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

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

Questions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 2, Day 2: Matthew 2:1-8

Summary of passage:  After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the Magi (or Three Wise Men) came to Jerusalem to inquire where the king of the Jews was born at so they may worship him.  King Herod was disturbed by this news.  He asked all the chief priest’s where the Messiah was to be born and they responded with the words of the prophet Micah:  In Bethlehem in Judah.

Herod called the Magi to him secretly and asked them for the exact time of the appearance of the star.  He then sent them to Bethlehem to search for the child and then to report back to him so that he too may go and worship the child.

Questions:

3a)  King Herod (ruler of Judea under the Romans), Magi, Jews, chief priests and teachers of the law (Old Testament law), and Israel or the Jews.  The Magi are seeking to worship Jesus.  King Herod and the Romans are disturbed and threatened by the news.  If we include the Jews in “all of Jerusalem” we can presume they are more afraid of what Herod might do upon this news than disturbed.  However, we are not told what the response is of the Jews or the priests and teachers.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  All.  I see indifference, glory, fear, hatred, hostility, and annoyance.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Well, God hasn’t exactly told me personally how I myself am doing but the Bible says I’m supposed to be obedient to His word and obey Him and give myself to Him fully, which is what I try to do every day of my life.

4)  Christ’s deity:  “whose origins are from of old, from ancient times”; “will come for me”

Christ’s humanity: “out of you (clans of Judah) will come for me”

Christ’s kingship:  “ruler over Israel”

Conclusions:  Anyone else not trust Herod here?  He obviously has ulterior motives here.  The guy was hated by all and I’m sure was only obeyed out of fear of punishment or death.  Note the wise men did not say they would actually report back to him.

Interesting that the priests quoted Micah out of all the Old Testament verses that speak to Jesus’ coming.  I like the subtle differences in translations as well.  It shows the differences in terminology and word usage in the 400 years that passed between the Old and the New Testaments.  I personally like “shepherd of my people”.

This passage is packed full of interesting notes so bear with me:

Notice Matthew glosses over Jesus’s actual birth and jumps to “after” right away.  He is more interested in recording the reaction of others than the actual birth.  He leaves that for Luke to describe.

There was another town named Bethlehem; hence, the Bethlehem in Judea and Micah’s description of Bethlehem Ephrathah, which was what Bethlehem used to be known by.

The wise men were not kings but probably astronomers.  There were probably more than three that came and they made their journey a significant time after Jesus’s birth–some scholars say up to a year after his birth.  Hence, Herod’s order to kill all boys 2 years old and under (Matthew 2:16) as Jesus was probably over a year old by then.  They were probably exiled Jews from the East.

So why the Three Kings misnomer?  It’s been around since the third century and probably derives from the Old Testament prophecies that say kings will come to worship the Messiah (Psalms 68:29, 31; 72:10-11; Isaiah 49:7; 60:1-6).  Supposedly the skulls of the three kings are housed in Cologne, Germany.

Notice that the wise men came to Jerusalem, NOT to Bethlehem as commonly depicted. The shepherds made it to the manger; the wise men did not.

Jesus was born a king; not a prince as is most often the case.

God uses a star, something the astronomers would have recognized instantly.

Background on Herod:  Known as Herod the Great as there were quite a few rulers before and after named Herod, Herod ruled Judea, which was a Roman province at the time, for 34 years until his death in 4 BC.  Yes, Christ had been born by that time.  Blame the ignorance of the Middle Ages and a monk named Dionysius for missing the division between BC and AD!

Herod was a ruthless fighter, a subtle diplomat, and an opportunist.  He was hated by the Jews for his unrelentless pursuit of hellenization yet courted their favor by re-building their temple.  However, he did bring order to Palestine through his ability to manage so complex a situation and thus an opportunity for economic growth.  Many of his family members he had put to death and in the end he disintegrated into madness.

For a much thorough background on Herod, see Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary by J D Douglas and Merrill C Tenney.

This website HERE has great information on the miscalculation of dates and even a discussion on Jesus’ real birthday.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 28, Day 3: 1 Peter 1:13-2:3

Summary of passage:  Peter continues with advice on how to live, saying to prepare our minds for action, to be self-controlled, and have hope in Jesus.  Obediently, we must not conform to the evil desires of our old life but we must be holy in all that we do for we are called to be holy since God is holy.

