Faith, Old Testament, Suffering, Sunday School, Trust

But Even If He Does Not… ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 9-21-14


These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 38 ~ Sep. 14-20
Daniel, Ezra 1-6, Psalm 137, Haggai
But Even If He Does Not…

Exile. God has been warning Israel of the consequences of idolatry for centuries and has finally brought it to fruition. Last week we saw Ezekiel comfort the people with the good news that God’s anger and their punishment would not last forever, but today we find them smack dab in the middle of their time as Babylonian expatriates. How could they live as God’s people while being punished in a pagan nation? How could they please Him apart from temple sacrifices and offerings? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are going to show us.

Daniel 3

The Problem- 1-7 (Exodus 20:1-6)
Here, the stage is set for the drama that is about to unfold. Nebuchadnezzar set up a 90 foot tall (probably much of that was a large base), 9 foot wide statue of himself, and commanded everyone under his rule to worship it. Emperor/king worship was not uncommon at any time during the Old or New Testament periods. While the emperor’s ego certainly must have played into this, it was mainly about loyalty and obedience to that leader and his rule. He was trying to preclude any hint of sedition while reinforcing to the people that he had control over every aspect of their lives. This was an especially important message to drive home to all of the governmental officials (2), because they were the ones most likely to slaughter the emperor and stage a coup.

From the emperor’s perspective, emperor worship also had less to do with actual religion and worship than submission to his absolute rule. Nebuchadnezzar and nearly everyone else in Babylon worshiped a panoply of gods, which was fine with Nebuchadnezzar as long as none of those gods superseded him and his rule in the eyes of his subjects. He was to be esteemed and obeyed above all others. That’s where our young Hebrew friends found themselves butting heads with Nebuchadnezzar’s new law. God is not OK with his people worshiping any other god before, besides, instead of, or in addition to Him. He is the only God, and He alone is to be worshiped, even if your life is on the line.

The Persecution- 8-12 (2 Timothy 3:12, John 15:18)
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were three of the Judean exiles. We saw in chapter 1 that they, along with Daniel, were godly young men who risked their lives to be obedient to God’s commands. By the end of chapter two, Nebuchadnezzar had promoted them to prominent positions in his government. This is probably why the Chaldeans accused them– they were jealous. As with Daniel’s accusers in 6:4-5, they likely could not find any other grounds on which to discredit Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego because they were upstanding, ethical, loyal citizens.

Satan hates God and anyone who loves and serves Him. John 15:18 says,

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me [Jesus] before it hated you.

Because of this hatred, Satan will do anything in his power to get God’s people to turn away from Him or sin against Him. He is the force behind all persecution, and he often uses his own servants to attack God’s servants. This was true for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and it is true for us today. Second Timothy 3:12 says,

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,

If we love God and strive towards holiness, we will find ourselves under attack at times.

The Predicament- 13-15
Being a child of God can often mean facing scary situations in which we are tempted to cut corners or sin. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were tempted to bow down to the image the first time when the music played. Here, the heat is turned up because they’re standing in front of the man who holds their lives in his hands, and they face the same temptation a second time. Why not just do it? God will understand and forgive them, right?

The Profession- 16-18 (Psalm 115:3, Romans 8:28)
Although it’s tempting to think that way, we can’t, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego prove this out beautifully. They would rather die than disobey their true King. And notice the strength of their testimony in the simple fact that they needed no time to consider Nebuchadnezzar’s offer (16). Immediately, they answered that their minds were made up. Under no circumstances would they bow to the image.

Why? Because they knew nothing was going to happen to them? No. We know that because we have the rest of the story. We have to remember that this was a real event happening to real people in real time, the same way things happen to us. They didn’t know what was going to happen next. For all they knew, they were toast. Yet they stood and boldly declared that God was able to do anything and they trusted Him no matter what.

But even if he does not…Those are probably the most important words in this story. To Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, God was still God, still worthy of worship and obedience, whether he spared their lives or not. Can we say the same?

There are a lot of false teachers out there that will tell you it is always God’s will for you to be healed, wealthy, successful. And if you’re not, it’s your fault because of your lack of faith. But the Bible clearly teaches the opposite. If God had not saved Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, could anyone say it was due to their lack of faith? Did God refuse to take away Paul’s thorn in the flesh because of his lack of faith? Were 11 of the 12 disciples martyred because they lacked faith?

The truth is, Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. (Ps.) God does what He does for His glory and our good. And, much like when we take our children to the doctor for a shot, what’s good for us can be scary and painful. What if God doesn’t heal you? What if your child dies? What if your marriage isn’t reconciled? What if you lose your job? For those that love God and are called out to His purposes, He works all things together for good (Rom.) He has not promised us an easy way, but a difficult way. But He has promised to be with us all the way. Can we stand in faith with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and say, but even if He does not…?

The Peril and the Protection- 19-30
If we were writing this story, it would probably end right after verse 18 with Nebuchadnezzar so impressed with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that he backed down and honored them for their courage and integrity. But God’s didn’t want Nebuchadnezzar to be impressed with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. God wanted Nebuchadnezzar to be impressed with Him.

