BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 26, Day 5: Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46

Summary of passages:  Matthew 26:36-46:  Jesus and his disciples travel to Gethsemane where Jesus goes to pray, taking Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him.  He asks them to keep watch with him as Jesus is overcome with sorrow.  Jesus asks God to take his cup from him but only if it is God’s will.

Jesus returns after praying to find his disciples asleep.  He tells them to watch and pray and if they would do that, the spirit would give them the strength to stay awake.  Jesus goes away and prays a second time, the same prayer.  He came back to sleeping disciples again.  Jesus leaves them and goes away to pray the same prayer a third time.  He comes back and chastises the disciples, telling them he is about to be betrayed and they are sleeping!

Mark 14:32-42:  Jesus took his disciples to Gethsemane and told them to wait while he prayed.  Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him to keep watch over him as his soul was overwhelmed with sorrow.  Jesus prayed to God, saying take the cup from him as everything is possible for God but only if it be God’s will.  Jesus returns and specifically chastises Simon for falling asleep, saying the body is weak but the spirit is strong.

The same as Matthew here:  Jesus asks God twice more to take away his cup and his disciples are found sleeping while Jesus is turned over to sinners.

Luke 22:39-46:  Jesus went to the Mount of Olives with the disciples following him.  He told them to pray that they would not fall into temptation.  He withdrew a stone’s throw from them and prayed for God to take the cup from him if He was willing.  An angel from heaven appeared to strengthen Jesus.  Jesus prayed more fervently and his sweat was like blood falling to the ground.

Jesus rose and went back to his disciples and found them sleeping.  Jesus told them again to get up and pray so they wouldn’t fall into temptation.

Questions:

11a)  Gave up his earthly life.  He was beaten.  He gave up his will (to live) for God’s will (to die).

b)  He is angry and chastises them.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  He is sorrowful that is giving up his earthly life.  He asks to stay longer if it be God’s will.  He is sorrowful, troubled, and sad about giving up his life for others.  He knows the physical pain that is coming and he doesn’t want to experience that.  He feels just like us and needs God and God’s strength just like us.

12)  Mark tells us Jesus includes in his prayer to God that “everything is possible for him”.  Mark tells us Jesus specifically yells at Peter about falling asleep.

Luke is the passage that deviates the most from the other two.  Luke says that Jesus told all the disciples to pray that they would not fall into temptation and that presumably all of them fell asleep.  Jesus was only a stone’s throw from them while praying.  An angel from heaven appeared to Jesus as he was praying to strengthen him.  Sweat fell from Jesus like drops of blood to the ground.

13a)  Jesus prays the same thing 3 times “Father, if it be possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  Luke says God sent an angel to strengthen Jesus.

b)  Lord, thank you for strengthening Jesus in his time of need that allowed him to sacrifice his life for our sins so that we may be with you.  May we all embrace your will as Jesus did.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclusions:  I find it fascinating how one passage usually always differs from the others.  How God wanted different facts recorded it seems.  It shows how each of us remembers things a bit differently and some things about experiences stand out to us while different things stand out to others.

End Notes:  The name Gethsemane means “olive press” so the area was surrounded by olive trees.  Olives are crushed to make olive oil.  Fitting then how Jesus was soon to be crushed.

Note the cup of wrath or judgment that we discussed in Matthew 20 (Lesson 21 Day 4).  Jesus is taking the cup that was meant for all of us.

Gethsemane was the last place Jesus needed to win in order to take our sins.  Imagine if Jesus had turned his back on us here.  The whole world would not be the same.

Jesus needed the disciples prayers here for him and for themselves in order to not deny him.  They failed miserably if you will.

Note the example Jesus sets here with repeated prayer.  If Jesus can repeatedly ask God for things, so can we.

Jesus knew Judas was coming, but he did not run.  Instead, he waited for him.  Jesus was the one in control of events.  As he continues to be today.

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BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 26, Day 4: Matthew 26:31-35; Mark 14:27-31; Luke 22:31-38

Summary of passages:  Matthew 26:31-35:  Jesus tells his disciples they all will fall away from him and he will rise and go ahead of them into Galilee.  Peter denied he ever would abandon the Lord but Jesus said he would 3 times.  Peter still denied it.

Mark 14:27-31:  Same as Matthew.

Luke 22:31-38:  Jesus says that Satan has asked to sift Simon Peter (test him) so Jesus has prayed for him that his faith may not fail and tells Peter to strengthen the brothers.  Peter says he is ready to go with Jesus to death.  Jesus says Peter will deny him 3 times before dawn.  Jesus tells the disciples to bring a purse, bag, or sword for they are about to be persecuted.

Questions:

8a)  Peter was arrogant and cocky.  He says he will never fall away after Jesus tells them all are going to and even after Jesus tells Peter he will deny him 3 times Peter says he won’t.  To deny someone 3 times is weak in my opinion

b)  He says he won’t fall away, not him.

c)  Peter thinks he won’t fall away and he’s sure of himself even to the point of death.  When one is over-confident, failure tends to happen.  He is more susceptible to tricks when he believes he isn’t.

9a)  God’s sovereignty over Satan:  Satan had to ask God for permission to “sift” Simon or test him.

The tempted Christian:  Jesus prays for us that our faith may not fail and that we will be stronger afterwards to strengthen others

Jesus:  Jesus prays for us and is with us throughout the temptation.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Not for sure when I failed God knowingly although I’m sure I have failed many a time.  I definitely don’t feel like I have helped others because of my failures.  Hurt others would be more like it.

10a)  They will all fall away and Peter is going to deny Christ 3 times that night.

b)  Christ will rise and go ahead of them into Galilee.

Conclusions:  Easier than the previous days for the mere fact the passages are shorter and only covers one small event.  Question 8 should have been one question for the answers were all similar in nature.

End Notes:  By telling Peter he will deny him 3 times, Jesus is giving him a chance to pray to God to strengthen him for on his own, Peter is weak.  Peter, over-confident of his own abilities, dismisses Jesus’ claims–a mistake on Peter’s part that will haunt him the rest of his life.