We must live our lives as strangers here in reverent fear for we were redeemed from our old, empty way of life with the blood of Jesus Christ who was perfect.  We believe in God through him, giving us faith and hope in God.

So love one another deeply from the heart since we are pure from our obedience to Christ and God.  We are born again for all of eternity through the word of God as Isaiah taught.

Get rid of all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander and feast on spiritual milk to grow in your salvation and in the Lord’s goodness.

Questions:

6a)  To be holy because He is holy.  Be holy in all that you do.  Prepare your minds (learn) and be self-controlled.  Set your minds fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus is revealed (remember it’s not about this life but the eternal life).  Do not conform to the world’s evil desires.

b)  According to Webster’s Dictionary, holy means, “Exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness; divine; devoted entirely to the deity or the world of the deity.”

Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary by J D Douglas and Merrill C Tenney defines holiness as, “The state of quality of being morally pure and separate from evil.”

Holy is perfect in goodness and righteousness.  Hence, we should strive to be perfect, good, righteous, morally pure, and separate from evil.

7)  In the Old Testament, to be cleansed of sins God’s chosen people had to make sacrifices, which had to be perfect and without blemish.  One of these sacrifices was the lamb.  Hence, Peter here is saying Jesus qualifies as a sacrifice for the people, a sacrifice for all of eternity.

Exodus 12 describes the first Passover and God says, “Each man is to take a lamb…The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect…all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them.”

Leviticus 23:12 “…you must sacrifice as a burnt offering to the Lord a lamb a year old without defect…”

Peter is propounding on how to live a Christian life, saying to live a life as strangers here on Earth and have faith and hope in God.  They were redeemed from the empty way of life through Christ Jesus just as the Old Testament people were redeemed, made righteous through animal sacrifices–only this time it’s permanent.  The people have been made pure so now they can lead a holy life.

It’s hard to speculate here how much the people would have understood the sacrifices since Peter is writing to Gentiles who had no previous experience with Old Testament ways; but I will assume they knew enough to get the analogy or Peter would not have put it in.

8a)  You are born again for all of eternity through faith in the word of God (which includes Jesus as the Holy Trinity).

b)  Personal Question.  My answer.  It was a process, definitely.  It wasn’t just one day it happened.  I was raised a Christian so have been one for a while but I am speaking of my adult walk, when I was cognizant of it.  So I’ve always had faith in Jesus and God but it wasn’t always strong.  So it’s been a journey of strengthening and learning who God is, what He did for me through Jesus, and trusting in Him for everything.  And when I felt ready, I was baptized as an adult a few years ago and have been striving for the “be holy” goal ever since.

Conclusions:  There is definitely a thread in this day’s questions I don’t see very often: the idea of holiness and what that looks like.  God calls us to be holy (perfect and apart from evil), Jesus was holy, and being born again is a process into holiness.  Very well done.

We are holy (God makes us so) and I think if we breathed that in more into our daily lives this world would be a much better, happier place.  For if we believe we are holy I think we will act more holy.  And only good things can come of us striving to be better people than who we are right now.  Striving to rid ourselves of all evil desires, malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander and instead strive to love our brothers more.

“Everything God Commands is Good for Us”

Quote from my leader last night when speaking about submission to our husbands.  We tend to think of Ephesians 5:22-33 as taking something away from us.  But it’s quite the opposite.  Submitting to our husbands (and all of God’s laws) only builds us up, increases our sanctification, and changes us for the better.

Sometimes we think Seriously, God, do I have to do _____?!  Like tithing, giving to others, loving our enemies, forgiving others, being humble, and all those things we have no desire to do and which goes against our selfish nature.  But we must remember all of it is for our good–for us–and not just for God.  It’s all a process we must go through in our quest to be like Jesus.

While looking up sanctification in my Bible Dictionary (Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary by J D Douglas and Merrill C Tenney), I came across this nugget to share as well:

“The notion of holiness, when applied to things, places, and people, means that they are consecrated and set apart for the use of God.”

I loved the idea that my whole purpose on earth is for God’s use.  He is using me.  I’ve always known I’ve had a God-given purpose.  But the idea “I am set apart for the use of God” just struck me.  I think it goes beyond our purpose (which tends to be only one or a handful of things) and encompasses other uses that we don’t think about.

Purpose tends to be more of us doing the doing.  God’s use is more of God doing the doing.

Just some thoughts to chew on this week!