If you’ll notice, God did not rescue Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego after their profession of Him. Things got worse. Nebuchadnezzar got angrier. The fire got hotter. God did not rescue them before they got tied up. Or before they got to the furnace. Or before they were thrown into the furnace. Or before they hit the bottom of the furnace. God allowed these three men who loved Him and were loyal to Him above all else to hit bottom before He rescued them. He didn’t rescue them from the furnace, He rescued them through the furnace.

God (possibly the preincarnate Christ in a theophany) was with them in the fire and, eventually, He brought them out on the other side. What do you think that did for their faith in Him? How much more intimately did they know Him, how much more thankful were they, and how much more intensely did they worship Him after God walked through the fire with them?

It’s the same for us. We grow to know and love God so much more intimately, when, instead of rescuing us from trials, He walks through them with us. I would not know and trust God as provider the way I do today had He not walked with me through some very difficult situations that only He could provide for. Others know God as healer or comforter or strength because of what He has walked through with them.

And what happened to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego wasn’t just about them, personally. God had a broader purpose for their suffering, and also for Daniel’s experience in the lions’ den. In those two incidents (and others), God got to pull back the curtain and reveal Himself to pagan people who desperately needed Him. He showed that He was superior to their gods, that they needed to repent and turn to Him, and that He loves His children. It had always been God’s plan to make Himself known to the Gentiles as well as the Jews, and here were God’s first missionaries. If these four men hadn’t gone through what they went through, Nebuchadnezzar and the rest of watching Babylon would not have seen God. What they went through showcased the great God they served.

Likewise, our trials can be an opportunity to point people to the Christ who has rescued us from the ultimate fire, and who can rescue them as well. Even if He does not…is a glorious opportunity to shine the spotlight on our great, mighty and merciful God.

Obedience, Old Testament, Sanctification, Sovereignty of God, Sunday School, Trust

Decisions, Decisions ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 5-4-14

sunday school

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 18 ~ Apr. 27-May 3
1 Chronicles 6-12, 2 Samuel 5:1-10, Psalm 81, 88, 92-93, 102-104, 133, 106-107
Decisions, Decisions

We all face difficult and confusing times of decision in our lives. Should I marry this guy or not? Which job should I take? What’s the best plan of action in X situation? How can we know for sure which decision God wants us to make?

1 Samuel 8:4-7, 2 Samuel 5:1-10
In these two passages, we see Israel’s decision to have a king to rule over them. In the first passage, which we studied a few weeks ago, the leaders wanted Saul (they didn’t know his name yet, but they sure had his résumé!). In the second, they wanted David. Two times when the government of Israel was at a crossroads. Two times when Israel’s leadership wanted a king. Two kings coronated. Similar circumstances, the same desire, similar outcomes. But even though the situations were so similar, were both decisions made the right and godly way?

Let’s take a look at some principles for godly decision-making and see how these principles worked themselves out in the Israelites’ situations with Saul and David.


Principles for Godly Decision-Making:
One thing we need to be careful about with the following principles is that we are not using them to manipulate God into making us make the right decision. Any time we modify our behavior in order to try to make God do what we want, we’re guilty of idolatry, even if what we want seems to be godly. The principles listed below are all things we should be doing or believing on a daily/regular basis because they are part of the obedient Christian walk, not just because we have a big decision to make. Godly decisions are a side effect of this kind of walk, not the end goal.

1. In order to make godly decisions, you must be saved (1 Corinthians 2:14-16, 2 Corinthians 5:17).
People who are unsaved aren’t capable of making godly decisions, because the motivation behind making godly decisions is the desire, from the heart, to please and be obedient to God. God, in His grace, may lead an unsaved person via his circumstances to make a certain decision, but the motive of his heart will still not be to please God. We are not capable of that motive unless we are saved.

2. Delight yourself in the Lord (Psalm 37:3-4).
Because Christians are new creatures with the mind of Christ, we have an inborn desire to love God, His word, and the things of God (godly preaching, books, music, friends, etc.). But this desire must be cultivated (3- New American Standard Bible translation) through a daily walk with the Lord, spending time in His word and prayer, and intentionally seeking out godly influences.

It’s like one of those “miraculous” weight loss stories we often hear. An extremely obese person decides he’s going to lose weight. The desire of his heart is there—he’s fed up with his looks and poor health, and he wants to tackle the problem and get healthy. But if he doesn’t intentionally do something, the weight isn’t going to come off, despite the desire. He starts off slowly. Maybe he cuts out cokes and walks around the block three times a week. As he progresses, his desire to cut bad things from his diet, add good things, and exercise more, builds. Not only does he see results, but he begins to enjoy the healthier diet and exercise more and more, and becomes even more committed to them. Eventually, he loses the weight and maintains a healthy lifestyle.

That’s how it is with delighting in the Lord. Through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, Christ helps us to intentionally cultivate faithfulness, and we grow in our love and affection for the Lord. As a result, He gives us the desires of our heart—to be more Christlike.

