Exodus 1:1 through 2:10

Daybreak for Students

The Prophecies of Nahum and Zephaniah

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK

SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Nahum 1:1 through 3:19
Zephaniah 1:1 through 3:20

KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger.” (Zephaniah 2:3)

BACKGROUND

The Book of Nahum deals with God’s punishment of the enemies of Judah, and the consequent good news for the people of God. The prophecy is fairly narrow in scope, focusing on the destruction of Nineveh that would occur in the year 612 B.C. The exact date is difficult to determine, but the prophecy was given sometime after the year 663 B.C., when the Egyptian city of Thebes fell to the Assyrians. Nahum compared Nineveh to Thebes (the city of No mentioned in Nahum 3:8-10). He recounted the seeming invincibility and sad destruction of that city and then predicted that a similar fate awaited Nineveh. The first chapter describes the holy character of God the Judge; the second chapter describes Nineveh’s fall; and the third chapter explains why the city would fall.

Zephaniah prophesied sometime during the reign of a good king of Judah, Josiah, probably between 663 and 654 B.C. (Zephaniah 1:1). However, Josiah followed two of the most wicked kings of Judah (Manasseh and Amon), so the nation of Judah was in a low moral state when Zephaniah prophesied. His prophecy may have played a crucial role in the moral reforms that King Josiah implemented, although after Josiah was killed in battle, Judah lapsed once more into sinful behavior. In chapter 1, the prophet declared that judgment would come to Judah and, in chapter 2, to the Gentile nations surrounding it. Chapter 3 brings out that God will extend mercy and restoration in the last days, and there will be a time of rejoicing.

The destruction of Nineveh that both Nahum and Zephaniah predicted was so complete that many modern people doubted the existence of the city until archeologists discovered its ruins, with great difficulty, in the 19th century.

SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS

  1. The two original primary audiences for Nahum’s prophecy were the nation of Assyria (whose capital city was Nineveh), and the nation of Judah, which had been oppressed by the Assyrians. Nahum prophesied the destruction of the great city of Nineveh, which was utterly destroyed by the Babylonians in 612 B.C. Read chapter 1 of Nahum’s prophecy. How would you feel if you were an Assyrian hearing this prophecy? How would you feel if you were a person from the land of Judah?

    Since the Assyrian audience received a message of judgment and condemnation, we might suppose that those receiving that message would be alarmed and fearful, and perhaps motivated to repentance. In reality, they appeared to think it was ludicrous or foolish, for they ignored the warning. However, the people of Judah no doubt felt relief and hope when they heard Nahum’s message.

    Follow up your discussion of these questions by pointing out that although the people of Nineveh had repented some one hundred years earlier at the preaching of Jonah, this time they failed to turn from their evil ways and seek God, in spite of the horrendous nature of the prophesied destruction. Ask your class: How do people today respond to the warning that Christ’s coming is near, and that a time of terrible trouble awaits those who have failed to make their peace with Him? Why do you think people are so heedless of the warning?

  2. Nahum began his prophecy with a description of God in Nahum 1:2-7. What can we learn about God’s nature and attributes from these verses? How should knowing these attributes impact our behavior and attitude toward Him?

    Class discussion may bring out the following:

    Nahum 1:2 — God is a jealous God who takes revenge on His enemies.

    Nahum 1:3 — God is slow to anger. God is great in power. God will not acquit the wicked.

    Nahum 1:3-5 — God’s power is shown in and through nature.

    Nahum 1:6 — God’s anger is like a fiery volcano.

    Nahum 1:7 — God is good. God is a stronghold in the day of trouble. God knows those who trust in Him.

    Being aware of the attributes of God should cause us to view Him and His requirements with awe, utmost respect, and unquestioning obedience.

    It might be interesting to discuss with your class some current-day examples of these timeless truths about the nature of God.

  3. What were God’s intentions for Assyria, and why? Nahum 1:9,14; 2:13; 3:19

    These verses bring out that God was going to utterly destroy Assyria because the people were so vile and wicked.

    Discuss with your class what this indicates about God’s love and mercy. The point should be made that those who reject God can eventually go beyond mercy. A just and holy God cannot see evil people flouting His law unendingly, and do nothing about it. His righteousness and justice require that evil be recompensed.

  4. In chapter 3, Nahum spelled out a number of the specific sins of the Ninevites that were the reason for the judgment pronounced upon them. What were these sins? (Nahum 3:1, 4, 19) In what ways are the sins of the Ninevites evident in our society today?

    Nahum 3:1 — The verse implies that the people of Nineveh were violent, dishonest, and thieves, evidently making gain by exploiting and robbing others.

    Nahum 3:4 — The Assyrians worshiped idols and practiced witchcraft. Nineveh was like a harlot because her people served many gods instead of the one true God.

    Nahum 3:19 — The Assyrian nation had cruelly oppressed and exploited many of the weaker nations.

    Class discussion of the second question should provide many current-day examples of violence, dishonesty, witchcraft, serving things other than the one true God, exploitation, etc.

  5. Unlike Nahum’s prophecy, which focused almost exclusively on the destruction of Nineveh, the prophecy of Zephaniah foretold the destruction of Judah (Zephaniah 1) and the Gentile nations surrounding Judah (Zephaniah 2). What Gentile nations were named? (Zepheniah 2:4-15) What do you think is indicated by the fact that nations to the west, east, south, and north of Judah were all mentioned?

    A map of these areas at the time could be helpful in class.

    Zephaniah 2:4-7 refers to the nation of Philistia. Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Ekron were four of the five major cities of Philistia. The Cherethites were a Philistine tribe that dwelt in the south of Canaan, the lowland along the coast of Philistia.

    Zephaniah 2:8-10 refers to the nations of Moab and Ammon. These nations had historically maintained an adversarial relationship with Judah, often encroaching on the land of Judah.

    Zephaniah 2:12 refers to the nation of Ethiopia. Ethiopia ruled Egypt from 720 to 654 B.C., shortly before the time of Zephaniah’s prophecy.

    Zephaniah 2:13-15 refers to the nation of Assyria. Thus, both Nahum and Zephaniah prophesied the destruction of Nineveh.

    In response to the second question, it should be brought out that Zephaniah was indicating the universality of God’s judgment throughout the world. You could follow up this thought by asking your class: How is God concerned with the actions of entire nations today?

  6. In Zephaniah 1:12-13 the prophet said that God would punish those who were “settled on their lees,” a phrase which meant they were at ease, or apathetic. Why was this attitude worthy of God’s punishment?

    The people condemned by the prophet in this verse were not concerned about the sinful condition of Judah, nor were they concerned about the coming judgment of God. They seemed to be concerned with, and trusting solely in, their own wealth and material possessions. Such a complacent attitude was worthy of punishment because it indicated that they had stopped trusting in God and believing His prophets.

    What parallel might we see to this behavior in our society? What warning is there for us as we ponder God’s anger at such an attitude of indifference?

  7. Although Zephaniah’s prophecy of destruction was much broader than Nahum’s prophecy, it also held out more hope for the redemption of the Gentile nations. What does God promise in Zephaniah 2:3, 3:9, and 3:13?

    In Zephaniah 2:3, God promised to spare all the meek and righteous in the earth. In Zephaniah 3:9, God promised to purify the nations through His time of judgment so that all may call upon the Name of the Lord and serve Him in unity. In Zephaniah 3:13, God promised that He will cleanse the remnant of Israel from all vestiges of sinful pride, and will cause them to dwell in perfect peace and security.

    You may wish to broaden out the concept of God’s promises by asking your students to name some promises God has made to us. Ask them: How do we know God’s promises to us are true, and will be fulfilled?

  8. Zephaniah 3:14 commands, “Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.” Why would the prophet ask the people of Judah to rejoice after pronouncing the coming wrath of God upon Judah and all the nations? (Zephaniah 3:15)

    The people were to rejoice because although Zephaniah foretold the great and terrible Day of the Lord when God’s wrath would be poured out to punish sin, he also foretold that God’s punishment will purify a remnant of Israel who will serve God in righteousness. (Read Zephaniah 3:11-13.) God will then be in the midst of His people, and the land of Judah will be restored. (Read Zephaniah 3:15-20.)

    Ask your class: Though we know a time of great and terrible trouble is coming upon this world, what reason do we have to rejoice?

  9. What do the prophecies of Nahum and Zephaniah teach us about the way we should live our lives?

    Answers to this question may vary, but they should offer a springboard to wrapping up this lesson. The point should emerge that Nahum and Zephaniah’s prophecies reveal that God is displeased with dishonesty, violence, robbery, moral apathy, idol worship, self-complacency, and pride. God is pleased with those who trust in Him, who seek meekness and righteousness, and who are honest and upright. To escape God’s judgment, we must purpose to listen to Him, accept His correction, obey Him, trust Him, and seek His guidance for our lives. As we do these things, we can be assured of a glorious future with Him, in spite of the calamities that will come upon this earth.

CONCLUSION

The prophecies of Nahum and Zephaniah were fulfilled in part when Nineveh was ransacked in the year 612 B.C. and when Judah fell to Babylon in the year 586 B.C. However, the ominous world-wide “day of the Lord” prophesied by Zephaniah, and the universal worship of the Lord which is to follow this time of trouble, has not yet come to pass.

The Prophecies of Nahum and Zephaniah

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK

SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Nahum 1:1 through 3:19
Zephaniah 1:1 through 3:20

KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger.” (Zephaniah 2:3)

BACKGROUND

The Book of Nahum deals with God’s punishment of the enemies of Judah, and the consequent good news for the people of God. The prophecy is fairly narrow in scope, focusing on the destruction of Nineveh that would occur in the year 612 B.C. The exact date is difficult to determine, but the prophecy was given sometime after the year 663 B.C., when the Egyptian city of Thebes fell to the Assyrians. Nahum compared Nineveh to Thebes (the city of No mentioned in Nahum 3:8-10). He recounted the seeming invincibility and sad destruction of that city and then predicted that a similar fate awaited Nineveh. The first chapter describes the holy character of God the Judge; the second chapter describes Nineveh’s fall; and the third chapter explains why the city would fall.

Zephaniah prophesied sometime during the reign of a good king of Judah, Josiah, probably between 663 and 654 B.C. (Zephaniah 1:1). However, Josiah followed two of the most wicked kings of Judah (Manasseh and Amon), so the nation of Judah was in a low moral state when Zephaniah prophesied. His prophecy may have played a crucial role in the moral reforms that King Josiah implemented, although after Josiah was killed in battle, Judah lapsed once more into sinful behavior. In chapter 1, the prophet declared that judgment would come to Judah and, in chapter 2, to the Gentile nations surrounding it. Chapter 3 brings out that God will extend mercy and restoration in the last days, and there will be a time of rejoicing.

The destruction of Nineveh that both Nahum and Zephaniah predicted was so complete that many modern people doubted the existence of the city until archeologists discovered its ruins, with great difficulty, in the 19th century.

QUESTIONS

  1. The two original primary audiences for Nahum’s prophecy were the nation of Assyria (whose capital city was Nineveh), and the nation of Judah, which had been oppressed by the Assyrians. Nahum prophesied the destruction of the great city of Nineveh, which was utterly destroyed by the Babylonians in 612 B.C. Read chapter 1 of Nahum’s prophecy. How would you feel if you were an Assyrian hearing this prophecy? How would you feel if you were a person from the land of Judah?
  2. Nahum began his prophecy with a description of God in Nahum 1:2-7. What can we learn about God’s nature and attributes from these verses? How should knowing these attributes impact our behavior and attitude toward Him?
  3. What were God’s intentions for Assyria, and why? Nahum 1:9,14; 2:13; 3:19
  4. In chapter 3, Nahum spelled out a number of the specific sins of the Ninevites that were the reason for the judgment pronounced upon them. What were these sins? (Nahum 3:1, 4, 19) In what ways are the sins of the Ninevites evident in our society today?
  5. Unlike Nahum’s prophecy, which focused almost exclusively on the destruction of Nineveh, the prophecy of Zephaniah foretold the destruction of Judah (Zephaniah 1) and the Gentile nations surrounding Judah (Zephaniah 2). What Gentile nations were named? (Zephaniah 2:4-15) What do you think is indicated by the fact that nations to the west, east, south, and north of Judah were all mentioned?
  6. In Zephaniah 1:12-13 the prophet said that God would punish those who were “settled on their lees,” a phrase which meant they were at ease, or apathetic. Why was this attitude worthy of God’s punishment?
  7. Although Zephaniah’s prophecy of destruction was much broader than Nahum’s prophecy, it also held out more hope for the redemption of the Gentile nations. What does God promise in Zephaniah 2:3, 3:9, and 3:13?
  8. Zephaniah 3:14 commands, “Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.” Why would the prophet ask the people of Judah to rejoice after pronouncing the coming wrath of God upon Judah and all the nations? (Zephaniah 3:15)
  9. What do the prophecies of Nahum and Zephaniah teach us about the way we should live our lives?

CONCLUSION

The prophecies of Nahum and Zephaniah were fulfilled in part when Nineveh was ransacked in the year 612 B.C. and when Judah fell to Babylon in the year 586 B.C. However, the ominous world-wide “day of the Lord” prophesied by Zephaniah, and the universal worship of the Lord which is to follow this time of trouble, has not yet come to pass.

Paul’s Letters to Titus and Philemon

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK

SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Titus 1:1 through 3:15 and Philemon 1:1-25

KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” (Titus 2:11-12)

BACKGROUND

The Book of Titus was written by Paul around A.D. 64, between his first and second imprisonments in Rome. Titus and the two epistles to Timothy were letters of instruction for these two new overseers of churches. They were also the last of Paul’s writings in the Scriptures.

Titus was a Greek man who became a believer and then was carefully mentored by Paul. He accompanied Paul on some of his journeys and traveled as a messenger for Paul on occasion. Eventually, Titus was given the responsibility of overseeing the churches on the small island of Crete.

Crete had significant pagan influences because it was a training ground for Roman soldiers. The people of Crete were known for their laziness, gluttony, and lying. To combat these cultural influences, the churches needed to be founded on sound principles, including that of a disciplined life.

Many Jews lived in Crete. Some of the Christians there probably witnessed the Day of Pentecost more than thirty years before this letter was written (Acts 2:11). There were, however, other Jews who tried to put unreasonable requirements on the Christians of these fledgling churches by forcing them to observe points of the old Law that had been fulfilled in Christ, as well as hundreds of Jewish traditions that had been created independent of the Law. In this epistle, Paul challenged the younger man to uphold sound doctrine in order to withstand these harmful influences.

The Book of Philemon was a letter from Paul to his close, personal friend, Philemon. It was writ-ten about A.D. 60, during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome. Onesimus, a runaway slave belonging to Philemon, had become a convert through Paul’s ministry in Rome.

Paul wrote petitioning Philemon to forgive Onesimus and to receive him as a brother. Paul felt compelled to return the slave to his rightful owner under the Roman law. Yet, Paul asked Philemon to consider a higher law, that of Christian love and brotherhood, and to extend mercy to his slave.

Though this letter was to Philemon, it was also addressed to the elders and the church, which is thought to have been the Colossian church. Thus, not only did the subject of the letter pertain to an individual circumstance, but also to the principle of equality of individuals within the church.

QUESTIONS

  1. In Titus 1, Paul outlined to Titus the qualifications needed for leaders in the church. It was not enough to possess an intellectual knowledge of the Scriptures; leaders in the church needed to be people of integrity, character, and service. List and describe the attributes necessary for church leaders (verses 6-9). Are these to be exemplified by pastors and preachers only? Explain your answer.
  2. In Titus 1:10-16, Paul warned Titus that there would be false teachers who would try to deceive the brethren. Some, for their own selfish ambitions, would try to force these Christians to follow rituals of the old Law. There are voices today, too, that would attempt to lead us astray. How can we know for sure what is truth and what is error?
  3. Sound doctrine is much more than a creed — it is a way of life. Our lives are epistles to others. We can be either a spiritual encouragement or discouragement to those around us. Paul was concerned that those in the body of Christ be an influence for good to others in the church. He admonished those who had experience to be mentors and teachers to those who were younger. Why do you think the senior saints are of great value in our church? See Titus 2:2-8. What are some of the things we can learn from them? Why is it important for a person of any age to be a good example?
  4. We know good deeds will not take us to Heaven. We read, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us” (Titus 3:5). Yet, verse 8 tells us that we should “be careful to maintain good works.” How do these two statements fit together?
  5. Paul was an Apostle and instructor of many churches. In his letter to his friend, Philemon, he had the authority to demand that Philemon forgive and restore his slave. Why do you think Paul, rather than commanding, pled with Philemon to forgive Onesimus and accept him as a brother?
  6. Paul asked Philemon to forgive Onesimus, who had been Philemon’s personal property before he ran away — an act which was punishable by death under Roman law. Philemon was asked not only to forgive him, but to receive him as a brother. We may be asked to forgive someone who has done us a great wrong. Is it always easy to forgive? What should we do if we find it difficult to forgive?
  7. In Paul’s day, the Roman, Greek, and Jewish cultures had strict levels of position within society. Slaves were demeaned and women had few rights. However, the Gospel restores human dignity. As Christians, we are to treat all people with honor and respect. What are ways we can show respect to people who are different from ourselves? What are ways we may show a lack of respect without intending to do so?

CONCLUSION

Paul’s letters to Titus and Philemon now serve as admonitions to us. Let us take heed and use these words as encouragement in our Christian walks.

Paul’s Letters to Titus and Philemon

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK

SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Titus 1:1 through 3:15 and Philemon 1:1-25

KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” (Titus 2:11-12)

BACKGROUND

The Book of Titus was written by Paul around A.D. 64, between his first and second imprisonments in Rome. Titus and the two epistles to Timothy were letters of instruction for these two new overseers of churches. They were also the last of Paul’s writings in the Scriptures.

Titus was a Greek man who became a believer and then was carefully mentored by Paul. He accompanied Paul on some of his journeys and traveled as a messenger for Paul on occasion. Eventually, Titus was given the responsibility of overseeing the churches on the small island of Crete.

Crete had significant pagan influences because it was a training ground for Roman soldiers. The people of Crete were known for their laziness, gluttony, and lying. To combat these cultural influences, the churches needed to be founded on sound principles, including that of a disciplined life.

Many Jews lived in Crete. Some of the Christians there probably witnessed the Day of Pentecost more than thirty years before this letter was written (Acts 2:11). There were, however, other Jews who tried to put unreasonable requirements on the Christians of these fledgling churches by forcing them to observe points of the old Law that had been fulfilled in Christ, as well as hundreds of Jewish traditions that had been created independent of the Law. In this epistle, Paul challenged the younger man to uphold sound doctrine in order to withstand these harmful influences.

The Book of Philemon was a letter from Paul to his close, personal friend, Philemon. It was writ-ten about A.D. 60, during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome. Onesimus, a runaway slave belonging to Philemon, had become a convert through Paul’s ministry in Rome.

Paul wrote petitioning Philemon to forgive Onesimus and to receive him as a brother. Paul felt compelled to return the slave to his rightful owner under the Roman law. Yet, Paul asked Philemon to consider a higher law, that of Christian love and brotherhood, and to extend mercy to his slave.

Though this letter was to Philemon, it was also addressed to the elders and the church, which is thought to have been the Colossian church. Thus, not only did the subject of the letter pertain to an individual circumstance, but also to the principle of equality of individuals within the church.

SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS

  1. In Titus 1, Paul outlined to Titus the qualifications needed for leaders in the church. It was not enough to possess an intellectual knowledge of the Scriptures; leaders in the church needed to be people of integrity, character, and service. List and describe the attributes necessary for church leaders (verses 6-9). Are these to be exemplified by pastors and preachers only? Explain your answer.

    Blameless – Conscience without fault toward God and man; of good reputation and character.

    Husband of one wife – Morally pure; having a proper marriage.

    Having faithful children – Showing ability to lead and guide the family.

    Steward of God – A good manager of one’s household and resources.

    Not selfwilled – Does not put his own desires above those of others; has a heart of love.

    Not soon angry – Is not easily riled; makes thoughtful judgments based on reason rather than emotion.

    Not given to wine – Temperate in all things.

    No striker – Not heavy-handed or violent.

    Not given to filthy lucre – Does not receive “dirty money,” bribes, or ill-gotten money.

    Lover of hospitality – Warm; welcoming guests; eager to share; generous.

    Lover of good men – Surrounding one’s self with good companions rather than evil ones.

    Sober – Having self-control; discreet; serious-minded.

    Just – Fair; honest before God and man.

    Holy – Devout; sinless; godly.

    Temperate – Moderate; disciplined.

    Holding fast the Word – Unmovable; stable; sound in doctrine.

    Bring out that every Christian should strive for these attributes, for we are all “ministers” of God, whatever our calling may be.

  2. In Titus 1:10-16, Paul warned Titus that there would be false teachers who would try to deceive the brethren. Some, for their own selfish ambitions, would try to force these Christians to follow rituals of the old Law. There are voices today, too, that would attempt to lead us astray. How can we know for sure what is truth and what is error?

    Verse 14 tells us not to listen to fables or commandments of men that conflict with the truth. We are to measure all teaching by the Word of God. In such honest seeking, His Spirit will guide us. He promised there would be a voice behind us if we turned to the right or to the left from the straight path of truth (Isaiah 30:21).

    One illustration you might mention is that bank employees study genuine currency in order to recognize counterfeits. The more we study the truth, the less likely it becomes that we will believe lies.

  3. Sound doctrine is much more than a creed — it is a way of life. Our lives are epistles to others. We can be either a spiritual encouragement or discouragement to those around us. Paul was concerned that those in the body of Christ be an influence for good to others in the church. He admonished those who had experience to be mentors and teachers to those who were younger. Why do you think the senior saints are of great value in our church? See Titus 2:2-8. What are some of the things we can learn from them? Why is it important for a person of any age to be a good example?

    God placed a high responsibility and value on older men and women. He indicated that they were to teach the younger people. What a wonderful asset the testimonies of seniors are to a Gospel meeting! The older saints are a valuable resource to encourage the young. Because of their years of experience, they can teach the younger ones to be temperate, to be sound in faith and charity, to show holy behavior, to have patience, to be loving and respectful spouses, and many other good things. You may want to discuss with your class some practical applications of these virtues. If your class members are young people, encourage them to get acquainted with some of the elderly saints. Many of the seniors have wonderful stories to tell.

    We need to be good examples, whatever age we are, because there are those who observe us. They may be children, new converts, the unsaved, or those who look up to us in some other way. We all need each other in this Gospel!

  4. We know good deeds will not take us to Heaven. We read, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us” (Titus 3:5). Yet, verse 8 tells us that we should “be careful to maintain good works.” How do these two statements fit together?

    It is true that nothing “good” we can do will make us worthy of Heaven. Only our surrender to Christ and the receiving of His righteousness will bring salvation. That godly righteousness within us will then motivate us to do good works. We are admonished to be careful to continue these good works, as it could be easy to become lazy or distracted by the cares of life.

    You may ask your class to name some of the good works the Lord would have us do. Examples could include: feed a brother who is hungry, help someone who is in need, visit the sick, be faithful in our church duties, write a note of encouragement to the lonely, reach out to a lost world with the hope of the Gospel. There is so much to do and the laborers are so few!

  5. Paul was an Apostle and instructor of many churches. In his letter to his friend, Philemon, he had the authority to demand that Philemon forgive and restore his slave. Why do you think Paul, rather than commanding, pled with Philemon to forgive Onesimus and accept him as a brother?

    Bring out that in our relationships with other people, a soft touch usually has more influence than a demanding, overbearing manner.

    Discuss the fact that the Gospel is based on free will — God made man with the power of choice to do good or evil. God wanted a friend, not a robot. God loves the sacrifices of obedience from a willing heart. Paul was wise to give Philemon the choice of how to deal with his slave. A sacrifice from a willing heart is so much more valuable to God than one that is coerced. Ask the students to think of the things they have given to the Lord, such as money, time, talents, an act of forgiveness, etc. Have these offerings been given with a willing and cheerful heart?

  6. Paul asked Philemon to forgive Onesimus, who had been Philemon’s personal property before he ran away — an act which was punishable by death under Roman law. Philemon was asked not only to forgive him, but to receive him as a brother. We may be asked to forgive someone who has done us a great wrong. Is it always easy to forgive? What should we do if we find it difficult to forgive?

    It may not always be easy to forgive. However, it will help us to remember how much Jesus forgave us. We may have to spend time in prayer, asking God to help us see the matter from His perspective. As we pray and surrender the hurt to God, we will find a release. This is a form of consecration, of submitting our will to God. As we do this, we will grow stronger in grace. We must then remember not to pick up the burden of unforgiveness at a later time. We must keep the matter consecrated to God.

    Your class may want to share times in which the offering of forgiveness was difficult, but brought peace.

  7. In Paul’s day, the Roman, Greek, and Jewish cultures had strict levels of position within society. Slaves were demeaned and women had few rights. However, the Gospel restores human dignity. As Christians, we are to treat all people with honor and respect. What are ways we can show respect to people who are different from ourselves? What are ways we may show a lack of respect without intending to do so?

    We must always remember the Golden Rule. If we try to put ourselves in the place of others, we will have insight on how to act. Others usually desire to be treated with fairness, with no importance given to the differences between them and us. People of different income, education, gender, age, appearance, race, or ability can experience wonderful love and fellowship.

    We need to avoid ethnic and gender jokes that are negative and humor that exploits any particular group of people. The criterion should be: does this disrespect the other person or people? Godly love to all should be our guideline.

CONCLUSION

Paul’s letters to Titus and Philemon now serve as admonitions to us. Let us take heed and use these words as encouragement in our Christian walks.

Hebrews 1:1 through 2:4

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Hebrews 1
Hebrews 2
How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him. — Hebrews 2:3

When I was in college, I had to take required classes in various subjects to meet my degree requirements. One of these was a history class dealing with the subject in which I was majoring. I had a busy schedule, so I made that particular class a low priority and rarely attended, figuring it wouldn’t take much effort to pass. Unfortunately, I missed one vital class session the day our professor rescheduled the time for our final exam. You can imagine my dismay when I arrived at school one day and discovered the time change. Due to my neglect of that class, I had missed my final!

Most of us occasionally neglect things in our daily lives. In some areas, neglect comes with a price tag. If education is neglected, children grow up in ignorance. If weeding is neglected, a garden becomes overgrown. If home maintenance is neglected, a house decays. If sowing is neglected, a farmer reaps no harvest. If earthly interests suffer as a result of neglect, how vital it is that we do not neglect spiritual issues, for the price of such neglect is incalculable! 

Jesus Christ, the Son of God and appointed Heir of all things in Heaven and earth, spoke to the world the message of salvation. Those who are Christians have believed His Word and become heirs with Him. It was to believers that the author of Hebrews wrote to warn against neglecting or letting their salvation slip. Neglecting is not always denying or rejecting salvation; rather, it is often recognizing but ignoring, or knowing but failing to follow through. The writer was not encouraging sinners to become Christians; rather, he was encouraging believers to pay careful attention to the wonderful salvation they had received.

Today, as in the days of the Early Church, it is possible to take the Word of God for granted. It is possible to grow accustomed to the privilege of prayer and to fail to take advantage of our access to God. It is possible to grow lax in our commitment to the Gospel. It is possible to neglect opportunities for spiritual growth. It is possible, but oh, what a danger! 

I neglected my class because I thought I didn’t really need to attend on a daily basis. I thought I could get by with little effort. May we never get to that place regarding our salvation! 

BACKGROUND

The Epistle to the Hebrews was originally addressed to Jewish Christians to warn them against falling back into Judaism. The writer contrasts God’s past method of revealing His word to man through prophets, with the perfect revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God. Then he shows the superiority of Christ to angels. Angels were important to the Jewish religion since the time they had assisted in giving the Law on Mount Sinai (Deuteronomy 33:2, Acts 7:53), but even they were immeasurably lower than the Son. Even when Christ was made in human form, angels were ministering spirits unto Him, as they are to all who are heirs of salvation.

Having established the superiority of Christ to the angels, in our focus verse the writer gives a warning to believers: If messages given by angels were extremely important, certainly the message given by the Son of God was vital. If God Himself bore witness of His Son with miracles and the Holy Ghost, how could believers neglect the gift He offered? 

The original word translated slip in the first verse of chapter 2 has a nautical connotation and means, “to drift away,” as an anchorless ship would drift from a harbor. The action is not sudden or premeditated, but subtle. 

The writer’s warning reached its climax with the phrase, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” He was asking, “What way is there of being saved from punishment, if we allow the great provision of God to be neglected, and do not embrace what it offers?” There is no other way of salvation, and the neglect of this will be followed by destruction.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I.   Introduction  (1:1-3)
    A.   The revelation through the Son (1:1-2)
    B.   The person and work of the Son (1:3)
II.   The argument: the preeminence of Christ in His person and work
    A.   The superiority of Christ to the angels
          1.   Christ is higher (1:4-2:4)
                 a.   His more excellent name (1:4)
                 b.   His unique relation to the Father (1:5)
                 c.   His worship by angels (1:6)
                 d.   He is God, and angels are His servants (1:7-14)
                 e.   Parenthesis I: warning against drifting (2:1-4)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What was the position of Jesus Christ relative to the angels?

  2. What might be evidences of neglect in the life of a Christian? 

  3. What restorative steps would you advise for those who have drifted or neglected this “great salvation”?

CONCLUSION

Our salvation is a “great salvation” and was purchased for us at an infinite price. It brings us abundant promises and incomparable blessings. Let us purpose to never neglect it.

2 Corinthians 9:1-15

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
2 Corinthians 9
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver. — 2 Corinthians 9:7

About fifty years ago, when I was a boy, our pastor used the words of today’s focus verse as he asked us to save our pennies and nickels over the coming winter months. The purpose was to make donations to help with the construction of a church building at another location. At that time, there was not much money to draw from in our little fishing settlement. Most errands done for someone did not bring monetary payments. Yet, there were times we were given a nickel, and at other times we received the few pennies left over from a purchase at the store.

With money so scarce, it was a sacrifice to throw those coins into the empty jam jar we set up at our house for our gifts. But there were incentives. It was not uncommon to hear another boy or girl say how much he or she had saved. This, in turn, would provoke the rest of us to not spend any of our earned coins for candy or a chocolate bar, but to put it into the savings jar.

It was sometime in the spring when our pastor announced that our savings could be taken to the parsonage, where they would be receipted and forwarded on to help another congregation with its church construction. Even though the amount given by each child was not much, it was exciting to know that we had done it for the Lord’s work. After all, it represented most of our receivables for a number of months! It was rewarding to know that we were a part of such a worthy cause.

What encouraged us to give was that we were taught that it would please the Lord, and I am thankful for that early training. In the years since, I have learned other lessons about Biblical giving.

  • Our giving must come from the heart, and the motives in our hearts need to please God, for He is more concerned about the motivation than the amount given.
  • Our purpose in giving should not be the hope of becoming wealthy. Rather, our desire should be to benefit others and express appreciation for God’s goodness to us.
  • We should not let a lack of faith in God’s provision keep us from giving freely and generously, for God is able to meet our needs.

Perhaps God will allow you an opportunity for giving today. If you do give, you will be blessed and so will those who receive the gift.

BACKGROUND

In the first five verses of chapter 9, Paul expressed his confidence in the generosity of the church in Corinth. They had made a commitment to help the Jerusalem Christians financially, and Paul was tactfully prodding them to follow through. He had told others of their generosity, and he did not want them to embarrass him or themselves by not fulfilling their commitment. He was sending men to help expedite the preparation of the gift.

In verses 6-15, Paul expounded on the blessings of benevolence. He illustrated generous giving by comparing it to sowing seeds. The farmer who puts a few seeds into the ground will have a small harvest, but one who plants liberally will have a bountiful harvest. The giving was to be done cheerfully, not because the giver felt obligated. A specific amount was not stated, for Paul wanted these people to give the amount God laid upon their hearts. He was not speaking here of tithes, for that ten percent belongs to God. Rather, he was exhorting them to make a generous offering for a specific need.

Paul knew that if the Corinthian Christians honored God with their giving, He would take care of their life necessities. Grace was the key word — God was able to make all grace abound so that His people would have sufficient and would consider what they had as enough for their needs. Paul realized that if these people denied themselves in order to give sacrificially and generously to others, God would bless them.

In addition to God’s blessing, Paul foresaw that this particular gift would strengthen the bonds between the Jewish believers in Jerusalem and the Gentile believers in Corinth. This financial gift would be evidence that their hearts had been genuinely changed by the Lord. The Christians in Jerusalem would express their appreciation by praying for those in Corinth.

“Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift” was an outburst of Paul’s gratitude to God, who gave the greatest gift of all when He gave His Son.

The Christians in Corinth did fulfill their promise, because in Romans 15:26, Paul said, “For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.” Corinth was a city of Achaia.

Following is an illustration of the cycle that Paul was describing:

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III.   The arrangement of a contribution for the saints
     C.   The principles to heed (9:1-15)
           1.   A call to readiness (9:1-5)
           2.   A call to liberality (9:6-15)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What guiding principles did Paul establish for Christian offerings?

  2. Why did Paul consider the motive behind giving so important?

  3. How might God prompt Christians today to make special offerings for particular needs?

CONCLUSION

Because God loves “a cheerful giver,” let us determine to express our gratitude to Him by willingly giving where He allows us opportunity.

2 Corinthians 11:16-33

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
2 Corinthians 11
Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. — 2 Corinthians 11:23

A man in our Portland congregation often told how he promised God early in his Christian walk that, if it were at all possible, he would never leave a church service without spending time at the altar of prayer. “I’ve kept that promise,” he would say. “God has given me the gift of tears for my fellow man. I have a love for the souls of men. I have no greater joy than to kneel across the altar and help pray a sinner through to salvation!”

This brother was not boasting. In fact, his love for souls and his desire to spend time in prayer were evidence of his commitment to God, and were actually part of the “credentials” that qualified him for a place of service on the foreign mission field. He had no formal training in the ministry, no doctorate in theology, no expertise in a foreign language, or training in international missions. However, he did have a burden of prayer and a willingness to expend his time, money, and effort in winning souls for God. Long before he went to the mission field, he and his wife entertained hundreds of merchant mariners in their home. He was involved in Sunday school work and participated in open-air meetings. While his credentials would have looked unimpressive on a résumé, he made himself available to God and did what he could. God gave Harold Barrett the spiritual qualifications and the commission from Heaven, and He used him.

“God gave us the privilege of laboring in His harvest field [in Korea] for more than twenty years,” the veteran missionary would say in later years. “I remember years ago when we were about to go to Korea, one dear saint of God told me, ‘If you win one soul for the Kingdom of God, it will be worth everything.’ Thank God, there was not just one soul, but there have been hundreds. Today we have seven Apostolic Faith churches in Korea and many, many souls who are rejoicing in the victorious Gospel that was brought to them.”

In today’s text, Paul was “proving” to the church at Corinth that his was a true ministry. His authority had been challenged, and the Corinthians’ pure and simple devotion to Christ was being threatened by this attack and by false teachings. Paul was pointing out that his trials were his résumé — his sufferings were what validated his apostolic authority. The false teachers could make no such claims.

Today, what credentials do you have that “prove” your testimony? Do your actions, words, and responses to trials validate your Christian witness? Let us ask God to help us have a spiritual résumé that cannot be disputed!

BACKGROUND

In an attempt to elevate themselves, certain members of the Corinthian church had resorted to discrediting Paul, while boasting of their own spiritual qualifications. In today’s text, Paul boldly rejected the idea that he was inferior to these false apostles who claimed divine authority as God’s servants, but whose claims were bogus. He intentionally mimicked them by providing details of his own résumé, which was far superior in the Gospel. Paul referred to these “imitation” apostles as fools (verse 19). In verse 16, Paul told the Corinthians not to think of him as a fool, but if it took boasting of himself to prove his apostolic authority, then he was willing to become as though he were a fool and present his own indisputable credentials.

In verses 22-33, Paul told of the sufferings and persecution he had endured as a follower of Christ. This was a contrast to the boasting of those who were disrupting the Corinthian church. Those false teachers boasted of worldly things, whereas Paul presented a list of hardships he had endured. He covered everything from being beaten and shipwrecked, to having the burden of caring for the churches throughout the world. He even mentioned the time he had to be let down outside the city wall in a basket in order to escape the governor of that city. By speaking of his trials and the hardships he had gone through, Paul was able to give proof to these people of the true character of his apostleship. He, not they, showed the true marks of a servant of Christ: his sufferings. The love this Church leader had for his people was demonstrated by what he was willing to go through to keep them faithful to the true Gospel.

Verse 20 seems to indicate that these new, self-appointed leaders at Corinth were preaching and practicing very strict ideas. Paul appears to have found this strange, considering that he did not practice or preach these traditions.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
IV.   The authority of the Apostle
     B.   The boast of the Apostle
           2.   The boast of his experiences (11:16-33)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What name did Paul use for the false teachers in the Corinthian church? What were his reasons?

  2. What are the credentials of a true servant of God?

  3. What types of false teaching are prevalent in our society today? How can we equip ourselves to recognize their errors and stand against them?

CONCLUSION

The trials and afflictions we endure for the Gospel build our character, witness to our faith, and equip us to work for the Lord.

Hebrews 9:11-28

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Hebrews 9
Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. — Hebrews 9:12

Some time ago, my family and I went sightseeing at Miniature World in Victoria, BC, Canada. I decided that the promoters of this tourist attraction gave it an appropriate slogan: “The greatest little show on earth.” We found ourselves captivated by the world’s smallest operational sawmill, the world’s largest dollhouses, an extensive model of the Canadian railway system, and much more.

The objects in the museum look very true to life, except that they are tiny, scaled-down versions of the originals. The appeal of miniatures is in their exquisite detail mimicking the real objects that they represent. However, the tiny models do not function like the originals do. They only provide reference to the scale, proportion, and functions of the reality.

In the same way, when God established the Tabernacle, the sacrificial system, and the priesthood for the Children of Israel, He did not intend for these to be the eternal solution for sin. They were only symbols of God’s plan for the salvation of mankind. Though the blood of goats and bulls satisfied the legal requirement, the elaborate ceremonies of worship and sacrifice and the objects used to perform them were mere “miniatures” of the redemptive work of Christ.

By contrast, Jesus became the perfect Sacrifice and shed His own Blood for our salvation. His redemptive Blood is applied to the heart of the sinner, giving both legal and moral victory. Because His Blood purges the conscience, it provides a solution for sin by attacking sin at the root — the heart. Jesus’ sacrificial offering was so complete, so immaculate, and so acceptable to God that He had to offer Himself only once for all generations of mankind. His sacrifice was the ultimate fulfillment of all that the Old Testament sacrifices represented. 

What a privilege is ours to obtain eternal redemption through Christ!

BACKGROUND

The sacrifice of Jesus Christ reached back into the Old Testament period as well as forward to the New Testament dispensation. Christ’s death was a universal atonement that was all comprehensive and all availing. It included the Jews and the Gentiles, and availed for those who lived prior to the time of Christ and those who lived during and after His lifetime on earth. Those who lived in the period of the Law had to mix obedience to the Law with faith that looked ahead to the fulfillment through Jesus Christ, in order for them to be saved and made holy. Obedience alone would not make them holy, any more than obedience to Christ’s commands today will avail without faith. Jesus provided the atonement for the whole world, and extended it over all ages and for all times. 

In Hebrews 9:15, the writer refers to the “new testament.” The word testament is translated in other places as covenant

The Old Covenant, which is recorded in Exodus 24:3-8, was provided as a means of atoning for sin. In the Old Covenant, four distinct entities were involved: the Tabernacle, where the presence of God dwelt; the sinner, who had a mortal need to approach God; the blood of an unblemished animal, sacrificed to grant the sinner pardon; and the high priest, who performed the sacrifice. This provision for sin was established so that man would not die in sin and be lost eternally. God made it as a symbol of the reality to come in the offering of Jesus.

The New Covenant is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. In this covenant, too, four entities are involved. In the New Covenant, the Tabernacle’s location is Heaven, where God dwells — a perfect habitation because it is not made with human hands. As under the Old Covenant, the sinner is in a sinful state and in desperate need of an approach to God. In place of the blood of an animal, Jesus, the Perfect Sacrifice, shed His own Blood to provide pardon for the sinner. Jesus also permanently fills the role of our High Priest, ever making intercession for us. 

The writer of Hebrews outlined two crucial facts to the Hebrews. First, Jesus, the Perfect Sacrifice of God, had been offered. Second, Jesus, the sinless High Priest, had entered the Heavenly Tabernacle and had given everyone the opportunity of personal access to God. His point was clearly indicated: it made no sense to continue under the shadow when the reality had become available!

