BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 23, Day 5: Matthew 23:13-39

Summary of passage:  Jesus lists 7 woes to the Pharisees and the teachers of the law.  He says they do not let those enter who are trying to enter the kingdom of heaven.  They corrupt converts.  They put gold and gifts above the temple itself; instead of swearing upon God, they swear upon material goods.  They tithe and do the little things but ignore the important matters such as justice, mercy, and faithfulness.

They have clean outward appearances but inside their souls are dirty.  On the outside they appear righteous but on the inside they are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.  They say they are better than their forefathers and wouldn’t have persecuted the prophets when Jesus says otherwise.  Jesus says he will send prophets and wise men to cleanse them but they will be killed and crucified.

Questions:

11)  Woes:  1)  The Pharisees do not let those enter who are trying to enter the kingdom of God (verse 13).  Positive application:  Invite others to know God.

2)  They devour (stole) widows’ houses and make showy lengthy prayers (verse 14).  Positive application:  Help widows, do not take advantage of those less capable than yourself or more vulnerable, and pray with a God heart.

3)  They corrupt converts (verse 15).  Personal application:  Do not do anything to allow others to fall.

4)  They put gold and gifts above the temple itself; instead of swearing upon God, they swear upon material goods (verses 16-22).  Personal application:  Remember God gives all and is greater than the physical structure of the church or any material gifts given to you.  Remember the source.

5)  They fixate on trivial matters and ignore the more important issues of justice, mercy, and faithfulness (verses 23-24).  Personal application:  Don’t nit-pick.  What matters to God is the heart and how you treat others.

6)  They focus on cleaning up their outside image instead of cleaning the inside soul (verses 25-26).  Personal application:  Your heart matters more than outward appearances.  Your heart must be right for your actions to be right.

7)  On the outside they appear righteous but on the inside they are hypocrites and wicked (verses 27-28).  Personal application:  God knows your heart.  You must be genuine and not pretend to be righteous.  Be transformed from the inside out.

8)  They say they are better than their forefathers and wouldn’t have persecuted the prophets when Jesus says otherwise.  Jesus says he will send prophets and wise men to cleanse them but they will be killed and crucified (verses 29-39). Personal application:  We are no better than anyone, not even murderers.  We are all sinners.  We are only cleansed by Jesus’ blood.  Be humble and loving.

12a)  Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees and the teachers of the law still about the disciples, Stephen, the early Christians, and us as well.

b)  Jesus’ death.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  We are all murderers and deserve death but Jesus’ love saves us and makes us righteous and whole once again.

d)  We will not see Jesus again until either our physical death or the Second Coming.

Conclusions:  Jesus saves, undeservingly, no matter how Godly we think we are, we actually are, or we pretend to be.  I’m burnt out to be honest (see post HERE).  That’s all I got.

End Notes:  Jesus echoes the Old Testament prophets here in terms of warnings and condemnations.  They kept people from Jesus with all of the human prohibitions they placed for others.

Verse 14 that is omitted in some Bibles or is placed in a footnote (like mine) should belong here based on the fact it appears in Mark and Luke’s re-telling of this scene.  Thus, it would be 8 woes instead of 7.

Stealing houses from widows results in greater condemnation.  There are indeed varying degrees of punishment in God’s kingdom.

It does no good to convert people and then lead them down the wrong path.

Since the Pharisees were not allowed to swear by God himself (Exodus 20:7), they swore by other things but they had corrupted this practice to the point their oaths were meaningless.  It didn’t matter what you swore by but it was binding.  Every one.

Our altar is Jesus and his work is the cross.

To be righteous, start with the inside.  Then the outside will follow.

It was custom before Passover for the Jews to whitewash tombs so that if you touched it, you wouldn’t become ceremonially unclean.  Hence, the Pharisees were nice to behold on the outside but dead on the inside.

Paul uses this same analogy in Acts 23:3 against the high priest Ananias of the Sanhedrin:  “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall!  You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!”

They honor dead prophets but then will in the end murder a living one.  Spurgeon calls verse 32, “One of the most terrible sentences that ever fell from Christ’s lips.”

Jesus lists all the righteous martyr’s of the Old Testament.

The image of a hen protecting its chicks is used in the Old Testament for God’s protection of his people (Psalm 17:8; 91:4; Isaiah 31:5).

Scholars say Jesus’ words here “how often I have longed” indicate Jesus visited Jerusalem multiple times before his Triumphal entry.  John indicates this as well.