With Saul, were the Israelites delighting in the Lord? Definitely not. In fact, it was their lack of delighting in the Lord that led them to demand a king against God’s wishes. With David? Israel had just been through the consequences of having Saul as king and they knew God had ordained that David be the next king, plus he was a great military leader. Which of these motivated them the most? It’s hard to tell, but it feels like they were acquiescing to the inevitable, and the practical desire for military strength rather than repenting and taking an affirmative step towards godliness.

3. God’s word is sufficient for our every need (Hebrews 1:1-3a, 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Often, when we read the Bible, it’s easy to long for God to speak to us one on one, through a burning bush, a fleece, a prophet, or some other form of direct revelation. But now that we have God’s complete written Word, we no longer need direct revelation, nor does God want us to seek that. Hebrews and Timothy tell us that God no longer speaks that MH900410128way and that His word is sufficient for our every need. Additionally, we now have access to God’s word any time we need it. We don’t have to wait for Him to miraculously show up. Finally, if we were to rely on signs or “hearing God’s voice,” how could we be sure we’re really hearing from God and not our own sinful inner voice, or worse, Satan? God’s word is absolutely trustworthy. When we read it, we can be 100% certain we’re hearing from God. And remember, Israel (and others in the Bible) did hear directly from God, and they still often disobeyed.

4. Know God’s word and study God’s word in context as it applies to your situation (Psalm 119:11, Deuteronomy 17:14-15).
We must study God’s word daily; even memorize it, so that we can apply it to every aspect of our lives. As we do, it’s very important to study it in context so we can be sure we’re applying the correct biblical principles.

Did Israel know God’s word as it applied to the situation with Saul? Yes. They certainly knew Deuteronomy 17, which predicted they would demand a king, and outlined the regulations for a king of God’s choosing. They also knew that God was, and always had been, the only king they needed, and that He did not want them to demand a king.

With David? Yes. Through Samuel’s prophecy, Israel already knew David was to be the next king and that he had already been anointed.

5. Obey God’s word (1 Samuel 15:22).
As we can see with Israel’s demand for a king (Saul), knowing God’s word isn’t enough. We also have to obey it. Sometimes it can seem like sin is the most practical way out of a situation, but it is only a temporary fix. Even when we try to put a godly spin on our disobedience, as Saul did in 1 Samuel 15, it is still disobedience. As Saul learned the hard way, God wants us to be obedient to Him regardless of our circumstances. With David, Israel, whatever her motivations were, obeyed God and made David king.

6. Know your “bent” (Psalm 139:13-14).
God has created each of us uniquely. We are all “bent” Bent_eye_cranked_bolt_profiletoward certain things and away from others. One of the ways God may show us the things He wants us to do and not do is through the talents, tastes, and abilities He has given us. If you can’t carry a tune in a bucket, that’s a pretty good indication God doesn’t want you to sing for a living. If you love numbers, that may be God’s way of leading you into a math-related field. Other times, we may be thrust into a situation in which we have to learn a new skill. We might just discover a talent we didn’t know we had!

7. Pray, and ask others to pray with you about the situation, especially for wisdom and guidance (James 1:5-6).
Some things we don’t need to pray about because they are clearly taught in God’s word. We don’t need to pray about whether we should attend church regularly, be faithful to our spouses, help those in need, etc. But, some situations aren’t as clear. James tells us that if we lack wisdom, all we have to do is ask God for it in faith, and He will give it to us. It’s a promise. We may not feel very wise, but we don’t operate on feelings. We take God at His word and trust Him as we continue to take the next step and the next.

With Saul, did Israel pray about the situation or ask God for wisdom in selecting a king? No. And even though God tried to provide them with wisdom- spelling out the consequences of their demand- they insisted on disobeying Him. They did not need to pray about making David king. God had already made it clear that he was the next to take the throne.

8. God has given you (and others) a brain for a reason (Proverbs 11:14, 24:5-6, 18:15)
Seek counsel from godly people you trust. Take what they say, make sure it matches up with Scripture, and pray about it. In other situations, such as a medical diagnosis, you may need to do some research and gather information so you can make an educated decision. Finally, trust that God, our wonderful Creator has hard wired you with the ability to process information and make the best decision you can with His help and guidance.

With Saul, God directly gave Israel godly counsel and information through Samuel. They chose to reject it and disobey, and suffered the consequences. With David, Israel also had all the information they needed to make the right decision. This time, they obeyed.

9. Trust in God’s sovereignty to direct your steps and work things out for your good (Proverbs 3:5-6; 16:9, Psalm 37:23-24, Romans 8:28).
Sometimes our desire to do what God wants us to do is so strong that we become paralyzed by the fear that we’re going MH900448357to do the wrong thing. When we do that, our trust is no longer in God’s sovereignty over the situation. We have shifted our trust from God—where it should be—to ourselves—where it should not be.

God’s sovereignty over situations does not rest on our actions. We can clearly see this in Israel’s situation with Saul. Even though they didn’t desire to please God, He had complete control of the situation and worked it out for His will to be done in the long run. How much more can we trust God to take care of our situations, if it is our desire to please Him, since He promises to do so?

