Rembrandt Stoning of Stephen

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 5, Day 5: Acts 7:54-60

Summary Acts 7:54-60:

Of course, the Sanhedrin weren’t happy with this attack, gnashing their teeth.  But Stephen looked up and saw the glory of God and Jesus at His right hand.  Appalled, the Sanhedrin attacked Stephen and stoned him to death. Stephen prayed for the Lord to forgive his attackers, while Saul looked on–something of profound significance coming up.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 5, Day 5: Acts 7:54-60

12) God showed Stephen His glory, as well as Jesus sitting at His right hand.

13a) He prayed that the people’s sin of stoning him would not be held against them. Jesus prayed the same thing while on the cross before he died. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

b) Personal Question. My answer: It’s difficult every day of my life when I’m a sinner, trying to do what Jesus would do in every situation and fighting against that and sin.

14) Personal Question. My answer: Even in death, Stephen is at peace. It gives me hope to one day have Stephen’s heart and to one day have Stephen’s peace.

Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 5, Day 5: Acts 7:54-60

The peace Stephen had at the end of his life while he is being stoned is what we all should strive for. To have others on your mind in the midst of terrible pain, agony, and anguish. To have a heart of Jesus when it’s so very difficult in this world.

Stephen was tried and executed because he upset the establishment. Yet, he died breathing forgiveness, giving us Paul as a result.

Going against the grain when led is what we are called to do as Christians. In today’s culture, this is harder than ever. Where do you stand?

End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 5, Day 5: Acts 7:54-60

The Sanhedrin were angry because Stephen was right. Instead of submitting to the Holy Spirit, admitting they were wrong and asking for forgiveness, they stoned Stephen instead.

Can you imagine grown men gnashing their teeth? The idea of gnashing at him with their teeth can’t help but remind us of the imagery of Hell. Seven different times, Jesus described Hell as a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12). These men were prominent, successful, and appeared to be religious; yet they were rejecting God and associating themselves with hell, not heaven.

Jesus Standing

It is significant to note Jesus is standing here, as opposed to the more common description of Him sitting in heaven (Matthew 26:64Colossians 3:1), at the right hand of God the Father.

  • Jesus may have been standing in solidarity with Stephen at this moment of crisis. He does not react impassionately to the problems of His people.
  • Jesus may have been giving a standing ovation to Stephen, whose fate made him unique among believers. Among all the followers of Jesus, Stephen was the first martyr.
  • Jesus may have been standing to plead Stephen’s case before God the Father, assuring that though he was found guilty and punished on earth, he was found righteous and rewarded in heaven.

Jesus said, Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven (Matthew 10:32).

When Stephen declared that he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God, it was too much. The Sanhedrin reacted quickly, violently, and together. When Jesus, before this same body of men, declared that He would sit at the right hand of God, they had the same reaction and sealed his death as a blasphemer (Matthew 26:64-66).

death of believers

Stephen Stoned

“For Stephen to suggest that the crucified Jesus stood in a position of authority at the right hand of God must have ranked as blasphemy in the thinking of those who knew that a crucified man died under the divine curse.” (Bruce)

The reaction of the Sanhedrin seems extreme, but is typical of those who reject God and are lost in spiritual insanity

Ran at him: This uses the ancient Greek word hormao. This is the same word used to describe the mad rush of the herd of swine into the sea (Mark 5:13). This was an out-of-control mob rushing at Stephen.

The extent of their rage was shown by their execution of Stephen, which was done without regard for Roman law, and which was performed according to traditional Jewish custom (stoning).

Saul stood there as the supervisor of the operation. As a member of the Sanhedrin, he had also approved of Stephen’s execution.

Young man literally means, “a man in his prime.” It certainly does not mean that Saul wasn’t old enough to be a member of the Sanhedrin. In Acts 26:10, Paul says I cast my vote against them, and the plain implication was that he had a vote as a member of the Sanhedrin.

Stephen’s life ended in the same way it had been lived: In complete trust in God, believing that Jesus would take care of him in the life to come.

