BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 13, Day 2: Matthew 13:1-8, 18-23 and Luke 8:4-15

Summary of passages:  Matthew 13:1-8:  The same day that Jesus’ Mother and Brothers show up, Jesus sat by a lake.  Such large crowds gathered that he got in a boat and retreated to the middle of the lake to teach.  He told them the parable of the sower who scattered seeds which fell in different soils.  Those that fell in no soil got eaten up.  Those that fell on shallow soil withered because it had no root.  Those that grew amongst thorns were choked. Only those that fell on good soil produced a crop.

Matthew 13:18-23:  Jesus breaks up different kinds of people who hear the Word.  Those that hear the message and do not understand, the evil one comes and snatches it away–the seed along the path.  Those that hear the word and receive it but falls away quickly when trouble comes because he has no root–the seed in the rocky places.    Some hear the word but are choked by worries of life–the seeds with the thorns.  Only those who hear the word and understand it produce a good crop.

Luke 8:4-15:  Luke records the same parable but a shorter version.  BSF has us read Jesus’ explanation here (but not in Matthew verses 10-17 which is not sitting well with me) about why he speaks in parables.  The parables allow more people to understand the Word.  The disciples have been gifted by God with an understanding of the kingdom but many have not received such a gift.

Important differences in the passage:  Luke is succinct and a bit better.  He explains for those who don’t mature in the word fall away in times of life’s worries, riches, and pleasures.  Only those with a good and noble heart and who PERSEVERE retain God’s word and thus produces a good crop.

Questions:

3a)  A parable is a short, simple, everyday story with a point meant to convey a complex idea simply.  The definition of a parable according to Webster’s Dictionary is “comparison; a usually short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle.”

b)  Yes and no.  He had been performing a lot of miracles as his primary way of showing and explaining the kingdom of God until he became frustrated in chapter 11 as people still failed to believe.  So he is beginning to switch to more stories to reach a wider audience.

It’s difficult to answer a definitive yes here because we only have a handful of Jesus’ teachings and actions recorded.  So much of his life we just don’t know.

c)  Luke says the seed is the word of God (Luke 8:11).

4)  “it [seed] was trampled on”; “withered because they had no moisture”;  “the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts so that they may not believe and be saved”; “in the time of testing they fall away”; “choked by life’s worries, riches, and pleasures and they do not mature”; “those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”

5a)  God

b)  No soil at all–could not grow.  This represents those who hear the word but do not understand it.

Rocky, thin soil–grew quickly but died in the hot sun and withered with no root.  Those who hear the word, take it in, but then fall when trouble arises.

Soil with thorns–plants grew but were choked.  Those who hear the word but are choked out by things in this world such as worries, wealth, and pleasures.

Good soil–produced a crop.  Those who hear the Word, understand it, retain it, sow it in their hearts, and persevere.

6)  John 14:15:  Those who obey God’s commands have good soil

John 15:5:  Those who remain in God bear much fruit

Acts 5:29:  Those who obey God rather than men have good soil

Philippians 2:12-13:  Obey God who works in you for His purpose

Conclusions:  Many beefs today.  First, you all know I hate skipping around.  I am very chronologically oriented.  I don’t understand why we didn’t read Jesus’ reason for telling parables in Matthew yet we read it in Luke and we were asked about it as well.  Why would we save that to come back to?  I guess we’ll find out soon.  No logic to me here.

Question 6 all had the same answer:  those that obey God have good soil.  And those that obey God more have better soil.  The more you obey, the greater the soil.  Fabulous.  Did we really need 4 verses to understand that?  No.  Should be intuitive.

Finally, for me, this lesson falls right at our Christmas break.  The next lesson is Part 2 in January.  So why split the two parts for a month?  We all know we don’t remember much after a month off if we do our lessons in December (which I do).  Don’t have a part one of a lesson and then wait a month for a part two.  Surely the timing here could be better.

End Notes:  Why did Jesus tell parables?  We must remember in ancient times most people were illiterate and farmers.  They had no experience with wrestling with foreign words and had a very limited vocabulary.  Jesus spoke in parables so they would remember his teachings, hold their interest, and be relatable to their difficult lives.

Also, as Jesus explains in the part we skipped, parables were meant to challenge the listener, to grow those deeper in the word, and to lessen the hardness of those not receptive to the Word.  They began in the face of growing opposition to Jesus so to lessen that, Jesus told parables.  In that sense, they were a form of mercy to those hardened against him because the message was hidden.

Here, Jesus is floating offshore in a boat.  Cool, huh?  I’d like to attend church on a lakeside.

The meaning of the word parable, which is Greek, is “to throw alongside of”, in this case thrown alongside the truth.  One commentator called them “earthly stories with a heavenly meaning.”

The soil represents the responses to the Word, which is us.  The soil on the path are those who never hear the word with understanding.  The soil that withers quickly are those who respond quickly but also wither away in the face of tribulations.  The thorny soil represents those who respond and grow in the Word but fall away in the face earthly things and competition for their attention such as material goods and pleasures.  And the good soil is those who whole-heartedly embrace God and His truth and bear fruit because of it.

