Women of Genesis Bible Study

The Women of Genesis: Lesson 21- Rebekah, Judith, Basemath, and Mahalath

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20

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Read Genesis 26:34-35, 27:41-28:22

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Questions to Consider

1. Briefly review lesson 20 (link above). What events led to the events of today’s passage?

2. Review question #2 from lesson 18 (link above), and compare Abraham’s instructions to his servant about finding Isaac a wife in 24:1-9 to Isaac’s and Rebekah’s concerns and instructions about Jacob’s and Esau’s wives in 26:34-35 and 27:46-28:9. What were some similarities between the two situations? The differences? Look especially at a) the people groups the parent(s) did and did not want the wives to come from and b) whether or not the parent(s) wanted the son to travel to the desired people group. What were the reasons neither Abraham nor Isaac and Rebekah wanted their sons to marry a Canaanite? Why did they want their sons to marry within their own family? Why did Abraham prohibit Isaac from traveling back to Haran, but Isaac and Rebekah pushed Jacob to go to Haran? What did the Abrahamic Covenant and physically inhabiting the Promised Land have to do with all of this?

3. Examine Rebekah’s words and actions in 27:41-28:5. What does it seem were Rebekah’s primary and secondary reasons for sending Jacob to Haran to find a wife?

4. In 28:2, Isaac refers to Bethuel as Rebekah’s father. Besides the fact that Bethuel was Isaac’s father-in-law, what was Isaac’s biological kinship with Bethuel? How did Isaac know whether or not Laban had any daughters for Jacob to marry?

5. What were the names of Esau’s wives, and what were their national or familial backgrounds? (26:34, 28:9) Considering the Abrahamic Covenant, why would a wife from Abraham’s brother’s line have been seen as preferable for Isaac and Jacob, but a wife from Abraham’s son’s line (28:9) was seen as less desirable for Esau? How was Esau’s split from the Covenant lineage and alignment with the non-Covenant lineage through his marriages a fulfillment of God’s word to Rebekah in 25:23: “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided;”?

6. What nation/people did Jacob become? What nation/people did Esau become? From which of these nations and lineages did Christ eventually come, fulfilling the Abrahamic Covenant?

7. Even though Judith, Basemath, and Mahalath were not in the Covenant lineage and likely weren’t worshipers of God, how might marrying into, and living in close proximity to, a family who worshiped the one true God have impacted their spiritual lives? Consider the idea behind 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 as you answer.

8. What was Rebekah’s attitude toward her daughters-in-law? (26:34-35, 27:46) Was her attitude focused on herself and how these women were affecting her, or was it focused on them and how she could help them, love them, and be a godly influence on them? How might Rebekah’s attitude have prevented her from introducing them to the one true God and discipling them in the spirit of Titus 2:3-5?

9. How was Jacob’s experience at Bethel (28:10-22) a turning point or a fresh start in his relationship with God? What did God promise Jacob? (28:12-15) What did Jacob promise God? (28:20-22) How would God’s promises to Jacob and Jacob’s promises to God have set the foundation and tone for Jacob’s relationship with his soon to be family and his relationship with his family of origin (when he later returned to them)? How could Jacob’s vow to God be seen as the earliest “mission statement”, if you will, of the future nation of Israel?


Homework

Do you have a Judith, Basemath, or Mahalath in your life- a woman who’s a hard-to-love unbeliever? What is your attitude toward her? Is it focused on yourself and how she affects you, or is it focused on her and how you could help her, love her, and share the gospel with her? Write down three practical ways you could be a godly influence on her this week.


Suggested Memory Verse

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God,
Genesis 28:20-21

Wednesday's Word

Wednesday’s Word ~ Ezra 3

ezra 3 11

Ezra 3

When the seventh month came, and the children of Israel were in the towns, the people gathered as one man to Jerusalem. 2 Then arose Jeshua the son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel with his kinsmen, and they built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. 3 They set the altar in its place, for fear was on them because of the peoples of the lands, and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, burnt offerings morning and evening. 4 And they kept the Feast of Booths, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number according to the rule, as each day required, 5 and after that the regular burnt offerings, the offerings at the new moon and at all the appointed feasts of the Lord, and the offerings of everyone who made a freewill offering to the Lord. 6 From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord. But the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid. 7 So they gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the Sidonians and the Tyrians to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the grant that they had from Cyrus king of Persia.

