humility at the same time?

5.      How does one strike a proper balance between confidence and humility?

 

We can live confident that Jesus’ death on the cross means we no longer need to carry the guilt of sin. Now let’s read God’s words as He established the Day of Atonement for His people.

 

The Day of Atonement! Read Leviticus 16:29-30

 

1.      As we have talked about “atonement” these past few weeks what have you come to understand about atonement? Have you learned anything you were not aware of before? (God’s justice demands payment and the sacrifice for atonement was that payment time after time until Jesus came to be our final Sacrificial Lamb!)

2.      How did God require the Israelites to observe the Day of Atonement? (They were to practice Sabbath, withdrawing and resting from the daily occupations of mind and body. They were to practice reflection and self-denial, traditionally understood to mean refraining from doing anything to improve or please one’s self.

3.      What are the benefits of practicing regular reflection on God’s work in your life? (The Day of Atonement demonstrated God’s interest in the heart of people. Most important were the realizations and determinations brought about in the hearts of the people during this time.)

When our worship becomes rote, we can reset our gratitude and reverence for God when we spend time reflecting on the atonement Jesus accomplished for us. We have an opportunity every week to come together and celebrate with thankful hearts what God has done for us through the atoning sacrifice of His Son!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

(Turn to the person wearing the backpack and ask if they are ready to get rid of their burden.)

Ask them these questions:

1.      Did the backpack become more difficult over time?

2.      Did you look forward to the time it would come off?

This backpack represented the guilt of sin. The longer we carry it, the more uncomfortable it becomes.

3.      How can we get rid of our sin guilt? (Only through Jesus.)

4.      What could you say or do to help someone who is carrying the guilt of sin as a heavy burden?

Jesus paid for our sin one time for all with His blood. He is purifying His own as we walk with Him daily. He will do away with the presence of sin altogether in our future. What is present reality in heaven will be present on earth as well.

5.      In what ways are we too casual or too confident when it comes to approaching God?

6.      How might you prepare to humble yourself before God?

 

We will celebrate Thanksgiving this Thursday! How about pausing to reflect on what God has done for you and your family!

Close in a prayer of thankfulness to God for providing everlasting atonement through His Son, Jesus!

Set Apart - Leviticus 8:1-10:7

(On a poster or white board write “Do’s” and “Don’ts” as headings.)

 

1.      Ask: What are some “Do’s” and “Don’ts” that people outside the church might think Christians should follow?

Sometimes people view religion as just a list of difficult rules that people attempt to follow.

2.      What expectations do non-Christians have about the way Christians should live?

3.      Do you think they expect Christians to act differently than they do?

4.      Do we as Christians fall into the same trap when we look at other Christians by expecting things of them we don’t expect of ourselves?

Today we will see how God’s people are called to live holy lives—not just to try to follow a list of do’s and don’ts. The Christians life is much more than a list of do’s and don’ts to follow. Our actions are to spring from a heart of gratitude for what God has done for us and what He wants to accomplish through us!

Having established a series of offerings in Leviticus chapters 1 through 6 and how those offerings were to be managed in chapters 6 & 7, chapter 8 establishes a priesthood to represent God’s people before Him and to represent Him before the people. Aaron and his sons were ordained into their priestly offices. Now in chapter 9 we have the first worship service in the tabernacle.

As we study Leviticus look for these key themes: The Holiness of God; The Need for Atonement; and The Need for Right Living.

 

Cleansed! Read Leviticus 9:15-21

 

1.      In the very act of making a “sin offering” what are we saying? (We are confessing we have sinned and we have a need for restoration of our fellowship with God.)

2.      Why is confession the first step for approaching God?

3.      What keeps people from being honest about their need for confession?

As we mentioned last week, the killing of an animal showed the cost of sin and by God accepting their offering, He was showing His people how their fellowship with Him is restored.

4.      As believers today, we do not need an earthly priest to help us approach God! Why is that the case? (See 1 Peter 2:9—We have direct access to the Father through Jesus. See Heb. 8:1—Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Father. His work was finished. Aaron and his successors’ work was never finished. See Heb. 9:11-14 and 10:14.)

5.      Why was the priesthood set up by God? (To facilitate access to God for the people by way of God’s instructions through sacrifices, teaching the community about God, and worship—all pointing to Jesus as our ultimate High Priest.)

We are made right with God through the blood of Jesus.              Read Rom. 5:9; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:20; 1 John 1:7; Rev. 1:5.

We have been saved out of the darkness of this world to be a bright light shining back into that darkness that others might come to the Light, which is Jesus! Our lives should be such that others are drawn to Jesus just a bugs are drawn to light on a dark night!

 

We know that recognizing and confessing our sin is the first step toward God. Next we will see the blessing that Aaron offered for the people!

 

Blessing! Read Leviticus 9:22-24

 

We don’t know what happened when Moses and Aaron went into the Tent of Meetings and speculation is futile, but surely they communicated with God in some way. The fire of God symbolized the holiness of God and His purifying, cleansing power!

1.      What effect did God’s nearness and response to the sacrifice have on the people? (Their instance response was to worship and praise God. There was responsibility for the specific sin of the individual but also a great sense of relating to God as a community.)

I enjoy worshiping God alone but I love coming together as a church family worshiping God together.

2.      When have you been so moved as to figuratively fall on your face in worship to God?

3.      How would you describe their relationship with God at this point? (Being in God’s presence in worship brings about blessing and proper perspective in our lives.)

4.      Is there any significance to the order of the offerings: sin offering, burnt offering and the fellowship offering? (The order of these offerings illustrates that atonement comes before true relationship. God makes relationship with Him possible after we first respond to His way of atonement. Adjusting our hearts toward gratitude to God in our lives enhances our worship.)

5.      If you were asked to describe the blessings of living a holy life how would you respond?

 

1.      What happens when we try to design our own way to come to God?

 

Holy! Read Leviticus 10:1-3

 

2.      What was the problem with what Nadab and Abihu did? (We are not given specifics but there was obviously sin in their hearts. Perhaps it was pride that led them to offer unauthorized fire to the Lord in an offering God did not tell them to offer. Although we are not told specifically what the Scripture mean, Holy fire is fire from God and there is strong evidence that fire from the altar would be considered Holy Fire because of the blood sprinkled on the Altar.)

3.      In what ways do we face the same temptations as Nadab and Abihu?

4.      What truths were pressed deeply into Israel as a result of what happened to Nadab and Abihu? (God’s holiness is uncompromising. The Lord deserves every reverence people are capable of offering, and more. The purity of the Levitical priesthood and the prescribed sacrifices was preserved.)

5.      How does disobedience reflect a lack of faith in God? (Had Nadab and Abihu’s disobedient offering been done in ignorance, a sin offering would have reestablished their right relationship with God. Instead, their deliberate disobedience revealed their disrespect for God. Pride is a terrible sin!)

6.      When people stray away from God’s demands of holiness, what effect does it have on their lives and relationships—both with
God and others?

In Acts 8:18 Simon offered Peter and John money in Samaria to have the power that he saw when they prayed over the new believers and the Holy Spirit came upon the people.

            Arrogance takes many forms; even lack of reverence can be a form of arrogance. People don’t, and can’t, have the authority to choose or create a way that God can successfully be approached. Understanding or agreeing with the strategy of what God asks us to do isn’t a release from the expectation of obedience.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Read Hebrews 7:26-28!

 

1.      How would you summarize these three verses? (We can be thankful that Christ is the only holy, perfect priest we need and that through His sacrifice on the cross we have access to God.)

Confession of sin is the first step toward God. Believers can enjoy the blessing of being in God’s presence through worship of Him. God’s people are to live holy lives, reflecting Jesus’ character.

2.      How do you see Christians today minimize God’s expectation of their obedience?

3.      In what areas of your own life do you do this? (Isn’t it strange that we look at other people and call an act sin but excuse the same act in our own life!)

Read Psalm 139:23-24.

 

Ask God to show you where you need to get serious about obeying Him exactly.

 

Give God thanks for providing Christ as both a holy sacrifice and a High Priest so that you can have a relationship with Him!

Set Before God - Leviticus 1:1-3:17

1.      How would you describe the attitudes and actions of a person who is devoted to a particular entity, that is; a person, group or goal? (A person’s devotion is evident through their actions and level of commitment to the entity they worship. For example, I know people who are “committed” to sports and nothing gets in their way of attending or watching sporting events! Would that professing Christians were as committed to God!)

