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.

The Protector - Psalm 141:1-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Plea! Read Psalm 141:1-2

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Requests! Read Psalm 141:3-7

 

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

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

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

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

This is one reason we must live circumspect lives!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Promise! Read Psalm 141:8-10

 

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

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

2.      When do even Christians create nets of evil?

3.      Why do we fall into those nets?

4.      How would verse 5 help with this?

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

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

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

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

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

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

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

 

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

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

3.      How did He answer them?

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

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

 

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

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

 

The Cleansing - Psalm 32:1-11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Contrast! Read Psalm 32:1-4

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Decision! Read Psalm 32:5

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8.      Which benefit provides the greatest motivation for confessing?

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

 

The Counsel! Read Psalm 32:6-9

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Conclusion! Read Psalm 32:10-11

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

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

 

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

 

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

The Confession - Psalm 51:1-17

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Guilty As Charged!

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

Read Psalm 51:1-5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plea For Cleansing! Read Psalm 51:6-13

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Deliverance Through Brokenness! Read Psalm 51:14-17

 

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

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

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

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

4.      How are remorse and repentance related?

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

6.      Can you have one without the other?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Reread the entire psalm in closing!

 

His Faithfulness - Psalm 146:1-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

The Declaration! Read Psalm 146:1-2

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Warning! Read Psalm 146:3-4

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Worthy One! Read Psalm 146:5-9

 

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

God is our Creator, Protector and King!

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Reality! Read Psalm 146:10

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

How accurate is your picture?

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

His Love! - Psalm 136:1-26

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

2.      What makes giving thanks so important?

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

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

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

 

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

 

In Creation! Read Psalm 136:1-5

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

In Conquest! Read Psalm 136:10-15

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

In Compassion! Read Psalm 136:23-26

 

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

2.      What does verse 25 teach us?

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

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

We live in a hurting world.

 

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

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

 

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

God Revealed - Psalm 19:1-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

God reveals Himself through special revelation in His Word.

But God reveals Himself specifically through Jesus Christ.

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

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

 

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

Seen In Creation! Read Psalm 19:1-6

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Romans 1:19-23.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

God’s Law               Described              Benefit Received

 

Instruction                 Perfect                        Renewing one’s life

Testimony                  Trustworthy              Making one wise

Precepts                     Right                           A Glad heart

Command                   Radiant                       Making eyes light up

Fear                            Pure                            Enduring forever

Ordinances                 Reliable/righteous    More desirable than

                                                                        gold/sweeter than

honey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

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

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

 

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

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

Our words and our hearts determine the actions we choose.

 

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

 

Close by praying Psalm 19:14.

The Creator - Psalm 95:1-11

1.      What is your favorite hymn?

2.      What is your favorite hymn of praise?

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

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

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

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

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

 

What? Read Psalm 95:1-2

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

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

3.      What causes believers to feel this way?

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

5.      What elements should be included in worship?

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

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

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

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

True worship begins in the heart, not the lips!

 

Who? Read Psalm 95:3-5

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

How? Read Psalm 95:6-7a

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

When? Read Psalm 95:7b-11

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Chorus to “Worthy of Worship”:

You are worthy, Father, Creator!

You are worthy, Savior, Sustainer.

You are worthy, worthy and wonderful;

Worthy of worship and praise.

 

Close with a prayer of praise!

His Presence - Psalm 84:1-12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen for hints of their excitement!

 

The Passion! Read Psalm 84:1-4

 

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

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

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

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

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

6.      What role does passion play in worship?

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

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

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

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

Selah—Most likely a musical notation meaning to pause.

 

The Priority! Read Psalm 84:5-7

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Prayer! Psalm 84:8-9

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Presence! Read Psalm 84:10-12

 

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

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

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

4.      How is God our shield?

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

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

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

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

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

9.      What makes God’s presence so compelling?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

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

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

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

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

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

Our Response - Psalm 138:1-8

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Give God Thanks! Read Psalm 138:1-3

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9.      What motivates a person to express thankfulness?

10.  Are some motives better than others?

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

God Will Fulfill! Read Psalm 138:7-8

 

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

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

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

3.      How does enduring it foster a thankful attitude?

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

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

Summarize and Challenge!

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Make thankfulness and praise to God a lifestyle!

The Shepherd - Psalm 23:1-6

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

Engage the class in the following discussion:

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Provides! Read Psalm 23:1-3

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6.      What path does the shepherd lead them along?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Guards! Read Psalm 23:4

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hosts! Read Psalm 23:5-6

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a great thought that goodness and mercy pursues us!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

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

 

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

 

Psalm 23

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:

He leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul:

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

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

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

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

 

Close with prayer!

 

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

The Past! - Psalm 78:1-39

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Read Psalm 78:5-8

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

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

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

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

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

10.  Who in previous generations taught you about God?

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

 

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

Remember the Past! Read Psalm 78:32-37

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8.      How do people do the same today?

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Path - Psalm 1:1-6

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7.      Where does the godly find delight?

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

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

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

11.  How can worldly wisdom hinder growth?

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

5.      How should we feel?

6.      What should we do?

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

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

 

 

 

The Conclusion! Read Psalm 1:6

 

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

2.      How does this security impact our behavior?

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

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

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

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

  

Read Matthew 28:16-17 “Worship”

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

   What might have motivated them to worship?

   What might have caused them to doubt?

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

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

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

 

 

 

Read Matthew 28:18 “Power”

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

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

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

 

Read Matthew 28:19-20a “Mission”

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

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

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

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

 

Read Matthew 28:20b “Presence”

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

   What did Jesus promise here? His presence, always.

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

   Does that promised presence serve as an encouragement to believers?

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

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

 

Summary: How can we fulfill the Great Commission?

·         Pray, give, go

·         FBC Missions Task Force

·         Ardmore Team

·         Judea/Samaria Team

·         Uttermost Team

 

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

Crucified - Matthew 27:41-52

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

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

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

 

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

 

Mocked!

 

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

 

Read Matthew 27:32-40

 

Who were the people mocking Jesus in this passage?

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

 

Read Matthew 27:41-44

 

1.      Who is mocking Jesus in this passage?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9.      How do you respond when people ridicule Jesus?

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

 

Forsaken! Read Matthew 27:45-49

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

·         John 19:28—“I thirst.”

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

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

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

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

 

Sacrificed! Read Matthew 27:50-53

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Loyal? - Matthew 26:62-75

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Affirmed By Scripture! Read Matthew 26:62-64

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

3.      Why did the high priest claim blasphemy?

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

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

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

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

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

 

Now the focus of the scene changes to Peter.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Summarize and Challenge! 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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