As Peter demonstrates, it’s okay to stumble in our walk with Christ as long as we get back up. Peter made some mistakes but did he ever make up for them!  We are human and we will stumble.  To expect otherwise is unrealistic.

BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 26, Day 3: Matthew 26:17-30

Summary of passage:  Jesus made preparations for the Passover dinner.  He told the disciples to go to Jerusalem to a certain man’s house and tell them the teacher is going to have Passover dinner at your house.  So they did.  So, at Passover, Jesus announces that one of them will betray him in less than 24 hours.  All denied it and Jesus pointed out it would be Judas, who was foolish enough to ask Jesus who told him the truth.  He told him it would be better if he had not been born.  (OUCH!).

Jesus blessed the bread and gave it to his disciples, saying eat this as my body.  He gave them wine and said drink this as my blood of the covenant.  They sung a hymn, presumably finished dinner, and went to the Mount of Olives.

Questions:

6a)  Passover

b)  The Jews celebrate Passover as a festival to remember God’s liberation of His people from Egypt.  The name comes from God’s instruction to the Jews to mark their homes with lambs’ blood so that the angel of the Lord would “passover” their homes during the 10 Plagues God inflicted upon the Egyptian people.  Exodus 11-12 records God’s instructions to Moses regarding the punishment of killing the first-born child of the Egyptians and His command to celebrate this as the Feast of the Unleavened Bread to remember God’s great deeds.

c)  He blessed bread, broke it, and said eat of his body.  He blessed wine, drank it, and said drink of this wine as this is the blood of the covenant.

7a)  Luke 22:19-20:  Bread:  Jesus’ body  Wine:  New Covenant in Jesus’ blood for us

John 6:51-58:  Bread:  Jesus’ flesh and whoever eats of it will live forever.  Wine:  Jesus’ blood and drinking it will give everlasting life.  Feed on Jesus and live.  Bread that came down from heaven.  Manna from Moses does not give everlasting life.  Here Jesus emphasizes the difference.

1 Peter 1:19:  “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect”

1 Peter 2:24:  Bread would be his body here and our sins.  Wounds would be his blood and represent our healing and righteousness

1 John 1:7: Jesus’ blood purifies us from all sin.

b)  Verse 24:  “Do this in remembrance of me.”  Verse 25:  “Whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  Verse 26: “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  You are remember Jesus as Lord and Savior and his suffering on the cross for me.  I personally think verse 28 is much more helpful  “a man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.”  Take this seriously, take a moment, confess your sins, ask for forgiveness, and be close to God.  Don’t just go through the motions.

Conclusions:   It is a pet peeve of mine when BSF only puts the required reading at the top but then the first question requires us to read more.  This should be put in the headline.  Hence, this day is deceiving.  It’s just as much work as yesterday was.

Interesting that we didn’t read Mark’s, Luke’s and John’s account of this very important event especially since John, once again, varies widely and adds details no other does.  It is John who tells us Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.  It is him who tells us Judas has been prompted by the devil to betray Jesus and that Jesus sends Judas away to do it quickly.

End Notes:  Once again, John deviates from the others and thus throws a kink into the timing.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke present this event as happening on the Passover.  John says this happened before the Passover (13:1) and Jesus was crucified on the Passover (John 18:28).  Scholars argue that maybe Jesus ate earlier than Jewish custom or Jesus deliberately held this feast sooner so as to have the time with his disciples.  To me, this argument is unimportant with the result of Jesus’ death:  Salvation.  The rest is nice to know but not life-changing.

Jesus was hoping Judas would repent of his sin and this is why Jesus brings up the betrayal.  Jesus knew his betrayal was fixed and would not be changed, but he was hoping Judas could still be saved.  Psalm 41:9 by David “Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”

Can you imagine how Jesus’ heart broke over this?  How many of us have experienced a similar kind of betrayal by a loved one; yet, thankfully, only our heart breaks and our lives are not threatened.

[Side Note:  Dante's Divine Comedy has Judas in the lowest place in Hell.  This is suitable for Judas does the opposite of repenting:  he denies it as well and becomes as hypocritical as the chief priests.].

Every disciple was incredulous.  And none of them pointed a finger at others.  All were shocked.

Once again, it is John who throws a wrench in this debate:  Was Judas present at the Lord’s supper or did he leave before hand (John 13:30)?  Again, up for debate.  Most scholars say Judas was not present at the Lord’s supper for the mere fact of what the Lord’s Supper represents.  Another question we’ll have answered when we get to heaven.  There are no 100% answers here.

My Bible does not have New Covenant but New is in some manuscripts.  Hence, Jesus is God when he institutes the covenant as only God can.

For hundreds of years, there has been debate on if the bread and wine becomes actual blood and body of Jesus (transubstantiation and a Roman Catholic belief) or consubstantiation where the bread and wine are the blood and body of Jesus by faith and not transformed (usually propounded by Protestants from Martin Luther and Calvin on).

Whatever you believe, what matters is what your heart believes:  do you accept Jesus as your Savior?

We must take and eat.  We must choose to accept his life.

The Greek word for thanks is “eucharist”.  Hence, the Lord’s supper being known by some as the partaking of the Eucharist.

I’ve missed the fact Jesus sang at the Last Supper until now (Go BSF!).  Can you imagine?  Jesus singing?!!

What did Jesus sing?  It is traditional for Jews to sing Psalm 116-118. Beautiful.

Could you sing before your death?  If you have Jesus, you can do anything!

BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 26, Day 2: Matthew 26:1-16; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-11

Summary of passages:  Matthew 26:1-16:  Jesus tells the disciples that the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.  The chief priests and elders assembled in the palace of the high priest of Caiaphas and plotted to arrest him and kill him.  But not during the Passover Feast or the people may riot.

That night while Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon the Leper a woman came to him and anointed him with expensive perfume.  The disciples were indignant, saying she could have sold that perfume and give the money to the poor.  Jesus chastised them, saying she was doing a beautiful thing for him who will not always be with them.  She was preparing him for burial.

Judas went to the chief priests and offered to hand Jesus over to them.  They offered him 20 silver coins and Judas agreed.

