Category Archives: Bible Study Notes

Psalm 106 – Cycle of Judgment and Repentance Found in the People of Israel

I enjoy Bible study very much.  One of my favorite things is to pray through a Psalm and let the Lord communicate with me concerning the truth found in it.  As I was reading Psalm 106, I was impressed with how I act like the Israelites, how the church falls into the same traps, and how our nation parallels the path taken by God’s people over and over again.

This Psalm was written to remind the people of the great things God did for them and how they rebelled against Him at every turn.  They were oppressed in the land of Egypt, so God provided for their exodus from their slavery.  Not only did He bring them out of that land, He made sure they were very wealthy in the process.  He guided them to the Red Sea.  He provided for them in the wilderness.  But that wasn’t enough for them.  They murmured, and complained, and rebelled against their God who sustained them during their journey.  Instead of placing complete faith and trust in the living God that had showed His power, they returned back to the dead idols they had been exposed to in Egypt – gods that had no power to protect and guide and provide.

As I look back on my own life, I see that cycle – times of commitment followed by a slipping into inaction then to open rebellion against what I knew was right.  I would experience another time of conviction, which would lead to repentance and back to commitment.  I believe I now have the commitment thing covered pretty well, but I can still see the cycle repeat itself on a smaller scale.  Understand, it may be on a smaller scale in our own eyes, but God makes no distinction.  So, I strive to renew my commitment and dedication each and every day – sometime successfully, sometimes not so much.  The joy is that God is always there and ready to forgive my shortcomings as long as I renew my commitment to do His will.  What He will not reward is insincere platitudes in an attempt to appease Him.

In the midst of this cycle of deliverance to rebellion and back to deliverance that the people of Israel were locked into, God always maintained at least one man to be His spokesman.  It was Moses during the exodus and wandering then Joshua as the people took the Promised Land.  I like how verse 23 puts it: “…had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach…”  I would never compare myself to Moses, but there are times when I feel like I am standing in the breach between God and my church.  Understand, I have a great church and I love the people God has assembled together to make it up, but I see apathy at times, which is in its own way rebellion.

I feel that my job as God’s spokesman to my church is to identify the unwanted inhabitants of the lives of my members and help them banish them.  After all, I see that as one of the commands that God has given us as believers – get rid of the worldly inhabitants (sins) in our lives so that we can live the holy life God intends.  As the Israelites did not rid the land of the original inhabitants, so we too often do not completely eliminate sin from our own lives.  It strikes me that as the people of God suffered unseen difficulties because they did not completely follow God’s commands, we suffer consequences for the sins we harbor in our own lives.  God is there to forgive and restore when we fall victim to our human nature, but He is also just when He allows us to experience the consequences for wrong choices.  That’s the way a loving father should react, so why do people not expect our Heavenly Father to act any differently.

But we also see God interacting with Israel as a nation.  He set up guidelines with them that if they would follow Him and obey His commandments, He would bless them in their promised land.  Notice that He also outlined consequences for them as a nation if they did not.  When Israel had a strong leader provided by God, who followed God’s commands, they were blessed as He promised, and they experienced peace in the land.  However, there were too many times that the people would buy into the ideas and religions of the inhabitants they left in their midst or the surrounding nations, and would drift away from God’s intended lifestyle.  God, in His justice, took action so that His people suffered for their rebellion.

I know that people today are saying that the U.S.A. is not a Christian nation, but I beg to differ.  I know that some of our founding fathers were not specifically Christian, but I believe that in their writings, it is obvious that they understood the importance of Christian beliefs in the lives of citizens and government.  They did not want to allow the government to dictate religion and they instituted protections along those lines; however, they also indicated that they built the government around the concept that man answered to a higher power (most of them believed it was God Almighty) and that the people making up the government would make decisions based on that foundation.  As long as that was true, this nation has been blessed.

But can the same be said for our society, and our government, today?  I believe there are some politicians who still use Christian standards when making decisions that affect us as citizens.  Unfortunately, I believe they are far too few.  Too many of our career politicians have a motivation other than honoring God behind their decisions.  For that reason, I believe that the U.S.A. is standing in a position of judgment before God right now just like the people of Israel did all too often.  If God will judge His chosen people, why do we think He will not judge us?