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II.   The argument: the preeminence of Christ in His person and work
     D.    The superiority of Christ to Aaron
           7.   Superior because of a better sacrifice
                 a.   The fact of Christ’s superior sacrifice (9:11-12)
                 b.   The results of Christ’s superior sacrifice (9:13-28)
                       (1)   The fact of cleansing (9:13-14)
                       (2)   The basis of the new covenant (9:15-22)
                       (3)   The ministry within a new tabernacle (9:23-28)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What were the limitations of sacrifices made under the Old Covenant?

  2. Why do you think that God established the sacrificial system for the Children of Israel?

  3. In what ways can we fully appropriate the blessings of the New Covenant into our lives today?

CONCLUSION

With Jesus as our Perfect Sacrifice, we have a perfect solution to sin, for His Blood cleanses us from all unrighteousness. Because He dwells in the Heavenly Sanctuary of God, we have unlimited access to God through Him. What an incalculable privilege is ours!

Acts 1:1-26

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Acts 1
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. — Acts 1:8

Recently I came across the testimony of Dwight L. Moody, one of the renowned preachers in United States history, who described how he was alerted to his need for the power of the Holy Spirit. Moody related:

“I remember two holy women who used to come to my meetings. When I began to preach, I could tell by the expression on their faces that they were praying for me. At the close of the Sunday evening service they would say to me, ‘We have been praying for you.’ I said, ‘Why don’t you pray for the people?’ They answered, ‘You need power.’

“‘I need power?’ I said to myself. ‘Why, I thought I had power.’ I had a large Sunday school and the largest congregation in Chicago. There were some conversions at the time. I was, in a sense, satisfied. But right along these two godly women kept praying for me, and their earnest talk about being anointed for special service set me to thinking.

“I asked them to come and talk with me, and we got down on our knees. They poured out their hearts that I might receive the anointing from the Holy Spirit, and there came a great hunger into my soul. I did not know what it was. I began to pray as I never did before. I really felt that I did not want to live if I could not have this power for service. The hunger increased. I was praying all the time that God would fill me with His Holy Spirit.

“Well, one day in the city of New York — oh, what a day! I cannot describe it; I seldom refer to it; it is almost too sacred an experience to name. Paul had an experience of which he never spoke for fourteen years. I can only say that God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I asked Him to stay His hand.

“I went to preaching again. The sermons were not different; I did not present any new truths; and yet hundreds were converted. I would not now be placed back where I was before that blessed experience if you gave me all Glasgow — it would be as the small dust of the balance. If we are full of the Spirit, anointed, our words will reach the hearts of the people. We need the filling always, and if we are filled with the Spirit, there will be no room for Satan or self. If we are filled with the Spirit and full of power, one day’s work is better than a year’s without.”1

Have you ever wished your efforts for God were more effective? Have you ever felt the need for more boldness or strength or ability to work for God? The Lord has promised the gift of the baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire to give us the power we need. Like Dwight L. Moody, we want to recognize our need and seek diligently for the power of God until we receive it. We do not have to beg for the infilling of the Holy Spirit. It is a gift! Jesus’ promise was, “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you” (Acts 1:8). God wants to fill us with His Spirit so that we will be able to accomplish His purpose.

May God put a longing in our souls for the power of the Holy Spirit, not for selfish reasons, but to accomplish the work of God on this earth. May we pray, “Lord, ignite a fire in my soul for the lost!” Many people are plunging toward a lost eternity, heedless of the danger they are in. They need help! As we consecrate our lives and pray with a desire to be our very best for God, the Holy Spirit will descend.

BACKGROUND

The first chapter of the Book of Acts begins with an introduction by Luke, the book’s author. Verses 3-8 provide Jesus’ final earthly commandment to His followers — a requirement to tarry in Jerusalem until they were filled with the Holy Ghost. Jesus’ ascension is documented in verses 9-11. Then, verses 12-14 indicate that the disciples followed Jesus’ instructions by returning to the Upper Room in Jerusalem immediately following His ascension. The chapter ends with an account of Matthias being chosen to replace Judas Iscariot as the twelfth disciple.

Two important designations in this chapter are “apostle” and “disciple.” The term “apostle,” as is used in verse 2, comes from the Greek word apostolos, and means “a delegate, ambassador, commissioner, messenger, or one who is sent.” This term typically is reserved for Jesus’ twelve closest followers, eleven of whom are listed by name in verse 13. The term “disciple,” as used in verse 15, comes from the Greek word mathetes, which translates into English as “learner” or “student.” Luke used this term in verse 15 to describe all those who were gathered in the Upper Room.

Verse 8 is a key verse in the Book of Acts, as it describes both the power given the Church (through the Holy Spirit), and its mission (to witness first in Jerusalem, then in Judea and Samaria, and then in all the earth). The verse also provides a summary outline to the contents of the book: the outreach in Jerusalem (chapters 1-7), the outreach in Judea and Samaria (chapters 8-12), and the outreach into the Gentile world (chapters 13-28).

Being an eyewitness to the events surrounding the Resurrection is emphasized in this chapter. In verses 2 and 3, Luke stated that Jesus showed Himself alive to the Apostles. Then, in verse 22, Peter listed being an eyewitness to the Resurrection of Christ as one of the qualifications for replacing Judas.

Verses 18-19 are an explanation by Luke, and are not part of Peter’s discourse.

In verse 20, citing prophecies in Psalm 69:25 and 109:8, Peter described the position vacated by Judas Iscariot, and later filled by Matthias, as that of a “bishoprick.” This word comes from the Greek word episkope, meaning “overseer.” This term was used to illustrate that one of the duties the Apostles would perform would be to provide governance over the church as part of God’s authority structure.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

I.    Introduction (1:1-26)
   A.    Prologue: Luke’s and Christ’s previous and present ministries (1:1-5)
   B.    The Ascension (1:6-11)
       1.    Christ’s announcement (1:6-8)
       2.    Christ’s ascension (1:9-11)
   C.    The preparation for preaching (1:12-26)
       1.    The prayer meetings (1:12-14)
       2.    The selection of Matthias (1:15-26)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What physical activity did Jesus use as a comparison to explain what it is like to receive the Holy Ghost?

  2. What do Jesus’ instructions to the disciples tell us about the value or importance of having the power of the Holy Ghost upon our lives?

  3. Jesus told the disciples to “wait for the promise of the Father.” What are some things we can do while we wait for the promise to be fulfilled?

CONCLUSION

The disciples needed the infilling of the Holy Spirit in order to be effective witnesses for Christ throughout all the world. We have the same need today, and the same provision is available.

1 Chapman, John. The Life and Work of Dwight L. Moody. Toronto: Bradley-Garretson, c.1900. 412-413.

Deuteronomy 28:1-68

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Deuteronomy 28
And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God. — Deuteronomy 28:1-2

I recently signed a loan agreement at my bank to pay for a “late model” car. Reading the entire contract, which was several pages, wasn’t fun. It was important, however, that I did read it, since I would be responsible for all its provisions. We need to understand contracts that we are involved in.

Some contracts are highly complex. However, in their simplest form, they have a few basic parts: obligations of both parties and penalties for default or failure to perform. In the case of my loan, the bank’s obligation was to loan me the agreed upon amount. My obligation is to repay the amount with the prescribed interest, which is their benefit (consideration). Once the bank provided the money, they satisfied their obligation completely; mine extends through the entire term. If I fail to make payments (failed to perform), I am subject to the repercussions (penalty) listed in the contract, which in this case would be repossession, credit problems, etc. If I make all the payments, the car is mine.

In this chapter of Deuteronomy, God’s contract was with the Israelites. Just as with modern contracts, God’s contract stipulated the performance obligations for Him and for the Israelites, and He identified the consideration. The Israelites had to perform in order to realize their benefits; if they did not, they were subject to penalties, which were also spelled out in the contract.

God’s promises can be likened to a contract. In today’s legal world, a contract may be written, verbal, or implied. The validity of a contract is often scrutinized in the court of law. However, God’s contract is of infinitely greater value since His Word is forever “settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89).

Our part of the “contract” is to believe on His Son, Jesus Christ, and to keep His commandments. Failure to take advantage of God’s provision would subject us to the penalty of sin, which is eternal damnation. Our consideration for performance is eternal life — what a benefit!

BACKGROUND

This chapter delves into the contractual conditions between God and the Israelites. We can categorize the chapter identifying “Covenant Sanctions.” In chapter 28, we find there are two primary parts of the covenant (contract with God). They are as follows: 

  • Deuteronomy 28:1-14  —  The Blessings God Offers (consideration) for the Israelites’ Performance.

  • Deuteronomy 28:15-68  —  The Curse (penalty) for the Israelites’ Non-performance.

The contractual performance obligation of God is clear. Look how many times the phrase “The Lord shall” appears in the early part of this chapter. The word “shall” provides the contractual hinge to certain performance. If this happens, then God shall do that. It is not an option; it is an absolute. There is contractual certainty. God said He unequivocally would bless the Israelites’ performance.

The portion of the chapter that dealt with curses for their non-performance (which included their being disbursed or scattered) is larger in terms of the number of verses. However, comparing these penalties with all the blessings God offers, there is really not a disparity.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

III.   The third discourse: ratification of the covenant
      B.   The responsibility of keeping the Law (28:1-68)
            1.   The blessings for obedience (28:1-14)
            2.   The curses for disobedience (28:15-68)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. In this chapter, how many performance obligations are listed for God, and how many performance obligations are listed for the Israelites?

  2. How many rewards (contractual considerations) are listed in this chapter?

  3. What might be the significance of God listing the considerations before recording the penalties?

  4. In addition to the contract God establishes for each of us in John 3:15-16, what other contracts could or does God have with you?

CONCLUSION

As with all contracts, we need to know the terms of God’s contract and follow them.

1 Corinthians 11:2-16

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
1 Corinthians 11
But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. — 1 Corinthians 11:3

One of our children’s schoolteachers used to say, “Who’s in charge around here, huh? Huh?” This was her humorous reminder to students that she was the leader in the classroom.

Every group must have a leader and an order for organization. Departments within a company must have a supervisor, or the workers of the department will not have any direction or know how to work together. City traffic must also have order and control. (I’ve visited some cities where it seemed there was no order or control, and travel was pretty scary! Yet, even there, some system was used, and we were just happy that our driver understood it.) Governments must have order and leadership, too. President Harry Truman was famous for the sign on his desk that said, “The buck stops here!” Someone must have the final authority.

To operate properly, families also must have order and leadership. Today’s verse says, “The head of the woman is the man.” In this day of liberated women, some might say, “Whoa! Don’t go there!” However, it is important to remember that God established this leadership order. Look at what the verse says about the man! “The head of every man is Christ.” Will it be difficult for a wife to follow the leadership of a man who is following Christ with all his heart?

The verse ends, “and the head of Christ is God.” Thus, the Trinity also has an order and leadership, even though the three Persons of the Godhead are equal. Did Jesus ever resist the Father’s directions? No, He faithfully followed God’s will and plan. Jesus is our example.

God created human beings in an order — the man first, and then the woman — but all souls are equal and cherished in God’s eyes. Therefore, following God’s ordained order does not diminish anyone. Rather, it puts all of us in a position to receive God’s blessings!

Today, are we following God’s order in our lives? We will never be sorry if we do.

BACKGROUND

The thrust of Paul’s concern in this passage was submission, specifically regarding a practice of worship. In Corinth, two cultures were coming together. Grecian women took a head covering at marriage, which was a sign of their married state and indicated that they were under their husbands’ authority. Jewish women covered their heads at all times; to uncover their heads in public indicated they were loose morally. Some of the women in Corinth thought that because Christianity contained no distinction between Jews and Gentiles, bond and free, males and females, they could take off their coverings, even though it was a sign of their submission to their husbands.

Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand that by creating man first and then woman, God set forth an order and established the roles he wanted men and women to have. Christ is the head of the man and the man is the head of the woman.

This order does not imply inferiority; all people are equally valuable in God’s sight. His lines of authority are not lines of superiority, but rather a system for working together. God wants the unique and complementary characteristics of men and women to strengthen their marriages and usability. Jesus is equal with God the Father, but Jesus submitted His will to God’s will and plan. In the same way, if a man submits to God and a woman submits to the man, their marriage and family will benefit. This is a submission by choice, not force, just as serving God is a submission by choice.

At the time of this writing, for a man to wear a head covering while worshipping implied another authority had come between him and God (verse 4). If a woman worshipped without her head covered, she indicated that she was not subjecting herself to her husband, and therefore not to God, either. This lack of subjection was not a light offense to Paul, or to God. Verse 10 implies that even the angels would notice whether or not that submission was in place when a woman worshipped.

The blending of the sexes is also not a light issue to God. Paul made it clear that a man should not wear his hair in a way that would be considered effeminate by his culture. In Corinth, long hair on a man was thought to be an indicator of male prostitution. Female prostitutes cut their hair short or shaved their heads. Thus, the length of hair would have been important to a person’s witness in Jesus Christ.

Paul set forth a principle here — in any culture, God wants His people to submit to His authority and the order He has prescribed. Each aspect of a Christian’s life, including hair and attire, should show that he or she submits to and obeys God. Anything that detracts from the Christian’s witness should be avoided.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III.   Answers to inquiries
     C.   Concerning matters in public assembly
           1.   The attire of women: the necessity of subjection (11:2-16)
                 a.   Because of divine appointment (11:2-6)
                 b.   Because of the order of creation (11:7-12)
                 c.   Because of the priorities of society (11:13-16)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What did Paul consider praiseworthy in the believers of Corinth? 

  2. Why did Paul tell the Corinthians to follow him? 

  3. What do Paul’s instructions about head coverings teach you regarding the importance of maintaining unity in the church family?

  4. How can you demonstrate your willingness to submit to your God-given role as a man or woman? What benefits might result from such submission?

CONCLUSION

Everything about a Christian — hair, attire, conduct, entertainment, relationships, and conversations — should exemplify a holy life. How does your life measure up today?

Hebrews 6:9-20

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Hebrews 6
And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. — Hebrews 6:11-12

My mother loved to have company over to our house for Sunday dinner. She would plan her menu well in advance, and prior to the weekend, she would spend days cleaning the house and carefully preparing each part of the meal. By Saturday morning, the desserts and side dishes were ready, and the house was sparkling clean. She made it look so easy! 

After I married, I decided that I would entertain on Sundays just like Mom did. However, I would find myself procrastinating during the week. On Saturday I would have to plan my menu, do my shopping, clean the house, and prepare the food. The day would zip by, and many times I had to stay up until 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. trying to get ready for the company we had invited. By the time the guests arrived for dinner, I would be almost too exhausted to enjoy the “fruit of my labors.” If I had followed Mom’s example and spent several days preparing, it would have been far more enjoyable.

A key word in today’s focus verse is diligence, which means “strenuous effort, ardor, or zeal.” In the Gospel, if we do not remain diligent and consistent in our walk with the Lord, we may grow weary and slip backwards in our relationship with Him. 

A lack of diligence could cause us to be unprepared for what lies ahead — and we never know what lies around the next bend in the road of our lives. Who knows but what we will face a subtle temptation that requires extra watchfulness to avoid? Perhaps we will face a physical trial that will test our faith. Maybe next year will bring a financial stress that will require real determination to maintain our peace and rest in the Lord. The best way to be prepared for these potential situations is to carefully maintain a close connection with God. 

Our text encourages us to imitate the example of those who have remained faithful unto the end and have inherited the promises of God. Let’s diligently do so!

BACKGROUND

The opening of Chapter 6 is an exhortation to maturity. The writer of Hebrews was not content for his readers to remain in a spiritually immature state, so he admonishes them to “grow up.” After he warned about the danger of falling away, he told those to whom his letter was addressed that “better things” would accompany their salvation. He told them that God noticed their labor of love and how they were ministering to others. He encouraged them to continue to show the same diligence that they had been evidencing to that point, and to follow the example of those who, through faith and patience, had received the promises of God. He cautioned them not to grow lazy in their service to God. 

In verse 11 of this chapter, the writer alludes to a “full assurance of hope.” Hope is a compound emotion made up of an earnest desire for an object and a corresponding expectation of obtaining it. The hope of Heaven is made up of a longing to reach that eternal dwelling place, along with the expectation that it will someday be ours. 

The writer reminded his readers that Abraham had to wait patiently for a long time before he obtained the promise. However, God had made an oath that could not be broken, and in His time He kept His promise. Like the covenant made with Abraham, God has made a New Covenant with those who believe in Jesus Christ. This hope gives a sure and steadfast anchor for the soul. The New Covenant through Jesus assures believers that those who keep their trust in Him will also receive the promise.

The writer closes the chapter with an assurance about the validity of God’s promises. His purpose was to show that since God could not swear by one greater than Himself (for no such one existed), He made His promise as certain as an oath taken by people when they solemnly appealed to Him. God appealed to His own existence and veracity, which was the most solemn form of an oath, and thus put the readers’ minds at rest regarding their hope of Heaven.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II.   The argument: the preeminence of Christ in His person and work
     D.   The superiority of Christ to Aaron
           3.   Parenthesis III: admonition to maturity
                 c.   The persuasion of salvation (6:9-20)
                       (1)   The certainty (6:9-10)
                       (2)   The desire (6:11-12)
                       (3)   The illustration (6:13-16)
                       (4)   The application (6:17-20)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What was the writer’s exhortation to the Hebrews in verse 12?

  2. In verse 19, the writer says that we have this hope as “an anchor of the soul.” What characteristics come to mind relative to the word “anchor”?

  3. Why is it important for us to consider the promise God gave to Abraham when we are looking for God’s promises to be fulfilled in our own lives?

CONCLUSION

God wants the very best for us. He is mindful of our labors, and He wants us to remain diligent in our walk with Him. As we follow the example of those who have gone before us and successfully completed their spiritual journey, we will inherit the promises of God just as they did.

Ephesians 4:1-16

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Ephesians 4
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. — Ephesians 4:1-3

As we settled into our seats, the lights in the auditorium dimmed. Soon the musicians began to take their places on the stage. Each one had prepared for this day, when their months of hard work would be subjected to the scrutiny of a panel of judges. Music had been checked and re-checked, and instruments had been polished and carefully inspected to make sure they were in perfect working order. This was an important performance, because one group would be awarded the title of State Champion at the end of the contest. 

As the conductor prepared for the downbeat, every eye was turned toward him. The musicians showed by their posture that they were focused and ready. The conductor gave the cue, and the music began. Each entrance was perfectly timed, the crescendos soared with authority, and the diminuendos whispered the message of the music. As the piece concluded, the audience sat in silent awe before the thunderous applause began. The performance had been perfect, and the students knew that their efforts as a group had resulted in something wonderful. Later that evening, this group would receive the award of State Champion from the judges.

As Christians, we are preparing also. However, our prize will be much greater than that experienced by these musicians. While only one group could win the state championship, all of us can win the prize God promises His people. Each one of us should want to be united in our focus on the work at hand so that we can obtain the reward. 

Paul began Ephesians 4 by challenging the Christians at Ephesus to walk worthy of the incredible calling they had received from God. He wanted to remind them to keep their sense of purpose, and to have a compelling goal. What they had been called by God to do could only be accomplished if they were unified as a body of believers. 

Just as an orchestra, band, or choir is made up of various members coming together to create something wonderful musically, each of us has been given a place where we can serve God: in school, at work, at home, or at church. Our strength comes when each of us fills the place God created for us, working together to further the Gospel of Christ.

BACKGROUND

In the first three chapters of Ephesians, Paul emphasized the riches of Christ that are available to those who believe. He closed Ephesians 3 with a prayer for the believers. Chapter 4 begins with the word “therefore,” which indicates that he intended to expand on the advice he had given in the preceding chapters. By his use of the word “beseech,” he conveyed his love and earnest hopes for these people. He was not demanding or threatening, but earnestly urging them in love to live a life that was worthy of the calling they had received from God. This same message also appeared in the Epistle to the Colossians, but here Paul expanded on the theme and gave much greater detail in his exhortation.

In order to be in unity, Paul instructed the believers to exercise the following Christian virtues:

  • Lowliness (humility): Early Christians used this word to signify that in their own power they were nothing, but that by allowing God to work through them, great things could be accomplished.
  • Meekness: Gentleness is another word for meekness, which sets it apart from weakness. This referred to the controlled, yet awesome strength and power of God working through His people.
  • Longsuffering: Also called fortitude, this represented the Christian’s desire to endure discomfort without fighting back. This trait may need to be demonstrated toward our fellowman, or in holding onto God’s Word during a test or trial.
  • Love: Only through a genuine love — the kind that God alone can give — is anyone able to adequately demonstrate the other three virtues.

Paul further expanded on these attributes by listing seven unifying factors in verses 4-6. He sought to remind the Christians in Ephesus that only by being in agreement on the foundational traits of the faith would they be truly united in their purpose to serve God.

At the conclusion of this text, Paul focused on the definite God-given differences within the body of Christ. The purpose of these differences was to give strength to the body. 

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III.   The conduct of the church
     A.   Conduct in unity (4:1-16)
           1.   The basis for unity (4:1-6)
                 a.   Call to unity (4:1-3)
                 b.   Necessity of unity (4:4-6)
           2.   The means of unity (4:7-16)
                 a.   Distribution of gifts (4:7-11)
                 b.   Purpose of gifts (4:12-16)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What are the seven unifying factors mentioned in verses 4-6? 

  2. What are some actions and attitudes that will be part of a “worthy walk” for Christians?

  3. What specific steps can you take to maintain spiritual unity with others?

CONCLUSION

God did not create us all with exactly the same talents and abilities. No matter how insignificant you may think you are, God has given you a spiritual gift that He wants you to use for His glory. Prayerfully ask for His help in knowing where you fit in His plan so that you may work in unity with other believers, and walk worthy of your calling.

Acts 27:1-44

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Acts 27
And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away. — Acts 27:20

Everyone faces times in life when circumstances bring stress, but recently I went through a trial in which I experienced debilitating anxiety. I would be sitting in a crowded room when suddenly my heart would begin to beat rapidly and my breathing would become labored. My entire body would begin to shake as though I was in danger, even though there was nothing threatening around.

These panic attacks began to happen with regularity. Sometimes I would be driving and need to pull over. Other times I would be at a social gathering and need to retreat to a dark room. It even happened during church! It was scary, frustrating, and embarrassing.

I didn’t want anyone to know, so I did my best to keep up the appearance of cheerfulness and confidence even though inside I was distraught. Instead of the anxiety lessening, however, it grew worse. My attempts at acting “normal” became anxiety-inducing in themselves. I found myself withdrawing from people in order to hide my internal suffering, which only brought loneliness and isolation. In addition, I felt guilty when I was forced to give up a responsibility due to what I was experiencing.

God led me to let go of my own attempts to gain control over my problem, and let Him help. The first step was to tell someone. Although it was not easy, I went to a trusted Christian friend and relayed what was going on. Instead of judgment or disapproval, she gave me encouragement and support. She began to pray. With my permission, she told a few others who also joined in praying for me. And immediately I felt peace — while times of stress still came occasionally, the weight of isolation and fear eased.

When I read today’s text about the typhoon-like storm that hit the ship carrying Paul, Luke, and 274 others toward Rome, it made me think of that time of trial. I had no control of the winds of anxiety that hit me when I least expected it. I felt like I was being tossed about in a storm, with no idea how to remedy the situation. And in my case, like that of Paul and his shipmates, God gave direction. Although opening up to my friend felt like I was letting go of the wheel and allowing the storm to drive me, in fact it was the starting point for surviving the storm.

Many others have gone through similar trials. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, more than forty million American adults suffer from depression.1 However, mental health disorders are certainly not the only storms that come in life. They may come in the form of fear, loneliness, financial challenges, health concerns, grief, or any combination of these and more.

There are a couple important lessons we can learn from Paul’s experience aboard the ship set for Rome. First, when the ship of life seems out of control, we must follow God’s leading. In my case, that meant telling another Christian what I was going through. It may be an entirely different instruction for you, but the important thing is that we follow through in obedience to what God reveals.

Secondly, we must be sure not to abandon our relationship with the Lord. Paul warned the sailors who tried to escape the ship that they would not be saved unless everyone stayed aboard. We cannot abandon the Gospel, even in the worst of storms, or we have no assurance that we’ll be saved in the end.

I can say from experience that trials are not easy, but God is the Great Deliverer. Let me encourage you with the words of Paul, “Be of good cheer.” We will overcome if we keep looking to the Lord and following what He tells us to do.

BACKGROUND

Use of the pronoun “we” in verse 1 reveals that Luke, the author of this account, accompanied Paul on this journey. He recorded a detailed sailing log of their travel to Rome. Although he was not a sailor, the accurate nautical terms and descriptions in his account reveal that he had (or acquired on this voyage) a good understanding of many aspects of sailing.

Aristarchus (verse 2) was a Macedonian from Thessalonica who had journeyed with Paul to Jerusalem two years before (see Acts 20:4). This journey may have been his intended trip home, though he later stayed in Rome with Paul. Paul’s friends from Sidon in verse 3 were likely Christian friends made on his previous trips. The Roman centurion, Julius, allowed Paul to meet with them, showing his trust in Paul. The friends cared for Paul and possibly gave him provisions for the trip ahead.

The Alexandrian ship that Paul and Luke traveled on was part of the imperial grain fleet and was loaded with Egyptian grain to sell in Rome. These ships in the first century were made of wood and powered by sail. They generally ran 50-120 feet in length and could carry 200 to 300 tons of cargo. Paul and the other prisoners were placed under the supervision of Julius (verse 1). Since Rome controlled the grain fleet, as a Roman centurion he was the highest-ranking officer on board, though he was not the owner of the ship.

Paul warned that the journey would be dangerous because “the fast was now already past” (verse 9). This refers to the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27-32). The Jews observed this memorial in late September or early October. Any time after this observance would be closer to winter, a risky period to be traveling by sea.

The professional sailors deemed Fair Havens an unsuitable location to wait out the winter and desired to sail to Phoenix, located forty miles from Fair Havens (see verse 12). Phoenix (Phenice) was a major city that served as a place for sailors to winter since its harbor had protection from storms.

Luke called the storm that came upon them Euroclydon, which was a northeastern typhoon-like windstorm. He recorded that they ran “under a certain island which is called Clauda” (verse 16), meaning that they sailed between the islands of Clauda and Crete for protection from the boisterous wind.

The smaller boat Luke mentioned in verses 16-17 was a dinghy or skiff towed behind the ship; it was used for transporting goods and people from the ship when it was at anchor, and for maintaining the ship. The exact means of “undergirding the ship” is unknown, but it probably involved using the small boat to loop ropes or cables underneath the hull and secure them crosswise across the deck, to hold the ship together during a storm. Luke observed this was a difficult task, no doubt made more difficult by the tempestuous wind.

The quicksand Luke mentioned in verse 17 referred to the Syrtis, two long stretches of desolate banks of quicksand along the northern African coast. The wind was directing the boat at this point, and carried them toward the Syrtis at such a fast pace that the sailors lowered many of the sails to slow the ship.

In verse 24, the angel reaffirmed the promise Jesus had earlier made to Paul when he said Paul would live to be brought before Caesar (see Acts 23:11).

After being driven by the wind for many days, the sailors sensed they were near. “Sounded” in verse 28 refers to the process of measuring the water’s depth by use of a weighted line. Twenty fathoms equalled 120 feet, and fifteen fathoms was 90 feet deep, so the water was getting more shallow as they approached land.

Paul told the men onboard to cheer up and eat (verses 33-34). Fasting in Bible times often was done as a sign of distress, sorrow, or guilt, rather than a fast prescribed by the Law. In this case, the crewmembers were so distraught or seasick that they had not eaten. Paul’s assurance that “there shall not an hair fall” was a common Jewish saying meaning everyone would have absolute protection.

The men “lightened the ship” (verse 38) by throwing the grain cargo overboard so the vessel would ride high in the water and be driven as close to land as possible, enabling those on board to make it to shore. In the end, all on board made it safely to land.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah's Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

IV.    The witness “unto the uttermost part of the earth”
   E.    The journey of Paul to Rome
       3.    His witness on the way to Rome
           a.    His witness aboard ship (27:1-44)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. According to verse 11, why did Julius depart Fair Havens against Paul’s warning?

  2. Why do you think Julius listened to Paul over the sailors when they were attempting to flee the ship, instructing his soldiers to cut the ropes? (verses 31-32)

  3. What are some positive steps we can take when we face storms in our lives?

CONCLUSION

God is not unmindful when we face challenges in our lives. As we look to Him for help, He will send instruction and encouragement, just as He did for Paul and his fellow travelers.

1 Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “About ADAA: Facts and Statistics,” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics (accessed June 1, 2019).

Jeremiah 40:1-16

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Jeremiah 40
And now, behold, I loose thee this day from the chains which were upon thine hand. If it seem good unto thee to come with me into Babylon, come; and I will look well unto thee: but if it seem ill unto thee to come with me into Babylon, forbear: behold, all the land is before thee: whither it seemeth good and convenient for thee to go, thither go. — Jeremiah 40:4

As a young man, Henry Martyn (1781-1812) made a life-changing choice. When he was twenty years old, he won the highest Mathematics award at Cambridge University and was a distinguished student there. In addition, he had great ability with languages. His plan was to practice law, and his future looked promising.

However, Henry lacked a sense of fulfillment. He heard about missionary work in India, and was impacted enough to make a decision to change careers. When he was twenty-four years old, he went to India, where he served as a chaplain and studied languages. Before he passed away six years later, he had translated the New Testament into Persian and Hindi, as well as revising an Arabic translation and completing other Biblical translation work. He had prayed that he could “burn out” for God, and his choice to pour himself into God’s service had far-reaching effects.

In today’s focus verse, Jeremiah was given a choice. The Chaldean commander gave Jeremiah the option of going to Babylon to live, and assured him that he would be well taken care of. This offer included protection, provision, and favorable treatment. However, Jeremiah was also free to stay in Judah along with the poor whom the Babylonians were leaving there. Jeremiah remained in Judah and suffered along with the people who stayed. God had called him to be a prophet to the Jewish people, and he was true to his calling to the end of his life.

Like Henry Martyn and Jeremiah, all of us must make choices. Many of our decisions will not be as life-impacting as the choices these men faced. We will, however, face our own set of circumstances. And our decisions, even small ones, can influence the spiritual walks of both ourselves and others. We can be inspired by those who have faithfully fulfilled God’s calling on their lives. We, too, can choose to follow God and let Him use us as He wills. It’s a decision we will not regret.

BACKGROUND

Today’s text begins a portion of the Book of Jeremiah (chapters 40-45) that recounts what happened to Jeremiah and the remaining people of Judah after Jerusalem fell to Babylon and the majority of the people were carried away as captives. Jeremiah’s release from prison is recorded in both chapters 39 and 40. The text in 39:11-14 tells how Nebuzar-adan (captain of the Chaldean guard) released Jeremiah, and he went to dwell among the people — most likely in Jerusalem. Some Bible scholars believe that when the army was ready to burn Jerusalem, they took any people (including Jeremiah) still left there to Ramah. Situated about five miles to the north of Jerusalem, Ramah was used for organizing the deportation of the captives. When Jeremiah arrived in Ramah with the other captives, he was released again (Jeremiah 40:1).

In verses 2-5 Nebuzar-adan quoted Jeremiah’s prophesies back to him. This instance indicates that the Babylonians were aware of Jeremiah and some of his previous predictions and recommendations to the rulers of Judah, which may be why they gave him preferential treatment. Nebuzar-adan offered Jeremiah the option of going to Babylon or staying in Judah. Jeremiah chose to stay in Judah, and settled in Mizpah, which was north of Jerusalem and close to Ramah. He was given food and a reward.

Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, appointed Gedaliah to be the governor of Judah. Gedaliah was from a distinguished family. Ahikam, his father, had some importance during the reigns of Josiah and Jehoiakim (2 Kings 22:12,14) and had helped spare Jeremiah’s life (Jeremiah 26:24). Shaphan, his grandfather, was the scribe for Josiah (2 Kings 22:3,10).

Gedaliah’s assignment included supervising the few Jewish people left in Judah. He was also to maintain order among multiple scattered Jewish military leaders with their bands of soldiers who were active throughout the area. Five of those leaders are named in verse 8. Jewish people who had escaped to neighboring countries returned, and Gedaliah gave them food.

Ishmael, one of the military leaders, was a descendant of David, and he conspired with Baalis, the king of the Ammonites, against Gedaliah. Although Johanan, another of the military leaders, warned Gedaliah of their plans, he refused to believe it. Bible scholars are unsure how long Gedaliah was the governor; some think it may have been approximately five years. Chapter 41 records that the conspiracy to slay Gedaliah was indeed carried out.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II.   The pronouncement of judgment against Judah
    D.   The circumstances of the prophet
           3.   Jeremiah’s experiences after Jerusalem’s fall
                 a.   The choice of Jeremiah (40:1-6)
                 b.   The governorship of Gedaliah (40:7-12)
                 c.   The rebellion against Babylon
                       (1)   The assassination of Gedaliah
                              (a)   The plot formed (40:13-16)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What did Gedaliah promise the military leaders when they came to him?

  2. Why do you think Jeremiah chose to stay in Judah?

  3. What are some ways God has let you know that He is paying attention to your needs?

CONCLUSION

With God’s help, we can make choices that are pleasing to Him.

Ephesians 4:17 through 5:2

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Ephesians 4
Ephesians 5
And be renewed in the spirit of your mind. — Ephesians 4:23

The next time you sing the old Gospel hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” think of the composer, a gentleman by the name of Robert Robinson (1735-1790). Robinson was saved under the ministry of George Whitefield and even entered the Christian ministry. However, neglect of spiritual things led him astray and he drifted far from God. In an attempt to satisfy the void in his heart, he began to travel. 

One day, while he was riding in a stagecoach, a female passenger was grieved by his levity and determined to share her faith with him. She handed him a hymnbook, pointing to the words of a particular song, and said, “These words might help you as they have helped me.” It was his hymn! 

He tried to avoid conversing with her, but he could not disguise his emotion, for the Lord was speaking to him. At last he broke down and confessed, “Madam, I am the poor, unhappy man who composed that hymn many years ago. I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them, to enjoy the feelings I had then.” The woman assured him, “But these ‘streams of mercy’ are still flowing!” Through her encouragement, Robinson reestablished his relationship with the Lord.

On that memorable day, Robert Robinson experienced the renewal alluded to in our focus verse, and from that day on, Robinson was a new man. Prior to this he was in a backslidden condition, but the old nature that was “prone to wander” had been rescued by an application of the precious Blood of Jesus.

The importance of renewal was the point that Paul was trying to make to the believers at Ephesus. In effect, he was telling them in this chapter, “You no longer belong to the old corruption of sin. You are now a new creation in Christ, so act like it!” For Paul, for Robert Robinson, and for believers of our day, conversion is a crisis experience that starts an ongoing process. That is why it is important that we spend time in daily meditation on the Word of God and in prayer — so our daily lives will align with our testimony of new life in Christ. 

Review your life from the moment of your conversion until now. Do you have the joy and victory that comes with living as a new person in Christ? You should! 

BACKGROUND

In this portion of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he exhorted them to live and walk in godliness and to be renewed in the spirit of their minds. Note the frequent mention of the words “therefore” and “wherefore” in the second half of Ephesians. In essence, Paul was saying, “Christ has revealed His grace and imparted new life to you. In light of that, here is what you should be doing for Christ.”

The Apostle mentioned several characteristics in Ephesians 4 concerning godly character, admonishing the believers to walk not as the Gentiles in the “vanity of their mind.” The designation Gentile, while meaning those who were non-Jewish, also carries the implication of “pagan” or “heathen.” Paul was saying that the sin-clouded intellect and emotions of these people had been blinded so they were without discernment and unable to distinguish right from wrong. His point was that the believer could not pattern himself after the unbeliever, because the believer has experienced a miracle of being raised from the dead. 

The word translated conversation in verse 22 means “behavior.” The Ephesians were exhorted to put off definitely, deliberately, quickly, and permanently the behavior that was corrupt (spoiled, ruined, or defiled) because of sin, and to put on behavior that was befitting of one who had been granted new life in Christ. These two acts were inseparable.

Paul did not merely explain this principle, but he applied it to different areas of life. He named specific sins that were to be avoided: lying (verse 25), anger (verses 26,31), stealing (verse 28), corrupt speech (verses 29,31), grieving the Spirit (verse 30), bitterness and malice (verse 31). In contrast to these sins, he exhorted the Ephesians to be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving, and to walk in love toward each other.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III.   The conduct of the church
     B.   Conduct in holiness (4:17 — 5:2)
           1.   Put off the old man (4:17-22)
                 a.   His nature (4:17-18)
                 b.   His practices (4:19)
                 c.   The source (4:20)
                 d.   The necessity (4:21-22)
           2.   Put on the new man (4:23-5:2)
                 a.   The command to put on the new man (4:23-24)
                 b.   The practices of the new man (4:25 — 5:2)
                       (1)   Negatively (4:25-31)
                       (2)   Positively (4:32 — 5:2)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. Why did Paul try to get the Ephesians to understand the necessity of putting off the old man?

  2. What characteristics did Paul tell the Ephesians to put on?

  3. Review the last verse of our text. What specific actions could you take this week to follow through on Paul’s admonition in that verse?

CONCLUSION

The letter to the Ephesians was not just for believers in Paul’s day, but it is for us today. In order to live a victorious, holy life, we too must put off the old man of sin, and put on the new man, which is “created in righteousness and true holiness” (verse 24).

Jeremiah 42:1 through 43:13

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Jeremiah 42
Jeremiah 43
That the Lord thy God may shew us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do. — Jeremiah 42:3

When we are uncertain about a course of action, seeking advice from a knowledgeable source can be to our advantage. Of course, the advice we receive will only benefit us if we follow through on it!

Thirty years ago, I was doing some work in a town about two-and-a-half hours away from where I live. When I was ready to head for home, a winter storm was already in progress. Since the drive was a long one in the best of weather, I felt I should talk to the highway snow-clearing supervisor to find out whether he thought driving that route was wise given the current weather conditions. He advised me to stay where I was and wait out the storm. However, having traveled that road other times in similar conditions, I decided to leave for home anyway.

I set out, but after driving for about twenty miles, suddenly the highway was totally obscured by the blowing snow — it was a complete whiteout! Unable to see where I was heading, the car veered off the road and came to a stop in the ditch. I was stuck!

Thankfully, after I had waited for some time, another vehicle came by and the driver offered assistance. I was able to return to the town where I had been working and obtain the services of a tow-truck. I spent the rest of the day getting back to where I had started. How many times during those hours I wished I had heeded the advice of the supervisor!

In this passage the remnant in Judah stood at a crossroads. Their nation had been decimated by Babylon and their governor had been assassinated. To the south lay the nation of Egypt where they believed they could find a stable society to protect them from the Babylonian army. In today’s text, the leaders of the people sought for advice from Jeremiah the prophet, but his answer was not what the people wanted to hear. They had placed all their hope in Egypt, but God said that they should stay in Judah, where He would take care of them and grant them mercy. If they persisted in their desire to go to Egypt, they would all perish one way or another.

We, too, will face times of decision in our lives — occasions when we are not sure what direction to take. We can turn to God for help, but we want to be careful that we do not already have our minds made up as to what we want to do! It is a mistake to ask for God’s guidance with no intention of following it. No matter how uncertain our circumstances may seem at the time, it is always safest to obey God.

BACKGROUND

In chapter 42 the captains and remnant of Judah pled with Jeremiah to seek God’s counsel regarding whether they should go to Egypt. God’s response was for them to remain in Judah or face certain judgment. Chapter 43 summarizes the captains’ rejection of God’s command and their decision to take the remnant of Judah into Egypt.

It seems Jeremiah was dwelling with Johanan and the remnant of Judah near Bethlehem. Seemingly uncertain about what course of action to take, Johanan, the captains, and the people approached Jeremiah and entreated him to pray for God’s direction on their behalf. Possibly feeling they had forfeited their right to approach God personally, the Jews referenced Him as Jeremiah’s God. When Jeremiah assured them that he would ask for God’s counsel, the people vowed that they would be obedient to whatever God said.

After ten days of waiting on God, Jeremiah received an answer and called together the captains and the people. God assured the Jews that they should not fear repercussions from the king of Babylon. He said if they would remain in the land of Judah, He would cause Nebuchadnezzar to show mercy and allow them to return to their own land. God also said He would build up the inhabitants of Judah and no longer send them into captivity. God’s statement, “For I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you” (42:10), was not an expression of sorrow for the judgments He had executed on Judah, but an expression of His willingness to relent on any further retribution if Judah would be obedient to Him.

Jeremiah told the people that if they chose to dwell in Egypt rather than Judah because they believed they would be free from famine and war, the reality was that the calamities they had thought to escape in Judah would befall them in Egypt. God said He would pour out His wrath on the Jews who relocated to Egypt just as He had on the inhabitants of Jerusalem when they had ignored His warnings. The word execration in 42:18 meant “something detested or cursed,” and God stated that in addition to being abhorred, the Jews in Egypt (except for a few who would escape, see Jeremiah 44:14) would never have the opportunity to see their beloved Judah again.