Mark 14:3-9:  Mark adds the details that the perfume could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and some present rebuked her.  She did what she could.

John 12:1-11:  John says this happens 6 days before the Passover while Matthew says it was only 2 days.  He says it happened at a dinner given in Jesus’ honor.  Martha served and Lazarus was present.  Mary was the one who took the bottle of perfume.  She poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair.  It says Judas was the one to object and his motives were selfish:  he wanted the money for himself and since he was apparently in charge of the disciples’ money, he would take some for himself.

A large crowd came to the house to see Jesus and Lazarus.  Hence, the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well since many were being converted to Christ because of the testimony of Lazarus.

Questions:

3)  Personal Question.  My answer:  It challenges me to give the most precious possessions I own to Jesus as Mary did and to humble myself before him with no regard to how it may be perceived by others or what repercussions might come about.

4a)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Apparently, Judas was a greedy man and probably jealous of Jesus.  Jealousy and greed lead to even greater sins of betrayal and even selling your soul.  Lesson is to be on guard against such sins.

b)  He was paid 30 pieces of silver.  In Exodus we learn 30 pieces of silver was the penalty to be paid to a master if a man’s bull gores a slave.  The bull must also be stoned.  In Zechariah the shepherd was paid 30 pieces of silver for his work, which the Lord said to throw back to the potter so the shepherd did.  The shepherd here is Jesus.  Read more of Zechariah for context here.

The point here is that 30 pieces of silver (about $25 today) was a small amount–the amount a slave was worth and a slave’s life was worth.  Christ was valued as nothing when in reality his gift to us is priceless.

5a)  According to Jesus and recorded in all 3 gospels here, the perfume was serving as an anointment for burial.  Here, the heart gift is important.  Mary was giving Jesus all her heart and all her worship.  She was giving him all she had–all his due–all that is his.  She (a woman) understood the coming days.

When you do, when you give, and when you live all for him, you do no wrong.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Well, “good things” is subjective.  I don’t think any time spent in prayer, reading the Bible, or worship is a waste.  Could I be doing other things and do others things call my attention?  Yes.  Time is a precious commodity and it is always a trade-off when we decide how to spend our time.  But I don’t “consider” any time I do spend a waste.  I am called to spend time with the Lord and I consider it a privilege every time I do.

I’m not tapping my foot during worship, impatient if that’s what this is about.  I think it’s all a priority.  You spend time with God first, others second, your stuff last.  Whether you always do this or not is a different question.  But no time is a waste when spent on God.  No matter how little or how much you do do.

Conclusions:  Lots of reading for this day and in the coming days of parallel passages.  It was interesting just how much different John is from Matthew and Mark.  This doesn’t necessarily mean it is a contradiction.  Since Matthew and Mark doesn’t give dates, it could be a flashback for Matthew and Mark as they record events out of order.  They really don’t say specifically like John does.  Jesus was at Bethany for a whole week before Passover so this could have taken place any time during that week.

I wonder why Mary wasn’t mentioned by name in Matthew and Mark and neither was Lazarus.  Fascinating.

End Notes:  Jesus is now done with his teachings.  The rest is preparing for his crucifixion.

Matthew’s use of the words “assembled” and “plotted” is deliberate.  It is supposed to remind the readers of Psalm 31:13.

Simon the Leper is unknown in Scripture outside of this verse.  We can presume he was one Jesus cured but his distinction still stuck.

Caiaphas was high priest from 15 AD-36 AD.  This was an extraordinarily long time for a high priest.  This shows just how skilled Caiaphas was in keeping the Jews and the Romans happy.

Two years after the crucifixion of Christ, both Caiaphas and Pilate were out of power, replaced by the future Roman Emperor Vitellius.  Caiaphas killed himself after this, some say out of guilt of the crucifixion of Christ.

Amazing how the high priests thought they were in control.  They did not want to kill Christ during Passover; but as we’ve seen, Christ is in control and his plan was different.

Scholars believe the Mary in John is the sister of Lazarus and Martha.

Why is this story not recorded in Luke?  There is in Luke 7:36-50.  Scholars believe Luke’s a separate anointing that took place in Galilee.  Still, some of the details in Luke’s account mirrors John’s account such as the anointing of the feet and the wiping of the hair.

This is one of those things we’ll have to ask John and Luke about when we get to heaven!

Was this waste?  If everything is from Jesus, then it’s all for Jesus as well.  This was an intense act of love, giving Jesus all his due.  Hence the chastisement of Judas and others.

Judas, having been rebuked publicly by Jesus here, probably took this as the last straw.  Hence, his desire to turn Jesus over for profit.  His jealousy probably raged here and he desired revenge.

Many scholars have speculated as to Judas’ motivations.  Some point out he may have been from Judea, making him the only disciple from that area.  Hence, he might resent the prominence of the others.  Some say he wanted Jesus to reveal himself so he thought his actions would hurry this up.  Some even say he didn’t believe Jesus to be the Messiah and he decided to cut his losses.

Whatever Judas’ motivations, we only know the outcome:  Judas sold Jesus for greed.  He profited.  That’s all the Bible says and that is sufficient for us believers.  All of God’s word is sufficient.

BSF Study Questions Genesis Lesson 26, Day 5: Genesis 38

Summary of passage:  After Joseph was sold to the Midianites, Judah left his family and went to Adullam.  He married a Canaanite woman names Shua and had 3 sons with her–the last of which was born in Kezib.  When Judah’s first-born son grew up (Er), he married a woman named Tamar.  But Er was so wicked that the Lord put him to death.

Onan, the second-born of Judah, now was ordered to sleep with Tamar since it was law back then to produce heirs for the line.  Onan refused and the Lord killed him too.

Tamar went to live in her father’s house until the third son, Shelah, was grown.  However, Tamar was not given to Shelah when he had come of age so Tamar dresses up as a prostitute in order to trick Judah into sleeping with her.  He does indeed sleep with her and she conceives twin boys.  She keeps his seal, cord, and staff in order to prove he is the father to avoid being accused of prostitution and put to death.  Judah admits he was wrong in not giving her Shelah so spares her life.