Jesus constantly wants to save.  It is man who rejects.

Jesus spoke so harshly to these men out of love.  His heart broke for them as it does for us when we sin.  He truly wanted them to repent before it was too late.  Does God ever speak to you so?

Fun Fact:  Jesus wept only twice that is recorded in the Bible.  Once, over the fate of Jerusalem and second at the tomb of Lazarus.  Both were over the sorrow of death.

About these ads

BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 23, Day 4: Matthew 22:41-23:12

Summary of passage:  Jesus, in an effort to silence his critics, asked them a question they could not answer, by pointing out that David called the Son of David “Lord.”  No one could answer so they quit asking questions.

Jesus says the teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat so you must obey them but do not do as they do for they are hypocrites.  Everything they do is for man.  You are to remember you have only one Master, one Father, one Teacher.  Whoever humbles himself will be exalted and  whoever exalts himself will be humbled.

Questions:

8a)  “What do you think about the Christ?  Whose son is he?”

b)  Jesus answered with a profound question:  “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’?  If David calls him ‘Lord’, how can he be his son?”  Jesus is pointing out as the Messiah that he is not only the son of David but the Lord of David, which thus makes him the Son of God if he is Lord over David.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  That Jesus is my Lord.

9a)  Obey the teachers of the law and the Pharisees and do everything tell you for they were given their positions by God.

b)  Do not do what they do for they do not practice what they preach.  Follow God in your heart, not man.

c)  Pleasing man and for looks only.  They were motivated by pride and earthly status and position, not by the heart or to please God.

d)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Don’t be a hypocrite.  Practice what you preach.  Have God as your motivation and not man.  Have God in your heart and let the Holy Spirit lead you.  Then you will be real.

10)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Be humble and serve God first.  Let Christ be your teacher and God your father.  Treat everyone as brothers for God is your master.  Remember you have been called to your position by God and He is the center, not a title or the men who voted you in.  If God is first, you cannot fail.

Conclusions:  Didn’t get a lot out of this either.  Not sure why.  It’s mainly about God and Jesus being Lord over all and Lord over your heart.  If you have that, then you cannot fail Him.

End Notes:  Before the Pharisees could ask him another question, Jesus asked them a question.  He asked them who he was just like he did with the disciples in Matthew 16:13-15.

Everyone knows the Messiah will be the Son of David.  Jesus is pointing this out to remind him that he is from David’s line.

Saying the Messiah is the Son of David is only partially right.  He is David’s son but he also is David’s Lord.  He is human and God in one.  Later, this idea will be recorded in both Revelation 22:16 and Romans 1:4.

If David calls him Lord, how is he his Son?  Thus, Jesus must be the Son of God.  The Pharisees did not want to admit that so they said nothing else.

Interestingly, perhaps standing in that very crowd in the heart of Jerusalem a young Pharisee will go on to answer that question in Romans 1:1-4:  Paul himself.

This is a turning point.  The teachers of the law, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees will give up trying to trap Jesus and turn the people against him.  Instead, they will seize him and resort to violence in order to preserve their earthly power and end the threat to their positions.

Synagogues had a stone seat in front where the teacher sat and taught from; hence, sitting in Moses’ seat.

Note the contrast between the heavy loads the Pharisees carry and Jesus’ light load (Matthew 11:30).  Our load is meant to be light, not burdensome like the religious leaders of the day made it.

Do not imitate the scribes.  The heart is what matters both in what you do and in titles.  Titles are not meant to be coveted.

Fun Fact:  Psalm 110 is the most frequently quoted Old Testament chapter in the New Testament.

BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 23, Day 3: Matthew 22:34-40

Summary of passage:  Now a Pharisee tries again to trap Jesus by asking him what is the greatest commandment of the Law.  Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your mind and Love your neighbor as yourself.”  All the Law boils down to this.

Questions:

6a)  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  Mark adds that the Lord our God is one.

b)  Not sure because people don’t say the opposite but they live out the opposite which is the fact most people love themselves more than God and live for themselves and not God.  I think this is what BSF is looking for.

c)  Just that.  We love ourselves deeply and usually put ourselves first.  Jesus is saying to love everyone just as deeply and treat them as you would yourself.  Show concern for them and interest in them and their lives.

d)  Because if you don’t have God first in your life then you’ll never be capable of putting others first in your life and loving them as you love yourself.  Only through the love of God can we love others as Jesus commands us to love.  Only through loving God, fearing God, serving God, observing the commandments, and walking in His ways can we produce such love that will fulfill the law.