God heard Stephen’s prayer, and Paul is the evidence of it. We have no idea how greatly God can use us in our times of suffering.

Augustine said, “If Stephen had not prayed, the church would not have had Paul.”

Stephen displayed the same forgiving attitude that Jesus had on the cross (Luke 23:34). He asked God to forgive his accusers, and he made the promises loudly and publicly.

The text describes the passing of Stephen as tenderly as possible. Instead of saying simply that he died, it says that he merely fell asleep – with the idea that he woke up in a much better world.

  • If Stephen fell asleep, the church had to wake up.

Many have little idea of how greatly they can be used of God as they walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.

stubborn people

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BSF Study Questions People of the Promised Land 1: Lesson 5, Day 5: Joshua 24:14-33

Image result for joshua 24

Summary of Joshua 24:14-33:

Joshua tells the people to fear the Lord and serve Him in all your faithfulness. Choose whom you will serve: the Lord or pagan gods. The people repeated their history and swore to obey and serve God. The Israelites witnessed for themselves that they chose to serve the Lord and not bring disaster on themselves for doing otherwise.

Joshua renewed the covenant with the Lord for the people and wrote down the laws in the Book of the Law of God and marked the place with a holy stone to be a witness to the words spoken at Shechem.

Joshua died at 110 years old and was buried in his inherited land in Ephraim. Israel continued to serve God after Joshua’s death. Joseph’s bones were re-buried at Shechem. Eleazar died as well.

BSF Study Questions People of the Promised Land 1: Lesson 5, Day 5: Joshua 24:14-33:

13) Part personal Question. My answer: Choose whom you will serve: the Lord or pagan gods. Every day we choose to serve God by doing what Jesus would do or serve ourselves by putting our interests first, and doing what we want to do. We choose sin over obedience. By discouraging instead of encouraging. By not forgiving instead of forgiving. By withholding help. Being mean. Choosing to hurt others.

14) Part personal Question. My answer: Joshua has known the Israelites for 100 years now. He understands man’s nature, and I’m sure he knows they will one day turn from God. He wants to reiterate the importance in hopes the Israelites will stay true to God. Joshua is seeking a deep commitment, not a light-hearted agreement. Repetition is a good tool for learning and imprinting in one’s mind. Say something over and over again, and it becomes truth.

15) God wants the people to only love and obey and worship. He wants our undivided devotion. With godly jealousy God is the recipient of our desire. We are jealous for the will of God in a situation. We are jealous for Him to be glorified. Godly jealousy wakes us up at night to intercede for a lost loved one. Godly jealousy motivates us to confront a sinning brother or sister when we don’t want to, in order to save them from the enemy (James 5:20). Godly jealousy created difficulties and sorrows for Paul because he refused to stop speaking the truth, even when his hearers did not want to listen (2 Corinthians 5:14). Godly jealousy is love in action (1 Corinthians 13:4–7).

Conclusions: BSF Study Questions People of the Promised Land 1 Lesson 5, Day 4: Joshua 24:1-13:

I love how Godly jealousy is love in action. Read this SNIPPET to see where I got my answer to question 15. We so want God in our lives that we’re jealous when we don’t have Him.  Jealousy is when you covet something for yourself. Godly jealousy is when you covet God in any situation. Awesome!

End Notes BSF Study Questions People of the Promised Land 1 Lesson 5, Day 4: Joshua 24:1-13:

There were all kinds of gods the Israelites had encountered in Canaan:

  1.  Joshua 24:2-4–on the other side of the Euphrates were the gods of Sumerian and Babylonian culture – gods of heritage.
  2.  Joshua 24:5-7a –on the other side of the Red Sea were the gods of ancient Egypt – gods of upbringing.
  3.  Joshua 24:7b-13 and 24:15 –as the Israelites crossed the Jordan there were the gods of the Amorites – gods of your culture

Joshua states one of the most famous verses and bible sayings here: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” The Hebrew here has a fuller meaning as in continuous action: I have chosen and I will continue to choose God.

