BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 16, Day 5: Matthew 15:29-39 and Mark 7:31; 8:1-9

Summary of passages:  Matthew 15:29-39:  Jesus traveled back to Galilee and healed many on a mountainside.  He says that he has compassion on these people who have been with him for 3 days and have nothing to eat.  The disciples ask where could they get enough food to feed them.  Jesus, just like in the feeding of the 5000 (Matthew 14:13-21), gave thanks for a few loaves of bread and fish and broke the food, resulting in enough to feed the crowd with some leftover.

Mark 7:31; 8:1-9:  Mark’s version of the same story.  Jesus wants to feed the people so they don’t collapse from hunger on the way home.  The disciples wonder where they will get enough bread to feed them.  Jesus again breaks bread and feeds all.

Questions:

13a)  In the feeding of the 5000, the people only had to wait one day (Matthew 14:15; Mark 6:35; Luke 9:12).  In the feeding of the 4000, the people waited 3 days (Matthew 15:32; Mark 8:2).

In the feeding of the 5000, the disciples ask Jesus to send the crowds away so they can buy their own food (Matthew 14:15; Mark 6:35-36; Luke 9:12).  In the feeding of the 4000, it is Jesus who notices their need (Matthew 15:32; Mark 8:2-3).

In the feeding of the 5000, there are 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish (Matthew 14:17; Mark 6:41; Luke 9:13).  In the feeding of the 4000, there are 7 loaves of bread and a few small fish (Matthew 15:34; Mark 8:5; 7).

In the feeding of the 5000, Jesus looks to heaven as he breaks the bread (Matthew 14:19; Mark 6:41; Luke 9:16); while in the feeding of the 4000, this is not mentioned (Matthew 15:36; Mark 8:6-7)).

In the feeding of the 5000, there were 12 basketfuls of broken pieces left over (Matthew 14:20; Luke 9:17).  In the feeding of the 4000, there were “several” basketfuls of broken pieces leftover (Matthew 15:37) according in Matthew and Mark says there are 7 (Mark 8:8).

Of course, the number of people was different:  5000 (Matthew 14:21; Mark 6:44; Luke 9:14); 4000 (Matthew 15:38; Mark 8:9).

In the feeding of the 5000, Mark  and Luke mention how the people sit in groups of hundreds and fifties (Mark 6:40; Luke 9:14).  In the feeding of the 4000, the people are merely told to sit (Matthew 15:35; Mark 8:6).

[Scholars say the different in the grass indicates a difference in the seasons.]

NOTE:  The Greek word for baskets is also different between the 5000 versus the 4000 (the baskets are larger here).  I did not mention this because it could just be a translation error so one can not conclusively say that the baskets for the 4000 were larger than for the 5000.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Anything is possible with Jesus.  Jesus has great compassion on the people both spiritually and physically.  Even when other doubt Jesus never does.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Believe that I can accomplish anything with Him.

Conclusions:  Loved part a where we compared both miracles.  Thought part b and c were lackluster.  A better question would have been a focus on how the disciples lacked faith AGAIN when it came to Jesus feeding the 4000 after witnessing the miracle of the 5000.

Matthew mentions Jesus then went to a place called Magadan after the feeding of the 4000.  If you google this, you’ll see this is a modern town in Russia.  Some scholars think this refers to Magdala (location known) and the alleged hometown of Mary Magdalen.  However, others think Magadan is correct; the location today is just unknown.

Mark calls the place Jesus went after the miracle Dalmanutha, which its location is also unknown but believed to be on the Sea of Galilee.

This MAP is a guess as to the location of Dalmanutha:  http://bibleatlas.org/dalmanutha.htm  This map also shows possible locations of Magadan and Magdala.

Good explanation on possible locations:  http://bibleencyclopedia.com/magadan.htm

End Notes:  Most scholars agree that this was the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee–a predominantly Gentile place known as the Decapolis.  Hence, Jesus did heal and minister to the Gentiles as well as the Jews.  Matthew’s description of the people praising the “God of Israel” also supports that these people were Gentiles.  Note how God is praised, not Jesus.

The leftovers show how God provides abundantly.

Scholars say the feeding of the 5000 and the 4000 foreshadow the predicted Messianic banquet. However, the Jews did not see this because they believed the Messianic banquet did not include the Gentiles.