7a)  All your heart, soul, mind and strength:  Love God with all your heart.  To embed Him in you.  To have the Holy Spirit within to guide you on His path.  You love Him with everything you have, everything you are, everything you will be.  Period.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Put Him first in my life always.  Pray all the time before I do anything.  Wake with Him there and go to bed with Him there.  Have God in the forefront of my mind instead of me.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  That we are God’s chosen people out of all the peoples on the earth.  We are His treasured possession.  He will love us and bless us and increase our numbers (verse 13).  He will keep us free from disease (verse 15).

If you realize how much God loves you and truly believe it then it is easy to obey Him and conquer those opposed to Him.

We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19).  If we are loved, then we can love.

Conclusions:  This lesson was awash for me and should be called the study of Deuteronomy as well.  I blame myself:  I had great expectations of what I’m unsure but none were met.  Number 7a I put together as you cannot separate in my opinion God’s greatest command and for me I found this hard to explain as it is as simple as it is stated.  You love God with everything you have.  Period.  Mark 12:30 did not help so why was it mentioned?

7c I didn’t “learn” anything.  I was reminded that we are God’s people.  But I cannot fathom His love for me and no human words can convey it.

Unsure on 6b.  Not sure people “say” anything.  They do the opposite and probably say God is first, being hypocrites as most people I know (including myself at times).  Very few admit they live for themselves instead of for God.

I think I wanted these commandments to be pressed upon me to the point I’d follow it every moment of my life.  And I realize now BSF can’t do that; only God can.  So I prayed, “God, let me live this out.  That you are number One in my life and that I can love a little bit as you love.”

My take away:  I fall far short of these commands and I need to work on it with God’s help.

End Notes:  In that day there were 613 commandments in Moses’ law and various groups argued over which were the most important.  The trap was for Jesus to pick just one which would surely offend some of these groups.  Once again Jesus outwits them to the point they give up and dare not ask him anything else because then they look stupid.

BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 23, Day 2: Matthew 22:15-33

Summary of passage:  Again, the Pharisees along with followers of Herod set out to trap Jesus. They asked him whether it is right to pay taxes to Caesar or not.  If he said yes, then he’d lose his supporters.  If he said no, he’d be arrested for breaking Roman law.

Of course, Jesus knew their evil intent and told them to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s.  The Pharisees and Herodians left, amazed.

That same day the Sadducees approached Jesus with a question.  They asked him if a woman marries seven brothers because she is following Moses’ law of marrying the brothers when her husband dies, whose wife will she be at the resurrection?

Jesus told them they had it wrong.  At the resurrection there will be no marriage and everyone will be like the angels in heaven.  God is the God of the living, not the dead.

Questions:

3a)  Most Jews hated paying the taxes (who does?) yet it was Roman law to pay taxes.  They were trying to either alienate Jesus’ followers if he said pay them (which would put Rome above God in the minds of the Jews) or get him thrown in jail if he said don’t pay them, which would be undermining Roman authority.

b)  Questions on abortion, gay marriage, divorce, adultery, etc.

c)  You owe Caesar (or the government) everything you owe God because God has established the government and rebelling against the government means rebelling against God.  Thus, you owe both taxes, revenue, respect, and honor.

4a)  They do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.

b)  It is the source of a lot of sin in this world.  A lot of unbelief.  A lot of misinformation.  And tragically a lot of  unsaved lives.

5a)  Luke says believers are God’s children and will be resurrected.  God is the God of the living and even Moses knew the dead would rise.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  That my permanent home is with God, living.

Conclusions:  I think we started out strong and petered out in the end.  I like the Romans passage since it is very apropos with tax season being upon us.  4b was way too broad.  The answers are infinite so I kept it simple by summing it up with sin, which covers a lot of the infinite.

I didn’t get much out of the resurrection bit probably because I believe in it.  I did find it interesting how Luke said Moses knew he’d be resurrected.  It makes me wonder just how much Moses did know and how cool it would be to be that close to God.  Can you imagine?

End Notes:  The religious leaders are now trying their best to trap Jesus.  They flatter Jesus, hoping he wouldn’t see through it.  The Jewish people were strongly against this tax as Rome was pagan and therefore they thought had no right to demand it from them.  It would be a sign of submission when only God was worthy of submission.  Our soul is God’s and everything material is Caesar’s.

