Each week we will study a particular Bible character and Bible story that highlight a biblical principle relating to our walk with God. This section focuses on observation, the foundation of inductive Bible study. These observation questions are designed to encourage you to notice the details in the story. Ideally, you will enter the story, step into the biblical world, and identify with the people you are reading about.
Occasionally, I will ask other types of questions to stimulate your curiosity. I am not as concerned with your exact answer as I am with your thinking through an issue. Because of the length of the study, I am leaving out some interesting interpretive issues that do not directly relate to the topic of walking with God. I encourage you to delve further into any questions that are raised in your mind by your study of these passages. I would be thrilled to know that you went to the church library or a Christian bookstore to learn more about a particular subject!
The second section in each lesson focuses on interpretation, the second step in inductive Bible study. I have chosen a principle in each story for our focus on walking with God. Since we are dealing with narratives, special guidelines apply. First, repetition is the most reliable guide to the interpretation of a story. What is repeated in the story is what we need to know in order to understand it.1 Second, we look to see if that principle is taught in other passages of Scripture. Not everything in a story applies to us today. Any interpretation must be in agreement with the rest of the Bible.2 Interpretation is the bridge between the biblical world and our present-day contexts or situations.3.
These sections focus on application, the third step in inductive Bible study. The goal of studying Scripture is not knowledge but a transformed life. That transformed life occurs as we apply the biblical principles we have studied. In the parenting section, I will give an example or I may ask you to share ideas with the other members of your Bible study or small group. Most of the ideas I am giving you came out of a Bible study or small group in which moms shared parenting philosophy and parenting tips. Take an idea, change it a little, and make it work for you!
I began this study wondering what the individual biblical characters believed about God and how this belief impacted each one’s life. So as I studied, I looked for what the story said about God. How did God reveal Himself? What did the characters say about God? What did the narrator tell me that God did? This section highlights what I found.
Several years ago, I looked at how God had changed my life and what He had used to make me more like Him. I realized that learning about, dwelling on, and reminding myself of the sovereignty of God had made me less fearful. As I went against my emotions and gut feelings and was obedient to Him in spite of my fears, my faith was strengthened.
As you look at the names and descriptions of God from these stories, allow them to penetrate your heart. Hold God’s hand as you walk up a steep slope or cross a ravine. Cling to Him with every fiber of your being. Remind yourself of who He is!
Thus says the LORD,
"Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths,
Where the good way is, and walk in it;
And you will find rest for your souls.”
Jeremiah 6:16a (NASB)
1 Leland Ryken, How to Read the Bible as Literature. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), 59.
2 Roy B. Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation. (Colorado Springs: Victor, 1991), 284-5.
3 Ryken, How to Read the Bible as Literature, 288.
The story of Noah and the Flood is a well-known Bible story. Children’s nurseries are decorated with a Noah’s ark theme. Artists craft wooden arks with pairs of animals and Noah standing on the deck. Paintings and pieces of jewelry also depict this biblical narrative. Since this story is so familiar, a visual image probably comes to mind when Noah is mentioned.
As we look at the story in more detail, refine that image and at the same time try to put yourself in the story. Narratives are meant to be experienced, not merely studied. Imagine the sounds of building and the smell of freshly cut wood as Noah built what God had designed. Try to imagine what it would be like to be married to Noah. Would your faith be as strong as his was?
1. Why was the Lord grieved as He considers the condition of the people on the earth? (v.5-6) What did He determine to do? (v.7)
2. The word “but” in v.8 introduces a contrast. Against the backdrop of the wickedness of the world, how is Noah described? (v.9)
3. What words does the author use to describe the earth in v.11-12? Notice that one word is used repeatedly. What is it?
4. What did God tell Noah to do? How specific were His building plans? (v.13-16) How large was the ark?
5. Why did God bring the Flood upon the earth? (v.17)
6. Notice in v.18 the word “but” which introduces another contrast. Although God was going to destroy the earth and its inhabitants, what did He promise Noah and his family? (v.18)
7. What would Noah take on the ark according to v.19-21? How did Noah respond to God’s instructions? (v.22)
8. How would you describe the world we live in today? Could you use any of the same descriptions that are used in this passage?
9. Could that description of the world today be followed by the contrast made in verse 8? In other words, could someone describe the world situation today and then follow it with the words “but (fill in your name here)?” Are you an exception to the rule of what the world thinks about, values, and pursues? Are you willing to be different or do you just want to fit in with the rest of the world?
Fearing people is a dangerous trap,
but to trust the Lord means safety.
Proverbs 29:25 NLT
1. Write a summary of the Flood narrative for a newspaper article a few years after the Flood. Write a creative headline and then report the story as it might appear on the front page of the Biblical Times.
2. Write out the story of the Flood as you would tell it to your child or grandchild who is a pre-schooler. Begin your story with “A long, long time ago“ or “In the days of the Bible” as opposed to “Once upon a time.” This will help a young child distinguish it from a fairy tale or from a story that is merely a story and not a historical fact. In your summary, you might want to include answers to questions like these.
How old was Noah when the Flood occurred?
How many people survived the Flood?
Who closed the door when the Flood was about to begin?
Was the Flood caused only by rain?
How long did it flood?
What animals helped Noah know when it was time to leave the ark?
What was the first thing Noah did after he left the ark?
Noah was a righteous person who followed God and obeyed Him in a world where everyone else was being disobedient. Noah was able to stand for righteousness in a wicked, corrupt culture.
1. Try to put yourself in Noah’s place (or in Mrs. Noah’s place). How do you think you would feel being married to someone who was building a boat the size of a small two or three story building? Would you be thrilled to know that your husband stood for righteousness and obedience or would you wish he were “normal”?
2. Is Noah’s example one we can follow? Look up the following verses and observe what Scripture says about being different, being obedient, and not blending in with the world system. Write out a command or principle you discover in each verse.
What can we, as women in the 21st century, learn from the example of Noah and his family? As I reflected on Noah’s example of obedience, I thought about the things God has told me to do. To walk with God I need to obey Him. I need to be “light” in a dark world. I need to submit to my husband. I need to rear my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Although God has not asked me to build an ark, He has asked me to do something that is very challenging. He has asked me to be faithful day by day in being a godly wife. He has asked me to persevere and to trust Him as a godly mother. How many times have I wanted a place to escape to in order to take a break from the responsibilities of being a wife and mother! Being obedient and faithful is a daily commitment. Although the greatest joys in my life have been derived from these two roles, some days I was just hanging in there without much joy.
I remember when our sons were young—three years old and a baby. The youngest son had ear infections—two by the time he was a month old and many more to follow. When his ears hurt, he cried. He didn’t sleep. I didn’t sleep. Are you getting the picture? One day my husband came home at lunch time and I was still in my robe. I hadn’t put on any makeup and I was pretty discouraged. My three-year-old son informed my husband that I was going to the “funny farm” because I had told him that in my great frustration. I remember telling the Lord one day that if He would tell me how long this would last that I could make it. I just needed a timetable. Two weeks. Two months. Six months. (I didn’t go into years in my discussion). Almost as soon as that thought was expressed, I sensed the Holy Spirit reminding me that there was no timetable. I could not check days off the calendar and know that there was an end in sight. I would have to trust God. I would have to faithfully obey Him even when I didn’t feel like it and even when I was extremely tired.
To walk with God, we must obey Him.
Otherwise, we depart from His path for our lives.
Just as Noah was obedient to God in a wicked world, we are called to be obedient in the world in which we live. Not only do we as women want to stay on the right path, we also want our children to be obedient. A pressing concern for moms is that their children are being negatively influenced by peer pressure. Although we want our children to stand up to peer pressure, we often face the same temptation of wanting to fit in, to be like everyone else. Are you willing to be God’s person even if it means you will differ from the world? What if doing right means you don’t fit in very well, even with other Christians? Let’s look at the book of Proverbs to see what it has to say about peer pressure.
1. Read Proverbs 1:10-19.
A. What specific negative commands (“do not”) does the father give?
B. Do you think it would be beneficial to help your children “pre-think” possible situations where they might be pressured to go against what they have been taught?
C. Notice that the father even gives a dialogue that might take place when someone might try to pressure his son into doing wrong.