Am I a Saint?

Why is it that so many Christian terms are now derogatory in nature?

“She thinks she’s a saint!” is now commonly heard when someone is arrogant and prideful, a know-it-all or a hypocrite.  It has become something we do NOT want to be.

Yet God through Paul says otherwise.

If you believe in Jesus then you have been sanctified (made sacred, holy, and righteous) through the blood of Jesus.  That we “together with all the saints” (Ephesians 3:18) may know the fullness of God.

We hear all the time, “I’m no saint.”  Well, actually, if you’re a believer, you are.

Sure, you can chuck this up to euphemism or a figure of speech.  But our words are powerful and we should heed their hidden or implied messages.

Proverbs 18:21:  “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

Jesus tells us “The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean'” in Matthew 15:18

Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up…”

Over time, all languages change including English.  New words and expressions are being added every day.  Some due to technology (IPad); others, slang (cool or rad come to mind).  Meanings change and some disappear all together.

But we should we wary when an underlying spiritual war is taking place.  I believe this is the case in this instance and many other ways where sacred words from the Bible are being twisted.  As we learned, it is Satan, working through the minds of unbelievers (Ephesians 2:2), who has twisted such words and tried to rob them of their power and meaning.

Our words and our language is as much a part of us as our arm:  integral to living.  We must treat them as such; monitor its well-being; be wary of what it does/says.  And not give in to peer pressure and society’s whims when it comes to berating the Christian faith.

When we hear the word ‘saint’ many of us think of the Saints who have been recognized by the Catholic religion as holy:  St Patrick, St Valentine, St Michael, St Joseph, St Francis of Assisi, St Christopher, and thousands of others.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, the first definition of saint is what I knew:  “one officially recognized esp. through canonization as preeminent for holiness.”  Definition #3:  “One of God’s chosen and usually Christian people.”

My Bible Dictionary has a fascination explanation of the origin of the word in terms of the Catholic usage (which does not correspond to Biblical usage it points out).  But in short, a saint is “a person sacred to God” according to Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary by J.D Douglas and Merrill C Tenney.

I don’t know about you but I LOVE the idea that I (plain, ol’, insignificant me) am sacred to God!  I usually think of it as God being sacred, not me.  He is sacred to me.  Not I am sacred to Him.  But it makes sense.  Why else would He sacrifice His son?

This is what I love about BSF.  The Bible is so rich you can and do spend a lifetime studying and learning about it and BSF prompts me to learn things I otherwise wouldn’t think of (such as being a saint).

I had never heard of all Christians being Saints before now.  But if you are in Christ, have the Holy Spirit dwell within you then you are a Saint.  You don’t have to do any special works to be one (as I previously believed from definition #1 of Webster’s).

Therefore, I am a saint.  And I hope and pray you are too.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 22, Day 3: Ephesians 1:3-14

Summary of passage: Paul says praise to God for blessing us in the heaven with spiritual blessings.  We have been chosen since before the Creation to be holy and blameless in His sight.  Through love God predestined us to be adopted into His family through Christ for His pleasure and will by the gift of grace which he gives us freely.

We have redemption through Christ’s blood by God’s grace, made known to us through Christ, to bring all things in heaven and earth together in God’s timing.

We are also for the praise of God’s glory.  Having believed we were marked with a seal (the Holy Spirit) which guarantees our inheritance (our possession by God) until we are redeemed–to the praise of His glory.

Questions:

8a)  Verse 4 “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.  In love.”

b)  Two billion people on the planet profess themselves to be Christians (33 %) but how many of these actually possess the Holy Spirit is probably less.  The overall percentage is falling however relative to the overall population and history.  There is still work to be done in the world.

Me personally, I’m still working on being holy and blameless (life-long challenge for Christians).  But I belong to Christ and am not going anywhere.  This alone gives me solace.

9a)  Glory according to Webster’s Dictionary means, “worshipful praise, honor, and thanksgiving, something that secures praise, great beauty and splendor, magnificence, the splendor and beauty of heaven.”

According to Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary by JD Douglas and Merrill C Tenney glory is “great honor or praise, used especially of God’s majestic splendor.”