Jeremiah charged his people with being insincere in their avowal that if he would pray for them, they would do whatever God said. He told them that he had declared unto them all the counsel that God had given him, and their disobedience would bring certain death by the sword, famine, or pestilence in the land of Egypt.

In verse two of chapter 43, the captains accused Jeremiah of not being truthful in what the Lord had told him. They even falsely blamed Baruch, Jeremiah’s scribe, for influencing Jeremiah against them with the intention of delivering them into the hands of the Babylonians. In defiance of God’s command to remain in the land of Judah, Johanan and the captains convinced the entire remnant of Judah to go into Egypt, and they traveled to Tahpanhes, a fortress city on Egypt’s northern border.

While living in Tahpanhes, Jeremiah was instructed by God to take large stones and, in the sight of all the men of Judah, hide them in the mortar of the brickwork at the entrance to Pharaoh’s house. This was not the royal palace of Pharaoh, but apparently a residence he used when visiting Tahpanhes. God told Jeremiah to inform the Jews that Nebuchadnezzar, under God’s direction, would one day besiege Egypt and set up his throne in that same location. Dispelling any sense of security the Jews may have felt in Egypt, Jeremiah warned that during Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest, many would die or be taken into captivity. Jeremiah also emphasized that the gods of Egypt would be useless in offering assistance and would be utterly destroyed.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II.   The pronouncement of judgment against Judah
     D.   The circumstances of the prophet
           3.   Jeremiah’s experiences after Jerusalem’s fall
                d.   The migration into Egypt (42:1 — 43:7)
                       (1)   The request for guidance (42:1-6)
                       (2)   The rejection of guidance (42:7 — 43:7)
                              (a)   The admonition to remain in the land (42:7-12)
                              (b)   The warning of departure to Egypt (42:13-22)
                              (c)   The warning refused (43:1-7)
                e.    The prophecy against Egypt (43:8-13)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. How long did Jeremiah wait before responding to the people with an answer from God?

  2. Why do you think the people of Judah asked for advice and then went their own way, in spite of what the prophet told them to do?

  3. What should our response be to the Word of God?

CONCLUSION

As we ask God for guidance in the decisions we face in life, let us be sure that we follow through in obedience!

2 Peter 2:1-9

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
2 Peter 2
The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished. — 2 Peter 2:9

Recently I was at my friend’s house for lunch. While she was preparing some soup, she put her toddler in a highchair and placed some bread in front of him. However, her son was far more interested in the sharp knife that she had used to cut the loaf than he was in the bread. She thought she had placed the knife beyond his reach, but he saw the light reflect off the blade and was intrigued by it. By stretching as far as possible, he was almost able to grab it. Thankfully, my friend saw him just in time and was able to move the knife. The little guy was not happy about that, and he let her know of his dissatisfaction by starting to cry. She had pulled the tantalizing object away for his own safety, but of course her son was too young to understand why he was being denied the object he desired.

My friend “delivered” her son from danger by removing the object. Today’s text indicates that God also delivers His children, but those who are ungodly will be punished. The focus verse, along with verses 7-8, is based on the account of Lot, whom the Lord delivered from the evil of Sodom. In Lot’s case, God delivered him by removing him before the city was destroyed as punishment for the sinfulness of its inhabitants.

God’s deliverance for trials and temptations comes in different forms. Sometimes God removes His children (as in the case of Lot). Sometimes He gives grace to endure hardship (as Peter experienced when he was martyred). At other times, He may remove the source of potential harm (as my friend did for her son), though we might not see the danger in the items God removes. Like my friend’s son, we may reach for them, and even have them almost in our grasp, when God comes and moves them away. We may not understand why, but God is concerned about our spiritual safety and He wants to deliver us. At times, what He chooses for us is not what we would have chosen for ourselves; it might not make any sense to us at all. However, if we trust God, He will safely lead us in paths of righteousness.

God knows what He is doing. If you are in a situation where God has removed something you wanted, or has seemingly “relocated” you, consider today’s verse. As we yield to God’s choices for each aspect of life, trusting Him to guide and direct our steps, we can be confident that His ways are best. He knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and He wants to be glorified through our lives. We can trust Him fully.

BACKGROUND

In contrast to the first chapter of 2 Peter, which reminds readers to add to their faith in order to grow spiritually, chapter 2 addresses avoiding false teachers, who will bring destruction and punishment if followed. This chapter warns against them, exposes their motives and characteristics, and describes their destruction. Peter said that just as there had been false prophets in Israel throughout that nation’s history, there would also be false teachers among Christians, whose teachings would be contrary to the Word of God. These “damnable heresies,” or false doctrines, would destroy the faith of any who believed them.

Peter stated that these false teachers would reside among the people and claim to be true followers of Christ, but they would secretly bring in teachings that would be against God’s Word. They would lead many astray with their reprehensible ways, and the path of truth would be disregarded. These teachers would use “feigned” or artificial words to gain wealth or high positions for themselves.

Even though judgment of false teachers may be long in coming, they will be punished in God’s time. Peter gave some specific examples of God’s previous judgments for wrongdoing and rebellion. God punished the angels who sinned and consigned them to Hell to be reserved for future judgment. The Greek word translated hell is Tartarus, which refers to the deepest abyss of Hades. The knowledge that these angels are chained in torment until their final judgment illustrates that rebellion will be judged by God. The Lord also sent the Flood to destroy mankind for its wickedness, and He burned Sodom and Gomorrah, making them an example of what happens to those who rebel against God. While God destroyed the wicked, He spared and delivered those who put their trust in Him, as exemplified by Noah and Lot. God deals justly with each person according to what He observes in the heart.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III.   Call to awareness of error
     A.   The fact and methodology of false teachers (2:1-3)
           1.   Their deception (2:1)
           2.   Their success (2:2)
           3.   Their exploitation (2:3)
     B.   The destruction of false teachers (2:4-9)
           1.   The illustration (2:4-8)
                 a.   Angels (2:4)
                 b.   Ancient world (2:5)
                 c.   Sodom and Gomorrah (2:6-8)
           2.   The summary (2:9)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. Why did Peter compare false prophets in the Old Testament with false teachers in the Church?

  2. What did Peter say God did to the angels who sinned?

  3. Even though we are surrounded by evil just as Noah and Lot were, what steps can we take to ensure that we remain true to God’s Word?

CONCLUSION

If we are faithful in our study of the Bible and sincerely seek for God’s truth and will in our lives, He has promised to deliver us from temptation and lead us in the way of righteousness.

Acts 7:30-60

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Acts 7
And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. — Acts 7:59-60

The power of God to put a forgiving spirit in the human heart is wonderfully exemplified in the life story of Jim, an ex-convict known for many years as “Forty-five” — a man who spent twenty-five years in prison at hard labor for a crime he did not commit.

At the age of sixteen, Forty-five left his home in Rhode Island and headed west. One night he rode into the city of Tacoma, Washington, in a boxcar, reaching there just when a murder had been committed. He was arrested, tried, and sentenced to twenty-five years at hard labor.

In the penitentiary, Forty-five suffered all the severity of punishment meted out to desperate criminals in those days, including solitary confinement, rations of bread and water, being shackled by a ball and chain, and thirty lashes at a whipping post. After serving eighteen years of his sentence, he was transferred to the prison hospital, where he worked for the remainder of his term.

Upon his release, Forty-five was nearly wrecked in body and mind, homeless, and friendless. He took a train to Portland, Oregon, where he wandered the streets for four days looking for work, with nothing to eat and no place to sleep except the lumber piles. At last he went onto the Burnside Bridge intending to jump into the Willamette River. Just as he climbed up on the railing, a bridge keeper came rushing to him and pulled him down. As Forty-five walked away, he noticed the large lighted sign on the Apostolic Faith Church a short distance away. An unseen power seemed to compel him to attend a service there. At the close of the meeting, Forty-five went to the altar, prayed, and God saved him.

About two years later, as he was testifying in a service about his experiences and conversion, a man sat listening in the back of the church with tears flowing down his cheeks. Someone who talked with the man later told Forty-five that this stranger knew something about him. After tracing the man to San Francisco, California, Forty-five learned that he was dying of tuberculosis in a hospital there.

Forty-five took a job in the hospital, and had an opportunity to converse with the stranger. One night the sick man asked to have the Bible read to him, so Forty-five read aloud the story of the Prodigal Son. Then the man looked at Forty-five and asked, “Can you ever forgive me for the wrong I have done you?” Brokenly, he confessed that he was the man who committed the murder that had sent Forty-five to prison.

Forty-five’s thoughts immediately went to the long years he had spent in confinement and all that he had suffered. Could he forgive? He left the sick man and went into a little room where he could be alone. Kneeling down, he prayed and wrestled with God for nearly three hours, asking God to put a real spirit of forgiveness in his heart. At last he went back to the sick man’s room and took the dying man in his arms. He said, “I forgive you for all the injuries you have done me, but you will also have to ask God to forgive you.” The man began to cry out, over and over, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” God heard that broken plea and saved his soul. Three days later the man died, but because of Forty-five’s witness, he is spending eternity with the Lord.

Forty-five’s forgiveness of one who had caused him to suffer so terribly could only come from God. We see the same merciful spirit exemplified by Stephen, when he prayed the words of our key verse, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge,” as the stones were pummeling his body.

Though most of us will never suffer as Forty-five and Stephen did, there may have been events in our lives that were hard, that were wrong, that have deeply wounded us and are difficult to forgive. We can have the same freedom from bitterness and revenge that was in the hearts of Forty-five and Stephen. They could forgive because they had experienced the Lord’s merciful forgiveness of their own sins. If we hold fast to the remembrance of the infinite debt our Lord Jesus forgave us through His death on the Cross, we will be able with God’s help to forgive others, even at great cost to ourselves. Let us purpose to hold no resentment in our hearts, but to live every day forgiving as freely as we have been forgiven.

BACKGROUND

The charges brought against Stephen are relayed in Acts 6:11 and 13-14. Firstly, his accusers claimed that he spoke blasphemous words against Moses and the Law, and tried to change Jewish customs. Secondly, they asserted that he spoke blasphemous words against God and God’s dwelling place, the Temple. Stephen had begun his defense before the council by giving a historical account of God’s dealings with the Jewish people through events in the lives of Abraham, Joseph, and Moses. In this portion of text, he traced the forefathers of Israel’s faith through Moses, Joshua (translated as “Jesus”), and David (verses 30-47). The chapter ends with the irate response of his hearers, and Stephen’s martyrdom by stoning (verses 54-60).

Throughout Stephen’s speech, he repeatedly alluded to Israel’s continual rebellion and idolatry in spite of the mighty works of God which they had seen, thus condemning them through their own history.

In verse 38, the word translated “church” in the phrase “church in the wilderness” is from the Greek word ekklesia, meaning “assembly of the called out ones.” Here it was a reference to the assembly of people that gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai.

In verses 42-43, Stephen asserted that Israel’s rejection of Moses had led to false worship and breaking of the Law, so God “gave them up” to their worship of the host of heaven (the sun, moon, and stars) and their gods Molech (associated with child sacrifice) and Remphan (an Egyptian god). The statement “as it is written in the book of the prophets” is a reference to Amos 5:25-27.

In verses 44-50, Stephen pointed out that even though the Jews had the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and later the Temple in Jerusalem, that had not kept them from rejecting God and His messengers. While the Jews insisted that the Temple at Jerusalem was the only place where the Divine Presence was manifested, Stephen asserted that neither the Temple nor the Tabernacle were intended to be the place where God permanently dwelt. To support his statement, he pointed once more to the Old Testament, this time quoting Isaiah 66:1-2.

At verse 51, Stephen’s tone abruptly shifted to that of a prosecutor. Some Bible scholars suggest that perhaps his sudden change in approach may have been caused by an angry outcry against what he had just said about the Temple. His charge that his hearers were “stiffnecked” was a description that had been applied to the Jews by God himself (see Exodus 33:5). The phrase “uncircumcised in heart and ears” meant that they had rebelled against the message God had revealed through the prophets, shutting their ears to the truth and thus disavowing their relationship with God. Because of this they were unclean and defiled.

The members of the Sanhedrin responded to Stephen’s reproof with vehement anger. In the statement that they “were cut to the heart” (verse 54), the verb literally means “to saw asunder.” In further witness to their burning hatred, they “gnashed on him with their teeth.”

The Jews had no legal authority to carry out a death sentence, so Stephen’s execution was illegal; it took place during a power vacuum between the departure of Pontius Pilate as Roman governor and the arrival of his successor. Like his Savior, Stephen was executed outside the city wall. Even in this miscarriage of justice, Stephen’s murderers adhered to the Mosaic Law, which decreed that the sin of blasphemy was to be punished by a death sentence.

Stephen finished his life by committing his soul to the Lord and devoutly praying for his persecutors.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

II.    The witness in Jerusalem
   D.    The witness of Stephen
       3.    The sermon by Stephen
           b.    His defense concerning Moses
               (4)    The commission of the deliverer (7:30-34)
               (5)    The work of the deliverer (7:35-43)
           c.    His defense concerning the Tabernacle (7:44-50)
               (1)    The Tabernacle (7:44-46)
               (2)    The Temple (7:47-50)
           d.    His denunciation of his accusers (7:51-53)
       4.    The stoning of Stephen
           a.    The death of Stephen (7:54-60)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. In verse 52, whom did Stephen accuse his hearers of murdering?

  2. Why do you think Stephen so fearlessly addressed the council, even though he must have known his life was in danger for doing so?

  3. The cost for proclaiming the Gospel in the first century was civil, social, and physical persecution. What is the potential cost in your circumstances?

CONCLUSION

The grace to forgive can be ours when we remember how much we have been forgiven.

Acts 9:1-43

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Acts 9
And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: and he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? — Acts 9:3-4

Mosab Yousef was a young Palestinian who wanted to be a fighter. He was first arrested when he was ten years old. Before reaching his teen years, violence and terror had become so commonplace in his life that he was bored during the rare times when their town was quiet. Mosab wanted to be just like his father, a devout Muslim who was a founding leader of Hamas, a terrorist organization responsible for countless deadly attacks against Israel. As he grew older, Mosab began helping his father, and before he turned twenty-one, he had seen abject poverty, suffering, torture, and death.

While still in his early twenties, Mosab became an integral part of the Hamas organization, and was even imprisoned several times by the Israelis. However, doubts about Islam and Hamas began surfacing in his mind when he observed how Hamas used the lives of innocent civilians and children to achieve its goals.

One day as Mosab was walking past the Damascus Gate, a main entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem, he had an encounter that put him on a new path. After some casual conversation with a tourist from the United Kingdom, he was invited to a Bible study at the YMCA in West Jerusalem. Being a bit bored at the time, and somewhat curious about Christianity, he agreed to go.

Mosab was given a New Testament at that meeting. Because gifts are respected in the Arab culture, he decided to read it. He recounted, “I began at the beginning, and when I got to the Sermon on the Mount, I thought, Wow, this guy Jesus is really impressive! Everything he says is beautiful. I couldn’t put the Book down. Every verse seemed to touch a deep wound in my life. It was a very simple message, but somehow it had the power to heal my soul and give me hope.”(1) Thunderstruck by what he read, Mosab realized that this was what he had been searching for all his life. Jesus’ words made sense to him, and overwhelmed, he began to weep. He continued to read about Jesus and to pray, and eventually was secretly baptized in Tel Aviv by an unidentified Christian tourist.(2)

Mosab’s story brings to mind another encounter that took place near the same location. The conversion of Saul of Tarsus recorded in today’s text is one of the most significant events in the history of the Church.

The transformations of Saul and Mosab stand as potent testimonies to the love of God. They remind us that God finds people even when they are not looking for Him. No belief system, no past history, no political regime can block the hand of God from drawing seeking souls to Himself. Every conversion does not occur in a spectacular manner, but when an individual has an encounter with Jesus, and yields to Him, that person’s life will be changed. Like Saul and Mosab, that one will find a new purpose, a new path, and a new peace.

Today, let us give thanks to God again that He is still reaching out to all men everywhere, and saving souls. Nothing is impossible with God!

BACKGROUND

This text describes the conversion of Saul, later known as Paul. His testimony also is recorded in Acts 26:12-18, and referred to in 1 Corinthians 9:1 and 15:8. This emphasis is reasonable, as over half of the Book of Acts is a description of Paul’s activities, and he authored thirteen of the New Testament books (not including Hebrews, which many scholars attribute to him).

In the previous chapter, Acts 8:3 states that in Jerusalem, Saul “made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling [violently pulling] men and women committed them to prison.” In today’s passage, he purposed to expand his efforts to the Syrian city of Damascus. The phrase “breathing out threatenings and slaughter” in verse 1 portrays his hot anger against the believers.

The high priest mentioned in verse 1 was Caiaphas. In 1990, an ancient burial box (called an “ossuary”), was found in Jerusalem inscribed with the name of this high priest and positively dated to the era of Christ. These are the first physical remains to be identified of a specific person mentioned in the New Testament.

It is likely Saul and his companions traveled on foot. Damascus was 130 miles from Jerusalem, a journey of at least six days. Saul’s eagerness to make that trek shows how committed he was to his cause.

Jesus addressed Saul by name in verse 4. In Scripture, the repetition of a name emphasizes the importance of what will be said and indicates deep emotion (as in the “Martha, Martha” of Luke 10:41, and the “Jerusalem, Jerusalem” of Matthew 23:37). In Saul’s response, “Who art thou, Lord?” the word “Lord” was simply a title of respect similar to “Sir,” rather than an acknowledgement of divinity.

The statement, “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (verse 5), alluded to the use of a goad — a long, extremely sharp stick used to move an ox in a certain direction. The hind legs of the ox were jabbed with this instrument until the animal cooperated. The inference was that Saul was only harming himself in his efforts because he was fighting against God.

The men with Saul fell to the earth with him (see Acts 26:14) but apparently arose to their feet while Saul continued to lie on the ground. They saw the brightness but did not see the Person of Jesus. In the original Greek, the difference in the verb forms for “heard” and “hearing” used in verses 4 and 7 indicate that Saul’s companions probably heard the sound of a voice but could not discern the words.

Ananias, whose name means “the Lord is gracious,” was not an Apostle, evangelist, elder of the church, or deacon — he was simply identified as “a certain disciple.” Though the command he received was startling and he initially protested, he ultimately obeyed and went to the humbled persecutor of believers.

The reference to the Christians in Jerusalem as “saints” (verse 13) is the first time in the Book of Acts this designation is given to the followers of Christ. The original Greek word, hagios, literally means “holy ones.” Paul’s later writings used this title forty times.

Immediately after his conversion, Saul “preached Christ in the synagogues” (verse 20). As a well-known rabbi who had been trained by Gamaliel (an esteemed doctor of Jewish law), he would have been a welcomed speaker. However, the fact that he was proclaiming the “heresy” he had violently opposed was startling to his hearers. The word proving in the phrase “proving that this is very Christ” (verse 22) means “joining together” and implies skillfully deducing or demonstrating.

Galatians 1:17-18 indicates that after his conversion, Saul spent three years in Arabia, the desert region southeast of Damascus. This period of time may have occurred between verses 22 and 23, or verses 25 and 26. Alternatively, his night escape described in verses 23-25 may have occurred shortly after his conversion, when the Pharisees first learned of his conversion.

Barnabas, who verified Saul’s testimony before the Apostles (verse 27), is first mentioned in Acts 4:36 as being among those who laid their possessions at the feet of the disciples.

Beginning at verse 32, the narrative of chapter 9 returns to Peter, describing two incidents in his ministry: the healing of Aeneas of the palsy (verses 33-35), and the raising of Dorcas from the dead (verses 36-42).

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

III.    The witness in Judea and Samaria
   B.    The witness to Saul (9:1-31)
       1.    The call to Saul (9:1-9)
       2.    The conversion of Saul (9:10-19)
           a.    Ananias’ dilemma (9:10-14)
           b.    Ananias’ instructions (9:15-16)
           c.    Ananias’ obedience (9:17-19)
       3.    The confession of Saul (9:20-22)
       4.    The conspiracy against Saul (9:23-31)
           a.    The plot (9:23-24)
           b.    The narrow escape (9:25)
           c.    The removal to Jerusalem (9:26-29)
           d.    The removal to Tarsus (9:30-31)
   C.    The witness of Peter
       1.    His witness at Lydda and Sharon (9:32-35)
       2.    His witness at Joppa
           a.    The raising of Dorcas (9:36-43)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. To whom did Saul go for permission to travel to Damascus to apprehend the believers there?

  2. In what ways was Saul’s conversion similar to that of all Christians, and in what ways was it unique? What conclusions can we draw from these similarities and differences?

  3. Based on the example of Ananias, how should we treat those who oppose our religious beliefs?

CONCLUSION

God is still reaching out to seek and save those who will open their hearts to His truth, no matter what their upbringing, beliefs, or past history.

1 Mosab Hassan Yousef and Ron Brackin, Son of Hamas, United States: Tyndale House Publishers, 2011, pg. 122.

2 In 2007, Mosab Yousef left the West Bank for the United States, where he sought and eventually was granted political asylum. In August 2008, he publicly revealed his conversion to Christianity and renounced Hamas and the Arab leadership. In his book, he describes his agonizing separation from family and homeland, the dangerous decision to make public his newfound faith, and his belief that the Christian mandate to “love your enemies” is the only way to peace in the Middle East.

2 Kings 25:1-30

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
2 Kings 25
And Gedaliah sware to them, and to their men, and said unto them, Fear not to be the servants of the Chaldees: dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon; and it shall be well with you. — 2 Kings 25:24

There can be tremendous blessing in words of encouragement. In 1937, tragic news reached Oswald Smith, a young pastor and songwriter in Toronto, Canada. His brother-in-law, Clifford, a missionary in Peru, had been instantly killed in a car accident just as he and his family were preparing to return home on their first furlough. Oswald’s youngest sister, Ruth, thousands of miles from her homeland and only twenty-six years old, was left alone to raise their two little boys.

Longing to offer encouragement in his sister’s time of great need, Oswald penned the words of a poem:

God understands your sorrow,
He sees the falling tear
And whispers, I am with thee;
Then falter not, nor fear.

God understands your heartache,
He knows the bitter pain,
O, trust Him in the darkness,
You cannot trust in vain.

God understands your longing
Your deepest grief He shares,
Then let Him bear your burden,
He understands, and cares.

Oswald gave the poem to B.D. Ackley, who set it to music, and then sent the song to his sister. What a comfort it was to her! She cried as she sang the message from her brother, but its words ministered to her heart. And in the years since it was written, the hymn “God Understands” has brought encouragement to many who have faced grief and trials.

Today’s focus verse is another message of encouragement given in a time of great need — an assurance to the devastated remnant in Judah from Gedaliah, the governor Nebuchadnezzar had appointed. A friend of the Prophet Jeremiah, Gedaliah was telling the people of Judah, “You have no reason to fear further trouble. If you continue peaceably in the land, no harm will befall you.” The earthly kingdom of Judah had been demolished, but God was still willing to keep His spiritual Kingdom alive in the hearts of the exiles if they would look His way for strength and comfort in time of need.

That is still true today. No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, we can always be assured that God sees and cares about what is happening in our lives. As we accept difficult circumstances — things we cannot control — and keep trusting Him, He will watch over us and bring us strength, comfort, and encouragement in our hour of need.

BACKGROUND

This chapter records the final siege, famine, and ultimate fall of Jerusalem, the result of Judah’s rebellion against God in spite of His repeated offers of mercy.

In 597 B.C., in the second of three invasions, King Nebuchadnezzar had accepted the surrender of King Jehoiachin and his royal household, and spared the city of Jerusalem. At that time, the king and all notables of Jerusalem were deported to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar appointed King Jehoiachin’s brother, Mattaniah, to be king over Jerusalem, and changed his name to Zedekiah.

Zedekiah had an evil eleven-year reign, culminating in a rebellion against Babylon that precipitated the final overthrow of Judah, which is described in this chapter. After a siege of many months, “the city was broken up.” Zedekiah and his men of war fled the city, but were pursued by the Babylonians and captured. The king’s sons were slain before his eyes, and he was blinded and then carried in chains to Babylon. The Temple was destroyed, the walls of the city were broken down, and all but a few of the people were carried away captive.

After Jerusalem’s fall, Nebuchadnezzar appointed Gedaliah to govern Judah. Gedaliah was from a notable family. His father had influenced Jehoiachin to save Jeremiah from death (see Jeremiah 26:24), and his grandfather Shaphan had been secretary to Josiah and had figured prominently in his the king’s efforts to turn Judah back to God (2 Kings 22). Gedaliah himself returned a broken hearted Jeremiah back to his home after the fall of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 39:14). He offered a message of encouragement to the remnant left in Judah, promising them support and protection if they would simply “dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon.” However, he was assassinated by Ishmael, one of Judah’s remaining captains who believed that the Jews should migrate to Egypt. The remaining Judeans fled to Egypt and took Jeremiah with them.

In Babylon, thirty-seven years after Jehoiachin’s surrender, the new king of Babylon, Evil-merodach, graciously released Jehoiachin from prison and elevated him to a prominent position. He was given new garments and daily rations of food. Babylonian records have been found listing the rations of prisoners and foreigners residing in Babylon, and Jehoiachin was one who was specifically named, an historic validation of this Biblical account.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II.   The reigns of the kings of Judah
     H.   Zedekiah
           2.   The rebellion of Zedekiah
                 b.   The siege of Jerusalem (25:1-7)
                       (1)   The lengthy siege (25:1-3)
                       (2)   The aborted escape (25:4-6)
                       (3)   The murder of Zedekiah’s sons and the blinding of Zedekiah (25:7)
                 c.   The destruction of Jerusalem (25:8-12)
                 d.   The deportation of the Temple’s wealth (25:13-17)
                 e.   The final deportation of Judah’s inhabitants (25:18-21)
                 f.    The appointment of Gedaliah as governor (25:22-26)
                       (1)   Gedaliah’s appointment (25:22-24)
                       (2)   Gedaliah’s murder (25:25)
                       (3)   The remnant’s flight to Egypt (25:26)
                 g.   The release of Jehoiachin (25:27-30)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What were some of the things that the Chaldees took with them back to Babylon as spoils from the war?

  2. Why do you think Gedaliah was assassinated? 

  3. As we conclude the Book of 2 Kings, what spiritual lessons have you learned from the study of this book?

CONCLUSION

God sees and cares about the circumstances of our lives, and He will see us through whatever challenges come our way.

Hebrews 9:1-10

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Hebrews 9
The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing. — Hebrews 9:8

“What is a skyscraper?” “What makes a clock work?” “Why do the leaves turn red?” “Why don’t fish live out of water?” “Why is grass green?” “Why do only some balloons go up into the air?” Has a young child ever asked you such questions? Did you respond with a full scientific explanation, or did you give just the amount of information that you knew that child could grasp? Maybe you got out a book and showed a visual illustration to help him understand. 

In much the same way, God did not reveal the fullness of His wonderful plan of salvation to mankind from the beginning of time. When He gave the Law to Moses and established the Tabernacle worship system, He was giving a picture. The sacrifices helped make man aware of his need for a Savior. Some recognized this need and connected with God through the prescribed sacrifices. Others became so entrenched in the rituals themselves that they focused only on the formalities of their worship. Yet the message of God’s love toward His creation never changed. He continued to desire a relationship with man. 

Jesus fulfilled what the picture of the Tabernacle worship represented. When Jesus died on the Cross, the veil separating the Most Holy Place where God’s presence dwelt was miraculously torn in two. This signified that man no longer needed a priest to be the representative between him and God since free access to God through Jesus was now available. The place of worship was no longer the Tabernacle, but it was the hearts of men who by faith obtained forgiveness of sins and a change of heart.

Although we live in the time when the “picture” is no longer necessary, on occasion we may feel inclined to ask God as many questions as a young child may ask us. Perhaps we are seriously ill, unemployed, have rebellious children, or are grieving the loss of a loved one. Many situations can come our way that could cause us to question. We need to remember that God has a plan for every believer’s life. Just as He unfolded His great plan of salvation, He will unfold the plan for our lives, but we must have patience as He does it. We need to rely upon His wisdom and timing, and realize that as a loving Heavenly Father, He knows exactly how and when to take care of our needs. 

BACKGROUND

The arrangement of Tabernacle service is representative of how God taught Israel His great truths. Sometimes they were taught by direct revelation, sometimes by the written Word, and sometimes symbolically. The Tabernacle, with its different areas, utensils, and ceremonies, was a means of keeping truths before the minds of the people. The priest was man’s link with God. He entered the Most Holy Place one time a year, and after first making a sacrifice for himself, he made atonement for the sins of the people.

As long as the first Tabernacle stood and the whole Levitical system was in place, the way into the “holiest of all” was not yet made manifest. The sacrifices and offerings had no virtue in themselves; they “could not make him that did the service perfect.” The majority of Israel failed in their Old Testament ceremonies because they did not by faith see Jesus, to whom all the sacrifices pointed. The offerings and sacrifices lost their significance as a type, and became the all-important thing in themselves. 

The Greek word for the time of reformation (verse 10) is kahee-ros, which means “set or proper time, due time, convenient season.” It refers to the Christian age, when the Lord made a new covenant with His people. This covenant was inaugurated by Jesus’ crucifixion. When the veil between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place was torn in two, it was a physical evidence that the way for direct access to God had been opened and the time of reformation had come. 

Divinely designed, the Commandments, the rituals of the sacrificial system, and the prophets all described God’s promises to man of a better way to salvation and forgiveness of sin. When Christ came, He fulfilled the Law and the prophets, and conquered sin. Though anticipated by many, His message was difficult for the Jews to accept. The writer of Hebrews pointed back to their Old Testament heritage and revealed the meaning of God’s divine design which symbolized the new dispensation. 

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II.   The argument: the preeminence of Christ in His person and work
     D.   The superiority of Christ to Aaron
           6.   Superior because of a better sanctuary (9:1-10)
                 a.   The sanctuary (9:1-5)
                 b.   The service (9:6-7)
                 c.   The significance (9:8-10)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What did the Ark of the Covenant hold?

  2. What was the significance of the veil separating the Holy Place from the Holiest of All?

  3. How have you benefited by the “veil” being torn when Jesus died on the Cross?

CONCLUSION

We live in a time when the fullness of God’s plan of redemption is revealed and available to us. We should seize every opportunity to take full advantage of God’s provision for our lives.

Colossians 2:16 through 3:4

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Colossians 2
Colossians 3
Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (touch not; taste not; handle not; which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? — Colossians 2:20-22

When I was a child, my favorite game was Chinese checkers. I spent many happy hours across the board from my uncle, a patient man who lined up his red marbles opposite my blue ones and played game after game with me. Not only did he let me win often enough to keep me interested, he also taught me his best strategies, so one day, I actually beat him fair and square!

One thing my uncle didn’t do was add new rules. He taught me how to play the game by the traditional instructions, and that was how we played. Imagine how frustrated I would have been if he had told me on Monday that only green marbles could “jump” another marble, on Wednesday that he was starting out with only four marbles in his corner, and on Friday that he only had to get one marble across the board to be the winner. If he had done so, I am sure I would have given up in despair!

The Pharisees of Paul’s day were continuously making up new religious rules for the Jewish people to follow. One commentator stated that in contrast to the two commands of Christ (Matthew 22:37-40), the Pharisees had developed a system of 613 laws — 365 negative and 248 positive — manmade rules that did not come from God.

Paul, in combating the false teachings that had infiltrated the Colossian church, cautioned the believers not to think they could make themselves more spiritual by observing the rules established by the Pharisees. He was not counseling the Colossians to become rebels. Rather, he was reminding them that true righteousness could not be achieved through bodily disciplines. Sinful practices were no longer part of a Christian’s life, but this was a natural result of their new life in Christ, not the cause of it.

True Christianity centers on Christ’s provision made on Calvary. His teachings do not change; His commandments do not need to be revised. Only by having a relationship with Christ through faith can we live in a manner pleasing to Him.

Let your study of Paul’s exhortation to the embattled Colossians give you a new appreciation for Christ as the fullness of God and our only source for living a victorious Christian life!

BACKGROUND

In today’s text, Paul continued his “Beware” message which began at Colossians 2:8. He ends chapter 2 with a negative approach (a warning against legalism) and begins chapter 3 with a positive approach (an exhortation to apply the principles he had taught). Both approaches are necessary.

The emphasis of this section is the futility of ascetic (severe) rules. The Pharisees attempted to sanctify the soul by disciplining the body, and this was the heresy that Paul attacked. Obedience to rules may produce a sense of self-satisfaction because it is what others see and it can be measured, but observance to rules alone will not bring salvation. Paul admonished the Colossians to focus on the new life in Christ and to put away disputes about meats, drink, holy days, sabbath days, etc. The observation of diets and days could not change the condition of the heart.

A rule-based religion, such as the Pharisees insisted upon, had a number of flaws:

  • New laws continually needed to be invented for new situations.
  • Accountability to men replaced accountability to God.
  • It reduced a person’s personal ability to discern right from wrong.
  • It created a judgmental spirit and a sense of superiority.
  • It confused personal preferences with divine law.
  • It created a false standard of righteousness.
  • It was strictly external, rather than dealing with the heart.
  • It was rejected by Christ, who alone is the believers’ righteousness.

Paul warned the Colossians not to let any man beguile them, meaning that they were to guard against being lead astray by deception. The Colossians had found new life in Christ, but the Pharisees, pretending great humility and sanctity, endeavored to turn them aside from the Gospel and to induce them to rely upon the flesh even though they had begun to serve God in the Spirit. These false teachers were proud of their humility, but it brought attention and praise to themselves rather than to God.

Apparently, the Colossians had been taught that God was remote and could only be approached through angels. Mysticism, a belief that man can have an immediate experience with the spiritual world apart from the Word of God or the Holy Spirit, is clearly spoken against in the Word of God. Any encounter with the spirit world brought by the fleshly mind is not of God.

By contrast, Paul taught them that believers are free from ceremonial laws and ordinances, “Touch not; taste not; handle not; which are all to perish with the using.” Christians are freed by the Blood of Christ, and by imposing these laws, the Pharisees were contesting the authority of Christ. Putting on the yoke of the Old Testament ordinances could not make people more godly or save their souls.

Paul concluded this portion of text on a positive note, encouraging the Colossians to go forward by seeking things above rather than focusing on the “things of earth” (material possessions, worldly fame, and sinful pleasures). He encouraged them to be dead to these things — unaffected by them.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III.   Polemical: the defense of those in Christ
     C.   Exhortation of the believers (2:16 — 3:4)
           1.   Negatively (2:16-23)
                 a.   Avoid legalism (2:16-17)
                 b.   Avoid mysticism (2:18-19)
                 c.   Avoid asceticism (2:20-23)
           2.   Positively (3:1-4)
                 a.   Seek the things above (3:1)
                 b.   Set your mind on things above (3:2-4)
                       (1)   The command (3:2)
                       (2)   The cause (3:3-4)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. In what areas of life were the Colossians being “judged” by the false teachers? 

  2. What does it mean to be “risen with Christ?” 

  3. Give examples of what it means to “set your affections on things above.” How can this be accomplished in one’s life? 

CONCLUSION

Our salvation does not rest on our own personal discipline, but rather on the power of Christ’s death and resurrection.

Deuteronomy 1:1-46

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Deuteronomy 1
Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them. — Deuteronomy 1:8

After living in the same community for over thirty years, my family moved to a different state. There were many new things for us to experience. We had a different house, different schools, a different church, and even different weather. Not knowing how long we would live in the area, we decided to “see what there was to see” while we had the opportunity.

Even before we were completely settled, we began to ask questions concerning geography, events, activities, and special sites we should investigate. Soon, our family began to experience wonderful things. We visited enormous trees, walked on pristine ocean beaches, beheld the view from mountain peaks, ate delightful foods, and encountered many other exciting wonders simply because we took advantage of the opportunities available to us in the new area.

Since then, our family has moved a number of times. In each location we have purposed to see what there is to see while we have the opportunity. We have had rich experiences, and yet, a question always comes to mind: Why do those who live here take these wonderful things for granted? How could one live in Paris, France, and not experience the view from atop the Eiffel Tower? How could one live in upstate New York, USA, or southern Ontario, Canada, and not visit Niagara Falls? How could a beautiful Caribbean beach seem ordinary?

Today’s text reminds us of Israel’s failure to take advantage of the wonderful opportunity to possess the Promised Land. God’s promise to us is for a life fulfilled by a relationship with Him. This opportunity is offered to each of us, yet, it seems, it can be much too easy to ignore, neglect, or even refuse to recognize and take advantage of on a daily basis. To know Him and to live in His perfect plan for our lives is the greatest opportunity that will ever come our way. Take time to listen for His voice.

BACKGROUND

The Book of Deuteronomy is a series of sermons or addresses given by Moses to the Israelites just prior to his death and their possession of the Promised Land. This is the generation whose parents had died as punishment for their refusal to obey the instructions of the Lord concerning possession of the same land. It is this generation that would be led by Joshua across Jordan and on to defeat Jericho.

Israel had made a covenant with God on Mount Sinai (Horeb) (see Exodus chapters 19 through 24). The beginning of the covenant concerning the possession of this land was with Abram and is recorded in Genesis 12:7. Moses reminds this generation of the surety of the initial covenant with Abraham as the binding nature of the covenant established with them on Sinai. Exodus and Leviticus focus on God giving the Law to Moses. Deuteronomy tends to be Moses retelling and reminding the next generation of the covenant nature of the Law and its practical application, particularly as they enter the Promised Land.

This first address by Moses continues through the first 4 chapters of Deuteronomy. Primarily, it is a historical review reminding Israel of God’s blessings to them. In this sermon, Moses encouraged the people to remember God’s many promises to them and be confident that He would be with them in the future as He had been in the past.

It is interesting to note that Deuteronomy is quoted in the New Testament nearly one hundred times. Jesus also quoted more from this book than from any other Old Testament book.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

I.   The first discourse: Historical review
     A.   Introduction (1:1-4)
           1.   The setting (1:1-2)
           2.   The time (1:3-4)
     B.   The wilderness sojourn
           1.   From Horeb to Kadesh (1:6-46)
                 a.   The instructions to leave Horeb (1:6-8)
                 b.   The selection of elders (1:9-18)
                       (1)   Their choice (1:9-15)
                       (2)   Their duties (1:16-18)
                 c.   The events at Kadesh-Barnea (1:19-46)
                       (1)   The mission of the spies (1:19-25)
                       (2)   The rejection of the people (1:26-33)
                       (3)   The wrath of God (1:34-46)
                              (a)   Loss of privilege (1:34-40)
                              (b)   Cause for defeat (1:41-46)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. Moses reminded Israel that God carried them in the wilderness. What example or simile did he use to illustrate this?

  2. Why do you think Moses spoke to the new generation of Israelites about God’s instructions to the twelve spies who searched out the Promised Land?

  3. What can you do to avoid missing the opportunities God has given you to walk closer to Him today?

CONCLUSION

What promise or opportunity has God given you today? Will you possess it or miss it? Thank God for His promise to you and determine to “see what there is to see” in His kingdom!

Jeremiah 26:1-24

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Jeremiah 26
Nevertheless the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah, that they should not give him into the hand of the people to put him to death. — Jeremiah 26:24

In 1841, Richard Jackson, a Quaker, was convicted of a murder he did not commit. He was put in jail, and the day came when the warden told Jackson that the next Friday would be his execution day. The warden also told Jackson a carriage would be sent to take him the fifty miles to Philadelphia, the place of his execution. Jackson told the warden that he would like to walk to Philadelphia, giving his word of honor that he would be there in time for his hanging.

Jackson had felt led by God to make this unusual request after much prayer, and he believed God would deliver him. The warden trusted Jackson and, amazingly, let him begin his walk that night. While walking, Jackson came upon two men robbing a man and trying to kill him for his money. Taking his stout walking stick, Jackson beat off the assailants and saved the man’s life. The grateful man, who was also headed to Philadelphia, invited Jackson to ride with him but Jackson refused.

On Friday, Jackson arrived at the scaffold where a crowd had already gathered to witness the execution. Jackson walked over to the hangman (who often in that era were convicted murderers) and quietly said, “Sir, I am here to be executed.” The hangman looked at Jackson, recognized him, and then protested, “I cannot hang you, for you saved my life back on the road.” Jackson responded, “Yes, but you must do your duty as the law requires.” The hangman turned to the assembled crowd and cried loudly for all to hear, “This man saved my life and I am to hang him, but I cannot. I must confess that I killed the man of whose murder this person is accused.” Jackson’s life was spared because he did what he felt God had showed him to do.(1)

In today’s text, Jeremiah had followed what God had shown him to do, telling the people of Judah to repent of their evil ways or their Temple would be destroyed. The false prophets and priests had him arrested and demanded his death, accusing him of blasphemy against God. However, God was with Jeremiah as He was with Mr. Jackson, and He preserved both men from death.