Their names are Perez and Zerah.

Questions:

12)  We see in Genesis 34:1 that Dinah apparently was a girl of the town who “visited the women of the land” frequently.  We see the horrendous retribution by Simeon and Levi wiping the town of Shechem from the map.  Joseph was sold to slavery by all the brothers in Genesis 37.  And now Judah marries a Canaanite.

13)  The whole family might have become pagans once again and the line to Jesus would have been tainted forever.  Belief in the One, True God could have vanished all together and God would have had to start all over again.  Remember, those who believed in God at this time were all from Abraham’s family.  And not that many generations have passed since then.  Perhaps hundreds?  Maybe a thousand people believed in God.

It’s not hard to imagine how these people could be swallowed up by the corruption and unbelief around them.

14)  No.  Judah.  Judah shouldn’t have married a Canaanite.  Period.  When God kills two of your three sons that should have been a hint that you made a mistake.  However, like Rachel, Tamar resorted to trickery to get what should have been rightfully hers.  This is not good in God’s eyes.  But I can’t help but wonder in ancient times how women had little other means to do anything.  Not that their behavior is justified.  But it is understandable considering women were mere property back then.

Furthermore, Judah wasn’t following the law either by refusing to give Tamar to Shelah. Judah held all the power in his hands to do what was right and he refused.

15a)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Perhaps she came to believe in the Lord and back then there wasn’t a lot of believers in the One, True God to choose from as husbands.

However, this question may be misguided and makes a lot of assumptions.  How do we know she had her own friends and opportunities for marriage?  Tamar was now a widow and she had no land or anything to go with that status.  She had also married outside of her culture.  Normally, this causes a rift between her and her “friends” and family so she may have been labeled as an outcast.

Furthermore, as a widow, it was Judah, NOT her father, who now decided whom she should marry.  Only he could give her in marriage and provide a dowery.  And from what Tamar was seeing, it appeared Judah’s intentions were to leave her with her father for the rest of her life.

Well, an unmarried woman and childless in that culture was an outcast period.  She’d have no son to provide for her and would have no purpose outside of the marriage realm. She was facing a bleak future and hence took matters into her own hands.  Can anyone blame her?

In conclusion, I don’t think she had any other opportunities to marry.  I think this question is wrong in asserting that.  I think she had no friends either.  Her former friends were probably all married now with a family of their own.  And as a mother we all know once you have kids it is difficult to maintain friendships with your single friends who have no kids simply because you have nothing in common any more with them.  I think this is more likely the case.

Like I said, there weren’t a lot of other believers out there to marry at this time.  I believe she was stuck between a rock and a hard place and didn’t like either one.

It was obvious the Lord was with her.  If she was a believer, she could have been praying for a solution to her problem.  She probably acted before He answered.  But He never abandoned her and He blessed her in a way only we know (by being in Christ’s line). Amazing!

b)  Ruth, who was a Gentile as well, accepted the Lord as her God after her marriage to Ruth’s son. She would not turn back to her people who were unbelievers and who worshipped other gods.  Rahab has heard of God’s power and abilities and although it doesn’t say if she was a believer when at this time when she protected the two spies, she reveres God enough to get on his side and not the side of her people.

Tamar seems to be the same way.  She probably was converted when she was married to Er and would not turn her back on God no matter what happened to her.

16)  Judah sent Tamar back to her father to live because he thought “he may die too like his brothers” (verse 11) and then refused to give her Shelah, probably out of fear he would be stricken by the Lord as well (verse 14).    Verse 26 is where Judah mentions she is more righteous than him for her actions.

17)  Personal Question.  My answer:  First because her story takes up a whole chapter in Genesis.  And her actions were righteous and because of them we have Jesus.  Her story is an example of following the law.  If it hadn’t of been for Tamar’s actions, there would have been no Jesus.  She was responsible for conceiving, not Judah.  Hence, I believe she is mentioned in recognition of that fact.

Conclusions:  We look at some powerful women in this lesson that clung to God despite all the hardships involved.  For supposedly a “weak” lot, women play a powerful role in God’s world even when in man’s she is nothing.

Onan was more than happy to have sex with Tamar but didn’t want her to have a child that would not be considered his.  He was shirking the law and for that he is judged.

We must remember God caused Tamar to conceive.  It was His will that she carry the line even if she used deception.  Just like Rebekah and Jacob.  God is in control despite all man’s doings.

Both Tamar and Judah are shining examples of God’s grace.  Neither was worthy to be the heir of Jesus but they were both chosen by God to be so.  Despite our sins, God loves us anyways and uses us in powerful ways.

End Note:  I had never drawn the conclusion that Jacob and his family were meant to get out of Canaan for a bit in order to escape the pagans around them.  I had always assumed that they only went to Egypt for food.  Now I see God’s wisdom and purposes in a new light.

It is just absolutely amazing how God has everything planned and how we may only see one purpose (like the need for food); whereas, God has infinitely more (like getting them out of Canaan to protect them).  Good to remember in my life as well.

Map of Timnah, Bethel, and Adullum:  http://bibleatlas.org/full/timnah.htm

Adullum is beneath Timnah to the right a bit.  Bethel is in the upper-right hand corner in the brown.  So Judah left Bethel where his family had been staying, went to Adullum and got married, then went up to Timnah to shear his sheep.  The place where Tamar waited for Judah, Enaim, is right outside of Timnah on maps I found.

BSF Study Questions Genesis Lesson 26, Day 4: Skimming Joseph’s Story in Genesis 39-41

Summary of passage:  Genesis 39 tells how Potiphar’s Wife wanted to sleep with Joseph but he refused so she told her husband he tried to take her and he ended up in prison. Genesis 40 tells that while Joseph was in prison he began interpreting others’ dreams. Genesis 41 tells how Joseph languored in prison for 2 years until he was called upon to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams.  Joseph credits God and seeing that God is with him Pharaoh puts Joseph in charge of all of Egypt–second in command beneath him.