What Choices Has Joshua Made?

  • Joshua chose to fight against the Amalekites – choosing when it might cost everything.Image result for incredible animal photos
  • Joshua chose to reject the golden calf – choosing when the flesh might be satisfied.
  • Joshua chose to serve the Lord by serving Moses – choosing a humble place.
  • Joshua chose to believe God’s promise about the Promised Land – choosing against the majority.
  • Joshua chose to recognize the leadership of the Captain of the LORD’s army – choosing surrender to God.
  • Joshua chose to take leadership of Israel and lead them into the land – choosing faith instead of unbelief.

Joshua recognizes he was responsible for the choice of his household to serve the Lord as well.

Joshua’s choice to serve God showed:

  • No hesitation.
  • He was not influenced by others.
  • It was solemnly made
  • It was openly made.
  • He followed through.
  • He never strayed and followed God his entire life.

Joshua wants full commitment to follow God and a knowledge of the consequences if not. Jesus expressed the same kind of warning, explaining that following Him took total commitment (Luke 14:25-33). It wasn’t that Jesus didn’t want followers, but He did not want lightly made and easily broken commitments.

Why the Stone as a Witness?

The covenant needed the testimony of two witnesses, the people and the stone. Therefore, this was a binding covenant before God (Deuteronomy 19:15).

This covenant is similar to other ancient times covenants between a king and his people, especially among the Hittites.

Where did Joseph’s Bones come from?

This may seem like an inconsequential point, but it fulfills Genesis 50:25. God likes to tie up loose ends. This is also mentioned in Hebrews 11:22 as an example of Joseph’s faith. For well over four centuries Joseph’s remains have been preserved in Egypt, waiting for the fulfillment of the Promised Land. For 40 years, the tribes have carried Joseph’s bones during their desert wanderings. Now, at least, Abraham’s descendants have come home.

Eleazar was a witness to the crossing of the Red Sea. Another link to the past is gone.

We are still called to conquer our wildernesses–this time, Jesus is our guide. Is he your guide through the wilderness?

Fun Fact: The Israelites established at least 7 memorials to remind future generations of what God has done in their lives (see chapters 4, 7, 8, 10, 22). Even if people forgot their debt to God, the land would speak its own story.

A Look Ahead–Free Choice

The choice may seem obvious: choose God, especially after all He has done for the Israelites. Still, the Israelites have a choice: follow God or follow the gods of those whose land they have entered. For now, all swear allegiance to God. But as we’ll see in Judges, many choose otherwise.

BSF Study Questions Romans Lesson 5, Day 5: Romans 3:25-26

Summary of passage:  God granted us redemption through Jesus’s death on the cross through his blood in order to demonstrate his justice.

Questions:

11)  It’s the utter test of belief in God.  Do you believe in His Son?  Yes or no.  This is just.  If not, hell.  If yes, eternity.  This is as clear-cut as justice gets.  Paul answers this question in 2 Corinthians 5:21 “God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

12)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Because I have faith in Jesus who justified all believers by taking our sins upon himself, absolving me of sin, releasing me of its penalty, and restoring me as righteous with God.  Share it with all.

Conclusions:  Let’s not forget that just because we are free from sin and the penalty of sin that we’re free to do anything we wish.  On the contrary, it is our obligation and responsibility to live as righteous people, devoted to the service of what God declares to be right.

End Notes:  These are yesterday’s End Notes since it covers the same passage.

Christ was our substitute sacrifice/atonement/propitiation so God could demonstrate His righteousness in judgment.  Propitiation is in all cultures.  It’s the act of appeasing the gods and the gods’s anger against mankind through a sacrifice of some kind.  Aztecs, Mayas, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Native Americans, etc.

The ancient Greek word for propitiation (hilasterion) is also used in the Septuagint for the mercy seat, the lid covering the Ark of the Covenant, upon which sacrificial blood was sprinkled as an atonement for sin. While it might be said that this passage means “Jesus is our mercy seat,” it probably has the more straightforward idea of propitiation – a substitute sacrifice.