The Sadducees did not believe in the Resurrection. They only believed in the first 5 books of the Bible (the Torah).  They were the wealthy, aristocratic class but small in number.  Their question was meant to show how ridiculous the idea of resurrection is by the ridiculousness of the scenario.  Deuteronomy 25:5-10 is the law the Sadducees are referring to.

The Sadducees did not understand the Scriptures.  They knew what it said but had no idea what it meant.  Nor did they embrace anything unseen.  Hence, they didn’t believe God could do the unseen.

Jesus points out that life in heaven will be different than life here on earth.  He specifically uses the angels because the Sadducees didn’t believe in angels and Jesus uses Moses who is in the Torah to make his points.

By God using the present tense, “I am the God of Abraham” instead of the past tense “I was the God of Abraham”, this means that Abraham is still alive.  Hence, Abraham is resurrected.

BSF Study Questions Genesis Lesson 23, Day 5: Genesis 31

Summary of passage:  Laban’s sons were jealous of Jacob’s wealth.  The Lord told Jacob it was time to return to his homeland.  Jacob called Rachel and Leah to him and told them how he has worked for Laban despite the wages being constantly changed but God has been with him and has blessed him with their father’s livestock.

Jacob recounts a dream where God acknowledged Laban’s treachery and told Jacob to leave for home at once.  Rachel and Leah agree and say all Jacob has gained from their father should be theirs anyways as an inheritance.  Jacob and his family left Paddan Aram along with all of his livestock and goods for Canaan.  Rachel stole all of her father’s household gods and Jacob left without telling Laban.  They crossed the Euphrates.

Laban found out after three days that Jacob had fled.  He pursued him and caught up with him in Gilead.  God came to Laban in a dream, warning him not to speak to Jacob. Laban, in his infinite wisdom, speaks to Jacob anyways, and asks him why he had fled without saying good bye and why he has stolen the idols.

Jacob replies that he was afraid Laban would take his daughters from him (can’t blame him here) and that if someone has stolen the idols may they die.

Laban searched and found nothing for Rachel was sitting on them and said she was having her period so she couldn’t stand to greet him.  Laban found nothing.

Jacob is mad at Laban for accusing him of stealing.  He points out how he has worked 20 years for him, 14 for his daughters and 6 for his flocks even though Laban has changed his wages on him 10 times, and God Himself even rebuked Laban for his behavior.

So Laban and Jacob made a covenant, asking Jacob not to mistreat his daughters or take any more wives and neither will cross the other’s “side” to harm each other.  They offered a sacrifice, spent the night, and the next day Laban bid his daughters farewell and left.

Questions:

11a)  The Lord told him it was time to go.

b)  20 years (verse 38 & 41)

12a)  Verse 5 (the God of my father has been with me), Verse 7 (God has not allowed him  (Laban) to harm me, Verse 9 (God has taken away your father’s livestock and given them to me), Verse 12 (I–God–have seen all that Laban has been doing to you)

b)  With Laban and Abimelech, the un-Godly ones (yes, I’m calling Laban un-Godly since he’s throwing such a fit about his stupid idols missing) approached the patriarchs and set the terms of the treaty/covenant.  Both knew God was with Jacob and Isaac and decided to move preemptively to protect themselves.  Both treaties stated one was not to harm the other.  Then they feasted, swore, and went on their merry way.

In terms of Jacob and Jesus, both were being pursued and both submitted to God’s will for their lives.  Jacob was told it was time to move back to Canaan.  Jesus was told it was time to die for our sins.  Both were being falsely accused (Rachel was the perpetrator, not Jacob).  Both sought God in the process.

c)  Verses 5, 7, 9, 12, 42

13a)  Hebrews says to endure hardship as discipline, which Jacob did.  He endured sweltering days and freezing cold nights out in the elements as he cared for the flocks.  He absorbed all the animals’ losses as his own and endured Laban’s mistreatments.  Jacob worked hard and was blessed.  He put his faith in God to care for him and bless him and the Lord did.  He received all he had set out for (a wife basically) and much more (two wives and flocks).

Of course, Jacob failed miserably in the wife department.  But his faith grew in God, which I believe was God’s intent, through the hardships.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Verse 42.  God has seen my hardship and rebukes the persecutors of such.  Verse 7.  God has not allowed them to harm me.  Verse 11.  God has seen all that has happened.

Conclusions:  It’s important to remember that God is with us in the difficult times and that He uses ALL things for our good (Romans 8:28).  We will be blessed for we are His. Jacob is not personally afraid.  He is afraid he’ll lose his family (as we all).  But Jacob has faith in God to protect him and do His will through him.  That is what we must remember.  God is working through us even if we can’t see it and don’t know why we have to go through something.  It will work for our good.

