Prayer Psalm: 80
Prayer Point: Just as a flower cannot bloom without the sun, the human soul cannot live without the presence of God. God led Israel out of slavery and made them a free people, flourishing like a planted vine in the soil of the Promised Land. They were alive because God was with them but in pride they turned away from God and the source of life. So have we. Take some time to repent today and call out to God: “Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us that we may be saved.”
The word translated ‘Word’ is the Greek word ‘logos’, a term borrowed from Greek philosophy meaning ‘divine reason that holds the universe together.’ For the Greeks ‘logos’ was an abstract principle. For John, ‘the logos’ is _____________________.
If you compare John 1:1-4 to Genesis 1:1-5 you’ll notice that John is drawing heavily from the Creation story in Genesis. What insight does John give us into the Word’s role in creation in verse 3? What is contained within the Word in verse 4 and how does the darkness respond?
The John of verse 6 is John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus. Who sent John the Baptist into the world? What was his mission?
The word “world” in verse 10 has a range of meanings but in this verse it refers to fallen humanity that is separated from God. How does the world respond to the Word? How does the Word’s own people, Israel, respond to him? What is promised to all those who accept the Word?
Verse 14 contains another fascinating word that loses its edge when it is translated into English. “The word became flesh and made his dwelling with us.” The verb “made his dwelling” is a word that John created by taking the Hebrew word ‘tabernacle’ and turning it into a verb. You could say, “the Word became flesh and tabernacled with us.” The tabernacle was the earliest temple, actually a tent, where God’s presence lived with his people.
The Greeks to whom John was writing believed that the spiritual world to which the gods belonged was good, but the physical world where we live is evil. It was unthinkable to them that the gods would dirty themselves with the physical world. What does the Word do that shocks John’s Greek readers? What do we see through the coming of the Word? What does John the Baptist testify concerning the Word? Who is the Word (see verse 17)? What has the Word made known to us?
God has just poured out his Spirit on the disciples of Jesus with tongues of fire and the sound of a rushing wind. The people in Jerusalem, there to observe the Jewish holiday of Pentecost which celebrated the firstfruits of the harvest, come running asking what it all meant. Peter delivers a sermon explaining that the Jesus who was crucified has been raised from the dead and crowned king. He is the one who has poured out the Holy Spirit.
What happens to those listening in the crowd? What question do they ask? What answer and promise does Peter give them?
Baptism has its origins in Judaism. When a Gentile converted to Judaism he was immersed in water (baptized) symbolizing the washing away of the old pagan life and the start of a new life following the God of Israel. What is amazing about the scene here in Acts 2 is that these are Jews getting baptized and not Gentiles. They were saying, I need God’s forgiveness just as much as pagans do. In baptism they identified with the death of Christ (entering the water) and his resurrection (emerging from the water). See also John 1:29-42.
3000 people were baptized and welcomed into the church as they started new lives following Jesus. What kinds of things did this young church devote themselves to? What happened to the community daily (Acts 2:47)? Why do you think this happened?
Judges 6:25-40 – Gideon challenges both Baal and the LORD
When last we left our hero, Gideon had just made an offering to the LORD. That same night the LORD re-visits Gideon. What does the LORD want Gideon to do which may test his courage? (The LORD wants Gideon to take a certain bull from his father’s herd (this won’t test Gideon’s courage) and then he wants Gideon to tear down the altar to Baal and to cut down the Asherah pole beside it. (This may test Gideon’s courage.) [A word about “the Asherah pole”. Notes from the ESV Study Bible page 450: “6:25-26 Asherah may function as both the divine name for a particular goddess or, as in these verses, refer to sacred wooden poles erected at places where she was worshiped (vv. 26, 28, 30; cf. 1 Kings 15:13; 18:19; 2 Kings 17:16). Most frequently these objects are called “Asherim” (e.g., Exodus 34:13; Deut. 7:5; 12:3; 2 Kings 17:10). And the second bull. There is some debate as to whether Judges 6:25 refers to one bull or two. The word translated “and” may also be translated “namely,” such that the LORD is not indicating a second animal but specifying more clearly to Gideon which bull should be used to tear down the altar and then be sacrificed. Either way, Gideon is instructed to use a bull to topple the altar of Baal, whose symbol was the bull. The need to make such an instruction explicit again shows Gideon’s reluctance and slow response (cf. v. 17). Wood of the Asherah. Ironically, Gideon’s sacrifice was to be offered using the very wood of the image he was to tear down.”])
So Gideon was told to destroy the altar to Baal (and according to the ESV Study Bible) using a bull to do it and then to sacrifice the animal to the LORD using the now cut-down Asherah pole for kindling. How does Gideon manage to keep his courage under wraps? (“So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the LORD told him. But because he was afraid of his family and the men of the town, he did it at night rather than in the daytime.” (Judges 6:27 NIV))
What was the reaction of the locals when they had discovered this “desecration”? (“When they carefully investigated, they were told, ‘Gideon son of Joash did it.’ The men of the town demanded of Joash, ‘Bring out your son. He must die because he has broken down Baal’s altar and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.” (Judges 6:29b-30 NIV))
Let us review Deuteronomy 6:4-9: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD out God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and your gates.” It appears that somewhere along the way there was a breakdown in transmitting this message to the children (who, of course, now would be adults).
What is Joash’s reasonable retort to the hostile crowd? (“But Joash replied to the hostile crowd around him, ‘Are you going to plead Baal’s cause? Are you trying to save him? Whoever fights for him shall be put to death by morning. If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar.’” (Judges 6:31 NIV))
What is the new name Gideon receives as a direct result of his “heroism”? (“So that day they called Gideon ‘Jerub-Baal’ saying ‘Let Baal contend with him’ because he broke down Baal’s altar.” (Judges 6:32 NIV))
Now the enemies of Israel (Amalekites and Midianites) had invaded their land and camped in the Valley of Jezreel, which is just south of the Sea of Galilee in the land belonging to the tribe of Issachar. What unusual grace is shown to Gideon? (“Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon…” (Judges 6:34 NIV))
What does Gideon do while under the power of the Spirit of the LORD? (He summons the Abiezrites [of the sons of Manasseh], the tribes of Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali to gather in force against the invaders.)
Gideon continues to display his great lack of faith in the LORD. What does he ask the LORD to do to prove that he wants Gideon to fight for Israel? (“Gideon said to God, ‘If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised – look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.’” (Judges 6:36-37 NIV))
Are we surprised to learn that that is what happened? But was Gideon satisfied with this demonstration from the LORD? (No! “Then Gideon said to God, ‘Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew.’ That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew. (Judges 6:39-40 NIV) You can never be too careful! – j.t.)