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BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 16, Day 4: Matthew 15:21-28

Summary of passage:  Jesus leaves Gennesaret for Tyre and Sidon.  A Canaanite woman came and asked Jesus to heal her demon-possessed daughter.  At first, Jesus did not answer and she kept on crying out to him.  The disciples, annoyed, asked Jesus to send her away.  Jesus said he was only sent to the lost sheep of Israel.

The woman begged Jesus again to help her.  He replied that it’s not right to help her when he came to help the Jews.  He called her a dog (a derogatory name Jews called Gentiles).  Yet she said she wanted only the crumbs.  For her great faith in him, Jesus granted her request.

Questions:

9a)  Well, he had just insulted the Pharisees so he may have been hiding from them or leaving to decrease their wrath against him.  Commentaries I read said Jesus left Israel for this area specifically to heal this woman’s daughter.

[Note:  Nothing else is recorded in the Bible about what Jesus did here.  The very next scene Jesus is back at the Sea of Galilee.  Hence, it seems he traveled to Tyre specifically for this woman.]

b)  She called him “Lord, Son of David.”  The Canaanites are Gentiles, unbelievers in the Lord, enemies of the Jews since Abraham was called to Canaan.  This shows that she understood exactly who Jesus was.

10a)  He was explaining that he had come only for the Jewish people which we studied in Matthew 10:5-6 when Jesus told his disciples to go to the lost sheep of Israel and not the Gentiles.  Jesus came first to save God’s chosen people (the Jews).  The Gentiles would come later.

b)  She called him “Lord” again and she beseeched him to help her.  She probably knew Jesus had never turned anyone down who approached him with faith for healing, including Gentiles (Matthew 4:24-25; 8:5-13).  She appealed to his compassion and to who he was.  Thus, she was answered.

c)  We learn Jesus went to a house and wanted to keep his presence secret.  We learn the woman was a Greek who was born in Phoenicia.  Jesus says it’s not right to take the children’s (Jews) portion from them.  The woman just asked for the crumbs.  She goes home and her daughter is healed.  We can speculate that the woman was educated somewhat if she was Greek and that’s how she knows about Jesus.

11a)  She knew she wasn’t asking for a lot so she used that analogy.  She called herself a dog and the Jews her master.  She called him “Lord” again.  She admitted she was beneath him.  By her reply, we see her faith.  She responded with even more dedication and determination.  She kept knocking and thus she was rewarded for her persistence.

b)  The fact is was her daughter who was suffering and in need of healing.  Most parents will do a lot of courageous things to help their children.  So she had strong motivation to be courageous and to have faith for she probably knew if Jesus couldn’t help her, no one could.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Job losses.  Still praying for my book.

12a)  Her daughter was healed.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  She had faith in who Jesus was and she was rewarded for it.  The lesson is that we are rewarded for our faith as well.

Conclusions:  I had high hopes for this lesson because it’s the first time we see Jesus not responding immediately to a need.  We see him putting off the woman, testing her, telling her she is not Jewish and thus does not receive a portion of God’s grace.  Yet, we see the persistence of the woman and we see ourselves in her; we see our responsibility in being God’s children.  I just feel BSF didn’t drive this home enough.  Instead, we were sent to Hebrews (if you were here in Genesis, you know I constantly complained about the number of times we were sent to Hebrews and to these very same verses) and again asked about faith.  I would hope by now that it would be clear that Jesus healed based on faith of those whom he healed.  Can we move on now?

I’m not for sure how many of us wouldn’t have taken offense at the dog comment.  I know for me I am one to quickly take offense.  Yet the woman accepted it.  It might have been the times:  women were constantly berated and looked down upon so she was probably used to being compared to dogs and not challenging any authority who said so.  Yet in today’s time, it would be tough to accept it and still ask for more.  Quite the challenge and lesson for us today.

Map of Tyre and Sidon:  http://www.bibletrack.org/notes/image/Tyre-Sidon.jpg

Another Map of Tyre and Sidon but showing Gennesaret (the Sea of Galilee) so you can see the distance Jesus traveled:  http://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/CN175-HEALING.htm

Scroll down once to see the map.  Not my favorite but the best I could find.

Concise explanation of why God chose the Jews over the Gentiles found HERE.  To simplify this though, you need only remember that the Jewish people is/was God’s chosen people–chosen to receive the gospel and carry the good news to the rest of the world.  They will always be special (which most of us Gentiles don’t like to admit–human pride and jealousy as we desire to be special as well).  The Gentiles (every non-Jew today) are included in God’s kingdom, but He will always hold the Jewish people closest to His heart.  They have a special place in His redemptive plan.