To the praise of His glory means praise and honor for God’s majestic splendor.  Douglas and Tenney go on to say, “the glory of God is the worthiness of God” or the “revelation of God in Christ.”  So we (humans and others) are to praise and honor God for His worthiness and His revelation along with His splendor.  Verse 12 specifically says that we might be for the praise of His glory.  So through us we can show God’s glory–something to be praised.

b)  When we show through our actions what it means to live a Christ-centered life.  So to be slow to anger, to be humble, to praise God for everything we do, to be patient, to love and forgive.  I can be all of this to my family and others.  Put others first and strive to do what Jesus would do with every action, word, and breath.

10a)  Heard the word of truth (the gospel of your salvation).  You believed.  Then you were marked with a seal (the Holy Spirit), which indwells in you, showing you as God’s possession and is a deposit for your inheritance and redemption.

b)  The Holy Spirit marks you and allows a part of Christ to live in you, in our hearts.  It is what changes us since we all know will alone is not sufficient.

11)  To seal according to Webster’s Dictionary means “something that confirms, ratifies, or makes secure, guarantee, assurance, authenticate or to determine irrevocably or indisputably (my favorite definition!).”

According to Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary by JD Douglas and Merrill C Tenney seal means “authentication, confirmation, ownership, evidence, or security.”

It gives me comfort to know I’m irrevocably God’s.  That He has marked me, I belong to Him, and therefore, nothing else matters.  Nothing can stand in my way for God’s purpose for my life.  It’s a relief.  Knowing I can live Him every day of my sometimes seemingly pitiful existence.

Conclusions:  As a writer I love the dictionary so these two lessons made my day!  It’s amazing how knowing the exact definition of a word changes things.  I do this when writing.  I change words all the time to convey exactly what I mean.

I love reading about the Holy Spirit and being reminded God is inside of me.  I love the simplicity of being in Christ:  Hear God’s Truth, Believe, and you are His through the mark of the Holy Spirit.  I also love being His glory.  Most of the time I don’t feel glorious.  In fact, I can feel the complete opposite:  shame, embarrassed, unworthy, lackluster, disappointing, regretful, and downright sad.  Even then I can be His glory if I believe it.  If I chose to.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 22, Day 2: Ephesians 1:1-14

Summary of passage:  Paul is now writing to the Ephesians.  Praise to God for blessing us in the heaven with spiritual blessings.  We have been chosen since before the Creation to be holy and blameless in His sight.  Through love God predestined us to be adopted into His family through Christ for His pleasure and will by the gift of grace which he gives us freely.

We have redemption through Christ’s blood by God’s grace, made known to us through Christ, to bring all things in heaven and earth together in God’s timing.

We are also for the praise of God’s glory.  Having believed we were marked with a seal (the Holy Spirit) which guarantees our inheritance (our possession by God) until we are redeemed–to the praise of His glory.

Questions:

3)  God

4)  1 Corinthians 15:10 “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect…the grace of God was with me.”  Paul realized he was saved by God’s grace, God had turned him towards Him (converted him Acts 9).

“May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”  2 Thessalonians 3:18

“May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.”  2 Thessalonians 3:16

When you accept God’s grace you have peace.  Paul repeatedly opens his letters with “Grace and peace be with you.”  God is a God of peace He wants us to have peace as well.

I think Paul did find this.  He had to in order to endure all of his hardships (beatings, shipwrecks, hunger, thirst, etc).  He found God’s peace in God’s calling on his life and he persevered till the end.

5)  Heavenly realms is heaven and every spiritual blessing I see as eternal life and everything that accompanies that.  Every blessing we receive is from God so therefore it is spiritual.

6a)  He chose us before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.  He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ for his pleasure by his grace as a free gift.  WE have redemption through his blood, forgiveness of sins by God’s grace.  He made known to us the mystery of his will purposed in Christ which will go into effect when the times have reached their fulfillment (End Times) so all things in heaven and earch may abide together.

b)  To be adopted as God’s children, to be cleansed of our sins forever so that we may abide in the Lord’s presence; to be for the praise of His glory since as believers in Christ we have been gifted with the Holy Spirit, thus guaranteeing our inheritance in heaven.

c)  To be holy and blameless and adopted as God’s sons.  He has predestined us to be Christ-like and therefore justified (made righteous and able to stand before God) and glorified.  All for God’s pleasure.

7)  According to Webster’s Dictionary, redemption means “to buy back, repurchase, to free from captivity by payment of ransom, to free from the consequences of sin, to change for the better, to atone for, to make good, fulfill.”