8 Now in the second year after their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak made a beginning, together with the rest of their kinsmen, the priests and the Levites and all who had come to Jerusalem from the captivity. They appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to supervise the work of the house of the Lord.9 And Jeshua with his sons and his brothers, and Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together supervised the workmen in the house of God, along with the sons of Henadad and the Levites, their sons and brothers.

10 And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord, according to the directions of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord,

“For he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”

And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider:

1. The book of Ezra deals with the second wave (out of three) of Israelites returning from exile in Persia after the destruction of Jerusalem. Why was it important to them (3) to set up the altar? Why did they begin keeping the feasts and offering sacrifices before the temple was rebuilt?

2. What was the Feast of Booths (4), and which event in Israel’s history did it commemorate? What are some similarities between the Exodus and Israel’s recent return from exile which might have made this celebration of the Feast of Booths especially meaningful for the people? Which attributes of God are on display in both the Exodus and the return from exile?

3. Why would it have been important for the Levites (8) to supervise the work on the temple? How does this show the people’s reverence for God’s house and their desire to do things “decently and in order“?

4. Try to put yourself in the shoes of the average Israelite in verses 10-11. Think about what your experience in exile might have been like and how you might feel finally back, free, in your homeland. Now, the temple is at last being rebuilt so you can worship God – maybe for the first time in your life – in the place and the way He intended. What emotions might you be experiencing? What sorts of things might you be praising God for? Take some time to thank God for some specific things about your own church.

5. For what reasons might the old men have been weeping? (12-13) How could both tears and joy be proper expressions of worship in this passage and in worship today? What gives you joy in worship? What brings you to tears when you worship?

Obedience, Old Testament, Sovereignty of God, Sunday School

David and God’s Big Picture ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 5-11-14

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 19 ~ May 4-10
1 Chronicles 13-18, 2 Samuel 5:11-9, Psalm 1-2, 15, 22-25, 47, 68, 89, 96, 100-101, 105, 132, 29, 33, 36, 39, 50, 53, 60, 75
David and God’s Big Picture

2 Samuel 7/1 Chronicles 17
This passage is the institution of the Davidic covenant: God’s promise to establish the throne of David forever through the eventual birth and reign of Jesus. God, in His sovereignty, had a plan that David was part of. A plan with farther reaching impact than just David’s life. But God’s call on David’s life was the same as His call on our lives: to love and serve Him faithfully wherever He has put us.

crown-and-thorns

2 Samuel 5:12
Right from the beginning of David’s reign, he recognized two very important things about his life that we should also recognize:

1. God is sovereign (1 Samuel 16:1-13, 1 Peter 2:9).
It was God who had made David king over Israel, not anything intrinsically worthy in David himself. Remember that when God chose David to be king back in 1 Samuel 16, David was just a shepherd in his late teens or early 20s. Nothing special. Just an average guy. In fact, God told Samuel not to pay attention to outward signs of “specialness” in David’s older brothers. He had his own reasons for choosing David.

In the same way, when God calls us out of darkness and into His marvelous light (1 Pet.) for salvation, it’s not because there’s anything intrinsically good in us. In fact, everything’s bad about us because we are drenched in sin. But for His own reasons, whatever they are, God has called us out to save us.

2. David’s life was not his own (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Matthew 20:28)
The second half of this verse does not say that “David knew… that the Lord had…exalted his kingdom” so David would be happy or comfortable or have a life of purpose. God established David’s kingdom “for the sake of His people Israel.” While God certainly blessed David along the way, God is about God. His main objective is His plans, His purposes, and His glory, not our happiness and contentment. This, of course, doesn’t mean He doesn’t care about us individually—far from it!

blurry-sky-cross1 Corinthians tells us our lives are not our own because we were bought with a price (the blood of Christ). We no longer belong to Satan, slaves of our sinful natures, living to gratify our own desires, pawns in his plan of trying to thwart God’s will. We belong to God to use as He sees fit for His plans and purposes.