End Notes:  Tyre and Sidon were Gentile cities so why would Jesus go there?  The Phoenicians especially did not like Jews.  Jesus had a purpose.  It was this woman.  Jesus stops at nothing to achieve his purpose.  Do you?

Note the woman did not argue with Jesus or take offense at being compared to a dog.  She accepted it and pursued him until he took compassion on her.  Just as we should.

Fun Fact:  This is the only time in the Bible Jesus directly tells someone they have great faith (he told the crowd that the centurion had great faith; he never told the centurion directly like he does here).

Note also that the centurion and this woman were Gentiles–those who would not know Jewish law.  Hence, they indeed had great faith to believe in Jesus!  Again, another example of how God’s salvation is for Gentiles as well and how much He values us.

BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 16, Day 3: Matthew 15:10-20

Summary of passage:  Jesus told the crowd  it is what comes out of their mouth that makes them unclean not what goes in, referring to the tradition of washing your hands before eating that the Pharisees gasp at in the previous 9 verses.  The disciples are agasp that Jesus would speak to the Pharisees so and Jesus tells them  that they are blind guides and if they are followed, all will fall.

Peter has no idea what Jesus just said and Jesus basically calls him stupid.  He says that food is just food.  But words come from the heart and reveal who you are.  For evil dwells in the heart which is such things as evil thoughts, murder, theft, adultery, sexual immorality, etc.  Eating with unwashed hands had nothing to do with the heart.

Questions:

6)  Personal Question.  My answer:  It is what comes out of your mouth that makes you unclean not what goes in for what comes out of your mouth evinces the heart.  It matters what comes out of my mouth for it truly reveals the heart.  It’s an area I struggle with and it’s one of my goals for this year to be more encouraging.

[If you read Mark 7:20-23 as well, you'll get the whole explanation.]

7a)  That the Pharisees were offended by his retort and everyone knew not to offend the powerful Pharisees in that time.

b)  That every plant not rooted in Him would be pulled up by the roots and that they (the Pharisees) would fall into the pit (hell).  Basically, they were going to Hell.

c)  That those who followed the Pharisees would fall into the pit as well (go to Hell).

d)  Apparently, he was “dull” according to Jesus.

8a)  Evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Evil thoughts (we’ve all had them), sexual immorality, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly (who isn’t foolish at some point in their lives–remember the teen years?).  Hell, I’m still foolish at times.

I’ve been guilty of most human sins (thank God not murder though!).  I’m still guilty of these at various times in my human life.  I try to confess them (which is hard for me–pride, ya know) but I do and I do receive His forgiveness/cleansing.  And I feel I commit less and less sin as I continue to grow and walk with Him.  And this brings me great comfort.

Curious, I looked up the definition of lewdness, wondering if I had been guilty of it (yep, I have been).  It’s “evil, wicked; sexually unchaste or licentious; obscene, salacious” (looked up this one too.  It’s:  “arousing or appealing to sexual desire or imagination; lascivious, lustful”).

Just to clarify since we’re getting “personal” here:  I was date-raped in college while still a virgin. After that, I entered a severe depression where I did have multiple sex partners (less than 10 I’m talking here) in search of something–probably God or a void that was ripped from me.  It was a time in my life where I was lost, confused, bitter, and vengeful.

After I met my husband, I have been sexually pure since then (thanks to my husband and God).  If you’ve been following my blog long enough, you’d know this about me, but I haven’t mentioned it in quite a while so I thought I’d let you all know here :)

Conclusions:  I could almost see the disciples gasping when Jesus chastised the Pharisees as evinced by their words in verse 12.

I was cheering Jesus here.  He literally lays it out for the disciples and they are still “duh” and Jesus calls them on it.

Surprisingly, I liked the last question.  Not sure why especially since it brought up times in my life I’d rather not remember.  I think because it points out how flawed we truly are and how much we do need a Savior.  Without Jesus, we are all hopeless and doomed for we can never overcome our sinful nature.  But Jesus gives us hope.  And I personally cannot imagine my life without him.

And we carry all these sins in our heart and they come out our mouth.  Again, it pointed out my deep need for Jesus and God’s grace in my very flawed life.

End Notes:  This passage makes it clear that all foods are kosher, which Jesus anticipated his blood would do (Acts 10:15 clarifies this), and nullifies all the food laws from the Old Testament and from the laws the priests made as well.

If it is not rooted in God, it will be uprooted.  Period.