2. Look up the following verses to see some kinds of people both we and our children should avoid as companions.
We saw in Proverbs some specific things we can do to help both us and our children remain obedient to God. Another key to being obedient is found in knowing the character of the One who has called us to be obedient. Although Noah does not make a verbal declaration about what he believes about the LORD, the narrator tells us something about God’s character – something which Noah would experience and something we can experience as we are obedient to God.
In Genesis 8:1, we read that although the water had prevailed for 150 days, “God remembered Noah…” As you look around and as you observe the world we live in, do you need to be reminded that God has not forgotten His promises? Not only has God not forgotten His promises, but He also has not forgotten His children. God not only remembered Noah, He also remembers you. Regardless of how desperate the situation seems, God remembers His children. Knowing that He is the God who remembers can encourage you to be obedient to Him, especially when it is difficult.
Recall that God did not deliver Noah from the Flood but through the Flood. Have you asked God to deliver you out of a situation? I certainly have. Perhaps God wants to bring you through the trial rather than deliver you out of the trial. Knowing God and knowing who He is brings great encouragement in difficult times. Kidner states that “when the Old Testament says God remembered, it combines the ideas of faithful love and timely intervention.”4
4 Derek Kidner. Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary. (Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1967), 92.
God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees (modern day Iraq) to go to a land that He would show him. Abraham had obeyed and had walked with God for many years. He believed God and the promise that God gave him concerning a son. God declared Abraham righteous based on that belief. Yet he and Sarah had taken matters into their own hands and tried to “help” God by producing a son through their servant Hagar. But God provided Isaac, the son He promised to Abraham and Sarah. The story we want to look at this week is the test of Abraham’s faith when God called him to sacrifice Isaac, the son through whom God would honor His promises to Abraham.
1. What was God’s command to Abraham? (v.2) How did Abraham respond? (v.3)
2. What did Abraham tell the young men when he could see his destination? (v.5) Copy his exact words.
3. What things did Abraham and Isaac take with them as they walked on together? (v.6) What was missing if they were to make a sacrifice to the Lord? (v.7)
4. How did Abraham respond to Isaac’s question? What did Abraham believe about God? How did this statement reveal Abraham’s faith? (v.8)
5. List the steps Abraham took in v.9-10 as he prepared to offer Isaac as a sacrifice.
6. What stopped Abraham from offering Isaac? (v.11-12) What did he offer instead? (v.13)
7. What did Abraham name the place where God provided the ram for the sacrifice? (v.14)
8. In v.15 the angel of the Lord called to Abraham. What promises does he make to Abraham in v.16-18?
9. In Hebrews 11:17-19, the author tells us why Abraham was able to obey God in this most difficult test of his faith. What did Abraham believe about God that allowed Him to reconcile God’s promises to him through Isaac and God’s asking him to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice?
10. God asked Abraham to give up his son Isaac. Because Abraham believed God and because he trusted God, he responded in faith. Has God asked you to give up someone or something? When we hold on to something or someone that we need to release, we may miss the opportunity to see God at work. Are you willing to trust God in the difficult relationship or circumstance that you are facing?
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God
must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
Hebrews 11:8 NASB
Abraham is an example of biblical faith. He began his journey with God by leaving his home and going out to a place unknown to him. Abraham was not perfect. He failed to trust God at several key times in his life. However, in Genesis 15, we learn that Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. The sacrificing of Isaac did not make Abraham righteous. His obedience merely proved the biblical faith he already had.
In the same way, we begin a walk with God by faith. We must trust in the completed work of Christ for us on the cross and not rely on our own good works to make us acceptable to God. To walk with God, we must first begin a relationship with Him by faith. Look up the following verses to see what the New Testament has to say about how we begin that relationship.
1. Read the following verses and record what they say about how we are saved and about what things do not save us.
I trusted Christ for salvation as a seven-year-old child. I knew that Christ died for my sins and I wanted to go to heaven when I died. I understood that I was a sinner and that I could not be good enough to earn God’s approval. I believed that Christ died on the cross for me and I believed that He rose from the dead. With simple childlike faith, I placed my trust in Jesus and became His child. I started my walk with God by faith.
Although I trusted Christ for my eternity with Him, it was much more difficult to trust Him with everyday problems. I was very active in church and I tried to please God by reading my Bible, praying, and doing what was right. However, I developed the thinking that “God helps those who help themselves” and I did not bother God with things that I thought I could handle on my own. After all, He was extremely busy, and I thought I should handle anything I could. Apparently, I overlooked John 15 which teaches that without Him, I could do nothing.
I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him,
he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
John 15:15 NASB
This concept was totally foreign to me. I felt I could do a lot of things. I also was not certain that I would be as happy with what God wanted for me as I would be with what I might want. (As I am writing this, I am hearing echoes from the Garden of Eden. Satan had deceived me, and I deceived myself.) A turning point in my life came when I understood and believed John 10:10, in which Jesus is speaking.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
John 10:10 NASB
I would never be happy or really satisfied apart from Jesus. His will for my life would be the best for me. I would be happier in the center of God’s will than anywhere else I could be. God gave me a new life when I was seven years old. He has spent the remaining time changing me and changing my desires. I began the Christian life by faith and faith also allows me to experience the blessings of the Christian life step by step, day by day.
We live in a stressed out, anxious world. Faith is the opposite of anxiety and worry. When we are anxious, our children know it. Even a very small child seems to sense when her mother is anxious.
Abraham‘s faith was an example to Isaac. When Isaac asked Abraham, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" Abraham said, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son" (Isa 22:7-8 NASB).
Note: This type of faith is not passive but active. Abraham was actively obeying God while He waited for God to provide.
1. What are we to do instead of being anxious? (v.1)
2. What are we to focus on? (v.8)
These verses in Philippians 4 are life verses for me because I am an anxious person by nature. However, I am encouraged to see the progress God is making in my life as I learn to trust Him. I am less anxious than I used to be and I have learned some strategies to prevent anxiety. Philippians 4:8 is a key to dealing with anxiety. What we think about makes a difference! This is also true for our children. Dwelling on things or events that do not meet the criteria of Philippians 4:8 will produce anxiety. We need to be aware of what is going on in the world, but our focus needs to be on things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, and praiseworthy.
1. What issues cause you anxiety? What things are keeping you from being a mother with “God will provide” type faith? Write a prayer confessing your anxiety, asking Him to help you trust Him and thanking Him for hearing you. (Philippians 4:8)
2. Your son, who is in the sixth grade, comes home from school with a major assignment that will require much time and attention. His topic is international terrorism. You realize that his spending that much time researching and presenting information about terrorism and the threat it poses will not meet the criteria of Philippians 4:8. What steps would you take to address the situation?
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute,
if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
Philippians 4:8 NASB
Abraham assured Isaac that the Lord would provide a sacrifice. Abraham obeyed and trusted God and both he and Isaac experienced the provision of God as a ram was caught in the thicket and became the sacrifice “in place of” Isaac. God has provided His only Son Jesus as a sacrifice for your sins. He is the LORD who will provide.
Another familiar Bible story involves Joseph, his brothers, and the coat of many colors. Recall that Jacob, Joseph’s father, was the son of Isaac and Rebekah and the twin brother of Esau. Jacob’s name was changed by God to Israel and his twelve sons became the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel. Their descendants were known as the children of Israel. Keep that brief background in mind as you read this story.
1. How old was Joseph when this story took place? (v.2) Why did Joseph’s brothers hate him? (v.3-4)
2. What was the first dream Joseph reported to his brothers? (v.6-8) How did his brothers respond?
3. What was Joseph’s second dream? (v.9-11) How did his father and brothers respond?
4. With what responsibility was Joseph charged in v.14? Before he ever arrived, what were his brothers plotting? (v.18-21)
5. What did Joseph’s brothers do when he arrived? (v.23-24) How did Judah’s reasoning change the plan? (v.26-28)
6. How did the brothers cover up what they had done? How did Jacob respond to seeing Joseph’s coat which had been dipped in blood? (v.29-35)
7. According to v.36, where did Joseph go?
8. Can you identify with the strife in Joseph’s family? Have you worked through the pain and anguish that broken family relationships can cause? Has God brought healing to your family or are you still struggling with difficult relationships?
Keep reading to see how Joseph dealt with his situation.