According to Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary by J D Douglas and Merrill C Tenney, redemption “describes God’s merciful and costly action on behalf of his people…release or freedom on payment of a price, deliverance by a costly method.”

We have been atoned for and bought back by the blood of Christ.  Christ paid the price to free us from our sins so that we can have deliverance into God’s hands.  We have been fulfilled of God’s plan.

Conclusions:  Great study of the fundamental truths and foundations of Christianity. The essence of what we believe, why we believe it, and its purpose is right here.  God sent Jesus to die for our sins so we can stand with God for all of eternity–God’s ultimate plan since the beginning of time.  Always great to hear!

BSF Study Questions Isaiah Lesson 27, Day 2 Isaiah 60:1-9

Summary of passage:  Isaiah says:  Arise and shine for your light (the Redeemer) has come along with the glory of the Lord.  Darkness covers the earth but the Lord shines over that with His glory.  Nations and kings come to God’s light.  All will assemble from afar.  You will be radiant with joy.  Wealth will be brought from far and wide.  Camels will cover the land (prosperity).  All from Sheba and Nebaioth will come, serve and praise the Lord.  All offerings will be accepted.  The temple will be adorned.  Ships, including those of Tarshish, will bring your sons, silver, and gold to the honor of the Lord.

Questions:

3a)  The light is the Redeemer (from Isaiah 59:20) or can also be the Lord as He rises upon us and His glory appears over us.  It has come to Israel, the peoples, Nations, kings–come for all.

b)  Isaiah 59:9-10:  Deep shadows where we grope along the wall  and feel our way without eyes.  We stumble as if it were twilight and we are like the dead.

4a)  Nations and kings will come.  All will assemble including your sons and daughters from afar.  You will be radiant.  All the wealth on the seas will be brought and all the wealth of the nations.  Camels will cover the land (a sign of prosperity) and all from Sheba will bring gold and praise (all nations will praise the Lord and bring gifts).  All offerings will be accepted.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  I came back to church after college when I had my first daughter.  It was time.  I wanted her to know Jesus.  Recently, my friend who is a missionary has led by example as I watched her consult the Lord in every decision, listen, and obey unquestioningly.  She has been an example I can only hope to one day replicate.

Conclusions:  This passage has a lot of geographical references.

According to my Bible Atlas (Zondervan Atlas of the Bible by Carl G Rasmussen), Midian was a descendant of Abraham and Keturah and the ancestor of an Arabian tribe that bore his name.  Midian is mentioned 57 times in the OT.  They were a nomadic people but believed to have its center in NW Arabia.

Midian was also a part of Sheba: http://bibleatlas.org/full/midian.htm

Ephah is believed to be a separate tribe of Sheba like Midian but is unknown exactly where it was located:

http://bibleatlas.org/regional/ephah.htm

Sheba was on the Arabian peninsula now Yemen: http://bibleatlas.org/regional/sheba.htm

According to Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary by J.D. Douglas and Merrill C Tenney, the camels mentioned carried trade goods from Sheba northward to the Mediterranean countries. Sheba was very wealthy through the control of the trade in perfumes and incense.  The Queen of Sheba visited Solomon (1 Kings 10:1-13; 2 Chronicles 9:1-12), riding a camel as well bearing just such gifts.

Kedar is another name for Arabia: http://bibleatlas.org/regional/kedar.htm

According to Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Kedar is mentioned numerous times in the Bible (Isaiah mentions it in:  Isaiah 21:17, Isaiah 42:11).  Kedar also had great wealth and Zondervan infers due to the number of references in the Bible that Kedar must have been well-known to the Israelites from 1000-500 BC.  Kedar was also one of the distant lands.

Nebaioth is in Northern Arabia: http://bibleatlas.org/full/nebaioth.htm

According to Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Tarshish’s location is debated but many scholars place it in Spain.  It is mentioned many times in reference to ships and ports but it was a very distant place as well.  It was on a ship headed to Tarshish that Jonah sought to flee from the Lord (Jonah 1:3; 4:2).

Map of Tarshish: http://bibleatlas.org/regional/tarshish.htm

We must remember the New World had not been discovered yet.  The people’s knowledge of the world was limited so these places represented the far reaches of the known world.

Camels were the people’s primary mode of transportation in Isaiah’s time (still are in parts of the Middle East).  Having many camels could be akin to having many cars today:  a sign of wealth and a means of their livelihood.