Inside the Ark of the Covenant was the evidence of man’s great sin: the tablets of law; the manna received ungratefully; the budded rod of Aaron, showing man’s rejection of God’s leadership. The Ark was decorated with golden cherubim as symbols of God’s holy presence.  In between the cherubim stood the mercy seat, and as sacrificial blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16), God’s wrath was averted because a substitute had been slain on behalf of sinners coming by faith.  Jesus is our “mercy seat,” standing between guilty sinners and the holiness of God.

God willingly gives His Son.  He wants us with Him!

God no longer passed over sin with the temporary OT sacrifice of animal blood.  He freed us forever from sin with Jesus’s sacrifice.  Jesus paid the price.

At the cross, God demonstrated His righteousness by offering man justification (a legal verdict of “not guilty”), while remaining completely just (because the righteous penalty of sin had been paid at the cross).

Clarke states:  God “Of his justice, in requiring a sacrifice, and absolutely refusing to give salvation to a lost world in any other way; and of his mercy, in providing the sacrifice which his justice required.”

Concluding Note to Lesson 5:  Paul opens with one of the darkest summaries in the Bible:  “There is no one righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3:10 and echoing the OT from Ecclesiastes 7:20).  But there is hope:  Christ. Verses 21-31 is a compact expression of the core message of the gospel.  God is so, so good!

BSF Study Questions John Lesson 5, Day 5: John 4:27-30

Summary of passage:  The disciples return with food and find Jesus talking to a woman.  The woman leaves, telling the whole town of whom she met and to come and see him.

Questions:

11a)  She probably forgot the jar in her excitement of meeting Jesus, the possible Messiah.  It also indicates she will return.  It indicates she might be turned for Jesus.

b)  She ran to town and testified to Jesus, telling all to come and see him.  The people came to see Jesus.  The woman probably believed in her heart who Jesus was, receiving his promised gift of eternal waters (everlasting life).  Furthermore, as a probable outcast, this woman so believed in Jesus she overcame the social stigma to tell others of Jesus.  Her faith was bright!

12)  Men did not talk to woman, especially unaccompanied women.  Women were akin to animals in ancient times and had no rights.  This shows Jesus is for all.  He welcomes all.  He wants all to come to him.  He does not care about the customs of man.  He cares about saving souls.

13)  Personal Question.  My answer:  He is truly for all no matter how fallen you are in this world.

Conclusions:  Love how Jesus smashes social norms and shows how he cares for all.  He gives hope to this world.  He wants every living soul.  This conversation with a Samaritan woman proves Jesus’ greatness.

End Notes:  Note the disciples did not openly question Jesus either out of respect for Jesus and who he is or in their hearts knowing the Samaritan woman has value as well.

Perfect example of eye-witness testimony:  John recorded the woman left her clay pot.

Even after being confronted with all her sins, the woman turned to Jesus.  Human reaction is to run away from those who speak of things we don’t want to hear or remember.  Not this woman.  Jesus had touched her soul.  She felt safe with him.  The woman felt compassion.  There was no judgement or condemnation.

The predicted Messiah will be able to tell all about you (Isaiah 11:2-3).  The Samaritans probably believed this as well.

She evangelized!  She told everyone to come and know Jesus just as she just has.  So must we all.

BSF Study Questions Revelation Lesson 5, Day 5: Revelation 3:1-6

Summary of passage:  Jesus speaks to the church of Sardis, saying their deeds are not complete and they need to repent.  Otherwise, Jesus will come like a thief.  There are a few faithful in Sardis who will walk with him dressed in white and earn eternity with the Father.

Questions:

11a)  He knew their deeds and sins.  He commanded them to strengthen the good within, obey his laws, and repent of sins.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  I need to keep striving especially when I sin, following Him and his will for my life.

12)  Part personal Question.  My answer:  The righteous and encouragement for the life after.

Conclusions:  11b and 12 are similar and similar to ones we’ve answered before.

