Prayer Psalm: 136
Prayer Point: Psalm 136 retells the story of creation and God’s story with Israel to demonstrate that God’s love endures forever. Make this psalm your own by listing out the ways God’s enduring love has impacted your life and thank the God whose love is truly forever.
Jesus’ mission is to preach the good news of the kingdom of God. But what exactly is the kingdom of God? In today’s reading, Jesus will tell four short stories or parables to show us what “the kingdom of God is like.”
What does the parable of the treasure in the field tell us about the value of Jesus’ message and the kingdom he came to establish? Notice that in the parable of the “pearl of great price” the kingdom is compared not to the pearl, but to the merchant seeking the pearl. What does this tell us about the kingdom of God and the way of life Jesus gave us?
Who gets caught up in the ‘nets’ of the kingdom of God? Do you think it is possible for someone to be involved in a church, serve even, and never be a true follower of Jesus? When and how will the true followers of Jesus be separated from the false ones?
In Jesus’ day, teachers of the law were a professional class whose job it was to study the Law of Moses and instruct the people in Israel as to the proper way to follow it. How is the kingdom of God consistent with the Old Testament Law? In what way is it something new?
What should give Christians pause before they take on the role of teacher in the church?
What part of the body does James see as the key for keeping our whole body in check? Why should we fear our tongues? In what ways can the tongue be a destructive force? In what way can the tongue be used for good?
James warns us that curses and praises should not come out of the same mouth, just as fresh water and salt water can not flow out of the same spring. The tongue is important because it is the expression of what is buried in our hearts. A fig tree can only bear figs. A grapevine can only produce grapes. A corrupt heart will yield a poisoned tongue. The solution? We need our hearts to be transformed by the Holy Spirit.
The remainder of the book of Hosea is in Hebrew poetry. Poetry is my weakest suit so here goes!
What is the imagery in the Hosea 2:2-3? (Hosea, speaking for the LORD, is describing the current relationship between the LORD and his people. The people of God are being adulterous – unfaithful to him. This is the same hue and cry prophets have been proclaiming for centuries. How emphatic can the message be? What will it take for the people to understand? Hosea is acting out the God-Israel relationship. He married a whore which would have been completely reprehensible. But this is how the LORD sees the covenant between him and his people.)
Let us consider verses Hosea 2:4-7. What new relationship is identified in these verses? (Here Hosea reminds us that even the children of this marriage will be forsaken because “Their mother has been unfaithful and has conceived them in disgrace.” (Hosea 2:5 NIV))
What do these verses say about the attitude of the “mother”? (The wife’s attitude is that she will continue on her errant path regardless of what the LORD puts in her way to inhibit her. It looks like Israel has an obstinate heart or what used to be called “stiff-necked”.)
What is the LORD’s complaint in verses Hosea 2:7b-8? (These people have not been thankful for what has been done for them by God – the very gifts of God were used to worship Baal. If the LORD’s wife returns to him it will be with an attitude of lip service. For some reason they thought that the LORD could not read their thoughts. I think this is still true today – and we, of all people, should know better.)
What is the LORD’s solution to this attitude? (Here the LORD is promising to strip Israel of all that she has and to leave her to her ruin. (“‘I will punish her for the days she burned incense to the Baals; she decked herself with rings and jewelry, and went after her lovers, but me she forgot,’ declares the Lord.” (Hosea 2:13 NIV))
What is the promise in Hosea 2:14? (The promise is the same promise the LORD makes every time we turn from him: he will take us back. There is one string attached to this promise: repentance. Turning from rebellion will be a requirement. Remember, the LORD knows your [empty] thoughts.)