At times in our lives, we are all of these.  Sometimes we ignore God, we allow other things and events to take precedence over Him, and at times we bear His fruit.

Notice the Sower (God) is the same as is the seed (His word).  The only thing that changes is the soil (us).

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BSF Study Questions Genesis Lesson 13, Day 2: Genesis 14:1-12

Summary of passage:  Basically, the Babylonians attacked a group of peoples living in the Siddim Valley who had been under their control but had rebelled.  The Babylonians defeated or re-conquered them and took even more territory.  The Babylonians sacked Sodom and Gomorrah, which included Lot and his possessions since he was living in Sodom.

Questions:

3a)  Amraphel King of Shinar (Babylonia), Arioch king of Ellasar, Kedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim

b)  Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (or Zoar)

c)  Plain of Shinar (or Babylonia)

4a)  Lot put himself in the midst of these pagan countries by choosing the most fertile land as he saw it and pitched his tent near the evil city of Sodom (Genesis 13:11-13) and so he was caught up in the wars and taken along with the rest.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  All of our choices are the same–to either choose God or to not choose Him.  To choose God’s way or something else (either your way, the devil’s way, or some other idol or false god’s way).  This is what all of our choices come down to.  Obedience or disobedience.  It’s as simple as that.

Conclusions:  Didn’t like this lesson because we didn’t learn anything.  Of course, Lot would end up in trouble.  He chose to live with evil people.  The names of these kings are obscure to most and I would wager meaningless.  And the personal question?  I truly don’t think details matter.  What it comes down to is this:  you either choose God or you don’t.  Period.

My kids had this question too and they were stumped.  So this is their answer as well.

I do admire the note at the beginning.  This is unusual.  But it sums up typical ancient times:  people were conquered; the people rebelled; the conquerors put down the rebellion; prisoners and goods were taken.

End Note:  Great home drawn map of the region and the battles!  I love this website:

http://www.generationword.com/notes_for_notesbooks_pg/genesis/14_1.htm

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 13, Day 2: Hebrews 11:1-16

Summary of passage:  Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we don’t see.  The ancients were commended for this.  We believe God formed the universe by command.  Abel offered a better sacrifice than his brother Cain by faith, which God accepted and through this example Abel still speaks.

Enoch was taken by God without dying due to his faith (Genesis 5:24).  It is impossible to please God without faith; you must believe in Him and how he rewards the faithful.

By faith Noah built the ark when warned the world would be destroyed.  Abraham left his home of Haran by faith when God called him to the promised land even though he lived as a foreignor.  Isaac and Jacob were heirs to this land.

Abraham and Sarah became parents due to faith in God’s promises and in turn fathered a nation.

All of these people lived by faith even though they did not receive the things promised. While living on the earth they lived as strangers, continually longing for a heavenly country, a city God has prepared for them.

Questions:

3a)  Faith is believing in and expecting to receive what we hope for even though we do not see it.

b)  People put their faith in lots of things:  God, other gods, their job, their spouses, their kids, or any other material item.  They hold on to something and say, “If only I have faith in _____, it will be alright” when we all know the answer should be God.

Faith is belief and trust.  Many people (even Christians) believe in God.  But do they trust Him?

4)  Abel–offered God the fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock while Cain only brought some of the fruits of the soil (Genesis 4)

Enoch–walked with God and was therefore taken by God without dying (Genesis 5:24)

Noah–built an ark on God’s command despite being mocked by the people.  Gathered two of every animal and followed God’s directions to the letter–all on faith

Abraham–followed God out of Haran and left for the promised land despite the hardships

Isaac and Jacob–the beneficiaries of Abraham’s covenant with God.  Both however did follow God on their own accord and obeyed his wishes for them.

Sarah–after laughing at God’s prophecy, she did have faith and did bear a son

5)  The simple answer is by faith.  The longer answer is have faith all the things God has said will happen even if it is not in our lifetime while at the same time living for God and longing for a better (heavenly) world.

The reality is this world is a transitory home.  It’s not our final destination.  It is a place we abide for a blink of an eye in God’s world.  So if we live with Heaven as our goal and as our eventual homeland, then everything else palls in comparison.  The dirty dishes, lost jobs, curt words, trailer homes, bad hair days, and even the death of loved ones (who are in the better place and whom we’ll see shortly) don’t quite matter so much when we realize it’s all temporary.

Conclusions:  I like how the writer of Hebrews uses those who are the pillars of faith (Abraham, Sarah, Noah, Isaac, Enoch, and Jacob) as examples of faith.  It’s a good reminder to those who are wondering what living a life of faith looks like.  Those who obey God and walk with God even when you can’t see the path.  And who amongst us can see the path?

Remembering this world is transitory is key for me.  It doesn’t matter much what others think or how horrible a day I may have had or even how great of a day I had if God is not my center, my salvation, my rock, and who I do it all for.