After Joseph was sold into slavery, he was falsely accused of attempted rape, put in prison, and forgotten by those in prison who promised to help him. In every situation, Joseph was a leader and God’s favor was on him. Eventually, he interpreted Pharaoh’s dream and went from prison to the palace of Egypt. He became a ruler in Egypt and used his leadership and administrative skills to save the people from famine. Years after they sold Joseph into slavery, his brothers traveled to Egypt to buy grain. Joseph did not reveal his identity to them immediately, but eventually the family was reunited in Egypt. Although Joseph had forgiven his brothers, they assumed that his attitude would change when their father Jacob died. We pick up the story just after the death of Jacob.
1. Who went with Joseph to bury Jacob? (v.7-10)
2. When everyone returned to Egypt, what concern did Joseph’s brothers have? (v.15)
3. What did Joseph do when his brothers approached him for forgiveness? (v.17) According to v.18, how did they think Joseph would treat them?
4. Recall the chain of events that was set in motion by the actions of Joseph’s brothers. Joseph was thrown in a pit, sold to traders, taken to Egypt, made a slave in Potiphar’s house, falsely accused and convicted of attempted rape, and put in prison. In spite of all these injustices, Joseph forgave his brothers. If you were in Joseph’s place, do you think you could have forgiven your brothers for all they did and for all they caused you to go through?
5. How did Joseph explain his forgiveness for what his brothers had done? (v.19-20) How did his theology affect his relationships?
The principle in Genesis 50:20 is extremely important. Joseph recognized God’s sovereignty in his life and he saw that God had taken what his brothers meant for evil and used it for good. This same idea is expressed in the New Testament in Romans 8:28. Copy it here.
Sometimes we fail to recognize that God is in control. He will take the circumstances of our lives and work them together for good because we love Him and we are called according to His purpose. Does this make what Joseph’s brothers did acceptable or right? Does this make Potiphar’s wife’s false accusation right? Does this make Joseph’s prison experience easy? Absolutely not!
What this story tells us is that no person, no place, no thing, no event can override God’s purpose for our lives. When we trust God, He will take all the people and events and places of our lives and work them together for good. From the pit and from the prison, who could have imagined that Joseph would end up in such a high position in Egypt?
Perhaps nothing is more hurtful than strained or broken relationships within a family. The Bible tells us that “as far as it depends on us” we are to be at peace with all people. The problem is that sometimes, despite our best efforts, other people do not have the same desire to have a good relationship that we do. At some point, we have to recognize our inability to “fix” everything and everyone and pray for God’s grace. Joseph was separated from his entire family and could not reconcile the relationship with his brothers in person. However, we do know that he forgave them.
Joseph not only had issues in his family, but also issues with the negative circumstances that resulted from his brothers’ sin. We might expect him to be resentful when their sin caused him to suffer. All of us have experienced negative consequences because of someone else’s sin. How do we deal with the things in our lives that are just not “fair”?
I have seen God direct friends through circumstances that were not (from my perspective) fair. When they were told “no” to a job or to an opportunity, these women looked for God’s direction. God had a bigger and better plan than these women could have ever imagined. They would have settled for something less had God not closed the door to the opportunity they were initially seeking. I have experienced this myself and although I was very disappointed when an opportunity did not open up, I did not leave God out of the decision. I knew He could change the hearts and minds of those making the decision. I can now see God’s wisdom in saying “no” to one direction in order to be able to say “yes” to another.
"As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good
in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”
Joseph exemplified the biblical principle of forgiveness. We have already seen that what Joseph knew about God and His providence allowed him to forgive his brothers. Jesus spoke to this same issue when He answers Peter’s question about forgiving someone who repeatedly offends you in Matthew 18. Let’s read what the Lord has to say about forgiveness in the parable of the unforgiving servant.
1. What was the situation between the king and the first servant? How much did the servant owe the king? How did the king respond to the servant’s request? (v.23-28)
2. What was the situation between the first servant and his fellow servant? How much did the second servant owe? How did the first servant respond to his fellow servant’s request? (v.29-30)
Note: The contrast between the debt we owed God and the debt others owe us is represented by the 10,000 talents and the 100 denarii. The 10,000 talents, the amount that the servant owed the king, is several million dollars, a debt too large to be repaid. The 100 denarii, approximately 100 days’ wages, the amount that the servant owed his fellow servant, is a much smaller amount which could be paid back in a reasonable amount of time.5
3. What happened when the king found out how the first servant treated his fellow servant? (v.31-35)
4. Because we have been forgiven, what does God expect us to do? Ask the Lord to call specific people to mind as you think about forgiveness.
5. Look back at the parable and write down the verse or verses where you find the following principles.
a. God graciously forgives us rather than giving us more time to pay back our debt to Him. ____________
b. Believers are to show others mercy in the same way that God has been merciful to them. ____________
c. True forgiveness is a heart issue. ___________
d. The forgiveness we need to extend to others is very small in comparison with the forgiveness that God extends to us. ___________
Of course, it is easy to talk about forgiveness, but very difficult to practice forgiveness. Is there someone you need to forgive? Don’t wait for that person to ask for your forgiveness. Release him or her from the debt even before he or she asks for forgiveness. Forgiveness is not pretending something never happened. Forgiveness is not saying that what happened was good or right. Forgiveness is not a casual glossing over of an offense. Forgiveness is not deciding to let people run all over you. Forgiveness is a choice we make to release someone from a debt they owe us. Be honest about your feelings but then be obedient.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander
be put away from you, along with all malice.
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other,
just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
My husband and I attended a home Bible study when we were first married. One night the guest speaker was Dr. Howard Hendricks from Dallas Theological Seminary. He and his wife Jeanne shared and then answered questions. I remember that when someone asked him about sibling rivalry, Dr. Hendricks gave a classic response. “Disgustingly normal,” he said without hesitation. I have thought about those words many times because they apply to things other than just sibling rivalry. Sibling rivalry may be normal, but it certainly is disgusting.
One year on our vacation after a few days of being together night and day, our three children were not getting along with each other. My husband and I had all three of them sit down at a table with pencil and paper and write out three things that were positive about each of their siblings. We hoped that this exercise would shift their focus and remind them of some of the strengths of the other family members. I think this did calm things down a little, but what I remember most is one thing both boys independently wrote about their four year old sister. “Organized,” they both said about a pre-school child. I am not sure how much that encouraged her, but it gave us all a good laugh!
We want our children to get along with each other and we want them to forgive each other. Although we cannot prevent every disagreement among siblings, we can be wise in how we treat our children in order to minimize competition and confrontation. When conflicts arise, we want to teach them to forgive.
Joseph let us in on the secret to forgiving his brothers. We read his words in Genesis 50:20. He affirmed that in spite of his brothers’ evil intentions, “God meant it for good.” As we walk through difficult and unfair circumstances, we can know that God is sovereign and He will use even the things that hurt us most as He works all things together for good in our lives.
The greatest provision that God has made for us is in Jesus Christ. The day of the Crucifixion looked like the bleakest day in history. All hope seemed lost when Jesus died on the cross, but God had the final word when He raised Jesus from the dead. Will you thank God today for being the God who meant it for good? You can hold His hand as you walk through life’s darkest moments.
The same God who took Joseph from slavery and prison to a position of great power in Egypt is available to you. Call on Him today and ask Him for wisdom, for forgiveness, and for a fresh sense of His presence in the midst of your circumstances.
5 J. Dwight Pentecost, The Parables of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1982), 62.
What comes to mind when you think of Moses? I can remember sitting in Sunday School as a child and hearing the story of Moses’ being placed in the Nile River and being rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter. We sat in a semicircle of little chairs and the teacher had a picture which included not only Moses but also Moses’ sister, Miriam, with whom I identified. Maybe this is the story you remember or perhaps you picture Moses and the children of Israel at the crossing of the Red Sea with the walls of water on each side and with the Egyptians in pursuit. This week we’ll look at another well-known story about Moses—the one about Moses and the burning bush.