10. Trust that God understands and has compassion on the frailty of His children (Psalm 103:14).
You aren’t God. You aren’t omniscient, knowing all the ins and outs of your situation. In most cases there is at least some aspect of the situation in which you are powerless. Every time you make a decision, you do it with only partial knowledge and partial control (at best). God knows all of this better than we do. That’s why He tells us to love Him, seek to honor Him, ask Him for wisdom, and trust Him.


One of the natural outgrowths of walking with the Lord is making more godly decisions. We must use the resources He has given us: His word, godly counsel, information, prayer, and wisdom, and trust Him to work everything out for our good.


Additional Resources:
The Problem with Seeking God’s Will by Matt Papa

Sunday School, Trust

Looking Into the Mirror of Christ ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 4-27-14

sunday school

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 17 ~ Apr. 20-26
Psalm 121, 123-125, 128-130, 6, 8-10, 14, 16, 19, 21, 43, 45, 49, 84-85, 87, 73, 77-78,
2 Samuel 1-4, 1 Chronicles 1-5
Looking Into the Mirror of Christ

What is the purpose of a mirror? It’s for seeing what we look like on the outside. As women, we often look in the mirror to make sure our hair is behaving, to see that our make up is straight, to find out how we look in a certain outfit. But we MH900442449also look into “mirrors” to see what we look like on the inside. Often, the mirrors we turn to in times of trouble or use to measure our self worth—how many friends we have, what others say or think about us, what we think about ourselves, whether people feel sorry for us or compliment us, even the number of “likes” we get on a Facebook status—are like the mirrors in an amusement park fun house. We never get a true reflection of who we are on the inside because the mirror itself is distorted. The only way to get a true reflection is to take our eyes off the distorted mirrors and put them on the perfect mirror of Christ and His word.

We usually think of the book of Psalms as having been written by David, but, in fact, of the 150 psalms, David wrote 73, 50 are anonymous (some possibly written by David), and the others were written by other authors. Psalms was the “hymnal” of biblical times, and, indeed, there are churches even today whose only worship songs are psalms set to music. As with our own worship music, Psalms covers a variety of topics from creation to the attributes and mighty works of God to laments and requests from God. Today, we’re going to take a look at some of the more personal psalms from different authors in which the psalmist is crying out to God about his own situation.

Psalm 121, 123

What kind of mirror does the psalmist hold up? (121:1-2, 123:1-2)
When we look into a regular mirror, we see ourselves reflected back. When we look into one of those fun house mt-haunted-mansion-nathan-timmirrors I mentioned, we see a distorted image of ourselves reflected back. But there’s another kind of mirror we can look into. Have you ever been on the “Haunted Mansion” ride at Disney World? At one point in the ride, you find yourself facing a mirror, but what you see reflected back is a hologram (a “ghost”) of one of the people who used to live there.

Where does the psalmist direct us to look in these two passages? To the Lord. Where do we find the Lord? In the mirror of His word. When we look into the mirror of the Word, what do we see? Ourselves? No. Kind of like that “Haunted Mansion” mirror, we see the Lord reflected back in all of His goodness and glory. Our eyes are not to be on ourselves – whether we measure up, whether we’re important enough or good enough or worthwhile human beings— but on the Lord.

What do we notice about the Lord’s reflection?

The Lord is sufficient in all things (121:2-4, 123:1)
He made heaven and earth (121:2), so He is all powerful (omnipotent) and capable of rightly handling all situations. He neither sleeps nor slumbers (121:3-4), so He is all knowing (omniscient). He is aware of and involved in every aspect of life. He is “enthroned in the heavens” (123:1). What is the rank of someone who is “enthroned”? A king. A king has sovereign jurisdiction over every inch of his kingdom. He has the final word in all things, and no one outranks him. What comprises God’s kingdom? The universe. He has perfect, final, and sovereign jurisdiction over every inch of the universe, and no one outranks Him. He is complete and sufficient. This is why we need only look to Him for all things, including a right view of ourselves.

Because He is sufficient in all things, the Lord is our help, stability, protection, provider, and mercy for the needs of our souls (121:1, 3, Psalm 62:2, 121:5-8, 123:2-4)

The Lord is our help (121:1). Notice that the psalmist does not qualify that statement. It is blanket, all encompassing. The Lord is our help in all situations. Others may turn away or be incapable when we need help. He will not.

The Lord is our stability (121:3). While the storms of life may rage around us and try to blow us over, He holds us firmly to Himself, the rock of our salvation (62:2). People are not stable. They can let us down and fail to be there for us. God will not.

The Lord is our eternal protector (121:5-8). He keeps us through the difficult times. Notice that the psalmist does not say that God will do away with the sun, the moon, evil, or even death, but that God will be our shade, he will protect from destruction by the sun and moon, and that He will keep our lives. He will keep our going out and coming in – every step we take—from this time forth and forever more. People are not capable of preserving us in this way, but God is.

The Lord is our provider (123:2). Just as an earthly slave would look to his master to provide everything: food, shelter, clothing, health care, etc., we are to look to and depend on our kind and gracious Master who never fails to provide us with all we need. It is not the job of friends or family to provide us with self worth or fulfill our need for emotional support. That is God’s job, and He does it perfectly. That is why we look to Him for those things.

