Prayer Psalm: 104
Prayer Point: Why is God worthy of our praise? He is our Maker, creating our environment; the valleys, the mountains and the seas. He has given our world rhythm with days, nights, weeks, seasons and years. He is our provider and he is our Savior. Think about the world God has made, meditate on the Jesus’ death and resurrection and offer God your own psalm of praise.
Contact with women who were not related to you was shocking in the Jewish society of Jesus’ day. How is Jesus’ community of disciples different? What role did women play in Jesus’ circle?
Jesus often used organic images to explain how the kingdom of God grows. To whom did Jesus tell the story of the sower? Who received an explanation of the story? Why do you think he didn’t explain the story to everyone?
What is the difference between the good soil and the path, the rocky soil and the soil with thorns? What does this story tell us about how the gospel is planted in the hearts of people? What kinds of things will kill someone’s faith? What is the result of a faith that grows to maturity?
Jesus prophesied to his disciples before his death what life would be like for them when he returned to heaven:
Luke 21:12-15 … They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. This will result in your being witnesses to them. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.
How are these words fulfilled in Paul’s life as he is brought before kings and governors?
Micah 5:1-4, 10-15 – The Promise from Bethlehem
What is happening to Israel’s (Judah’s) ruler in 5:1? (Israel’s ruler will be struck. I suspect this is referring to the ultimate defeat of the Judeans against the Babylonians.)
I gather most of us have heard the next verse on virtually every Christmas: “But you Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” We always understand this to refer to Jesus and his birth in Bethlehem, and it does. But what is a secondary meaning of this reference? (Moses said that a prophet like himself would arise and that the people should listen to him. Jesus’ life was a mirror, in many respects, to that of Moses. Jesus had to be of royal blood — the descendant of a king — in order for him to become king. The plan was laid many years before that the royal family would arise out of the tribe of Judah: “Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of our enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you. You are a lion’s cub, O Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness — who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.” (Genesis 49:8-10 NIV) Interestingly enough, David, of the tribe of Judah, too, was born in Bethlehem and he was the youngest of eight brothers. Clearly this prophesy cannot refer to David simply because, by this time David had lived and died. So it must be someone else. Jesus, in time, will be regarded as the Son of David. That alone gives Jesus his royal credentials. David had to fight against a king and people to establish his kingdom, so too, does Jesus. At Jesus’ birth the Magi pointedly referred to him as the “king of the Jews” which, of course, put him on the current king’s hit list. And like Moses, he was saved from the bloodbath which resulted when King Herod sought to kill the usurper (new king). King Herod ordered the death of all the boys in Bethlehem who were under two years of age. When Moses was born the local king (Pharaoh) put out a death notice to all newborn Hebrew males. Moses was saved by the water — his mother sent him “up the river [Nile]” where he was rescued from death by the princess of Egypt (Pharaoh’s daughter). I could go on but time and space do not permit.)
Micah 5:3 tells us: “Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.” (NIV) At this point in time there is a king in what is left of the children of Israel (Judah — the southern kingdom) and the people of the southern kingdom had not as yet been taken into exile. So Micah must be speaking of some later time. Once the exiles return (after the seventy year banishment) they will no longer have their own king but will be subjects of foreign kings. This state of affairs only served to heighten the expectation of a “new” David or a “prophet” like Moses spoken of so many years before:
“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, ‘Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.’ The LORD said to me: ‘What they say is good I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.” (Deuteronomy 18:15-19 NIV)
Hear what the Apostle John wrote in his gospel: [Jesus speaking] “If I testify about myself my testimony is not valid. There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid. You have sent to John [the Baptist] and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:31-40 NIV)
What is the subject of Micah 5:4? (This prophet spoken of from ancient times will shepherd his people. Isaiah, who is also prophesying at the same time uses the same imagery (again!): “He tends his flock like a shepherd: he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” (Isaiah 40:11 NIV) Jesus also uses this same imagery to describe his own mission: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. … I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me — just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:11, 14-15 NIV))
Verses 5:5-9 talk of a resurgence in Israel — at a time when Israel will experience victory over her enemies by virtue of her own strength. This lack of reliance on the LORD will result in another round of discipline from the him.
What is Micah telling the people in verses 5:10-15? (Micah wants the people to understand that they continue to make the same mistake as their forefathers had made: self-reliance. While a measure of self-reliance is a good thing, it become a bad thing when it excludes any dependence on God. This lack of dependence on God ultimately leads to various forms of idol worship. I believe that today we harbor the attitude that the LORD can throw at us his worst and we would recover. This type of arrogance can only lead to disaster; all of Jewish history has borne this out.)