1. Where was Moses and what was he doing when the angel of the Lord appeared to him? (3:1-2)
2. Who called to Moses from the burning bush and how did He identify Himself? (3:4-6)
Because Israel has frequently been in the furnace of affliction throughout history, though not consumed, Jews have identified the burning bush as a symbol of their race. This symbol often appears on the walls of synagogues or in other prominent places not only in modern Israel but also in settlements of Jews around the world. The fire also probably symbolized the presence of God dwelling among His people (cf. Gen. 15:17; Exod. 19:18; 40:38). God was with His people in their affliction (cf. Deut. 31:6; Josh. 1:5; Dan. 3:25; Heb. 13:5). This was the first time God had revealed Himself to Moses, or anyone else as far as Scripture records, for over 430 years (v.4).6
3. What did God tell Moses He had come down to do for His people? (3:8) Through whom was God going to bring His people out of Egypt? (3:10)
4. The exchange between the Lord and Moses consists of a series of questions and responses. Look up the questions Moses asked (and his excuses) and the responses God gave him. Use the chart below to record what you find.
Who am I?
Who are You?
5. Which of the questions did God not answer directly? Why?
6. In Exodus 3:16-22, God gave Moses His plan. What response would the following groups have to Moses’ message?
7. Can you identify with Moses and with his feelings of inadequacy? What are some areas in which God might want to use you, but in which you are holding back, perhaps out of fear?
8. Read Jeremiah 1:4-9. How did Jeremiah feel when God called him to be a prophet? What were his hesitations? How did God answer him?
God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM"; and He said,
"Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, `I AM has sent me to you.' "
In Exodus 3, we read how God announced his name to Moses as “I AM WHO I AM” (v.14) - a phrase of which “Yahweh” (Jehovah, “the LORD”) is a shortened form (v.15). This name is not a description of God, but simply a declaration of his self-existence and his eternal changelessness, a reminder to mankind that he has life in himself, and that what he is now, he is eternally.7
After looking at Moses’ reluctance, it’s hard to believe that this is the same man who stood before Pharaoh and who led the children of Israel as they crossed the Red Sea. Perhaps you are reluctant to follow God. What do the following verses, written to those seeking to trust God, tell you that might help you and encourage you to be God-confident?
Are you surprised to learn that some of the great leaders in Scripture struggled with the same feelings of inadequacy that you do? I am certainly encouraged to know that I am not alone in believing I can’t do something. What is the real problem with this kind of thinking? I am looking at myself and comparing myself to the task to which God has called me. No wonder I feel inadequate. I am inadequate. Yet God does not call me to do anything for Him out of my own resources. He calls me to be faithful and to allow Him to work through me. Yes, this involves stepping out in faith. Yes, this is scary. Yes, I don’t always know the entire plan or the outcome. But He is always faithful.
For several years, the winter student retreat at our church was called “It’s Not All about Me.” As parents, we all loved that title. What a great message to emphasize with students in junior high and high school! But we moms need to hear that message as well. It’s not all about us. It’s about Him. It’s about His will, His plan, His enabling, and His faithfulness. The reason we cannot see clearly is because our focus is on ourselves and not on Him.
God gave Moses what he needed to be the leader and the deliverer of the children of Israel. As believers, we have been given what we need to accomplish the task God has assigned us to. Let’s look together at Ephesians 1 to see what we have been given “in Christ.”
1. Read Ephesians 1 and notice the blessings you have been given because you are in Christ. (Look for the words like “in Christ”, “in Him”, and “through Jesus Christ,” Record at least 5 blessings and the verse from which you found each blessing.. Be sure to thank the Lord for what He has given you!
v.3 every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places
v.4 chosen, holy, and blameless
How can I teach my children to be God-confident? Certainly the first way we teach anything to our children is by example. As we moms learn to allow God to work through us instead of allowing feelings of inadequacy to hold us back, our children will watch us step out in faith. The second way we can teach our children to be God-confident is to teach them from their earliest days that God created them and He has designed them uniquely. He knew them and the plans He had for them before they were ever born. Our children are special because they are created in God’s image.
We taught the idea of being created by God to our children when they were very young. We wanted to make sure they knew the truth first. Later when someone told them they just happened or that they evolved by chance, that person would be contradicting the truth they already knew and believed. In other words, we wanted them to know the truth first so they could recognize a lie.
1. Psalm 139:13-18 tells us that God designed us before we were born. Read these verses and write 2 or 3 sentences that summarize them in language you could use with a small child to explain how God created him or her.
2. Look again at the call of Moses and the call of Jeremiah. How does God remind each of them of His design?
Moses had asked, "Who am I?" implying his complete inadequacy for his calling. God replied, "I am who I am!" (Exodus 3:14) implying His complete adequacy. The issue was not who Moses was but who God is. I believe God meant, I am the God of your forefathers who proved myself long ago as completely adequate for all their needs, so it really doesn't matter who you are, Moses. Moses would learn the complete adequacy of God himself in the events that followed. Later, Pharaoh would say, "Who is the LORD?" (5:2), and God's response was, "I am the LORD!" (6:2, 6, 8). Pharaoh, too, then learned God's complete adequacy. The real issue, then, was, and is, who God is.8
Do you know the I AM, the God who is adequate? Have you experienced His sufficiency? If you are feeling inadequate for the task He has called you to, cry out to Him and step out in God-confidence because you know and rely on the great I AM.
7 J.I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1973), 78.
8 Constable, “Notes on Exodus”.
The book of Ruth is a beautiful story about Ruth and Naomi and Ruth and Boaz. Our focus will be on Ruth’s loyal love which goes far beyond the superficial contexts in which we sometimes use the word “love”. The Hebrew word hesed is the word which has been translated most often as “loyal love” in the NET Bible. In this lesson we will look at walking in hesed or loyal love, a love that speaks of faithfulness, commitment, and devotion. We will look at loyal love in the life of Ruth and at how to show loyal love in our own lives. Of course, the ultimate example of loyal love is the LORD Himself and we will discover some of what the Bible says about His loyal love.
1. In what country and at what time does the book of Ruth begin? What caused Elimilech and his family to leave their home in Bethlehem? (v.1)
2. What family members did Naomi lose in death while she was away from her own country and people? (v.2-5)
3. What did Naomi hear that caused her to decide to return to Judah? (v.6-7)
4. What advice did she give her daughters-in-law? (v.8) What reasoning did she give them in order to persuade them to return to Moab? (v.10-13).
5. What was Orpah returning to when she decided not to go with Naomi? (v.15) Ruth’s profession of faith in the Lord is seen in verses 16-17. What was Ruth giving up to follow Naomi? What did her decision say about her commitment to Naomi and to the Lord?
6. Ruth was a Moabitess who was going to Bethlehem for the first time. Why do you think the Bible describes her as “returning” to Bethlehem? (v.22)
7. Make a list of everything you learn about Ruth from chapter one. Which of these things would be possible barriers to her being accepted in Bethlehem?
8. Can you identify with Naomi and Ruth? Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem because they felt it was the right thing to do, but it was still very difficult. Have you ever had to make a difficult change or move because of circumstances beyond your control? After you made that difficult decision, were you able to see the Lord’s hand in it?
1. It has been said that coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous. Isn’t it interesting that Ruth just “happened” to come to glean in the field of one of her husband’s relatives? Do you see God’s hand in circumstances in your life? Can you think of a specific event or circumstance that might seem like a coincidence, but you know God was involved?
2. How did Ruth describe herself to Boaz? (v.10) How did Boaz describe Ruth? (v.11)
3. What word picture did Boaz use as he blessed Ruth in verse 12? (Note: In the NET Bible, the word picture is found in the footnote.)
Approximately 3 months later.
1. What plan did Naomi suggest to Ruth in order for her to let Boaz know that she was interested in marrying him?
2. In verse 9, Ruth appealed to Boaz as a close relative to “spread his covering over her.” Based on Boaz’s response in the following verses, do you think Boaz understood that she wanted to marry him? The word translated “covering” or “skirt” in this verse is the same word translated “wings” in 2:12.
4. What was Ruth’s reputation in Bethlehem? (v.11)
5. What obstacle kept Boaz from being able to commit to Ruth immediately? (v.12)
1. Boaz went to the gate of the city and talked to the close relative and to the elders of the city. What subject did he bring up first in his discussion of Naomi? (v.3-4)
2. After the close relative agreed to redeem the property that had belonged to Naomi’s husband, what other information did Boaz give him? (v.5) After receiving this added information, what did the close relative decide?