The Lord is our mercy (123:2-4). God sees all aspects of our lives, and He alone is able to provide us with merciful relief from difficult situations, or merciful grace to see us through those situations. And He’s not only capable of doing so, He will do so. Notice (2) that the psalmist doesn’t say “our eyes look to the Lord…hoping, perchance, that He might have mercy,” but “till He has mercy.” The psalmist is confident that it is God’s intention to show mercy. People cannot alleviate our circumstances or carry us through them, nor would they always be willing to do so even if they could, in fact, sometimes the people we would look to in difficult times can actually be the cause of those difficult times (4). Only God can mercifully take away or see us through tough situations.

As we can see, people are often undependable or incapable of giving us what we need emotionally, and completely unable to provide for our spiritual needs. This is why God’s word never directs us to look to the mirror of ourselves or to others for our inner needs or fulfillment, but rather to the mirror of His word and the reflection of Christ. Only God is capable of being, and wants to be, our sufficiency in all areas of life. We must look to God and depend on Him for these things.

Psalm 77

In times of trouble, we look back to the mighty deeds of God in the past.
The first nine verses of this psalm are a lament. Asaph doesn’t explain exactly what’s going on in his life—and maybe that’s beneficial to us because we can all relate to what he’s feeling here regardless of the specific circumstances—but he’s going through a really gut-wrenching time.

Where does Asaph turn? He starts out determined to cry out to the Lord over his situation. He knows in his mind that the Lord “will hear me” (1), but as he begins to pray, he takes his eyes off the Lord, begins to focus on the problems themselves (3- I moan…my spirit faints), and gets overwhelmed. Notice that when he looks back to the mirror of better circumstances (5) or happier times (6- “my song in the night”) or looks to himself (6- let me meditate in my heart) for the solution to his troubles, he only despairs more (7-9).

Finally, Asaph realizes that the only thing that will help is to focus on the Lord Himself (9- His hand), His power (9- “Right hand” is a metaphor for strength), and His deliverance in years gone by (9- the years). He looks into the mirror of God’s steadfast faithfulness.

Asaph doesn’t just recount the details (11- deeds) of what God has done in the past, he also recalls that God’s works evoke a sense of wonder (11,14) for both those who witnessed them and those who think back on them. And Asaph doesn’t merely recall and regurgitate the details of these deeds, he ponders them. He meditates on them (12). He turns them over and over in his mind, considering how they reflect God’s might (12, 14), His holiness, greatness, and superiority to other gods (13). Asaph thinks about how God redeemed His people (15) and would redeem him from his troubles, God’s 1185602_570889882972492_1155182179_npower over nature (16-18) and His power over Asaph’s situation. And even though Israel couldn’t see God Himself, He still led them (19-20), the same way he would lead Asaph, though unseen. If God was powerful enough to redeem Israel, have power over nature, and lead Israel, He was powerful enough to handle Asaph’s situation.

When we face difficult times, Asaph sets a great example for us. We look not to ourselves, others, or circumstances, we look to God, determined to cry out to Him. We ponder His wonder, holiness, power, and greatness. We look at what He has done in the past in His word and in our own lives, knowing that if He was powerful enough to handle those situations, He is powerful enough to handle the present one. We remember that as God has been faithful in the past, He will continue to be faithful in the future.

Psalm 130

There is hope in the Lord (1 John 1:9)
Finally, we turn to the Lord, because in Him, and in no other, is hope.

There is hope of His forgiveness (2-4). When we cry out to God for mercy, He has promised to forgive us (1 John). With Christ, we do not have to stand hopeless and condemned in our sin.

There is hope in His word (5). Not only can we find hope in God’s great and mighty deeds from the past in His word, but we can also find hope in the attributes of God described by the Bible (His goodness, holiness, mercy, compassion, etc.), and in the promises He has made in His word (He will provide, He hears our prayers, He will never leave us, etc.), because we know He will never break them. We cannot find this kind of perfect hope in others.

There is hope because the Lord is trustworthy (5-6). “I wait,” the psalmist says, “more than the watchmen for the morning.” The watchmen knew the morning was coming. How much more does the psalmist know that the Lord will answer him with hope?

There is hope in God’s steadfast love and His plentiful redemption (7-8). The psalmist wasn’t hoping for fleeting things like riches or temporary happiness. He was looking at the big picture. The spiritual picture: God’s eternal love and His redemption from sin. This is our hope as well.

As we face difficult times, like the psalmist, we must keep our eyes focused on the Lord as He is reflected in the mirror of His word, not on our own reflection or the way others reflect us. The Lord is the only one powerful enough to give us the help, stability, protection, provision, and mercy to meet the needs of our souls. Others will let us down, but as we look to God’s faithfulness in the past, we find hope for the present and the future.