Questions:

9a)  Jacob refused to be comforted and was disconsolate when his favorite son, his whole world, died.  He refused to rejoice that Joseph was in heaven, in a better place.  Instead, he only wanted to die.  This was from his emphasis on Joseph as his favorite son.  When Joseph died, so did Jacob.

b)  Throughout all the circumstances that happened to Joseph, he rose to become the number two guy of the most powerful nation on earth.  He not only saved God’s chosen people but he also saved Egypt and all the peoples around.  God used Joseph to ensure all prospered.  Joseph’s family was reconciled.

Just like Romans 8:28 says “In all things God works for the good of those who love him”. All things work together for my good.  Even the bad works for good.  We just have to remember to trust God and what He is doing for He has a purpose that we cannot see nor understand.  God is in control and no matter what happens to us or around us we must not worry.  For His plan will prevail.

10)  Thrown down the cistern and sold by his brothers.  Potiphar’s wife lied to have him thrown in prison.  He explained a dream to a cellmate who forgets about him.  There he sat for 2 years until he interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams.

11)  God protects Joseph from the death of his brothers (Genesis 37).  Potiphar’s wife tempts Joseph day after day but he tell her he cannot sin against God (Genesis 39:9). Potiphar puts him in jail when he could easily have killed him and while in jail Joseph is favored by God (Genesis 39:21) and put in charge of the prisoners and God “gave him success in whatever he did” (Genesis 39:23).

While in prison, Joseph meets those who will tell Pharaoh about him, the chief cupbearer.  Joseph credits his interpretations to God (Genesis 40:8; 41:16)

Conclusions:  Honestly, didn’t like this lesson.  Not much point to it.  Why not just be assigned to read the passages and then answer questions?

9b is why the story of Joseph is so powerful and why almost everyone (even non-Christians) know his story. For despite all the terrible things that happen to Joseph, he never once gives up on God and God never forgets Joseph.  I think this story particularly resonates with Americans who hold the American dream:  that no matter where you come from you can rise to succeed.  No matter how many hard knocks you take, you must always get up and keep fighting.

With one caveat:  As long as you give God the credit.

I know, even non-Christians rise and succeed but it is all God’s plan and God’s credit even if they don’t believe nor acknowledge it.

But as Christians we must.  His glory.  Never ours.  As Joseph so wondrously shows us how.

BSF Study Questions Genesis Lesson 26, Day 3: Genesis 37:12-36

Summary of passage:  The brothers (notice Joseph is conspicuously absent) were grazing sheep near Shechem when Jacob/Israel sent Joseph to check up on them and make sure all was well.

When Joseph arrived in Shechem, the brothers had moved on to Dothan.  The brothers saw him coming and plotted to kill him.  The mocked him by calling him dreamer and planned to kill him and throw him in a cistern and tell Jacob that a ferocious animal killed him.

But Reuben tried to rescue Joseph.  He suggested not to shed blood and just to throw him into a cistern and then come back later.  Basically, just to teach Joseph a lesson was his plan.

So the brothers stripped him of his robe and threw him into an empty cistern.  The brothers then sat down to eat their meal when a caravan of Ishmaelites appeared heading to Egypt to sell spices.  Judah (interestingly the fourth born and the one whom Jesus will come from) sees dollar signs so he suggests why don’t they sell their brother to the Ishmaelites?  They will be rid of Joseph AND have money in their pockets.  ALL agreed.

So the brothers pulled Joseph out of the cistern and sold him for 20 shekels of silver (note the obvious reference to Jesus here who was betrayed for 30 pieces of silver) to the Midianites.

Reuben who apparently was not there during all of this but where he went and why is uncertain returns to find Joseph gone.  He tears his clothes (obviously upset) and questions his brothers.

They took Joseph’s coat and spread goat’s blood all over it.  They presented this to Jacob/Israel who concluded a ferocious animal did tear Joseph to pieces.

Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned his son for days.  All tried to comfort him but he refused them.  Jacob wept.

The Midianites sold Jacob in Egypt to Potiphar, the captain of the Pharaoh’s guards.

Questions:

5)  Joseph went to the Valley of Hebron as instructed but not finding his brothers, he inquires of them and is told they went to Dothan.  So Joseph follows them to Dothan.  He is rewarded by being thrown in a cistern and sold as a slave.

6a)  Reuben and Judah

b)  Genesis 42 says that Joseph pleaded for his life.  I imagine he screamed at the top of his lungs.  He probably tried to reason with them, saying he wouldn’t boast any more.  He probably even tried bribes like giving them his precious coat or something.  I’m sure he asked why they were doing this to him.  I’m sure he shed some tears.

c)  This question to me seems to be justifying what happened to Joseph by drawing the parallel.  There is no justification for throwing someone in a pit, plotting their murder, and selling them into slavery.  Joseph did not deserve what happened to him no matter what sins he had committed (which weren’t that bad compared to murder and the like).

Joseph’s crime was boasting.  We suffer the same when pride rules instead of humbleness.  We are often blinded to people and things around us and our lives become self-centered instead of God-centered.

However, I submit that you can’t fault a 17 year-old kid for being prideful and full of hubris.  Especially if you compare to today’s society where 30 somethings never grow up and are the same way.  If anyone is to blame, it’s Jacob and Rachel who spoiled him rotten and created the discord between the brothers.  Joseph did not deserve to suffer.

d)  They were both stripped of their clothing according to the passages and they were watched over and guarded.

7a)  20 sheckels.  30 silver coins.

b)  He had been the favored, the special one, the coddled one, the one chosen to receive the birthright.  And now he’s a slave.  It must have been a huge adjustment.  Imagine your freedom and world gone completely and now you must do hard labor and answer to others.

c)  The same.  When bad things happen, we think God doesn’t care, that He’s turned His back on us and is allowing our suffering.  We often don’t equate it to future good for it is hard in the moment to do so.  We ask “Why is God allowing this to happen in our lives?”  We pray and wait.  That’s all we can do.