One of the pitfalls of the American mindset is that it has taught us to focus on ourselves as individuals, often to the exclusion of what is good for our neighbors, our community, our state, nation, and world. We think in terms of “my rights,” “my enjoyment,” and “How will this affect me?” (Just so you know, I’m not a communist or a socialist when it comes to government. I’m just talking about this “me-centered” mentality.) This crosses over into our Christian lives. We often get so focused on our own lives, what we think God is or isn’t doing in them or with them, and how whatever He is doing is affecting us personally, that we forget that God has a huge plan for the entirety of human history and the universe. Whatever He’s up to right now may be about someone else, not you or me. We need to be more aware of God’s “big picture.”

As with David, God gives us our authority and circles of influence for the good of others, to bless them and serve them, even as Jesus came, not to be served but to serve, and to give His life for others (Matt. 20). The good news is that when we are on board with this, we get something much better than fleeting things like earthly happiness and comfort. We get eternal joy, peace, and a glimpse of the glory of God as we obey and cooperate with His plan.

You can’t always get what you want (2 Samuel 7:1- 7, 1 Samuel 13:14)
Because our lives are not our own, cooperating with God’s big picture plans sometimes means that we don’t get to do what we want to do, even if what we want to do is good and godly.

www-St-Takla-org--110--Solomon-Builds-the-Temple-3David was a “man after God’s own heart.” He loved the Lord and wanted to thank and honor Him by building Him a temple. What he wanted to do was an honorable and worshipful thing, and the motives of his heart were pure. But that was not the role God wanted David to play in the unfolding of His plan, nor was it the right time. The person God wanted to fulfill that part of His plan, at a later time, was Solomon.

As we discussed last week, seeking godly counsel is an important part of making godly decisions. David did this by consulting Nathan, the prophet. However, praying and asking for God’s guidance and wisdom is also essential before taking on something like building a temple, and both David and Nathan neglected to do so.

Graciously, even though they hadn’t come to God, God came to Nathan and explained things. God pointed out that in all this time, He had never asked anyone to build Him a permanent house. God had been just fine in a tent up to this point, and would be just fine until He decided it was time for Solomon to build the temple.

Sometimes, even if something is godly and part of God’s plan, He wants someone else to do it.

But you can always get what you need (2 Samuel 7:8-17, Luke 2: 26-33)
What David needed and what we need, is to be faithful and obedient to God wherever He has placed us. This doesn’t mean God will necessarily have us in the same place all our lives (though He might). After all, He took David from shepherd to warrior to king. But David served God faithfully in each of those positions for as long as God had him in those positions.

Ultimately, the role God wanted David to play in His plan was to be the king through whom God initiated the Davidic Covenant. Though David sought to build God a house, it was God who would build David a house (11, Luke 2). It would be an eternal house, first through his descendants who would be temporal kings, and, finally, through the Messiah, Jesus, who would reign forever and whose kingdom would know no end.

David’s Response (2 Samuel 7:18-29)

Humility (18-20)
David was overwhelmed by the fact that, though he wanted to do something big for God, God was going to do something big through him.

Exaltation (21-24)
David again recognized that it was God’s sovereignty that brought all this about, not his own awesomeness (21). He praised God’s greatness, holiness, and superiority to all else (22). He recounted God’s mighty deeds of the past and how He glorified Himself through His chosen people, Israel (23-24)

I’m in! (25-29)
David didn’t express doubt or hesitate to jump in with both feet. He didn’t whine that what he really wanted to do was build the temple. He embraced God’s plan obediently and joined in thankfully and wholeheartedly.