Can we skip the suffering that will inevitably come with God’s judgment?  I believe it is possible, but we must go directly to repentance and correct the rebellion in our society.  That means that society itself, the people as a whole, must accept God’s way.  That must then be reflected in those we choose to govern over us.  Only then can decisions be made that honor God.  If that happens, then He can bless our nation again.  If not, I fear for those who are here when God’s judgment falls on our nation.

John 6:15

Why would the people want to make Jesus a King?  They were Jews and were looking for a leader who would defeat the Romans and liberate them.  They were looking for the Messiah.  Did they recognize Jesus at the Messiah that day?  Maybe, but in my mind, I see other possibilities as well.

What is one of man’s most basic needs and desires?  Food, of course.  Can you imagine following someone who would make sure you had all the food you wanted every meal?  I can just see what is going through the minds of the crowd that witnessed the feeding of the five thousand that day.  “If he was our leader, he could feed us every day and we wouldn’t have to work so hard.  If he was king, he could feed all the people and we could stop having to submit to those barbaric Roman soldiers.”

In looking for the Messiah, they would also be looking for someone with power.  What incredible power it must have taken to make food out of nothing.  They might have been saying, “If he has the power to make food out of nothing, what other power might he have?  He just might have enough power to rid us of these Roman invaders.”

Even if they thought He was the Messiah, their expectations were all wrong.  The Kingdom Christ was here to establish was not an earthly one; it was a spiritual one.  It was not a Kingdom where He would sit on a throne in Jerusalem and mete out justice and judgment.  Honestly, that would be too restrictive for the One who would establish a worldwide kingdom.

You know what I see as the common theme in each of these speculations and expectations?  It is, what is in it for me.  These people were looking to Jesus to provide for them, and He was more than capable of doing that if that is all He was sent to earth to accomplish.  But Jesus was not sent here just to provide for the physical needs of mankind; He was sent to provide for our spiritual needs.  What is man’s greatest spiritual need?  It is a relationship with a Heavenly Father.

I love the picture of God in heaven looking down on me as a loving and benevolent father.  It makes me want to know more about Him.  And it makes me want to please Him more.  When these people looked at Jesus, do you think that is what they saw?  When you consider Jesus, is it what you see?  Is it what you want?

Jesus is the path God provided for us to have a relationship with Him.  Had Jesus allowed Himself to become king, do you think He would have been able to become the way, the truth, and the life?

But He does want to be king; only it is not an earthly king on a throne.  He wants to be the king of your heart and life.  Are you ready to make Him that?

John 2:1-11

This story recorded for us in John holds some interesting thoughts for us. We have to be careful to understand them without letting them carry our imaginations too far afield.

Jesus had just completed an intensely spiritual event in His life. He had moved from the shadows of anonymity into the scrutiny of flawed man’s expectations. In the scriptures recording part of Jesus’ life, we were able to begin to see who He was, and who He is to us today.

After such a spiritual episode, we find Jesus enjoying some rest and participating in people’s daily lives. Even in this setting, He still manages to maintain His spiritual standing without dampening the festivities. From that, we can surmise that we as believers are expected to enjoy ourselves as we go about our lives. There are things in life worth celebrating, and we shouldn’t become so stodgy that we suppress the enjoyment for others. Believers, I encourage you to laugh a little, lighten up, and enjoy fellowship with other people. I have seen too many Christians who think they should be stiff and “spiritual” in everything they do. Just because it’s fun doesn’t make it wrong. I love getting together with Christian friends over a friendly board game. It gives us a chance to visit with each other, laugh over events of life, and how fickle the game can be. There is a comradery in the fellowship because of a common Savior.

Of course, there are activities that I believe Christians shouldn’t be involved in. I don’t think it’s appropriate for a believer to drink. Some Christians have no problem with it, and they point to occasions like the one in our story to support their perceived freedoms. There are a lot of reasons why I discount their argument, but the main one is that we as believers are to be different than the world. When we allow our daily lives to be so mingled with worldly activities that there’s not a distinction between us and the world, then how are people supposed to recognize we have something they don’t? Besides that, what does drinking get you that you can’t get with a heart full of joy? And joy is a blessing from God, not something you can manifest from a worldly perspective. You can have fun without participating in something that some people would find objectionable. I will be the first to admit that this is a personal conviction, but I also believe that it is based on sound Bible study and principles.

