The Fall of Israel

The passages this week offer a dynamic witness to the relationship between an unfaithful people and an always faithful, just, and merciful God.  In the Scripture, we read about King David’s egregious sin with Bathsheba and experience his heartfelt repentance.  We meet Solomon who is given great wisdom by God, but abuses his power by disobeying God later in his reign.  We are introduced to worship in the temple built by Solomon and a prophet (Elijah) who boldly serves God on Mt. Carmel while fleeing from God’s work in fear shortly thereafter.  Lastly, we read about the fall of Jerusalem and the exile of the God’s people; a gut-wrenching event that will make the people desperate for God’s deliverance and a savior!

The account of Elijah, specifically, is one that informs and encourages my life.  It’s baffling to think about the juxtaposition of Elijah’s emotions in this passage.  How can one man move so quickly from courageously and boldly challenging the prophets of Baal, defending the name of God only to turn and flee immediately afterwords when challenged by Queen Jezebel!  It makes no sense!?!  Then again, how often do I find myself serving God in bold, faithful and even courageous ways only to see those times followed by moments of doubt, depression, fear and sin.  This is one of the things I appreciate most about the Old Testament….the ability to relate to characters within.

Do you relate to any of the characters you’ve read about this week or in previous weeks?  If so, how has this encouraged your faith?

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The Rise of Israel

One of my prayers for the E-100 is that by reading Scripture in this broad way, you will begin to see the narrative or “thread” that ties the Bible together from Genesis to Revelation.  Consider the concept of a king:

  • God’s people are ruled by a king (Pharaoh) in Egypt for hundreds of years; a king who enslaved and mistreated them.
  • God’s people are delivered from the king of Egypt by whom?……their king in heaven!
  • But wait…..Judges 21:25 provides a summary statement about the attitude of the people even after this deliverance…“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”  (Can anyone say Genesis 3!?!)
  • The people made themselves king over their own lives, but this doesn’t work out too well as they continue to be oppressed by foreign nations.
  • So, this statement is made in the reading this week….”when the people said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this displeased Samuel, so he prayed to the Lord.  And the Lord told him:  ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.” (1 Samuel 8:6-7)

This question of “Who is King?” is one of the primary threads that ties the biblical narrative together.  So, here’s some questions I’d love to hear your response to:

  • Why do you believe that the people of Israel rejected God’s authority through the prophet Samuel, asking for a human king instead?
  • In what ways to do you see people (not exluding ourselves!) rejecting the authority of our king in heaven, doing what is “right in our own eyes” instead?
  • As Israel did with King Saul, in what ways do we voluntarily enslave ourselves to a “king” resulting in harm when our king in heaven desires to give us blessing and freedom?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

Pastor Clint

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The Judges

The book of Judges is one of my favorites in all of the Bible simply because of the many incredible stories told within.  As you are reading these accounts and others like them in Scripture, it is important to remember that just because something is recounted in a biblical narrative that does not mean God approves.  For example, though God uses Sampson to work out His purposes I do not believe Scripture would have us model our lives after this man…..can you say “hot-tempered, meat head!”  Likewise, Gideon “tested” God with the fleece and God was gracious by playing along.  However, Deuteronomy 6:16 commands, “do not put the Lord your God to the test.”  In fact, this is one of the things I love about the whole Old Testament….it gives story after story about how God loves and uses people just like you and I….stubborn, messy, disobedient people.  This, of course, does not mean that we should use God’s grace as a license to disobey!

One of the most important things to notice in Judges is the pattern of God’s people that is highlighted in Judges 2:6-3:6 and then illustrated throughout the rest of the book.  God has just helped Israel take possession of the promised land in dramatic fashion under the leadership of Joshua.  Having seen God provide in this way the people should be ready to enjoy the peaceful rule of God in their lives and their land, but alas…..

The Cycle

The generation that actually saw God provide dies and a new generation comes to power who doesn’t know God in this personal and powerful way. (2:10)

This new generation begins to take on the priorities of the culture around them instead of steadfastly holding onto the worship of God in the ways of obedience. (2:11-13)

Because of this, God hands his people over to their enemies in defeat. (2:14-15)

After suffering the results of disobedience, God’s people finally cry out to the Lord for help (1:18, 4:3 and elsewhere) and the Lord sends a “judge” to rescue them.