Faith, Old Testament, Parenting, Prayer, Sunday School, Trust

Meet the Parents (of Samson) ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 4-6-14

sunday school

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 14 ~ Mar. 30-Apr. 6
Judges 1-18
Meet the Parents (of Samson)

In this week’s reading, we said goodbye to Joshua and met up with a variety of Israel’s lesser known judges. We also read about three better known characters in Israel’s history, judges Deborah, Gideon, and Samson. Often, when we come to passages like this, it’s like a treasure hunt. We focus on the valuables that are in plain sight. But, if we dig just a little, we can find more gems just beneath the surface. Today, we’re taking a look at two godly people who had a profound impact on Samson’s life: his parents.

Judges 13-14

Mr. and Mrs. Manoah
It’s always interesting to me that, just as we saw last week with the two spies, some of the most faithful of God’s servants are ordinary people like you and me serving God as they go about their daily tasks. And, just as with the two spies, in many cases, we never find out their names.  Samson’s mother was just this kind of nameless, faithful servant. Though we know little about her husband, Manoah, the most important thing about him—his faith—comes through loud and clear.

Barrenness (13:2-3)
Mrs. Manoah was barren. Have you ever noticed how many “big names” in the Bible had mothers who were previously barren or who conceived miraculously? Joseph (Rachel), Samuel (Hannah), John the Baptist (Elizabeth), even Jesus (Mary), just to name a few. Things are different today, but, in manoah-wife-angel-offering the Bible, a miraculous conception was often a sign that the child would grow up to be a mighty man of God.

Barrenness was usually seen by others in the community as a curse by God or a punishment for sin (and sometimes it was: 2 Samuel 6:23). During that time in history, the only way for women to achieve status and be considered successful was by marrying and having children- particularly sons. A woman’s entire self-worth—in her own eyes, her husband’s eyes, and the eyes of her community—was at stake. So it’s easy to see why women and their husbands would have spent a great deal of time crying out to the Lord in prayer and seeking to be obedient to Him in hopes that He would grant their request for a child. We see this most clearly in the case of Hannah (1 Samuel 1), and it’s reasonable to surmise that this was likely also the case for Manoah and his wife.

Belief, Not Doubt (13:3-8)
It’s interesting that both times the angel of the Lord appeared to deliver His message, He initially appeared, not to the man, Manoah, but to the woman, his wife. Was it because she was praying at the time, or because her faith was stronger than her husband’s? This passage doesn’t tell us, so we don’t know. But, notice Mrs. Manoah’s reaction to the news that she would conceive. Did she laugh in disbelief like Sarah and Abraham did (Genesis 17:17,18:12)? Did she doubt like Zechariah (father of John the Baptist: Luke 1:18)? No, Mrs. Manoah believed. And, as a godly wife should, the first person she shared the news with and sought direction from was her husband.

Now let’s consider the reaction of Manoah to his wife’s news. Did he think her desire for a child had sent her over the edge or that she was making this up? No. He believed her without question. What does this tell us about the character, faith, and influence on her husband of Mrs. Manoah? “The heart of her husband trusted in her” (Proverbs 31:11) because she was a godly, trustworthy woman.

A Household of Faith (13)
In addition to spending time praying for a child, Mr. and Mrs. Manoah probably prayed regularly, like many other faithful Israelites, for deliverance from the Philistine oppressors, and here, we find them in prayer again.

Manoah not only trusted his wife, he had faith that the Lord would fulfill His promise. His first reaction was to believe and ask God the best way to obey Him. “And God listened to the voice of Manoah…” and answered his prayer of faith. He came back—to Manoah’s wife. Again, Manoah believed her without question and followed her out to meet the angel of the Lord.

When they met up with the angel, we see further evidence of this couple’s godliness. Though the angel had appeared and spoken twice with Mrs. Manoah, she, as a godly wife, does not take control of the situation or assert superiority over her husband. She takes a step back and, as a godly husband and leader of his home, Manoah steps up to the plate to assume the responsibility for his family and receive God’s instructions.

Manoah’s conversation with the Lord is fraught with faith. He doesn’t ask how or why they’re suddenly being blessed with a miracle child even though they’re just ordinary people. He simply accepts that it will happen. Manoah is confident that God is telling the truth and will keep His promise when he says, “When [not if] your words come true…” (12, 17). He believes God’s word that Samson will “begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines,” (5) when he asks about “the child’s manner of life, and…his mission” (12) so that he and Mrs. Manoah could prepare him to do so. He trusted in the www-St-Takla-org--12-Angel-Visits-Manoah-and-His-Wifecharacter of God, “the one who works wonders,” (19) and worshiped Him as such. He and Mrs. Manoah feared and trusted in God’s holiness as they fell on their faces at His departure (20).

Without a total grasp of the situation (22), Manoah believed God’s word that, “no man can see Me and live” (Exodus 33:20). Only later (21) did Manoah understand that He had been speaking with the angel of the Lord (Jesus – theophany: an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ – {“My name…is wonderful” (18)- see Isaiah 9:6}—this is how people could “see God and live” even though God had said, “you cannot see Me and live.” They could not live through seeing God the Father, but they could live through seeing God the Son. Also a piece of supporting evidence for the Trinity). Jesus, the true deliverer and judge came personally to announce the birth of this temporal deliverer and judge who would point ahead to Christ.