8a)  Personal Question.  My answer:  I would say both.  There are other ways God could have chosen for Joseph to rise to be the number two guy in Egypt and save the lives of many people–many ways that did not involve suffering.  But Joseph did have to learn some hard lessons about living for others, being grateful, and turning to God always.

I think of Naomi and Ruth who lost everything but still believed in God.  They both had to do back-breaking labor in order to survive but in the end Ruth married Boaz and he provided for them both.  They had to have God at their center before good things happened.

Jacob had to work hard before he was able to return to the Promised Land.  He had to be taught hard lessons the hard way.  Moses killed a man and had to live in Midian for 40 years as a shepherd before God called him.  Job lost everything in a test of faith by God.

The Bible is full of examples where God inflicts us with hardships in order to grow us and our faith–not only for us but for those around us and in Joseph’s case for an entire nation.

b)  Joseph’s dreams were an encouragement for they told Joseph his family and Israel would bow to him.

Conclusions:  What was Reuben doing while the brothers dispatched Joseph?  Most likely he was trying to get them to move on so he could return unknowingly to free Joseph since no one else liked his plan.

Can you imagine the brothers sitting callously by, calmly eating their meal, while Joseph is screaming at the top of his lungs, pleading with them not to harm him and to let him go free?  This just shows the depth of the brothers’ hatred for their little brother, the effect Jacob’s favoritism had on them, and how deep the devil had twisted their hearts.

Also, their is no sign of remorse on the brothers part upon presenting their father with Joseph’s coat.  They are aloof, indifferent, and callous to the core.

How plausible is the excuse to Jacob that wild animals killed him?  What wild animals lived in Canaan during this time that could cause such a bloody death?  Lions, bears, crocodiles, and cheetahs used to roam ancient Israel.  So this is very plausible.

[Side Note:  When we think of lions, we think of the African lions that roar on the plains in Africa.  Few people know that there is actually another lion species, the Asiatic Lion, that used to roam Asia as well.  However, due to the Romans import of wild animals for the Gladiatorial fights, this species was decimated.  Due to man's penchant for cheap thrills, most of the rest were eradicated with the advent of firearms.  There is now only a tiny population in a pocket in India and some in zoos.  Sad, sad, sad.  Man is capable of such good but he is also capable of such harm.]

[Side Note to the Side Note:  Many people don't think of gladiatorial fights with wild animals.  But the Romans imported thousands and thousands of wild animals that included lions, elephants, tigers, cheetahs, etc to fight with the gladiators over hundreds of years.  The Romans virtually eliminated some species from the face of the planet. They inflicted so much damage (such as the Asiatic Lion) that these species still have not recovered.  And the people of Rome (not just the leaders) stood by and watched this slaughter week after week and even called for more.  Fascinating study if you ever get the chance.  But incredibly sad at how God commissioned us to care for the animals and instead we kill them off for no other reason than to watch them fall.  Probably some twisted heart within us that says 'Better them than me.']

It is tempting to think Jacob kept Joseph back from tending the flock because he wanted to protect him.  But by Jacob sending Joseph out into the desert by himself to check up on his brothers, this idea is proven wrong.  Joseph faced robbers, other men who would do him harm, as well as animals and the elements.  This shows to me that Joseph stayed behind because he wasn’t required to work like his brothers were–another example of favoritism shown.

End Notes:  In Leviticus 27:5, God sets the price of those dedicated to the Lord based on ages and those between the age of 5 and 20 (the age of Joseph) is 20 shekels of silver–the same Joseph is sold for.

Reuben is not the good guy here despite his show of tearing his clothes.  It would only have taken one brother to stand up and say, “This is wrong!” and it wouldn’t have happened.  Reuben complicitly and cowardly agrees in his actions when he left the scene. It usually only takes one person with the courage to stand up for what’s right and man’s inherent morals kick in.  But if no one does, then crowd mentality kicks in and chaos ensues (see this commentary on crowd mentality and Jesus HERE).

God fingerprints are everywhere here.  For example, the cistern was empty.  Normally, it would have been full of water but it wasn’t so Joseph would have been drowned.  That was God.

Hard to believe the Messiah came from Judah when we read Judah’s actions here. However, we are about to see how selling Joseph to the Midianites begins a series of events and circumstances that leads to the most powerful man in the world at that time–the Pharaoh of Egypt.  And only God can weave a web that intricate and create something that impossible.

BSF Study Questions Genesis Lesson 26, Day 2: Genesis 37:1-11

YEAH, JOSEPH!!!!!!!!  MY FAVORITE!!!!!!!!

Summary of passage:  Joseph at age 17 attended the flocks with his brothers and wives. It seemed he tattled on them quite frequently.  Joseph as Rachel’s first-born son was Jacob’s favorite and everyone knew it.  Jacob gave him a richly ornamented robe.  The brothers hated him for his father’s favoritism.

Joseph made the mistake of telling his brothers the dream he had of how they were all sheaves of grain and they bowed down to him (which as we know comes true in Genesis 42:6).  This only enraged his brothers more against him.

Not learning his lesson, Joseph tells his brothers another dream he has where the sun, moon, and 11 stars were bowing down to him (Genesis 40:41, 43).  This is NOT endearing him at all.

Joseph told his father this dream as well and Jacob rebuked the arrogant Joseph out of disbelief but Jacob it seems wondered about it.

Questions:

3a)  As God walked with Abraham and decided to reveal his intentions for Sodom to Abraham (Genesis 18:17-21), we learn  God revealed to him because he was the chosen one.  So too was Joseph.  He was chosen to save his people from a famine and to accomplish this he gave Joseph the gift of dream interpretation for the Pharaoh.  He was preparing Joseph to trust his dreams and to interpret them in order to fulfill God’s purpose on earth and for His people.

A simple answer is because God wanted to.  He chose Joseph and this was the method He would communicate with him.

b)  No.  Very bad idea.  It only incited their hatred against him.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Sometimes it’s best to keep things to yourself.  We must remember though Joseph is only 17 here.  He is spoiled, naive, and probably a bit arrogant (hubris of the youth).  He truly doesn’t know any better.  I think he was just retelling his dream and wondering out loud what it meant.  It was his audience he should have chosen better.