2.      Where is the focus of true worship of God? (True worship of God is not centered on the worshiper; it is focused on God, His holiness, His grace, His mercy, His provision, etc.)

God designed and put the tabernacle in place to create a space to be near His people and for them to be Him and sense His presence! Through their sacrificial offerings for their sin the people would be reconciled to God and have fellowship with Him.

 

Last week we saw the completion of the tabernacle. Now God gave Moses specifics about the sacrifices that were to be offered. While Exodus describes how God set His people free, Leviticus describes how His redeemed people are to live. Both books remind us that our great God is not only interested in our freedom (Exodus), but He is also interested in how we live once set free (Leviticus). What was true for the Israelites then is also true for us today. Once we are set free from the power of sin, God is interested in how we live!

 

Chapters 1-7 of Leviticus provided the manual of instructions for the five main offerings the Israelites were to bring to approach God, to have their sins covered, and to be at one with God and others.

They are: The Burnt Offering; The Grain Offering; The Fellowship Offering; The Sin Offering; and The Guilt Offering! We need to emphasize the fact that these sacrifices only “covered” their sin; only the blood of Jesus can wash away our sin!

 

The Burnt Offering! Read Leviticus 1:1-9

 

Notice that God is speaking to Moses at the Tabernacle now not on the mountain!

1.      What does the quality of the offering reveal about the one offering it?

2.      Why must the person bringing the sacrifice place their hands on the head of the animal before making the sacrifice? (Their sins were symbolically laid on the animal therefore the animal would die in his place.)

3.      How would you define the word “atonement”? (In the Old Testament, atonement refers to the process God established whereby humans could make an offering to God to restore fellowship with God. When a person knowingly or unknowingly sinned they were required to bring a sacrifice to God to restore their fellowship. One day each year the High Priest sacrificed an animal for his sin and the sins of the people. This was on the Day of Atonement [see Lev. 16]. He entered the Holy of Holies and sprinkled the blood on the Ark of the Covenant!)

There are two other words closely associated with “atonement”. They are “expiation” and “propitiation”.

Propitiation is appeasing an angry God because we have sinned.  (1 John 2:1-2)

Expiation is removing the barrier that sin creates.

Atonement, propitiation and expiation are all related to reconciliation.

Jesus atoned for our sin! He is the propitiation for our sin! Through His sacrifice on the cross expiation for our sin was accomplished and those who believe in Jesus have been reconciled back to God!

4.      Read Leviticus 16:30. What words describe any emotions this verse brings to you?

5.       How was God’s provision for the burnt offering to atone for sin and its protocols merciful and protective? (God made provision to deal with the people’s sin and allow relationship with Him to happen.)

6.      In what ways did God show grace to the people? (In His kindness God took the guesswork out of the people’s efforts to worship Him. He is never cruel.  We don’t have to wonder what we must do to be right with God! It is only through Jesus.)

7.      How would having to regularly kill an animal to atone for your sins affect the way you view your sins? (Atonement required dealing with the sin of every person in Israel individually and corporately.)

8.      Would it change the way you understand or relate to Jesus’ death on the cross? (The unblemished lamb was the standard for a worthy sacrifice, the most costly and valuable offering possible.)

Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, as a payment for our sins, was once for all. Unlike the Old Testament sacrifices, His sacrifice would never need to be repeated.

 

With the burnt offering that atoned for the people’s sins, God showed that sin was a serious matter. An acceptable sacrifice was required to pay for the sin. Next we will look at a different offering—the grain offering

The Grain Offering! Read Leviticus 2:1-3

 

The Grain Offering could be brought any time to the Lord but the “First-fruits Offering” was a special kind of grain offering. This offering was, at least in part, how the priests were provided for!

1.      How is an offering an act of gratitude to God?

2.      How does offering our entire lives to God (Rom. 12:1-2) relate to our gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice for our sin?

3.      What are some things you are thankful to God for?

4.      How can we intentionally show gratitude to God through our words and actions?

5.      How does gratitude affect our worship? (In Psalm 100, thanksgiving and praise are woven together. A heart full of gratitude is sensitive to the Lord.)

Being grateful is an attractive quality. People want to be in community with someone who has a grateful spirit. Just as a complaining attitude can poison the atmosphere in the body of believers, gratitude can sweeten it. Gratitude to God affects our worship individually and corporately. After a leader has been in his or her position for a good amount of time the group begins to take on the outlook of their leader. Be a positive influence!

The grain offering was the people’s way of saying thanks to God for all of His provisions. The third and last offering we will explore today is the offering that represented peace with God—the fellowship offering.

The Fellowship Offering! Read Leviticus 3:1-5

 

After the portions that were to be offered to the Lord were burned the rest was roasted over the fire and the worshiper and the priests would eat it before the Lord to celebrate God’s blessings.

1.      How does the idea of the fellowship offering compliment the previous offerings for atonement and gratitude? (Through worship, God has taught His people multiple aspects of His character, including that we are all made in His image. True fellowship is possible when the relationship is on right terms and there is deep appreciation for the other.)

2.      How does the fellowship offering symbolize the relationship between the worshiper and God? (The fellowship offering demonstrated the intention of God dwelling with His people through the picture of a meal eaten together. Fellowship suggests safe company, time spent sharing, and joy in being together. This type of relationship with our Holy God is possible through Jesus!)

3.      This offering is sometime called the Peace Offering. How would you describe what it means to be at peace with God?

Today we enjoy the confidence and assurance of knowing that through our faith in Jesus, we can have peace and fellowship with God!

Summarize and Challenge!

1.      We don’t present burnt, grain, or fellowship offerings to God today, so how can we show Him our love and devotion?

2.      How do you remain mindful of Christ as the fulfillment of our atonement, devotion, and fellowship?

3.      How can we make Jesus the “Focal Point” in our lives so that everyone who looks at us will be drawn to Him?

Pray that we offer our best to God!

His Presence - Exodus 39:42-40:38

1.      What are some ways we like to celebrate when a big building project is completed? (Open House; Dedication Service; or a Commitment Service; etc.)

2.      How do you feel when a task has been completed with excellence?

We all enjoy the feeling of satisfaction that comes with the completion of a task. Especially a job that we have given our very best effort to get completed in a timely manner.

 

In today’s Bible passage, we will see the work on the tabernacle completed. As we read the Scripture look for what God did once the job was complete.

In Exodus 25-31 the Lord gave Moses specific instructions regarding building the tabernacle and its furnishings. He even told him the names of the skilled craftsmen who He wanted to lead out in the construction. Moses passed on the directions to Bezalel and Oholiab. They began the work as instructed. We learn in Ex. 36:4-7 that the people were so generous that they brought more than was needed so they were told to stop bringing their items.

 

Finished! Read Exodus 39:42-43

 

1.      How would you describe the kind of attitudes necessary for the Israelites to achieve this level of group obedience? (Ex. 36-39 describes the components that were fashioned, carved, woven, and overlaid with gold according to God’s exact instructions over many months.)

2.      What challenge do we find in their actions that we can apply to our lives? (Read Col. 3:17, 23)

3.      What were the benefits of Moses’ inspection and accountability? (Moses blessed the workers. The Hebrew term rendered blessed means “to empower someone or something for success.” Someone has defined the verb as “to impart the capacity to accomplish a designated purpose.”)

4.      How can we bless others in this same way?

5.      How can this passage encourage us to finish well the Christian work God has given us individually? (See 2 Tim. 4:7)

6.      How do past acts of obedience drive us to acts of obedience in the future?

Finishing well as a believer at the end of life requires consistently serving the Lord throughout life—a life of committed service!

 

The people of Israel could enjoy the satisfaction of finishing the work God had assigned. Next we’ll see God’s instructions to Moses regarding the setup of the tabernacle.

 

Assembly Required! Read Exodus 40:1-4

 

Note the clear, precise instructions God gave Moses.

1.      What do you think Moses learned from personally assembling the tabernacle? (We learn best by experience! Moses became intimately familiar with every aspect of the tabernacle by putting it together according to God’s directions. Every piece illustrated something about God’s unfolding plan to restore the human heart to Himself through the Messiah!)