One scholar said the greatest plague God can send on mankind is someone who leads them astray.  On the other hand, it is our responsibility as well to not be led astray by knowing God and His laws.

We are defiled from the inside out–not the other way around.  Spurgeon said “The heart is the cage from whence these unclean birds fly forth.”

This reminds me of the song From the Inside Out by Hillsong United.  The lyrics say:

“My heart and my soul, I give you control,

Consume me from the inside out, Lord.”

Later:

“And the cry of my heart

Is to bring You praise

From the inside out

Lord, my soul cries out”

I can’t say it any better.

BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 16, Day 2: Matthew 15:1-9

Summary of passage:  Again, the Pharisees and teachers of the law are testing Jesus and trying to trap him with legalism.  They ask him why his disciples are breaking their tradition (not God’s) of washing their hands before they eat.  Jesus calls them hypocrites for they break God’s commandment of honoring your father and mother by turning everything a child does for his parents into a gift devoted to God.  Jesus says Isaiah was right when he said they honored God with their mouths but not their hearts (Isaiah 29:13).

Questions:

3a)  Mark explains the Jewish tradition that all Jews do not eat unless they ceremonially wash their hands.  Hence, they wanted to know why the disciples were not following Jewish tradition.

b)  Jesus replied they were hypocrites and in fact break God’s commandments in favor of tradition.  He lists an example of how the Pharisees have twisted the honor your mother and father commandment into gifts to God instead.

4a)  One of the Ten Commandments is to “honor your father and mother”.  Here, instead of helping their parents, they gave the money to God instead.  This contradicted the law because you are called to help others in need.  Also, their hearts were in the wrong place.  They gave the money to God as mere show, not out of devotion to Him.  It was for man they were giving the money.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  We are called to give to God but we also called to help others, especially our parents who did everything for us as children.  We need to honor them by helping them and giving to them as well in times of need.  God knows the heart.  He knows if you are giving out of obeying Him or giving to impress others.

5a)  People can always just go through the motions when man is watching and pretend to be God’s child when he or she is not.  People and/or teachers can twist God’s law like the Pharisees did to be man’s rules instead of God’s.  If your heart is not God’s, your actions are all in vain.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  I’m always in danger because the devil is always looking to tempt me.  I try to remember everything is God’s and He deserves all the praise.  I do everything for Him.  I think when indifference creeps in, then I’m in trouble, which it does sometimes.  But I believe God knows my intentions even when I myself am too lazy to give it all to Him.

Conclusions:  I liked reading Mark and learning about Corban.  It’s been a while since I’ve read Mark so that was refreshing.  I also liked the emphasis on lip service paid to God, which I think we are all guilty of.  It’s a good reminder to have Him present in all things you do.

Explanation of Corban from Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary by J.D. Douglas & Merrill Tenney:

This is the only time the term “Corban” is used in the Bible.  Jesus was referring to the common practice of people who would dedicate their property to the Lord (but still maintaining ownership in the property), which allowed them to claim they had no money or property to support their parents with because the land was already dedicated to the Lord.  Once the property was dedicated to the Lord, it was forbidden for humans to use.

This allowed complete disavowal of the commandment while appearing to be extremely pious in the process.

End Notes:  Note how the Pharisees traveled up North where Jesus was from Jerusalem.  Word is spreading about Jesus and the Pharisees are concerned–so much so they have sent a delegation to check it out.  These conflicts with the Pharisees is what got Jesus killed.  It was his own people–God’s chosen people and the people whom Jesus had come to save first over the Gentiles–who handed him over to the Romans.

Keeping people away from God with these stupid traditions irritated Jesus as we can see here. Tradition is no where near the same weight as God’s Law and that was Jesus’ point here.

BSF Study Questions Genesis Lesson 16, Day 5: Genesis 19:15-38

Summary of passage:  The angels are urging Lot to hurry to leave Sodom with his family before it’s too late.  Lot hesitated so the angels had to pull Lot and his family out of the city since the Lord was merciful.  The angels warned them to flee to the mountains and not to look back or they would be swept away.

Lot pleads to flee to the small town of Zoar at least instead of the mountains and this request is granted.  The Lord rained down sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah and Lot’s wife disobeyed God and looked back and turned into a pillar of salt.  The next morning Abraham saw smoke but God remembered Abraham and saved Lot because of him.

Lot and his daughters left Zoar out of fear and settled in the mountains after all.  They lived in a cave.  The older daughter convinced her sister to get Lot drunk and sleep with him so that they could conceive since there was no other man around.  They did so unbeknownst to Lot and both became pregnant.