End Notes:  Sardis was a city on the decline from its former days of glory in the sixth and seventh century BC but was still wealthy and sat on major trade routes of the day.  Like the other cities, Sardis was a known place of immorality and pagan worship.  Sardis seemed to have been known as a city of decadence and loose living even in the ancient world.  It sat on high cliffs and sported a huge citadel.  It had the fourth largest temple to Artemis in the Roman world.  In the fourth century AD, it built the largest synagogue in the ancient world.

Note the use of the number seven–the number of completeness in the Bible.  Jesus is wholly God (the 7 spirits) and wholly man in the form of churches.  From Revelation 1:20 we know the 7 stars represent the churches.

As with all the churches, Jesus knows their deeds–as he knows ours.

Note Jesus did not tell them to stand strong against persecution or false doctrines so we can assume the church didn’t face a lot of that.  What they did face was no heart.  They talked the talk with no walk.  They did not live out the Spirit.

Jesus tells them to do more; what they are doing is not enough.  They are half-assing life it seems. He wants them as they were when they first heard the Word–passionate, joyful, and eager for Him.  Outwardly, they were alive; but inwardly they were dead.

He will come like the thief if they do not.  This is either judgment or the rapture before the judgment.

Note Jesus points out the remnant and encourages them.  In Pergamum (Revelation 2:14) and in Thyatira (Revelation 2:20) there were a few bad among the good; in Sardis it was the reverse–a few good among the bad.

In ancient times, people could not approach pagan gods in dirty clothes.  White was the color of purity (as it is today like a wedding dress) and for the Romans the color of triumph.  Clothed in white symbolized a believer’s triumph over sin and evil and God’s righteousness upon him.  This also could refer to our glorified bodies upon resurrection.

The opposite?  Black and dirty.

The ultimate reward:  walk with Jesus.

In ancient times, names would be blotted out upon death or upon conviction of a crime.  In Ancient Egypt, pharaohs’ names would be blotted out as well by the following pharaoh if they were disliked, effectively eliminating their existence to future generations.  Indeed, this is what happened to Tutankhamen and why his tomb was found virtually intact:  he was forgotten!  Tomb robbers quit looking for him.  But God will never quit looking for us!  How amazing!

God will never blot out our names once we are His.  And Jesus will acknowledge and accept us!  What grace!

Sardis Christians were apathetic and overconfident in their faith and semi-good works.  Jesus admonishes them and says, “No!”

What is the Book of Life?  The Book of Life is a real book that Jesus will open on Judgment Day (Revelation 20:12).  It contains all the names of those saved.  Those names not written will be cast into a lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).

Can a name ever be erased from the Book of Life?  Perhaps.  There are five instances in the Bible that speak to this.

Exodus 32:32:  Moses said to the Lord: But now, please forgive their sin–but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.

Exodus 32:33:  The Lord replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book.”

Psalm 69:28:  May they  be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous.

Here in our passage in Revelation 3:5:  He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white.  I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before My Father and his angels.

Further in Revelation 22:19:  And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree (some translations have “book” here) of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

Here, the Greek word for “share” means “section.”  Hence, some commentators compare this to a hotel reservation.  You have a room reserved but until you actually check in, it is not officially yours.  Hence, every person born is in the book; but only if they accept Jesus (check in) will their name be officially written in the Book of Life.

Hence, conclusions are mixed for we just don’t know.  Some scholars say once a Christian you will be saved and forgiven no matter what you do.  Others say if you are a Christian and renounce Jesus and his teachings then your name will be blotted out and you will go to hell.  Some say these people’s names were never written in the book to begin with, which is in line with Rev 3:5 which promises names will never be blotted out.

For me, I just worry about myself and my actions.  I can’t control others.  Am I walking God’s way?  Do I accept Jesus as my Savior?  Then I have nothing to worry about;  I know where I’m going.

Romans kept registrars of its citizens and criminals names were blotted out, signifying a loss of citizenship.  The analogy would not have been lost on the first century Christians:  not a good thing to have your name blotted out–it meant death to your lifestyle, rights, privileges, etc.