God’s people maintained a measure of gratitude and obedience during the rule and blessing of God through a particular judge.  But when that judge and the generation who had experienced God’s blessing dies and a new generation comes to power the cycle begins again.  (2:19)

 

Note, you will also be reading the account of Ruth.  As you read, notice how this story is a powerful testimony of personal faithfulness during a time of general unfaithfulness….”Ruth” takes place during the time of the judges.

 

Here’s some questions I’d love to hear your response to….

What can we learn about the results of faithful obedience and disobedience to God as we read these accounts?

Do you see the pattern established in Judges continuing to work out in the lives of people today?  If so, how?

What are some keys to breaking these patterns both within ourselves and as we think about preparing the next generation….our children and grandchildren?

 

 

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The Law and the Land

This week’s readings begin with the Ten Commandments.  In the giving of the commandments God wasn’t trying to start a religion; he was trying to build a relationship with his people (19:4-6). The Ten Commandments show us what God really cares about in three main areas. The first four center on our relationship with God (20:2-11). The  next group addresses our relationship with others (20:12-14, 16) and the third group deals with our relationship to things (20:15, 17).  The remainder of the texts in the section (and the rest of Scripture for that matter!) recount the struggle that God and people go through to develop and maintain relationship.

Take a few moments to watch this three minute video of Charleton Heston in “The Ten Commandments” (and be grateful for the strides cinematography has taken in the past few decades!)  After you’ve watched the clip, I’d love to hear your thoughts regarding the questions below or about anything else you read this week.

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts……

By its portrayal in this video, do you think  Hollywood understands God’s desire to be in relationship with people?  What do you think the video convey’s about Hollywood’s perception of God and the Ten commandments?

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Moses and the Exodus

The readings this week reveal exciting accounts of God’s provision and rescue of his people using a man, Moses, who felt quite unequipped for the task.  These are exceptional stories worthy of being made into a Hollywood blockbuster!  In fact, these stories are so exceptional that some Christians have trouble believing that they actually happened and seek ways to explain away the supernatural provision of God.  Some biblical commentators believe that the sea crossed by the nation of Israel was really only a body of water  a few inches deep.  Likewise, other scholars believe that the manna provided by God  in the desert was really the natural by-product of a desert bug, not unlike a locust.  Do you see any problems with explanations like these?

While some of these explanations make for interesting reading I continue to question why we, whose faith is based on a resurrected life, feel the need to explain away other supernatural occurrences in God’s word.  If God has the power to bring life out of death, doesn’t he have the power to turn all the water in Egypt to blood?  So here’s my question to you all:

What does it, or what would it take for you to believe in supernatural occurrences such as what you are readying this week?

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The Story of Joseph

The story of Joseph, revealed in our passages for this week, is one of my favorite in all of God’s word!  Here’s a man who goes through incredible turmoil and yet remains faithful to God throughout!  Certainly, Joseph wasn’t without fault…..it doesn’t take a genius to expect that the announcement of your lordship over your family might bring a harsh response!  However, Joseph is a testimony of faithful obedience in difficult circumstances and is therefore a great encouragement to me as I seek to live for Christ, today!

The message delivered strongly to me through these passages is one of God’s sovereign control over the world.  As you read, notice how God is at work in both Jacob’s family and those who don’t worship him, like the Egyptians.  Notice how God is at work in those who desire to be obedient like Jacob and Joseph as well as those who rebel, like Joseph’s brothers.  Notice how God is in control, even of the weather as he uses a famine to accomplish his purposes!  Joseph’s summary of his own life in Genesis 45:7 is a great testimony to the sovereign purposes of God, “God sent me ahead of you to preserve for a you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”  Consider these questions as you read this week.

In what ways do you see the sovereignty of God demonstrated in these passages?  In what ways do you experience the sovereignty of God in our own world?  What struggles do you have with the sovereignty of God?

Something else that came to my attention as I read was Joseph’s obedient leadership demonstrated in these passages.  For example, can you imagine what people must of been thinking and saying as Joseph hoarded food during the seven years of abundance!

What risks do we take when we try to obey God in ways that defy the logic and understanding of some?  What can we learn from Joseph’s life that can help us remain faithful even when others come against us?

 

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Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

One of my great joys as I engage in this Bible reading journey with you, is the privilege I have of reading these passages with my oldest son, Isaac.  When I announced a couple of Sundays ago that this would be a reading plan for the whole church he presumed I meant him as well….after all, he is part of the church, right?!  Foolish me!  When I was making plans, I didn’t presume that a nine year old would actually consider himself part of the congregation and desire to read the Bible in an intentional, methodical, devotional fashion!  God continues to bless me in embarrassing ways!

