Prayer Psalm: 59
Prayer Point: David wrote this psalm while his enemies lurked outside his home looking for an opportunity to kill him. Notice whom David turns to for justice and for his security. He places those concerns in God’s hands. How do we pray this same prayer? By remembering that we were the enemies who found an opportunity to kill Jesus and when we nailed him to a cross, he said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Pray that we might trust God with our justice and security concerns and that we might have the forgiving heart of Jesus.
Jesus retreats to a solitary place upon hearing the news of his cousin’s murder. What does Jesus do for the crowds despite his grief? Why do you think Jesus puts his disciples on the spot by saying, “you give them something to eat.”? How do the disciples fail this simple test of faith? What do we learn about Jesus through this miracle?
In the early years of the church, the vast majority of Jesus’ followers were Jewish (all the Apostles were Jewish). But as the Christian faith began to spread around the Roman Empire, Gentiles (people who are not Jewish) began to flow into the church. This presented a problem for the church. For thousands of years they and their ancestors had held to the laws and customs given to them by Moses. These laws and customs are recorded for us in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy and they covered all aspects of life: circumcision, special holidays to be observed, regulations concerning food and cleanliness, and laws governing how we were to relate to God and to our neighbor. The questions for the early church were: Do Gentile followers of Jesus need to follow Jewish laws and customs in order to be saved? Do they need to be circumcised? (Acts 15:1) Does someone need to become Jewish in order to become a follower of Jesus? Now that Jesus has come are we still bound to keep the law of Moses?
For more background on this issue and how the church resolved it take a moment to read Acts 15. This controversy over circumcision, found its way to the churches in Galatia. Apparently Christians who believed that Gentile Christians needed to be circumcised (male circumcision only) and adopt Jewish customs came to Galatia and pressured the Gentile men to be circumcised. Paul wrote this letter in response to that pressure.
For Paul, receiving the Holy Spirit, not circumcision,was the mark of a true Christian. What caused God to give the Holy Spirit, the mark of a true Christian, to the Galatians? If we began following Jesus by the Holy Spirit, how should we continue to follow him (see verse 3)?
The word ‘justify’ is a legal term meaning to declare someone to be innocent or righteous. ‘Credit’ is a banking term, meaning to transfer money from one account to another. In other words, justification is when the righteousness of Jesus is credited to our account. It is a gift that we receive by faith.
How was it that Abraham was ‘credited’ righteousness? How are we, the Gentiles, like Abraham? What can’t the Law (the Law of Moses including circumcision) do? How is it that we are rescued from the curse of the Law? Why does God bless us and give us the Holy Spirit?
Ecclesiastes 3:16-4:3 Judgment, Animals and Oppression
What else does the Teacher see “under the sun”? (“In the place of judgment – wickedness was there, in the place of justice – wickedness was there.” (Eccl. 3:16 NIV))
What conclusion does the Teacher draw from all of this? (“God will bring to judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time for every deed.” (Eccl. 3:17 NIV))
What does the Teacher’s conclusion cause us to think about? (Death)
Describe the Teacher’s view of Man vs. Animal. (The Teacher sees no difference between the animal and man. Both will face the same fate.)
What is the very familiar expression buried (!) in this passage? (“…all come from dust, and to dust all return.” (Eccl. 3:20 NIV))
What doubt does the Teacher admit in verse 3:21? (“Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” (NIV))
What then, is man’s lot? (verse 3:22) (“So I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot.” (NIV))
What is the next thing (issue) the Teacher looks at? (Oppression)
This oppression causes the Teacher to make what declaration? (“And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive.” (Eccl, 4:2 NIV))
So the Teacher looks at the living and the dead, who is better off than they? (“But better than both is he who has not yet born, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun.” (Eccl. 4:3 NIV))