Admittedly, I had to google Enoch.  When you only have a grandiose 4 verses dedicated to you in the Bible, it’s hard to remember.  Hence, the verse citation for those of you like me who couldn’t remember him.

End Note:  I looked up faith in my Bible Dictionary (Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary by J D Douglas and Merrill C Tenney) and this was too good not to share:

“Unbelief, or lack of faith in the Christian gospel, appears everywhere in the NT as the supreme evil.  Not to make a decisive response to God’s offer in Christ means that the individual remains in sin and is eternally lost.  Faith alone can save him.”

Puts this Hebrews passage in a whole other light, doesn’t it?  These people were on the cusp of pushing Jesus to the wayside.  After reading this, this passage is VERY important.

Faith is the key to everlasting life.  Nothing else matters.

BSF Study Questions Isaiah Lesson 13, Day 2 Isaiah 28-29

Summary of passages:  Isaiah 28:  Ephraim is being warned of woe because of its pride and drunkenness. The wreath (its pride) will be trampled and it’s glorious beauty will be swallowed.  In that day the Lord will be a glorious crown for the remnant.  He will be a spirit of justice and a source of strength.  Others are too drunk to lead the people, to see, and make decisions.  The people mock Isaiah (in essence, the Lord) for his words, saying he speaks to only little children.  Isaiah responds by saying the Lord will lay a cornerstone (the Messiah) for those who trust in Him who will bring justice and righteousness and annul the covenant with death.  The Lord will rise up and perform his task.  Stop the mocking because the Lord will destroy the land depending on how obedient the people are.

Isaiah 29:  Woe to Ariel (Jerusalem or David’s City).  The Lord will come against Ariel and bring the people low.  However, their enemies will become like dust.  The Lord will come like a vision in the night against her enemies but Ariel’s enemies will be frustrated.  Their dreams will be unfulfilled because the Lord will frustrate them.  God makes the people spiritually deaf and blind because the people’s hearts are not with God.  He knows your plans for He is the Creator, the potter.  But the Lord will restore in his timing. Lebanon will be fertile and in that day the deaf will hear, the blind see, the humble and needy will rejoice, the ruthless vanish, the mockers disappear, the evil banished. When the house of Jacob sees their children, they will acknowledge the holiness of God and stand in awe.  Their spirits will be restored, shall have understanding, and have truth.

Questions:

3) The wreath is the pride of Ephraim’s drunkards–it is fading, unable to accomplish anything (decisions or visions).  The crown (God) is glorious and beautiful, a spirit of justice, a source of strength.

4) Ephraim mocks Isaiah, saying his words are for little children and do not apply to them and they boast they will not be harmed (in essence, mocking God since Isaiah is speaking His words).  Many people today are the same.  They take the good from the Bible, the parts they like, and disregard the rest.

5) Personal question.  My answer: He will lay a cornerstone (the Messiah) for those who trust–they will never be dismayed.  Justice and righteousness will be the foundations.  We cannot escape Him.  If we trust, God will be our foundation to stand on.

6a) Ariel’s enemies will become like dust, the fields will become fertile, pride will be removed so the deaf will hear and the blind will see (spiritual deafness and blindness), the humble and needy will rejoice, the ruthless will vanish, the mockers disappear, the evil will be cut down.  When they (the people) see their children, they will acknowledge the holiness of God and stand in awe of Him.  Those who erred in spirit will have understanding and those who murmured shall have truth.

b) Personal question.  My answer:  I’m not hiding any and it’s foolish because the Lord sees and knows all your plans and your heart.

c) How can the created (us humans or the pot) know more than the Creator (Lord or the potter)?  People think they do know everything and can do no wrong (pride and conceit).  They can discount what God says as old-fashioned and inapplicable since times have changed.  But you can’t.  God’s truths are universal and He doesn’t change.

Conclusions:  Lots of personal questions and parts here.  I missed this in Lesson 12 which was mostly fact-finding.  This should make for some interesting discussion.

You had to dig to find the hope in chapters entitled “Woe to Ephraim” and “Woe to David’s City” but it’s there.  Another prediction of the Messiah if the people turn and believe in Isaiah 28.  Isaiah 29 admittedly stumped me.  I only got the superficial level, not the spiritual level the first go-around.  I used this explanation for help:  http://www.enduringword.com/commentaries/2329.htm

Same old message, different terminology:  Follow me and be saved or face the consequences (here specifically spiritual blindness and deafness).

I liked the potter and clay analogy. God made us.  He knows all.  It reminds me of the kids books I have for my kids by Max Lucado about the Wemmicks.  These are stories about a man who made a whole village of wooden people who lives on a hill.  It brings the whole maker versus the made down to a kids’ level.  Great stuff.  I’d recommend all of the books for kids (and adults)!

End note:  Mount Perazim is where God fought the Philistines in 2 Samuel 5:20 and the Valley of Gibeon is where God fought against the Canaanites in Joshua 10:10-11 and again in a separate battle against the Philistines in 1 Chronicles 14:16.