They boar two sons named Moab and Ben-Ammi, who became the father of the Moabites and the Ammonites respectively.  These cities fought with Israel for centuries.

Questions:

13)  Everything.  The wife died.  They didn’t take any of their wealth or livestock with them–only the clothes on their backs it seems.  They lost their moral compass with the incest.  Tragic.

14a)  He rescued Lot. He had the angels pull Lot out of the city and then God agreed to let them move to Zoar.

b)  What Lot built up did not survive the fire test.  Nothing he built survived.  He suffered loss and Lot will be saved but only as one escaping through the flames.  In other words, Lot has no works to show for his faith.  Lot has done nothing worthy with his life. (Please read from 1 Corinthians 3:10 to understand the passage.  We also discussed this passage last year.  Click HERE to review especially question 8b).

15)  Moab and Ammon.  While the Israelites are wandering the desert, God instruct Moses to not harass the Moabites because He has given them Ar and to not harass the Ammonites for God has given them land.  However, the Moabites and the Ammonites did not help the Israelites when they were passing through their land out of Egypt and instead pronounced a curse upon the Israelites.  As a result, God banned them from entering the assembly of the Lord and forbade the Israelites to be friends or allies with them.  God also turned the curse into a blessing.

Jesus was descended from Ruth who was a Moabite.

Conclusions:  Interesting to me how sin leads to curses and blessings.  How the Moabites and the Ammonites were sworn enemies to the Israelites for most of history; yet, God chose Ruth to be in the line of Jesus.  God can turn the hearts of individuals despite the sin of their ancestors.  Man can overcome his inherit sin and his circumstances and culture and environment to do God’s will.  Encouragement for us all that indeed good can come out of evil.

Interesting how God blessed the Moabites and the Ammonites with land even though they are sinful and ungrateful and treat their relatives, the Israelites, horrible.  God blesses them but then He punishes them when they don’t turn from their ways (Zephaniah 2:8-11).  God will turn their land into a wasteland and take back His blessings (the land) and give it to the Israelites.

Interesting Thought:  Some scholars believe Sodom and Gomorrah lie at the bottom of the Red Sea.  However, the Red Sea has receded in modern times and archaeologists are not convinced of this.  Some even claim to have found Lot’s cave, Zoar, Sodom, and Gomorrah on dry ground.  Google if interested to find this research.

Map Work:

Good maps of Sodom, Gomorrah, and Zoar were hard to find.  This is the clearest I could find:

http://www.wyattnewsletters.com/sodom/PICS/sodom.gif

Another one:  http://www.israel-a-history-of.com/sodom-and-gomorrah.html#Map%20of%20Possible%20Locations

This one shows where the Moabites and Ammonites were eventually located in addition to Sodom, Gomorrah, and Zoar.  This site also goes over the passage.  You have to scroll a bit to see this one:

http://www.israel-a-history-of.com/sodom-and-gomorrah.html

BSF Study Questions Genesis Lesson 16, Day 4: Genesis 19:1-14

Summary of passage:  The angels of the Lord who had been with Abraham now arrived at Sodom and Lot was sitting at the gateway at the time (an indication he was now one of the leaders of Sodom).  Lot recognized them as angels and bowed to them.  He acted as Abraham did, inviting them to his house to wash their feet and spend the night.

At first, the angels refused but Lot insisted so they obliged.  Lot fed them.  At nighttime, all the men of Sodom came to Lot’s house and demanded that he hand over his guests so they could have sex with them.  Lot went out and offered his daughters instead, refusing to hand over the angels who were his guests.

They pushed him aside and told him he would be treated worse than the angels.  The men tried to break in but the angels pulled Lot inside and blinded the men so they could not find the door.

Then the angels tell Lot to get his family for they are going to destroy Sodom because the outcry against the city is so strong.  Lot ran to his son-in-laws and told them what was happening but they didn’t believe him.  They laughed in his face.

Questions:

11a)  Lot tried to reason with the men to not take the angels to sodomize them (verses 6-8) but the men pushed him aside, called him an alien, and threatened Lot as well (verse 9).  In verse 14 Lot’s son-in-laws laugh at Lot when he tells them the city is about to be destroyed and refuse to come.