End Notes:  This is the last we will hear of Laban in the Bible.  As we see, he is a pompous bully who only half-believed in the Lord.  He used his idols for divination.  He is exceedingly jealous of God’s blessing upon Jacob.  It is all about him.

Why did Rachel steal the idols?  The Bible never tells us why.  Scholars give many different speculative reasons:  she didn’t want her father to have them in order to use them for divination to find them.  She was getting back at her father for the many years of mistreating them.  She wanted them for herself for she worshipped them.  And the Jews usually say she took them to keep her father from sinning into idolatry.

You can also glean a nugget here of a healthy separation from your in-laws who may unduly influence you.

Most fascinating to me was that nowhere in this passage of praising God does Jacob ever say “God is MY God.”

BSF Study Questions Genesis Lesson 23, Day 4: Genesis 30:25-31:16

Summary of passage:  Jacob asks Laban if he may return to his home country with his wife and children and flocks.  But Laban asks him to stay for he knows he has prospered only because of Jacob so he offers Jacob to name his price to stay.  Jacob says he will stay if Laban will give him as wages every speckled or spotted sheep and every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat that is born.  He will separate out the current speckled and spotted and dark-colored animals and those will be cared for by Laban’s sons, which will decrease the odds of these being born.

Laban divided the animals as agreed upon and separated the flocks.  Jacob then placed tree branches in the water troughs so when the flocks came to drink they would mate. Jacob, caring for the solid-colored animals, kept his flocks separate from Laban’s and he only kept the strong ones.  The weak ones went to Laban.  Jacob grew exceedingly prosperous.

Laban’s sons were jealous of Jacob’s wealth.  The Lord told Jacob it was time to return to his homeland.  Jacob called Rachel and Leah to him and told them how he has worked for Laban despite the wages being constantly changed but God has been with him and has blessed him with their father’s livestock.

Jacob recounts a dream where God acknowledged Laban’s treachery and told Jacob to leave for home at once.  Rachel and Leah agree and say all Jacob has gained from their father should be theirs anyways as an inheritance.

Questions:

8a)  He did his job.  His employer’s flocks multiplied under his care and God’s blessing.  He gave over 14 years of work for Laban in exchange for room and board and his daughters.

b)  Jacob worked hard for Laban, never resenting it, always doing what he was told, and never grumbling.  He increased his employer’s wealth FIRST and then worried about his own.  Laban prospered.  He obeyed Laban in everything he was asked to do.  He worked at it with all his heart since he was truly working for the Lord.  Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for the wrong (as Laban will be).  He respected Laban.  Wealth was not Jacob’s goal.

Even though Laban tricked him repeatedly, Jacob repaid him with blessing by multiplying his flocks.  He was humble.  He depended on God for his well being. He did not worry.  He trusted God to take care of him.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  To be working for God, not others.  I try to keep this in the forefront of my mind especially since my writings bring me no monetary rewards as of yet.  I try to give my worries to Him as much as possible.

9a)  Selfish, conceited, unfair, manipulative, greedy, taxing, unscrupulous, a cheat, downright conniving

b)  Laban culled out the speckled, spotted, and dark-colored animals and removed them a three-days journey away, leaving Jacob with only the solid-colored animals.  This meant less likelihood speckled, spotted, and dark-colored animals would be born with those genes removed from the gene pool.  And less animals Jacob would receive as his compensation for his long years of work.

10a)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Homeschool, write, and maybe someday do worship music.  Taking care of family and home.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  By trying my best, working for God, following His Word when a dodgy situation arises, and praying throughout it all.  Give God the credit by merely saying so, acknowledging it’s all through His power (as everything we do is from getting up in the morning to going to bed at night).

Conclusions:  Pleasantly surprised this lesson was on work.  Thought it would be on trickery.  Always a good reminder you are working for God.  For if you work for man you are destined to be unfulfilled, unhappy, and unsatisfied with life.

Equally important is giving God the credit for all that you do.  Saying so out loud to others is a powerful testimony that I’m sure puts a smile on God’s face when He hears it.

Note on Selective Breeding:  Scholars are unsure exactly the methods Jacob used as described here in Genesis.  Jacob thought the branches would somehow give him speckled offspring and he culled out the strong to breed with the strong.  Point being is: God increased Jacob’s lot despite the methods used.