2.      How would focusing the Israelites’ attention on the tabernacle help them understand and communicate with God? (Until now the Israelites understanding of God was somewhere out there or up there. Now God was actually residing in their midst, He was with them everywhere they went.)

3.      What were the dangers if Moses failed to assemble the tabernacle according to God’s directions? (Not only was it the items that gave a picture of God’s plan for a Messiah, the order in which they were placed was also important.)

4.      What are the dangers today of failing to follow God’s directions?

5.      What were the items in the Tabernacle and the significance of each item beginning with the altar of burnt offering?

·         Altar of burnt offering          Where the sacrifice was made

·         Bronze wash basin               For the priest to wash their hands and feet

·         Table of showbread             Jesus the Bread of life

·         Seven-pronged lampstand   Jesus the Light of the World

·         Altar of incense                     Represented Prayers of the

people

·         The Ark of the Covenant      The Mercy Seat-Dwelling Place

of God where the blood of the sacrificial lamb was sprinkled on the Day of Atonement.

God intended for the people to understand the significance of each item and apply the truth to Jesus when He came as the Messiah! The thick veil separating the Holy of holies was torn at Jesus’ death, opening the way for anyone to come through faith in Jesus into the presence of God! Jesus tried to help them understand by saying in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life.” And in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world.” But just as it is in our world today, so many are blinded by Satan to the truths of God’s Word!

 

Moses finished his work of setting up the Tabernacle and God showed His approval!

Glory Shown! Read Exodus 40:34-35

 

It is difficult for us to understand exactly how God’s presence in the tabernacle prevented Moses from entering. God’s presence must have been terrifying and at the same time profoundly beautiful and breath taking to look upon!

1.      How would you compare the filling of the tabernacle by the glory of God to the filling of the Christian’s life by the Holy Spirit? (No one who witnessed the arrival of God’s glory could have remained ambivalent about Him. Believers can have reverent peace and joy knowing God’s presence is in their lives. Once the Holy Spirit fills a person they are never the same!)

2.      How does this biblical glimpse of God’s glory give us comfort and confidence as we look to the future? (The Israelites had a great experience here but they did not have God living inside them as we Christians do today. And even what we have is simply a glimpse of the glory we will experience one day.)

Having God’s presence in our lives through the Holy Spirit is reason for us to celebrate!

 

When God’s glory filled the tabernacle, He showed the Israelites His desire to be with His people. With the tabernacle completed, we will see how God led His people on their journey.

God Led! Read Exodus 40:36-38

 

1.      How do you think the visible cloud was a help or a comfort to the people of Israel at that time?

2.      In what ways are God’s Spirit and God’s Word a help and a comfort to us today?

3.      How might it change things if God’s presence were visible in your neighborhood? (Even all of the Israelites didn’t trust and obey Him even though they had the cloud.)

4.      Do you think the Israelites were ever confused as to whether God wanted them to move or stay? (Here is a key: they were watching to see what God was telling them.)

5.      Are we ever confused about what God wants us to do? Why, are we not listening, do we not hear His voice clearly?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      What do we need to do individually to be more confident in doing what God is leading us to accomplish? As a group?

2.      How can we grow to be more sensitive to hearing God’s voice and move when He moves?

3.      Is there a direct connection between obeying God’s leadership and enjoying His presence?

 

Pray that we would be more sensitive to hearing God speak to us and that we would be quick to obey!

Rebellion - Exodus 32:1-14

1.      What is one thing that would devastate you if you lost it?

2.      What is one thing that you think would bring you contentment if you gained it?

An “Idol” is an image or representation of a god used as an object of worship!

3.      Why did God give us the second of the Ten Commandments—“Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth.”….? (Even if the idol was made as a representation of God Himself, we would soon be worshiping the idol rather than God whom the idol represented. It also removes an aspect of our faith when we need to “see” the One we worship!)

In our Scripture text today we will see how the Israelites grew restless, turned their hearts away from God, and turned toward worshiping an idol that was meant to represent God but became the object of worship to them.

            God had called Moses to go up on Mount Sinai and God was giving him instructions about how the Israelites were to behave and how to build the Tabernacle. Moses had been on the mountain 40 days. The people became impatient and Aaron was a very weak leader.

 

Rebellion! Read Exodus 32:1-4

 

1.      What led to the people’s rebellion against Aaron and ultimately God? (They were impatient, tired of waiting for Moses to return.)

2.      In what ways did the people rebel against God?

3.      In what ways did Aaron rebel? (There seemed to be no hesitations on Aaron’s part. As recorded in Ex. 24:9-11, Aaron and his two eldest sons had seen God along with Moses and 70 of Israel’s elders. One can’t help but wonder where these leaders were when the people lost faith in the Lord and pleaded with Aaron to make them a god.)

4.      What role does a person’s impatience play in idolatry? (When we become impatient with God we have a tendency to turn to something or someone to meet our need that only God can meet according to His perfect plan for us.)

5.      Ultimately what or whom are we worshiping when we make for ourselves an idol to worship? (When we worship what we have made with our own hands we control and in the end we are worshiping ourselves and our own desires!)

6.      What would you consider the greater influence—impatience, or the desire for a leader?

7.      What can we do to encourage each other toward greater patience in our relationship with God?

8.      How can we pray for pastors and other leaders who may feel immense pressure to give in to people’s demands? (The people’s rebellion was fierce enough to sway Aaron and to drive the faithful Israelites into silence.)

We need to examine ourselves to make sure our worship is directed toward God alone, actively pray for our leadership and stand faithfully against any rebellion toward God!

 

Sin Committed! Read Exodus 32:5-6

1.      What is the relationship between idolatry and foolishness? (See Isaiah 2:8; Isaiah 44:15-17)

2.      Why is it so hard for people who trust idols to see the foolishness of their actions? (Satan blinds their eyes.)

3.      Aaron announced a day of celebration and called it a festival of feast to the Lord, yet it involved idol worship. How can we avoid the trap of mixing dangerous false teachings or false practices with our worship of the true God?

4.      How was Aaron trying to “straddle the fence” and appease both the people and the worship of God? (Aaron had already been chosen as the high priest. God often uses people who seem the least qualified to fulfill His plan.)

Aaron set a bad example for his sons who later were consumed by fire from the altar for approaching God in a way that mocked His holiness—as they had seen their father do.

Aaron didn’t get a “free pass” either. He was not allowed to enter the Promised Land, but died in the wilderness with the rest of the disobedient generation.

 

The Israelites’ foolishness was on display as they offered sacrifices to their golden calf. God’s anger against their foolish rebellion was swift—He wanted to destroy the people.

God’s Anger! Read Exodus 32:7-10

 

1.      How did God describe His people in the passage? (Stiff-necked)

2.      What did God decide their punishment would be?

3.      Has there been a time when God would consider you “stiff-necked”?

Notice that God could still fulfill His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob if He started all over with Moses! Now let’s see the humility and heart of Moses!

 

Appeal for Grace! Read Exodus 32:11-14

 

1.      How would you characterize Moses’ relationship with God after reading his dialogue with Him in this passage? (The freedom Moses felt in approaching God with this prayer indicates a respectful, warm, confident, and trust-filled relationship. In Ex. 32:32 Moses said he was willing to give up his place in God’s kingdom if only the people could be forgiven.)

2.      What character attributes of God are revealed in verses 7-14? (These qualities among others are evident: God’s justice, righteous anger, righteous jealousy, responsiveness to people, desire to be in loving relationship with people, mercy, faithfulness, kindness, protectiveness, nearness, desire for the hearts of people to trust Him enough to be obedient, and grace.)

3.      How does God’s being faithful to His promises give us comfort today?

4.      What do we learn about God’s mercy in this passage? (It is Abundant!)

 

In the end, God’s grace shown through—the same grace He offers to us today, wanting all people to have the opportunity to repent!

See 2 Peter 3:9.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

We, as believers in Jesus, must stand against anything that is in rebellion against God and His Word. Any attempt to worship any person or object other than the one true God will lead to foolishness. Believers can intercede on behalf of the disobedient, asking for God to give them an opportunity to repent.

 

1.      Who/what we worship matters, and lip service to God is not authentic worship. How does your real worship affect your family, close friends, and community? (Be a bright beacon by living a life that is given in worship to your Savior and Lord Jesus. Worship isn’t one day a week, it is how you live your life every day before a lost world around you.)