It’s the old adage “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.”  We must be considerate of others’ feelings when speaking due to the power of our tongue.  Here, it’s all about Joseph.

The Matthew verse says to not give what is sacred or valued to those who will just crush it and use it against you.  This is what Joseph did and it was definitely used against him.

4)  For a reason not in Joseph’s control:  They hated him because he was the favorite of their father, Jacob, so he was showered with gifts, treated special, and could do no wrong in Jacob’s eyes.  Jacob was probably lax on the rules with Joseph and probably let Joseph do less work than the others.  Their hatred should have been towards their father (the brothers were wrong to hate at all.  That is the devil at work.  What I’m saying is since they had hatred in their hearts it should have been towards their father, not Joseph.  It wasn’t his fault his mother was Rachel and Jacob treated him as such).

Conclusions:  Another example of how playing favorites in a family can lead to hurt feelings, pent up frustrations, and ultimately to horrible acts against family members.  It seems to be a dysfunctional cycle that is being passed down through the generations in this family.

Interesting to note what an age-old problem this is.  We, as humans, still do this today and often with the same disastrous results.  It is another sin, another human condition, we must consciously fight against in this world.

Joseph’s fabled coat-of-many-colors signifies that he is to receive the birthright.  Can you imagine how Reuben, the firstborn who is supposed to receive the birthright, felt? Ironically, it is Reuben who saves Joseph from death (Genesis 37:21-22).  And God’s plan is now set in motion.

Note the sheaves of wheat in the first dream of Joseph.  His brothers will bow down to him, asking for wheat.  Nothing is insignificant when done by God.

Telling his family his dreams was definitely in a lack of taste and in poor judgement.  I believe these dreams were meant only for Joseph so he would know his fate.  Instead, he blabbed in human pride and arrogance.  But like I said, he is young.  He will learn.

End Notes:  This section of Genesis is not in chronological order.  Notice how Jacob says “your mother and I” in verse 10.  This shows that Rachel was still alive when this happened even though we just read about her death in Genesis 35.

Scholars believe Genesis 37:2 is a breaking point, showing Jacob’s writing or preservations ending and Joseph’s beginning in 37:3.

The sun, the moon, and the 11 stars represents the family of Israel and is also found in Revelation 12:1.  This passage points to Jesus and his lineage from the tribes of Israel.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 26, Day 5: James 2:14-26

Summary of passage:  James asks what good is it to have faith without deeds? Faith by itself without action is dead. You show your faith by what you do.  As shown by deeds, Abraham offered his son Isaac on the altar which showed his faith complete by deeds.  A person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

Rahab was considered righteous when she gave lodging to the spies and sent the soldier off in different directions.  Faith without deeds is dead as the body without the spirit is dead.

Questions:

13) This is subtle and tricky.  Faith in Jesus Christ alone will save you.  You are saved by faith and receive salvation and a place in heaven when you accept Jesus in your heart.  But when you do have this faith, you are a changed person.  This new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) you have become has a new kind of faith: a faith that desires to prove itself through works.  This saving faith that we not have has works along with it.  James says in verse 17 faith now has action that accompanies it.

It mimics the saying “Actions are more powerful than words.”  You can say you believe in Jesus all you want.  You show you believe in Jesus through the actions of your heart.

14)  According to many commentaries I read, this is considered by some to be the most difficult verse in the entire New Testament to reconcile.  Wonderful (read sarcasm here). Further, one said the faith of demons should not be compared with the faith of human beings according to Hebrews 2:14.

Demons know Jesus is the Son of God (Matthew 8:29) and they yield to His Lordship (Mark 1:24;  5:7; Matthew 8:29-30).

As in Hebrews 11, we see the pillars of faith (Abraham and Rahab) mentioned here yet again.  How by faith they followed God without question (Hebrews 11:8-13; 31).

I’m going to make my own conclusions here on the difference:  Man/Abraham/Rahab followed God out of love; the demons followed/obeyed God out of fear.  This I believe is the crux of the matter.

Side Note:  One commentator I read said demons are angels who have sinned.  This was interesting so I wanted to share.  Of course, we don’t know but it’s something to ponder anyways.

15a)  No.  I don’t despite the evidence in this passage.  I would like to hope so.  But I don’t.  I believe those who are converted on their death beds don’t have the opportunity. But Jesus is happy to have them despite the fact they didn’t have time to do good works. This is what Paul says (Ephesians 2:9).

It also brings into my mind the falling away passage we studied in Hebrews 4:4-6 (another passage I have difficulty with).  I believe once you accept Christ you are his.  You can’t fall away unless you deliberately deny him afterwards.  But those who stumble still have him.  For there is nothing in this world you can do that Jesus will not forgive.  He has claimed you and even after you accept you, you sin.  But He always remains.

Do I believe most people who are born again will produce good works?  Yes.  You have no choice.  If you accept Jesus, you are a new person and His.  Therefore, the deeds will follow.  But as I mentioned I do believe in exceptions.  So I don’t think every person will accomplish this.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  I don’t know honestly.  I can’t see myself through their eyes and no one has come up to me and said, “Wow!  You are obviously God’s as I see through such-and-such evidence.”

I hope they see something but I have such a low opinion of myself right now I would say nothing.  For I’m not where I want to be in my daily walk with Christ.  I’m just not.  So I’d say there is no evidence of my faith right now.

And to me I could care less what others thought/think of me or if there is evidence (in their eyes) of my faith.  It only matters what God thinks of me and what He knows I am accomplishing.  And right now I feel I am failing miserably.  It’s my daily prayer for God to heal my heart from past pains so I can move on to what He has for me.  For the devil will not claim me.  And I will win.

Conclusions:  This passage was very, very difficult for me to chew on.  Very.  For I believe once you accept Jesus in your heart you are in Heaven.  You do not get into heaven by works.  Yet works is what makes us alive in Christ.  Christ puts works in our heart once we have him and the Holy Spirit within that we must act on.  Otherwise, we are dead.

Yet I believe there will be people in heaven who do not have works to show for their faith.  But they have faith.  This is what I believe at least.

