Idolatry, Old Testament, Sin, Sunday School

The Benefit of Israel’s Experience ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 8-31-14

Benefit of Israel's Experience

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 35 ~ Aug. 24-30
Jeremiah 51-52, Lamentations, Ezekiel 1-15
The Benefit of Israel’s Experience

For weeks now, we have watched Israel and Judah sink farther and farther into idolatry and other sin, and now they are facing God’s wrath for it. It’s easy to look back thousands of years later and think this is an ancient story that has no bearing on us today. But Israel was God’s people, like we are. They were prone to sin, like we are. Among the many things we can draw out of Israel’s story is that we as God’s people don’t want to go down the same road to sin that they did. What can we learn from what they did wrong, and how do we keep from becoming like them?

Ezekiel 14

It’s a slow fade (Exodus 14-17,32)
That’s the title of a Casting Crowns song. Another line of the song says, “People never crumble in a day,” and that is certainly true. In the same way that someone doesn’t just wake up one morning and decide to have an affair, Israel didn’t just wake up one morning with Asherah poles in their back yards and prostitutes in the temple. We’re in about 593 BC here in Ezekiel. The exodus occurred around 1445 BC, with the golden calf incident occurring not too long after that. Give or take, we’re talking about 800ish years that Israel has been involved with idolatry. This depth of depravity didn’t happen overnight.

But even back in Exodus, there were “smaller” sins leading up to idol worship: they didn’t trust God, and they weren’t satisfied with God. They coveted fleshly security. At the Red Sea, they doubted God and wailed and moaned that they were going to die. They didn’t trust God for water or bread. And, finally, they grew impatient and distrustful that God would ever bring Moses down from Mt. Sinai. All of that culminated in the making and worshiping of the golden calf.

What can we learn? (2 Timothy 2:22, 2 Corinthians 10:5, Matthew 5:27-30)
There is no such thing as a little sin, because little sins always lead to bigger sins. Ever watch the Animal Planet show, Fatal Attractions? It was all about these various crazy people who adopted baby tigers, chimps, bears, etc. into their homes and then were shocked when these animals grew up and ripped their faces off (sometimes literally).

That’s what a “little” sin will do to you. It starts off looking cute and cuddly and harmless and then you embrace it and nurture it and think you’ve got a handle on it, and it grows up to rip your face off or kill you.

“Small” sins have to be dealt with swiftly and decisively. We must immediately turn from them and ask God’s forgiveness. We can’t play around with them even a little bit. That’s why the Bible tells us to “flee” (2 Tim) from sin and to take even our thoughts captive to obey Christ (2 Cor.). Hey, poke out your eye or cut off your hand if you have to, is what Jesus said (Matt.).

Lip service is a lie
The elders in 14:1 were not genuinely seeking to worship or obey God. It had been a long time, if ever, since they had done that. They were making a pretense to make it look to the people of Judah like they were actually following God and that God was pleased with them. And God answered that fake inquiry with real judgment.

What can we learn? (Isaiah 29:13-14)
Merely going through the motions doesn’t cut it. Putting your body in church once a week, reciting memorized prayers, giving offerings out of habit, mindlessly singing the hymns does nothing to make you godly. In fact it can help lull you into thinking you’re good with God and have nothing to worry about with regard to falling into sin.

Isaiah said about the Israelites:

“…this people draw[s] near with their mouth and honor[s] me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me…” (Is.)

and look what happened to them.

The same can be true of us. We must ask the Lord to hold us close and help us cling to Him. We must daily run to God’s word and prayer, humble ourselves and remember our dependence on Him. We must celebrate the gospel every day, remembering the price Christ paid for our sin, His love for us, and our love for Him.

Repentance is always the answer
Even at the brink of destruction, God’s message to Israel (14:6) is repent. He had brought all these calamities upon them to bring about their repentance. But the people and their leaders would have none of it.