BSF Study Questions Genesis Lesson 23, Day 3: Genesis 29:31-30:24 & 35:16-20

Summary of passages:  Genesis 29:31-30:24:  The Lord gave Leah children because she was unloved by Jacob while Rachel remained barren.  She had Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah.

Rachel became jealous of Leah and demanded children from Jacob (like it’s Jacob’s fault. Why doesn’t she go to God?).  Which Jacob not so kindly pointed out to her.  So Rachel offered up her maidservant, Bilhah, in her place (does NO one learn around here?). Bilhah had Dan and Naphtali and Rachel felt she won over her sister.

So what does Leah do?  She wants revenge.  So she offers up her servant, Zilpah, to Jacob to have kids with (Jacob apparently is loving this).  Zilpah had Gad and Asher.

[The next scene is unbelievable!]

Reuben brings Leah some mandrake plants.  Rachel wants some so she trades a night with Jacob for some.  Leah sleeps with Jacob and becomes pregnant with Issachar.  Leah had another son named Zebulun (but she is apparently not honored by Jacob).  Then she had a daughter named Dinah.

Rachel prayed to God (finally) and He heard her.  He blessed her with a son named Joseph.  Then she prayed for another.

Genesis 35:16-20:  Rachel gave birth to Benjamin and she died in the process.

Questions:

6a)  Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin.

b)  God completely disagrees with favoritism as we see in 29:31 when we are told the reason God blesses Leah with children is because she was not loved by Jacob (but is this fair to Rachel?)

c)  She was comforted with sons but to me her words don’t show a lot of comfort because she is still hoping Jacob will love her with each birth and he never does.  Pray and accept it willingly.

7a)  To be loved by her husband (but isn’t this her fault as well?  She married him knowing he did not love her.).  No, she was never loved.

b)  Leah is in heaven.  But Jacob’s sons became the 12 Tribes of Israel (including hers).  Levi’s was set apart as priests.  The royal line was through the tribe of Judah.  And Christ came through Leah (the line of Judah), not Rachel.

c)  2 Corinthians tells us to not lose heart for inwardly we are being renewed day by day and our momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that outweighs anything we are going through on earth.  God doesn’t forget us in our earthly struggles. He comforts us in different ways (for Leah a child) and for us through His word, through a friend, our kids, our spouse, our pets, strangers, prayer, church, or something material. He is there in the unseen.

Conclusions:  Was I the only one wondering why is Jacob having sex with Leah if he didn’t love her?  Conjugal duties only? Sex is supposed to be the ultimate show of love and bonding of a man and a woman as one.  So why is Jacob just “going through the motions” here?  Or is he just shunning the meaning of sexual intercourse and engaging callously, especially when Leah herself says she is unloved?

Jacob could have ended all of the jealously between sisters if he had just honored the marriage vows.  And kept his pants zipped.  But Jacob is of the flesh.  He couldn’t overcome his desires.

It seems to me all of this is Jacob’s fault.  Sure, you could argue Laban was at fault for substituting Leah in place of Rachel (but shouldn’t Jacob have checked before getting it on with her?) but Jacob is 100% responsible as the man of the household for decisions. He’s also responsible for who he sleeps with and who he doesn’t.

He could have ended all of this but he must have been enjoying having 4 women as wives and all the in-fighting over his affections.  Not only could he have stopped the sex part, but he could have FORBIDDEN the rivalry as the man of the household.  Instead, he stood by.  And watched his family become more and more dysfunctional every day.  He’s definitely egotistical and likes to have his ego stroked.

This whole passage is just utterly sad.  Here we have 2 sisters, competing with each other, and using children as the weapon!!  The kids have become trophies so to speak and it becomes a competition of who has more!!  How sad!  We have 2 sisters who are blood allowing a man to separate them and cause one ugly feud that must have been wretched for the entire household.  And we have the man who plays one wife off the other by refusing to zip his pants!  He probably would have slept with more servants if offered! Sad all around!

Leah was comforted by God to a point.  But she repeatedly says how she’s trying to earn Jacob’s affection.  This is a sin.  For God should be enough.  God is NOT her center.  For if God had been, she wouldn’t have needed Jacob to fill the need deep inside of her that only God can fill in all of us.

Can you imagine growing up in this environment?  Can you imagine how the children felt?  Obviously there is tension. They learned it from their mothers.  And saw their father stand by and do nothing to stop it.  Who can blame the brothers when they throw Joseph down the well?  With these two as mothers it’s no wonder!  And no father to lead!

