BSF Study Questions The Life of Moses Lesson 24, Day 3: Numbers 23-24

Summary of passage:  Numbers 23:  Balaam builds 7 altars and prepares 7 sacrifices.  He speaks with the Lord who puts words in his mouth, blessing the Israelites instead of cursing them.  Again, Balak brings Balaam to a different spot to curse the Israelites.  God again puts words in Balaam’s mouth, saying He is with His people who will devour those who oppose them.  Balak, not giving up his quest to curse the Israelites, drags Balaam to a third location in Peor and builds 7 more altars and offers 7 more sacrifices.

Numbers 24:  Balaam, now at his third location, finally realizes God will not curse his people.  As a result, the Spirit of the Lord comes upon him and he utters more blessings upon Israel:  they will live abundantly, their king and kingdom will be exalted, and they will devour hostile nations.

Balak, angry at the three blessings instead of the three curses, sends Balaam away with no riches.  Balaam reminds Balak that he told him he would only speak God’s words and then he utters a prophecy against Moab, telling Balak that Israel will crush them along with Edom and Seir.  Salaam utters more oracles:  Amalek will be ruined along with the Kenites, assure, and Eber.

Questions:

5)  First Oracle:  Numbers 23:7-10:  God tells Balak that He cannot curse the Israelites for He has set them apart.

Second Oracle:  Numbers 23:18-24:  God tells Balak that He will not change his mind, that He the Lord is with them, that He brought them out of Egypt, and that the people shall rise like a lion and devour their victims.

Third Oracle:  Numbers 24:3-9:  Balaam utters more blessings upon Israel: they will live abundantly, their king and kingdom will be exalted, and they will devour hostile nations.

Fourth Oracle:  Numbers 24:15-19:  Balaam tells Balak that Moab, Edom, and Seir will all be crushed by Israel.

Final Three Oracles:  Numbers 24:20-24:  Balaam says that Amalek, the Kenites, Asshur, and Eber all will come to ruin.

6a)  He is taking Balaam to different places in order to physically see the Israelites and in a vain effort to find a place where God may curse His own people.  Balak strikes me as a man who doesn’t give up easily.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Nothing lately but usually when I do this I don’t like the answer the first person gave me so I go to another person hoping they will give me answer–and it’s usually the answer I want to hear, not a different one.  I haven’t done this in quite some time.  I think I’ve learned my lesson from doing this.  I ask God and my husband.  That’s about it.

7)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Balaam is a pleaser.  He takes the path of less resistance and finally bows to God’s will only because he realizes he is defeated and is out for own self-preservation.

Conclusions:  Surprisingly, I liked this lesson.  It was fun to watch God have fun with Balaam, uttering blessings instead of curses each time.  You can almost see the frustration on Balaam’s face, knowing with each utterance he was getting less and less of an earthly reward.

It was fun to watch Balak be frustrated and to see him moving Balaam from place to place as if that would make God change his mind.  It is very comical, and you can almost see God from up above laughing at them!  I like to think God has a sense of humor like his creation, man, does.

End Notes:  Numbers 23:  Oracle means prophecy.  We tend to think of oracles as false prophets as the word was popularized by the Greeks who uses oracles to tell the future as indeed this is the first definition of the word in Webster’s Dictionary:  “a person (as a priestess of ancient Greece) through whom a deity is believed to speak.”  Another definition:  “an answer or decision given by an oracle.”

Interestingly, this is a latin word meaning “to speak.”  Well, the Greeks didn’t speak Latin so they themselves didn’t use the word “oracle”.  As most Bibles were written down in the Middle Ages which used Latin as the language of writing, this word is not all that old.  In my opinion, this is not a great translation here and prophecy would be better (which by the way is a Greek word meaning “the inspired declaration of divine will and purpose”) which fits here much better as indeed some bible translations use the word prophecy and not oracle.

Here we see God speaking through Balaam, obviously not a godly-man.  But God uses all for His purposes.

Note how Balaam would like “to die the death of the righteous” but not live like the righteous.  He wants the good life but not the work that goes along with the good life.

Both men are exasperated!  Balak wants a curse and Balaam wants money but neither gets what they want for God is in charge here.

God educates Balak about who he is dealing with and who His people are and that Balak has no chance against them.

Wild ox here is translated different ways:  unicorn, ox, rhinoceros, or goat.  The Hebrew word here which occurs 9 times in the Old Testament (twice in our readings–24:8) means one horn.

Balak is frustrated, saying at least don’t bless them if you won’t curse them!  Funny how God works.

Numbers 24:  Three times Balak offered up rams and bulls in an effort to have the Israelites cursed.  This would have been quite the expense at the time.