3. After this transaction, what had Boaz acquired according to verses 9 and 10?
4. How did God bless the marriage of Boaz and Ruth? (v.13) Who named this blessing? (v.17)
5. What famous person in Israel’s history is mentioned in the genealogy in v.18-22? What other genealogy lists Ruth and Boaz? (see Matthew 1:1-5) What does this tell you about God and about the people He chooses?
Think back through the book of Ruth and look at Ruth’s words, her actions, and others’ words about her. What evidence do you see that Ruth expressed loyal love?
Ruth chose to follow the LORD and to accompany Naomi back to Bethlehem. Naomi gave Ruth the reasons she should stay in Moab. Naomi knew the obstacles Ruth would face as an outsider in Bethlehem. The only things in Ruth’s favor were her loyal love to Naomi and her commitment to the God of Israel. Ruth is an example of loyal love not only in her decision to leave her family and her country to go with Naomi to Bethlehem but throughout the book as she lives out her promise to stay with Naomi and to make Naomi’s God her God.
In the book of Ruth, we have a snapshot of loyal love and what it looks like in the life of one Moabite woman who came to trust in the LORD. The ultimate picture of loyal love is the LORD Himself, the faithful, covenant keeping God of Israel. We can learn about the LORD’s loyal love by looking at other passages in which it is described. Many of the references to loyal love in the Old Testament are found in the book of Psalms so we will begin there.
1. Notice the repeated phrase concerning the LORD’s loyal love or lovingkindness in each verse. Copy it here. What does this statement reveal about the loyal love of the LORD?
2. List several ways the LORD showed his loyal love according to Psalm 136.
3. What response to this loyal love does the psalmist encourage? (v.1-3, 26)
The psalms not only encourage praise and thanks to the LORD for His loyal love, but they reveal the prayers and appeals that were made to Him based on His loyal love. Read the following verses and note the request made in each based on the LORD’s loyal love.
As I looked at passages that contain the word hesed, I was surprised to find some very familiar verses. I have marked which word in English has been translated from the Hebrew word hesed.
Surely your goodness and faithfulness (hesed) will pursue me all my days,
And I will live in the LORD’s house for the rest of my life. (Ps 23:6 NET)
The Lord’s loyal kindness (hesed) never ceases;
his compassions never end.
They are fresh every morning;
your faithfulness is abundant!
“My portion is the Lord,” I have said to myself,
so I will put my hope in him. (Lam 3:22-24 NET)
“If people want to boast, they should boast about this: They should boast that they understand and know me. They should boast that they know and understand that I, the LORD, act out of faithfulness (hesed), fairness, and justice in the earth and that I desire people to do these things,” says the LORD. (Jer 9:24 NET)
LORD, we praise you today for your steadfast, loyal love that pursues us throughout life. Your loyal kindness never ceases, your faithfulness is abundant, and your compassions are new every morning. We praise you that you act out of faithfulness, fairness, and justice in the earth. Help us to do these things, also, as you desire.
We have looked at Ruth’s loyal love and we have seen the loyal love of the LORD. In order to see how this applies to us as believers, we will look in the book of Proverbs which gives many exhortations to wise living.
Look up the following verses and write down what each says about loyal love. If you have difficulty deciding what the verse means or which word in the verse is the same as loyal love, go to nextbible.org. Type Proverbs in the “Display Bible” box and go to the appropriate chapter and verse. Then click on the verse number of the verse you want to know more about. Various translations will be given and you can look to see which word is hesed  in Hebrew.
Proverbs 16:6 (see NET Bible footnote)
Are you convicted, as I am, about your need to live out loyal love? Do you need wisdom to know what loyal love looks like in the difficult situations and strained relationships you face? Ask the Lord to show you how to walk in loyal love. Write your request here.
Can you imagine how different our world would be if we understood and applied the biblical concept of loyal love? Ruth’s words to Naomi in Ruth 1:16-17 are read at many wedding ceremonies as the pastor encourages the young couple not to ever leave or forsake each other but to remain true to their promise and commitment until death separates them. Steadfast, loyal love is the foundation of a biblical marriage and home. Children who are secure in the knowledge that their parents love each other and will remain faithful to their commitment are free to be children and not to spend their time worrying about what might happen to their home and to their parents’ marriage. Children who experience loyal love from their parents have a security and freedom that most people cannot identify with.
If you grew up in a home without loyal love, you know that the divisions in such a home and the insecurity you felt leave lifetime scars. Years later, negative and hurtful words that were said keep ringing in your ears. Broken promises may have left you wounded and unable to trust. Regardless of what your home was like when you were growing up, you can be the first in your family to demonstrate loyal love. You can express loyal love to your husband and to your children. You can assure them that nothing they do will cause you to abandon them or to forsake your commitment to them.
Our source for living out this kind of love is the Lord Himself. As His children, we have the Holy Spirit and we do not have to depend on our own human resources to show love to others.
When Ruth made the choice to return to Bethlehem with Naomi she sought protection from the God of Israel in whom she had placed her trust. Boaz recognized this and blessed Ruth by saying, "May the LORD reward your work, and your wages be full from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge" (Ruth 2:12 NASB). I have been meditating on this word picture in which God’s care of his children is compared to that of a bird taking care of her baby birds. What warmth, what security, what protection is afforded us under the wings of the LORD! The Psalmist uses this same picture as he describes how precious the lovingkindness (hesed) of God is and how the “children of men take refuge in the shadow of [His] wings” (Ps 36:7 NASB). In Psalm 17, we read “Keep me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings” (Ps 17:8 NASB).
The emperor penguins living in the Antarctic endure incredibly cold temperatures and biting winds in order to survive. It is interesting to learn how these penguins protect their young. Although they do not use their wings to shelter the baby penguins, they do hide the egg and then the young penguin underneath what looks like a skirt of feathers. As long as the chick remains under the feathers, he is protected from the below freezing temperatures, the snow, and the wind. On his own, he cannot survive in the inhospitable environment for even a short time. Both Boaz and the Psalmist were using a similar picture as they described God’s lovingkindness and protective care of His children.
Like Ruth, you can take refuge under God’s wings. You can feel His warmth, sense His security, and know that He is holding you very close to His side.
We live in a world that is invested in education, intellect, position, celebrity, money, and power. People place importance on where someone went to school or what job title she holds. We talk about someone being brilliant in a particular field or famous for her accomplishments.
The Bible does not downplay hard work and excellent training, but it places more emphasis and importance on godly wisdom. Without wisdom, even the most educated and intelligent people make poor choices. Without a biblical worldview and a biblical view of humanity, seemingly smart people come up with solutions that will not work. God’s word gives us wisdom to navigate the difficult situations in life. This week we will look at an incident from the life of a wise woman named Abigail.
1. How are Nabal and his wife Abigail described in v.2?
2. According to v.3, what was David tell his servants to request of Nabal? What had David and his men done for Nabal’s shepherds? (v.5, 15-16)
3. How did Nabal respond when the servants followed David’s directions? (v.10-11) What was David’s response when he heard from his servants how Nabal had responded to his request? (v.13)
4. To whom did the servants appeal after Nabal refused David’s request? Did they feel that Nabal’s response was appropriate in light of the protection David and his men offered them? Why didn’t they appeal to Nabal? (v.14-17)
5. What did Abigail do when she realized that her entire household was in danger? (v.18-19) [If you are amazed like I am that anyone could prepare that much food so quickly, remember that they were getting ready to have a feast to celebrate the shearing of the sheep.]
6. What was David planning to do to Nabal’s household before his encounter with Abigail? (v.21)
7. How do Abigail’s actions and words demonstrate her humility before David?(v.23-25)
8. Read Abigail’s appeal to David in v. 26-31. What did Abigail remind David about the LORD? Be specific as you look at these verses.
9. What happened to Nabal after he found out what had transpired? (v.36-38) What did David do after he heard about Nabal’s death? How did Abigail respond to David’s invitation? (v.39-42)
10. Review Abigail’s actions, her words, others’ words about her, and the narrator’s description of her. What evidence do you see that Abigail was a wise woman?
11. Are there relationships and situations in your life right now that are difficult? Are you dealing with people who are foolish or angry? Do you need to make an appeal to someone in authority? What did you learn from Abigail’s example that you could apply to your specific circumstance?