Great reason why there should only be one man and one woman in a relationship (as God intended).  But Leviticus 18:18 had to outlaw specifically no marriage with sisters.  Any one guess why?

Explanation on the mandrake plant:  Why all the fuss over this plant?  Why would Rachel trade a night with her husband to Leah for it?  It had to be pretty valuable stuff. And it was (at least so it was thought).

Mandrakes are a plant that is thought to increase fertility in women.  It is the root of the plant and it is translated as “love-apples” in Hebrew.  It worked in Leah’s case!

We should see now the sovereignty of God over childbirth.  He opens wombs and closes them repeated throughout the Bible.  As He does today.  We also see His grace. When women (or husband’s) pray, God answers and opens wombs.  Great lesson for those struggling to have a baby.

Rachel pays the ultimate price for this competition:  with her life.  She asked Jacob for children or she would die (Genesis 30:1).  She got both.  This was also the fulfillment of the curse Jacob pronounced in Genesis 31:32.

Final Note:  Everyone sinned here.  But the sin could have stopped.  All it would have taken would have been only ONE of them to stand up and say “No more!”.  Rachel didn’t. Leah didn’t.  And Jacob didn’t.  And so the sin perpetuated.  And into the next generation as the kids learned from their parents’ examples.

This is the lesson for us all.  It only takes one party in a conflict to stand up for what is right, for their beliefs, for God’s will and word, and say “No more!”

BSF Study Questions Genesis Lesson 23, Day 2: Genesis 29:1-30

Summary of passage:  Jacob travels to Paddan Aram and immediately meets Laban’s shepherds watering their sheep.  He helps them water the sheep by pushing the stone from the well.  Rachel who is a shepherdess and Laban’s daughter arrives.  Jacob kisses her and tells her he is Rebekah’s son (so they are cousins).  She ran home to tell her father Laban who welcomes Jacob as his own.

Jacob agrees to work for Laban for seven years in return for Rachel’s hand in marriage. It seems as only a few days to him his love was so great for her.  But on the marriage night, Laban tricks Jacob into sleeping with Leah.  Jacob realized in the morning what had happened.  Laban told him the custom was he had to take the older daughter first and then the younger daughter.  And if he still wanted Rachel, he’d have to work another 7 years.

Jacob agreed and gained Rachel as a wife whom he loved more than Leah.

Questions:

3)  You can see God’s fingerprints everywhere.  The servant found Rebekah easily as the well.  She came up to the servant and happened to be from Laban’s family.  Jacob happened upon Laban’s servants and lo and behold Rachel shows up and Jacob falls in love with her.  God is in control here.  Neither incident happened by accident.

4)  Personal Question.  My answer:  No.  It doesn’t seem so.  It seems to me as if they obeyed Laban out of daughterly duty.  I would imagine Rachel loved Jacob as much as he loved her so she was probably upset about it.  Not sure about Leah.  She might have been willing if she had no other suitors or if she herself loved Jacob as well.

5a)  Jacob pretended to be Esau by dressing up as him and Leah pretended to be Rachel in a similar manner.  Jacob exchanged the younger for the older.  Laban exchanged the older for the younger.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Cheating, lying, and deception are no way to live your life.  That what he did to Esau, although God’s will, was the wrong way to go about gaining God’s favor.  Cheating and lies have a heavy cost and take a huge toll on relationships.  That honesty is the best policy and is God’s way.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Haven’t learned anything new about deception.  I just try to be honest and up front with people.  Never take the short route for a minimal game.  The price is too high.  Be honorable.  Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.  You don’t want to be cheated so don’t cheat others.

d)  Psalm 15:  “He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart…who keeps his oath..will never be shaken.”

Proverbs 12:22:  “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.”

Proverbs 19:1:  “Better a poor man whose walk is blameless than a fool whose lips are perverse.”

Proverbs 6:16-20:  “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him:  a lying tongue…a heart that devises wicked schemes…a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”

2 Corinthians 8:21:  “For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men.”

Others:  1 Peter 3:10-12, Philippians 4:8-9, John 8:32, Hebrews 13:18, Proverbs 11:3, Colossians 3:9

God honors those who are truthful.  Deception is from the devil and only causes heartache.  It’s just not worth it.  I’m encouraged by how much honesty is talked about in the Bible.  That tells me just how important it is to God that you are upright, righteous, and full of integrity.  You follow Him and not the world.