This concept is very difficult for me to reconcile.  You don’t need works to get into heaven yet if you have faith you produce works.  And I just don’t see works in my life.  So does that mean my faith is dead?  It’s a bit of a dichotomy, isn’t it?

I just believe in my heart God wants our faith first and foremost.  He wants us.  He wants our hearts paramount.  Everything else is secondary:  our works and whatever else we do for Him.  As long as our hearts stay true to Him the rest falls into place.  Including works. We shouldn’t have to think about works.  They should just flow naturally out of our heart that is now God’s.  It should be joyful and unforced.  It should be with love and a deep gratitude.  It should be God/Holy Spirit–not something I could ever do or take credit for.

End Note:  Question 15b did not sit well with me after pondering it for a bit.  In this world where it’s a daily struggle to counter our culture of always being in each other’s business and trying to keep up with the Jones, I thought this question was in the same vein.  This was my first response at least.

We are not of this world and this question could be taken in the context of “Well, what have you done lately to show your faith?”, promoting pride over humility.  Yet, at the same time, we are to walk our faith and show non-believers what a believer’s life should look like.  So taken in this context it makes us ponder, “Are we walking our faith?”

I hope it’s the latter.  But for me, having been raised in the culture of nothing less than perfection will do, I did not like the wording of this question.  It makes me feel like I’m not doing enough and I’m inadequate in some way (something I already feel anyways.  Is any of us truly doing enough?  Consider Paul’s life…).  I’m doing the best I can under the circumstances God has given me.

I would have preferred apparent to “God”.  For He is all that matters.

If you are broken like me, you probably took this question hard like I did and immediately threw up walls because that’s what you do when you are reminded of past pains.  Then I read Matthew 5:16 where Jesus says, “Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

So it is all for God.  It’s for others to see God through us.  For His glory.  Never ours.  We do good deeds not for ourselves or what it brings us but what it brings God:  other broken people who need Him as much as we do.

Hopefully, in the end, maybe just a bit of our brokenness will be mended in the process.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 26, Day 4: James 2:1-13

Summary of passage:  James tells believers bluntly not to show favoritism because Jesus didn’t.  Favoritism is discriminating and passing judgment on others (Jesus’ job, not ours).  God judges the heart, not appearances.  God chose the poor to be rich in faith and yet the people (you) insult them.  The rich often sin against you (the people) in their quest for money.

If you show favoritism you sin.  Even if you stumble and break just one law you are guilty of breaking them all.  We are not to choose which laws are more important.  We are called simply to obey.

We are free to show favoritism or not but out of mercy we must choose not to for this mercy will then be shown to us on Judgment Day and mercy is greater than judgment.

Questions:

10)  Preference is “to like better or best; the act of giving advantages to some over others”

Favoritism is “the showing of special favor; partiality; a special privilege or right granted or conceded”  Both according to Webster’s Dictionary.

Preference and favoritism is much the same.  If you prefer or favor someone you grant them special favors or concessions.  Friends by definition (“one attached to another by affection or esteem” Webster’s) is someone you show favor to.  Not everyone is your friend.  Why not?  Because you don’t like them.  So not for sure what BSF is aiming for in terms of friendship here.

Co-workers and Christians should all be treated the same.  Much of the time however favoritism is involved and it’s hard not to do this.  If you like someone better, you are partial to them.  It’s human nature and something we must fight against in a professional setting.

My guess is the answer is this:  it’s okay to show favoritism to your friends because you choose your friends.  Your co-workers and Christians you should treat equally because God chose them.  Just a guess here.  Still not sure what BSF is aiming for here.

11a)  Any thing in the political world.  The rich are courted because to win an election unfortunately these days it all comes down to money raised.  I would say schools as well at least charter and private schools that rely on outside funds.  They constantly solicit money for this project or that project and in my limited experience the administration knows who has money and who doesn’t and plays favorites.  Sports as well at least in the early years.

Favoritism is a human trait and must be a choice to be overcome.

b)  Well, I’m not a member of any group to be honest with you.  Yes, I vote.  I homeschool.  My kids do sports. And I go to church.  But I am not intricately involved in terms of the nitty-gritty.  I choose not to be.  My calling is elsewhere.  And I don’t see favoritism in any of these places I traverse.  Not saying it doesn’t exist. Just saying I don’t see it on my level of involvement.

12)  James is saying in this verse that you cannot pick and choose which laws to follow.  You must follow all of God’s laws or you will be guilty of breaking them all even if you just break one (basically you will have sinned and need forgiveness).

Personally, I would not use this verse to speak to an unbeliever.  I don’t know about you but I sin every day of my life and I repent every day of my life.  I am a sinner and I need Jesus.  Every day of my life.  This verse is hard for us to swallow.  Yes, it’s true.  But it’s not a good place to begin a conversation with an unbeliever.

Some unbelievers don’t even know what a Savior is.  You have to start with the fundamentals before diving into the nitty-gritty.  First, talk about Jesus, who he is, what he did for you, and how Jesus can save the unbeliever.  THEN, dive into the laws of God and keeping them.  First, explain the Savior.  Then explain the reasons behind.

Just my opinion, of course.

Conclusions:  Not for sure what these questions have to do with the passage to be honest with you.  Didn’t like Question 12 at all.  In truth, I wouldn’t begin a conversation with that verse.  Most people don’t like to hear the fact they are guilty of anything but this says if you break just one little law you are guilty of the whole crime.  Not for sure unbelievers would jump on the band wagon after this verse.  Better to start off with “Jesus loves you” than this one.

Did not get much out of this.  I just didn’t.  Favoritism is everywhere and being that we can only control ourselves and the rest is in God’s hands I’m not for sure the overarching lesson in these questions.  The passage conveys my role much better than the questions.

Maybe I’m missing something here.  Any thoughts?

End Note:  Lesson I learned from the passage:  I liked the verses (9-11) that compared and contrasted adultery and murder.  For we are not here to choose which laws to follow and which ones not.  We are called to obey.  God decided.  He made the laws.  We do not question.  We do not judge.  We merely obey.