2.      What are some practical ways we can help one another in guarding against idolatry and placing our trust or finding joy in things other than God? (Commit to pray for each other. When necessary, confront each other in a loving way.)

 

Personal Challenge: Memorize John 4:24—“God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Spend time in prayer, worshiping God alone. Ask God to order the priorities of your heart as you worship Him. Ask Him to use the influence He has given you to draw people to worship Him.

 

Pray for Christians around the world as they worship God in spirit and in truth.

Pray for millions living in rebellion against God as they worship idols. Pray that they would have access to and respond to the gospel.

EQUIPPED - EXODUS 25:1-9; 31: 1-6

Describe a time you started a repair or a recipe and then realized you didn’t have the supplies to complete the task.  If you didn’t have the proper resources or you were not equipped the chances are the project didn’t turn out the way you had planned. This week we will see how God equipped and provided the resources for the Israelites and is still doing the same for His people today.

THE OFFERING     Read Exodus 25: 1-7

1.       Where did the items God asked the people to give for the building of the tabernacle come from?

2.       Why is it important that the people were not forced to give toward the tabernacle?

3.       What sacrifices are we called to make when giving to God?

4.       Why do we view possessions as our own?

THE PURPOSE      Read Exodus 25: 8-9

1.       How would you explain the idea of God dwelling with people?

2.       How is this different from the way people usually view God?

3.       What is the significance of following the exact pattern God laid out for the tabernacle?

4.       How does considering the tabernacle and all its aspects inform your understanding of believers as dwelling places for the Holy Spirit?

THE LEADERS      Read Exodus 31: 1-6

1.        In what specific ways did God gift Bezalel and Oholiab for the special tasks He instructed them to do?

2.       Why do you think wisdom was paired with the ability in God’s giving?

3.       How have you seen people respond to God in using God- given talents, abilities, and developed skills for kingdom work?

SUMMERIZE AND CHALLENGE

How would you describe the relationship between God’s provision in our lives and His request of us to give?

PERSONAL CHALLENGE

Evaluate your willingness to give God as He directs you.

Determine to look for and respond to the opportunities God gives you this week.

Commanded - Exodus 20:1-17

1.      What are some of your favorite games to play or watch? (I love to watch football, basketball and baseball.)

2.      Let’s consider football for a moment. What would a football game be without rules to play by and referees to enforce the rules? (Chaos! Complete disorder and confusion. It would not be enjoyable at all!)

The truth is without boundaries any endeavor will spiral downward to utter chaos.

3.      When was the first time you remember realizing standards and rules are in place for your good?

Our natural tendency is to dislike rules. God gave a code of commandments to be obeyed so we can clearly see our bent to sin. Our need for Christ stands out starkly when we begin to understand our sin and its consequences.

Because God’s character is trustworthy, His commands for us can be trusted also. Growth in our understanding of God’s holiness and loving grace facilitates obedience as we acknowledge His wisdom is far beyond ours and that He has our best in mind.  

 

In today’s Scripture passage, we will see that God has given us a clear standard for holy living.

God’s chosen people have reached Mount Sinai, where God first spoke to Moses!

 

The God of the Commandments! Read Exodus 20:1-2

 

1.      How do these verses make clear the basis for God’s authority to set the standard? (God’s identity, His character, and His actions all make His authority clear.)

The commandments God is about to give His people start with a strong assertion of God’s identity. Recognizing His authority was a problem for the Israelites, for the people of Jesus’ day, and for people today. Many misunderstand God’s forbearance as a lack of authority.

2.      Why is it important that God is the One who initiated the covenant at Sinai with His people? (God is the superior agent in this covenant He is about to establish with His people. God’s pattern in interacting with man is to approach and start the conversation. We wouldn’t be able to approach Him. He initiated the covenant with Abraham, with Moses at the burning bush, with the people at Sinai here, and with all people through His Son, Jesus. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…”—John 6:44a.)

“We are made in the image of God and He has made us to worship and serve Him. Sin inverts this truth. We define God in ways that meet our wants and desires. This is the root of all sins.”—Leaders Guide. We should ask ourselves the following question.

3.      Am I worshiping the God of the Bible? Or have I neglected to understand how God has identified Himself, replacing God with a diminished version of Him?

 

God is properly jealous to protect the integrity and uniqueness of His relationship with His people.

Relating To God! Read Exodus 20:3-11

 

1.      In your own words, how does verse 3 say we are to relate to God? (He is to be supreme in our lives! There is none other to be worshiped.)

2.      What is the meaning of verses 4-6 in your own words? (We are not to worship the created but the creator. Even if we designed a bust of Jesus and set it up to be something special, we would have a tendency to worship the item and not Jesus!)

3.      Read verse 7. What are some ways God’s name can be misused other than cursing? (“Let yes be yes and no be no!”—Matt. 5:37)

4.      Why should we set aside one day to rest?

5.      What are we allowed to do on the Sabbath?

6.      What boundaries do we need to put in place to create time for Sabbath each week for ourselves and for our families? (We were created with a need for Sabbath, which brings us space to rest, think, and relate to God and those close to us. The practice of Sabbath is life-giving.)

7.      How is keeping the first four commandments a way of demonstrating love for God?

8.      How are these commands a response to God’s identity as the One who delivered Israel?

9.      What are some of the best ways to honor and love God?

10.  Is it possible to keep the last six commandments without keeping the first four? (In Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus uses the same formula—love God, love others! Understanding and submitting to God’s authority leads us to respect proper human authority.)

 

Relating to Society! Read Exodus 20:12-17

 

1.      How do we carry out the commandment to honor our parents?

2.      How does honoring our parents bring about the promise God gave here for doing so? (When respect and honor in the family breaks down it is not long before society begins to crumble. The home is the foundation for society so when the foundation falters the whole of society is affected.)

3.      When is killing not murder? (From the Leader’s Guide: Prohibition against murder did not apply to defending one’s home-Ex. 22:2; to the state’s execution of murderers-Gen. 9:6; to accidental killings-Deut. 19:5; or to a nation’s involvement in certain types of war, i.e. defending one’s homeland.)

4.      What do we learn from the last six commandments about our relationship with each other?

5.      What are practical ways we can show respect and dignity when we relate to others?

6.      Is there an issue not covered in this set of laws? If so, what?

7.      To what level do you agree that all other laws are based on these?

8.      How would you describe a society that fully followed these commands?

We demonstrate our love and commitment to God when we treat people with respect and dignity. The simplest way to live out the Ten Commandments is by loving God and loving others, just as Jesus boiled it down in Matthew 22:37-40!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      Do we give holy living the priority it should have in our lives today?

In order to be accepted by our God, who is holy, all we must do is perfectly obey all the commandments from birth to death! Or since we all know you can’t do that, you must confess and repent of your sin and accept by faith Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for your sin!

2.      What practical steps can we take to pursue holy living in the days ahead? (Stay in the Word of God daily. Stay connected to God’s people through worship and Bible study attendance. When tempted, ask God to help you through the indwelling Holy Spirit!)

3.      Are the Ten Commandments in the New Testament? See below!

·         No other gods.                       Matt. 4:10; 6:33

·         Make no idol                          Matt. 6:24

·         Don’t misuse God’s name    Matt. 5:33-37; 6:9; 23:16-22

·         Remember the Sabbath        Matt. 12:1-13; Mk. 2:23-27

·         Honor your parents             Mk. 7:9-13

·         Do not murder                      Matt. 5:21-24

·         Do not commit adultery       Matt. 5:27-30

·         Do not steal                           Matt. 5:40

·         Do not lie                               Matt. 5:37

·         Do not covet                          Lk. 12:15-34

 

Just this week we have seen once again the breakdown in our society. We have removed God from our homes, almost any public place, our schools, and our courts! The reason our society is crumbling before our very eyes is that we have removed the very foundation upon which a society must be built if it is to endure—The Word of God. Perhaps we need to pray the plea Daniel cried out to God in Daniel 9:4-19.

Read Daniel 9:4-19

Close in prayer!

Sufficient - Exodus 16:1-20

1.      When you think about the “good ol’ days” what comes to your mind?

2.      What do we tend to remember about the “good ol’ days”? (Generally only the good and not the difficulties or hard times.)