What can we learn?
We’re going to sin. There’s just no way around it. But when we do, the answer is always to turn to Christ in repentance. One of the verses we have talked about so many times in this class is 1 John 1:9:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

While the idolatry the Israelites committed was a grave sin, what was even worse was that they refused to repent.

Sometimes, the cheese stands alone (Genesis 6:8, Daniel 6:4, Job 1:8)
Noah, Daniel, and Job- what do we remember about these guys? Each of them stood for righteousness surrounded by a sinful culture, and they all stood alone or nearly so. Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord (Gen.). Daniel was “faithful, and no error or fault was found in him.” (Dan.) God Himself said Job was “a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job)

And yet, God said that even if these three men had been present at Ezekiel’s time, their righteousness would have saved only themselves, no matter how hard they prayed or preached, because Israel refused to repent.

What can we learn?
Daniel, Job, and Noah were not righteous in and of themselves. They didn’t find favor with God because they were good deed doers, but because they believed God, walked in repentance, and were faithful to Him– some of the things we’ve already discussed today.
It seems simplistic to say that the lesson here is “Be like Daniel, Job, and Noah, not like the Israelites,” but sometimes it really is that simple. We must be faithful to God like they were even when no one else around us is.

I’ll take you back
If you could boil it down to one sentence, what would you say was God’s end goal in hitting Israel so hard? Check out verses 10-11:

And they shall bear their punishment—the punishment of the prophet and the punishment of the inquirer shall be alike— that the house of Israel may no more go astray from me, nor defile themselves anymore with all their transgressions, but that they may be my people and I may be their God, declares the Lord God.”

No matter how far they had strayed or what they had done, God still loved His people and wanted them back. His desire was never to destroy them but to reconcile them to Himself.

What can we learn? (Luke 15:11-32)
As the parable of the prodigal son so beautifully demonstrates, we may fall into all kinds of horrible sin, but when we come to God broken and sorrowful over that sin, He wraps His arms around us in love and welcomes us back. That’s what He wanted to do for Israel, and that’s what He wants to do for us. That’s the reason Jesus came. The reason for the cross. The reason for the empty tomb.

For some purpose, known only to Himself, God loves us and wants us back.

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.

Gospel, Old Testament, Salvation, Sunday School, Types and Shadows

Joe & Moe: Delivery Boys (Part 2) ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 2-9-14

 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 6 ~ Feb. 2-8
Exodus 10-29
Joe & Moe: Delivery Boys (Part 2)

Moses: Deliverance from Bondage  Last week we took a look at how Joseph was a type (symbol) of Christ: deliverance through forgiveness of sin. Just as Joseph was able to deliver his family from the famine to a new, abundant life through forgiving their sin, so Christ delivers us from the “famine” of the old life of sin by forgiving us of that sin and giving us a new and abundant life.

Today, we’re taking a look at another “delivery boy,” Moses, and examining how the events in his life demonstrate Christ’s delivering us from the bondage of sin, just as Moses delivered the Israelites from their bondage to slavery.

As Moses delivered Israel from the bondage of slavery, so Christ delivers us from the bondage of sin. Deliverance/redemption from bondage is not easy or lighthearted. It is a battle for the freedom of another person, and that freedom must be purchased with blood and struggle.

Exodus 11-12
Bondage: Before God sets us free.

11:7– God sets His people apart for His glory and His purposes. (Deuteronomy 7:6-8, Romans 8:29-30, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
This “setting apart” is called “consecration.” It wasn’t because there was anything special about Israel itself, but because God was keeping His covenant promise and working out His plan. God made a distinction between Israel and Egypt, and called them out of Egypt, and separated them from Egypt. So, God makes a distinction between unbelievers and those who will be saved, calls us out of the world’s system and ways, and separates us from the world in our identity and being.