We see that Balaam did try to evoke sorcery  (24:1) to curse the Israelites, but it didn’t work so seemingly he gave it up.  Hence, Balaam and Balak are cursed by God in the third oracle.

The oracles are progressive:  first, Balak does not receive a curse, next he gets a blessing instead of a curse and finally he himself is cursed.  You’d think he’d learn his lesson!

The fourth oracle is a bonus per se.  Balaam, realizing he won’t get paid, just keeps speaking.  This is about Jesus as he is the start and the scepter and will rule over all nations.  This prophecy was also fulfilled by King David (2 Samuel 8:2,14).

Without the curse, Balak realizes he cannot defeat the Israelites so wisely he does not attack like he wanted to back in Numbers 22.  Instead, he returns home, defeated.

Balaam:  His name possibly means devourer or glutton.  He was evidently a professional magician of a nomadic clan.  He obviously had a reputation of getting gods on his side.  God spoke through him 7 times!  Was Balaam converted to God’s side?  No.  Next we hear of him is Numbers 31:8 where he dies.  He is condemned in 2 Peter 2:15, Jude 11, and Revelation 2:14.  He is credited with suggesting the tactic of using sex to defeat the Israelites, resulting in 24,000 deaths (Numbers 25:9; 31:16).

He has been called by scholars the Judas of the Old Testament as he seems faithful at times but greed turns him to evil.

Seven books of the Bible mention Balaam.  This shows how important these events were in Israelite history.  God uses a pagan and a magician in a land full of pagans and magicians as a warning:  He is coming and He shall win.

Summarized from Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary by J.D. Douglas and Merrill C. Tenney:

Balaam is held up as an example of pernicious influence of hypocritical teachers who attempt to lead God’s people astray.  No bible character is more severely excoriated.

We see three things of God’s rule in the world through the story of Balaam:

1)  God overrules man’s sinful rule and his desire to bring his own purposes to pass.

2)  God’s promises prevail no matter the odds always.

3)  God guards His people from threats even when they are not even aware of them (like Balak who wanted to attack them).

BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 24, Day 3: Matthew 24:15-23

Summary of passage:  Jesus continues telling the disciples what the Second Coming will be like.  When an abomination that causes desolation stands in the temple, flee.  There will be false prophets out to deceive the elect so don’t believe them.

Questions:

6a)  Jesus is speaking of his Second Coming and the end of the age.  The holy place is the Jewish temple.  An abomination is an idol that causes desolation.

b)  Flee to the mountains.  Take nothing with them.

c)  Daniel (Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11)

7a)  Jesus says “there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now–and never to be equaled again.”  “How dreadful it will be.”

b)  To warn “the elect” or believers so they are not deceived and fall away by false prophets coming as himself.

Conclusions:  I had to use a commentary to know what Jesus was talking about in verse 15.  I knew it was the End Times, but specifically an idol in the temple was beyond me.  I don’t remember ever hearing about the abomination that causes desolation before even though I’ve read Daniel so that was cool for me.  Not a lot of meat here in my opinion without the rest of the passage that we study tomorrow.

End Notes:  This passage is much debated by scholars in terms of timing.  Did this happen prior to 70 AD?  Did this happen in 70 AD before the Romans burned the temple down (many say there was no time for an idol to be set up).  Does this mean a literal temple?  Many argue this has not happened yet and believe it would be a blatant sign such as an Antichrist in a temple.

Jesus is quoting Daniel here and Paul echoes this in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4.

BSF Study Questions Genesis Lesson 24, Day 3: Genesis 32:3-23

Summary of passage:   Jacob sends messengers ahead to tell Esau that he is coming.  He calls himself Esau’s servant and asks to find favor in his eyes.

The messengers return, telling Jacob that Esau is coming to meet along with 400 men. Jacob is afraid and assumes Esau will attack him so he divides his band into 2 groups in hopes if one is attacked the other group will survive.

Then Jacob prays to God, praising him and beseeching him to save him and his family from the wrath of Esau, quoting God’s promises to him.

Jacob decides to give Esau gifts of hundreds of goats, camels, and donkeys from his flocks. He told the servants to care for these animals, to go ahead of him, and to keep the animals separate.  He tells the lead servant to tell Esau that these animals are his and are a gift to him and to say that Jacob is coming behind.

Jacob’s goal was to pacify Esau with the gifts so when he finally meets up with him Esau will not harm him and receive him instead.

Jacob and his family crosses the Jabbok along with his possessions.