Fun Fact:  Sardis is the first church Jesus has nothing good to say.

The Color White:  White makes its appearance 5 times in the book of Revelation:  Reve 3:4-5, 3:18, 4:4, 6:11, 19:14.  All symbolizing spiritual purity.

Map of Sardis:  https://bleon1.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/38-seven-churches-of-asia.png

Conclusions to Lesson 5:  Works alone do not guarantee us a relationship with God.  He knows everything we do and He knows our hearts.  Are you going through the motions?  Or are you going all out for Jesus?

Righteousness is a gift from God.  Jesus is a gift.  White robes are a gift.  All we do is accept with believing faith.

All the cities John listed were in order of the route a messenger would have taken, starting with Ephesus (see map above) and circling back clockwise.  All are in modern day Turkey.  None of these churches survive today.

BSF Study Questions The Life of Moses Lesson 5, Day 5: Exodus 9:13-10:29

Summary of passage:  We embark on the third set of three plagues set on Egypt.  Here God sends the Plague of Hail in exactly the same way as before:  God tells Moses to tell Pharaoh to release His people.  If Pharaoh does not, a hailstorm the likes of which have never been seen in Egypt will rain down and destroy everything left outside.  Pharaoh refuses and Moses brings about the Plague.  Pharaoh relents, saying he has sinned, and asks Moses to take away the Plague and he will let the Israelites go.  We all know what happens:  Pharaoh does not.

Exodus 10:  Interestingly here, God is the one hardening Pharaoh’s heart again and he tells Moses this plague is so that the Israelites will know and the following generations that he is Lord.  Moses delivers the message:  God will send a Plague of Locusts to devour what is left of Egypt.  Pharaoh’s officials beg him to let the Israelites go.  But Pharaoh tries to compromise with God again, only wanting to let the men go.  God (of course) does not compromise so He sends the plague.

Same thing as in the Plague of Hail:  Pharaoh says he has sinned, asks Moses to remove the plague and he will let the people go, Moses does, and Pharaoh refuses, God again the one hardening Pharaoh’s heart.

Last plague of this set is without warning again:  God sends a Plague of darkness to Egypt.  No one could see for three days except for in the land of Goshen, which was spared.  Pharaoh calls Moses to him again and again tries to compromise, saying he must leave the livestock behind.  Moses laughs, saying they need the animals for sacrifice.  Here, the Lord again hardens Pharaoh’s heart and banishes Moses from his court.

Questions:

10)  In the Plague of Hail (the Seventh plague), Pharaoh for the first time says he has sinned and he is wrong.  In the Plague of Locusts, the officials are finally convinced of God’s holiness.  Here Pharaoh says he has sinned against God and against Moses.  He asks for his sin to be forgiven.  In the Ninth Plague (the Plague of Darkness), Pharaoh says to go and he becomes so enraged at Moses’ refusal to compromise that he banishes Moses from his court.

In the Plague of Hail, God reveals to Pharaoh that the plagues are so His power is shown to all for He could have just have wiped them off the face of the earth but He hasn’t yet.  In the Plague of Locusts (the Eighth), God tells Moses this Plague is for the Israelites’ sake so that they may know He is God.

11a)  This is all a power game, nothing else.  Pharaoh wants to first just let the men go, then let the women go but keep the livestock here.  He wants to be in control when it is obvious God is in control.

b)  Too many to list.  Everyone tries to sneak in a bit of sin here and there instead of turning totally toward God and rejecting Satan completely.  Things like, “God, if you’ll do such and such for me, then I won’t ever do such and such again.”  God doesn’t bargain.  It’s all or nothing with Him as it should be in our lives.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  I hate the instructions “be specific” because often I can’t be.  Here, I can’t say of a bargain I’ve tried to make with God.  I can’t say I have ever cognizantly made one.  I’m sure I have with my actions.  I am just unaware of it.