Today, too, there will be times when those who do right and take a stand for the truth will be falsely accused and persecuted. Such treatment is not easy to bear, and all the faithful are not spared. Still, we know that God sees every soul, and He will work out His perfect will in the life of each person who is yielded to Him.

BACKGROUND

Chapters 26-29 record events in the life of Jeremiah and are not in chronological order. In today’s text, at God’s instruction, Jeremiah went to the Temple and proclaimed the need for the people to repent or face certain disaster in their city and nation. Arrested by the false prophets and priests, Jeremiah’s life was threatened, but then he was rescued by the rulers.

This exhortation was given at the beginning of Jehoiakim’s eleven-year reign (608-597 B.C.), and the political situation was quite turbulent. Babylon was fighting to conquer Assyria, and Egypt was a significant power. The people of Judah had recently lost King Josiah in battle. After only three months, Josiah’s ruling son, Jehoahaz, was dethroned by Pharaoh-necho of Egypt, who made Jehoiakim king. Jehoiakim was an evil king, and the revival of Josiah’s time was over.

In light of all this, Jeremiah knew the message from God was vital, and furthermore, God admonished him to give it without omission (“diminish not a word”). He was told to proclaim this call to repentance and warning of judgment in the court of the Temple, probably during a nationwide event when people from throughout the land were present.

The reaction of the priests and false prophets was immediate. Furiously angry, for they did not want to be discredited, they moved the people to say, “Thou shalt surely die.” The “princes of Judah” in verse 10 were the king’s counselors and officials who hastily intervened and then listened to Jeremiah’s message. He stated that he had been sent by God and warned them to “amend your ways.” They acquitted him, influenced in part by Ahikam the son of Shaphan (verse 24). Some of the elders reminded the people of Micah’s words, given about one hundred years earlier; verse 18 is a quote of Micah 3:12.

Verses 20-23 tell of the Prophet Urijah, who is not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible. Kirjath-jearim was a city about nine miles from Jerusalem going west toward Jaffa. Some Bible scholars believe Elnathan was the father-in-law of King Jehoiakim. The account of the fate of Urijah illustrates the jeopardy that Jeremiah faced.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II.   The pronouncement of judgment against Judah
    B.   The conflicts of the prophet
           1.   The conflict with his enemies (26:1-24)
                 a.   The message of Jerusalem’s destruction (26:1-6)
                 b.   The arrest of Jeremiah (26:7-9)
                 c.   The defense by Jeremiah (26:10-15)
                 d.   The release of Jeremiah (26:16-19)
                 e.   The death of Urijah (26:20-24)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What message did Jeremiah give to the people who were coming to the Temple to worship? 

  2. Why do you think the Prophet Urijah was killed and the Prophet Jeremiah spared death?

  3. What steps should we take if we find ourselves in a position of being falsely accused?

CONCLUSION

If we faithfully obey the Lord and look to Him for protection and guidance, He will be with us in our times of great need.

1.   Basil Miller, “Remarkable Answers to Prayer,” Beacon Hill Press, 1950, p. 50

Acts 7:2-29

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Acts 7
And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him, and delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house. — Acts 7:9–10

While attending university, I had worked for a local business for about six months when a new manager was appointed — a man who was younger than me. This manager seemingly was intimidated by the fact that I was a “college boy,” and set out to prove his worth by minimizing mine. He was quick to give me the most difficult assignments and then speak disparagingly when I completed them. There was no question about the fact that I was not his favorite employee! One time he even questioned my integrity concerning the amount of time I had worked in the shop training one of his relatives. Frustrating and hurtful as this situation was to me, there was little I could do to change anything other than pray, work hard, and try to do my best in spite of the negative surroundings. The time came when another job opened up for me that was much more pleasant and with a better working environment. I rejoiced that God had provided and I no longer had to endure the hassles of the old job.

After I graduated, I started a completely different career. I thought very little about the old job until over ten years later when I was asked to become a pastor and needed to find employment in the small town where I was transferred. Providentially, God provided work in the same trade I had worked in during that difficult employment of the past. I realized at once that even in the challenging period when I was being treated unfairly, God had been with me, training and preparing me for a future which only He knew.

In today’s text, Stephen drove home the point to the members of the Sanhedrin that God’s presence was not restricted to the Promised Land. Though Joseph had to endure being betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery in Egypt, God delivered him out of all his afflictions. The truth Stephen illustrated that day through the example of Joseph was demonstrated in my employment situation as well. Just as God was with Joseph through his many challenges, God was with me. Just as God had a purpose for Joseph, God had a purpose for me.

I have been reminded many times over the years that God has promised to be with us. God has a plan for our future. It is not only in the blessings and good times that He is with us, but also in the trials and difficult circumstances. Even when it is not evident to us, God is working for our benefit. Challenging situations and individuals will come and go in our lives, but God will be faithful to deliver and put us exactly where He desires, for His purpose and glory, as we faithfully serve Him.

BACKGROUND

In this portion of Acts 7, Stephen commenced his address to the members of the Sanhedrin, who were to judge the false accusation of blasphemy (see Acts 6:13), by giving a historical summary of God’s calling as illustrated by the lives of Abraham and Joseph.

This Spirit-filled deacon began by outlining the call of Abram into a covenantal relationship with Jehovah including geographical details and quotes from Genesis that were familiar to all who were listening. He continued with the patriarchal genealogy, specifically noting the prophecy of future Egyptian control that began with the sale of Joseph into slavery in Egypt by his brothers. This was Stephen’s first example of Israel’s opposition to the purpose and plan of God, in spite of the mighty works of God which they had seen, thus accusing them through their own history.

He reminded the religious leaders how God providentially used what Joseph’s brothers intended as evil toward Joseph to accomplish good both for him and for all his family, as well as succeeding generations. He summarized how Joseph was promoted, his family delivered from famine, and justice and mercy served.

Stephen then summarized the birth of Moses — a Hebrew child adopted into and educated in Pharaoh’s household, and his calling as a deliverer for Israel. Stephen characterized Moses as being “mighty in words and in deeds” (verse 22). While the Biblical account does not record much of Moses’ young life, Jewish historian Josephus notes his prowess as a military commander and leader, which was evidently a fact known to Jews of Stephen’s day.

Stephen was careful to make clear God’s faithfulness to every generation from the establishment of the Hebrew nation through their deliverance from Egypt and entrance into the Promised Land. In the Hebrew history recited in today’s text and in the following verses, Stephen went on to make his contention that the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus was a continuation of the Jewish rejection of God’s plan for them as a nation.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

II.    The witness in Jerusalem
   D.    The witness of Stephen
       3.    The sermon by Stephen
           a.    His defense concerning God (7:2-16)
               (1)    God’s relation to Abraham (7:2-8)
               (2)    God’s relation to Joseph and his brethren (7:9-16)
           b.    His defense concerning Moses
               (1)    The need for a deliverer (7:17-19)
               (2)    The birth of the deliverer (7:20-22)
               (3)    The rejection of the deliverer (7:23-29)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. According to verse 8, what covenant did God give to Abraham?

  2. Why do you think Stephen recited Israel’s history to these religious leaders who were well acquainted with the facts he laid out before them?

  3. God used adverse circumstances in the lives of Abraham, Joseph, and Moses to accomplish His will and plan for them and their succeeding generations. How is God using circumstances in your life to accomplish His will?

CONCLUSION

God was at work in the lives of Abraham, Joseph, and Moses as well as the generations in between them. Because of God’s faithfulness and mercy, we can trust that He is also at work in our lives no matter what circumstances we face.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-28

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
1 Thessalonians 5
Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. — 1 Thessalonians 5:5

For a moment the sanctuary was absolutely black. The electricity had gone out during the church service, but then the emergency lights came on around the room, showing us the way out. In that total darkness, the small “Exit” signs shone brightly — there would have been no reason why each person could not have exited from the building, if it had been necessary. Although the wattage of these lights was low, no one could miss their crucial message in the total darkness.

Our lives as Christians are “emergency lights” pointing people to Jesus in this world of darkness. Even though we may feel insignificant — not at all like a floodlight — the glimmer of each little lamp can direct others to Jesus, the One who can forever dispel their darkness.

Many people around us are in spiritual “night,” groping around for the right way through life. Perhaps they have not come into contact with any source of God’s light, and are unable to locate the door. Some have gone down countless “dead-end” corridors, looking for truth or happiness. They may have met some who professed to be Christians, but who produced no visible light to guide others.

Our lamps must be unhampered by shades or coverings. When a weary wayfarer comes our way, we are challenged to be sure we have power, and to let nothing obscure our light. An unpleasant attitude might cloud the illumination. Behavior that is not consistent with a follower of Jesus could disguise or destroy our radiance, extinguishing any possibility of helping the poor traveler. Neglecting to communicate with God and read His Word regularly will run our batteries down. It is needful to check our spiritual lives and be sure we illuminate the pathway for those around us.

The light shines forth as we practice Paul’s admonition to edify one another; support the weak, be patient toward all men, rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, hold fast that which is good, abstain from all appearance of evil, etc. This chapter is full of fatherly counsel for the Christian life.

We know the way out of this dark world. We have found the True Light, and our desire is to let Christ shine through us to others.

BACKGROUND

Thessalonica was the capital of Macedonia, a city of commerce conveniently located at the northwestern extreme of the Aegean Sea. The city was originally named Therma after the many hot springs in the area. In 315 B.C. one of Alexander the Great’s generals, Cassander, laid the foundation for this new city near the original city of Therma. He named it Thessalonica after his wife, who was Alexander’s half-sister.

In A.D.49, fourteen years after his conversion, Paul set off on the second of three great missionary journeys. This tour took him to several cities including Corinth, Ephesus, Thessalonica, and Philippi: in essence through Asia Minor, and then around the Aegean Sea. You may read the account of this trip in Acts 15:40 — 18:22.

It was after Paul had been forbidden by the Holy Ghost to preach in Asia that he went to Troas on the east side of the Aegean Sea. While there, a vision appeared to Paul entreating him to “come over into Macedonia and help us.” The next day he sailed to Macedonia, and spent time in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea, all cities of Macedonia.

After preaching in the synagogue in Thessalonica for three sabbaths and witnessing the Lord’s power at work, unbelieving Jews were sent against the missionaries, so they left the city at night, traveling to nearby Berea. When the Thessalonian rabble-rousers heard that Paul was in Berea, they followed him there, so he went on to Athens alone. His helpers, Silas and Timothy, came to Paul at Athens, and then Timothy journeyed back to Thessalonica to encourage the believers. When Timothy brought back a report to Paul at Corinth, Paul wrote these two letters to strengthen the fledgling group.

Paul was greatly encouraged by the growth this new church had shown since their introduction to Christ. He was anxious to help them continue in their Christian walk. This book refers to the Lord’s Second Coming often, each chapter closing with mention of that great event.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III.   Paul’s instruction for the Thessalonians
     C.   Concerning the Day of the Lord (5:1-11)
           1.   The suddenness of it (5:1-2)
           2.   The time and certainty of it (5:3)
           3.   The knowledge of it (5:4-5)
           4.   The exhortation from it (5:6-11)
     D.   Concerning Christian duties (5:12-22)
           1.   In relation to teachers (5:12-13)
           2.   In relation to others (5:14-15)
           3.   In relation to self (5:16-22)
                 a.   Be happy (5:16)
                 b.   Be prayerful (5:17)
                 c.   Be thankful (5:18)
                 d.   Be discerning (5:19-21)
                 e.   Be separate (5:22)
IV.   Conclusion (5:23-28)
     A.   The prayer (5:23-24)
     B.   The request (5:25)
     C.   The instruction (5:26)
     D.   The charge (5:27)
     E.   The benediction (5:28)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. How does Paul say we are to treat those who are over us in the Lord?

  2. Why are Christians referred to as being “of the day,” and not “of the night”?

  3. In what way can you better put into practice Paul’s exhortations in this chapter in your own life?

CONCLUSION

Paul was exhorting the believers at Thessalonica to be lights to the world, and to be prepared for the return of the Lord. Each of us can take this advice to heart, putting Paul’s counsel into practice and thereby living ready for Christ’s imminent return.

Acts 18:1-22

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Acts 18
Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace. — Acts 18:9

Since the days of the Early Church, there have been those who have spoken boldly for God in a setting of mockery and derision. One such incident occurred during the 1700s in the country of Prussia.

Frederick the Great, who ruled Prussia from 1740 to 1786, was widely known as an agnostic and scoffer against religion. One night, with members of his staff gathered around him, the king began making crude jokes about the Son of God until the whole place was filled with laughter. One of his most trusted officers, General Von Zealand, was among those present. Von Zealand was a devout believer, and after listening to the mocking comments for a time, he finally arose and solemnly addressed the king: “Sire, you know I have not feared death, you know I have fought for you in thirty-eight battles, and thirty-eight battles I have won; but, sire, my hairs are grey, I am an old man, and I shall soon have to go into the presence of One greater than thou — the mighty God, who saved me from my sin, the Lord Jesus Christ, whom you are blaspheming against. Sire, I cannot stand to hear my Saviour spoken of as thou has spoken of him. I salute thee, sire, as an old man who loves the Savior, on the edge of eternity.”

The room went deathly still. What would be the fate of one who rebuked the king with such boldness? Perhaps those present wondered if the old officer’s life hung in the balance in spite of his years of faithful service. Finally the king responded. With a voice that shook, he said, “General Von Zealand, I beg your pardon, I beg your pardon.” In moments, the whole company quietly exited the room.(1)

God himself must have given courage to that venerable Prussian general, enabling him to stand before his king and scoffing fellow officers, and boldly declare his faith in his Savior, Jesus Christ, whom they were blaspheming.

In today’s text we read of another individual who took a stand for Christ among people who were expressing blasphemous opposition: the Apostle Paul. After his arrival in Corinth, Paul’s preaching had been met with fierce rejection by the Jews. In times past, he had been beaten, imprisoned, driven out of cities, and persistently attacked by Judaizers for his message. Now, in light of the uproar his teaching had stirred in Corinth, Paul no doubt needed courage from God to continue.

God did not fail His servant. In our focus verse, we read that God spoke to the Apostle in a night vision, telling him, “Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace.” That encouragement helped Paul go on preaching in Corinth for another year and a half, until he began his third missionary journey.

Throughout the history of the church, Christians have defended their faith against the attacks of those who deride, doubt, or challenge it. They do not speak out to demonstrate their great oratorical skills or intellectual abilities, but to honor the One who is King of their lives.

We may never be required to stand for God before a mocking crowd of army officers or violent religious leaders. However, we will need to take a stand for God somewhere! Perhaps our opportunity to declare our faith will be before our peers in the classroom, our employer, or an unbelieving family member. Whatever the situation, we can be sure that God will give us the needed courage. He did that for Paul, and He will do so for us!

BACKGROUND

Today’s text covers Paul’s stay in Corinth during his second missionary voyage. The dating of an inscription referring to Gallio (see verse 12) found on archaeological ruins at Delphi suggests that events in this portion of Scripture likely took place from the spring of A.D. 50 to the fall of A.D. 51. Insight into Paul’s feelings after his arrival in Corinth can be found in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5. It is thought that Paul wrote the books of 1 and 2 Thessalonians, among the earliest letters of the New Testament, during this time.

Verses 1-4 described Paul’s early days in Corinth. The distance between Corinth and Athens, where the Apostle previously had been preaching, is about fifty-five miles; it is likely Paul walked. Corinth was the capital of the Roman province of Achaia and a cosmopolitan trade center. Dominated by a Temple to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and war, the city was known for its vices and corruption.

The Apostle lodged in Corinth with Aquila and Priscilla, Christian Jews driven from Rome by anti-Jewish policies, who shared his avocation of tent making. As was his custom, he began his outreach efforts there by “reasoning” or discoursing in the synagogue, though he likely also used his workplace as a forum for witnessing. His audience was comprised of both Jews and Gentiles who worshiped with the Jews.

Verses 5-11 relate that Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, which was an encouragement to Paul (see 1 Thessalonians 3:6-7). However, his intensified outreach efforts in the synagogue met with opposition by Jewish religious leaders, so the Apostle shifted his focus to the Gentiles. The shaking of his raiment in verse 6 was a symbolic gesture of renunciation, demonstrating that God had turned away from the Jews because of their rejection of Him.

Due to the increasing hostility of the Jews, Paul moved his center of operations to the home of Justus, a devout Gentile who resided next to the synagogue. Justus’ name indicates that he was a Roman citizen, which would have given the small Christian congregation some status in the city. The subsequent conversion of Crispus, a leader of the synagogue, no doubt inflamed the Jewish religious leaders even more; this is suggested by the fact that God sent reassurance in a night vision to Paul instructing the Apostle to stop being afraid, and to go on speaking (the literal meaning of verse 9).

Verses 12-17 describe Gallio’s response to Paul’s ministry. Gallio was the governor of Achaia and the brother of Seneca, the philosopher, and tutor to Nero. The inscription “judgment seat” (verse 12) can still be seen on ruins of ancient Corinth.

The word “persuadeth” in the charge against Paul in verse 13 actually has the sense of evil persuasion, as in “seduction” or “misleading.” Although the Jews’ anger at Paul was based on a religious difference, they attempted to convey that he had broken Roman law. Gallio, however, saw through their duplicity and refused to judge the matter. The Greeks, perhaps venting their wrath at the Jews who had caused the turmoil, proceeded to beat Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue who replaced Crispus after his conversion.

Verses 18-22 indicate that Paul remained in Corinth for a while longer, and then traveled to Ephesus with Aquila and Priscilla. After a short stay in Ephesus, he returned to Jerusalem to “keep this feast” — likely either Passover or Pentecost.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah's Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

IV.    The witness “unto the uttermost part of the earth”
   C.    The second missionary journey of Paul
       3.    The ministry in Achaia    
           b.    The ministry in Corinth (18:1-17)
               (1)    Arrival in Corinth (18:1-4)
               (2)    His ministry to the Corinthians (18:5-11)
               (3)    The trial before Gallio (18:12-17)
       4.    The ministry on the return to Antioch (18:18-22)
           a.    In Cenchrea (18:18)
           b.    In Ephesus (18:19-21)
           c.    In Antioch (18:22)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What was the command of Claudius that forced Aquila and Priscilla to relocate in Corinth?

  2. When Paul told the Jewish leaders that because of their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah, he would go to the Gentiles, what do you think he meant by the statement, “I am clean”?

  3. What are some ways God has encouraged you or someone of your acquaintance in the face of persecution or rejection?

CONCLUSION

God can and will give us courage to stand up for Him, even when those around us are unreceptive, ridiculing, or hostile.

1 J. Wilbur Chapman, Present Day Parables (Cleveland, OH: F. M. Barton, 1900), Pg.47, E-book

2 Timothy 3:1-17

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
2 Timothy 3
From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. — 2 Timothy 3:15

Although I was carefully raised in a Christian home, it did not automatically cause me to seek salvation at a young age. This was not for lack of knowledge or opportunity, though, because we had Bible reading and prayer every evening at home. Church was probably the first place I was taken as a baby, and this pattern continued as Dad and Mom faithfully took our family to church every time there was a service. Many times, we children felt that we were too busy playing to get all cleaned up and go to church on a weeknight — it just took too much time! But away we went.

Now, I am very grateful for that wonderful guidance. All of the training from our parents and the church about godly living was so valuable when I finally yielded my life to God. Through Scriptures and Sunday school songs, the Lord called me again in my college years and gently persuaded me to give His way a try. How well I remember telling Him, “But I don’t want to be a Christian. I don’t like it!” The Lord countered with, “How do you know, if you have never tried it?”

That response stopped me because I had no answer. All those years growing up in a Christian home, the Bible had been read to us and we had gone to church regularly. At different times I had prayed, but never actually prayed through to salvation. Therefore, Christianity and attending church just seemed like rules and regulations to me: getting spiffed up, missing free time, not being allowed to wear certain styles that other girls chose, and not joining all of the activities other teens seemed to enjoy. I had not experienced the peace, joy, and freedom I heard about from real Christians.

Walking to and from classes in college, I knew I was missing something. I did not exactly fit in with the pleasure-seeking crowd around me. Nor was I really comfortable with the church group, since I was not saved. The Lord was able to speak to me during those walks, and remind me that He was still there, still waiting. Bible verses from my early years and the little Sunday school songs we sang ran through my head again and again, even though I tried hard to push them from my mind. As the focus verse tells us, the Scriptures were able to make me “wise” enough to know something was missing.

Finally, I told the Lord that if He would give me the peace, joy, and happiness I saw in other Christians, I would do my best to serve Him. Then He saved me! Since then, He has more than kept His part of the bargain, giving me all of that and much, much more. I have done my best to serve Him, and have never been sorry that I chose “salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Life is simply better as a Christian.

My story is a testimony to the value of good spiritual training. Some of the most important “evangelizing” is done by parents and grandparents in their own homes. At church, children are watching the examples set by the Christians around them. What can we do today to help some children know the Lord? Small efforts could have rich results in the future, as Jesus tarries.

BACKGROUND

In this chapter, Paul warned Timothy about the perilous times that would face the world in the last days, and gave examples of the selfish offenses in which people would indulge. False preachers and teachers would be prevalent, and the Apostle cautioned Timothy on the importance of continuing in the sound teaching he had learned from Paul himself. By holding to his firm foundation, he would be equipped to refute the false teachers of the age. The term false can mean “deliberately untrue” or even “based on a misconception.” Incontinent here means “without self-control.”

The Apostle cautioned about those who had a “form of godliness” but denied God’s power. Going to church, making good-sounding statements, and maintaining religious traditions is not enough. The reference Paul made to “silly women” does not mean that he believed women to be mindless. In Ephesian society, women were considered lower than men and had very little opportunity for religious education. Christianity offered them an opportunity to study, but consequently, they were more susceptible to false teachers.

Jewish tradition indicated that Jannes and Jambres were some of Pharaoh’s magicians who “withstood Moses” by endeavoring to duplicate the miracles God sent. Timothy must have been familiar with these names, for Paul did not explain much about them.

Beginning with verse 10, Paul used himself as an example to encourage Timothy to continue in the faith — to persevere. The phrase, “thou hast fully known” indicates that Timothy was very aware of what Paul had suffered. It is possible that Timothy had actually been with Paul on some of the occasions mentioned. However, the point the Apostle was making was that God was able to and did deliver him. Timothy could take courage in that knowledge.

Timothy was to remember the Scriptures that he had learned as a child. Those Scriptures could be used as valuable tools to teach or reprove in a variety of circumstances. This was because they were inspired by God. Inspiration means “breathed into by God,” signifying that God gave His message to the Bible’s writers.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III.   Expectation of faithfulness in service
     C.   In the midst of apostasy (3:1-17)
           1.   The essence of apostasy (3:1-9)
                 a.   The morality of apostates (3:1-4)
                 b.   The religion of apostates (3:5)
                 c.   The methodology of apostates (3:6-9)
           2.   The example of the Apostle (3:10-13)
                 a.   The experience of persecution (3:10-12)
                 b.   The explanation of persecution (3:13)
           3.   The effect of the Word (3:14-17)
                 a.   The Word gives divine instruction toward salvation (3:14-15)
                 b.   The Word divinely equips (3:16-17)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. Who did Paul say will suffer persecution?

  2. Which characteristics of the last days have you observed recently?

  3. How can we be sure we “continue” according to Paul’s instructions?

CONCLUSION

Any Scriptures and godly principles that children learn when they are young have a good chance of staying in their hearts and producing results in the future. Look for an opportunity to help a child spiritually today.

Ecclesiastes 5:1 through 6:12

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Ecclesiastes 5
Ecclesiastes 6
When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. — Ecclesiastes 5:4

Marriage vows are an illustration of the sacred nature of vows made before God. For sixty years, David and Ruby Jordan of Suffolk, Virginia, lived by the wedding vows they had taken. They proved their adherence to the words “in sickness and in health, in adversity and in prosperity,” as well as their commitment to each other.

In March of 1998, Ruby suffered a stroke and it was discovered that she had the disease thrombocytopenic purpura syndrome, which kills brain cells. She spent six months in the hospital, and then was transferred to a skilled nursing facility. When Ruby did not respond to treatment there, David made the decision to bring her home. Amazingly, once she was back in familiar surroundings, a change began to take place. Although she could not speak, she started communicating with her family and friends through gestures and smiles.

The family was able to obtain in-home nursing help during the day, but David took care of Ruby from the time he arrived home from work at 4:00 each evening until 8:00 the following morning. He never complained, and he always wore a smile.

From the outset, David wanted to make life as normal as possible for his beloved wife. He had a special van equipped to accommodate her wheelchair, and he took her out and about — to church, shopping, and on other outings. In 2004, he took her on a four-day vacation to Myrtle Beach to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary. Another time he rented a boat and arranged a fishing trip for her, because she had always loved fishing.

David once said, “I know what she needs and when she needs it, but I guess after being married for more than fifty years, that’s not hard to do. I cherish my wedding vows and I think everyone who takes them should honor them. If your spouse gets ill or becomes disabled, do what you can to help them. After all, I know that if the shoe were on the other foot, she would do the same for me.”1 He proved those words until Ruby passed away in 2014.

David and Ruby’s vows, while taken before God, were made to each other. In today’s text, Solomon addressed the subject of vows made to God. He cautioned against being rash or hasty in speech, which included the making of vows. He also pointed to the importance of keeping vows that are made, and warned against backing out of a vow by claiming it was a mistake. His three-part emphasis made it abundantly clear that any person who makes a vow before God will be held accountable to keep it.

Circumstances in life change. Adversities come. Feelings ebb and flow like the tide. However, vows are a solemn commitment, and they must be kept. We can purpose to follow the example of David and Ruby, and make sure that we keep our vows!

BACKGROUND

This portion of text can be separated into two segments. In verses 1-7 of chapter 5, Solomon offered words of advice on two topics: reverence in worship (verses 1-3), and caution regarding vows (verses 4-7). The remainder of chapter 5 (verses 8-20) and all of chapter 6 address how to adjust to economic problems.

In chapter 5, verse 1, the phrase “keep thy foot” alludes to exercising reverence when in God’s house, and being an obedient listener, rather than engaging in meaningless worship. In verse 2, the Preacher exhorted against speaking impulsively to God, indicating that prayers should be reverent and contemplative.

Verses 4-7 address the necessity of fulfilling vows, emphasizing that it is better not to make a vow at all than to fail to accomplish it. The word angel in verse 6 could be translated as “messenger of God,” and most likely refers to the priest. It was not uncommon during that time for the priest to be told that a certain vow was a mistake, and therefore unredeemable. Solomon emphasized that God took all vows seriously, and punishment could result if vows were not kept.

In verse 8, the writer stated that the oppression of the poor and perversion of those in government should come as no surprise, but there is a higher Power who ultimately would be the Judge over all. Verse 9 conveys that the harvest benefits everyone, and even the king is entitled to his fair share.

Verses 10-17 focus on the vanity of trusting in personal wealth. Those who put their confidence in riches are never satisfied, and the accumulation of wealth brings more responsibility. While the sleep of a laborer is peaceful, the rich are wakeful because of stress over their responsibilities and wealth.

In verses 18-20, Solomon said it is acceptable to enjoy the fruit of one’s labor as long as God is given the credit for providing it. He brought out that those who acknowledge their portion as a gift from God would experience joy and gladness.

In chapter 6, Solomon continued his practical counsel on the theme of material prosperity. In verses 1 and 2, he pondered the fate of a man whom God had allowed to obtain wealth, but who did not live to enjoy it. He concluded that the acquisition of riches as a purpose in life is vanity.

In Solomon’s culture, living a long life and having many children were considered worthy goals. However, verses 3-6 indicate that if a man’s life is not filled with goodly purpose or worthy fulfillment, or he is not honored with a proper burial, it would be preferable for him to never have been born.

Verses 7-9 emphasize that man’s spiritual appetite cannot be satisfied with material gain. The wise man and the fool, the poor and the wealthy, will all end in the grave. Solomon also brought out that it is better to be content with what the eyes can see than to desire something that is unattainable.

Verses 10-12 point out that it is futile for man to contend with God. Man does not have the ability to know what is best in life, and can do little to determine what will happen in the world after he is dead.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II.    The theme defended
   H.  The emptiness of religious formalism (5:1-7)
   I.    The emptiness of the life of man (5:8 — 6:12)
       1.    The oppression of the poor (5:8-9)
       2.    The emptiness of wealth (5:10-17)
           a.    It does not satisfy (5:10-12)
           b.    It is temporal (5:13-17)
       3.    The basis of happiness is in God (5:18-20)
       4.    The emptiness of man’s experience (6:1-9)
       5.    The futile struggle against fate (6:10-12)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. How did Solomon say a fool’s voice would be known? Ecclesiastes 5:3

  2. Why is it short-sighted to focus all our time and efforts on material prosperity?

  3. Since labor and possessions bring no lasting satisfaction, what should we focus on in this life?

CONCLUSION

A vow is a solemn commitment or contract made before or to God, and it is vital that we are very careful about keeping such commitments.

2 Kings 11:1-21

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
2 Kings 11
But Jehosheba, the daughter of king Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him from among the king’s sons which were slain; and they hid him, even him and his nurse, in the bedchamber from Athaliah, so that he was not slain. — 2 Kings 11:2

Ray was an adventuresome boy, and several times that spirit of adventure put his life in serious danger. On one occasion, he and several other young boys took a small rental boat out into the ocean to go fishing without telling their parents. When they were some distance from land, a strong wind came up, and they found themselves being blown out to sea. Their little boat rolled with the force of the waves, and water poured over its side, threatening to swamp them. The situation was dire! Then, remembering that their mothers had told them to call on the Lord if they were ever in need, the boys knelt and began to pray. As soon as they finished praying, they spotted a large boat coming their way! The boys were rescued and soon were safe on dry land.

A few years later, Ray was hauling clay out from under a bluff for a brick-making company. Ray’s horses had just pulled his cart out of the way when the whole mountainside caved in. If he had hesitated a moment longer, he would have been buried under tons of dirt. Again, the Lord preserved him from certain death.

Even after he became a Christian, Ray’s life was spared more than once. As a young man, he was flying a small plane near Tulsa, Oklahoma, when it went into a tailspin and fell four hundred feet to the ground. When his broken body was taken from the wreckage, he was not expected to live, but he prayed that God would heal him. The Lord touched him in an amazing way, repairing bones, ligaments, and internal injuries, and he was released from the hospital after only ten days.

A few years later, while piloting the missionary vessel the Lower Light at the north end of the Georgia Straits, Ray and his crew were in a storm. God preserved the life of Ray Crawford — and thus, His purpose for the man who served as the General Overseer of the Apostolic Faith organization for twenty-nine years was fulfilled.

Several thousand years earlier, as recorded in our focus verse, God had providentially intervened to preserve a little boy: young Prince Joash was saved from death at the hands of wicked Queen Athaliah, who had plotted to kill all the king’s sons. God had promised that the Messiah would be born through David’s descendants, and God’s purpose was fulfilled through Joash’s survival.

Your life story probably does not include the dramatic events that occurred in the lives of Ray Crawford and young Joash, but perhaps you can look back at times when God spared your life. Even if you are not aware of specific occasions when His protecting hand has been over you, be assured, it has been there! Perhaps in eternity you will learn of the times when you were unknowingly delivered from danger or death.

God has a purpose for your life too, just as he did for Ray Crawford and Joash. Take time today to thank God for His divine protection. And then make a commitment in your heart to fulfill the purpose and plan God has for you!

BACKGROUND

In this chapter, the focus is upon two rulers of Judah: Athaliah and Joash. Athaliah was the daughter of King Ahab, of Israel, and Jezebel, his wife. Athaliah married Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, and their son, Ahaziah, became the king of Judah. He was the father of Joash (which is also spelled Jehoash). Therefore, Joash was the great-grandson of Jehoshaphat, one of the better kings of Judah, as well as great-grandson of Ahab, one of the most wicked kings of Israel.

Jehu, who recently had been anointed king of Israel, killed Athaliah’s son, King Ahaziah of Judah, while he was visiting his uncle Jehoram, son of Ahab. Athaliah became wild with grief after Jehu killed Ahaziah, and went on a rampage to eliminate all of the royal seed and make herself queen. Jehosheba rescued Joash, who was of the lineage of David, from the threat of death by his own grandmother’s hand. Athaliah ruled Judah for six years while Joash was growing up in hiding.

Jehosheba was the aunt of the one-year-old Joash, and wife of Jehoiada the priest. She was a sister to Ahaziah, but probably was not the daughter of Athaliah. After rescuing the child Joash along with his nurse, she hid him in her bedchamber for six years. Because she was the wife of the priest and they lived in the Temple, this was an excellent place to hide the child from an idol-worshiper with no interest in God.

In the seventh year, her husband, Jehoiada the priest, formulated a plan for the coronation of Joash. He assembled the rulers and the captains of the guard in the House of the Lord, and divided them into groups. A third of the guards were around the king’s house, the gate of Sur, and the gate behind the guard. Two-thirds guarded the House of the Lord, with part of that group surrounding the boy. The priests, officers of the host, and guards who went off duty on the Sabbath remained in service until the evening, while those just coming on duty arrived in the morning of the Sabbath. Therefore, Jehoiada chose the Sabbath because the largest possible security was on hand to protect the new king. “Within the ranges” (verse 8) refers to inside the ranks of the guards.

Jehoiada the priest brought Joash in, heavily guarded, and gave him the “testimony” (another name for the Law of Moses), probably in the form of multiple scrolls. Jehoiada was on the side of the Lord God of Israel, and he became the spiritual force and counselor for the young king.

Athaliah heard the sound of the coronation of Joash, and was not pleased. The priest commanded that she be slain “without the ranges,” or outside of the guarded area. Anyone who followed her was to be killed, as well as Mattan, the priest of Baal. Jehoiada was the catalyst for spiritual reform among the people as he set about destroying the houses of Baal and slaying the priests of Baal.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I.   The reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah
    F.   Athaliah of Judah (11:1-21)
         1.   The purge by Athaliah (11:1)
         2.   The preservation of Jehoash (11:2-3)
         3.   The anointing of Jehoash (11:4-12)
               a.   The plot by Jehoiada (11:4-8)
               b.   The anointing (11:9-12)
         4.   The demise of Athaliah (11:13-16)
         5.   The revival under Jehoiada (11:17-21)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What did the people say upon crowning seven-year-old Joash as king?

  2. Why do you think the guards chose to obey Jehoiada rather than Athaliah?

  3. What lessons can we learn from the priest Jehoiada that would apply to our day?

CONCLUSION

Just as God preserved Joash for a purpose, God has brought you to this point of life for a reason. As you allow God’s plan to be worked out in your life, it will bring glory to Him and fulfillment to you.

Galatians 1:1-24

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Galatians 1
But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. — Galatians 1:11-12

In order for a person to become a Christian, the Holy Spirit must draw the heart, and some form of “revelation” of the Gospel is necessary. This may be as simple as a desire within a child to give Jesus his or her heart. Or it may be as dramatic as it was for the Apostle Paul on the Damascus Road when light struck him to the ground and he saw Jesus and heard His voice.

For Charles Rodman, the revelation of the Gospel took place on a July day in Portland, Oregon. Like Paul, Brother Rodman was well educated in theology, having attended Princeton and majored in the Greek language. Then he took a postgraduate course designed to equip a person to preach the Gospel. He studied with the best instructors and eventually earned three degrees. A man of high ideals, he tried to maintain good morals and to live what he thought was a Christian life.

After finishing school, he became a pastor in the state of Washington. He tried to point others to the way of eternal life, but he said, “On Sunday mornings, I faced my congregation knowing that I had fallen short of keeping the commandments and precepts of God’s Word. I was defeated and had no peace. Instead, there was turmoil in my soul. As time went on, instead of becoming more like Jesus, I was moving further from Him. I had the same love in my heart for the things of the world that any sinner has, and I had almost reached the point of believing there was nothing to religion after all.

“One July I came to Portland to a citizenship conference. Attended by twelve thousand people, its purpose was to find a way to make good citizens of bad ones. Great issues were discussed, including social conditions and needed reforms, but not once did I hear of an adequate remedy for the disease of sin that they had so thoroughly diagnosed.

“One day before the convention closed, I happened to go into a different part of the city. On a street corner, I came face-to-face with a group of young men who were telling the story of Jesus. One after another said they had been bound by sin and that their good resolutions and willpower had failed them. In their extremity, they had called upon God, repented of their sins, and the entire course of their lives had been changed.

“I recognized that those men had found the solution to the problem that the educated men at the conference had failed to find. The solution had not come through great learning, legislation, reform, or any such thing, but through the transforming power of God.

“Here was the answer to the unrest in my soul. My eyes were opened to the truth. A Christian life is not a matter of struggling against sinful desires, but of repenting of one’s sins and becoming right with God. In spite of my profession, my moral life, and my theological training, I was a sinner in the sight of God.

“I realized that I had been utterly ignorant of the first principles of genuine Christianity. I determined that I would either become a real Christian or give up religion. I went to where the Apostolic Faith people were holding a camp meeting. There, I went on my knees, called upon God, and repented of my sins. I did not receive the witness of salvation while on my knees, but that night on my way back to where I was staying, Jesus came into my heart and became real to me. The peace of Heaven came over me like a calm after a storm. I became personally acquainted with the One who is able to save from sin, and He gave me power to live as a Christian should live.”

God had revealed the Gospel to Charles Rodman and his life was changed. From then on until his death, he faithfully told others how to find victory. In today’s text, the Apostle Paul was telling the Galatians that God had revealed the Gospel to him and called him to preach it.

God has also called each of us. While our salvation story may not seem as remarkable as the testimony of Paul the Apostle or Charles Rodman, the call of God is equally precious to every soul. The knowledge that He brought us to Himself and delivered us from sin must be the anchor that holds us when others resist or disparage our faith. We can know that Jesus Christ has been revealed to us and that His promises are true and will be fulfilled in our lives.

BACKGROUND

This first chapter of Galatians opens with Paul’s greetings, and then moves to a defense of his call to apostleship and the Gospel as he had preached it.

Verses 1-5 contain the salutation, which has many characteristics common in Paul’s letters. In the first verse he directly stated that he was called to be an Apostle “by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead.” Those teaching a different doctrine endeavored to discredit Paul’s authority as an Apostle, so he established his credentials at the beginning of his epistle. He was not appointed by the other Apostles, the high priest, or anyone else; he was appointed by God himself. He also mentioned Jesus’ resurrection because that fact was the basis for the Gospel he preached.

Paul’s customary greeting, “Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ” was used in all his epistles. Often he followed this blessing by giving thanks and commendations to those to whom he was writing, but that is noticeably absent in this letter. Instead, he stated that Jesus Christ died to deliver people from sin. The believers in Galatia were being drawn back into thinking salvation came by adherence to the Mosaic Law, rather than through the grace of Jesus Christ, and Paul was making every effort to redirect them to the truth.

In verses 6-10, Paul expressed his amazement that the Galatians were turning away from the Gospel he had preached and listening to those who were perverting it. The word “removed” in verse 6 implies changing sides or turning away. The verb tense used shows that this action was taking place as Paul wrote, so this was an attempt at halting their movement away from the Gospel. Those who were stirring up trouble presented what seemed to be another gospel, but Paul refuted that, saying twice that anyone who preached another gospel should be accursed. “Accursed” is from the Greek anathema, indicating something God has commanded to be destroyed. This strong language revealed Paul’s concern that the Galatians were headed toward apostasy. The Jews were accusing Paul of trying to please the Gentiles by abandoning the Law (verse 10), but Paul said he must please the Lord.

Beginning at verse 11 and continuing through chapter 2, Paul developed his arguments supporting his apostleship and the Gospel. He began with his own testimony, stating again that what he preached was not from man, but was what he had received from Jesus Christ. Clearly he was referring to knowledge he had received from God following his experience on the Damascus Road when he met Jesus.

Paul reminded the Galatians of how zealously he had defended the Jewish religion and persecuted the Christians. He had lived according to the Law as a Pharisee (see Philippians 3:5), with all its strict rules and traditions. The change in him was proof that it was God himself who had called him. God had been clear in showing Paul that he was commissioned to preach to the Gentiles.