David glorified God for His “macro” plan (25-26) – the coming of the Messiah and everything leading up to it – and also for His “micro” plan (27-29) – realizing that if he cooperated with God’s plan, he and his family would be blessed along the way. Notice that David (29) did ask for God to bless his house and descendants, but not for personal/family gain. He asked that God would bless his family to fulfill and cooperate with God’s plan.

When God places us in any situation, whether blessing or hardship, our response should mirror David’s. We should be obedient to God, never stepping outside of His word to pursue things He doesn’t want for us, even if they seem godly. And, with humility and praise, we should embrace God’s plan, cooperating with Him joyfully.

What about all the non-Davids? (Exodus 12:37, Mark 7:37, 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12)
Sometimes when we read the Bible, we come to stories like David, Moses, Joshua, Noah, and Paul, and we can get the impression that God calls everyone to do great big things for Him as part of his plan. We tend to forget that when the Israelites left Egypt, there were likely 1.5 to 2 million of them. And only one Moses. By David’s time, there were likely several million Israelites. And only one David. What about the millions of Israelites who were born, grew up, got married, went to blue collar jobs every day, and died, having the-israelites-withoutlived lives of quiet faithfulness to God but never having had God make a covenant with them or being called to kill a giant or part a sea? Did God love them less? Value their love for Him less?

Why does God use some people in big, visible, fame-creating ways, and some in invisible ways? The answer, as is often the case when we’re dealing with God is, “I don’t know.” That’s one of the things that makes Him God and us not God. It’s his business, not ours. We trust that He does all things well (Mark 7) and that when He says that we are to “live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands” (1 Thess. 4), He means it, and that lives of quiet faithfulness are precious in His eyes.

 

God has a plan. All of us who are His children have a part to play in that plan. Our part, whether big and visible or quiet and invisible, is to love and trust Him more each day and live obediently and faithfully wherever He places us.

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.

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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

Idolatry, Old Testament, Salvation, Sunday School

The King and I(srael) ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 4-13-14

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 ~ Apr. 6-12
Judges 19 – 1 Samuel 17
The King and I(srael)

Up until now, Israel has been under the leadership of Moses, Joshua, and a string of judges, including current prophet/judge, Samuel. But some of the elders have decided it’s time for a king. Why? Let’s take a look.

1 Samuel 8; 10:17-24

Why did Israel demand a king?

The cycle of the judges:
Israel was in a cycle in which: they would have a judge for several years and everything would go smoothly for them. throne1God would give them victory in battle (or peace), their harvests would be bountiful, etc. Then, the judge would die, Israel would get into idolatry again, things would go badly for several years, they would cry out to the Lord, the Lord would raise up another judge, and the cycle would start all over again.

Israel likely thought it was the lack of succession from one judge to another that was the cause of all the turmoil, and that if they had a kingship (with built in succession) the chaotic years would cease, and things would go smoothly from there on out. What they failed to realize was that it was their obedience to God that brought peace during the lives of the judges, not a seamless changing of the guard.

The appearance of strength:
Another reason Israel may have wanted a king was that it gave the appearance of strength to other nations. Without a king, neighboring nations probably viewed Israel as weak and vulnerable, leading to more attacks. Of course, this would lead Israel to depend more on the Lord, and that’s exactly what He wanted.

“Everybody else is doing it”:
Finally (8:5), they wanted a king “like all the nations.” Whether this was because they admired the other nations’ structure of government, economy, large armies, etc., or, because Israel wanted to look more prestigious (or stronger- see above) in the eyes of other nations, they were blind to the fact that they would have had things so much better under God’s Kingship.

 

Why didn’t God want Israel to have a king?

God was already their king.
Israel didn’t need a human king. God was far more capable than any human king of winning battles, providing for them, ensuring a good economy, establishing and enforcing law and order, etc.

God wanted Israel to look to Him for everything.
We tend to look to the President and Congress for worshipgovernance, the grocery store for food, our jobs for paychecks, our doctors for healthcare. God wanted Israel to look to Him for every aspect of their lives: government, provision, health, food, everything. Because He is sovereign over all that happens on earth and in heaven, He wants us to recognize that we should be looking to Him for these things as well. He wants us to realize that we are completely dependent on Him.