Finally, we come full circle to Mrs. Manoah’s quiet trust in the Lord. Even with a strong faith like Manoah had, there can be moments of confusion. How could God say to Moses –the greatest leader Israel had ever known, the friend of God!—“you cannot see My face, for man shall not see me and live,”—yet here he and his wife were, having seen Him, but somehow still unscathed? How could anyone understand this?

But Mrs. Manoah shows us that faith means trusting God’s word even when we don’t fully understand His actions. Yes, it was true that God had said that people couldn’t live through seeing Him, but it was also true that He had visited them and told them they were going to have a son who would be a deliverer for Israel. How could both of those things be true at the same time? She probably couldn’t understand it either, but she encouraged her husband to trust God even in their confusion (23). And God kept His promise (24-25)

Trusting Despite the Circumstances (14:1-10)
Kids grow up, and as broken, sinful human beings, they sometimes make foolish decisions despite being raised in a godly home. That’s what Samson seems to have done here. While the Philistines were not one of the seven nations the Israelites were specifically forbidden to intermarry with, the principle behind God’s forbidding of intermarriage with those other nations was the same for the Philistines: they were idolaters and enemies of God and His people.

As godly parents, Mr. and Mrs. Manoah tried to steer their adult son to a godly choice of a wife. They reminded him that he was one of God’s people, and surely wanted him, as a leader in Israel, to set a good example for the people. Once again, they were seeking to be faithful to God.

thInstead of honoring his parents, Samson chose poorly. Or so it seemed. Either Samson was operating solely on lust and God sovereignly used the situation to His own advantage, or Samson, moved by God, was intentionally trying to infiltrate the Philistines by marrying in. The passage doesn’t make this precisely clear to us.

And, it wasn’t clear to Samson’s parents, either. So, perhaps thinking that they could influence the girl’s family or hoping Samson would change his mind, they went along with his decision and accompanied him to meet the new in laws. Once again, though the circumstances were worrisome and hard to understand, Mr. and Mrs. Manoah trusted that the God who had already worked so many wonders in their lives could handle this situation. They had faithfully obeyed what God had asked them to do and raised Samson in a godly home. Now, they had to sit back and watch God take care of the rest. And He did. Again, God kept His promises.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,
 for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Faith, Obedience, Old Testament, Sunday School, Trust

Trust and Obey ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 3-2-14

sunday school

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 9 ~ Feb. 23-Mar. 1
Numbers 1-15, Psalm 90
Trust and Obey

Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross, but is blest if we trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Dilemma → The People’s Response → Moses/Leadership’s Response ←→ God’s Response

Today, we’re taking a look at four incidents from this week’s reading which follow the paradigm above. All start out with a problem. We’ll look at how the people responded to that problem, how Moses and the other leaders responded, and how God responded, which will show us how we should respond to the dilemmas we face: with trust in, and obedience to, God.

 A Generic Gripe (Numbers 11:1-3)

The Dilemma (11:1):
This seems to have been a general discontent with the aggravations that come with marching around the desert. Various translations mention “hardships,” “adversity,” and “misfortunes.” We can’t tell from this verse whether these were hardships of their own making (as two of the subsequent problems were) or they were just things that came up outside their control.

Israel’s Response (11:1-2, Psalm 142:1-2):
Israel’s response was to gripe. How was this different from Psalm 142:2, where David said, “I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him.”? Check out verse 1: David said, “I cry out to the Lord…I plead for mercy to the Lord.” David was crying out to the Lord. Israel was crying out against the Lord (“in the hearing of the Lord”).

God’s Response (11:1):
God’s anger was literally kindled. Why such a harsh response to a little complaining? We’ll see more clearly in the next incident.

Moses’ Response/God’s Response (11:2):
Moses intercedes in a picture of the way Christ intercedes for us. He gets between the sinful people and God’s wrath and pleads their case before Him. God’s wrath abates, not because there’s anything righteous in the people, but because of the righteousness of the one interceding.

 Where’s The Beef? (Numbers 11:4-35)

 The Dilemma (11:4-9):
“Waaah…we’re tired of the same old food day after day!” Notice, it wasn’t that they didn’t have food and were crying out to God to help them and keep them from starving. God had provided plenty of the food He thought best for them. He even delivered it right to their doorsteps—they didn’t have to go out and hunt! But that wasn’t good enough.

Israel’s Response (11:4-6,10, Philippians 3:19, Romans 1:25):
Israel’s response to this dilemma (which wasn’t really a dilemma at all—this was about what they preferred—it was a problem of their own making) was to turn their noses up at what God had provided for them and cry out against Him.

Their complaint was a disdain for all God had done for them in delivering them from Egypt. They didn’t want to do things God’s way anymore. They actually preferred going back to (and thought they had it better under) slavery! And for what? Food. The kind of food they missed and preferred. The food of their old way of life. The fruit of slavery.

Their complaint was essentially a contempt for and rejection of God’s salvation because they were willing to toss it all aside for something as paltry as a different kind of food. “They worshiped and served the creation rather than the creator.”