After his conversion, Paul went to Arabia, which was a general term referring to an area south of Damascus and possibly extending to include today’s Sinai Peninsula. Some scholars believe Paul went to Mount Sinai itself to meditate and commune with God. Three years later, Paul met with Peter and James, leaders of the Jerusalem church, for fifteen days. Because his life was in jeopardy, God directed him to leave Jerusalem (see Acts 22:17-18) and the brethren sent him to Tarsus in Cilicia, which was his hometown. He also traveled in Syria. Antioch was the primary city in Syria, and the church there was somewhat a headquarters for the Gentile churches. Paul recounted all this to reinforce that his apostleship did not come from instruction by Peter, James, or the other church leaders, but directly from God.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah's Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

I.    Introduction (1:1-10)
   A.    The salutation (1:1-5)
       1.    The declaration of Paul’s apostleship (1:1)
       2.    The destination of the epistle (1:2-3)
       3.    The deliverance through Christ (1:4-5)
   B.    The situation (1:6-10)
       1.    The defection of the Galatians (1:6)
       2.    The deception of the legalists (1:7)
       3.    The denunciation of Paul (1:8-10)
II.    Paul’s Gospel defended
   A.    Received by revelation (1:11-24)
       1.    Paul’s claim (1:11-12)
       2.    Paul’s pre-conversion activity (1:13-14)
       3.    Paul’s call to preach and course after conversion (1:15-17)
       4.    Paul’s contact with the Apostles (1:18-24)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What surprised Paul about the Galatians? (see verse 6)

  2. What do you think Paul meant in verses 23-24 when he said the Christians of Judaea “glorified God in me”?

  3. How did God reveal Himself to you and draw you to salvation?

CONCLUSION

Remembering God’s call can help us hold tightly to the truths of the Gospel, knowing that our salvation is not from man but through the Blood of Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:5 through 4:21

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
1 Corinthians 3
1 Corinthians 4
Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. — 1 Corinthians 3:11

Anchor bolts, tie down brackets, strap ties, and shear nails are all terms that have become much more common in the construction industry in recent years. Building codes in many areas have been made more stringent to ensure that structures are as resistant as possible to storms and earthquakes. In their effort to meet these requirements, contractors sometimes have been heard to grumble, “I guess the wind must blow harder now than it used to!”

As Christians, there may be times in our spiritual lives when we feel like the “winds of adversity” are indeed blowing harder than they ever have. Satan would like to destroy our spiritual buildings, and he will use any method he can to bring this about. In order to withstand his devices, our faith must be built on the only sure foundation — Jesus Christ. He will never fail!

It is up to us, however, to be sure we are securely fastened to that foundation. Investigations of buildings damaged in storms and earthquakes have shown that the foundation usually does not fail, but rather, the building’s attachment to the foundation is what breaks down. As Christians, we must be aware that we live in perilous times, and anything that can be shaken will be shaken. We must make certain our attachment to Christ is secure. As we study His Word, obey His commands, and meet with Him daily in prayer, our connection to Him will be strengthened. Then, when the world around us is shaken and the winds of adversity batter our spiritual building, we can be sure it will stand — strong and secure, and fastened to The Rock, Christ Jesus.

BACKGROUND

The geographical location of Corinth made it easy for all manner of religions and cults to integrate into the Corinthian society. The Apostle Paul saw this cross-section of life as a great evangelistic opportunity. After establishing the church in Corinth, he later found it necessary to remind the saints there of their deliverance from sinful behaviors and customs, and to encourage them in the Gospel.

Chapters 3 and 4 are Paul’s exhortation to the brethren in Corinth to put aside frivolous differences. It seemed that some factions within the church preferred Paul’s simple approach to preaching the Gospel, while others enjoyed a more philosophical approach. Some believed that liberty in Christ meant freedom from the Jewish customs regarding food, while others felt that all these rules must be followed strictly.

The influences of society had made their way into the church, and were contradictory to Paul’s message. Greek architecture was a source of pride for many of these people, and Paul chose the building analogy to demonstrate the need for the various strengths and gifts within the Corinthian body to complete the Gospel structure.

The Corinthians also saw opportunities for debate as a means to test and stretch the intellect. Paul warned them about such practices by telling them in verse 19 of chapter 3, “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.” Paul realized the danger of becoming vain and full of self. In light of Paul’s teaching of “dying daily,” the Corinthian believers needed to be careful about exalting each other or themselves in their own wisdom.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II.   Answer to reports
     A.   The problem of church divisions
           2.   The basis of the divisions
                 b.   A misconception of the ministry (3:5 — 4:21)
                       (1)   The nature of the ministry (3:5-17)
                              (a)   A farmer (3:5-9)
                              (b)   A builder (3:10-15)
                              (c)   The temple (3:16-17)
                       (2)   The challenge regarding the ministry (3:18 — 4:5)
                              (a)   The vanity of glorying in men (3:18-23)
                              (b)   The necessity of leaving judgment to God (4:1-5)
                       (3)   The application (4:6-21)
                              (a)   The spectacle of the apostles (4:6-13)
                              (b)   The prospect of his coming (4:14-21)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What is the requirement given for a steward? Give specific examples of what you think that means. 

  2. Why do you think the Corinthians divided into factions and favored some leaders over others?

  3. How did Paul say that the Corinthians should regard their leaders? How does this apply to believers today?

CONCLUSION

There is only one rock-solid security in this world today: Jesus Christ. As we endeavor to build our spiritual lives on that Foundation, we will enjoy true liberty and safety which only He can provide.

Hebrews 5:11 through 6:8

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Hebrews 5
Hebrews 6
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God. — Hebrews 6:1

When my brother was young, he began taking piano lessons. I remember the notes drifting up from the basement as he practiced, especially when he repeated the same phrase fifteen or twenty times! He started by playing simple lines with each hand, but gradually the pieces became more complex. Eventually, he could play works by famous composers. 

One of the most important elements factoring into his improvement was the constant goals set by his teachers — they regularly challenged his ability with harder exercises and more difficult scales and fingerings. My brother rose to the challenges and steadily became a better player. His teachers also motivated his progress by organizing recitals that featured him. With every performance, he advanced in confidence and ability. Eventually, he became a teacher himself. The years of practice and performance helped him to teach his students how to progress in their personal study of the piano.

As Christians, it is important that we make progress, moving beyond an understanding of the basic doctrines of the Gospel into spiritual maturity. In our focus verse, the writer of Hebrews instructs believers to “go on unto perfection.” The word perfection means a state of mental and moral “completeness.” Clearly, after we have been saved, we should pray to receive our sanctification. When our heart has been made pure and holy through that experience, we should press on and seek for the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Even after we receive these experiences, we should progress in our spiritual walk. We can regard every challenge as an opportunity to learn how to depend more on Christ. Each trial can become an occasion for deeper faith and trust in God. With every spiritual victory comes more confidence in God.

We can set spiritual goals. We can even push ourselves to meet those goals, as we would an earthly goal. Yes, we may find that Satan fights our progress! When we purpose to grow by increasing time spent in prayer and reading of the Word or performing any other spiritual discipline, the enemy of our souls is not happy. As a result, the challenges may increase, but with the challenges comes God’s supernatural power to help us win the victory over any situation. 

BACKGROUND

This passage of Scripture emphasizes how necessary it is to make spiritual progress, moving beyond the elementary principles of the Gospel. The writer warned the Hebrew Christians against being dull hearers; dull hearing is a sign of spiritual immaturity and is marked by apathy or indifference toward the Word, a lack of spiritual discernment, and an inability to teach others. 

The Hebrews should have been mentoring others in the Word, but instead, they were “unskillful in the word of righteousness.” Not only does dullness toward the Word keep a Christian from growing, but it hinders his ability to share with others. 

In chapter 6, the writer moved beyond a diagnostic rebuke, and admonished the Hebrews to grow up from a state of childhood to the fullness of the stature of the new man in Christ, “leaving the principles of the doctrines of Christ” (Hebrews 6:1). The word translated leaving has the sense of “quitting with the view to engage in something else.” 

The author enumerated the doctrines of repentance, faith, the doctrine of baptism, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. He indicated that the Hebrews should progress beyond these, which were all taught in a rudimentary way in the Old Testament, to a full understanding and practice of the doctrines of Christ.

Verses 4 through 8 of chapter 6 give one of the stern warnings set forth in the Bible: a warning against apostasy. There is a great difference between backsliding and what is described in these verses. The Bible draws a distinction between backsliding and falling away from God. 

For the backslider, there is every hope of his restoration if he will repent and renew his vows to the Lord. For the man who has fallen away from God and has reached the final stage that is depicted in these verses, there is no hope. The word that is translated fall away means to “apostatize from,” and implies an entire renunciation of Christianity. The one who has fallen away into a state of apostasy has rejected his only means of access to God and is cut off by the position he has taken.

The writer concluded this portion of text by likening Christians to a field for harvest. The field that is receptive to the rain and nutrients from heaven will be blessed of God. The field that is unfruitful and full of thorns and briars will be cursed of and rejected by God. 

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah's Bible Outlines - Used by  permission per WORDsearch)

II.   The argument: the preeminence of Christ in His person and work
     D.   The superiority of Christ to Aaron
           3.   Parenthesis III: admonition to maturity
                 a.   The fact of immaturity (5:11-14)
                 b.   The need for progression (6:1-8)
                       (1)   The exhortation (6:1-3)
                       (2)   The reminder (6:4-6)
                       (3)   The illustration (6:7-8)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What teachings did the writer identify as “the principles of the doctrine of Christ,” or the “milk” of the Word?

  2. What do you think the writer meant by saying the Hebrew Christians should be able to “discern both good and evil” (verse 14)?

  3. What are some ways we can “go on unto perfection” in our Christian lives?

CONCLUSION

True commitment to Christ will move us out of our comfort zone and into areas where we will be stretched and challenged to grow as Christians. How will we respond?

Colossians 1:1-14

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Colossians 1
That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God. — Colossians 1:10

Growing up in a rural area, roaming the ridge was natural. My brothers and sisters and I, along with some neighborhood kids who lived less than a mile away, would bicycle or walk all over the area looking for some adventure. We waded in streams, explored hills and valleys, checked out our great-uncle’s pond, and generally had wonderful times during our wanderings. Sometimes we picked mushrooms, berries, or cherries, and later in the summer we visited the apple and nut trees that grew in the woods or along the fields.

There were apple trees that had “slightly” wormy apples, but we understood that no one had taken care of them. There were hickory nuts trees and trees that produced very tough black walnuts. One particular tree stands out in my mind because it was such a disappointment. It was located just over the top of the hill at the side of the hay field, not more than a quarter-mile from home. The leaves were shaped like those of a hazelnut tree, and when the nuts formed, they looked like hazelnuts. The disenchantment came when we cracked them open. Nothing was in them; they were just empty shells!

I often wondered about that tree. Did it have some sort of virus that caused it to be fruitless? Was the soil lacking an essential mineral? Whatever the cause, I gave up trying to get nuts from it.

As Christians, we are the plants in God’s kingdom and our purpose here is to bring forth fruit. God has no ornamental shrubs in His orchards! He directs us to bear fruit as a sign to those around us that we have been with Jesus and learned of Him. It does not matter what our gifts or qualifications may be, how beautiful or plain we may be, or how varied or limited our talents; we are to live a life “worthy” of being called a Christian. Our choices, our conduct, and our character must bring honor to His name and be pleasing to Him. To be viewed as “pleasing” to the Lord is to be “fruitful” in every aspect of life.

Let us do our part to assimilate the proper nutrients we need as Christians in order to ward off damaging viruses and bring forth good fruit. Reading the Word of God and praying without ceasing will help us maintain spiritual health, that we may yield a good harvest. 

BACKGROUND

The cosmopolitan city of Colosse had once been a thriving metropolis, but by the time Paul wrote this letter to the believers there, it had diminished to a much smaller city. The predominantly Gentile group of believers at Colosse had never seen Paul, but probably had heard positive news of him from their leader, Epaphras.

However, spiritual problems in the church arose due to the influence of various religions the people were exposed to. The “Gnostics,” or “knowing ones,” were philosophers whose beliefs were borrowed and combined from Plato, Judaism, oriental ideas, and Christianity. Their complicated teachings made it difficult for most people to attain salvation, with the consequence that the philosophers thought themselves superior to others. The knowledge Paul refers to in verse 9, in contrast to that of the Gnostics, is not theoretical, but experiential, and implies full discernment.

“Greetings and salutations” is a concise way to describe this portion of Scripture. However, there was much more to it than mere salutations. In these eloquent verses, Paul sets the tone of the epistle, showing his love for these believers and his hope for their future spiritual growth. In expressing his thanks to God for them and in relating his prayers for their spiritual growth, a bond was established with the congregation, making them more receptive to the instructions that followed.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I.   Introduction (1:1-14)
    A.   Salutation (1:1-2)
           1.   The author (1:1)
           2.   The recipients and blessing (1:2)
    B.   Thanksgiving (1:3-8)
           1.   The reason (1:3-5)
           2.   The source (1:6-8)
    C.   Supplication (1:9-14)
           1.   For proper knowledge (1:9)
           2.   For proper conduct (1:10-14)
                 a.   Fruitfulness and knowledge (1:10)
                 b.   Strength (1:11)
                 c.   Giving thanks (1:12-14)
                       (1)   Inheritance (1:12)
                       (2)   Deliverance and transference (1:13-14)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. List three virtues Paul desired from God for the Colossians.

  2. Why did Paul make a commitment to prayer for the congregation in Colosse? What can we learn from his example?

  3. What do you find appealing about the way Paul opened his letter to the Colossians?

CONCLUSION

Paul’s loving approach to the spiritual well-being of the group at Colosse could only increase their respect for him and the true Gospel he embraced. Others around us will read our lives, as the Colossians read this epistle. How evident is the love of Jesus in us?

Colossians 1:15 through 2:3

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Colossians 1
Colossians 2
For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist. — Colossians 1:16-17

The nucleus of an atom consists of positively charged and neutral particles, called protons and neutrons respectively. That nucleus is surrounded by a cloud of negatively charged particles, called electrons. When the atomic nucleus is split, a violent explosive power is suddenly released. This power can be used to perpetrate massive destruction or provide tremendous amounts of energy. Scientists tell us that if we were to split the atoms in one softball, we would unlock enough energy to burn up several square miles of earth. However, there is an unknown aspect of the physical properties of the atomic nucleus. What holds protons, neutrons, and electrons together?

Science does not know the answer, but the Bible reveals it to us. We read that by Jesus Christ “all things consist.” Just as sides of an hourglass restrict the sand inside it to a certain space, the Lord Jesus holds all life and substance in His hands to order as He wills. If Jesus did not hold every atom together with His omnipotent power, the universe would be obliterated.

When we ponder the power that exists in our universe, we begin to realize the power our Creator possesses. It was God’s design that all this fullness of power and glory would dwell in Jesus (see Colossians 1:19). The humanistic trend in the world today is to reduce Jesus to just a man who appeared briefly on the pages of history. Articles, scientific reports, song lyrics, and films attempt to sway people from the truth of His mighty power as described in God’s Word. However, in Colossians 1, Paul emphatically explains Christ’s place as Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. He establishes that both the spiritual and physical worlds were created by and are under the authority of Christ.

As you read Colossians, notice how Jesus is lifted up, then placed where He can touch us. Knowing that Jesus created us for a purpose, that He holds our lives together, and suffered in our place to give us eternal life, is a great assurance and comfort. If He holds the universe together, we can be sure that He can sustain us, no matter what comes our way!

BACKGROUND

Paul opened his epistle to the Colossians with a greeting, a note of thanksgiving, and a prayer for these brothers and sisters in the Lord (verses 1-12). In this section of Colossians, Paul focused on the work and person of Christ. His purpose in this doctrinal discussion was to clear up several misconceptions about Christ that were rooted in Gnosticism (a belief system which stripped Christ of His deity and emphasized special knowledge). The specific false beliefs that he repudiated were:

  • Christ did not come to earth in human form.
  • God did not create the world because He would not create evil.
  • Christ was not the unique Son of God, but one of many intermediaries between God and man.
  • People could find God through special and secret knowledge, rather than through Christ.

Verses 15 and 16 contain one of the strongest statements about the divine nature of Christ found in Scripture. Paul explained that Christ created both the spiritual and physical worlds and they are under His authority; they are in Him (the sovereign source), by Him (the divine agent), and unto Him (for His use and glory.)

The false teachers in the Colossian church thought that spiritual perfection was a secret and hidden plan that only a few privileged people would discover. In contradiction, Paul said that the “mystery” (the great doctrine that salvation was for all mankind), had been concealed for many generations, and therefore was called a mystery, or a hidden truth. Now, however, it was available for all mankind, not just a select few.

Laodicea, referred to by Paul at the beginning of chapter 2, was located a few miles northwest of Colosse. Since Paul instructed that his letter be passed on to the believers of Laodicea, likely the false teachings that were troubling the Colossian church had also spread there.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II.   Doctrinal: the doctrine of those in Christ (1:15 — 2:3)
    A.   The person of Christ (1:15-18)
           1.   In relation to God: the image and the firstborn (1:15)
           2.   In relation to creation (1:16-17)
                 a.   The creator (1:16)
                 b.   The preexistent one and the sustainer (1:17)
           3.   In relation to the church (1:18)
     B.   The work of Christ (1:19-2:3)
           1.   The nature (1:19-20)
                 a.   In relation to the Father (1:19)
                 b.   In relation to the creation (1:20)
           2.   The goal (1:21-23)
                 a.   Past alienation (1:21)
                 b.   Present reconciliation and future presentation (1:22-23)
           3.   The proclamation (1:24-2:3)
                 a.   Suffering for it (1:24-25)
                 b.   Content of it (1:26-27)
                 c.   Purpose of it (1:28-29)
                 d.   Struggle for it (2:1-3)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What titles and descriptions are given to Jesus in this lesson?

  2. Why does it matter what we believe about the beginning of life and Jesus’ position in creation?

  3. What proof have you seen in your own life of God’s creative power? His sustaining power? His redeeming power? 

CONCLUSION

When we consider the divine nature of our Savior and the power that is His, what a marvelous privilege we have to be “in Christ”!

Ecclesiastes 11:1 through 12:14

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Ecclesiastes 11
Ecclesiastes 12
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. — Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

I spent a number of years in the banking industry, where I had a colleague whose response to any proposed program or initiative was, “What’s the bottom line?” This question, framed in monetary terms, simply meant that when all the positives and negatives of the proposal were added together, would the bank profit? Of course there were non-financial aspects to consider as well, such as customer service, legality, and ethical issues, but the same question could be asked in each of those areas. Often our discussions would move into tangential areas of concern and gradually drift far from the issue at hand. Inevitably, my colleague would pull us back to the point by asking, “But what is the bottom line?” He was careful to keep us zeroed in on what really mattered.

Our lives can easily become sidetracked and our focus subtly shift from the things of God to things of little value. We are reminded by this text that there is a “bottom line,” and we must pay attention to it if we are to live life as God intended.

In the final two verses of Ecclesiastes, Solomon gives us the “bottom line” of life. All that he had said in his discourse to the young men of Israel reached a culmination in this passage — a principle he seemed to regard as the key to a fulfilling life. In essence, he was declaring that the entire responsibility of humanity can be condensed to two simple issues: our attitudes (fear God) and actions (keep His commandments).

Our attitudes should be marked by awe and reverence toward God, the Creator of the universe. It is interesting to note that the writer used the same Hebrew word for God (Elohim) in this passage that is used in the creation account of Genesis, rather than the Jewish national name for God (Yahweh) that is frequently used in other texts. Solomon’s point was that we should stand in awe at the power of the God who spoke the worlds into existence. It should take our breath away to consider that He takes personal interest in each individual on planet earth. Not a day should go by that we do not honor and revere God for His gracious love and care for all of creation and for us as individuals.

Flowing from our attitude of awe, reverence, and honor should be actions that are obedient to God’s instructions. He spoke through the Old Testament prophet Samuel, declaring that obedience is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22), and Solomon’s instruction to “keep his commandments” reinforces that principle. Obedience from a pure heart is the highest form of worship we can offer God. Ecclesiastes 11:9-10 warns of the folly of excluding God and His expectations from our lives because someday all will be judged. God will measure every action, so we must be careful to “put away evil.”

Today, as in Solomon’s time, the “bottom line” for our lives can be simply stated in two questions. Do we fear, reverence, honor, and stand in awe of God? And have we set our hearts to worship Him supremely by following his commandments, instructions, principles, and precepts, making them the basis for our life’s purpose and decisions? Let’s make sure that our lives line up to these principles.

BACKGROUND

In previous chapters, Solomon explored the meaning and purpose of life from man’s perspective and found that it was often vanity. In today’s text, he exhorted his hearers to make good decisions because the result would determine future joy.

In chapter 11, he advised benevolence in giving to guard against an uncertain future. He also admonished the youth to enjoy life, but at the same time to remember God’s ultimate judgment. In chapter 12 he advised that the sensible time for turning to God was during one’s youth, before the adversities of life and the aging process would cause one to become disheartened. Solomon’s final assessment was that man’s duty in life is to fear God and keep His commandments.

The Hebrew idiom given in verse 1 of chapter 11 was based on the custom of spreading seeds from boats along the overflowing banks of the river. When the water receded, the grain settled in the soil and grew. The meaning was that whatever one gave to others would eventually be returned. Verse 2 infers that diversity in business assets is advisable since it is not possible to know what the future holds.

Verses 3-6 imply that it is not wise to wait for ideal circumstances or good weather in order to do one’s work. God is in control of the elements, and man cannot know ahead of time what will happen. Therefore, it is imperative to use one’s time wisely and reap the rewards that hard work brings.

The implication in verses 7-8 is that though a man lives a long life full of sweet and sunny days, death will eventually come with many “days of darkness” in the grave. In verses 9-10, the author encouraged young people to thrive in their youth, while bearing in mind that their every deed would be judged by God. The admonition was that they should live responsibly and maturely.

In verse 1 of chapter 12, the connotation of the word remember is to “consider and obey.” The author encouraged submission to God in one’s youth, before the darkening of the sun, moon, and stars, and before cloudy days (verse 2). This depiction may have been in reference to the grief and misery that sometimes accompanies old age.

Verses 3-8 are a descriptive portrayal of the aging process. Although translators differ in their interpretations, the essence is that life can become very difficult and dangerous as one grows older. The eventual end is eternity, and the mourning of one’s death. The visual images in verse 6 symbolize the end of life, offering no hope for restoration. Following one’s death, the body returns to dust, while the soul returns to God. Verse 8 stresses the futility of life without God.

In verses 9-11, Solomon stated that because he was wise, he endeavored to teach the issues of life through many orderly proverbs. He sought to find gracious words that portrayed uprightness and truth. The author said his words were as the prodding of goads and the piercing of nails.

In verses 12-14, the author signified that the continual study of books would not provide the meaning of life, which is to fear God and keep His commandments; for all man’s deeds, whether good or evil, will eventually be judged by God.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III.    The theme applied
   B.    Advice concerning wisdom
       3.    The instruction of wisdom (11:1 — 12:7)
           a.    Exhortation to do good (11:1-6)
           b.    Exhortation to youth (11:7 — 12:7)
               (1)    Avoid evil (11:7-10)
               (2)    Remember God and death (12:1-7)
IV.    The theme concluded (12:8-14)
   A.    The theme rehearsed (12:8)
   B.    The preacher’s activity (12:9-11)
   C.    The preacher’s advice (12:12)
   D.    The preacher’s conclusion (12:13-14)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What did Solomon say was a pleasant thing for our eyes to behold? What did he mean by that statement?

  2. Why do you think Solomon implied that it is easy to forget God when we are young? 

  3. What are the benefits of remembering our Creator early in life rather than later?

CONCLUSION

The only true profit in life is found in fearing God and keeping His commandments.

2 Kings 4:18-44

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
2 Kings 4
So she went and came unto the man of God to mount Carmel. And it came to pass, when the man of God saw her afar off, that he said to Gehazi his servant, Behold, yonder is that Shunammite: Run now, I pray thee, to meet her, and say unto her, Is it well with thee? is it well with thy husband? is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well. — 2 Kings 4:25-26

During the 1950s, Dr. Helen Roseveare was working as a missionary in the Belgian Congo (now named Democratic Republic of Congo). One night at their mission a mother died leaving a premature baby and a two-year-old daughter. Without an incubator or electricity, keeping the baby alive looked nearly impossible. Then the last hot water bottle broke. During a prayer time with orphanage children, Dr. Roseveare asked them to pray for the baby and its sister. She explained the need to keep the baby warm and about the hot water bottle. As they prayed, a ten-year-old girl named Ruth said, “Please God, send us a water bottle. It’ll be no good tomorrow, God, the baby will be dead. So, please send it this afternoon. And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she’ll know You really love her?”

The boldness of the prayer made Dr. Roseveare gasp inwardly. She knew that the answer would have to come from her homeland, and in the nearly four years she had been in Africa, she had never received a package from home. Furthermore, a hot water bottle would hardly seem a likely item to send to the equator. She did not believe it could happen.

During that afternoon, a car delivered a twenty-two pound parcel from England. Opening it with the orphanage children, Dr. Roseveare found clothes, bandages, and raisins. Then she put her hand in the box and pulled out a hot water bottle. Ruth ran up, sure that a doll would also be in the box, and indeed a small, beautifully dressed one was there. Ruth’s eyes shone, for she had never doubted.

Little Ruth’s confidence that God would answer prayer was similar to the faith demonstrated by the Shunammite woman in our focus verse. This woman had been unable to have children, and the Lord had honored the word of Elisha and performed a miracle, giving her a son. When the boy died, she believed that Elisha could again touch God for another miracle.

Today, God wants us to trust Him. In any situation we face, we can come to Him with boldness and complete confidence, and we can do it without delay, just as Ruth and the Shunammite woman did. God answers prayer now just as He did in days gone by. While He may not always answer in exactly the way we desire, He will answer with what is best for us.

Do you have a need today? Why not bring it boldly to God? He will honor your confidence in Him.

BACKGROUND

Today’s text continues the record of the miracles performed by Elisha. God used him to raise a dead boy back to life, to make poisoned food safe, and to multiply a food donation.

The Shunammite woman had received a son as a blessing in return for her kindness to Elisha. When the boy was old enough to accompany his father in reaping the harvest, he was smitten in the field with a severe headache, perhaps caused by sunstroke. Once home, he died, and the woman placed his body in Elisha’s room.

When the woman told her husband, “It shall be well,” the word well meant “completeness, wholeness, or peace.”

The woman made no delay in going to Elisha. She went past Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, with a minimal greeting. When she reached Elisha, she “caught him by the feet.” Her prone position showed humility and desperation. Her question, “Did I desire a son . . .?” gave Elisha some indication of what troubled her. He sent Gehazi in haste with his staff — the symbol of his prophetic authority and God’s power — directing him not to greet anyone along the way because it might detain him. Yet the woman was not satisfied until Elisha began the journey toward her home.

In a manner similar to his predecessor, Elijah (see 1 Kings 17:20-21), Elisha stretched himself upon the child. This should not be interpreted as some type of artificial respiration. The child had been dead long enough for the woman to travel approximately fifteen miles from Shunem to Mount Carmel, and then come back again with Elisha and Gehazi. God performed a miracle in restoring the child, and the woman expressed her gratitude by falling at Elisha’s feet and bowing to the ground.

Verses 38-41 describe a miracle that God performed when Elisha was teaching his students at Gilgal. Because of a famine, it was necessary to cook whatever was available. Some Bible scholars believe the wild gourds that were collected were wild cucumbers that could be distinguished by their bitter taste after cooking. Eating large quantities of these could be fatal. The meal which Elisha put into the pot was probably not curative; rather, it was a symbol that God had made the food edible.

Verses 42-44 tell of a man who brought his firstfruits to Elisha. The Law of Moses commanded that the firstfruits belonged to God, and originally these offerings were given to the priests. However, in Elisha’s time, the priests were not godly, and many served Baal or the golden calves. Therefore, this righteous man brought his offering to the prophet. Elisha chose to share it, probably with his students. Though the offering was not large, God multiplied it to feed one hundred men.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I.   The reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah
    B.   Jehoram of Israel
          3.   The ministry of Elisha
                b.   The resurrection of the Shunammite’s son
                      (2)   The death of the son (4:18-28)
                      (3)   The resurrection of the son (4:29-37)
                c.   The purification of the stew (4:38-41)
                d.   The miracle of the loaves (4:42-44)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What did the Shunammite woman do when her son died?

  2. Why do you think the staff of Elisha that Gehazi used had no effect on the child?

  3. What makes it possible for us to approach God with confidence?

CONCLUSION

Boldly coming to God when we have a need can demonstrate faith in Him. We should not hesitate in making our requests to Him.

2 Kings 5:1-27

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
2 Kings 5
And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy. — 2 Kings 5:3

Agnes Clasper was saved in 1911 when she was in her early teens and living in Scotland. Later she married, and she and her husband had a little girl who was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Agnes said, “We spent a fortune to try to get healing for our little one. Climates failed, medicine failed, nine physicians in Scotland had failed.” The child was given up to die by the doctors. Many times when Agnes was on the way to the doctor’s office, she would look up into the heavens and say, “Jesus, I know if You were on earth, You would heal my child.”

Agnes had a desire to come to America. Their family said they would bury their child at sea, but God brought them over seven thousand miles to Portland, Oregon. They contacted the best specialist in the city, and he treated the girl, but still she did not get well. Then one day Agnes met a godly woman and shared the story of her daughter. This woman said, “If you had only known to have brought her down to the Apostolic Faith Mission on Burnside Street, our people would have prayed, and God would have healed your child.”

When Agnes went to a service, God whispered to her soul, “These are the people you have prayed so long for.” She heard that there is power in the Blood of Jesus to heal all manner of diseases, and she promised to trust in that healing power. From that moment, the child began to improve, and God completely healed her body. The girl never had another trace of the disease and lived to marry and become a mother and later a grandmother.

“If only . . .” Another young lady centuries before had spoken those words to the wife of Naaman the Syrian, who was a leper. Both the maid captive in Naaman’s house and the woman who Agnes Clasper met had confidence that God would heal. What marvelous faith and assurance! And both of these women used their confidence in God to reach out to others.

All around us are people who need the touch of God. Do we have that same confidence in our hearts so we can share the Good News of what God can do for them? God is the same today, and if we are serving Him, we can say with assurance that He can forgive sins, change hearts, and heal sick bodies.

BACKGROUND

Syria, the country northeast of Israel, commonly raided areas to the south and frequently took home captives. Ben-hadad was Syria’s king, and Naaman, the captain of the army. Naaman was a great warrior, and he was honored by his king and also the Syrian people.

Leprosy was a skin disease that took various forms. At its worst, it mutilated a person’s body and could be fatal. In Bible times no cure was known for leprosy. Some forms of the disease were contagious, and lepers in Israel were immediately removed from society. Syria’s laws did not quarantine victims, but the disease eventually would have rendered Naaman helpless and shortened his life.

Little is known about the maid who spoke the life-changing words recorded in today’s text. She was a captive from Israel; she served Naaman’s wife; she showed concern; and she had enough faith in God and Elisha to say confidently that healing was possible.

Jehoram, king of Israel, was astounded when Naaman arrived in Israel with a letter from Ben-hadad requesting healing for his warrior. The gift accompanying the request was large — the silver and gold were probably worth over two million dollars in today’s money, plus the ten sets of clothing.

Although healing was impossible by man’s ability, God used Elisha to perform a miracle that illustrated God’s power to both the Syrians and also the Israelites. Naaman nearly lost his opportunity to be healed because of his outrage over what he was told to do. The Abana river is called the Barada today, and it flows through Damascus. Bible scholars are unsure where the Pharpar was. It may have been the Nahr Taura (a tributary of the Barada) or a river about ten miles southwest of Damascus. In contrast to those, the Jordan was muddy and small.

Naaman was proud and expected to be treated in a way he thought was appropriate to his position. Following Elisha’s directions required humility and obedience. Yet, he was willing to listen to the entreaty and wisdom of his servants.

Not only Naaman’s skin was changed when he dipped in the Jordan; his heart was changed also. He recognized God as the only true God and wanted to take home some earth from the land of Israel to worship upon. Naaman knew that occasionally matters of state would necessitate that he assist his king in the temple of Rimmon, but he purposed to worship only God.

Elisha’s refusal of Naaman’s gifts indicated that miracles could not be acquired with money. Yet, Gehazi weakened that concept when he ran after Naaman, lied about a need, and took money. Consequently, Naaman’s leprosy came upon Gehazi.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I.   The reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah
    B.   Jehoram of Israel
          3.   The ministry of Elisha
                e.   The cleansing of Naaman (5:1-27)
                      (1)   The leprosy of Naaman (5:1)
                      (2)   The advice of the maid (5:2-4)
                      (3)   The message to the king of Israel (5:5-7)
                      (4)   The instructions of Elisha (5:8-14)
                      (5)   The gratitude of Naaman (5:15-19)
                      (6)   The sin of Gehazi (5:20-27)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. Why do you think Elisha sent Naaman a message telling him to dip in the Jordan River seven times, rather than delivering the message himself?

  2. When Gehazi ran after Naaman, what did he take from him? 

  3. Why do you suppose Gehazi received the leprosy of Naaman?

  4. What steps can we take to help us be more bold in witnessing to others of God’s power?

CONCLUSION

Resolve today to have boldness and faith to declare to those in need the great power God has to make a difference in their lives.

James 3:1-18

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
James 3
Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! — James 3:5

On October 8, 2017, wind blasted through northern California, spreading a series of wildfires at an alarming rate. Flames raced from tree to tree, and then house to house, faster than a car could drive. What was once a few small, contained blazes became collectively the most devastating wildfire in the history of the United States, burning nearly 245,000 acres and causing at least $9.4 billion in insured damages.(1)

In our text, James compared the devastation of fire to the devastation that can come from uncontrolled words. How many times have words wounded a heart, damaged trust, or caused a person to stumble in his or her faith? Although James was specifically addressing teachers and spiritual leaders in this portion of his letter, his words should remind us all how important it is to control our tongues.

Catherine Marshall, an American inspirational author and wife of twice-appointed Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall, discovered through personal experience the importance of controlling one’s words. She had drifted into a habit of being critical of others, justifying her tendency toward negative speech by telling herself that God gave us intelligence to analyze and evaluate. However, she felt the Lord dealing with her about this, and eventually decided to try a one-day experiment — just for one day, she would refrain from criticism.

Within a few short hours, she realized this was not going to be easy! She was surprised to realize just how much of her daily conversations had been judgmental in nature. It took real effort to hold her tongue, and eventually she found herself simply sitting silently through a good portion of the day. However, through that experiment, God helped her learn a valuable lesson about the importance of being careful how she spoke.

Words can also be written, and a less-than-kind comment on social media can have just as much impact as a thoughtlessly spoken jab. Conversely, a quick email or text message of encouragement to a friend can be just as much of a blessing as a quietly voiced word of comfort or appreciation.

The key is control. If we control fire, we can use it to cook our food, warm our bodies, and light up a dark night. If we control our tongues, we can use that power to honor God and to benefit others. So let us purpose to be careful with our words! They have great power to affect others, and could lead to eternal consequences.

BACKGROUND

The third chapter of James can be divided into two sections. Verses 1-12 deal with controlling the tongue, and verses 13-18 address the topic of genuine wisdom, or wisdom from above.

The Apostle began by specifically addressing leaders in the ministry. The word masters in verse 1 is the Greek word didaskaloi; it could also be translated as “teachers.” James knew these spiritual leaders had great influence over the followers of Christ, and for that reason, they would be held more accountable, facing greater judgment for careless words. James was not suggesting they refrain from becoming teachers but rather that if they became teachers, to do so knowing they would have a higher degree of accountability.

James continued with a common Jewish literary device of attributing fault to a specific member of the body; in this case, the tongue. In verses 3-4, he used two objects to illustrate his point: a bit and a rudder. A bit is a relatively small device, but when put into a horse’s mouth, it can control the animal. The same is true of a ship’s rudder. While insignificant when compared to the size of the ship, it dictates the direction of the vessel, even in a strong wind.

In verses 5-6, James likened the damage the tongue can do to that of a fire. The tongue’s unrighteous words or “world of iniquity” can spread devastation swiftly. The “course of nature” refers to the whole course of life.

James mentions a variety of living creatures in verse 7, asserting that while these could be tamed, no man could tame the tongue. This was not to imply the tongue cannot ever be tamed; James understood that God can tame it. The word “tamed” occurs in only one other New Testament passage, which was when the demoniac of Gadara was healed (Mark 5:4).

The Apostle pointed out in verse 9 that human beings were made “after the similitude” or in the image of God. This gives the reason for his assertion that the tongue should never be used to curse another human being — because doing so would essentially be cursing the image of God.

In verses 10-11, James spoke of a moral contradiction — that the tongue is capable of both good and bad speech. His point was that in Christians, “these things ought not so to be” because such contradictory words are unlike God, evil or deliberately injurious words being the fruit of an evil or corrupted heart.

In verse 13, James began his description of genuine wisdom that comes from above by making the case that true wisdom can be measured by behavior. In verses 14-16, he described the wisdom that is carnal, and condemned “bitter envying” and “strife” as being “earthly, sensual, devilish.” “Bitter envying” indicates a harsh, resentful attitude toward others. “Devilish” (diamoniodes) refers to something that proceeds from Satan and is characteristic of the spirit of demons. Earthly wisdom reflects the deception of Satan and is foolishness in the sight of God. It is self-seeking, of this world, and demonic, and ends in confusion and strife.

Then James contrasted this earthly or carnal wisdom with the wisdom that is from above (verses 17-18). The eight characteristics of godly wisdom that he listed align closely with Paul’s fruit of the Spirit (given in Galatians 5:22-23). The first characteristic is “pure,” which in this context means “unmixed with evil.” Godly purity is a result of inward cleansing. Combined with the following manifestations, these two verses provide a picture of wisdom that resembles and patterns after the nature of God.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah's Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

VII.    Faith and the tongue (3:1-12)
   A.    The misuse of the tongue (3:1)
   B.    The control of the tongue (3:2)
   C.    The description of the tongue (3:3-12)
       1.    Its power (3:3-4)
       2.    Its destructiveness (3:5-6)
       3.    Its untamableness (3:7-8)
       4.    Its inconsistency (3:9-12)
VIII.    Faith and wisdom (3:13-18)
   A.    The principle (3:13)
   B.    The nature of earthly wisdom (3:14-16)
   C.    The nature of heavenly wisdom (3:17-18)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. In verse 8, what did James say filled the uncontrolled tongue?

  2. What are some types of negative or ungodly speech that would fit with James’ assertion that the tongue is an “unruly evil” (verse 8)?

  3. What are some types of godly speech that we can and should cultivate as Christians?

CONCLUSION

We want our speech and behavior to be controlled by the Holy Spirit and used in ways that are pleasing to God.

1 http://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/fires/article180238591.html

Acts 17:1-34

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Acts 17
For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. — Acts 17:28

As young teenagers, my brother and sister were arguing over a matter of opinion. Since it was an opinion, neither could be wrong but they both could have been right. They went back and forth at each other for a while, and then my very frustrated brother hollered, “You just have no knowledge of being!” None of us listening had a clue as to what that statement meant, but it stopped the discussion and then eventually became quite a joke in our family. Now, when any of us want a conversation to end but also want the last word, we say something that makes absolutely no sense. That leaves our opponent with his mouth open and nothing to say. At various times, family members have discussed just what a “knowledge of being” was, but none of us ever came up with a good definition. However, the phrase has stayed with us for years now!

Recently, I read today’s focus verse, “For in him we live, and move, and have our being,” and it reminded me of that long-ago exchange. I understand, as did Paul the Apostle, that my true existence is through Jesus Christ. Paul was speaking to men in Athens. He had discovered an inscription in their city, “To the Unknown God,” and declared to them that he knew who this God was — the Creator of all! Paul told these men that God did not need to be unknown to them; He actually was ready to be found of them.

Before Jesus came into my life, I was breathing, talking, thinking, and functioning in my environment, but my life had no true essence or real meaning. Now, Jesus is my life! I know that I live and move in Him. I am His. I belong to Him, and I am who I am because He forgave my sins and made me His child.

People who have not given their hearts to the Lord do not understand what causes believers to have such loyalty and honor for Him. The “knowledge of being” is the answer. We can thank God that He is not unknown to us, and praise Him for giving us the wonderful, comforting, exciting knowledge of being His children. And then we can ask Him to help us share with others the love He has for them.

BACKGROUND

After being released from the prison in Philippi, Paul and Silas continued their missionary journey. This chapter includes their visit to Thessalonica (verses 1-9) and Berea (verses 10-15), where they were joined by Timothy. The chapter concludes with Paul’s message to the people in Athens and their response (verses 16-34).

Thessalonica was located about one hundred miles southwest of Philippi. Paul and Silas traveled along Via Egnatia, the road between the Adriatic Sea and modern day Turkey. Amphipolis and Apollonia were significant cities along this road, and if the travelers were walking, they may have spent a night at each place. Thessalonica was the capital of Macedonia, a seaport, and a wealthy city.

Jewish people liked to study, discuss, and even argue about the Scriptures. Opening in verse 3 means “explaining,” and alleging means “to place alongside,” indicating that Paul used Scriptures the Jews knew to prove his statements about Jesus’ death and resurrection.