Questions:

5a)  Verse 3 Jacob calls himself “your servant”.  Jacob calls Esau “my lord” in verse 5.  Verse 7 “in great fear and distress” Jacob divides his group.

b)  In every way.  He had to leave so Esau wouldn’t kill him for Jacob’s treachery at stealing the blessing (in Esau’s eyes.  We all know the blessing was Jacob’s) in the way he did.

6)  Before, he was merely panicked and completely being subservient, humbling himself before Esau. He was fearful and full of unbelief.  He split his camps up, afraid Esau would attack and destroy at least one of them.  Then Jacob prays and the prayer is amazing!

Then he had a plan.  He offered animals to Esau as a peace offering.  But he is coming behind the procession.  Despite the fact Jacob offers up a prayer to God, he goes right back to relying on himself, not trusting God to protect him.  If he did, he would have been at the head of the procession and his gift might not have been so extravagant as he attempts to placate Esau.  He goes right back to relying on his own self and never surrendering himself to God.

7)  Yes.  He gave 580 (assuming every camel “with their young” had a baby) animals. That’s an incredible amount.  It’s hard to picture because most farms these days don’t have that many animals.  It takes an incredible amount of land to feed that many animals. And that’s just what Jacob gave!  Can you imagine how many he had?

Plus, note a lot were female.  These are more valuable in farmer’s eyes because they can produce young.  You only need a few males to have babies.

8a)  1)  He addresses God by his titles and names (verse 9)

2)  He quotes God’s orders and promises to Him (verse 9)

3)  Jacob says he is unworthy of God’s kindness and faithfulness.  He humbles himself before the Lord (verse 10)

4)  He lists the facts for God, saying what he had before and what he had now (verse 10)

5)  Then Jacob states the reason for his prayer and what he wants God to do, which is save him (verse 11)

6)  He lists the reasons why he is asking–because he is afraid of Esau and for the people with him (verse 11)

7)  Jacob ends by repeating God’s promise to him (verse 12)

Jacob used God’s word for thanksgiving and in faith.

Note:  Jacob is not only praying for himself (although that’s the primary reason) but he also states he is fearful for the women and children in his group.  Great example of praying for others as well as yourself.

b)  Although God knows our hearts and even what we will say (even if we can’t formulate the words), God likes to hear that we understand Him, that we know Him, that we acknowledge what He has done in our lives, that we know His promises and His character, and that we desire for Him to do His work in our lives.  That what we are asking for aligns with His will and not ours.  And that we are praying for others and not just ourselves.  That we are not just praying “to get things” but to have things done in our life in accordance with His purpose and will.  That we have faith in HIM and are surrendering it all to HIM.

Of course, we have to follow through.  Our actions will prove our words once the ‘Amens’ are over.

Conclusions:  Did anyone else think Jabbok sounded like a name out of Star Wars?

I was hoping BSF would ask about the prayer model because when I read the passage, I thought to myself “Isn’t this a great example of prayer?”  It’s amazing how your thoughts change when you ponder God’s words often.

We see Jacob changing as well, praying before acting (well, almost!).  But we didn’t see the follow through that is so important to God.  It’s almost as if such a beautiful prayer is wasted.  God finally had to wrestle with Jacob to make him GET IT!  I hope I learn a bit quicker!

Great lesson and passage to sink your teeth into!

Map Work:  Seir is another name for Edom:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kingdoms_around_Israel_830_map.svg

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 24, Day 3: Ephesians 4:9-16

Summary of passage:  Jesus descended to the earthly regions and ascended higher than the heavens.  He gave some to be prophets, apostles, evangelists, pastors and teachers to prepare God’s people for works of service so the body of Christ may be built up until we reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining the fullness of Christ.

Then we will in all things grow up into him and we will no longer be infants swayed by others.  We will be a part, growing and building itself up in love.

Questions:

6)  Apostles (provide a foundation), prophets (speak God’s word), evangelists (spread God’s word–the Good News of Christ–to others), pastors and teachers (equip and prepare others, shepherd others in the ways of God through teaching His word) to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining, to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

7)  Personal Question.  My answer:  We all reach unity (forgiving each other and at peace and having the same beliefs) and knowledge in Christ.  So this entails teaching others about Christ and modeling Christ-like behavior.  I can teach my kids the Bible and show what a Christian walk looks like.  I can tell others (friends, family, strangers, etc) the Good News.  I can invite them to BSF and bible studies to learn more about Christ as well as to my church.

Most importantly, I can offer up encouragement and pray for others.  The simple words of “Can I pray for you right now?” can go a long way in bringing others to Christ.