These verses don’t show Lot’s influence on his wife but verse 26 describes how Lot’s wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt because she didn’t want to leave Sodom.

b)  I would have thought when Lot got kidnapped by the four kings and he lost all his possessions and Abraham had to rescue him would have been a big clue to leave Sodom (Genesis 14:12-16).  But I think because Lot regained all that was taken due to God’s goodness Lot didn’t take the warning seriously.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  God often warns us and tries to re-direct our path when we are not following His will but our own.  He does this in many ways that often aren’t as dramatic as a kidnapping such as losing a job, a car accident, a death or illness in the family, or any other hiccup in your path that you know deep down inside is God.

The lesson is to heed these warnings and not to ignore them before it is too late and something irrevocable happens.

12)  He could have moved his family at any time away from the filth of Sodom to a more Godly environment.  Lot was rich enough he could have taken his flocks elsewhere and not suffered financially.  Instead, he was blinded by Sodom’s temptations and chose to stay.  He ignored God’s warnings and in the end paid the ultimate price:  degradation and loss of his family.

Conclusions:  God will keep trying to get our attention to move us to His path instead of ours.  If He has to take out our family in order to do it (like He did with Lot’s wife), He will.  Luckily, I think this is on the extreme side of God’s will for us.  But it happens.  We must remember God is in control and when we try to take control back from Him, we are in danger of being grasped by the devil and pulled under.

The key to understanding Lot is this:  he compromised his beliefs.  Yes, he was a believer. And he is in heaven today.  But he wanted to live in the world and enjoy life’s pleasures. So he allowed his family to be around evil-doers who unduly influenced them.  As Paul says, we must be careful our actions do not become a stumbling block for others who are weaker in the faith (1 Corinthians 8:9-13).  Children are undoubtedly weaker.

Lot was in such a bad situation that he felt he had to offer up his daughters to be raped to protect his guests (unjustifiable in any case but we see just how bad Sodom is).  He definitely wasn’t acting in his kids’ best interest when he moved to Sodom.

Lot was selfish.  He wanted pleasure now.  He wanted treasure on earth rather than in heaven.  As a result, he hurt (and eventually lost) those around him.

The same is for us.  We must heed God’s word and not compromise God’s truths.  For the sake of others around us if not for ourselves.  Otherwise, our life could mirror Lot’s.  Not exactly a role model I admire or want to emulate to say the least.

Life is not about us.  It’s about Him.  We would do well to remember that.

BSF Study Questions Genesis Lesson 16, Day 3: Genesis 18:16-33

Summary of passage:  After visiting Abraham at his tent and partaking of food and water, the men get up to leave.  Abraham walked with them aways.  The Lord wonders if He should hide from Abraham what He is about to do–namely destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.  For Abraham will become a great and powerful nation and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.  For He has chosen Abraham to keep the way of the Lord.

The Lord said the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that He himself will verify it.

So the men (other two presumably angels) went towards Sodom while the Lord remained next to Abraham.

Abraham challenges God repeatedly not to wipe away the righteous with the unrighteous, reminding God that He should only judge the wicked and not lump the righteous in with the same judgment as the wicked.  [Abraham's got some guts here.]

The Lord says He will spare the city if He can find 50 righteous people.  But the Lord cannot find any.

Abraham does say he is nothing but dust and ashes and repeats how he is unworthy to request such a thing.  But Abraham does anyways.

The Lord leaves and Abraham returns home.

Questions:

7)  Because Abraham was God’s chosen one (Isaiah and Genesis say).  We (humans and Abraham) are God’s friends (Isaiah and John) and are no longer servants.  And friends tell each other everything; they have no secrets.  God chose man.  James tells us “he (Abraham) was called God’s friend.”

Think about this:  you are so close to God that you are walking next to Him as Abraham is doing.  You are God’s friend and confidant.  It would be natural for God to tell you His plans.  It’s why God created man in the first place.  It’s how God treated Adam in the Garden.

God told Abraham about Sodom because it is what friends would do–share and bond.

8 )  Mark says to consider carefully what you hear.  John says the Holy Spirit within will guide us.  John 8:47:  “He who belongs to God hears what God says.  The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”  John 10:27  “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

Consensus seems to be that to hear God we must be God’s.  We must have the Holy Spirit within.  If you are not a believer, you will not hear God.

9)  God punishes the wicked and not the righteous.  He provides a way out for the righteous.  God listens to the outcries against the accused and then verifies before He judges.  God listens to our prayers for the wicked and offers up repentance.  God is just; punishment will come to those who do evil.