Conclusions:  I enjoyed looking up honesty in the Bible.  I would hope living a life full of integrity is ingrained in all of us, but alas I know that not to be true.  If you struggle, with honesty, please pray.  God will change your heart.

Keep the Golden Rule in mind that Jesus spoke and was recorded in Matthew 7:12:  “So in EVERYTHING, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

It’s hard for our culture to imagine Rachel and Leah going along with Laban’s plot but it was expected and demanded in ancient times.  We must honor our father and mother but not if it goes against God’s word.  Luckily, we have that right today to stand up and say, “No, I can’t do that because it’s a sin.”  But in ancient times, you had to submit.  No matter how sinful your father’s plan was.

I had to wonder (assuming Leah may have protested the arrangement), why would Leah want to marry Jacob, someone who didn’t love her?  Either she didn’t think anyone else would marry her or she loved him herself.  Either way she sinned as well either complicityly or complyingly.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 23, Day 5: Ephesians 3:14-21

Summary of passage:  Paul prays (according to God’s purpose and will from the previous passage) for the Ephesians for God to strengthen them with power through the indwelt Holy Spirit so that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith.  Paul prays they might have the power to grasp how deep, long, and high is Christ’s love–to know it–so they may be filled with the measure of the fullness of God.

God, who can do all that we ask or imagine and then more because of His power in us, will be the glory.

Questions:

13a)  “To know this love that surpasses knowledge…the love of Christ”.  To feel it, live it, and embrace it.  I think a lot of us take this love for granted like we sometimes do the love of our spouse or our kids, especially those of us who have been hurt by love and have built walls around our hearts.

Thus, I’m not a very loving person and I need to be.  Then, when I understand the commandment according to Jesus in Matthew 22:37-39 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…and the second…love your neighbor as yourself”, I think I may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

b)  My missionary friend who seeks God at every turn and completely relies on Him.  She (and her husband) are now pastoring a church in Norway, leading others to God’s love.  Her love for Him and others is manifest in all that she does.

14)  God can do anything.  Anything we think of to ask for or to imagine He can grant and go beyond that.  And He is able to do this through His power that is at work in us right now.  Thus to answer the question, God is able to do everything we ask of Him right now in our lives no matter what it is.  So ask away everyone!

Conclusions:  Great way to conclude, Mr. Apostle Paul!  Reminding everyone that we can have the immeasurable love of Christ right now in our lives and anything else we can possibly imagine because God can do anything who is at work in us!

Admittedly, I changed my answer to 13a once I re-read the passage several times.  We can know God’s love and I feel I don’t so that’s my prayer.  So I may be filled with the fullness of God.  Imagine that!

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 23, Day 4: Ephesians 3:1-13

Summary of passage:  Paul was a prisoner while writing this letter so he begins stating that fact but he’s a prisoner for Christ, telling the Ephesian church God’s grace reveled by Spirit to God’s apostles and prophets for them–the mystery that through the gospel the Gentiles are now heirs together with Israel, members of one body, and sharers in the promise in Christ.

Paul says he is a servant of this gospel through God’s undeserved grace, commissioned to preach to the Gentiles Christ’s riches, and to reveal this mystery which had been hidden for so long until now; revealed to the rulers and authorities in heavenly realms for His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus.  Only in him and through faith alone may we approach God with freedom and confidence.  Paul says don’t be discouraged by my sufferings (imprisonment and impending trial) for they are your glory.

Questions:

11a)  Through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

b)  God’s purpose in creating man was for us to walk by His side.  When sin came, we were separated.  So, God planned for Jesus so that once again we may walk by God’s side as Paul puts it “we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (verse 12).

12)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Currently, I have no hopeless relationships in my life (I think this is a misnomer: no relationship is “hopeless” for God is there and He is definitely not hopeless).  But in the past, I have had many difficult relationships when I was young and stupid.  In the midst of it, it’s the worst thing in the world.  But afterwards, there is peace since God is there.  My comfort is in His plan for my life and the knowledge that those relationships weren’t meant for me for whatever reason God has.

Keeping God close through prayer and His word is all the encouragement I need in difficult times.

Conclusions:  Paul, once again, is pointing out how God is everyone’s God now and to be encouraged in His plan for our lives and the life after this one.  Paul emphasizes the church (verse 10) as the way Christ is to made known to all and how the “rulers and authorities in heavenly realms” will also learn this mystery “through the church”.

This is fascinating to me: that we are being watched and authorities in heaven (angels perhaps) are learning through us.  Gives a whole other meaning to what we are doing here on Earth, doesn’t it?