How soon we forget about the things we wanted to be different about our past. We remember the good things that we enjoyed.

In spite of their recent and miraculous freedom from slavery, God’s people began to grumble and complain that they weren’t provided for well enough. While their concerns were genuine and valid, they went about voicing them all wrong.

In our study today we will see ways God, through Moses, challenged their perspective, provided what they needed, and confronted their need to learn to trust Him more.

After crossing the Red Sea, God’s people began their journey to Sinai. They needed water and came upon a place called Marah that had water but it was bitter. God instructed Moses to cut a particular tree and throw it into the water. Moses did as instructed and the water became drinkable.

In our text today, they have depleted all the food they brought with them. Now the need for food became prominent.

It is almost as if the people were saying, “I know God provided deliverance and water, but this is different. How will our people numbering around two million be fed!

 

Questioning the Future! Read Exodus 16:1-3

 

It had been almost exactly one month since they had left Egypt. Now they were concerned about their food supplies.

1.      Why do we sometimes prefer the old to the new? (We don’t like change. We only remember the good not the bad.)

2.      How is accepting God’s provision for today an act of trust and faith?

3.      Is it true that “one bad apple will spoil the whole bunch”?

4.      How is that lived out when people are grumbling or complaining?

5.      How can pessimism or doubt spread through a congregation?

6.      How can we guard against letting doubt spread? (We must focus on the positive and encourage those who would be negative to focus on what is good and how God has provided in the past.)

7.      When we grumble and complain against the leadership God has placed over us who are we really complaining about?

8.      When they were back in Egypt what were they crying out to God about? (The bitterness of their slavery.)

As we have said, the people’s concerns were valid but the way they went about voicing them was all wrong. They had allowed fear and doubt to cloud their ability to correctly see the past, present, and future! Some complaints constituted acts of unbelief, disobedience, and rebellion against God’s authority. Trusting God is a choice, and not always the immediately easy choice in a given situation.

 

Now let’s see God’s response to the people’s concerns.

Questioning Their Obedience! Read Exodus 16:4-12

 

1.      In what way was God’s provision for them and His instructions a test? (If they didn’t fully trust God they would try to gather more than enough for just one day. By limiting how much they gathered they were demonstrating their trust in God that He would provide again tomorrow.)

2.      Why was it so important for the people to trust and obey God in these simple instructions regarding the food?

3.      Which is more challenging—to obey God in the simple things or to obey in the hard things?

4.      How is obedience without trust different from obedience with trust? (Obedience without trust is simply saying, “I don’t believe this will work but I’ll do it!”)

5.      How did God speak to Moses? (Ex. 33:11 says the Lord spoke to Moses “face to face, just as a man speaks with his friend.”)

6.      How does God speak to us? (His Word. Circumstances. His messengers—preachers, evangelists and teachers. What God says to us in other ways will never conflict with His Word!)

7.      What is God’s stated purpose in His response to their need in the wilderness?  (Verse 12. “Then you will know that I am Yahweh your God!” God’s desire to be in relationship with people is a distinguishing mark of His character throughout Scripture and human history. Every believer has a testimony that repeats this theme uniquely. He created us to be in relationship with Him!)

 

God’s desire is that we obey, and as we do this we strengthen our trust in Him. Now see how God’s provision matched the people’s needs perfectly.

 

Questioning the Provision! Read Exodus 16:13-18

 

1.      How would you describe the provisions God made for His people in this passage?

2.      Where did these quail come from at precisely the time God told them they would come? (These quail were a little smaller than the quail we are familiar with and were migratory birds. After flying across the Red Sea they were tired and settled down among the people of God. But that is not normal for a wild bird. Even if the quail were migratory they came at exactly the time God said they would come. The next time God provided quail for His people in the wilderness is recorded in Num. 11:31-32.)

3.      How can not knowing what something is or how it was provided cause a person to question that provision? (We must be careful when God makes provision for us that we don’t simply credit it to a coincidence that was coming to us anyhow and God didn’t provide it.)

4.      How can a person’s focus on what was provided get in the way of being thankful for that provision? (Do you think the people were thankful for the quail and manna? There is no indication in the rest of this chapter that the people paused to thank God for what He had done for them!)

5.      What role do expectations play in our ability to be satisfied? (We see in the Israelites the familiar tendency to trust the provisions rather than the Provider. Trusting the Provider more than we trust our provisions frees believers to worship God above all things and share generously.)

6.      Why can gratitude be hard to come by? (I’m afraid we have the attitude that we are entitled to the blessings God showers on us rather than being humbled that He would even acknowledge us and meet our needs.)

God’s encouragement to the people to obey, and requiring some effort on their part, didn’t mean God was indifferent to their hardship. In fact, God’s great love for them motivated Him to free, lead, and strengthen them.

Notice that whatever was gathered met their need. God alone gives eternal life, satisfying our deepest spiritual hunger.

7.      How much mercy and grace do you need? (God has an abundant supply!

 

Questioning the Next Meal! Read Exodus 16:19-20

 

1.      How did some of the people disobey God’s instructions and what happened?

2.      What happens when we disregard God’s instructions?

3.      Why do you think the people disobeyed this simple instruction from Moses?

4.      In what ways did the people’s lack of obedience reveal a lack of trust in God? (Saving manna to eat the next day demonstrated a lack of faith that God would provide for tomorrow!)

5.      Why are we tempted to hoard God’s provisions? (We feel most comfortable with a backup plan, just in case things don’t work out or God doesn’t come through like we think He will.  The stinky, rotten manna is a stark picture of the value of man’s back up plans when compared with God’s trustworthy guidance.)

6.      How does God’s daily provision foster dependence on and trust in God?

7.      The Israelites ate manna for 40 years in the wilderness but when they crossed over into Canaan at Gilgal the manna abruptly stopped. How have you found God more than sufficient to meet life’s necessities?

8.      How does the Model Prayer address our daily needs?

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      What lesson can we take away from this episode of the Israelites’ journey and their questioning in the wilderness? (We face the same kinds of decisions about whether to fully trust God to meet our daily needs.)

Questions to ponder:

2.      In what areas of your life do you have the most difficulty obeying God?

3.      How does that challenge relate to your willingness to trust God?

4.      For what do you need to trust God as the next step in your obedience to Him?

5.      God uses our spiritual family to meet our needs sometimes. How can you show appreciation to those God has worked through to meet your needs?

 

Look for opportunities to trust God more in your daily choices and plans.

 

Thank God for His perfect provision and ask Him to help you respond in obedience to Him in every aspect of your life!

Victory - Exodus 14:1-31

1.      Has there been a time in your life when you were following the Lord, only to find yourself “between a rock and a hard place?” (Teachers, be prepared to share from your own experience if no one else shares.)

2.      What did God teach you during that time?

The Israelites were trapped by the sea on one side and the Egyptian army on the other, with no visible means of escape. Yet they had followed God to the exact place He wanted them to be.

Suddenly the history of God’s faithfulness—even recent history—wasn’t enough to give them confidence in God’s plan and power. Fear and uncertainty became all consuming. God asked them to trust Him with the victory they couldn’t yet see.

As we consider the Israelites’ actions and attitudes let’s turn the spotlight on our attitudes and actions when God calls on us to trust Him in seemingly impossible situations! There are times when we are exactly where God wants us and yet there is no obvious solution to our situation. In those times we are forced to trust God as our only means to realize victory!

 

(If time permits, consider reading Exodus 14:1-12.)

Notice in Ex. 14:4 that all of this was so that God would receive glory.

1.      Do we desire deliverance from our circumstances so that God receive glory or so we can simply be freed from our difficulties and perhaps even receive recognition for ourselves?

The Setting! Read Exodus 14:13-18

 

2.      What fears and uncertainties did the Israelites have here? (God instructed His people not to fear, to stand firm, and to entrust the fight to Him before He told them specifically what He would do with the Egyptians or the Red Sea.)

3.      How did Moses express his faith in verses 13-14? (God had not yet told Moses how He would deliver the people but Moses knew He would deliver them.)

4.      What insight did verse 14 reveal about The Lord?

5.      What role did faith play in the situation the Israelites faced? (It was absolutely necessary for Moses to trust God as leader and for the people to trust both Moses and God.)