12)  Moses is very assured in his speech and posture with Pharaoh.  I think some of this is from frustration and anger that Pharaoh is being so obstinate.  We see this in verse 29 with Moses last words to Pharaoh.  It seems this exchange is almost a tiff!  Moses is saying, “Well, fine!  I’ll do as you say and never, ever see you again!”

I think Moses has lost all fear of Pharaoh as he sees the miracles God has performed and how God has used him to perform such miracles.  I think Moses has realized God’s omnipotence and that Pharaoh is just a man.  I think Moses has lost all respect for Pharaoh who is so evil he chooses to harm his own people rather than let the Israelites go.  What kind of leader is he?

Conclusions:  This lesson covers a lot of ground as does the forthcoming lessons so make sure you leave the time to complete it thoroughly.  I love the change in Moses.  I think we all feel that when we see God in our lives work His power we become more confident in God and in our faith and it shines outward.  I love the consequences of Pharaoh’s continued sin.  I love God’s grace towards Pharaoh.  I love God’s show of power and mercy in the plagues when He could have just been done with the Egyptians.  So many powerful lessons for us to remember!

End Notes:  “I will being judgment on the gods of Egypt” (Exodus 12:12).  God is in an all-out war against the Egyptian gods.  Here we see the Plague of Darkness attack the sun god, Ra, one of Egypt’s most important gods.  Ra was considered to the the King of the Egyptian Gods and as such the Pharaoh represented Ra on earth.  He was the creator of everything and considered the father of the other gods.  The sun was important to the Egyptians as they relied on it for light, warmth, and growth.  It is fitting that God chose his final attack on Pharaoh himself and on Egypt’s supreme god.

The Ten Plagues serve two major purposes:  One, to convince Egypt to let their slave labor go.  Two, to convince the Israelites it was time to leave the life they’ve known for 400 years.  God uses his power to let everyone know who is in charge.

Pharaoh’s stubbornness merely glorified God.  God gives the Egyptians a chance to protect their livestock from the hail. Some did and some didn’t.  It hardly ever rains in Egypt so the idea of a huge hailstorm was probably unimaginable to the Egyptians.  It would be easy for them to dismiss this warning.  They must have been very frightened when it began to hail.  Some translations say fire instead of lightning, which would have been even more frightening.

Nut was the goddess of the sky that the Plague of Hail was against.

Note Moses’ candor in the Plague of Hail.  “I know that you and your officials still do not fear the Lord God.”  I can just see Moses sighing, knowing Pharaoh is lying to him and that his heart is hard and his confession is insincere.  Yet, he grants Pharaoh’s request so there is no excuse by Pharaoh NOT to turn to the Lord.  Moses is probably thinking, Man, this guy is an idiot!  But Moses probably also is sorry for Pharaoh as well and probably prays for him to turn to God.

Here we find yet another purpose of the plagues:  to grow Moses’ heart and faith in God and in himself.  We can see the transformation in Moses whose most difficult task is ahead:  leading the Israelites to the Promised Land.

Pharaoh hates the consequences of his sin, but not the sin itself.  He’d do the sin all over again.  This is a warning to us all.

The plagues keep coming as Pharaoh refuses to humble himself before the Lord and as God intends to keep showing Pharaoh who He is until Pharaoh gets it!

The Egyptian god Set was the protector of crops.  Looks like Set failed in his job in this instance as the locusts devoured everything in sight!

Note how the darkness is one that “can be felt”.  God is light so God not only abolished the sun’s rays, but He also took away His presence from the earth as well, which we can feel.

Pharaoh is so exasperated that he banishes Moses from his court, which is effectively banishing God. God responds with the Tenth Plague, one that will affect Pharaoh is a personal way so that God will never be banished again!

The Bible gives several reasons for the plagues:  to verify to God’s people that Moses is His chosen one, to show His greatness, to give testimony for the future generations, to answer Pharaoh’s question of who is God, to judge the false gods, and as a warning to other nations of what will happen if you oppose His people.