What are some ways we do the same thing? (Thinking we had it better when we were lost and longing for the things we had back then.)

Moses’ Response (11:10-15, Philippians 4:13, Matthew 11:28):
Moses had had it with these rebellious, childish people, and he cried out passionately to the Lord about it. This “friend of God” was not rejecting God or His ways. He was saying, “You’ve asked me to lead and care for this people, and I want to comply, but I can’t. It’s too hard. I need Your help!” His response was not to reject God (as was the case with the Israelites’ complaint), but to trust God and ask for His help in obeying Him.

When it is our desire to take up our cross daily, God has promised to either give us the strength to carry it (Phil. 4:13) or lift it off our backs permanently (Matt. 11:28).

God’s Response (11:16-35, Psalm 37:4):
Two different complaints. Two different motives. Two different responses: God showed kindness to Moses, but anger towards the Israelites.

Yet, in a way, the same response. God gave both Moses and the people what they asked for. (Actually, He gave the people much more than they asked for!) When Moses got what he wanted, it was a blessing because He was asking according to God’s will and out of a desire to obey Him. This is what Ps. 37:4 is talking about when it says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” When the people got what they wanted, it was a curse because God gave them what they never should have wanted in the first place.

Power Play (Numbers 12)

The Dilemma (12:1-2):
Miriam and Aaron were annoyed with Moses for some unclear-to-us reason having to do with Moses’ new wife. Whether they were opposed to her because she was a Cushite or because she had done something to tick them off, we don’t know.

Miriam and Aaron’s Response (12:1-2):
Their annoyance led Miriam and Aaron to grumble against Moses. And once they started grumbling against him- which was really grumbling against God, because God had called Moses, placed him in authority, and spoke through him- it was easy enough to convince themselves that they should be in charge, or at least equal to Moses. “And the Lord heard it,” indicates that they were implicating God in their complaint. Here is another incident that’s a problem of the complainant’s own making.

God’s Response (12:4-10, 14-15):
Again, God’s anger is “kindled.” He comes down personally, since they are denouncing Him personally by way of Moses, and sets them straight. “Yes, there is a difference between y’all and Moses. No, you’re not equal to him. Moses is the one I’ve put in this position, not either of you.” Miriam’s name being mentioned first (v.1) and the fact that God gave her leprosy but not Aaron, probably indicate that she was the instigator in this situation.

Moses’ Response (12:11-13):
Again, Moses intercedes between the sinner and the wrath of God and asks, trusting in God’s grace, for Miriam’s healing. God grants his petition, but not right away. God wants Miriam to understand how serious her disobedience is, so He allows her to experience His chastening for a week. But after her time of discipline is over, God’s grace allowed her back into the camp to be reconciled to Moses and the people.

Ten Were Bad, Two Were Good (Numbers 13:25-14:35)

The Dilemma (13:25-33):
The spies came back and gave an accurate report of what they saw. The land itself was awesome, but the people were strong, militarily, and the cities were strongly fortified. All of the spies and the people who heard their report were understandably afraid. This was not a problem of their own making.

Israel’s Response (14:1-4, Exodus 3:8):
Again, the people’s immediate response to fear was not to trust in the Lord and obey Him, but to rebel. Again, their response was to quickly abandon and disdain all God had done for them. They tossed aside His salvation in favor of slavery and what they thought would be safety. They knew what God had promised (Ex. 3:8- compare to 13:29) and called Him a liar (14:3- compare to Ex. 3:8). Again, they cried out against the Lord instead of crying out to Him.

Joshua and Caleb’s Response (14:5-9, 13:30):
Nowhere do we see Caleb and Joshua {13:30, 14:6-9} denying or minimizing the difficulty and scariness of the situation, but confirming it. They knew what people like the Hittites, et al, were capable of doing to their enemies. They were well aware of Israel’s military weakness and disadvantage.

Yet, instead of letting what they could see and experience determine reality, they trusted God’s word and promises to them to determine reality. They had seen what God was capable of doing to His enemies. They saw what He had done to Pharaoh’s army without their even having to fight, and trusted that, if He had promised them this land, He could do something like that again.

Moses’ Response (14:13-19):
Again, Moses stands between the sinful people and God’s wrath- just like Jesus does for us- pleading with God to forgive them so that God’s name will be glorified. He calls God to act in accordance with His own character: slow to anger, steadfast love, forgiving.

God’s Response (14:20-35):
Again, God grants the request of the intercessor (Moses), not because of the sinful people, but because of the righteousness of the one interceding, and because of His own character. Though they will still suffer the consequences of their sin, God pardons sinners.

What Can We Learn?

1. When we have a problem, need, or desire, God wants us to bring it to Him in prayer with a heart submissive to His will. He desires for us to cry out to him, not against Him.

2. Sometimes, we’re the problem. Sometimes we’re in anguish over a problem that’s not really a problem, but a selfish or ungodly desire we’re not even supposed to have.

3. When we face difficult situations, God wants us to calm down, trust His word and His promises, and obey Him, not reject Him in order to do things our own way. Like the song says, “there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”