10a)  Lot and his family are spared.

b)  To show Abraham that He listens to prayers, that He is fair, and that He answers prayers.

c)  No.

d)  “The Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” when we do not know what to pray for.  For God knows our hearts and our minds and the Spirit intercedes or guides us in accordance with God’s will.

e)  Personal Question.  My answer:  If we do not ask, we do not receive.  Abraham asked and asked and asked.  He did not give up.  For in his heart Abraham loved those people. Same for us.  We must ask and ask and ask.  For God will answer. (Matthew 7:7-8).

John 15:16:  “I chose you..and the Father will give you whatever you ask in my (Jesus’s) name.”

Abraham reminded God of who He was.  This is powerful in prayer.  And Abraham was specific.  We must be as well.  General prayers won’t get the job done.  Abraham was persistent; he did not give up.  He kept negotiating with God.  This revealed Abraham’s heart and how he loved those people (and their evil-hearts) so much he begged for their lives.

This is what God wants–to see our heart when we pray.  And if our hearts and motives are in sync, then we shall receive.

Conclusions:  I love thinking about me as God’s friend.  We think of God as a Father and a judge.  But He is also our best friend, the one we can confide anything to, the one who only wants the best for us and will do anything to help us.

God chose us to be His friends and to make known to us things–if we obey God and do what He commands (John 15:14).

So I will ask for more and pray more and talk to God more–as a friend and not just as “God–the Almighty and Ruler of the World.”  For that is what He desires.

I liked the discussion on hearing God.  Many people think they should hear God and when they don’t they get frustrated and turn from Him.  It’s not that He’s not speaking; it’s that we are not listening (if we are believers).  God won’t speak to you if you don’t know Him.

Asking is key.  To receive we must ask.  Same with hearing God.  Not hearing Him?  Ask Him to hear Him.  What do you have to lose?

BSF Study Questions Genesis Lesson 16, Day 2: Genesis 18:1-15

Summary of passage:  The Lord appeared to Abraham among three visitors one day while Abraham was resting in the heat of the day.  When Abraham saw these men, he hurried to greet them and bowed low, knowing one was God for he says, “my lord” while addressing them.

Abraham entreats them to stay and he washes their feet and brings food and drink for their comfort.

They agree to stay.

So Abraham bustles about, hurrying the preparations.  The men ask Abraham where is Sarah.  God Himself tells Abraham (again) that Sarah will have a child this time next year.

Sarah who was eavesdropping laughs (stupid move), believing she is worn out.  God asks Abraham directly, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”  Then God says He will return this time next year and Sarah will have a son.

Then Sarah denies she laughed when confronted (again, stupid).  For God knows our hearts.

Questions:

3)  Verses 10 & 14; Genesis 17:21

4a)  In 19:1, 2 angels appeared to destroy Sodom.  So here I’d say two men were angels and one was the Lord himself.  Verse 18:1 says “appeared” as if out of thin air.  It specifically says “The Lord appeared” so God was one of them.  But it was God in the form of Jesus Christ because John 1:18 & 1 Timothy 6:16 says that no one has ever seen God Himself.

b)  He bowed low to the ground, offered them water and food, and washed their feet.

5a)  She was afraid and Sarah only thought she was too old.  She never spoke the words out loud.  Only God knows our thoughts.

b)  Hebrews says, Yes, Sarah did believe and seems to say she wouldn’t have conceived if she hadn’t.  Perhaps this is why it took so long for her to conceive.  She doubted and she doubted and until finally her heart turned.  God was testing her.

c)  She had to believe that what the Lord said He would do, He would do.  Believe in your heart.

6)  You have to believe nothing is impossible with God.  That He will allow a virgin to conceive (Luke 1:37-8).  That He will make us new as if we were born again once we believe (John 3:4-5).  Jesus explains to his disciples that all things are possible with God, even a camel passing through the eye of a needle and all can have salvation with faith (Mark 10:24-27).  God will allow a 90 year-old woman, Sarah, to conceive for nothing is too hard for the Lord (Genesis 18:14).

Conclusions:  Great lesson for me!  If you have any doubt in your heart, God will not come through.  It seems to me Sarah doubted and doubted and God repeated and repeated until finally she believed. And she was scared to believe.  But she did.  And I bet that very day she conceived.

God holds up His end of the deal.  He says, “Look, it’s this simple:  believe.”  And man says, “Give me a second to think this through.”

God says ok, for He has all the time in the world.  We, on the other hand, only have limited time to accomplish His purposes.

It’s hard for us but not God.  Yet we think it’s God holding us back when it’s really us–due to our unbelief.

Powerful lesson!