Fun Fact:  Pharaoh’s admission to sin in Exodus 9:27 is one of eight in the Bible.  See if you can discover who else said as much and who was sincere and who was insincere.

BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 5, Day 5: Matthew 5:13-16

Summary of passage:  Jesus tells his disciples (and all those people on the mountainside as well as you and me) that they are the salt of the earth but if you lose your saltiness you are no longer good for anything and will be thrown out and trampled by men.

You (believers) are the light of the world meant to be seen by others.  So let your good deeds shine so that others may praise the Father in heaven.

Questions:

9a)  In ancient times, salt was used to preserve meat and add flavor.  It was one of the valued “spices” in the spice trade along with many others that prompted the discovery of America.  It was a valuable and precious commodity of which men risked their lives for.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  As disciples of Christ, we should preserve God’s word and His teachings in the hearts and minds of others.  We should add flavor to others lives by giving them something (God) that is valuable.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Not sure.  Not feeling very upbeat this morning or useful so tend to feel I haven’t made as much an impact as I could.

d)  Personal Question.  My answer:  I interpret this question to really ask in plain English the difference between living amongst Christians and living in a non-Christian environment.  Or it could be interpreted as what’s it like living when you have lost your flavor, meaning your usefulness in this realm.

For the former, we all can answer that due to the ungodly society we live in day-in and day-out. It’s an easy life amongst Christians, not so easy amongst others who are bent on tearing us down and trampling us.

For the latter, if the flavor of Christ is missing, you lead a tasteless life.  Non-impactful.  Dull. Blah.

I don’t think BSF meant the latter interpretation because it says you are living as salt, which is a shame since the passage addresses what happens when we lose our saltiness.

Christians can lead a flavorless life when they stop living an impactful life and spreading the word.

10a)  Light illuminates the dark and also pushes the dark back.  It also exposes what is in the dark.

b)  To be the light of the world.  To bring others the light of Jesus and to bring them out of the dark.  The Matthew passage says it better so I’m unsure why we were sent to Luke’s account of these words.  We are to let our light shine before men so that they may see our good deeds and be brought to Jesus and glorify God.

11)  God must work in you His good purpose so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault as we hold onto the word of life (God’s word).

12a)  Repeat of 10b.  We are to let our light shine before men so that they may see our good deeds and be brought to Jesus and glorify God.  So others may see grace in us and thus grace in God.  We are lead visible and intentional lives for all to see.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Not to hide Him.  To credit Him in public for everything in my life.  To say more often how it is all God’s grace and will working in me.  To pray that I am a light to others.  That I be cognizant of that.  That I remember I’m His.  And that I remember others are watching and judging me all the time and one never knows when I could convert someone.

Conclusions:  I felt the boat was missed on this lesson.  9d did nothing more than confuse people.  BSF took the metaphor too far in my opinion.  Did not like being sent to Luke.  As I mentioned in Lesson 1, I foresaw this as a pattern that we’d be studying the other gospels alongside Matthew since the stories are frequently repeated and I accepted this.  However, in this case, Luke wasn’t helpful.  I feel Matthew’s version is much meatier and I feel we didn’t touch on the “city on the hill” at all.  This is such a common quote amongst Christians (and non-Christians for that matter) that I felt we should have unpacked it and explained it so that we can understand it.

To me, “city on a hill” is Core Knowledge (yes, this is a throw out to you homeschoolers and educators out there), something everyone should know especially since it has been secularized and it’s meaning stripped (meaning Jesus has been taken out and man has been substituted).  And it was overlooked, bypassed if you will, for metaphors on salt.  Too many questions on salt.  Not enough on light (which is EVERYWHERE in the Bible) and a much more important study than salt.

For instance, did you know Jesus called himself “the light of the world” (John 8:12, John 9:5) as well and now he calls us that too!  Pretty cool!  I’m pretty humbled by it to be honest.  To be compared to Jesus!  Wow!  Makes my day.  It is both a compliment and a commission. Unmentioned by BSF.

Fun Fact:  This is the first time in the New Testament God is referred to as Father.