6.      Which of the fears the Israelites faced are familiar to you? (Scripture urges us again and again to not be afraid. We can find comfort in knowing God is victorious and able to deliver His people.)

Giving in to fear constricts perspective and prevents us from moving forward.

7.      What resources, habits, or convictions keep us equipped to go where God leads? (Eph. 6:10-20—Soldier prepared for battle.)

8.      What may we need to let go of or change to stay ready to respond to God’s leading? (Rich young ruler in Matt. 19:22.)

The wonderful truth is that we can entrust all our relationships and possessions safely to the Lord and find freedom!

 

Act 1: The Separation! Read Exodus 14:19-20

 

The indication here is that the “cloud” provided light for the Israelites and utter darkness for the Egyptians as it stood to separate them. No one doubted that God was the dominate power.

1.      What words would you use to fill in the blank in the following statement? The Cloud equals God’s __________! (Some possible responses: glory; guidance; protection; presence; etc.)

2.      How does the promise of God’s presence give hope?

3.      How does the promise of His presence impact a person’s faith?

4.      How might seeing God’s actions with your physical eyes impact your willingness to trust Him more deeply? (Jesus’ Disciple, Thomas, is a good example. But there were people who saw Jesus bring the dead to life that walked away without trusting Him.)

Authentic, healthy faith in the Lord cannot be based solely on an assured situational outcome. Many times God’s way is not what we envision!

  

Act 2: The Crossing! Read Exodus 14:21-22

 

1.      For Moses and the Israelites, sight followed obedience, not the other way around. Imagine stepping into perfectly dry ground between the walls of water. Was that an act of faith on the part of the people?

2.      How does this miraculous event help you understand freedom from sin? (Often God asks us to trust Him before the outcome becomes visible. Paul described anyone without Christ as slaves to sin in Romans 6:12-22. Being freed from slavery is a powerful image, demonstrating the hopelessness and destructive power of sin and the dilemma every person faces, and our desperate need for the help only Jesus can give.)

3.      What is the relationship between faith and obedience? (It is like the relationship between life and breath—there isn’t one without the other.)

Faith finds its expression through obedience!

 

Act 3: The Victory! Read Exodus 14:23-28

 

1.      What words or phrases in this passage point to the fact that God is paying attention and is at work?

2.      What are some other examples in Scripture that demonstrate the fact that God won the victory? (Jericho, Gideon, Elijah and the Baal worshipers, Jesus’ resurrection, Peter and John with the lame man at the Temple asking for alms.)

3.      How do you think witnessing God’s mighty power impacted the Israelites that day?

4.      How can witnessing a display of God’s power cause us to gain a deeper understanding of God?

5.      What do these verses teach about God’s judgment? (We don’t hear a lot today about God’s judgment. Being an enemy of God is serious business. The Egyptians rejected God, though He was gracious to give them warnings and opportunities to acknowledge Him as God above all others. All people are sinners and face God’s judgment without the intervening sacrifice of Jesus. His judgment is for eternity.)

6.      How are you moved to worship God in response to these verses? (We are often more comfortable with God as Suffering Servant than God as mighty Victor. He is both, and so much more. He is everything we have ever needed or will ever need Him to be!)

Israel had deeply feared their Egyptian overlords for hundreds of years. Seeing them overwhelmed by God’s power changed everything. God’s stated intention was for the Egyptians to know He was Yahweh. Knowing He is God is the beginning point to knowing Him. In Exodus 15 the Israelites expressed their praise in song.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

If time permits, read Exodus 14:29-31.

 

1.      How has this study enhanced your faith in God as Deliverer and Victor? (God knows how to deliver His people. He’s done it! Slavery to freedom; dead in sin to alive in Christ!)

God will never use His might in a way that is unjust. He is good. He wants us to seek Him and He will fight for us!

 

Reflecting on God’s saving of His people, how are you encouraged? Say a prayer of thanks to God for doing the work to save you from the sin to which you were once captive!

Liberation - Exodus 12:1-13

1.      What are some days we set aside to remember special events in our lives and the life of our nation? (Birthdays, Anniversaries, New Years Day, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Patriots Day/9-11, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day. The list almost seems endless.)

2.      What is the purpose of setting aside these days and what do we do on these days? (We set them aside to remember what happened on these various days. Some are joyous and some are solemn, but all call us to remember.)

In our Scripture text today, God commands His people to establish an observance to commemorate their liberation from Egyptian slavery. This was an observance they were to continue year after year. The Orthodox Jewish community still observes the Passover to this very day.

The last of the ten plagues God brought on Egypt was the most severe.  It would bring the death of the first born male of both people and animals. After which Pharaoh would beg Moses and Aaron to take the Israelites away!

 

Prepared! Read Exodus 12:1-5

 

1.      What message did God send His people by reordering their calendar according to their deliverance from Egypt? (This is a new beginning for them. God’s provision at Passover defined the identity of His people and illustrated His ways to all nations. God’s movement to deliver His people has unique centrality. It is the essential point upon which every other historical event balances. God’s salvation story with His people gives meaning to every experience and decision in our lives.)

2.      What was to be the characteristics of the lamb that was chosen for the sacrifice? (Without blemish., one year old male sheep or goat.  See Mal. 1:8)

3.      It is not referred to in this passage, but what did the lamb here point to in the future? (The perfect Lamb of God that would be the sacrifice for the sin of the entire world. Jesus’ blood was worth enough not only to cover every person’s sin but to pay the complete price.  See Rom. 3:25, Heb. 9:14.)

4.      How does preparation for a tradition or event add to the significance of the tradition or event?

5.      What preparations help you better see the significance of a practice like the Lord’s Supper?

 

Sacrificed! Read Exodus 12:6-7

 

1.      What do you think was the purpose of bringing the lamb in to live with you for four days? (Perhaps to be sure there was no blemish and the family would grow close to the lamb. It is truly a sacrifice if it is one we come to care for as we look after it.)

2.      Why was blood required rather than another type of sacrifice (grain, etc.)? (Slaughtering the best lamb required the people’s faith that God would do as He said. God began to teach His people the precept of blood as covering or payment for sin, rather than as a sacrificial offering of worship. Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of this truth.)

3.      What was accomplished when God told His people to mark their doorposts and lintels with the blood, after all, didn’t God already know which houses belonged to His people? (In order for death to pass over, blood had to be specifically applied to their houses. This was another step of faith, and was very personal to every household.)

4.      How does the sacrificial lamb point to Jesus and how is the blood applied to us today? (We accept by faith what Jesus did for us at the cross and His blood cleanses our hearts of sin.)

 

God gave additional directions about how the sacrificed lamb was to be eaten.

Hurried! Read Exodus 12:8-11

 

1.      What words or phrases indicate they were to eat this meal in a hurry? (It was to be cooked quickly; eaten dressed for travel with shoes on and staff in hand. They were to eat it quickly. If they were to eat it dressed for travel surely they had packed everything they would take with them—though not specified.)

2.       Why was the bread to be unleavened bread? (There wasn’t time for yeast to be used to cause the bread to rise.)

3.      What did the bitter herbs represent? (The bitterness of their slavery in Egypt.)

Roasting the lamb was the quickest way to cook it thoroughly. Likewise, there should be an urgency about sharing the gospel and encouraging our lost friends and family to accept Jesus before it is too late.

4.      How does the manner in which the Israelites ate the sacrifice serve as a demonstration of faith in God?

5.      What does this teach us about obedience to God? (Obedience anticipates that God will act on His promise. Obedience to God at any time should be immediate! Failing to put the blood on the doorpost and lentel would have resulted in death.)

6.      Why do we think we have unlimited time to consider and obey what God is teaching us? (Though God is infinitely patient, our limitations as humans placed within time mean that opportunities to respond to God’s leading can pass out of reach. God’s call to obedience is always timely, urgent, and a call to trust Him enough to be actively ready.)

 

God then reminded Moses of what would happen during the Passover meal.

Delivered! Read Exodus 12:12-13

 

1.      God said “I will” three times in these verses. What did He say He would do? (“pass through the land…”; “execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt”; “pass over you.”)

All in one act God accomplished a tremendous demonstration of His power in a variety of ways.

2.      What is the significance of God using the phrase “I will?” (Yahweh was in control of the situation and could be trusted to keep His promises!)