After three Sabbaths, the Jews no longer allowed the two men to participate in the synagogue. It appears that Jason was hosting the missionaries and the group of believers met at his house. Those opposing the Gospel “gathered a company” (verse 5), which means they formed a mob and caused an uproar. When the mob could not find Paul, they took Jason and some other believers to the city rulers, releasing them once they had paid security as a guarantee there would be no further trouble.

“The brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea” (verse 10), a city about fifty or sixty miles to the west. In that city, Paul and Silas again went to the synagogue, and those people were “more noble” (generous or of better disposition) and eagerly studied the Scriptures daily. Followers of the Gospel grew in number, but Jews from Thessalonica came and stirred up trouble, so Paul had to leave immediately.

Paul traveled alone to Athens (verse 15), which was the intellectual and cultural center of the ancient world. Art, architecture, education, philosophy, and idols abounded. Paul adapted his evangelistic strategies to his environment. Here he met with Jews in the synagogue, and with Gentiles in the marketplace. The Epicureans and the Stoicks were two of the primary groups of philosophers. The Epicureans were materialists, believing that matter was the fundamental substance of nature, life, and creation, and also that pleasure was the most important goal for living. The Stoicks were fatalists, and felt the supreme good was virtue and that reason was of greater consequence than emotion, so they taught a life of self-denial.

Areopagus is another name for Mars Hill, which was the location of the ancient Athens court. It also became the name used for the court itself. Thus Paul was brought before the supreme judges in Athens to explain his doctrine. Paul was well-educated, coming from Tarsus which had a prestigious university, and having studied under Gamaliel, the predominant Jewish teacher at that time. Beyond that, the Holy Spirit dwelt in him. His address to the court is given in verses 22-31.

Paul declared to them that their “Unknown God” was the Creator of the world who gives humanity life and breath. Beginning at verse 30, he introduced repentance and judgment by “that man who he hath ordained” (Jesus Christ) and the Resurrection.

Verses 32-34 give the response of those listening to Paul. At least one member of this imposing group, Dionysius the Areopagite, believed.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah's Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

IV.    The witness “unto the uttermost part of the earth”
   C.    The second missionary journey of Paul
       2.    The ministry in Macedonia
           d.    The ministry in Thessalonica (17:1-9)
               (1)    The message (17:1-3)
               (2)    The response of belief (17:4)
               (3)    The response of unbelief (17:5-9)
           e.    The ministry in Berea (17:10-15)
               (1)    The ministry (17:11-12)
               (2)    The departure (17:13-15)
       3.    The ministry in Achaia
           a.    The ministry in Athens (17:16-34)
               (1)    His message in Athens (17:16-30)
               (2)    The response in Athens (17:31-34)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What does God command all people to do? (verse 30)

  2. If God is “not far from every one of us” (verse 27), why is it necessary to seek Him?

  3. Paul adapted his style of witnessing to his audience. How can we know the best method of witnessing in a particular situation?

CONCLUSION

Is your life grounded in your relationship with Jesus Christ? He is waiting to be the focal point of your existence.

Hebrews 2:5-18

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Hebrews 2
For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted. — Hebrews 2:18

“Been there, done that” has become an often-quoted phrase in recent years. Sometimes we hear it casually tossed about in reference to an activity. At other times, we may say it to acquaintances when they have a car wreck on the way to work, endure resistance from a rebellious teenager, spend sleepless nights with a colicky newborn, endure a difficult employment situation, or negotiate with a “terrible twos” toddler.

When we have been through a specific situation ourselves, it is much easier to empathize with others. Have you ever tried to comfort someone who faces a difficulty that you have never faced? Very likely you feel inadequate. Or perhaps someone who has never experienced a situation like yours has tried to console you. Although that person may have thought he understood, you knew full well that he did not. 

If we understand better by experience, consider what our focus verse is saying. Jesus, who is God Himself and one with God the Father, became a human being like us. He experienced life on earth in all its dimensions. Why? So we would know that He understands what we go through.

He not only went through what we do, He went through more than any of us will ever face. Which of us has been without food for forty days while we were tempted of the devil? Have we been betrayed, spat upon, despised, or beaten? If we are reading this, we have not been killed for who we are or what we stand for. Jesus experienced the extremes!

Are you facing something difficult today? Perhaps emotional pain is tearing at your heart, or you confront a situation that looks like a mountain that can never be overcome. Take courage! Jesus understands — He really does — and He cares. He is looking at you with love in His eyes, and He wants to help you. Reach out to Him in prayer at this moment, and expect Him to answer with grace and strength for your time of need.

BACKGROUND

In verses 5-8, the writer quotes Psalm 8. God intended man to have dominion over the earth, but due to sin, man lost the ability to have that control. Jesus, because He lived without sin, had that dominion.

Jesus was made “a little lower than the angels” when, in His humility, He came down to this world. He suffered humiliation so that it could be followed by His exaltation. Humiliation and then exaltation is the order the Lord took, and His disciples will follow the same pattern.

The Lord’s substitutionary offering is clearly set forth in this passage. He tasted death for every man; He suffered for others. One purpose for Christ’s coming is mentioned here: that He might be like His “brethren.” In verse 10, the word captain means, “file leader.” It is a military picture of one who takes the lead, and his followers are behind him. Jesus suffered for the supreme purpose of “bringing many sons unto glory.” In this verse, the word perfect does not mean without sin or fault, because Jesus was sinless. It means “complete.” 

Sanctification is what accomplishes the oneness referred to in verse 11. It makes us like Jesus Christ. Jesus prayed that His disciples might be one, even as He and His Father are one. 

Verses 11-13 reference the bond that God expects us to have with Jesus Christ. When we think of the extent to which God went to meet the needs of sinful humanity, we can begin to glimpse the importance of this great salvation of which we are made partakers.

Satan’s power (verses 14 and 15) is through sin. He presides over the realm of death because of sin. There was no death in the world until sin entered. The sting of death is sin, so when sin is taken away, the sting is taken away also, and the fear of death is dispelled for the Christian.

We see the great purpose that Jesus had in forsaking all. He suffered for several reasons. First, His suffering was necessary so that He could identify with humanity. Next, He suffered death to redeem humanity and to make the power and fear of death ineffective by His resurrection. Finally, His sufferings qualified Him to be our High Priest before God the Father.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II.   The argument: the preeminence of Christ in His person and work
     A.   The superiority of Christ to the angels
           2.   Christ was made lower (2:5-18)
                 a.   The fact (2:5-9)
                       (1)   The destiny of man (2:5-8)
                       (2)   The purpose of Christ (2:9)
                 b.   The reason (2:10-18)
                       (1)   To become man’s Savior (2:10)
                       (2)   To be identified with men (2:11-13)
                       (3)   To deliver men from death and the devil (2:14-16)
                       (4)   To become a merciful and faithful high priest (2:17-18)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What does Christ have dominion over?

  2. As Christians, why do we no longer need to fear death? 

  3. Think of some recent temptations you may have faced. Why does Jesus understand what you are going through? How would He have responded in your situation?

CONCLUSION

Jesus Christ does understand every situation. He is more than able to help with any challenge you face today, if you will ask Him.

Deuteronomy 21:1 through 22:30

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Deuteronomy 21
Deuteronomy 22
Thou shalt not see thy brother’s ox or his sheep go astray, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt in any case bring them again unto thy brother. — Deuteronomy 22:1

It was always funny to receive a phone call letting us know that our pigs were downtown. No, this was not a big city. Downtown consisted of a gas station, restaurant, general store, and a couple other businesses. I worked at a farm supply store just a few blocks off the main road, and we raised pigs on the side. Occasionally, they would find a way under or through the fence, and follow the railroad tracks that led to the main street in town.

Fortunately, it was a close-knit community and our neighbors would help us round them up and guide them back to their pens. If our neighbors had chosen to ignore them or refused to help, the outcome could have been disastrous. The pigs could have endangered themselves and those in vehicles traveling on the main road, or fallen prey to other animals. Assisting someone in need was an expected courtesy in our town.

Even in large cities today, many communities and neighborhoods have organized programs to watch out for one another in order to prevent crime, and to protect children and property. These types of programs help promote friendship among the participants and often make for better neighborhoods.

In Matthew 7:12, the Lord gave us the Golden Rule when He said, “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” Just as God expected the Children of Israel to care for one another, He has given His followers today the responsibility of demonstrating His love by helping others in need.

You might never be required to corral somebody’s livestock, but you may be needed to encourage a friend, pray for a co-worker, help a neighbor, tend to an ill person, or assist an elderly person. You will find that the blessing one feels for having done his part in honoring the Lord outweighs the blessing to the person in need.

BACKGROUND

Prior to entering the Promised Land, God gave laws to the Children of Israel, among them certain civil and social laws. In the event of an unsolved murder, procedures were given to deliver the affected community of guilt. The elders took a heifer that had never been worked into an uncultivated valley. Next to a flowing stream, they cut off its head. This cruel act symbolized the tragedy of the murdered person. The elders then washed their hands over the slain heifer to show the community’s freedom from the guilt and testimony of their innocence.

If an Israelite soldier desired a captive woman, he was permitted to marry her provided certain conditions were met. This protected the captive women and the integrity of the soldiers. One of the conditions called for the woman to mourn for her parents for one full month. This gave the prospective husband the opportunity to re-consider his decision.

Favoritism was an inevitable problem due to polygamous marriages. The eldest son was to be given a “double portion” of the inheritance, regardless of his father’s preference of wives. A rebellious son could be stoned to death if his parents felt unable to bring him under their authority, and this action was validated by the elders of the city. This must have been a powerful deterrent, for no record of this punishment is found in the Bible.

The roof of a house served many purposes. It provided a place for sleeping in the summertime, performing household chores, and entertaining. Because of the danger this created, a protective short wall called a “parapet” was to be built around the outside edge. The homeowner was held liable if an accident occurred and there was no parapet around the roof of his house.

If a man committed adultery with a married woman, both received the death penalty. It is not said by what means this was to be carried out.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

II.   The second discourse: exposition of the Law
      C.   The exposition of the principle laws of Israel
            2.   Civil legislation
                  e.   Miscellaneous civil laws (21:1-23)
                       (1)   The expiation of an unknown murderer’s crime (21:1-9)
                       (2)   Laws concerning the treatment of female captives (21:10-14)
                       (3)   Laws concerning the rights of the first born (21:15-17)
                       (4)    Laws concerning a rebellious son (21:18-21)
                       (5)   Laws concerning the treatment of a criminal’s corpse (21:22-23)
            3.   Social legislation
                  a.   Laws concerning lost property (22:1-4)
                  b.   Laws concerning woman’s dress (22:5)
                  c.   Laws concerning bird-life (22:6-7)
                  d.   Laws concerning home safety (22:8)
                  e.   Laws concerning common distinctions (22:9-12)
                  f.   Laws concerning personal or family morality
                       (1)   Concerning sexual sins (22:13-30)
                              (a)   The charge of a wife’s unchastity (22:13-21)
                              (b)   The charge of adultery (22:22)
                              (c)   The charge of intercourse with a betrothed virgin (22:23-24)
                              (d)   The charge of rape with a betrothed virgin (22:25-27)
                              (e)   The charge of rape of a virgin (22:28-29)
                              (f)   The charge of intercourse with a father’s former wife (22:30)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. Name the three mixtures that the Lord prohibited. 

  2. Why would the Lord require the death penalty for a son who was found to be rebellious?

  3. What obligations do you have to your neighbors?

CONCLUSION

Israel’s laws covered a range of topics from the proper handling of a bird’s nest to dealing with unsolved murders. This illustrates that God is interested in guiding every aspect of our lives. The blessings of His guidance become a source of blessing to our neighbors as we practice the Golden Rule.

Deuteronomy 23:1 through 24:22

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Deuteronomy 23
Deuteronomy 24
For the Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy: that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee. — Deuteronomy 23:14

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas produced by incomplete combustion. It is particularly dangerous because it cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted. When a person inhales excessive amounts of smoke, automobile exhaust, or fumes from poorly ventilated charcoal or gas stoves, carbon monoxide poisoning occurs. The severity of the poisoning depends upon the duration of exposure and the concentration of carbon monoxide in the air. Mild exposure may produce a headache and shortness of breath. Somewhat higher concentrations can cause severe headaches, dizziness, weakness, extreme shortness of breath, and nausea. Greater and/or more prolonged exposure can result in coma, seizures, permanent organ and brain damage, and even death.

Purity of air quality is vital to our physical health. How much more important it is to maintain a spiritually pure environment, allowing no taint of “poison” to contaminate it! In today’s text, it is made clear that purity and holiness were to mark the Lord’s community; the camp of the Lord could have nothing offensive in it. This law of cleanliness teaches us the high value God puts on purity. The filthiness of sin is obnoxious and defiling to God’s people, although, like carbon monoxide, it may be subtle and almost “unnoticeable” at times.

One example of this might be parents who discuss “people problems” and challenges in the presence of their children, unaware that they are slowly poisoning their little ones. The first time the children hear negative attitudes or thoughts expressed, they may forget what was said. The second time, there may still be little impression. However, as negative words continue, there is an accumulative affect, and life long harm to the children’s respect for their church may be the result. Those words may even have a fatal effect on their spirituality.

The first steps in curing carbon monoxide poisoning are the removal of the cause and then the substitution of 100% pure oxygen for the contaminated air. The cure for impure or contaminating influences in the spiritual realm is the immediate removal of those influences, and the substitution of the pure truth and obedience to God’s Word.

How is your environment? Are you guarding against any possible contamination? Ask for God’s help in maintaining the purity that He requires!

BACKGROUND

The laws given to Israel were for the preserving of moral, ethical, and physical purity so that the people could maintain a relationship with a holy God. They were to preserve the purity and honor of the camp by excluding what would be a disgrace to them.

Israel was now encamped and this vast army was ready to enter the Promised Land and settle down as a nation. They were given particular directions for the good of the whole congregation. The charge to them was to be “clean,” and this meant they must take care to keep their camp pure from moral, ceremonial, and natural pollution.

The soldiers were charged to avoid sin when they were encamped away from home. The basic principles were the same as when they were back with their families, because the Lord was with them even on the battlefield. In executing their commission, they were to refrain from malice, covetousness, or uncleanness. They were to keep themselves from idols, or accursed things they found in the camps they plundered. Even those who stayed at home were to keep from every wicked thing, lest by sin they provoke God to withdraw His presence from them.

Instructions for the holiness of the assembly and the camp were dictated by the presence of God in Israel’s midst. The people were taught both to fortify themselves against sin and to encourage themselves against their enemies by trusting in God’s holy presence. The “assembly of the Lord” refers to the people of God gathered in His presence for worship.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

II.   The second discourse: exposition of the Law
     C.   The exposition of the principle laws of Israel
           3.   Social legislation
                  f.   Laws concerning personal or family morality
                       (2)   Concerning exclusion from the assembly (23:1-8)
                              (a)   Those excluded (23:1-6)
                                     [1]   The eunuch (23:1)
                                     [2]   The illegitimate (23:2)
                                     [3]   The Ammonite or Moabite (23:3-6)
                              (b)   Those included (23:7-8)
                       (3)   Concerning the cleanness of the camp (23:9-13)
                       (4)   Concerning the treatment of runaway slaves (23:14-16)
                       (5)   Concerning the treatment of prostitutes (23:17-18)
                       (6)   Concerning interest on loans (23:19-20)
                       (7)   Concerning vows (23:21-23)
                       (8)   Concerning a neighbor’s fields (23:24-25)
                       (9)   Concerning remarriage after divorce to the same individual (24:1-4)
                       (10)   Concerning military exemption of a newly-married (24:5)
                  g.   Laws concerning economic and social injustice
                       (1)   Concerning a wrong pledge (24:6)
                       (2)   Concerning kidnapping (24:7)
                       (3)   Concerning leprosy (24:8-9)
                       (4)   Concerning pledges from the poor (24:10-13)
                       (5)   Concerning hired servants (24:14-15)
                       (6)   Concerning responsibility for criminal action (24:16)
                       (7)   Concerning justice toward the helpless (24:17-18)
                       (8)   Concerning care for the helpless (24:19-22)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What were the Children of Israel instructed to remember about their way of life in Egypt? Why do you think God reminded them of this?

  2. Why did the Lord instruct the people to maintain a holy camp?

  3. What are some strategies you can employ to prevent spiritual poisoning in your home and in the church?

CONCLUSION

Sinful behavior should never be regarded as a harmless or temporary dabbling in forbidden pleasure. It has consequences! Ask for God’s help in maintaining a spiritually pure environment.

2 Kings 12:1-21

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
2 Kings 12
But Jehoiada the priest took a chest, and bored a hole in the lid of it, and set it beside the altar, on the right side as one cometh into the house of the Lord: and the priests that kept the door put therein all the money that was brought into the house of the Lord. — 2 Kings 12:9

Not long ago, a young university student who had recently come to the United States from Nigeria visited an Apostolic Faith branch church near where she would be attending school. She was happy to meet other Nigerians among the congregation members, and mentioned to one of them that she had previously attended one of the five Apostolic Faith branches in Ondo State, Nigeria. The man she was speaking to was thrilled to hear that there are now five churches in that area. He said that when he left Ondo State eleven years ago, there was only one branch church! The work of the Lord is progressing in that region, and the expansion there — and in every part of the world where an Apostolic Faith work exists — is funded by the tithes and unsolicited offerings of the people of God.

Visitors attending our church services will notice that no collection plate is passed around the congregation for donations. Rather, small boxes have been mounted on the wall of the church sanctuary where people can unobtrusively place their tithes and free-will offerings. The money deposited there is used for the administration of the church organization, including the building of new churches as God leads.

A precedent for this type of financing for God’s work is given in today’s focus verse. King Jehoash handled the need for repairs on the Temple by instructing the priest Jehoiada to place offering boxes “beside the altar.” Periodically, the scribe and the high priest removed the money from the boxes, gave an accounting of what had been given, and distributed the funds to the workmen. Later, when the Temple work was completed, the money was applied to obtaining vessels for use in the Temple (see 2 Chronicles 24:14).

King Jehoash’s method demonstrated that we can all have an important part in the maintenance and expansion of the Lord’s work. We have a privilege and a responsibility to use the resources God has given us to promote the Gospel, and when we do so, we will find that God blesses us in return!

BACKGROUND

This chapter gives a brief summary of the forty-year reign of King Joash (or Jehoash) of Judah. After God miraculously spared his life by protecting him from the murderous designs of his grandmother, Athaliah, Joash assumed the throne at the age of seven. He was guided by the instruction and spiritual counsel of his high priest, Jehoiada, husband of the woman who had saved his life.

The most notable event of King Joash’s reign was the repair of the Temple (verses 4 through 16). An idol-worshipping nation had allowed the House of God to deteriorate, so at the beginning of his reign, Joash set out to repair it.

The year this task was undertaken is not given, but by the twenty-third year of Joash’s reign, the work had not been accomplished. Though there was no intimation of improper handling of funds, Joash relieved the priests of their collection responsibilities, and instructed the priest Jehoiada to place an offering box beside the altar. When funds were deposited in the box, they were gathered and distributed to the workmen repairing the Temple.

Verses 17 and 18 describe how Joash began paying tribute to Hazael, the king of Syria, who had invaded Philistia and was a growing threat to the people of Judah.

The chapter closes on a sad note. The king who had initially followed the counsel of his godly priest and mentor had begun to worship idols (see 2 Chronicles 24:17-26), had killed the Prophet Zechariah, and had been conquered by the Syrians. His kingdom spiraled out of control, and in the end, he was killed by his own officers. His son, Amaziah, assumed rulership of the kingdom.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I.   The reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah
    G.   Jehoash of Judah (12:1-21)
           1.   The character of Jehoash’s reign (12:1-3)
           2.   The repair of the Temple (12:4-16)
                 a.   The proclamation of Jehoiada (12:4-5)
                 b.   The failure of the priests (12:6-8)
                 c.   The Temple repaired (12:9-16)
           3.   The ransom to Hazael by Jehoash (12:17-18)
           4.   The death of Jehoash (12:19-21)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. How did Jehoash obtain the money he needed to carry out the repairs of the Temple?

  2. Why do you think the workmen “dealt faithfully” (verse 15) with the tasks and the funds entrusted to them?

  3. What can we learn from Jehoash’s great start and poor finish? 

CONCLUSION

When we participate obediently and willingly in God’s plan for financing His work, we will be blessed and the work of God will progress.

Jeremiah 23:9-40

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Jeremiah 23
Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? — Jeremiah 23:29

God’s Word is powerful enough to impact the most hardened of hearts. A member of the Portland Apostolic Faith Church, Don Morse, often testified about how this was proved true in his life. Don’s mother died when he was young, and while still a boy, he ran away from home and became a drifter. Many times he slept in boxcars, covering himself with cardboard to stay warm. Bad habits attached themselves to his life, and he began smoking four or five packs of cigarettes a day, and gambling all night until his money ran out. Bitterness, blasphemy, and hatred filled his heart, and he even contemplated suicide.

While sailing around the world as a merchant mariner, Don’s ship came into Portland, Oregon, and he was invited to a church service. Sitting in that meeting, tears began to flow down his cheeks. “Many times I had wished that I could cry,” he related. “One time when leaving home in Minnesota, I went out to the barnyard, lit a cigarette, and blew the smoke into my eyes to make it look like I had tears. Then I quickly went to the house to let them see my red eyes. But when God’s Spirit brought tears to my eyes that night in church, they were real ones.

“Though I did not pray through to salvation that night, when I went back to my ship, I started reading the Bible. I couldn’t understand everything I read, but what I did understand touched my heart. The words in the Bible were like a magnet; they drew me. One day I was reading my Bible in the mess hall. Some of the crew said, ‘Throw that thing in the furnace. It won’t do you any good.’ Another said, ‘You had better see a psychiatrist. You need help!’ But I ignored them and kept reading.”

The Word of God began to have an effect. Don’s ship had gone back out to sea, but when it returned to Portland, his one desire was to get back to church and pray again at the altar benches there. On his knees, he sought God in earnest, and God miraculously transformed his life. For more than fifty years, until his death in 2009, he treasured the Word of God that brought deliverance to his sin-hardened heart, and took every opportunity to share his testimony with others.

Our focus verse brings out the power and force of God’s Word by comparing it to fire and a hammer. Like a fire, it can purge impurities, and like a hammer it can break down the stoniest heart.

Don Morse was one who yielded to the power of God’s Word, allowing it to impact his heart and bring him to a place of repentance. What effect has the Word of God had upon your heart? If you have yielded to it, rejoice in that and, like Don, purpose to share it with others. If you have not yielded, do so now!

BACKGROUND

Today’s text is the tenth sermon by the Prophet Jeremiah, and was directed to the prophets and priests. Judah’s false prophets had resisted Jeremiah’s prophecies as he declared the word of the Lord, and in these verses he strongly condemned them.

Jeremiah was horrified at the disregard the religious leaders and the people had for God and for the judgment that would be the consequence of their rebellion, and described his reaction by saying, “All my bones shake.” They had brought idol worship into the Temple itself: “In my house have I found their wickedness” (verse 11). They had seen the demise of the Northern Kingdom, who “prophesied in Baal” (verse 13). Yet, rather than learning from Israel’s example, the religious leaders of Judah had done worse. In Jerusalem they had the Temple, where the pure worship of God was to take place, but they had claimed to worship Him while they committed vile sins. As a result, they would face disaster and death. The “water of gall” (verse 15) means water that is poisoned.

The errors of the prophets were detailed in verses 16-22. Their prophesies were from “their own heart” and not from God. They gave messages that the people liked, telling them their sinful ways were all right. The prophets had not spent time in God’s presence or they would have known to warn the people of His judgments.

In verses 23-32, God expressed His disgust with these religious people. They acted as though He could not see their actions, when He is omnipresent. Dreams were one of the ways God revealed Himself in Old Testament times, but the dreams of these prophets were not from God. False dreams were compared to chaff, which is worthless, while God’s revelations were equated to wheat. In contrast to the untrue statements, God’s Word has power, like a fire or a hammer breaking a rock.

The final passage of today’s text, verses 33-40, is about “the burden of the Lord.” In Jeremiah’s time, this phrase was used to mean a message that God had sent to the people, which was both a weight to Him and also to those who heard it. However, the religious leaders of Jeremiah’s time had used the phrase to mock, and so God said not to use it anymore. The consequence of their light treatment of God’s message was that they would be cast out of His presence and experience reproach and shame.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

II. The pronouncement of judgment against Judah
    A.   The condemnation of the prophet
           10. The tenth message: Against Judah’s false prophets (23:9-40)
                  a. The character of the false prophets (23:9-15)
                  b. The claims of the false prophets (23:16-22)
                  c. The condemnation of the false prophets (23:23-40)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. In addition to the prophets of his day, whom did Jeremiah identify as being “profane”?

  2. Why do you think prophets of Jeremiah’s day falsely promised peace, declaring no evil would befall Judah?

  3. How can you distinguish between a true and false prophet today?

CONCLUSION

The Word of God is a powerful force. May we determine to allow it to do God’s perfect work in our lives!

1 Timothy 5:17-25

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
1 Timothy 5
Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. — 1 Timothy 5:17

It has been a number of decades since the Sunday morning that I learned the principle of respecting and honoring the ministry. I was seven years old at the time, and had invited a school friend to attend church with me. When it was time for the service to begin, my mother, a member of the church orchestra, positioned my friend and me in the front of the center section of the congregation, where she could keep an eye on us from the platform. Things went fine through the song service, but as the meeting progressed, my friend and I got squirmy. It was a downhill slide from there!

When the minister stood up to speak, we poked each other and giggled at his comments. He was preaching on the topic of Hell, and we would shiver dramatically at each of his emphatic statements. After only a few minutes into the sermon, my mother could no longer put up with our antics. When I saw her get up from her seat on the platform and head meaningfully in our direction, I instantly became a model of perfect church decorum. However, it was too late for my reformed behavior to make an impression on my mother. She marched me back to the Ladies’ Room, where we came to a clear understanding about respect for the ministry that I have never forgotten. At the conclusion of the service, my mother escorted me to the preacher who had given the sermon, and I had an opportunity to personally apologize for my actions. That day, I learned that ministers deserve our honor and respect. I have never forgotten!

In today’s focus verse, Paul pointed out that ministers are not only worthy of honor, but of double honor! Paul felt that faithful servants of God deserve recognition and respect. These individuals have been chosen from among the congregation on the basis of God’s call. They have been equipped by the Spirit to perform the work of the Lord, and have been set apart and ordained to the ministry. Along with receiving fair compensation for their services, they should also be supported and appreciated. They are God’s chosen representatives!

Today, does your attitude toward the ministry reflect a spirit of respect? Are you careful to be supportive in your words and actions? Let’s make it a point to follow Paul’s instruction and accord honor to the men and women God has appointed.

BACKGROUND

In this portion of text, Paul reminded Timothy of what is due those who have been set apart for the work of the ministry. In the Early Church, leaders customarily supported themselves, just as the Apostle himself did. Still, Paul believed that faithful service deserved due recognition and reward, and that those who devoted themselves full-time to the work of the Lord as preachers and teachers should receive “double honour.” It is God’s plan that, when possible, the needs of His servants be met by the congregation of the local church.

The word labour in verse 17 has a connotation of “working hard to the point of exhaustion.” The work of the church is not to be regarded lightly. It is not just laboring physically, but also bearing the burden of the spiritual welfare of the congregation.

In verses 19-21, Paul instructed Timothy that church discipline must be fair and impartial. While discipline of church members is explained in other Scriptures, here Paul discussed the discipline of church leaders. He cautioned Timothy to first be sure of his facts. Only then was he to administer discipline, and it was to be done in a manner that was open and aboveboard. Finally, he was to obey the Word, no matter what his personal feelings might be, acting without prejudice for or against the accused.

In verses 22-25, Paul counseled Timothy to avoid haste in the ordaining of ministers. He was making the point that Timothy must be careful not to compromise his stand for righteousness by endorsing individuals who were neither spiritually qualified nor worthy of his trust.

Verse 23 is an interjected thought of a personal nature. Paul’s advice to Timothy was not advocating drinking, but rather, taking the wine for medicinal use, which was a common practice of the day. It is also possible that Timothy had indigestion from contaminated water and therefore Paul was encouraging him to drink liquids other than water.

In the final two verses of the chapter, Paul returned to the topic of ordaining workers. He admonished Timothy not to ordain a man until his character was quite evident by his works. In time, his works would prove him.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
IV.   Charge concerning the ministry of Timothy
     B.   Concerning relationships with various groups
           3.   Concerning elders (5:17-25)
                 a.   The honor due elders (5:17-18)
                 b.   The discipline of elders (5:19-21)
                       (1)   Before all (5:19-20)
                       (2)   Without partiality (5:21)
                 c.   The ordination of elders (5:22-25)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. According to our text, how many witnesses are required to bring a complaint against an elder? What is the purpose for having this number, rather than just one witness?

  2. What does it mean to be “counted worthy of double honour”? 

  3. How might church members today honor our church leaders and ministers?

CONCLUSION

Let us be certain that we treat our ministry with the respect and honor due them!

James 2:1-26

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
James 2
If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: but if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. — James 2:8-9

As a teenager, my mother attended the Apostolic Faith Church in Portland, Oregon, for about a year. She was convinced that what she heard there was what the Bible taught and the way to have a relationship with God, but unfortunately did not pray through to a real assurance of salvation.

By the time I was a teenager, though, Mom had come to the Lord, and He had made a real change in her life. However, the nearest Apostolic Faith Church was a long way from where we lived, and we had no simple way of getting there. As we started attending whenever we could, a young church family took us under their wings and cheerfully began inviting us over for Sunday dinner after morning services. This made it possible for us to stay for the evening services as well. Looking back, I realize that we were at their house almost every Sunday for several years! And in all that time, they never made us feel as if we were imposing although in a sense, we were. They never looked down on us in any way. On the contrary, we always felt warmly welcomed.

The blessing to us went far beyond just the meeting of our temporal needs. Not only did we enjoy the food — the wife was an excellent cook — but for the first time in my life, I saw a loving, peaceful Christian home in action. It wasn’t long before I wanted exactly what that family had. And looking back now, after many years of serving the Lord together with my loving wife, I realize the great legacy this family left me. Truly, they were examples of what James alluded to in our focus verses: people who fulfilled the “royal law” of our Savior by loving their neighbors as themselves, without any hint of patronizing or superiority, even though we could do nothing for them in return.

Every Christian is called to love others, although we will not all be called to demonstrate that love in the same way. Gracious Christian hospitality, in which we share our resources and our time, is one way, but there are many other means by which we can show care and concern. The key point we must remember is that we all have something to give. The blessings God has poured into our lives are not just for our own benefit, but also for the enrichment of those around us. Let’s purpose to be alert to any opportunities that God puts in our path to love our neighbors as ourselves!

BACKGROUND

The second chapter of James has two main sections. Verses 1-13 outline the proper Christian attitude toward social stature, and warn against showing partiality to certain classes of people. Verses 14-26 stress the importance of demonstrating living faith by loving actions — the “works” that should accompany a Christian’s faith.

James lived in an environment characterized by prejudice and hatred based on class, ethnicity, nationality, and religious background. Individuals were commonly categorized as Jew or Gentile, slave or free, rich or poor, Greek or barbarian, and so on. While the unity of the Early Church was unique in such an environment, this unity did not come about without effort. For that reason, in verse 1, James taught these early believers that genuine faith in the Lord Jesus Christ must be without “respect of person” (discrimination or partiality).

He provided an example in verses 2-4 to illustrate why it is never right to judge a person by his or her economic or social status. The “gold ring” was an indicator of nobility or a high governmental officer. The word lampros, translated goodly apparel, means “splendid and magnificent”, indicating a luxurious and elegant dress style. The command to the poor man to “sit here under my footstool” indicated that the poorer attendee was being offered a position beneath that of honor (the chairs in the synagogue that were reserved for elders and scribes).

James gave a number of reasons in verses 1-13 regarding why it was wrong to show partiality to the affluent. These could be summarized as follows:

  • Verse 1: It is not in alignment with Christ’s teaching.
  • Verse 4: It is based in selfish motives and evil thoughts.
  • Verse 6: It despises those who are poor.
  • Verses 6-7: It favors those who oppress others, initiate legal proceedings, and blaspheme the name of Jesus.
  • Verses 8-9: It goes against the law of love given by Jesus.
  • Verse 9: It is a sin.
  • Verse 10: It makes one a transgressor of all the law.
  • Verse 11: It reveals a lack of mercy, which will result in judgment.

The second portion of this chapter, verses 14-26, deals with some of the specific “works” that James asserted would follow true faith. For example, James pointed out the hollowness of telling someone who was destitute to “be warmed and filled” while doing nothing to provide for his necessities (verses 15-16).

Though some might think that James’ statement in verse 17 contradicts Paul’s emphasis in Romans on salvation by faith, the two perspectives are actually in perfect harmony. James’ use of the word “faith” was a reference to the faith, and centered on how the Christian life was to be lived out after salvation. By “works,” he meant the righteous deeds that should be the natural outcome of a heart truly filled with love for God. He was not suggesting that good works could earn salvation, but simply that they were evidence of a right standing before God.

Paul’s use of the word “faith” referred to saving faith; the faith that must be exercised in coming to God for salvation. His point was that one attains salvation by faith in Christ’s atonement alone. He was not teaching that it was unnecessary to live in a godly manner after experiencing salvation. When Paul spoke of “works,” he was alluding to legalistic adherence to the requirements of the Jewish Law or other acts to earn or self-justify one’s salvation.

Both men believed and taught that true faith results in a changed life that is demonstrated or proved by good works. The differing emphasis is because the two men had different purposes in writing their epistles. Paul wrote to explain that salvation comes through faith, while James wrote to show how salvation through faith would impact daily living. Their teachings are in no way contradictory, but are complimentary.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah's Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

V.    Faith and impartiality (2:1-13)
   A.    The command (2:1)
   B.    The illustration (2:2-4)
   C.    The instruction (2:5-13)
       1.    God’s choice of the poor (2:5)
       2.    The conduct of the rich (2:6-7)
           a.    Oppress and imprison (2:6)
           b.    Curse (2:7)
       3.    The Scriptural injunction (2:8-11)
       4.    The coming judgment (2:12-13)
VI.    Faith and works (2:14-26)
   A.    Faith without works is non-faith (2:14-17)
   B.    Works are an evidence of faith (2:18-20)
   C.    Justification is only by faith that works (2:21-26)
       1.    The case of Abraham (2:21-24)
       2.    The case of Rahab (2:25)
       3.    The conclusion (2:26)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What action did James identify as sin in verse 9?

  2. Although James focused in this chapter primarily on partiality based on social class, what are some other areas in society today where partiality occurs? What should be a Christian’s attitude toward any type of favoritism?

  3. Think of someone who took an interest in you as a young Christian and encouraged you. What are some lessons you learned from his or her example?

CONCLUSION

A genuine love for others will be among the many evidences of salvation apparent in the lives of those who truly love God.

2 Peter 1:1-21

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
2 Peter 1
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. — 2 Peter 1:5-7

A few years ago, Rebekah, a young wife and mother-to-be, died suddenly before the age of twenty in an automobile accident. After her death, her family found her personal journal. Her notes began with the thought: “The Person I Want to Become (With God’s Help).” She listed some twenty-five Christian goals she had set for herself, including the following:

  • I do not want to be afraid to reach out to those in need.
  • I want to make a difference no matter the circumstances.
  • I want to be a godly mentor to the young people, a shining light in the darkness.

The list went on, each goal being thoroughly Bible-based yet intensely practical. It is evident that Rebekah understood that without Christ in her heart and life, she could not possibly accomplish these things. But even with an up-to-date experience of salvation and the other foundational experiences God has for us, there was still something for her to do personally if she were going to fulfill God’s plan for her life. No doubt she thought about these goals frequently, checked her life decisions against the list, and prayed for God’s guidance in areas where the proper response was not obvious. Those who knew Rebekah concur that she met her goals and did, indeed, become the person she described in her journal.

In today’s focus verses, we are given a list of eight important Christian attributes. The promise is that if we are diligent about adding these to our lives, we will be solid, stable Christians — we will “never fall.” The question is, just how do we “add” these attributes to our lives? A good first step is for us to clearly understand the meaning of the words. More than a dictionary definition, however, we need practical applications of these terms to our daily lives. Just how we personalize them may depend upon our age, family situation, and other factors. It would be beneficial to spend time in prayer and meditation on each of these attributes, asking God to help us see areas where He would have us to grow. The important point is that there is something here for everyone.

For the next step, we can take a hint from Rebekah. As God lays things upon our hearts, it would be a great idea to write them down. The very act of writing them will reinforce these principles in our minds, as well as help us not to forget them at a later time. Then, above all, we must try daily to live by these concepts. And if God should check us in some area where we were not at our best, we need to talk openly to Him about this in prayer and determine to do better next time. He will help us!

BACKGROUND

In general, the second epistle of Peter advises Christians to remember the words of the true prophets and be aware of false teachers. In the first chapter of the book, however, Peter exhorted Christians to develop their faith, assuring eternal rewards to those who do. Peter added that he wanted them to be able to remember his words after he was gone.

In verses 3-4, Peter assured all believers that God has sufficient power to enable them to live holy lives. This power is conveyed in God’s promises, which are accessed by faith. Through faith, believers can be “partakers of the divine nature” and delivered from “the corruption that is in the world.”

Once this connection to God was made by faith, Peter wanted the believers to apply themselves to supplementing (adding to) their faith. He focused on eight key words. Briefly defined, they are:

  • Faith: A deep belief or trust in God and in the Bible.
  • Virtue: Moral excellence or spiritual fortitude.
  • Knowledge: The learning of information with accompanying wisdom for application.
  • Temperance: Self-control.
  • Patience: Endurance under trial, steadfastness, perseverance.
  • Godliness: Living for God as opposed to living for self.
  • Brotherly kindness: The love and caring of fellow Christians toward one another.
  • Charity: Unselfish, sacrificial Christian love for others.

Peter stated the results of growth in these qualities, giving both the positive and the negative sides. He said if the believers had these, they would be spiritually fruitful and effective, and would eventually gain eternal life. However, if they neglected to add these qualities, they would lose their perspective (“cannot see afar off”) and fail spiritually. This was good reason to “give diligence.”

Because of the false teachers, Peter wanted the believers to understand that they had a strong basis for their faith; they did not follow “cunningly devised fables.” As proof, Peter reminded them that James, John, and Peter himself had been eyewitnesses of Christ’s majesty when He was transfigured and God the Father said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Moreover, the Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled, and thus their validity was confirmed, by Jesus. As a final affirmation, Peter said the Scriptures were inspired by the Holy Ghost, who moved the men who delivered them.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I.   Introduction: the writer and recipients (1:1)
II.   Call to spiritual growth (1:2-21)
    A.   The basis for growth (1:2-4)
          1.   Their position: grace (1:2)
          2.   Their provisions: promises (1:3-4)
    B.   The manner of growth (1:5-7)
    C.   The necessity of growth (1:8-11)
          1.   For fruitfulness (1:8-9)
          2.   For abundant entrance into the kingdom (1:10-11)
    D.   The means of growth (1:12-21)
          1.   The reminder (1:12)
          2.   The reason (1:13-15)
          3.   The revelation (1:16-18)
          4.   The recognition (1:19-21)
                a.   The certainty of the revelation (1:19)
                b.   The origination of the revelation (1:20)
                c.   The inspiration of the revelation (1:21)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. How were the Scriptures given?

  2. How can ordinary people be godly in this life?

  3. What are some ways we can work on personal growth as the Apostle exhorted us?

CONCLUSION

Spiritual growth does not happen automatically; effort is involved in the process. As we go about our everyday lives, asking for the Lord’s help, He will guide us.

Deuteronomy 9:1 through 10:11

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Deuteronomy 9
Deuteronomy 10
Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the Lord thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the Lord hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord doth drive them out from before thee. — Deuteronomy 9:4

“Please? Please, Daddy? Can I help make the macaroni?” It was a familiar plea our little girl was making, but this day was different. This was the first day our daughter would help me make macaroni for dinner.

She was still very small and very inexperienced in the kitchen, so I was a little wary of letting her cook, but I was willing to make an offer: After I had boiled the pasta and drained it, and added milk and butter, she could pour in the cheese powder to make the cheese sauce. She eagerly accepted the opportunity and poured in the powder. “Now can I stir it?” she asked. “Just a little?” “All right,” I agreed. “Just a little.” 

Soon the macaroni was ready, and I had finished cooking the chicken and the vegetables that were also a part of the meal. The table was set; dinner was served. As we enjoyed our meal that evening, our daughter was excited and proud to announce to my wife, “Guess what, Mom? I made the macaroni!”

A little amused, and being a stickler for accuracy in such matters, I asked our little girl, “You made the macaroni?”