11:9-10– Satan doesn’t willingly give up his slaves. (2 Timothy 2:24-26, 1 Corinthians 2:14) 
Look at everything that happened to Pharaoh, and yet he still, at this point, wouldn’t let go of the Israelites. In the same way, Satan holds people in bondage as slaves to himself, to sin. As a slave cannot resist his master, a slave to sin cannot resist his master- sin. Satan will not give his slaves up to Christ without a fight.

2 Timothy 2:24-26: The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

This is why we can’t expect lost people to act like Christians or tell them to clean themselves up. They can’t. They’re slaves. Only Christ can raise them from the “living death” of sin and set them free.

12:1– When God institutes a new covenant, He makes all things new.
God changed everything about Israel’s life, right down to their calendar. This was a completely fresh start: a new time, a new place (the Promised Land), and a new celebration (Passover) for a new covenant and way of life.

When Christ delivers us, we also get a new time (our new life starts at the moment of conversion, and we receive a fresh new future), a new place (Heaven instead of hell) and a new celebration (baptism and the Lord’s Supper) to mark the new covenant and way of life. Those celebrations were a reminder for Israel of how the Lord delivered them from bondage and slavery, and a reminder to us of how God delivers us from the bondage and slavery of sin.

The Key to the Shackles: How God sets us free: The Passover Lamb
Christ in the Passover:

12:5– A lamb without blemish (1 Corinthians 5:7, 1 Peter 1:18-19, James 2:10)
Jesus was to be the sacrifice for our sin. All sacrifices offered to God had to be perfect, pointing to Jesus’ sinlessness. Had he ever sinned, even once, He would not have been an acceptable sacrifice for our sin.

1 Corinthians 5:7b: Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 

1 Peter 1:18-19: you were ransomed …with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 

12:6– The lamb sacrificed at twilight (Luke 23:44-46)
The Passover lamb was sacrificed as the sun was setting. When Jesus died there was darkness over the whole land. Additionally, at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion the lamb was customarily slaughtered at 3 p.m., the same time Jesus died.

12:7,13– Blood on the doorposts and lintel (John 10:7, Romans 5:9,8:1)
Picture a vertical beam perpendicularly meeting a horizontal beam. Now picture the blood of a spotless lamb running down those beams. What comes to mind? The cross.

Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, He will be saved…” How do we enter in to and through Christ? We pass under and through the blood He shed on the cross. Anyone who has passed through the blood and is in Christ is not under the judgment of God.

Romans 5:9 “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” 

12:8– Eating the flesh (John 6:53-55)
John 6:53-55: So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.

12:10, 46– Do not leave the remains until morning. Do not break any of the lamb’s bones. (John 19:31-36)
John 19:31-33,36: Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.”

11:5, 12:12-13, 29-31– Death of the firstborn son of the king. (Colossians 1:15,18; Romans 5:10)
Just as the firstborn son of the king had to die in order for Israel to be set free from bondage, so, Jesus, the firstborn Son of our King, the firstborn of Creation, and the firstborn from the dead, had to die to set us free from the bondage of sin.

Now that Christ has set us free, we remember his sacrifice through the Lord’s Supper and celebrate our freedom from sin through baptism. The crossing of the Red Sea hints at baptism.

Exodus 14
The “Baptismal Waters” of the Red Sea (Romans 6:4)

God set the Israelites free from the bondage to Egypt and brought them out of Egypt into a new place. With their bondage and slave masters behind them, God brought them to the water and they passed through it. The old slave masters tried to follow them to recapture them, but God washed them away to their death. The Israelites started a brand new life on the other side of the water. It was a testimony of God’s glory to the Egyptians (14:4) and to the Israelites themselves that God is the Lord.

Christ passed through the waters of death- defeating the enemy and breaking his chains that keep us captive- and rose up out of those waters to life on the other side. So, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

Our baptism is a testimony of God’s glory to Satan- that he is defeated, to ourselves- that we have passed from death unto life, and to others- that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Additional Resource:
What Does It Mean to Be a Slave to Sin? by