3.      What does this passage teach us about God’s judgment and salvation?

4.      The Israelites would remember that day in history with an annual celebration. What are some ways believers today remember their liberation from sin through faith in Jesus? (I realize some of this seems so redundant but it is important that we remember and celebrate what Jesus has done for us. One excellent way is to participate in the observance of “The Lord’s Supper” at every opportunity.)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Just as the Israelites were helpless in their situation in Egypt we are powerless to free ourselves from slavery to sin. Only God can do that through Jesus. Freedom is available to all who will apply Jesus’ freely given blood to their life by faith in Him.

 

If you’ve already made that decision for Jesus consider the following:

-          On a scale of 1 to 10, rate your level of preparedness to do what God calls you to do and to go where God calls you to go.

-          Identify your reasons for rating yourself as you did.

-          What do your reasons reveal about your trust in God?

-          What action do you need to take to demonstrate complete trust in God?

 

Thank You, Father, for providing Your only Son as a sacrifice for our sin. May we have a renewed urgency for sharing the gospel with our lost family and friends.

Confrontation - Exodus 7:1-13

1.      What are some things that we can be stubborn about?

2.      Is stubbornness a positive or negative trait? (Most of us would view “stubbornness” as a negative trait, I think. The positive traits that are related to stubbornness are tenacity, persistence, determination, perseverance, etc.)

Stubborn is defined as “having or showing dogged determination not to change one’s attitude or position on something especially in spite of good arguments or reasons to do so.”

Stubbornness can be very much related to pride and self-centeredness, all of which hinder our being obedient to God.

3.      What are some potential dangers of stubbornness?

4.      Think of a time when you have let stubbornness get the best of you. How did that experience open the door for you to learn about God and His power?

 

In today’s study we will discover how Pharaoh’s stubbornness became costly to his country. In fact, if we consider closely the impact of the ten plagues God brought on Egypt it was as if there had been a series of natural disasters, the totality of which makes tropical storm Harvey seem minor!

 

Strategy Explained! Read Exodus 7:1-5

 

1.      What promises did God make to Moses in these verses, some of which seem strange? (Pharaoh will not listen to you; I will harden Pharaoh’s heart; I will demonstrate many signs and wonders; I will bring my people out of Egypt.)

2.      Does it seem strange to you that God would “harden Pharaoh’s heart”? (There are passages were God says He hardened Pharaoh’s heart, times when Pharaoh hardened his heart and times when the Scripture simply says Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. As one writer put it, “This is a mystery that we must embrace with humility and faith.” “The mystery of the intersection of divine sovereignty and human responsibility.”)

Is it possible that Pharaoh’s stubbornness and pride became stronger every time God attempted to humble him? Just a thought.

3.      How important do you think it was for God to explain to Moses that Pharaoh would become more defiant?

4.      How could knowing the end result help Moses endure the defiance of Pharaoh? (Remember when God spoke to Moses from the bush He told Moses everything that was going to happen. It seems, at times, that Moses forgot.)

 

Simple Obedience! Read 7:6-7

 

1.      Why was Moses’ and Aaron’s exact obedience so important? (Our disobedience, including our partial obedience, confuses the messages from God that He asks us to convey to others. It gives us the false impression we have the right to pick and choose whether or not to obey Him.)

2.      How does simple and complete obedience demonstrate faith? (“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:17 NIV. See Romans 6:16; 1 John 5:2)

3.      Why did God seem to go out of His way to be sure we knew how old Moses and Aaron were in this saga?

4.      Why do we sometimes discount our responsibility to obey God because of our age or experience? (Consider these examples in addition to Moses and Aaron—Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Hannah, Zechariah and Elizabeth, Simeon, Anna, and so on! God called these and many others to obey and be used in astounding ways at an advanced age. He also used those with little or no experience like David, Samuel and Timothy. God chooses people based on His will, not our age or experience!)

5.      When have you used age or experience as an excuse to following God’s call on your life?

 

Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh, knowing the stubbornness they were about to face.

Signs and Wonders! Read Exodus 7:8-13

 

1.      What was demonstrated by Aaron’s rod eating the others?

2.      What was Pharaoh’s response to this demonstration of power?

3.      How can God prepare us for an unexpected and difficult faith challenge? (We never know when we may face a challenging situation. As believers we must “put on the full armor of God” daily—Eph 6:11. We are urged to be ready to face opposition, and familiarity with God’s Word and His ways brings us confidence in God’s power in and through us.)

Use “The Ten Plagues” poster to review the plagues God brought on Egypt. When the final plague of the “Death Angel” was completed Egypt had been utterly destroyed and their valuables left with the Israelites.

4.      How does Pharaoh’s repeatedly going back on his word mirror characteristics of false repentance? (In the instances Pharaoh relented and promised to let the people go, His fear of God was shallow and short-lived. He seemed to want God’s favor when hardships were intense, but once relief came, Pharaoh showed he had no real interest in knowing God or yielding to Him.)

5.      What is the difference between false repentance and true repentance?

 

God’s heart has always been for all nations to know Him. The plagues He sent to Egypt had Israel’s deliverance as their motive. He also revealed His sovereign power clearly to every Egyptian. I’m not so sure that the Egyptians viewed Yahweh as only the God of the Israelites. We must communicate that God is for all nations and peoples. He is the only true God!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

God displays His power, reminding all peoples that He alone is worthy of worship.

Think of the slavery the Israelites endured in Egypt as a picture of the domain of sin in the world. God went to great lengths to bring His people out of slavery triumphantly and in full reliance on Him. They never could have achieved this on their own. In the same way, God has gone to incredible lengths to buy His people out of slavery to sin through His Son , Jesus.

1.      What are some of the powers of this world that hold people in captivity and keep them in the dark about Jesus and His power to deliver from bondage?

2.      What can we do to point people to the greater power of God?

 

When you pray, ask God to bring this image to life for you. Spend some time thinking about slavery to sin and the ultimate hopelessness of living without Christ.

Someone you know needs to be freed by Jesus. Pray for an opportunity to share what God has done to free you and that He is ready to free them as well.

Reluctance - Exodus 3:1-4:16

1.      Think of a time when you were completely out of your comfort zone. What fears did you have during those moments?

2.      What can cause a person to doubt his or her ability to accomplish a challenging task?

3.      How do your doubts feed your reluctance and hesitation to act?

God gives many strengths and talents to His people, but sometimes He calls us to act in areas where we feel the weakest or least confident. God desires that we remain obedient, trusting Him despite our reluctance or fear.

Though Moses feared public speaking, what people would think, and repercussions of facing his past, God promised to provide everything Moses needed, asking him to trust and obey.

Over the next three months we will examine significant passages in Exodus and Leviticus. Exodus presents to us the formative revolutionary event that brings a group of people into existence as a national political entity. The people of Israel become the fledgling Nation of Israel.

            In Exodus we see seven themes: Bondage; Deliverance; Sacrifice; Redemption; God’s Nature; The Law; and Continuation and Expectation.

            In Leviticus the following themes are developed: Holiness; Sacrifice; Ceremonial Purity; and Worship.

(Consider using the questionnaire about Moses to begin the lesson.)

Today we will see that God calls and empowers people to serve Him and His purposes.

 

The Approach! Read Exodus 3:1-6

 

1.      How did God get Moses’ attention? (Notice God took the initiative to reveal Himself to Moses.)

2.      How would you characterize Moses’ initial response when he observed the burning bush and realized it was something only God could do? (Moses’ first response of reverence and fear of the Lord made him attentive to further conversations with God.)

3.      How did God establish His identity? (Moses had surely been exposed to many impostor gods in his lifetime. God was very clear as to who He was.)

4.      What does this tell us about Moses’ knowledge of his ancestry?

5.      What does our response to God reveal about our view of God?

6.      What does our response to God reveal about our view of ourselves?

God showed Moses this was something bigger than just the present situation. God personally brought Moses into His plan to dwell with His people and bring them into a whole new way of life.

 

The Assignment! Read Exodus 3:7-10

 

1.      What did God reveal to Moses in verses 7-9? (God had heard the cry of His people in Egypt and had compassion on them. God was ready to act on behalf of His people.)