Israel’s desire for a king was another rejection of God, which brought Israel ever closer to severe judgment. (Isaiah 28:21, Ezekiel 18:23,32, 2 Peter 3:9)
Even though Israel deserved judgment for her many rebellions against God, judgment is a last, undesirable resort for Him. Isaiah tells us that judgment is God’s “strange work”. Ezekiel reminds us that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Peter writes that God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

Small rebellions can lead to bigger rebellions. A loving parent knows this and tries to keep this from happening by disciplining his child. With a small rebellion, we might start out with a small discipline, such as taking away dessert. As the rebellions get bigger or more frequent, bigger discipline, stock_scales_justice2such as spanking or grounding might be appropriate.

Most children learn to control their behavior through these moderate forms of discipline, but a few may eventually become so destructive, addicted, or abusive that parents have to go to the extreme end of “tough love” by throwing them out of the house or turning them over to the authorities. It’s all done in love and all in an effort to bring the child home. This is exactly what was happening with the Israelites.

This is why God did everything necessary to keep Israel from His severe judgment. He carefully and specifically laid out the Law, promised them blessings for obedience and described the consequences for disobedience in gory detail, made examples out of people who disobeyed, offered forgiveness for repentance, gave them (initially) good and godly leaders (Moses, Joshua, the judges), and performed miracles to help them believe in Him. All this in an effort to stop their slide into total rejection of Him and the consequence of final judgment.

 

One last chance (8:10-18)

Israel could never say she hadn’t been warned. In these verses God told them directly and specifically exactly what their new king would be like, how he would treat them, and the consequences that would follow: confiscation of private property, slavery, God turning a deaf ear to their pleas for help. But still they demanded a king. This king God had just described. They were at the point of no return, and they plunged ahead despite the warning. Why?


Hearts of Stone (Ezekiel 11:19, Romans 1:22-25)
Just as a small rebellion can lead to bigger and bigger rebellions, a small hardening of the heart can eventually lead to a complete hardening of the heart.

In the movie Frozen, Elsa (the snow queen), accidentally frozen-anna-elsashoots an icicle ray (or whatever you call it) at her sister’s (Anna) heart, which causes Anna’s heart to slowly begin freezing bit by bit. If Anna doesn’t receive “an act of true love” before her heart completely freezes, she will turn into an ice statue forever.

This is similar to what was happening with Israel. Their continual rebellion was hardening their hearts against God bit by bit, until they would eventually be completely hardened against Him. Romans tells us that when people persist in ungodliness despite the many opportunities for mercy, grace, and salvation God has offered them, He eventually “gives them over” to a hardened heart. He gives them what they want: life without Him.

 

What does all this have to do with me? (Isaiah 55:9)

Everything. We are just like Israel in so many ways. We’re born into this world having already been shot through the heart with Satan’s “icicle” of sin, the sin nature we inherited from Adam and Eve. We spend our lives rebelling against God, our hearts slowly hardening, bit by bit, looking for another king (usually ourselves), so we can be just like everybody else, because what the world has to offer looks desirable to us.

But God doesn’t want us to have another king, because He’s already THE King, and He’s far better and more capable than any other king we could put on the throne of our lives. He wants us to look to Him for salvation, provision, comfort, strength, everything. So, God extends grace and mercy to us in a variety of ways, some pleasant, some not, to turn us towards the cross and Christ for salvation. He does this so that we can repent and turn to Him instead of facing the final judgment of hell in eternity.

Sometimes, we also see a similarity to Israel’s demand for a king in our prayer lives. We can ask, beg, and plead with God for things He doesn’t want us to have, and even get mad at Him when He doesn’t give us what we want. We must always keep in mind that His ways are higher than our ways and that what He wants for us is always better than what we want. Let us never get to the point in our prayer lives where our will is more important to us than God’s will. Israel’s way was, “No! But there shall be a king over us!” Jesus’ way was, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Let’s take our example, not from Israel, but from the the King of Israel, King Jesus.