Abigail displayed wisdom as she dealt both with her foolish husband Nabal and with David who was very angry and ready to take revenge. Dealing with difficult people is a great challenge. Abigail shows us the value of learning and applying God’s wisdom in relationships and in making an appeal.
Too often, we value human wisdom rather than God’s wisdom when navigating tough situations. Our first instinct in problem solving may be to call a friend for advice, look on the internet, or find an expert. While these are valid methods for acquiring information, we need to recognize that the Lord is the source of true wisdom. We can research and gain information but then we need to filter everything through the truth of Scripture. God’s wisdom is relevant and practical. His word will provide guidance when we are facing a serious problem.
1. How is the wisdom from above described in verse 17?
2. How is the wisdom which is not from above described in verse 15?
3. Are you surprised that James describes the wisdom which is not from above as natural? Why or why not?
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD.
"For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.” —Isaiah 55:8-9
Read Proverbs 2:1-9 (NASB) below and circle the word God, any synonyms for God, and any pronouns that refer to God. Also, underline the verbs in verses 1-5.
1. My son, if you will receive my words
And treasure my commandments within you,
2. Make your ear attentive to wisdom,
Incline your heart to understanding;
3. For if you cry for discernment,
Lift your voice for understanding;
4. If you seek her as silver
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
5. Then you will discern the fear of the LORD
And discover the knowledge of God.
6. For the LORD gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
7. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
8. Guarding the paths of justice,
And He preserves the way of His godly ones.
9. Then you will discern righteousness and justice
And equity and every good course.
1. Who is the source of wisdom?
2. How much effort is required to get wisdom? (v.1-5)
3. What is the result of knowing and applying God’s wisdom? (v.9)
4. According to this passage, is it possible to be extremely intelligent, highly educated, but not wise? Explain your reasoning, using Proverbs 2 to support your argument.
When I became a parent, I wanted to do all the right things. I purchased books written by experts on parenting. I had a plan. I would follow all the advice and we would all live “happily ever after.” Immediately I discovered that the experts did not agree on how to parent. The world’s best advice for parenting was inconsistent and confusing. I was very surprised, but I shouldn’t have been!
Having been a teacher and having gone to seminars on classroom learning environments and discipline, I had already been exposed to the world’s view of humanity. I spent all day in a seminar one time where the lecturer recommended setting up multiple stations in a large classroom with different subjects and learning activities. We were to let the students choose what they wanted to do and when they wanted to do it. (This was a seminar for secondary teachers not pre-school or early elementary). “What if the student stays at the station he enjoys and never goes to the subject he dislikes?” we questioned. Apparently, that had not been a problem or not much of one for this expert. Of course, she had never disciplined her child either. She just gave options or choices and let him decide. I realized later that her entire system and philosophy were based on the belief that people (children in particular) are basically good. Given a good environment and creative learning activities, children would choose what is right. Her view of humanity was not a biblical one. Even though her teaching style and learning activities were creative and hands on, she built her plan on a false premise.
The Bible teaches that we are born with a natural inclination to sin. Our job as parents is to love our children, discipline them, and teach them the truth. As we saw in James, the wisdom that is “natural, earthly, demonic” is not the wisdom from above. As you evaluate any parenting advice, be sure to take that advice back to the Word of God, and test it to see if it is wise, biblical counsel. As moms, we want to walk in God’s wisdom, not in the world’s wisdom.
The book of Proverbs is a wonderful place to look for practical and biblical wisdom. It speaks to almost any issue we could encounter. When I have had a really difficult problem, one for which there seems to be no solution, I have read through the entire book of Proverbs and copied down every verse that pertained to my dilemma. God speaks through His Word to give me direction and wisdom.
Abigail gives us insight into her theology in the appeal she made to David. She told David that it was the LORD who kept him from shedding blood and taking matters into his own hand (1 Sam 25:26). She reassured David that the LORD would establish David’s house (I Sam 25:28). She used a beautiful word picture to remind David that his life was held securely by the LORD (1 Sam 25:29). And she reminded him that the LORD would do everything that he had promised David and that He would make David a leader over Israel (1 Sam 25:29).
In her haste to gather food and make the preparations to meet David, Abigail did not have time to brush up on her theology or on her relationship with the LORD. Her appeal flowed out of her strong belief in God’s sovereignty and His faithfulness. David did not have to take matters into his own hands because it was the LORD who would establish his house, protect his life, and do everything He had promised David. The LORD would make David a leader over Israel.
How many times have I taken matters into my own hands when I should have trusted the LORD to work things out? How many times have I turned a situation over to Him only to take it back when He did not “fix” it on my timetable? Abigail took action but she knew the outcome was in the LORD’s hands.
The LORD has not changed. He is still the one who will do everything He has promised us. He is in control, He is establishing us, and He is protecting us. Just as the LORD fulfilled His promise to make David a leader over Israel, He will fulfill His promises to us as believers.
Many live in depression, discouragement, and defeat because of unconfessed sin. The consequences of wrong choices reverberate in their lives and burden them like an unrelenting taskmaster. Even if they know God’s willingness to forgive, many women reason that He could never use them in service.
However, biblical characters emerge from the pages of Scripture not only with their successes but also with their failures. We are surprised to see that God uses such imperfect people. He takes people who have committed great sins and restores them. Be encouraged as you read about the repentance and restoration of one of the greatest heroes in the Bible, King David, the “man after God’s own heart.”
The author begins by giving the setting of the story as “in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle.” The contrast introduced by the word “but” tells us that David (the king) was not out at the battle but was at Jerusalem.
1. In verses 2-4, there is a progression. Write down the verbs in each verse that tell actions that David took. I’ll start you out with verse 2.
v. 2 David arose, walked, and saw
2. What was the immediate result of David’s sin with Bathsheba? (v.5)
3. Why did David send for Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, who was at war? What did David hope Uriah would do? (v.6-9)
4. What do Uriah’s actions and words in v.10-11 tell us about his character?
5. In v.12-13, David made another attempt to get Uriah to go to his house. What did David do and what was the result?
6. Since his first two attempts at a cover up were unsuccessful, David devised another plan. What was his plan and how did he get the message to Joab? (v.14-15) (Notice that David’s attempt to cover his sin also had a progression. Each time his plan did not work, he moved to another level.)
7. Was David’s plan successful? What happened to Uriah? (v.16-17)
8. In v.17-25, Joab dispatched a messenger who brought an update on the war. What did the messenger say about Uriah?
9. What did David do after Uriah’s death and the period of mourning? (v.27) How did God view David’s actions?
1. Nathan the prophet was sent by God to confront David. How did he approach David in order to help him see his sin?
2. How did David react to Nathan’s story? (v.5-6)
3. Write down the statement Nathan made to David after David reacted to the story Nathan told him. (v.7)
4. What was David’s response when he realized what he had done? (v.13)
5. According to v.13-14, what was the good news that Nathan delivered to David? What was the bad news?
In Psalm 51, David cried out to God in confession.
1. On what basis did David ask for forgiveness? (v.1)
2. Against whom did David say he had sinned? (v.4)
3. In v.10-12 David petitioned God for certain things. Make a list of what he requested of God. (Note: As New Testament believers, we do not have to pray that God will not take His Holy Spirit away from us. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit did not indwell all believers as He does now.)
4. David expected not only to be restored but also to be a useful servant of the Lord in the future. What things did he mention doing in v. 13-15?
5. Is there something you have held back from doing because of past sin in your life? Will you ask God to restore the joy of your salvation, to allow you to praise Him, and to use you to reach others for Him? Write your request out to the Lord.
6. What kind of sacrifice is pleasing to God? (v.17)
We often think of David’s great sin as adultery with Bathsheba. However, we have seen that he not only committed adultery but also plotted to make sure that Uriah would be killed. David confessed his sin, received forgiveness from God, and knew God could still use his life. After we have confessed a sin, we know that “He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9 NASB).
Have you let Satan convince you that something you have done is so great that God could never use you? Have you told yourself that you have done something so unthinkable that if anyone knew, they would never accept you?