Another thing I thought was interesting was the interaction between Jesus and Mary. Before His earthly ministry began, I expect that Jesus subjected Himself to His mother’s leadership. I would expect nothing less considering several admonitions in scripture that children are to obey and honor their parents. When Mary brought the need to Jesus, it’s hard to know what she expected to happen, but it’s clear she thought Jesus could do something about it. Jesus’ response can seem a bit off-putting, like He was dismissing her. I want you to consider, however, that what Jesus said was not necessarily mean, but it did have a tone of rebuke in it. It was like Jesus was saying, “We need to begin to separate the roles we’ve played in the past. Yes, I am your son, but I have moved into an important phase of my earthly ministry. It’s not appropriate for you to make the kinds of demands on me that you’ve made before. In the grand scheme of my work, you are no more than any other believer.”

Before you say that I have read a bit more into this exchange than was meant, I think it’s important to remember a couple of things. Mary is not the holy one here. She’s important only in that she was a righteous young woman that found favor with God so was tasked with baring and caring for His only Son. She had fulfilled that role admirably, and now it was time for her to move out of the spotlight and let go of her control. Just as David recognized Jesus as Lord, Mary must recognize Jesus as her Lord.

We also have to remember that God is no respecter of persons. Had Jesus shown more deference to Mary, it would’ve given the appearance that He does play favorites. What would that do to our doctrine of the availability of salvation to everyone? Some might take the favoritism to mean the God has already chosen who is to be saved, and that moves a bit farther toward Calvinism than I am comfortable with.

Notice that the men involved in this event promptly did what they were instructed to do. They didn’t know the outcome when they filled the barrels with water. They only knew that it was what they were supposed to do, and they accomplished their part. We as believers are expected to use our hands and feet for the work of God. Since we know that is our purpose, why do we hesitate so many times before taking the steps that are required of us?

As with any portion of scripture, there are positive things we should take from this story. Each time a passage is studied, it has more to teach us. In just this short discussion, there are three things we as believers can glean.

1. It is OK, and we are expected, to enjoy life. After all, it was God who gave life to us and He wants the best for us.

2. Our goal should be to make Jesus the Lord of our lives more and more each day, just like Mary was expected to.

3. We should be responsive to do the God directed actions we know are right, and we should do them promptly.

John 1:16-21

After John makes clear the Word’s (Christ’s) relationship to God, and that He is God, He turns his attention to preparing man’s heart to receive the very special message God has prepared.  The book of John proceeds to introduce us to the first true prophet from God to come on the scene for many, many years.  The Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes would like the people to think they speak for God, but as we see in the Gospels, God is not pleased with their message.  His message is quite different than theirs, even though it is the same message He has given to man from the beginning.  That is one of repentance, restoration of a relationship, and salvation in the face of eternal death.  To deliver this message, God sends what seems to be an unlikely spokesman – John the Baptist.

To us he seems like he would be less than a desirable messenger, but to God he is the right man at the right time.  We would want the most appealing countenance we could find, with the richest speaking voice, and the most eloquent vocabulary available at the time to deliver our message.  What God sent was a hermit from the rough land of the desert who was not much more than a homeless outcast in that society.  What made him compelling was the message he delivered.  It is all according to God’s plan.

The message resonated with the people primarily because it was God’s message.  God intended it to be compelling and powerful – to stir hearts and minds.  It is the same message we preach today.

John the Baptist was sent from God.  He came to share the message that the Christ was on the scene.  The writer named the coming one the Light.  This is the light by which we see our true nature.  It is the light by which everything is revealed.  If we look at ourselves by this light, there is no way for us to think more highly of ourselves than we are.  We see that we need redemption.  It is this light that compels us to repent and seek forgiveness from an Almighty God.

Because of his message, there were those who thought John the Baptist might be the Light of the World referred to in these verses.  I think it is worth noting that John the Baptist was not the first or only person that people mistook for the Messiah.  The Jewish people had been looking for Him for so long, they were ready to believe anyone to made the claim was the Messiah.  I can imagine that they had chased after a lot of different men over the years only to be disappointed in the end.  If I were there, I can imagine that I would want to know if I was chasing another pipe-dream.

The writer makes it clear that this John is not the Messiah, but is only a forerunner of the Messiah.  It appears that John knows the Messiah is living in those days and that he is expecting Him to reveal Himself at any time.  Is it possible that he grew up with the stories from his mother Elizabeth being visited by Mary who was carrying the Savior?  I think it is highly likely.  They may not have had much contact as they grew up, but he certainly would have known about Jesus and the words from the angel concerning him.