End Note:  It is fascinating to see how these locations crop up in the Bible.  I love Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary by JD Douglas and Merrill C Tenney which gives Bible references and lists all the places these locations are in the Bible.

I would have never remembered the ship Jonah boarded was headed to Tarshish.  Knowing Tarshish’s estimated location really cements in my mind how much Jonah wanted to “escape” from God (not that he could escape from God).  Jonah wanted to go to the far ends of the Earth, the edge of the known world–that’s how bad he didn’t want to go to Ninevah.  Ninevah must have been a really, really bad place!  I cannot recommend this Dictionary enough.

What does this have to do with Isaiah?  Nothing.  And that’s why I love BSF.  It leads you to discover things you otherwise never would have.

BSF Study Questions Isaiah Lesson 25, Day 4 Isaiah 56:1-8; Exodus 31:12-17; Deuteronomy 23:1-8

Summary of passages:  Isaiah 56:1-8:  The Lord says to maintain justice and do what is right for salvation and righteousness are close.  Blessed is he who does this, keeps the Sabbath, and does not do evil.  No foreigner can say the Lord excludes them from His people for foreigners and eunuchs who keep the Sabbaths, pleases the Lord, and keeps the covenant, the Lord will give them everlasting life.  If foreigners serve, love, worship the Lord, keep the Sabbaths and the covenant, then the Lord will bring those to his holy mountain and give them joy in the temple.  Their sacrifices will be accepted and the Lord’s house will be a house of prayer for all nations.  Others will be gathered besides Israel.

Exodus 31: 12-17:  The Lord says to observe the Sabbaths because it is His holy day and so it extends to His people as a holy day.  Anyone who desecrates the Sabbath must be put to death and anyone who does work on that day must be cut off from his people.  The Sabbath shall be a sign between the Lord and the Israelites forever as a symbol of the six days God worked and the one day He rested.

Deuteronomy 23:1-8:  No one emasculated by crushing or cutting (made a eunuch) may enter the assembly of the Lord.  No one born of a forbidden marriage (would be foreign blood if an Israelite married a foreigner) nor any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord.  No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the Lord as punishment when they did not help as the Lord led His people to the promised land.  Do not be friends with them as long as you live (harsh punishment, huh?).  An Edomite is your brother (Edom being founded by Esau, Jacob’s twin brother) as is Egypt since you abided in his country.  After three generations have passed, they may enter the assembly of the Lord.

Questions:

8a)  “In the gospel, a righteousness goes forth–a righteousness that God delights to see and accept.  This righteousness is the provision of a right relationship with himself through the saving work of Jesus.”  The salvation is the salvation Jesus brought us when he died on the cross.  The righteousness is the gift of righteousness Jesus gave us when he died on the cross.  Through his death we were made righteous (a right relationship with God) through Jesus.  This righteousness is by faith alone from the first to the last (essentially from the beginning of time to eternity).  If you believe in Jesus and accept he died for you then you are made righteous in God’s eyes, which is an act of faith.  To be righteous is to have a right relationship to God.  Essentially, through Jesus’s death, we can have a relationship with God.

“To receive this gift of righteousness is to be justified by faith.  And those who receive the gift then are to live as righteous people, devoted to the service of what God declares to be right.”

All quotes are from Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary by Douglas and Tenney.

b)  Verse 7.  The outer courts were the only place the Gentiles could come and pray. They were not allowed inside the inner courts of the temple.  It was not holy ground and non-Jews were not permitted there.  Buying and selling were permitted as well but mainly for sacrificial animals and money exchanges for tithes.  Jesus got mad because the outer court had become more of a market motivated by profit than for religious purposes.  Also, the market had grown so big that the merchants were pushing out those who had just come to pray.  The religious intentions had turned into a bazaar of exchanging goods and services; whereas God’s expectations had been for worship only.  (Some phrases summarized from Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary).