In this series of narratives related to David’s sin with Bathsheba, we can learn not only from David’s example but also from the example of Nathan. God sent Nathan to confront David about his sin. He did so in what might seem to be an unusual way to confront someone. It requires a lot of thought and effort to make up a word picture or story to communicate something that could be said directly. Nathan could have said, “David, look at you. You have committed adultery. You are responsible for Uriah’s death. What on earth were you thinking?” However, we learn from Scripture that Nathan’s story drew David in so that he responded emotionally to the injustice of the rich man who took the poor man’s only lamb. When David became incensed at the man who took the lamb, Nathan said one of the most gripping statements in Scripture. “You are the man.” Only after Nathan had David’s attention did he deliver his, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel” (2 Sam 12:7).
My husband and I learned the idea of communicating by using stories or word pictures in a Bible study on parenting that we attended when our children were young. We learned to create a word picture to encourage, to confront, or to convey a feeling. My husband used a story about baseball to talk with one of our sons who was having difficulty receiving “coaching” from his dad. Before he could finish the story, our son said “So, I’m the second baseman.”
I have used this approach several times when making an appeal for one of my children to an authority in a situation that I felt needed attention. I have used this only when a more direct approach did not seem to be effective because communicating to someone by a word picture takes more preparation, time, and thought. One time I wrote a short, one page story to communicate a point when I was asked to provide written feedback on a particular year at school. I have also used a very brief word picture such as, “I feel like I’m dialing 911 and no one is answering” to express frustration that I was not receiving a response on something I considered very crucial. It is helpful if the word picture relates to something the person is interested in or can identify with. Notice that Nathan’s story involved flocks and a little ewe lamb, something that David the shepherd would immediately relate to. Although I have rarely used a story to communicate in a confrontational situation, I do think it is very effective and something worth considering when you are having trouble getting an idea across.
David’s prayer in Psalm 51 begins with the words, “Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.” Throughout the Psalms, we sense the intimate relationship that David had with the Lord. He called on God in many different situations and poured out his heart to the Lord repeatedly. After David began his prayer by asking God to be gracious to him, he asked God to forgive him. In beautiful poetic language, David prayed, “Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin” (Ps 51:1b-2 NASB). These three word pictures describe what David believed the God of lovingkindness and compassion would do. “Blot out” is a reference to human records that could be erased. “Wash” is used to compare forgiveness to the washing of clothing. The verb “cleanse” comes from the ceremonial law and speaks of purification for temple participation.9
This same God of lovingkindness and compassion is willing to forgive you and to forgive me. He will erase, wash, and cleanse every sin that holds us back from experiencing His best.
The New Testament encourages us to confess our sins to one another (James 4:16). As believers, we live in community and we are able to experience healing and forgiveness as we confess our sins to other believers.
In the MOMS study at our church, we have a prayer time each week that follows a format called PRAY (praise, repent, ask, and yield). The “repent” portion of the prayer time is silent. One week I heard someone say something out loud during the repentance part of the prayer time. I thought that maybe the mom did not know that this part of the prayer time was silent, but I found out later that she wanted to confess a particular sin to her group. Only her small group could hear what she said and she only said one word. However, her leader told me that the mom felt it would help her to confess to the others in her group. She had already confessed to the LORD, but she wanted others to pray for her and affirm her forgiveness.
9 Allen P. Ross, “Psalms,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary – Old Testament (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 832.
1. How did Daniel and his friends come to live in Babylon? According to Daniel 1:4, what kind of young men were they?
2. What kind of education did they receive and how long did it last? (v.4-5) What happened to their Hebrew names? (v.6-7)
3. Try to picture yourself being taken involuntarily to another country, given a new name, taught a new language, and put into an education program to teach you your new culture. Would you be bitter toward God for allowing this to happen? How hard do you think it would be to hold fast to the principles you had been taught and to the God you worshipped?
1. What did King Nebuchadnezzar make and what did he require all the people to do? (v.1-5) What would happen to someone who refused to worship the golden image? (v.6)
2. To what positions had Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego been appointed? (v.12)
3. How did King Nebuchadnezzar react to the report that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had not followed the order to worship the golden image?
4, What rhetorical question did Nebuchadnezzar ask in v.15? What was the expected and implied answer to his question?
5. What did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego affirm about God in v.16-18?
6. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused the his order, what actions did the king take? (v.19-21) What happened to the men who put Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace? (v.22)
7. Why was Nebuchadnezzar astonished as he looked into the furnace? (v.24-25)
8. After Nebuchadnezzar ordered the men out of the fire, the officials gathered around them. What did they observe? (v.27)
9. What did Nebuchadnezzar say about the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in v.28-29? Notice the last words of v.29, “there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.”
10. Have you ever been in a situation where doing right was a cause for ridicule or punishment? How did you handle the pressure to give in to the demands of others to conform?
"If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us
from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.
But even if He does not,
let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods
or worship the golden image that you have set up."
Are you surprised when you are following God and doing what is right yet encountering opposition? Jesus told His disciples, "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world" (Jn 16:33 NASB). James also anticipated trials for believers when he stated, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (Jas 1:2-3 NASB).
1. Look up the following verses and write down every instruction or command to those who are suffering because of their righteousness.
2. 1 Peter 5:6-9 is followed by a wonderful promise in v.10.
After you have suffered for a little while,
the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ,
will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
Write a prayer thanking the God of all grace for His promise to perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
If we are walking in spite of opposition, we must know what the Bible says about our strategy against our enemies. The Bible identifies three enemies we face as believers while we live in this present world. These enemies are the world, the flesh, and the devil. We are instructed to fight the temptations we face based on their source. We need to know when to flee and when to stand firm since these commands are opposites.10
Look up the following verses to determine how to deal with each type of opposition. Copy down key words or phrases that give instructions or commands.
What are the repeated commands to us as believers in dealing with Satan? Ask God to help you follow these instructions in order to stand against the opposition you face as a believer in Christ.
How do we teach our children to walk with the Lord despite opposition? Daniel and his friends were able to stand firm in their faith and to obey God because they knew Him and they knew His Word. When we teach our children about God and His Word, we are putting the truth in their minds and hearts. The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit, the only weapon of offense found in the passage on spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6. The Word is what Jesus used when He was tempted by the devil in Matthew 4. The Holy Spirit can call to mind specific verses and promises that are recorded in our children’s hearts.
How are you helping your child learn and memorize God’s Word? What are some creative ways to learn Scripture? (Note: You can learn along with your child!) Discuss some ideas in your small group. Bring a favorite resource or idea for teaching the Bible to your children to share with your group. Books, videos, games, and music are all great ways to teach your child the Word of God.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had already experienced God’s deliverance in Babylon (see Daniel 2). They had seen God accomplish the impossible when their lives were spared after Daniel not only interpreted the king’s dream but also described the dream. In Daniel 3, Daniel’s friends looked to God for deliverance and He honored their faith and obedience.
Notice again how Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego responded to the king. "If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up" (Dan 3:17-18 NASB). Daniel’s friends believed that God was able, but they did not know if He would deliver them. They prayed for deliverance, but their obedience was already determined.
In vv 16-18 we see the proper response to a crisis by these three faithful men. They reiterate their faith in [Yahweh], claiming his ability to deliver them from Nebuchadnezzar, though denying a knowledge of his will. Such, of course, is the attitude all believers should have about personal crises. We simply do not know if God will heal a certain person or bring someone to salvation. But we do know that he is able!11
10 Dr. Stanley D. Toussaint, Unpublished Class Notes on Hebrews, General Epistles, and Revelation, Dallas Theological Seminary, Spring 2005.
11 Daniel B. Wallace, “To Bow or Not to Bow,” online: http://bible.org/article/bow-or-not-bow-essay-daniel-3, accessed 26 July 2005.
Do you feel that your prayers are repetitious and not very effective? Is your prayer life up to the challenge of a crisis situation? This week we meet a man who responded to a crisis by calling on the God of heaven. Nehemiah prayed with confidence, humility, and power. Learn from Nehemiah and your prayer life may never be the same!
It had been almost one hundred years since the first Jewish exiles returned to their homeland from Babylon. Although the Temple had been rebuilt, the walls were broken down, leaving the people without protection from their enemies. When Nehemiah heard the news, he responded with prayer and action.