End Notes:  God again, less than 3 months later, comes IN PERSON and REPEATS His promise to Abraham.  Why?

1)  God repeats His promises over and over again because dumb man NEEDS to hear it–to strengthen his faith.  Romans 10:17:  “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ”.  Or God Himself in the personage of Christ if you are so lucky to receive such a message.

2)  Some scholars think Abraham and Sarah were not having sex for whatever reason so God needed to reinforce His will personally.  In other words, they did not believe God (they were doubting His word) and were doing nothing to fulfill God’s will for their lives.

Also to note:  God read Sarah’s heart.  Even though she didn’t laugh out loud, God heard her.  God knows our heart as well and we should live as if He hears our every thought.

Even though Sarah and Abraham both laughed at God and His promises, God did not respond in anger nor did He punish their unbelief.  He remained (and remains) faithful to them and to us.  He never abandons us like we do Him.

God never changes despite the whims of man.  He loves us always and forever.

Note in verse 13:  “The Lord said to Abraham”.  God correctly addresses Abraham about his wife’s unbelief and about her reaction for Abraham is the head of the family and is therefore responsible for his wife’s belief (and in this case, unbelief).

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 16, Day 5: 2 Thessalonians 3

Summary of passage:  Paul requests prayer for the message of the Lord to be spread rapidly and be honored and for safety in essence (delivered from the wicked and evil men).  The Lord is faithful and He will strengthen and protect you from the Devil.

Paul commands them to stay away from idlers and who do not live according to his teachings.  We were not idle.  We worked night and day so as not to be a burden.  For if a man will not work, he shall not eat.  We urge you to earn the bread you eat and never tire of doing what is right.  Warn those who are not following our instruction.

Questions:

12a)  Help me to spread the message of the Lord and it be honored.  Allow us to be delivered from wicked and evil and to strengthen and protect us from the Devil.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Myself, family, friends, BSF group, and others who come to mind.

13)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Never tire of doing what is right (verse 13).  May the Lord direct my heart into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance (verse 5).

14)  In 1 Thessalonians, Paul sprinkles the coming of Jesus throughout the letter, only referring vaguely to what will happen when Jesus returns.  In 2 Thessalonians, Paul is warning the Thessalonians not to be deceived by others in the coming of Jesus and he delves deeper into the specifics, saying a man of lawlessness will come who pretends to be Jesus.

Both says to be ready but not to dwell on the matter which is how I see it.  Live like Jesus and when/if he comes, you’ll be ready.

Conclusions:  I find it interesting how Paul talks in both letters about idleness.  I tend to think of this as only a recent phenomenon with the advance of modern technology that has enabled man to be so.  However, apparently it has always had a place in man’s life.  There are always those looking to reap the benefits of others’ work.

I like how Paul says to keep away from those who are idle.  This does not mean non-Christians as it could be interpreted but those who are lazy.  I assume this is because either you will become lazy or they will harm you in some way.

My favorite part is “never tire of doing what is right.”  This is hard for all of us.  Usually because doing what is wrong is easier.  Sticking to the moral high ground is no longer in fashion these days.

The last two weeks the questions have focused on Jesus’ Second Coming.  I believe this is so because a lot of people dismiss this as false.  For me, it’s about living a Christ-centered life, striving to be like Christ, and if Jesus comes, “Hallelujah”.  If not, I still get to heaven to await his return from above.

I blogged about this very same thing since Isaiah talked a lot about it.  You can see the post HERE.

Great practical advice on how to live to please God.  Great encouraging words most of us need to hear on a regular basis.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 16, Day 4: 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

Summary of passage:  From the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit if you believe in the truth.  Through the gospel you might share in the glory of Jesus Christ.  Stand firm and hold to the teachings (the Word) and may Jesus and God encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

Questions:

9a)  God chose us (man) to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through our belief in the truth.  We must believe to have the Holy Spirit indwell within so we may be with God.

b)  Great encouragement because it is simply a matter of believing.  It’s a choice much like choosing a career.  God asks for nothing else in return nor requires it.

10)  I believe this refers to the Second Coming of Jesus where we will all we resurrected and will live in harmony with Jesus on the Earth and finally be like Jesus.

11)  Stand firm and hold onto the teachings because by grace God sent His Son to die for us.

Conclusions:  Easy day.  To sum it up:  believe in God’s truth (who He is and His word), accept Jesus as your Savior, and receive God’s sanctification of the Spirit and the glory of Jesus Christ (who he is) as well as eternal salvation.