2.      How did God describe the land He was going to give to His people?

3.      What do these actions here reveal about God? (No matter how long it takes, God will fulfill His promises that He makes. He had promised Abraham that his descendents would possess the land of Canaan. They had been in Egypt 400 years!)

4.      How can this depiction of God in these verses comfort you in times of suffering and affliction?

5.      How do the cross and the resurrection of Jesus remind us that God has ultimately heard our cries?

6.      What did God tell Moses to do in this passage?

We see a pattern throughout Scripture of a sending God who asks people to trust and obey Him. God is at work in the past, present, and future to bring about His will. We can trust that when He invites us to respond to Him He is already preparing the person and working in the circumstances!

 

God told Moses what He would do and that He was going to use Moses to make it all happen. Moses offered some options.

 

The Authority! Read Exodus 3:11-14

 

1.      What do you think is the “real” question behind the questions Moses posed? (Who am I?—a nobody! Who are You?)

2.      Who did God say He was? (I AM! Not was or will be or has been, but I AM! The eternal God, Creator of all that exists and Sustainer of the universe! The Everlasting!)

3.      In a world filled with unreliable people and broken promises, how does God’s promise enable us to trust Him despite our challenges or circumstances?

4.      How did knowing God’s identity bring assurance to Moses?

5.      How does knowing God’s identity bring assurance to you?

 

Moses came up with every excuse you can think of to get out of what God was calling him to do. God gave him a couple of demonstrations to show the people so they would know God had sent him. His staff turned into a snake and back to a rod again. His hand became leprous and was clean again.

The Assurance! Read Exodus 4:13-16

 

1.      How would you paraphrase Moses’ last excuse in verse 13?

2.      Do you consider God’s response to be firm, diplomatic, conciliatory, or impatient?

3.      How do we push God to the limits when He tells us to do something?

4.      Numbers 12:3 tells us that Moses was the most humble man on earth. How is God’s power magnified through a person like Moses?

5.      How did God plan on demonstrating His power through Moses’ weaknesses?

6.      What does this passage teach about how God uses our weaknesses to accomplish His purposes?

7.      Aaron was on the way before Moses ever knew God was sending him to rescue his people. How does God meet our fears of obedience like He did with Moses?

8.      How do you see God affirming spiritual community in this passage?

God calls every believer to walk with Him in faith. What He asks us to do, He will empower us to complete and bring support. He relates to us individually and as a people.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      What role does God desire you to play in redeeming His people?

2.      What steps do you need to take to carry out the mission you know God has for you?

3.      What holds us back from surrender and obedience? The cost? The fear of failure? The fear of rejection? Risking the approval of others?

4.      What do our excuses reveal about our faith in God?

 

Take time to examine your life and what keeps you from consistent obedience. Habits don’t change on their own, so make a plan for obeying God when He calls!

The Longing - Psalm 42:1-11

1.      What are some things that make us feel depressed? (Weather; Health; Finances; Our weight; Disappointments; Poor economy; Loss of a job or promotion; Taxes; Difficult family situations; God’s silence; Combination of all the above.)

It is not a sin to have feelings of depression.

2.      Who are some people we label as “heroes of the faith” who experienced severe depression? (There are many examples in the Bible of Godly people going through times of depression. Moses, Jeremiah, David, Elijah, Job, even Jesus on the cross—and the list goes on.)

It is easy to find ourselves in circumstances that overwhelm us.

3.       What is the difference between being depressed and being in despair? (Depressed is a feeling of sadness or gloom; despair is a feeling of hopelessness.)

It is normal to have times when we feel down or depressed over our circumstances, but Christians are never without hope.

4.      What are some ways we contribute to our own depression or feelings of hopelessness? (Withdrawing from church; pulling away from Christian brothers and sisters; failure to feed on God’s Word; etc.)

Today’s study will show us how we can discover fresh hope, even in the midst of overwhelming circumstances.

5.      When life is overwhelming how can we find hope for joyful living?

Psalms 42 and 43 have the same theme and the refrain in 42:5 and 11is repeated in 43:5. Many scholars believe Psalm 42 and 43 were one psalm originally. The psalmist was in a state of depression and even seems, at times, to be in despair. But he preaches to himself about how to overcome these feelings.

 

Thirsty! Read Psalm 42:1-4

 

1.      What if you could come to church only three times a year? How do you think you would feel in the times between those visits? (Sometimes distance prevented even devout Jews from making the pilgrimage to the sanctuary in Jerusalem. We will read later about the Hermon Mountain Range in far northeast Israel. Perhaps the psalmist lived near there—a good distance from Jerusalem!)

2.      How did the psalmist describe his agony in these verses? (It is impossible to imagine someone being thirsty and not knowing they are thirsty. The problem isn’t knowing when you’re thirsty. The problem is knowing what will satisfy your thirst. 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by water. We can live only three days without water. The human body is 60% water. And we need 64 ounces of water daily. Water is essential to our existence physically and God is essential to our spiritual existence!)

3.      Have you ever been “dying of thirst,” what does it feel like? (See John 7:37-39)

4.      What kind of thirst is the psalmist experiencing? (Spiritual.)

5.      What is the one solution given in the psalm for satisfying thirst?

6.      What evidence do you see in our world today indicating that people know they are spiritually thirsty?

7.      With what do people attempt to satisfy their thirst?

8.      What does a thirst for God look like?

9.      How can believers create a thirst for God? (The life we live before others should look like a crystal clear stream of cold refreshing water that they too can drink from.)

10.  How do you feel when unbelievers say to you in your depression, “Where is your God?”?

In verse 4 the psalmist remembers the time when he led the procession as they went to the Temple to worship and longs for such a time!

 

At the same time the palmist was dying of thirst, he felt as though he was drowning in his depression and despair. Let’s look at how that is possible! Listen for words connected with water.

Drowning! Read Psalm 42:5-8

 

1.      What words are connected with water here? (Jordan River, streams from mountains, deep, waterfalls, breakers, billows.)

2.      How would you paraphrase verse 5? (The psalmist asked himself why he was so depressed. Then he gave himself the solution to his depression. But to know the solution and apply it to my life are two different things.)

3.      Why is it important to know why you are depressed? (Times of sadness can range from having the blues to clinical depression requiring professional help.)

4.      How can unresolved despair produce more despair?

5.      What role should a person’s faith play when it comes to facing a situation that could cause despair in life? (Trust in God no matter what. Remember He is in control and will be with us and comfort us. Seek what God is trying to teach us.)

6.      What reasons did the psalmist give for continuing? (Repeating truths about God and seeing God as our Rock are two of several ways to keep going despite adversity. Focusing on God even when you don’t feel like it is the beginning of the way out. “Put your hope in God;” “praise Him;” “His faithful love by day;” “His song in the night;” “a prayer to the God of my life.”)

7.      Placing our hope in God (v. 5), praising God(v.5), remembering God (v.6), and praying to God (v8) are all appropriate responses when we feel like we are drowning in despair. Of these four, which have come easier to you when you’ve dealt with discouragement?

8.      Which are easier said than done?

 

Just like in real life, the psalmist didn’t immediately bounce back from despair. Instead, he went from feeling like he was drowning to feeling crushed.

Crushed! Read Psalm 42:9-11

 

1.      What different reason for his depression does the psalmist reveal here? (Here he talks about predators and adversaries. Up to this point he hasn’t talked about the effect of other human beings on his emotional state.)

2.      We grew up hearing “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.” Is that true?

It’s significant that verse 10 compares verbal taunts to the crushing of bones. Scripture acknowledges that words really can cause harm. We have all been hurt by someone’s words or actions.

3.      How does the promise of God’s presence serve as encouragement during hurtful times?

4.      How does His faithful presence function as proof of His future promises?

God understands and sympathizes with our troubles (Heb. 4:15). In fact, Jesus experienced many of the same problems we do while on earth.

5.      How does God use people to supply solutions to our troubles?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Just as humans need water more than anything other than oxygen to survive, we need regular time with God to quench our spirits, especially when we feel like we are drowning in discouragement.

 

Review your regular habits, especially your habit of spending time with God.

1.      What time of day is best for you?

2.      How can you schedule a daily time with God that will not get pushed aside by other obligations?

3.      What can you do to make sure you protect your daily time with God?

4.      How many of us have experience deep discouragement sometime this year? Month? Week? Now?

 

Let’s commit to pray for each other this week.