The book of Nehemiah begins between mid-November and mid-December in the twentieth year of the reign of King Artaxerxes (approximately 446 B.C.) in the city of Susa in Persia (modern day Iran). Chapter two takes places several months later in the spring of 445 B.C.12
1. What report did Nehemiah receive about Jerusalem? What was his response? (v.3-4)
In the ancient Middle East, a city wall provided protection for the inhabitants. The condition of the city wall was also seen as an indication of the strength of the people’s gods. The ruined condition of the wall of Jerusalem reflected badly on God’s name.13
2. As Nehemiah began his prayer, what words and phrases did he use to praise God? (v.5)
3. Whose sins did Nehemiah confess? Who were these sins against? What were the sins they had committed? (v.7)
4. On what basis did Nehemiah make His appeal in v.10? Did he mention what good people they had been?
5. What was Nehemiah’s request? (v.11) What position did Nehemiah hold in the royal court?
6. Have you ever suddenly found yourself in a crisis situation? What was your first response? Did you immediately pray to the God of heaven or did you take matters into your own hands to try to fix the situation? How could Nehemiah’s example help you in the future when you face overwhelming circumstances?
1. When the king asked Nehemiah why he was sad, how did Nehemiah respond? (v.3)
2. After Artaxerxes asked Nehemiah what he was requesting, Nehemiah prayed again. What was Nehemiah’s request in verse 6?
3. According to verse 8, why did the king grant Nehemiah’s request?
4. Can you recall a time when you made a successful appeal to someone in authority over you? Did you give yourself credit for being persuasive or for making a good case for what you wanted? Did you see God at work in your situation?
Nehemiah was a man of prayer. Ten recorded prayers range from the quick “arrow prayer” (Neh. 2:4) to the Bible’s longest prayer (Neh. 9). The walk of faith is a balanced blend of prayer and action. Nehemiah prayed and then put his request before the king (Neh. 2:3,4); he prayed and then “set a watch” (Neh. 4:9). He exhorted the people to “remember the Lord …and fight” (Neh. 4:14).14
As cupbearer, Nehemiah held an important position in the royal court. His responsibility and position of trust gave him unusual access to the king. After Nehemiah received the report about Jerusalem, he was greatly distressed. Although he was in the king’s presence often, Nehemiah did not attempt to persuade the king or to use his position to influence the king until he had prayed. In our context, this would be similar to the White House Chief of Staff’s praying for several months about a crisis before going to the President with his request. Nehemiah knew that God was ultimately in charge. Nehemiah’s prayer and its results are an illustration of Proverbs 21:1, “The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.”
Nehemiah’s prayer in chapter one is similar to the PRAY (Praise, Repent, Ask, Yield) format for praying.
Nehemiah approached God in prayer by
As New Testament believers, we can similarly pray by
What principles of prayer do you learn from the prayer in Nehemiah 1?
In order for us to take a principle (that we can apply today) from the prayer of Nehemiah, we look at two things. The first is repetition. Repetition of a word, phrase, or idea focuses our attention and emphasizes what is being repeated. In narrative literature, repetition is a key to understanding what the passage is saying. The second thing we examine is harmony or consistency with the rest of Scripture. For a principle to be valid, it must agree with the rest of the Bible. In fact, when we interpret a narrative passage, we should find that principle in other places in Scripture. I want us to look at Nehemiah’s prayer to see whether or not the PRAY principle meets these criteria.
Find examples (words or phrases) from the prayer in Nehemiah 1 that show Nehemiah’s praise to God.
v. 4 God of heaven
v. 5 LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God. who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments.
Find examples from the rest of Scripture encouraging or commanding us to praise God.
1. Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
2. Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
1. I will extol You, my God, O King,
And I will bless Your name forever and ever.
2. Every day I will bless You,
And I will praise Your name forever and ever
Find examples (words or phrases) from Nehemiah’s prayer in Nehemiah 1 that show his confession of sin.
Find examples from Nehemiah’s prayer in chapter 1 that show his specific requests.
Find examples from the rest of Scripture that encourage us to ask God for our needs.
(Use your concordance and look at verses under the word “ask”.)
Find examples (words or phrases) from Nehemiah’s prayer in Nehemiah 1 that show his humble spirit.
Find example from the rest of Scripture encouraging us to yield or submit to God. (Use your concordance to look up verses with the words “submit” or “humble”.)
I want us to practice writing out a prayer in the PRAY format. We will take each section separately and examine it.
In this study we have seen many names of God and descriptions of God. We have observed that God is the
1 John 1:9 tells us that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Asking is the part of prayer with which we are most familiar. I grew up praying very general requests such as “Bless all the missionaries” or “Forgive me of all my sins”. Notice that Nehemiah was very specific as he prayed, “Make Your servant successful today and grant him compassion before this man” (Neh 1:11 NASB).
Yielding is probably the hardest part of praying biblically. Our natural tendency is to want God to do things our way. My goals and desires have changed over the years, but even with a spiritual goal in mind, I may have already decided how God could accomplish it.
I think of yielding to God’s will as something similar to writing a blank check. I never liked to send a blank check to school with one of my children because I knew it might not reach its intended destination. When I yield my will to God’s, I imagine that I am giving Him a blank check. He is free to fill in the amount and I trust Him to do what is best for me. However, as I have read through Scripture, I have noticed that the saints had conversations with God. David, in particular, was very honest with God about how he felt. So I express what I want and “make my case” as I am praying. In my check analogy, I am writing my request on the memo line of the check. “Lord, you know my desire in this matter.” However, ultimately I have to leave the decision with God. I may grieve greatly (and I have) when God says no. I may not understand His decision. But in the final analysis, He is God. I have to acknowledge His sovereignty, His wisdom, and His great love.
When our children were young, we established a bedtime ritual we called “Pillow Talk.” When everyone was ready for bed, we all went into one bedroom and sat on the beds. Each person could ask a Bible trivia question, name a chorus or song that we would all sing, or give a Bible reference and see if anyone could quote the verse. We did not do this every night, but it was a fun time. After going around with our questions and songs, we “prayed around” with each person praying a sentence prayer.
Are you teaching your children to pray? Do they see you praying about things that are important to you? I would suggest you pray out loud for your children from their earliest days. What could bless your children more than to hear their names spoken before the Father by their own mother?
To whom did Nehemiah pray? He addresses his prayer to the “LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God” (Neh 1:5). You will hear people say that all religions worship the same God, but they call Him by different names. I hope as we have walked through the Old Testament that you have seen that the God of the Bible is unique. He is the one true God and He has revealed Himself to us.
Nehemiah uses the title “God of heaven” four times in the first two chapters of the book. This title is found in the Old Testament mainly in the exilic and post-exilic books.15 Daniel prays to the God of heaven (Daniel 2:18-19). Jonah says he fears “the LORD God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land” (Jonah 1:9). Ezra uses this title repeatedly. Why is God called the God of heaven?
Not only did God create heaven but the Bible also says He is in heaven. Furthermore, God is ruling from heaven. Isaiah 66:1 says, ‘Thus says the LORD, ‘Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool.’ ” The God of heaven is a sovereign God and the rulers on earth are under His power and authority. I like the way 2 Chronicles 20 expresses this same idea in the prayer of Jehoshaphat.
O LORD, the God of our fathers, are You not God in the heavens?
And are You not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations?
Power and might are in Your hand
so that no one can stand against You.
Isn’t that a powerful description of God? When everything in the world seems to be out of control, God is still on His throne. He is the ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in His hand.
12 Derek Kidner, Ezra and Nehemiah: An Introduction and Commentar. (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1979), 77.
13 Earl Radmacher, Ronald B. Allen, H. Wayne House, eds. Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999), 584.
14 Dorothy Kelley Patterson, ed. The Women’s Study Bible. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson , 1995), 756.
15 John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament. (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985), 655.
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Kidner, Derek. Ezra and Nehemiah: An Introduction and Commentary. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1979.
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Patterson, Dorothy Kelley, ed. The Women’s Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995.
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Radmacher, Earl, Ronald B. Allen, H. Wayne House, eds. Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999.
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Toussaint, Stanley D. Unpublished class notes in BE 107 Hebrews, General Epistles, and Revelation. Dallas Theological Seminary, Spring 2005.
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Wallace, Daniel B. “To Bow or Not to Bow.” Online: http://www.bible.org. Accessed 26 July 2005.
Walvoord, John F., Roy B. Zuck, eds. The Bible Knowledge Commentary - Old Testament. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985.
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