“Well,” she admitted, “I helped you make it.”

How easy it is for us to do the same thing in our daily walks with Christ! We say, “I earned my degree.” “I landed a new job.” “I found a wonderful spouse.” “I got a great promotion!” Really? You made the macaroni? It is God who has provided opportunity for all these things. My daughter could justly take some credit, but can we take any credit for the blessings of God? If we have the wrong attitude, we may even begin to take credit for Christ’s righteousness in our lives and forget that it is by grace that we have opportunity to be saved.

Even if we recognize that our blessings are the result of God’s goodness, we may fool ourselves into thinking that God provides for us because we are His favorite children. This is why Moses told his countrymen that it was not their righteousness that moved God to give them Canaan, but to fulfill His purpose and His plan for the whole world. Likewise, He has saved us and blessed us, not solely for our own sakes or because we are deserving, but to allow us to fit within a greater plan. With every blessing God gives you, ask Him to show you how to use it for His glory.

BACKGROUND

In previous chapters, Moses rehearsed the Ten Commandments and instructed the people in how to follow them in the new country. In this passage, one theme stands out: the need of the Israelites for grace and mercy.

Moses began by emphasizing that what they were about to do was naturally impossible. Anak was a name given to a race of giants living in Canaan at this time; a foe made up of “nations greater and mightier than thyself,” whom the Children of Israel could never hope to defeat by their own power. Therefore they could not help but know that this achievement would literally be a miracle of God.

Next Moses pointed out that the Israelites had not earned the right to take the Promised Land. God had already called Israel a special, chosen nation. It would have been all too easy for the Israelites to conclude that something about themselves was superior to all other nations and that this was why they were so blessed. God had not given it to them because of any special righteousness on their part; on the contrary, God himself declared them a stubborn, sinful people. Rather, they were God’s instruments of punishment against the Canaanites because of their wickedness. Thus their entrance into the Promised Land was an act of God’s grace.

To emphasize this point, Moses told them the account of how they and their forefathers had sinned against God in the wilderness, especially in the making and worshiping of the golden calf. Moses reminded them that they would not be alive, but for the fact that he, Moses, prayed to God for mercy and God granted Israel mercy at Moses’ word. Hence their very lives were an undeserved gift of God’s mercy.

Finally, Moses told the rest of God’s answer to his prayer: not only life for the Israelites, but two new tablets of the Law, a special privilege of service for the tribe of Levi, and a renewed promise to give them the Promised Land.

The Israelites deserved bondage and finally death by God’s wrath for rejecting Him and rebelling against Him. The Israelites received life, health, peace, God’s Law, and the Promised Land for their complete possession. Truly this was an undeserved gift, unmerited favor, and God’s matchless grace.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

II.   The second discourse: exposition of the Law
     B.   The exposition of the Decalogue
           2.   The explanation and application of the Decalogue
                 g.   The warning against self-righteousness (9:1 — 10:11)
                      (1)   The warning (9:1-6)
                      (2)   The rehearsal of past failures (9:7-24)
                      (3)   The intercession of Moses (9:25-29)
                      (4)   The intercession’s results (10:1-11)
                             (a)   The reiteration of the Law (10:1-5)
                             (b)   The privilege of the Levites (10:6-9)
                             (c)   The exhortation to possess the land (10:10-11)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What special privilege was given to the Levites?

  2. Why would Moses pray for God to spare the Israelites if they deserved to be punished?

  3. What are some areas in your life where you might be prone to take credit? How might you give God the glory for these?

  4. How might God expect you to use for others the blessings He has given you?

CONCLUSION

As with the Israelites, we have been blessed beyond our understanding by God’s mercy and grace. We must never take credit ourselves for what He has done for us, but acknowledge Him in all our ways, and always recognize our constant dependency on Him for everything.

1 Timothy 1:1-20

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
1 Timothy 1
This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. — 1 Timothy 1:15

Brother “Scotty” Clasper, one of our Gospel veterans, used to give this testimony: “Working in one of the largest explosive factories in the world, I saw men and women blown into eternity in a moment of time. Each time, God thundered out of Heaven to me, ‘What would happen if it were you?’ I didn’t feel ready to meet God, even though I was a deacon in a church. I had entered that church as a young man, and when I grew older they made me a deacon. I was the minister’s right-hand man and never missed a church service.

“In Portland, Oregon I caught the sound of the old-time religion. I heard a band of Apostolic Faith people on a street corner singing, ‘Rock of Ages.’ As I stood two blocks away with tears flowing down my cheeks, God was talking to me! I went a ways closer and heard the ex-drunkard and the ex-dope addict telling the marvelous things God had done for them. I reasoned that it was all right for them, but I was a deacon in the church, and I didn’t need it.

“However, I accepted their invitation to attend services at their church. At the Apostolic Faith Church one Sunday morning, I heard something that went down into my heart, and I learned that acting religious and being born again are two different things. That morning a preacher got up and began to preach about hypocrisy. I left the meeting with my fists clenched, determined never to go back.

“I went from the church to my job, where I had to work for two hours that day. Tears began to run down my face, and I wondered what was wrong with me. I went to the motor room to make an electrical adjustment on one of the motors, but in my state I was too afraid to touch anything for fear of severe burns or death. As I stood there in tears, every click of those motors seemed to say, ‘You hypocrite!’

“There was a terrible internal battle going on as I wondered what my co-workers would say if I prayed. I finally decided that if God would give me what the preacher had talked about, I would give it a try. I got down on my knees before three of my fellow workers. I lifted my hands to Heaven and said, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner. I want salvation!’ God answered, the heavens opened, and the glory of God flowed into my soul. He saved me through and through. In about two minutes I rose to my feet saying, ‘I’ve got it! I’ve got it!’ ”

Brother Scotty had real salvation from then until the Lord called him home. Like Paul, he never forgot how God delivered him from his self-righteousness and changed him into a “sinner saved by grace.”

The Lord knows the condition of our hearts even if it is hidden from everyone else. When something stands between God and us, we are not assured of Heaven. If God puts His finger on a problem in our lives, we can pray through to a clear conscience before Him and find true victory.

BACKGROUND

The Epistle of 1 Timothy, along with 2 Timothy and Titus, is one of three “pastoral epistles,” letters written to young pastors (Timothy and Titus). Bible scholars believe Paul wrote 1 Timothy (and Titus) between his first and second Roman imprisonments, whereas 2 Timothy was written during Paul’s second imprisonment, shortly before his martyrdom.

In verses 1-11 of chapter 1, Paul addressed Timothy (whose name means “he who honors God”) speaking of him as “my own son.” He challenged the younger man to uphold the sound doctrine of the pure Gospel in his oversight of the church at Ephesus. The word charge in verse 3 means “to take a strong stand.” He reminded Timothy of the purpose for which he had been left at Ephesus: to correct the false teachings of some there regarding the Law of Moses. Outward conformity to a variety of cumbersome rites and ceremonies would not suffice; rather, love out of a pure heart and a good conscience were the basic principles of religion.

Next, in verses 12-17, Paul expressed his deep gratitude to God for His mercy and for the fact that he had been entrusted with the message of salvation. There was no arrogance in Paul’s words, and he did not take his privileges for granted. At one time he had been a blasphemer against Jesus, not knowing He was God, but he did it “ignorantly in unbelief” (Acts 26:9). However, God had granted him mercy, and had given him understanding of the plan of salvation — a plan that was worthy of universal proclamation.

In verses 18-20, Paul charged Timothy with the solemn duty of preaching the Gospel, encouraging him to remain faithful to the charge that had been committed (or deposited) to him. Finally, two examples are named — individuals who had not remained true and had made shipwreck of their faith.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I.   Introduction (1:1-2)
    A.   The author (1:1)
    B.   The recipient and blessing (1:2)
II.   Charge concerning sound doctrine (1:3-20)
    A.   The danger to sound doctrine (1:3-11)
          1.   The nature of strange doctrine (1:3-4)
          2.   The goal of sound doctrine (1:5)
          3.   The perversion of sound doctrine (1:6-11)
                a.   Their misuse of the law (1:6-7)
                b.   The proper use of the law (1:8-11)
    B.   The demonstration of sound doctrine (1:12-17)
          1.   The position under the law (1:12-13)
          2.   The position under grace (1:14)
          3.   The example of conversion (1:15-16)
          4.   Praise for conversion (1:17)
    C.   The direction to Timothy (1:18-20)
          1.   The charge to Timothy (1:18)
          2.   The neglect of some (1:19-20)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. Why did Paul ask Timothy to stay with the church at Ephesus while he went into Macedonia?

  2. What did Paul mean when he said that some “have made shipwreck” concerning their faith?

  3. What steps can you take to make sure you are learning and living sound doctrine?

CONCLUSION

As we reflect upon the mercies of God, we can all rejoice that no sinner is beyond the saving power of Jesus Christ!

Acts 26:1-32

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Acts 26
At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. — Acts 26:13-14

Paul’s defense before Agrippa, recorded in today’s text, skillfully wove together a tapestry of his own experiences, doctrinal elements, persuasive arguments, and even a call to decision. However, his impassioned address centered on his personal testimony. His eagerness to share the story of his life-transforming encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road brings to mind the old Gospel hymn “I Love to Tell the Story.” That song title clearly was the theme of Paul’s life after his conversion!

Katherine Hankey (1834-1911), the woman who wrote the lyrics of “I Love to Tell the Story,” was born into a Christian home in London, England, where guests were often invited to come and study the Bible. Her father especially was a devout Christian. He was also a banker and very prosperous, so Katherine, nicknamed Kate, never wanted for the better things in life. Although she could have chosen her friends from the elite, she had a place in her heart for the poor and hungry people in the most poverty-stricken parts of the city.

As a young girl, Kate taught Sunday school. When she was eighteen, she organized a Bible study for factory girls, taking the message of Jesus into the London slums. When her missionary brother fell ill in South Africa, Kate traveled there to assist him. That trip sparked a passion for foreign missions, and in her later life, when she became a published author, she donated all proceeds from her writing to missionary work.

At the age of thirty, Kate contracted a serious illness, and doctors ordered her to stop her church work and stay in bed for an entire year. She complied, in part. Though she did not travel as she had before, she remained a missionary via her pen — she composed poetry that told the story of Jesus. The most famous poem she wrote during that period had two parts and was one hundred stanzas in length, the first part titled “The Story Wanted,” and the second part “The Story Told.” She completed the poem in 1866, though it took most of the year to write it.

In 1867, the Young Men’s Christian Association held its international convention in Montreal, Canada, and one of the leaders ended a sermon by quoting from Katherine’s poem. Songwriter William Doane, who was in the audience, put part of the poem to music, composing the hymn we know today as “Tell Me the Old, Old Story.” Two years later, another composer, William Fischer, created a unique melody based on the second part of the poem, and his hymn, “I Love to Tell the Story” has been a favorite Gospel song of many ever since.

Katherine Hankey and Paul the Apostle both had a fervent desire to tell the story of Jesus. That desire can and should be ours as well! Perhaps no one has ever asked us for evidences of the Resurrection, a list of prophecies fulfilled by Jesus, or examples of intelligent design in our physical universe. However, most of us have likely experienced times when someone inquired about how we “became religious” or why we have peace and joy despite troubling circumstances. In most cases, people would rather hear about our personal experiences than our personal convictions.

We all have a testimony! We all can relate how Christ drew us to Himself and transformed our lives. Unbelievers can choose to argue with what the Bible says, but they cannot argue with what God has done for us. Like Paul, let’s choose to use every opportunity to share our testimony with others.

BACKGROUND

Chapter 26 is a record of Paul’s defense before Agrippa. (The setting, participants, and Festus’ explanation for why he convened the hearing are described in verses 23-27 of the preceding chapter.)

In verse 3, Paul’s comment to Agrippa suggesting that he was an “expert” in Hebrew matters may have been because Agrippa, in his position as king, supervised the appointment of the high priest in Jerusalem, controlled the Temple treasury, and had some influence in Jewish affairs.

Paul began by directly addressing Agrippa, though he quickly broadened his remarks to include the others present, as reflected by the plural pronoun in verse 8. The words translated “answered for himself” in verse 1 are from the Greek word apologeomai, related to our English word apologetics, which means “to give a defense or explanation of one’s beliefs.”

Verses 9-21 give the third description of Paul’s conversion in Scripture (see also Act 9:1-18; 22:3-21.)

In verse 14, the reference to kicking against the pricks was a common proverb in classical Greek. It alluded to an ox striking back against the sharp goad used to direct the animal, and thus hurting itself.

Some Bible scholars consider verse 18 to be one of the most important passages in the Book of Acts. Similar to Colossians 1:12-14, it contains a concise but clear summary of Paul’s message. It points out that salvation opens the eyes of those who have been blinded by sin and turns them from darkness to light, freeing them from the authority of Satan, and bringing forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified through faith in God.

Festus, the governor who granted Paul’s request to be tried before Caesar, evidently had little knowledge of Jewish thinking or the teachings of the Old Testament. His abrupt statement in verse 24, “Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad,” may indicate he thought Paul’s study of the sacred Scriptures had developed into a mania. Festus died in office after serving for only two years, but in that period, though he lacked strength of character, he is considered by historians to have been wiser and more honest than his predecessor, Felix, or his successor, Albinus.

Bible scholars offer differing opinions regarding King Agrippa’s comment in verse 28, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian,” because the words in the original Greek are somewhat ambiguous. Some feel he was being sarcastic or contemptuous; others suggest that Paul’s persuasive arguments had affected Agrippa, causing him to briefly consider whether Paul’s testimony could be valid.

The hearing concluded when Agrippa, Festus, and those with them left the judgment hall. As they consulted privately, their joint conclusion was that Paul was not guilty and could have been released had he not appealed to Caesar. However, Paul’s steps had been ordained by God, and He had promised Paul that he would have the opportunity to testify in Rome (see Acts 23:11). This was simply the next step in the fulfillment of God’s plan for Paul.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah's Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

IV.    The witness “unto the uttermost part of the earth”
   E.    The journey of Paul to Rome
       2.    His witness in Caesarea
           c.    Paul’s defense before Agrippa
               (4)    Paul’s defense before Agrippa (26:1-23)
               (5)    Paul’s answer to Festus (26:24-26)
               (6)    Paul’s interaction with Agrippa (26:27-29)
               (7)    The conclusion (26:30-32)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. In verse 11, what three actions did Paul say he took against the saints prior to his conversion?

  2. What does verse 19 indicate about the attitude of Paul’s heart after his encounter on the Damascus Road?

  3. What are some of the spiritual characteristics of Paul revealed in this chapter that we could and should pattern after in our lives?

CONCLUSION

Paul set an example for us by sharing his testimony in every situation where he had an opportunity.

Jeremiah 13:1-27

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Jeremiah 13
Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil. — Jeremiah 13:23

For years I have worked with men and women in the prison system and have seen a common thread in the mindset of those getting close to being released on parole. In many cases, these inmates initially come to chapel services and confess they need God in their lives. However, once they are within a few weeks of getting out, they fall away from their chapel service attendance and tell their fellow inmates they can make it on their own. They seem to think they have it all figured out, and intend never to do anything that will bring them back into the penal system.

For example, I remember one man who seemed very sincere and told me that once he was out, he was going to come to every service we had at our church. Sadly, after a few weeks of attendance, he missed more and more, and I could not convince him that he needed God in order to live right. He would tell me he was doing great and was very busy with his activities. Then, after a few months, I saw him in the prison again, where he came to me frustrated and angry at himself. “Why did I do such a stupid thing?” he asked me. He then confessed his sins to God and admitted he could not change himself. When he was honestly repentant, God changed his heart.

Prisoner or not, it is very hard for mankind to admit that he needs God’s help in order to escape from the bondage with which Satan has ensnared him. During a time of crisis, he may call out for God to help, but then, when the crisis is over, he continues in trying to succeed on his own.

God, of course, is fully aware of this tendency in the human race. In Jeremiah’s time, He used the leopard as an illustration. These animals have spots naturally, and there is nothing they can do to alter them. Nor can a person change his skin color. The human race can no more successfully change the inbred tendencies of the carnal heart with which each of us was born.

Even if some of its symptoms can be corrected, only through the transforming power of the Blood of Jesus can individuals be transformed from sinners into believers. This is the wonderful message of hope that the Gospel extends and we have the privilege to share. Even when situations look impossible, God can do what man cannot, because He can change the heart.

BACKGROUND

Jeremiah’s fifth sermon to the inhabitants of Judah began with an object lesson concerning God’s relationship with Judah. A girdle (also known as a loincloth) was frequently worn to secure outer clothing. Girdles worn by the common people were made of leather, but the linen that God instructed Jeremiah to wear denoted a finer girdle such as those worn by the priests. God first charged Jeremiah to wear the girdle without washing it, which would have caused the linen to become soiled. After a time, God told Jeremiah to travel to the Euphrates River (a distance of 250-400 miles) and bury the girdle under a rock. The fact that the Euphrates River was in Babylon, the place of Judah’s impending captivity, may have been God’s reason for sending Jeremiah there.

After “many days,” God told Jeremiah to go back to the Euphrates River and retrieve the girdle, where he discovered that it was totally ruined and worthless. God used this illustration to make the comparison that just as Jeremiah’s unwashed loincloth became soiled and of no value after being buried in the mud, Judah had become tarnished and useless to God because of the people’s unwillingness to accomplish His purpose. Comparable to how a man would tie a loincloth snugly to his body, God had clothed Himself with Israel and Judah in a covenant relationship, but their sin and idolatry had marred and destroyed the pure bond that God desired.

Jeremiah’s edict that “every bottle shall be filled with wine” may have reflected a well-known proverb symbolizing peace and prosperity, thus initiating the confident response from the people of Judah. However, God said He would fill the inhabitants of Judah with “drunkenness” that would cause strife and confusion among the people, and ultimately their destruction. In verses 15-17, Jeremiah pled with the people to set aside their pride, give ear to God’s warnings, and give Him glory, because God had spoken and His judgment would come to pass if they did not turn from their wicked ways. The king and queen in verse 18 probably referred to King Jehoiachin and his mother, Nehushta, referred to in 2 Kings 24:8-20.

Jeremiah compared Judah to a flock of sheep that had been ravaged by the enemy from the north, and he questioned how Judah would respond when the Babylonian conqueror would set over them former allies who had been militarily trained by Judah. He associated the pain of this scenario with a woman in labor. Jeremiah stated that if the people of Judah questioned why this calamity had come upon them, the answer was that their sin and refusal to repent had caused them to walk unclothed and barefoot to the land of their captivity.

Just as it was not possible to change the color of the Ethiopian’s skin or remove the leopard’s spots, the people of Judah did not have the ability to change from their evil ways. Therefore, God would scatter them as the chaff, because they had forgotten Him and trusted in lies. The “skirts upon the face” signified the shame they would feel when disaster came. Jeremiah cried out to his countrymen, reminding them of their sinful behavior, and agonizing that they were coming under the judgment of God.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

II. The pronouncement of judgment against Judah

   A. The condemnation of the prophet

        5. The fifth sermon: The marred girdle and broken bottles (13:1-27)

            a. The warning from the linen girdle (13:1-11)

            b. The warning from the wine bottles (13:12-14)

             c. The warning to the haughty (13:15-19)

             d. The warning of approaching doom (13:20-27)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. Where was Jeremiah instructed to bury the linen girdle?

  2. What do you think God wanted the people of Judah to learn from the linen girdle object lesson? 

  3. How can we make sure we are not refusing to hear God’s words?

CONCLUSION

When we deal with situations that look as impossible as a leopard changing its spots, we want to remember that the God Who is able to change hearts is also able to change situations, and our capacity to deal with those situations.

Deuteronomy 19:1 through 20:20

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Deuteronomy 19
Deuteronomy 20
As when a man goeth into the wood with his neighbor to hew wood, and his hand fetcheth a stroke with the axe to cut down the tree, and the head slippeth from the helve, and lighteth upon his neighbour, that he die; he shall flee unto one of those cities, and live. — Deuteronomy 19:5

Have you ever felt like “fleeing” to a place of refuge? Perhaps life has been a little stressful and you are being pulled in many different directions. Your children require your attention, your spouse is ill, your dog needs to be taken to the vet, and you are facing multiple deadliines on your job. Life is filled with circumstances that stretch our determination and endurance. The daily demands of life can be wearing on our physical bodies and emotionally draining, but God has provided a place where we can go for renewal, release, and refuge.

God has a quiet place, away from the elements that bring us stress, where we can experience the rejuvenating balm of His care and love. In the shadow of His wings, we can find comfort, reassurance, and protection. Besides being a place of shelter, it is a place where we can take our cares to the Lord. It is a secret place where God unfolds His love to us by planting the truth of His promises in our hearts as we delight in His presence.

We may wonder how we can attain such a place of restful comfort. Through Jesus dying on the Cross, God created a clear pathway for us to be able to reach Him through our prayers. Of course, we start by asking Him to come into our hearts and experiencing His saving power. When our sins are forgiven, the weight of sin is gone, and we become new people, with a fresh view of life. Circumstances around us may not have changed, but our perspective has.

When we have been saved, God wants us to maintain a close relationship with Him through prayer. He has many things to teach us and show us. That place of quiet serenity becomes a place of joy where we return again and again for strength for the day, inner peace, protection, and solitude of mind and soul.

BACKGROUND

God commanded the Children of Israel to establish three “cities of refuge,” where anyone who claimed to have accidentally killed someone could find safety until he had a fair trial. If he was found innocent of intentional murder, he could remain in that city and be safe from those who would seek revenge. The Promised Land was to be divided into three parts, with one city of refuge in the center of each. They were to build proper roads to these cities, and keep them in good repair. If the Lord enlarged their coasts, they were to add three more cities on the other side of Jordan. Since their practice had been “eye for eye, tooth for tooth,” this was God’s provision to protect the innocent.

God also gave them laws regarding the removal of landmarks, the punishment of false witnesses, war, and sieges. God commanded that they not remove their neighbors’ landmarks to enlarge their own. Since stones or posts marked their property lines, a dishonest person could have easily moved the lines a little at a time and not get caught. However, God warned them against doing that. He also warned them against being false witnesses. The punishment for this was to have the false witness punished as he had wanted done to the other person. For protection, testimonies from two or three witnesses were required to convict a man.

God ordered the priests to encourage the people when they were going to battle. He wanted them to know that He would be on their side and fight for them. The officers were to dismiss those who did not wish to participate because of fear, or for the specific reasons God listed. He also gave them laws on what to do when they approached a city for battle; how to overtake it, and what to do with the spoil. If the inhabitants of a nation outside of Canaan would not surrender, the Children of Israel were to destroy all the males and keep the women, children, and the cattle. However, if they were fighting against a Canaanite city, they were to destroy everything. Nothing was to be preserved.

Though God instructed the Israelites to utterly destroy their enemies, He also taught them to have compassion on those who were too timid to fight. The laws He set in motion were for their protection and showed His infinite wisdom and balance between justice and mercy.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

II.   The second discourse: exposition of the Law
     C.   The exposition of the principle laws of Israel
           2.   Civil legislation
                 c.   Laws concerning criminal action (19:1-21)
                      (1)   Laws concerning the cities of refuge (19:1-13)
                             (a)   The provision of the cities (19:1-3)
                             (b)   The right use of the cities (19:4-10)
                             (c)   The illegitimate use of the cities (19:11-13)
                      (2)   Laws concerning the removal of landmarks (19:14)
                      (3)   Laws concerning the punishment of false witnesses (19:15-21)
                 d.   Laws concerning wars (20:1-20)
                      (1)   An exhortation to fearlessness (20:1-4)
                      (2)   Laws governing military exemption (20:5-9)
                      (3)   Laws governing sieges (20:10-20)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What would disqualify a person from finding safety in one of the cities of refuge?

  2. When do you suppose the people of Israel thought about the cities of refuge and their locations?

  3. Think of a time when you needed a place of refuge as a Christian. What steps did you take to find it?

CONCLUSION

Today, God still has laws set in motion for our protection from the enemy of our souls, the devil. Through the Blood of Jesus, His Son, we have access to refuge in times of need. Whether you are having a stressful day, or whether you are surrounded by impossible circumstances, God is in control of your life, and His refuge and comfort is only a prayer away.

Acts 10:1-48

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Acts 10
And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, and said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God. — Acts 10:30-31

In the early 1920s, Walter Frymire found out that a prayer meeting can have life-changing effects. He and his family were worshipping in an organization that taught the experiences of salvation and sanctification but felt that the baptism of the Holy Ghost was fanaticism. News of the Latter Rain Gospel was spreading, and traveling ministers were holding meetings and preaching about the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Some people from the Frymires’ church attended, and then studied their Bibles. They felt the baptism was of God and thought the Lord would not allow them to receive something false if they sought in their home church. One Sunday afternoon, in that church, six people received the baptism of the Holy Ghost!

Walter was one in that church who received the experience about that time. The leaders of the organization decided that it might be all right to have the baptism, but no one was to speak about it or witness to it during services. Therefore, those who had received the infilling of the Holy Spirit eventually felt they needed to withdraw from that organization.

The Frymires had received literature from the Apostolic Faith Church, and one daughter had been healed after they sent a prayer request to the headquarters in Portland. In time, God led them to move to where they could be a part of this church. The prayer meeting in the early 1920s was life-changing, and the blessings from it and subsequent decisions benefitted the succeeding generations. The Frymires had two sons and three sons-in-law who were ministers, and today grandchildren and great-grandchildren are helping spread the Gospel.

In today’s text, Cornelius had a prayer meeting in which he saw an angel. He obeyed the instruction he was given, and his life was changed when Peter preached in his home. In addition to Cornelius and the people within his sphere of influence, the whole Early Church was impacted. However, that notable prayer meeting was preceded by many not-so-eventful times when Cornelius communed with the Lord. The angel said those day-to-day prayers and good deeds were a memorial before God.

The lesson for us is obvious — we need to keep praying. There will be many days when it may seem to us that our prayers are not monumental. There will be many prayer meetings that do not appear to be life-changing. However, that does not mean those times are unimportant! Rather, those daily prayers are vital. God sees and hears our petitions. He will answer by giving guidance and strength and by fulfilling His promises in our lives.

BACKGROUND

Today’s text records a vital lesson for the Early Church. The events in this chapter caused the Apostles to realize that the Gospel was for the Gentiles as well as the Jews. They had been preaching to the Jews, who were direct descendants of Abraham; the Samaritans, who were of Jewish and Assyrian descent; and proselytes — individuals who had converted to Judaism and observed the whole Law of Moses. God used two men in two cities and a series of precisely timed events to reveal that all people are called to serve Him.

The chapter begins with Cornelius in Caesarea. Herod the Great had built Caesarea to be the primary seaport and also the Roman capital in Judea. The city was magnificent with palaces, temples, a long rectangular hippodrome for chariot races, a Roman theater, and white stone warehouses. The harbor was particularly outstanding, with a breakwater about two hundred feet wide giving protection.

Cornelius was a centurion, which means he was an officer over one hundred men in the Roman army. “The Italian band” referred to a cohort, which was usually about six hundred men. Because they were from Italy (the geographical term for the country of which Rome was the capital), they may have been especially distinguished or honored. Most members of the Roman army at Caesarea were Syrian, so likely the Italian cohort identified here was primarily made up of Italians, who were probably volunteers. In a turbulent province like Judaea, it would have been important in terms of national security to have at least one cohort of Italian soldiers at the seat of government.

Verse 2 gives five characteristics of Cornelius. He was “devout” which means godly. That he “feared God” tells us he was among a group of people (sometimes called “God-fearers”) who were familiar with the Jewish religion, attended synagogue, and observed the Sabbath and part of the ceremonial law. They believed in only one God (not a multitude of gods), but they were not actual converts to Judaism. “With all his house” indicates that Cornelius had led his family to serve God. That “he gave much alms to the people” shows he was charitable, and “prayed to God alway” reinforces that he regularly worshipped God.

When Cornelius was praying at 3:00 p.m. (the ninth hour) an angel appeared to him with a commendation and instructions. Simon was a common Jewish name, so “whose surname is Peter” clarified, as did “Simon a tanner.” Cornelius immediately dispatched three men who had been affected by his godliness and could be trusted. They were to go to Joppa, which was about thirty miles south of Caesarea, and get Peter.

At noon, when the messengers were nearly to Joppa (verse 9), Peter was praying. The rooftops of houses of those times were quiet places that were ideal for prayer. Peter became hungry, and while lunch was being prepared, he saw in a vision a big sheet full of animals that Jewish people were prohibited from eating, and he was commanded to kill and eat them. When he protested, he was told, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (verse 15). It would later be explained that this meant Peter was not to regard the Gentiles as inferior people whom God would not redeem. Peter was given this object lesson three times. As he considered it, the men from Cornelius arrived, and the Spirit gave Peter specific instructions, which he followed.

God had the details worked out precisely. Here is a possible timeline:

  • Cornelius had a vision at 3:00 p.m.
  • The next day the servants set out for Joppa, perhaps walking. They went about twenty miles and spent the night.  
  • In the morning, the servants walked ten more miles and arrived in Joppa at noon. They met with Peter and then spent the night in Joppa.
  • The third day after Cornelius’ vision, the servants, Peter, and “certain brethren from Joppa” (verse 23) started for Caesarea, traveling twenty miles.
  • The fourth day after Cornelius’ vision the group traveled ten more miles and arrived at the house of Cornelius.

Cornelius knew when they should be coming and had called together his family and close friends who believed as he did. When Peter arrived, he told them God had showed him that he “should not call any man common or unclean” (verse 28). Peter had undergone a drastic change in thinking. He had housed the Gentile messengers in Joppa and had eaten with them. He had traveled with them and now was in a Gentile home. However, God had more yet to teach Peter and those accompanying him.

Peter began to preach (verses 34-43), giving a message that summarized the Gospel. Before he was done, the Holy Ghost fell, with the evidence of the people speaking in languages not known to them. Convinced that God had included the Gentiles in His plan of salvation through Christ, Peter and the other brethren arranged for these believers to be baptized in water that day.

It was a landmark day for the Early Church. The subject of Gentile believers would have to be explained (see Acts 11) and God’s guidance requested as the Early Church continued to grow (Acts 15). However, God had made it clear that the Gentiles were invited to participate fully in the Gospel.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

III.    The witness in Judea and Samaria
   C.    The witness of Peter
       2.    His witness at Joppa
           b.    The preparation for further ministry (10:1-22)
               (1)    The angelic message to Cornelius (10:1-8)
               (2)    Vision of Peter (10:9-16)
               (3)    The Spirit’s message to Peter (10:17-22)
       3.    His witness at Caesarea (10:23-48)
           a.    Peter’s meeting with Cornelius and his household (10:23-33)
           b.    Peter’s message before Cornelius and his household (10:34-43)
           c.    The result (10:44-48)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What did the angel say to Cornelius about his prayers?

  2. Why do you think the people at Cornelius’ home so quickly experienced the outpouring of the Holy Ghost?

  3. Why is this chapter of the Bible especially important to us today?

CONCLUSION

The events at Cornelius’ house teach us that we must keep praying! The result will be eternal benefits.

Jeremiah 29:1-32

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Jeremiah 29
Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. — Jeremiah 29:12-13

Through Charlotte Atseff’s teenage years, she was very rebellious, and after her marriage she continued on in her own way, resisting the truth she had been taught as a child. Her mother had prayed for Charlotte since the day her daughter was born, but one day that godly mother became seriously ill. As Charlotte sat by her mother’s bedside, the thought came to her mind, Who will pray for me now? What will I ever do without mother’s prayers? The Lord answered her questions by speaking to her heart: “You will pray for yourself!”

After her mother’s death, Charlotte began to reach out to the Lord and started attending a neighborhood church. One morning, alone in her house, she truly sought God with all of her heart. She confessed her sins, naming them one after another. In later years, she testified, “All of a sudden, it seemed I was the worst sinner in the world. My soul was as dark as midnight. The devil shouted at me, ‘You have gone too far,’ but at that moment the Lord showed me His Cross. I saw all my sins there on the Cross. I did not try to bargain with God — I just pled for mercy. Jesus came into my heart and forgave me. He turned me right about face. I knew the moment I was redeemed: I was a new person. All the bitterness and hatred were gone. He melted my heart like the ice is melted in the summer sun.”

In our text today, the Lord was speaking through the Prophet Jeremiah to the people of Judah who were captives in Babylon, urging them to come back to Him. Sadly, they were hardened by sin and rebellion, and unlike Charlotte, they were not willing to turn to God in their time of trouble. Despite their resistance, God was still calling after them in mercy. He was waiting for them to turn to Him, and promised that if they would just pray, He would hearken. If they would seek Him with all their hearts, He would be found of them.

What a comforting thought! No matter what spiritual condition we are in, God still invites us to pray and call upon Him. He wants us to seek Him with all our hearts, to yield our lives completely to Him, and to search diligently for His will for our lives. He says if we do this, He will be there to hear and answer our prayers.

Charlotte proved that God is just one heartfelt and sincere prayer away, and she never regretted it. We can prove that same truth in our lives!

BACKGROUND

Chapter 29 includes two letters that Jeremiah wrote to the Jewish people who were exiled in Babylon. There is also a reference to a letter written by the false prophet Shemaiah to the Temple priests.

Correspondence was not difficult at this time, as diplomatic missions were carried on between Jerusalem and Babylon. Jeremiah also had friends in high places of Judah’s government, which enabled him to keep in contact with the exiles. The first letter in this chapter was sent with Elasah the son of Shaphan, a brother to Ahikam (mentioned in chapter 26) and Gemariah, son of Hilkiah (perhaps the high priest in the time of Josiah).

The people who had been relocated to Babylon were restless and wishing to return to Judah. They were influenced by false prophets among them who were saying the captivity would be short. Jeremiah told them the captivity would be for seventy years. He encouraged them to be law-abiding, humble people, and to build homes and plant gardens. The exiles were not treated as slaves in Babylon. They could buy property, have families, and reside in their own communities. In fact, some of the Jewish people became so wealthy during this time that they decided not to return to Jerusalem when the exiles were finally released.

Verses 10-14 contain a message of hope from the Lord for the exiles. He promised that if they would seek Him again with all their hearts, He would be found of them; He would hear and answer their prayers. Beginning with verse 16, the exiles were told that they were better off than the people who had remained in Judah.

Again, perhaps in a second letter, Jeremiah warned of false prophets, naming two: Ahab and Zedekiah. Jeremiah prophesied that these two men would be burned to death (which was not an unusual form of capital punishment in Babylon) and their names would be used as an example of a curse.

Shemaiah, another false prophet in Babylon, had apparently written a letter accusing Jeremiah of being a madman and urging the authorities to imprison him (verses 24-28). In his response, Jeremiah warned the people not to believe Shemaiah, and that he and his relatives would die in exile and never see the city of Jerusalem again.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II.   The pronouncement of judgment against Judah
    B.   The conflicts of the prophet
          4.   The conflict with Shemaiah (29:1-32)
                 a.   The letter to the exiles (29:1-23)
                       (1)   The circumstances of the letter (29:1-3)
                       (2)   The content of the letter (29:4-23)
                              (a)   A call to submit (29:4-7)
                              (b)   A warning about false prophets (29:8-9)
                              (c)   A promise of restoration (29:10-14)
                              (d)   A declaration of judgment on the false prophets (29:15-23)
                 b.   The letter from Shemaiah (29:24-28)
                 c.   The letter concerning Shemaiah (29:29-32)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What were the offenses of Ahab and Zedekiah? What punishment did Jeremiah say God would pour out on them? 

  2. Why do you think God told the exiles to settle down, have families, and pray for their captors if they were eventually going to be released?

  3. What will be the evidence in our lives if we are truly searching for God with all of our hearts?

CONCLUSION

God’s promise to be found of those who seek Him wholeheartedly extends down through the ages from the time of Jeremiah to our day. He is still faithful to respond to those who approach Him with an honest heart.

Acts 24:1-27

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Acts 24
And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee. — Acts 24:25

Procrastinating when God’s Spirit calls is extremely dangerous. When Jim Gilmon was young, he had rheumatic fever, and the doctor told him he would never be healthy. Jim promised God his life if He would heal him, and God did. However, Jim broke his promise. He chose to travel down a pathway of sin, but God never let him forget his prayer.

One night, while under the influence of liquor, Jim was in an automobile accident. The doctors tried everything they could to restore him to consciousness with no success. Then the people at his mother’s church prayed. When he regained consciousness, he promised to serve God if He would get him out of the hospital. God did His part, but once again, Jim did not.

Later, as a logging truck driver, Jim had a truck loaded with logs get away from him. It rolled over two and a half times into a canyon. When the truck quit rolling, he was afraid to move for fear it would roll more. With his head on the seat, he cried out to God. Again, God spared his life, and he climbed out of that accident with only a few scratches. But still he was not ready to give up his life of sin.

Over a year later, Jim stopped alongside the road to look at a wrecked car. A woman was in the back seat calling for help and a man was dead under the steering wheel. Jim said, “Right then it seemed God spoke out of Heaven to me and said, ‘You are going to be next.’ I knew I was heading the wrong way, and I did not want to die in the condition I was in.

“The prayers of my parents and their Christian friends were being answered. I told myself I would go to church the next Sunday, but I did not. What conviction settled on me that night! I could not sleep. Finally I phoned my parents, and they told me to come to their home. They called the minister, and at an old davenport, I knelt to pray. I said, ‘I don’t know how to pray.’ My dad responded, ‘Ask Jesus to be merciful to you a sinner.’ When I did, the Lord did not turn me away. He saved me that night. He delivered me from drinking and from the cigarette habit — things I could not stop in my own power. He changed my filthy tongue. Thank God, he made me a new creature.”

Jim served God until he passed away in December 1977. Numerous times he had postponed fulfilling his promises to God and rejected opportunities to be saved. Yet when God mercifully continued to call after his soul, he finally did yield.

What a contrast Jim’s story is to that of Felix in today’s text. Felix also had opportunities to surrender his heart to God. He was familiar with the Jewish laws and beliefs, and then Paul presented the Gospel to him. Felix seemed intrigued — he even trembled at Paul’s words. Yet he hesitated to act. Although he did call for Paul again and again, the Bible does not record that he ever actually gave his heart to God.

It is vital to respond to the call of God’s Spirit. There is no promise that He will call again, so waiting for a “convenient season” could be disastrous. How much better to surrender immediately to God!

BACKGROUND

Paul had been taken by military escort from Jerusalem to Caesarea to appear before the governor, Felix. In this chapter, the accusations of the Jewish elders were stated, and Paul gave his defense to Felix.

Tertullus, a professional prosecutor, likely had been hired by the high priest (Ananias), and paid from the coffers of the Temple. The Greek word for orator originally meant “public speaker,” but was used also for “lawyer” or “attorney.” It is unknown whether Tertullus was a Roman, Greek, or Jew.

Felix was born a slave, as was his mother, and apparently was freed by Antonia, mother of Emperor Claudius. Because his brother was favored by Claudius, Felix was made procurator of Judea. He was a cruel ruler, and under his leadership the Jewish rebellion became worse. Felix had been married three times; each wife was from a royal family. His wife at this time was Drusilla, a Jewess who was the daughter of Herod Agrippa I and sister of Herod Agrippa II. She previously had been married to the king of Emesa until Felix, with the help of Simon the magician, won her hand. Felix was well-versed in Jewish customs, not only because his wife was a Jewess, but also because he had spent a number of years living in Palestine.

Paul explained to Felix that the purpose of his presence in Jerusalem was to bring alms to the Jews there. This gift had been gathered for Christian Jews from Gentile churches in the provinces of Macedonia, Achaia, Galatia, and possibly others. His purpose was to unify the Jews and Gentiles in the Church into one body, making them interdependent and appreciative of one another.

Knowing that it could not be proven that Paul had profaned the Temple, the Jews modified their charge to say he had “gone about” to profane it. Paul had been seen in the company of a Gentile before entering the Temple, and it was assumed that he had brought this man into the Temple with him. However, even if that had been so, the Gentile, not Paul, would have been worthy of death under the Jewish Law.

In Acts 24:21 Paul repeated what he stated in Acts 23:6 — that the real issue was his affirmation of the resurrection of the dead. The Pharisees also believed in resurrection, although more strongly in the case of those who were righteous than for the unrighteous. This was a theological question, rather than a crime against Roman or Jewish Law.