8a)  Our goal is to reach a spiritual unity in a common faith and to know God and Christ and who He is (spiritual maturity) with the goal of attaining the fullness of Christ (becoming like-Christ).  Then we will be mature trees with strong roots, standing firm in our beliefs and never wavering or being deceived by the devil and his workmen.

b)  By living, breathing, and knowing the Truth of God.  Using it as a weapon against the Enemy.  Put God as our center, stand firm in Christ.  Live in him, be rooted and built up in him, strength our faith, and be overflowing with thankfulness and gratitude.  Live in God’s world and not in this one.

Read and know God’s word.  Pray.  Then pray some more.  Walk in His ways.  Avoid the noise of this world that tries to crowd out His voice.  Listen and God will speak.

9a)  Tell others about God.  Proclaim His goodness and His work in your life.  Be a witness.  Always look for opportunities to influence others.

b)  Always speak from the heart.  Never pressure.  Just witness.  Tell the good in your life and how Jesus is the cause of it.  Give God the credit.  Out loud and to others.  At every opportunity God gives.

c) Do my Bible Study!!!  Pray.  Pray some more.  Pray with my kids.  Pray for others. Decide today to discover God’s purpose for my life and each and every day strive to attain it.  Never putting it behind something else.  Make it a priority. Behave according to God’s word.  Model Christ’s life.  Ask for forgiveness when sin and begin anew each day with no regrets.  Forgive others.  Encourage others.  Love others.

d)  I have a job to do, a part and role to play to build up the body of Christ.  So I must do so.  Teach my kids God’s word.  Grow them into who God wants them to be.  Discover them and help them discover God’s purpose for their life.  Bring others into the Body by inviting others to church, bible studies and functions, or speaking God’s words of comfort to others or praying.  Pray for the body of Christ, for the Church, for every member.  Support the church in every way in their ministries.

In essence, do my part so that the whole may grow and build and spread God’s love and mercy.

Conclusions:  Much better than yesterday.  Great lesson for thinking about what our role is in life and in God’s purpose for our lives.  Prompting us to think of ideas to spread His word in love, to live out His word, and to build up the whole–of which we are called to do as expressed so eloquently by Paul in this passage.

Use this as a brain-storming lesson–brainstorm ways in which you can continue to live out God’s purpose for you and bring others alongside you in the process.  Many people think of evangelism as missionaries.  But we are all evangelists.  Even if we merely live by God’s standards others will see that.  It can be as simple as wearing a cross necklace or earrings.  We are voicing we are His either verbally and non-verbally (preferably both) but always in the way God calls us to.

We listen.  We obey.  We follow.  Doesn’t get any simpler than that.

BSF Study Questions Isaiah Lesson 24, Day 3 Isaiah 53:1-3

Summary of passage:  Who has believed Isaiah (that the Servant would suffer when the Lord is so mighty?)  The Servant grew before him like a tender shoot and out of dry ground.  He had no external beauty or majesty to attract us to him.  He was a man of sorrows, one whom men hide from, so he was despised and not esteemed.

Questions:

6a)  He grew up with the people like a tender shoot (weak and insignificant–not like a tall tree) and like a root out of dry ground (as opposed to living waters).  He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him and nothing in his appearance we should desire (he wasn’t People Magazine’s Sexiest Man of the Year in essence or possess JFK’s charisma).  He was rejected and a man of suffering.

b)  Very important to our culture.  Models, actors, actresses make a lot of money and are coveted.  Even in politics you have to look the part.  Society’s values of beauty has led to anorexia, bulimia, plastic surgery, etc–all to look perfect.

It used to be very important to me.  I fell into the trap society lays for young women.  I battled overeating and anorexia.  Now, as I’m older, I’m not quite as concerned.  I still want to look good but it’s more emphasis on the health aspects of being fit and not for beauty reasons.

7a)  He was despised and rejected by men and not esteemed.  Jesus didn’t look like what people thought a Messiah should.

b)  Hebrews 2:5-18  “…God…should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering…since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity…because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

Luke 24:26 “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter His glory?”

In order to save man from himself, Jesus had to become man.  All people suffer.  Thus, Jesus had to suffer.  He physically took our sins, to be our path to the Father and eternal life.

c)  Utter gratitude, humility, something human emotions cannot express

Conclusions:  It’s unfathomable to think what God has done for us through Jesus.  I cannot adequately express my feelings and thoughts.  It’s beyond human comprehension.  God became man and suffered (when He Created us) out of His intimate love for us and His desire to have us always by His side forever.  Unfathomable.

End Note:  Admittedly, I had no idea where to find Question 7b. Here’s the best of what I found for those curious:

http://www.biblecourses.com/English/downloads/pdfs/CrossLessons/Why_Did_Jesus_Have_to_Suffer.pdf