Prayer Psalm: 106
Prayer Point: Sometimes we can’t appreciate the love of God until we contrast his faithfulness to our failures. That is the story that Psalm 106 tells. Make this psalm your own by remembering your own story with God, his faithfulness and your failures, and offer God a prayer of gratitude.
There are unfulfilled dreams for the temple which drives Jesus’ anger. He quotes Isaiah 56:7 as he overturns the tables of the sellers and moneychangers. Here a fuller picture of that dream:
Isaiah 56:6-7 And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him, to love the name of the LORD and to worship him … these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house [temple] will be called a house of prayer for all nations.
In the temple of Jesus’ day, there was only one place where Gentiles could come to worship God and that was the outer court called the Court of the Gentiles. That was the court where the moneychangers and sellers set up shop effectively shutting out the Gentiles from worshiping. Could you imagine worshiping God in the middle of a market? These conniving opportunists had all but killed God’s dream that the nations of the world worship him there.
It gets worse. These moneychangers and sellers also gouged the pilgrims who had no choice but to purchase their services. The poor were exploited and the foreigners were excluded in the house of God.
What does Jesus do once he shuts down the sellers and moneychangers? Who responds positively to Jesus’ actions in the temple? Who is indignant?
Verses 18-22 sound quite strange to our ears until we understand what it means for Jesus to be a prophet. Prophets not only spoke their messages, they acted them out. The fig tree in this story is a prop, a symbol for something else. Considering what you have just read, who do you think the fig tree represents? Why is the fig tree cursed? What kind of fruit was Jesus looking for in Israel that was absent?
The disciples are amazed at Jesus’ power. What will take for his disciples to do the things that Jesus did?
Paul has just declared in verse 11 that through the life and death of Jesus Christ we are “dead to sin but alive to God.” In other words, sin no longer owns us. It is dead to us, and now we are challenged to exercise the freedom that Christ won for us.
How do we act on this freedom? What should we stop doing? To whom shall we offer ourselves?
“You are not under law, but under grace.” Christ has rescued us from the law by dying our death for us. The law demanded that we die an eternal death to pay for our sins against God, but Jesus’ death paid the penalty in full. Why shouldn’t we sin now that the penalty of sin has been lifted? We were made to serve someone, to be slaves to someone. We used to be slaves to sin (we couldn’t help not sinning), who owns us now? Where does slavery to sin lead? Where does obedience lead?
How does Paul describe slavery to sin (verses 19-21)? What wouldn’t we want to return to this state? What benefits are there in being slaves to God?
Numbers 22:1-21 Balaam
Apparently the Israelites then turn again south (remember the last time we saw them they were in Bashan which is north of Moab) to the border of Moab. Word of the Israelite successes had spread quickly and Balak son of Zippor, the king of Moab, then summoned his prophet Balaam to curse Israel.
Balak’s plan is to have Balaam curse Israel so that he would have the success over his enemy that had eluded others (Sihon and Og) before him. What is Balak’s message to Balaam? (“‘A people has come out of Egypt; they cover the face of the land and have settled next to me. Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the country. For I know that those you bless are blessed, and those you curse are cursed.’” (Numbers 22:5b-6 NIV))
Balaam gets visited by God during the night. This is the only time I can find in the OT where a non-Israelite prophet is visited by God. I must suppose that the reason for this is that Balak would not believe anyone else with God’s message; he would be suspicious of his (the prophet’s) motives. He trusted Balaam.
What is God’s message to Balak through Balaam? (“God came to Balaam and asked, ‘Who are these men with you?’ Balaam said to God, ‘Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, sent me this message: “A people that has come out of Egypt covers the face of the land. Now come and put a curse on them for me. Perhaps then I will be able to fight them and drive them away.”’ But God said to Balaam, ‘Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.’” (Numbers 22:10-12 NIV))
What is Balak’s response to Balaam? (Balak sends another delegation – more distinguished than the first, again to ask, or beg Balaam to return with them to curse the Israelites. He also promises to reward Balaam handsomely for his efforts.)
Balaam appears to have a noble streak of sorts (although the riches offered still may have been in the back of his mind). What does Balaam say to Balak regarding his attempted bribe? (“But Balaam answered them, ‘Even if Balak gave me his palace filled with silver and gold, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the LORD my God.” (Numbers 22:18 NIV))
God again appears to Balaam. What are his instructions to him? (“That night God came to Balaam and said, ‘Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.’” (Numbers 22:20 NIV) Now this is more like it. Balaam can go with a clear conscience to be tempted by Balak.) So Balaam went with the princes of Moab. (v. 22:21)