Felix deferred, or called a temporary halt to the proceeding, until the chief captain Claudius Lysias could come, although no indication was given that he was actually coming. This ploy was basically to buy time, because Felix feared that releasing Paul would cause a riot among the Jews. He kept Paul in prison hoping for a bribe, and when Festus came to take over, he left Paul bound to please the Jews. He failed on both accounts; he never received money from Paul, and the Jews filed a complaint against him to Rome.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah's Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

IV.    The witness “unto the uttermost part of the earth”
   E.    The journey of Paul to Rome
       2.    His witness in Caesarea
           a.    Paul’s defense before Felix (24:1-27)
               (1)    The setting (24:1)
               (2)    The accusations of Tertullus (24:2-9)
               (3)    The reply of Paul (24:10-21)
               (4)    The consequences (24:22-27)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What were the four accusations against Paul, as stated by Tertullus? (verses 5-6)

  2. Do you think Felix believed Paul’s statements of defense? Why or why not?

  3. Paul delivered the Gospel message to Felix a number of times, even though Felix failed to respond. What does this tell us about our duty to share the Gospel even if we do not see a positive response?

CONCLUSION

Each person has a choice to respond promptly to God’s call or to postpone. How much better to choose to yield to the Lord!

Jeremiah 3:6 through 4:4

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Jeremiah 3
Jeremiah 4
Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the Lord our God. — Jeremiah 3:22

Don Danner was a man who spoke passionately of the wonderful power of God to restore the backslider. He would often begin his testimony in our church services by saying, “It was a happy day when Jesus washed my sins away!” His face would shine as he would tell how grateful he was that God had reached out to him in his backslidden state.

“I had experienced this old-time salvation when I was a boy,” he would relate, “but the insidious ways of Satan and the bright lights of the world had taken their toll. I wasn’t down deep in sin, not in any tragic circumstance by any means. I had everything the world could lay at my feet to make me happy — but I was not happy. From the outside, it looked as if I were having a good time. My friends and associates thought I was a good person, but they didn’t know the struggle that was going on in my heart: Satan battling for my soul and Jesus wooing me, ‘Oh, backslider, why don’t you come Home?’

“That October day was lovely — it was a scenic day, bright and sunny. The flowers in front of the tabernacle were beautiful, the birds were out: all the things I ordinarily would like to be focusing my camera on. But I wasn’t noticing the beauties of nature that day. God’s focus was on my soul. I realized I must stop and listen to the Voice of Jesus.

“Thank God, He heard my prayer from out in that wilderness of sin. He lifted me out of all the misery and set my feet on the Rock Christ Jesus. It took only a few minutes down at the altar of prayer. When I cried out to Him, the answer came and God’s salvation was restored in my heart. I knew it! My name was written down in Glory. I cannot enumerate all the blessings the Lord has given me over the years. This is a wonderful way to live! How I thank God for victory over sin.”

Don Danner had more than two decades to experience that joy of restoration before God called him home to Heaven. He was living proof of the power behind God’s promise to Israel in our focus verse, “Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.” God’s people, like Don Danner, had turned away from their spiritual heritage. Yet, in spite of their rebellion against Him, God graciously encouraged them to return to Him in true repentance, and promised healing for the pain and shame that their backsliding had brought them.

Still today, God’s mercy reaches out to those who have turned away from their commitment to Him and gone back into sin. There is hope for the backslider! Let us be alert to opportunities to offer that hope to those who have turned away from God. And let us cherish the mercy God has extended to us and value the privilege that we have to be His children!

BACKGROUND

This passage begins Jeremiah’s second sermon, and is a continuation of the condemnation found in the first. God’s message to the people of Judah was that in spite of their idolatry and blatant rejection of Him, His mercy would continue to be extended if they would sincerely repent and turn from their evil ways.

In verses 6-11, God reminded Judah of the judgment that had befallen the Northern Kingdom of Israel because of its idolatry. Except for a brief period, the Northern Kingdom had continually engaged in the idolatry that was originally endorsed by its first king, Jeroboam. God’s pleas for Israel to turn back to Him had gone unheeded, and around one hundred years before this passage was written, the Northern Kingdom was conquered and taken captive by the Assyrians. God told the people of Judah that what had happened to Israel should have deterred them from following the same path. Instead, they were actually more at fault than the people of Israel because they claimed to serve God, but their hearts were far from Him.

In verses 12-13, God addressed the few remaining Jews in the occupied Northern Kingdom. He told the people that if they would honestly acknowledge their sin and repent, He would show them mercy and would spare them from additional judgment. In verses 14-18, God pointed to a future time when a remnant of both Israel and Judah (“one of a city, and two of a family”) will return from exile to Zion, and He will give them leaders after His own heart. The Ark of the Covenant will no longer be needed for worship because the Lord Himself will reign in Jerusalem, and all the nations of the earth will come to Jerusalem to worship Him. In verse 19, God questioned how this could be accomplished when their hearts were so far from following Him, but He reconciled it by saying the time will come (in the millennial kingdom) when they will call Him their Father, and they will no longer turn away from Him.

In verses 20-25, Jeremiah exhorted the people of Israel and Judah to realize that their only hope was in God and the salvation He would provide if they would repent and turn from their sin. Chapter 3 ends with Jeremiah’s prayer of confession.

Verses 1-4 of chapter 4 conclude the message. Once again, God calls His people to return to Him in repentance. The Hebrew word translated return has a meaning of “return from exile,” but also has the deeper meaning of repentance from sin and turning back to God.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II.   The pronouncement of judgment against Judah
     A.   The condemnation of the prophet
           2.   The second sermon: Repentance or retribution
                 a.   The comparison of Israel and Judah (3:6-11)
                 b.   The consolation of restoration (3:12 — 4:4)
                       (1)   Repentance brings blessing (3:12-16)
                       (2)   Repentance brings place of honor (3:17-20)
                       (3)   Repentance brings healing (3:21-25)
                       (4)   Repentance brings good works (4:1-4)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What adjective did God repeatedly use to describe Judah in the first six verses of our text?

  2. Why do you think God had Jeremiah cite the example of the fall of Israel, the Northern Kingdom, to the people of Judah?

  3. Based on this text, what hope and encouragement can we offer a backslider?

CONCLUSION

God offers healing and restoration to those who have turned away from Him. How grateful we should be for the wonderful mercy of God!

Jeremiah 24:1-10

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Jeremiah 24
Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel; Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good. — Jeremiah 24:5

“Go and play somewhere else,” my dad firmly told us young children as he prepared to do a weld on some heavy machinery in his shop. “The arc from the welder will burn your eyes.” We probably didn’t fully understand the danger to our eyes, but we were not slow in leaving the shop. Dad never wasted words: if he told us to get moving, we knew it was necessary for our own good, not merely to get us out from under his feet.

All of the kids in the homes around the farm were curious about what happened in Dad’s shop. A large building that housed his work trucks, it was filled with all kinds of interesting tools and machinery. If we had a problem with a toy, bicycle, or household item, we took it out to Dad’s shop, and he would find a way to repair it. However, if a situation was potentially dangerous, we were not left in doubt as to whether we should be around. Dad loved his children, and he had our safety at heart. He never hesitated to let us know when it was time for us to stay out of the way.

In today’s text, the basket of “good figs” represented the people of Judah who had been carried away captive into Babylon. Although they did not choose to be exiled in a strange land, God said that submitting to what He had ordained would ultimately be for their good. Though many years would elapse, He promised to preserve the exiles and eventually bring them again into their own land.

From time to time in our Christian walk, we awaken to the understanding that we have been preserved or shielded from danger in a way that is miraculous. We suddenly know that God has taken control of a situation and kept us from grave physical injury or spiritual defeat. Other times we are providentially absent from a bad situation by God’s great design. Our loving Heavenly Father has worked for our protection.

At other times, we will face challenges — physically, emotionally, financially, or in some other way. We may not understand why these challenges have come along. However, in these times too, we can look to our Heavenly Father and remind ourselves that He has only our good in mind.

God holds the reins of our lives, and we can be certain that He will take care of all the details. Unlike rebellious Judah, He has helped us to know Him, and to understand that we are His people. We can rest in the assurance that He is a good God, and that everything that comes our way will ultimately be for our good as we continue to trust in Him and obey His instructions.

BACKGROUND

Chapter 24, Jeremiah’s eleventh sermon or discourse, is based upon the prophet’s vision of two baskets of figs. Jeremiah had previously declared that those who submitted to Nebuchadnezzar and captivity would do so to their own benefit, while those who resisted and remained in Jerusalem would do so to their own peril. The good figs seen by Jeremiah represented the Jews who were captives in Babylon, while the bad figs symbolized those who had stayed in Judah and had neglected to worship God.

When these Scriptures were given, Jeremiah had been prophesying to a largely non-responsive audience for more than twenty years. In 597 B.C., King Nebuchadnezzar’s armies had invaded Judah and taken captive King Jehoiachin (also called Jeconiah and Coniah), many of the nobles, and those proficient in trades that would be beneficial to building up the Babylonian Empire.

Through Jeremiah, God told those captive in Babylon that His design for them was for their ultimate good, even though they had to experience some disciplinary action before they would receive the benefit. In this chapter, Jeremiah let the captives know that God sent them to Babylon to preserve them, and those who remained in Judah would suffer for their spiritual adultery with the heathen nations around them. They would be scattered, and some of their families would be scorned and cursed among the populations where they settled. Eventually, none of them would inhabit the land of their inheritance.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II.   The pronouncement of judgment against Judah
    A.   The condemnation of the prophet
          11.   The eleventh sermon: The two baskets of figs (24:1-10)
                 a.   The vision (24:1-3)
                 b.   The interpretation (24:4-10)
                       (1)   The good figs (24:4-7)
                       (2)   The bad figs (24:8-10)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. How did Jeremiah describe the two baskets of figs that he saw?

  2. Why do you think God chose to preserve His chosen people in Babylon rather than preserve them at home in Jerusalem?

  3. Describe a time when you saw, after the fact, God’s way of accomplishing His purpose for you.

CONCLUSION

Although we may not always understand the circumstances that come our way, if our trust is in the Lord, we can be assured that He has our best interests at heart and is working for our good.

1 Timothy 3:1-16

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
1 Timothy 3
And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. — 1 Timothy 3:10

Brother Loyce Carver, who served for nearly twenty-nine years as leader of the Apostolic Faith organization, understood how important it was to be “found blameless” in terms of one’s Christian testimony. He often told of the blessing he found in making right a seemingly insignificant incident.

Brother Carver would relate that in the South where he grew up, the farmers always planted more watermelons than necessary because it was expected that some would be stolen by the teenage boys in the community. The unspoken rule was that it was all right to take the watermelons as long as they were eaten — it was not acceptable to crack them open and leave a mess, or use them to vandalize property. Because helping oneself to watermelon was a generally accepted part of his southern culture, it was not considered stealing by the Christians of the community.

As a young lad, Brother Carver and his friends occasionally took advantage of this “opportunity” for a refreshing snack on hot summer days. However, after he was saved, the Lord reminded him about those watermelons, and he paid the farmers for the watermelons he had taken. Everyone in the community heard about it when the checks started to arrive! One farmer even returned the money and told Brother Carver to contribute it to his church instead.

More than thirty years later, Brother and Sister Carver visited the same community in Tennessee, and Brother Carver was asked to speak at a gathering on the church grounds. After he finished, one of the men who had stolen watermelons with him as a boy yelled out so everyone could hear, “Hey, Carver! Remember the watermelons we used to steal?” Brother Carver replied, “Yes, I do! I paid for mine; did you?” He later told how thankful he was that he had followed the leading of the Lord and made that restitution!

The value of a clear conscience and a blameless life cannot be overestimated. Today, let’s ask ourselves, Does my Christian life bear scrutiny? Is it above reproach? God can and will help us to make sure it is!

BACKGROUND

Chapter 3 of 1 Timothy continues the Apostle’s focus on public worship, with a shift in emphasis from concerns about proper church order in Ephesus, to an explanation of ministerial qualifications.

Today’s Scripture talks about two levels of church leadership. The word translated as bishop means “pastor, church leader, or presiding elder.” Although in current usage the word deacon refers to one in a position of leadership or authority in the church, the word translated deacon in this passage simply means “one who serves.” Deacons were initially chosen for waiting on tables and other situation-specific ministries. (For example, Stephen was one of the original seven deacons appointed to serve the Early Church concerning the needs of Greek-speaking widows.) The requirements for deacons were very similar to those for bishops, making it clear that what must be true of leaders in the work of God ought to be true of every believer.

The phrase “the husband of one wife” in verse 2 is simply an injunction against being married wrongly in God’s sight or of promiscuity as a married individual. This does not prohibit an unmarried man from becoming a leader, or a widower from remarrying.

Verse 3 contains the stipulation that those in leadership roles must not be “greedy of filthy lucre,” nor “covetous.” Since church leaders would be responsible for church finances, only a person who had been completely delivered from any spirit of covetousness could be safely set apart for the duties of the ministry.

Verses 14 through 16 are a transition in Paul’s epistle from the prior section on public worship to the practical instructions and exhortations which conclude the book. The phrase “how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God” indicates the thoughtful care that should always mark the work of the church. In addition to a right order in church services and a proper chain of command in church structure, there must also be a policy of correct behavior within the church in order for God’s work to function properly.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III.   Charge concerning church order
     B.   The leadership of the church (3:1-13)
           1.   The office of overseer (3:1-7)
                 a.   The honor of the office (3:1)
                 b.   The qualifications for the office (3:2-7)
           2.   The office of deacon (3:8-13)
                 a.   The qualifications for the office (3:8-12)
                 b.   The reward of the office (3:13)
     C.   The reasons for the charge to church order (3:14-16)
           1.   Because of Paul’s absence (3:14)
           2.   Because of Timothy’s responsibility (3:15)
           3.   Because of the truth possessed by the church (3:16)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What phrase did Paul use to describe the office of a bishop? Why do you think he characterized it in this way?

  2. Why do the requirements for bishops also apply to those of us who are not pastors or church leaders?

  3. What are some steps we can take to make sure our Christian lives can be deemed “blameless”?

CONCLUSION

May our godly behavior demonstrate each day that Christianity is real and the very thing that all men need.

Ephesians 1:15 through 2:10

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Ephesians 1
Ephesians 2
[I] Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers. — Ephesians 1:16

I love to meet with God’s people! I enjoy going to services at my home church, combined meetings, special meetings, and camp meetings. It is a great encouragement to know that I am not alone in serving the Lord. It is thrilling to see evidence of answered prayer when I see the object of my prayers standing to witness to the power of God!

A few weeks ago, on a Saturday morning I woke up at 4:15 (which is significant since it’s the only morning of the week that my alarm does not go off at 5 a.m.) with a couple of dear friends on my heart. I was awake enough (also significant, since I don’t wake up easily) to know that for some reason I needed to pray for them, so I did. These friends live about 1100 miles and two time zones away, but we have contact via occasional long-distance telephone calls and email messages. We may see each other face-to-face every year or two, but definitely not on a regular basis. As I prayed for them, I thanked the Lord for their faithfulness to me in times of great emotional and spiritual need. I thanked the Lord for their testimony of the saving and keeping power of Jesus. Because I knew of some of the trials they were experiencing at the moment, I started rehearsing those things before the Lord. I asked for His intervention on their behalf in each situation. Eventually the burden lifted and I was able to fall back to sleep.

It was no surprise to have the phone ring a couple of hours later and hear the voice of my friend on the other end, telling me of how the Lord had answered her prayer; it was one I had been interceding for. It wasn’t answered the way either of us thought it would be, but because we agree that God’s way is best, we took the answer as it was given. Our understanding was enlightened (verse 18) as to how the Lord had been working behind the scenes and was indeed showing His exceeding greatness (verse 19) in the whole situation.

This is not the first time that has happened to me, and I hope it won’t be the last! Often when people I haven’t seen for a long time come to mind, I breathe a prayer for them, only to learn the next time we see each other how the Lord worked out a particular problem or situation. At the same time, friends will ask me about my unsaved family members and share with me that the Lord reminded them lately to pray for them!

Just as Paul prayed for the Ephesian church, as well as many others, so we must pray for our brothers and sisters. When we earnestly pray for others, we can be assured that God hears us and will answer. 

BACKGROUND

Many scholars believe that Paul intended the letter he wrote to the Ephesians to circulate among the churches in several Asian cities. There are two prayers in the Book of Ephesians. The first is found in verses 15-23 in the first chapter; the other in chapter 3 verses 14-21. Prayer is a natural activity of the regenerated heart, and Paul made specific requests in his prayer for the group at Ephesus. His prayer could well serve as a model for believers today in praying for others. 

Paul may not have known all of his readers personally, but he had heard of their faith and love. He prayed for them continuously and with intensity, all the while giving thanks to God. 

In verse 1:22, Paul used the word church for the first time in his letter to the Ephesians. He wanted the people to understand that Christ was to be the Head and they were to be the body of His church. The image of the body portrayed the church’s unity. 

In the first section of chapter 2, Paul described the work of Christ in the lives of God’s people. Verses 1-10 in the original Greek text were one long sentence that assembled all of Paul’s teachings about grace, faith, and the Christian life. The word grace appears twelve times in Ephesians, and it meant “pleasantness, favor, or gratitude” to the people of Paul’s day. However, early Christians used the word in a different way that described the utter generosity that God gives to undeserving sinners.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II.   The calling of the church
     A.   The foundation of the church
           2.   The foundation realized: the prayer of Paul (1:15-23)
                 a.   The reason for his prayer (1:15)
                 b.   The attitude of his prayer (1:16)
                 c.   The content of his prayer (1:17-23)
                       (1)   The request for wisdom and revelation (1:17)
                       (2)   The reason for wisdom and revelation (1:18-23)
                             (a)   To know the hope of his calling and the wealth of the glory of His inheritance (1:18)
                             (b)   To know the greatness of His power to us (1:19-23)
     B.   The foundation of the church
           1.   The new position individually: the saints (2:1-10)
                 a.   Our past condition: dead in sins (2:1-3)
                 b.   Our new position: alive with Christ (2:4-7)
                 c.   Our present situation: walking with God (2:8-10)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What are the four things in 1:17-19 that Paul prayed the Ephesians would come to know even more deeply?

  2. Paul says that God’s power in us is the power that raised Jesus from death. What is most significant to you personally about this? What steps can you take to grasp and benefit from this truth in a greater way?

  3. Explain the relationship between grace and faith expressed in 2:8. Who demonstrates grace? Who demonstrates faith? What part does each of these qualities play in salvation?

CONCLUSION

When we continually pray to God for others, we will reap God’s blessing in our own lives.

2 Timothy 4:1-22

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
2 Timothy 4
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. — 2 Timothy 4:7

It pays to determine to keep the faith even in difficult situations. When I was saved as a teenager, I was living with my parents in Nigeria. They strongly opposed my attending the Apostolic Faith Church, and one day my father confronted me about it. He said that I had to attend his church, but I indicated I preferred to go to a place that taught me how to live victoriously over sin. Because of that choice, my father said he would no longer pay for my college expenses, and he also instructed my mother not to support me in any way or even give me food. I became a stranger in my own home.

The persecution was severe and sometimes almost unbearable, yet God was close to me. At one point, I looked for a job outside our town. However, when I talked to my pastor, he said I should not run away from persecution. He encouraged me to endure and be true to God no matter what it took. After three years, God in His own way provided money for me to go to college without the support of my parents. Later, I received a scholarship to come to the United States to continue my studies.

I prayed earnestly for my parents’ salvation. When I went back to Nigeria to do a research project, my mother volunteered that she wanted to start attending our church, and until she passed away she traveled from another town each Sunday to attend services. About nine years later, I called my dad from the United States, and he told me that he was packing to attend camp meeting at our church in Lagos! He was saved at those meetings, and he has since been sanctified and filled with the Holy Ghost. At eighty-two years old, he is still serving the Lord.

The Apostle Paul faced many persecutions, but God took him through, and many people heard the Gospel because of his faithfulness. At the end of his life, he could say that he had fought a good fight and kept the faith.

When we face persecutions, we want to have that same determination to continue on with the Lord. It pays to fight the good fight of faith because God always has a purpose for everything we go through. I did not know that God was speaking to my parents’ hearts while they were persecuting me, but my dad later mentioned how my steadfastness helped to bring him to Christ. If we continue serving the Lord, we will be glad we did, and others may be saved as a result. It is worthwhile to keep the faith!

BACKGROUND

In 2 Timothy, the Apostle Paul’s final writing to Timothy, Paul admonished the younger man to be faithful in his ministry. It was written shortly before the Apostle was executed by the Emperor Nero around A.D. 67. In this chapter, Paul delivered a solemn charge to Timothy to preach the Word of God.

In the previous part of his letter, Paul had instructed Timothy in how to be a minister, and in verse 1, he put the responsibility upon Timothy to be faithful in fulfilling this calling. The word charge could be translated “adjure,” for the original language had a legal tone. Paul reminded Timothy that he would be accountable to God for this responsibility.

To fulfill this calling, Paul exhorted Timothy to “preach the word.” He was to declare the Gospel urgently and authoritatively, like the heralds of that time announced a pending arrival of the emperor. And he was to do this consistently. “Be instant in season, out of season,” has also been translated, “Press it home on all occasions, convenient or inconvenient.” Reproof, rebuke, and exhortation would be necessary, but Paul wanted these to be given patiently and with a doctrinal basis.

Paul warned Timothy that some would not want to hear the truth he preached. Consequently, Timothy needed to be alert and to work at winning souls. If Timothy endured afflictions and proclaimed the Gospel, he would “make full proof” of his ministry. That phrase could also be translated, “carry out to the full the commission that God gave you.”

The time of Paul’s own ministry was nearly over, and he had done what he was exhorting Timothy to do. In saying, “I am now ready to be offered,” he referred to a drink offering that was poured out when making sacrifices under the Law. “The time of my departure” alluded to a soldier taking down his tent.

When Paul said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith,” his comparison was to the Greek athletic competitions. Paul looked back and knew he had done his best for God. As a result, he knew he would receive a “crown of righteousness.” The crown Paul referred to here was not the crown of royalty, but the victory crown given to the winner of a race at sporting events of that time. Paul contrasted the athlete’s crown, which was made of olive branches that would eventually wither, to the crown given by the Lord, which will last forever. He said that “all them also that love his appearing” could obtain this crown.

With the major portion of his letter completed, beginning at verse 9, Paul gave some concluding remarks and greetings. The tone reveals some of Paul’s feelings, including loneliness, as he lived in a Roman dungeon not long before his execution. One of his workers, Demas, had departed. “Alexander the coppersmith” may refer to the Alexander mentioned in 1 Timothy 1:20. In spite of Paul’s circumstances, the Apostle knew the Lord would be with him and preserve him.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
IV.   Expression of faithfulness in service (4:1-8)
     A.   The charge (4:1-2)
           1.   The gravity of the charge (4:1)
           2.   The responsibility of the charge (4:2)
     B.   The reason (4:3-4)
     C.   The contrast (4:5)
     D.   The example (4:6-8)
           1.   The endurance (4:6)
           2.   The consummation (4:7)
           3.   The crown (4:8)
V.   Conclusion (4:9-22)
     A.   Paul’s requests (4:9-13)
           1.   For companionship (4:9-12)
           2.   For his cloak, books, and parchments (4:13)
     B.   Paul’s reflections (4:14-18)
           1.   The danger of Alexander (4:14-15)
           2.   The first trial (4:16-17)
           3.   The confidence of His protection (4:18)
     C.   Greetings, some information, and further requests (4:19-21)
     D.   Benediction (4:22)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. In today’s text, what are three of the things Paul told Timothy to do?

  2. Why could Paul say he had fought a good fight?

  3. What challenges have you faced in your service for Christ?

CONCLUSION

God wants to help every one of us fight a good fight and keep the faith, if we will purpose to follow Him with all our hearts.

Acts 3:1-26

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Acts 3
And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. — Acts 3:12-13

When I was growing up, our family went through a similar ritual every Christmas season. Mom and Dad would act as though they had completely forgotten the holiday was coming. They did not ask us children to create a list of toys and other items we wanted. We did not see them leaving the house to go shopping for presents during the season, and there were no gifts being wrapped and set aside for us to open on Christmas day. We would talk about this lack of evidence among ourselves, in a mixture of complaining, proverbial wringing of our hands, and anxious wonderment as to whether our parents really loved us.

All the time we were experiencing this childlike consternation over their apparent forgetfulness, my parents were quietly making plans, shopping for Christmas gifts, and hiding them away. They never let us down. Without fail, our parents would bring out gifts for us children to open on Christmas morning, and we would enjoy celebrating together. It took us years before we figured out the amusement our parents enjoyed through this annual ruse.

In retrospect, I wonder why we ever thought they would fail us. This hoax only worked because of our low expectation of our parents. We should have known that if our parents had the means to give us gifts on Christmas day, they certainly would do so. Even if it was difficult, they would do whatever they could to make our Christmas awesome. We should have known, because we knew how much our parents loved us.

In our focus verses, we see Peter trying to make a similar point to the Jewish people who witnessed the healing of the man lame from birth. When the man stood to his feet and was seen walking, leaping, and praising God, Peter asked the onlookers why they marveled. He indicated that they should have expected no less from “the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers.” This was not a God foreign to them. Unlike the Gentiles who had no knowledge of God, the Jews had known of Him all their lives! He had worked miracles repeatedly in their nation’s history, so why were they astounded at this event? Peter’s underlying point was that Jesus Christ was their promised Messiah, so they should not be surprised when works were done through His Name. After all, the prophets of old had foretold such works.

To be sure, there is always room for believers to have a healthy awe and wonder at the miracles God performs. However, we should also have an expectation that the God we know will move in our lives in miraculous ways when we need Him most. After all, we know He loves us and He has worked on our behalf before!

What challenges are you facing in life today? Do you expect God to show up and work out those challenges for His honor and glory? Remember, you can always count on Him . . . because He loves you!

BACKGROUND

The Apostles were dwelling in Jerusalem and therefore were in proximity to the center of Jewish life — Herod’s Temple. As Jews, Peter and John and the other disciples attended the different services of worship there.

Herod’s Temple was a complex with several precincts or courts to which admission was progressively restricted. All people were allowed to gather in the Temple’s outer court. From there, Jewish people could enter the area exclusively reserved for them. (Gentiles attempting to go beyond the outer court would have been subject to punishment, possibly even death.) The first of the inner courts was as far as the Jewish women were allowed to go; the next area was exclusively for ritually cleansed Jewish men; and the innermost court was reserved for the Temple priests.

There is some debate among Bible scholars regarding the exact location of the Beautiful Gate, although it probably was what is also known as the Nicanor gate. However, it would have been a gate separating the outer court where Gentiles were allowed from the inner area where only Jewish people could enter. Thus, the healing of the lame man not only would have been witnessed by residents of Jerusalem, but also by a mixed multitude of God-fearing Gentiles and Jews who had made a pilgrimage to the Temple from outside the local area. This location provided a rich opportunity for Peter and John to bear witness to the power of Jesus Christ to a large and diverse audience. In particular, it afforded an opportunity for the disciples to challenge a Jewish audience to acknowledge that Jesus was the Messiah.

Traditionally, many individuals with sicknesses of all types sat at the Beautiful Gate asking for alms (money, food, or other donations given to the poor or needy). No doubt this lame man whom Peter and John healed was a familiar sight. Thus, his healing clearly was an authentic miracle from God. Both his actions of leaping and walking, and his words of praise to God, were a testimony to the miraculous event that had taken place. No one present could deny the power of Jesus Christ, nor could they ignore the message that Peter proclaimed after the miracle.

Peter’s sermon repeated the theme of “repent” that characterized his first sermon (found in chapter 2). He admonished his hearers to “repent and be converted” (verse 19). The verb translated repent literally means to “return” or “turn again.” The result of so doing would be that their sins would be blotted out.

Verse 22 and 23 are probably a paraphrase of Deuteronomy 18:15, 18-19. In verse 24, Peter established that Samuel was the first of a succession of prophets who had foretold the coming of the Messiah. He concluded his message by reminding those listening that they were “the children of the prophets” (verse 25) — the rightful heirs to the promises made through the prophets. The phrase “unto you first” (verse 26) confirms that it was God’s plan for the message of salvation to be delivered initially to the Jews, and then be spread throughout the world by them.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

II.    The witness in Jerusalem
   B.    The witness by Peter and John
       1.    The miracle by Peter (3:1-11)
           a.    The setting (3:1-2)
           b.    The request (3:3)
           c.    The response (3:4-7)
           d.    The result (3:8-11)
       2.    The message by Peter (3:12-26)
           a.    Israel’s rejection of Christ (3:12-18)
           b.    Israel’s need for Christ (3:19-26)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What did Peter and John offer the lame man in lieu of the alms he requested?

  2. What was the implication behind Peter’s words, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth . . .”?

  3. Are there moments in your life when you do not expect God to do the things that He has promised to do in His Word? What can you do to reawaken your faith and have the expectation of Peter and John?

CONCLUSION

After the healing of the lame man, Peter saw an opportunity to preach to the amazed onlookers, and began by confronting their astonishment. His purpose and desire was to help them see that Jesus Christ, through whose Name the miracle had occurred, was indeed the Messiah prophesied by their forefathers.

Acts 12:1-25

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Acts 12
But the word of God grew and multiplied. — Acts 12:24

In the centuries that have gone by since Luke penned the Book of Acts, followers of Christ have endured persecution. James and Peter, whose sufferings for the faith are recorded in today’s text, were just two of thousands upon thousands of believers who have experienced intimidation, opposition, assaults, imprisonment, and even martyrdom.

Nik Ripken wrote about his travels to some of the spiritually darkest locations on earth to meet with those who have triumphed despite intense persecution. One of the believers Ripken met was Dmitri, a pastor in Eastern Europe who had been jailed for seventeen years. Imprisoned with fifteen hundred hardened criminals and subjected to terrible physical torture, Dmitri began two routines that he continued throughout his confinement: he would write Scriptures on any scrap of paper he could find, and every morning he would stand, raise his arms in praise to God, and sing a hymn. This went on for years, even though the prison officials did everything in their power to stop him.

Finally, Dmitri was told he would be executed. As he was dragged down the prison corridor toward the courtyard, an amazing thing happened. Fifteen hundred hardened criminals rose to their feet, faced the east, and began to sing the song they had heard Dmitri sing every morning. The jailors were so shocked that they took the pastor back to his cell. What an impact that simple act of honoring God had made on those imprisoned with this faithful pastor! Sometime later, Dmitri was released and allowed to return to his family.(1)

Dmitri’s story, and those of other Christians whose faithful witness endured in the most difficult of circumstances, led Nik Ripken to an amazing conclusion: the Gospel message not only can survive under persecution, but many times it thrives! When stalwart believers do not allow their tormentors to silence their testimony, their courageous behavior often inspires others to faith in Christ. Our focus verse bears that out — in the face of intense persecution, the Early Church stood fast and “the word of God grew and multiplied.”

Those of us who live in regions of the world that are safe from overt persecution (at least for now) have a challenge of our own: we must withstand the trend toward the secularization of the Gospel, and survive in an environment where our spiritual values seem increasingly strange in our culture. We should not only pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters; we should also learn from them how to live with courage and undaunted commitment to our Lord in spite of opposition. As we follow their examples, we can trust God that our lives will impact others, and that the Gospel will continue to grow and multiply in all areas of the world.

BACKGROUND

In verse 19 of chapter 11, Luke had resumed his theme of the evangelism that took place due to the persecution and scattering of the believing Jews after the martyrdom of Stephen. Chapter 12 continues the theme of persecution, mentioning the death of James and describing the arrest, imprisonment, and miraculous release of Peter. Except for a brief mention in chapter 15, this is the last Luke spoke of Peter, who was the focus of the first twelve chapters of the Book of Acts. Peter subsequently met Paul in Antioch (Galatians 2:11-14), and later wrote two letters to suffering Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor, the Epistles of 1 and 2 Peter. Tradition says both Peter and Paul were martyred, likely after the Great Fire of Rome in A.D. 64, but before the last year of Nero’s reign in A.D. 68.

Verse 1 records that King Herod vexed (ill-treated, afflicted, or distressed) the followers of Christ. This was Herod Agrippa I, a grandson of Herod the Great — the ruler in the days of Jesus’ birth. Herod Agrippa I was also the nephew of Herod Antipas, who had a role in the trial of Jesus, and the brother of Herodias, who was responsible for the beheading of John the Baptist. After a thirty-five year period in which Judea had been administrated by seven different procurators (governors), Herod Agrippa I had been appointed by the Romans to rule over Judea. Although he was partly Jewish and observed the Jewish feasts and sacrifices, he was a classic politician, aligning himself against the followers of Christ in the hope that his actions would solidify his position with the Jewish leaders who hated Christians.

One of Herod’s first actions was to execute James, the brother of John. James was the first of the original twelve disciples to suffer martyrdom, and the only one whose death is mentioned in Scripture. (His brother John was the last of the Apostles to die.) The Greek historian Eusebius (A. D. 260/265 – 339/340) related that the soldier who guarded James was so impacted by his witness that he declared himself a Christian before the court, and was willingly executed alongside of James.

When Herod saw that his action pleased the Jewish populace, he had Peter apprehended. The Apostle was placed under the supervision of four quaternions of soldiers — sixteen men, with groups of four taking each three-hour watch period. Herod’s intention to bring Peter out after the Passover (translated from the Greek pascha as “Easter”) was probably based on the fact that the large crowds gathered for the festival potentially would laud him for his zeal in killing someone they believed to be a heretic.

Peter’s imprisonment stirred the believers to prayer on his behalf. In verse 5, the phrase translated “without ceasing” is from the Greek word ektenos, which has the idea of earnestly and fervently. Luke used this same word to portray the agonizing prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:44).

Verse 6 describes how the quaternion of soldiers was stationed around Peter. No doubt Herod knew that Peter had escaped from prison once before (see Acts 5:19), and was intent upon ensuring that would not happen again. However, an angel awoke the sleeping Apostle and led him out of the prison.

The home Peter went to following his deliverance was that of the mother of John Mark (the writer of the Gospel of Mark). Apparently the house was large enough to serve as a meeting place for a congregation; some Bible scholars suggest this may have been where the Last Supper was held and Pentecost occurred. After Peter explained to the assembled group what had happened, he instructed them to “go show” (or report) his escape to James and the brethren. This James was the one Paul referred to as “James the Lord’s brother” in Galatians 1:19 — the leader of the church in Jerusalem.

Verses 18-19 indicate that Herod executed the guards who had been charged with supervising Peter’s imprisonment. It was a Roman custom to execute any guard who allowed a prisoner to escape.

Herod then went to Caesarea, which was the headquarters of the Roman government in Judea, and where he had a palace. At this time, his relationship with the people of the self-governing but economically dependent cities of Tyre and Sidon had been one of antagonism, and he had cut off their food supply. However, the people petitioned Herod for peace after gaining an audience through Blastus, his chief of staff.

According to the ancient Jewish historian Josephus, the “set day” (verse 21) at which Herod was to make an oration to the people of Tyre and Sidon was a festival during which vows would be made regarding the safety of the Roman emperor. While Luke related only that Herod was “arrayed in royal apparel” as he came into this event, Josephus noted that Herod’s garment was made entirely of silver and was very resplendent, causing him to appear to be illuminated. In response to his vivid appearance, and perhaps to gain his favor, the people cried out “It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.” There is no record that he rebuked the people, nor in any way rejected their impious assertions. Divine retribution was poured out, and Herod was smitten with worms. Josephus recorded that he endured great pain for five days before he finally died.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah's Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

III.    The witness in Judea and Samaria
   D.    The witness of the persecuted church
       2.    The persecution in Jerusalem (12:1-25)
           a.    Herod’s persecution of the church (12:1)
           b.    The death of James (12:2)
           c.    The confinement of Peter (12:3-23)
               (1)    Peter’s arrest (12:3-4)
               (2)    The prayer of the church (12:5)
               (3)    Peter’s deliverance (12:6-17)
               (4)    Herod’s confession (12:18-19)
               (5)    Herod’s death (12:20-23)
           d.    The growth of the church (12:24-25)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. According to verse 9, what was Peter’s initial perspective about his deliverance from prison?

  2. Why do you think it was so difficult for the group assembled in the home of Mary to believe Rhoda’s report that Peter was at the door?

  3. While we may not experience direct persecution for our faith, followers of Christ will face opposition from Satan. What are lessons we can learn from persecuted believers that will help prepare us to stand?

CONCLUSION

Hostility and hatred do not thwart the advance of God’s kingdom. We can learn from persecuted believers to hold fast to our confidence in God through whatever trials He allows to come our way.

1 Nik Ripken with Gregg Lewis, The Insanity of God, Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2013, 151-160.

Jeremiah 37:1 through 38:28

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Jeremiah 37
Jeremiah 38
Ebed-melech went forth out of the king’s house, and spake to the king, saying, My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have cast into the dungeon; and he is like to die for hunger in the place where he is: for there is no more bread in the city. — Jeremiah 38:8-9

Occasionally, God gives people an opportunity to take heroic action. Harriet Tubman was one of those. Born a slave in 1820, she was assigned to do housework when she was five years old, and then later worked in the fields. At fifteen, she was injured by a heavy weight hitting her head as she blocked an overseer who was aiming for another slave. In 1849, she escaped from Maryland to Philadelphia, thereby gaining freedom. Before long, however, Harriet went back to help some of her family members escape. At great risk to herself, she became a “conductor” on the “underground railroad,” making eighteen or nineteen more trips back to help guide slaves to freedom. This was accomplished by using secret routes and staying in “safe houses” — the homes of abolitionists. When the Fugitive Slave Act was passed, Harriet Tubman again lost her official freedom, and therefore had to operate more secretly. At one time, a reward of forty thousand dollars was offered for her capture, but no one betrayed her. She is credited with guiding more than two hundred slaves to freedom. The courageous woman was willing to repeatedly risk her life to use her opportunities to the greatest advantage.

Today’s text tells of a man who also took great personal risk for the sake of another person’s life. When Ebed-melech found out that Jeremiah had been put in the cistern and would die there, he was willing to seek out King Zedekiah and plead Jeremiah’s cause. Ebed-melech knew the hatred the court officials had for Jeremiah, so he was aware of the ramifications his actions might cause. Still, he had the courage to speak out, and then to go and rescue the prophet.

How about us? We probably have never helped lead a slave to freedom or rescued a prophet from a cistern. However, we are all called to be loyal to God and to stand for His Word and principles. At times this may involve some personal risk. Are we willing to be like Harriet Tubman and Ebed-melech and have the courage to follow our convictions? God has promised to be with us and give His grace if we will purpose in our hearts to fully follow Him. He can help us be strong in His cause.

BACKGROUND

These two chapters detail events that transpired not long before Jerusalem fell. Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, was defiant, disobedient, wicked, and a coward. He was torn between Jeremiah’s prophetic warnings, and pressure from the people and his court officials. Because of these political influences, at times the very life of Jeremiah was in danger.

In chapter 37 verse 3, King Zedekiah sent Jehucal and Zephaniah to Jeremiah, asking prayer for himself and the nation. Judah had been subject to Babylon, but then the Egyptian army under Pharaoh-hophra made advances northward. Upon hearing this news, the Chaldeans withdrew from Jerusalem (verse 5), which lured the people of Judah into a false sense of security. Jeremiah’s response to King Zedekiah remained the same. The message was that even if all the Chaldean army was wounded, Jerusalem would still be destroyed (verse 10).

Jeremiah endeavored to leave Jerusalem while the Chaldeans were temporarily gone (verse 12), but was arrested by a guard who accused him of deserting and took him to the princes. These officials detested Jeremiah, so they beat and then imprisoned him. The words dungeon and cabins could be translated “the dungeon cells.” Jeremiah was in this despicable and unsanitary prison “for many days,” which began to take a toll on his health.

Once again, King Zedekiah approached Jeremiah to see if he had any word from God concerning Judah (verse 17). It seems the king was hopeful that God had changed His mind, but the message remained the same. Zedekiah must have felt some sympathy for Jeremiah, because he had him placed into the court of the prison. In this area, Jeremiah could move about, and his friends could come to see him. Also, the king directed that he be given some food.

In the court of the prison, Jeremiah was able to continue giving his warnings. Some of the officials heard about this (chapter 38), and they requested permission from the king to put the prophet to death, accusing him of trying to weaken the people. King Zedekiah gave Jeremiah into the hands of the princes, and they put him into a cistern. Used to collect water when it rained, this cistern had only mud in the bottom. Verse 6 says, “Jeremiah sunk in the mire”; the historian Josephus says he sank up to his neck. The princes expected him to die there.

Ebed-melech, a eunuch on the king’s staff, found out about Jeremiah’s situation. He went to Zedekiah at the gate of Benjamin. After receiving permission from the king, Ebed-melech took a group and rescued the prophet from the dungeon, using rags to cushion his arms while he was pulled from the mire’s suction. He was returned to the court of the prison.

King Zedekiah again approached Jeremiah for counseling (verse 14). Jeremiah responded only after the king swore to protect him. In what was probably his last meeting with this king, Jeremiah’s message remained consistent. Zedekiah was told to surrender to the Chaldeans and survive, or disobey God and face dire consequences. Zedekiah expressed his fear of the Jews, but Jeremiah told him emphatically that it woul