9a)  All foreigners and eunuchs–all nations.  Traditionally, foreigners and eunuchs were excluded from worshiping God (Exodus 12:43, Deuteronomy 23:1, 3, 7-8, Leviticus 21:18-20).  Israel had come to be arrogant as God’s chosen people during their exile, thinking only of themselves and how God was only for them.  But here God says no–I love all people.

b)  In John 10:14-16, Jesus explains He has other sheep (the Gentiles) whom He will bring also.  They listen to Him and shall be one flock (shall be as equal as the Jews on the same footing).  Acts 8:26-40 tells how an angel of the Lord sent Philip to explain the Bible and baptize an Ethiopian eunuch (so both a foreigner and a eunuch).  The Spirit of the Lord was present.  In Acts 10:34-38 Peter realizes Jesus’s death was for all.  Jesus himself never discriminated while on earth.  While Peter was talking the Holy Spirit came on all circumcised believers and he baptized them all.

c) Personal Question.  My answer:  Unbelieving family members

Conclusions:  I LOVED Acts 8: 30-31 “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.  “How can I,” he said (the Ethiopian eunuch), “unless someone explains it to me?”  Awesome!  I am so excited BSF has embraced such a goal.  I wish other churches and bible studies would be as effective.  Explaining the Bible so we can understand and when we understand we can do better, be better, and share the gospel as Jesus instructed.  Great stuff!  Sometimes I wonder if my church has this at its heart when it’s mission statement is to bring others into a growing relationship with Jesus.  I think they forget the growing part of it and just focus on accepting Jesus and then you’re on your own.

This was a rough lesson for me in many ways.  Question 8a once again challenged my thinking on what is righteousness (something I’m still trying to get a grasp of in my mind).  Romans is such a key passage in all the Bible that I’m still struggling to get.  I had to read about the inner and outer courts to make sure I understood why Jesus was so upset and make sure I had it straight who eunuchs were in the Bible.  It took me two days to do this lesson.

I’m not for sure how Exodus ties in here (since no question points to it) besides to make the point of keeping the Sabbath holy and how Isaiah repeatedly stated if foreigners keep the Sabbath holy, then they are accepted by God.  I’m assuming this is for emphasis and to show its importance to God.  Therefore, it is a requirement to be accepted by God in the Old Covenant as Isaiah records in Isaiah 56.

End Note:  Traditionally, eunuchs are castrated males, usually slaves turned into servants who serve for a king and tend his harem of women so no adultery can occur.  They also attend the king as well.  Castration was also a form of punishment for rape in ancient China.  It was also used for religious purposes.

Biblically speaking, the term eunuch could have referred not only to castrated men but also to a male official or confidant.  The Hebrew word had both meanings.  The context must be taken into account to get the full picture.  Here, I’m thinking Isaiah is referring to the castrated male since no one with imperfections could enter the inner courts (which included those cut–Deuteronomy 23:1).

What Does “Self-Righteousness” Mean?

I think there’s a lot of confusion when this term is thrown around by others and many don’t know what it means.  I think many equate self-righteousness with thinking you are better than others, morally or in other ways.

Webster’s definition of self-righteous is this:  convinced of one’s own righteousness especially in contrast with the actions and beliefs of others; narrow-mindedly moralistic.

Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary gives the theological definition:  belief, attitude, or behavior of persons who seek God’s acceptance by their own efforts, that is, by doing good works and keeping divine statues.

Bible passages where the concept of self-righteousness is discussed:  Luke 18:9, Romans 10:1-3, and Philippians 3:9.

Zondervan continues, “A self-righteous person is righteous neither in the religious nor moral sense.  Those who trust in themselves do not have right standing with God through self-effort nor are they morally upright since their attitudes are not affected.”

From my understanding, righteousness is a gift from God that we received from Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross.  The “self” goes directly against righteousness since we humans have nothing to do with God’s grace.

If someone is being self-righteous, they are basically being self-reliant and in relation to others portray a smug and prideful attitude which is where superiority creeps in.  They waste precious energy, time, and resources trying to earn God’s grace and mercy when it was freely given.  And because they are striving so hard to earn God’s love they create a feeling inside of themselves that they are better than others because of their good works.  It becomes a numbers game and they end up judging themselves against others–again, something God should only be doing.

Self-righteousness is a sin because we are relying on ourselves and not accepting what Jesus has done for us on the cross.  And when coupled with others it is an act of judging others and only God can do that.

Self before righteousness is like putting you before God–self-reliant instead of God-reliant.

Examples of self-righteousness:  thinking you are better than others because–you believe in God, do more good things than others, are a better person in your view, etc.

Self-righteousness is another form of the wrong kind of pride and as Jesus says, “…he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:14

End Note:  Definitions and examples of Bible passage are from Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary by JD Douglas and Merrill C Tenney.  I would not have been able to explain this concept without this help!  Thank you!

I would love any other ideas or clarification points added!