It is in reading with my son that this week’s passages have taken on a new emphasis.  Many of the passages are built on family relationships.  Not only will you read about the great faith of Abram (soon to be renamed Abraham) the man, but you will also read about the failure of Abram, the husband.  You will read heart wrenching accounts of parents, Abram and Hagar, who are asked to trust God with the well-being of their beloved children in ways that defy our sense of logic and decency.  You will read about the blessing of a father over his two sons and the competitive, manipulative relationship shared by these brothers.

These are some difficult passages to swallow and I welcome specific questions you may want to offer about any of the individual readings!

Here’s the bottom-line for me this afternoon as I think and write about what I’ve read:  We serve a God who is able and willing to work through the mess that defines our life to accomplish His great purposes!  Sometimes it’s impossible for us to understand what God is doing, especially when it comes to people we love like our family.  However, I believe the entirety of our study in God’s word will demonstrate that, indeed, He can be trusted in the midst of the chaos!  This encourages me when I think about the chaos of my own life!

Some questions for you to consider and respond to:

1.  What do you think was going through Abram’s mind as God commanded Abram to sacrifice his son, Isaac….the son that God had previously promised would be the seed of nations and generations that would number the stars in the heavens?

2.  How do you reconcile God’s use of Jacob’s deceit to accomplish his purpose of founding and blessing the nation of Israel?  Does this mean that God condones deceit?        

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“In the Beginning”

I just finished reading the five passages in the first category, “In the Beginning.”  At the beginning of the week, I’m hoping to make it a practice to read all five in one sitting  in order to get a broad view of the category.  After doing this I plan to return to each one on following days, slowing down to journal about what I’ve read as I meditate and listen to God’s Word.  I noticed something in my heart and mind as I read this morning; something that affirms one of the primary points of these passages, I believe.

These passages establish the foundational understandings about God’s relationship with people; understandings that will inform the rest of Scripture.  In short, here’s my synopsis of what I read:  God created everything and people are the pinnacle of that creation.  God blessed people in every way, even inviting them into a relationship with him to “rule” the earth.  People were not satisfied with their role as subservient rulers, instead “wanting to be like God, knowing good and evil.”  After rebelling against God and his rule in their life, people truly did know “evil” where at one time they only knew “good.”  The fall (chapter 3) reveals the consequences of sin (rebellion) having entered into the world, the flood (chapter 6) expands on this same theme….“every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” (v.5)  The tower (chapter 11) continues to illustrate the people’s evil desire from chapter 3 as they give physical expression to that desire by seeking to “build a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves.” (v.4)

So, here’s what I noticed in myself as I read.  Instead of lamenting rebellion and a heart bent towards evil in the lives of the people I read about, I found myself questioning; even judging, God himself!  (Why did God allow the serpent in the garden?  How could a loving God wipe out humanity in a flood?  Is God so insecure that he could not allow a people with one language to rival him?)  While I believe these are legitimate questions, shouldn’t I first be asking questions like “Why did my ancestors forsake the blessing of God?”  “Why does God persist in being gracious to people even though they persist in evil and rebellion towards him?”

I believe that the nature of my questions reveals the orientation of my heart and mind.  That is, I reflexively question, judge and even compete with God before examining myself, being thankful for the grace of God in my life.  But isn’t this what I should expect if I’ve properly understood theses passages and the condition of people that it presents?  Still, it surprised me to notice this about myself!

What do you think?  Am I off base here?  What things are you noticing or what questions are arising as you read?

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Introduction

Welcome!!!  I’m thrilled you’ve found this blog!  My hope is that this becomes a platform that will expand our hearts and minds as we encourage one another while reading God’s Word together.  Each week I will post questions and comments that are relevant to the passages of Scripture we are reading for the E-100 Bible reading program.  When helpful, I may also link to pictures, video, music, etc. that may expand our thinking and help as we engage God’s Word together.  Of course, this blog is not meant to be a one-way street.  Please ask your own questions and make your own comments as we begin this adventure together!

The introductory pages of the E-100 Journal remind us that this challenge is “not just to make it through the world’s greatest book, or to gain more Bible knowledge…..but to get to know the Bible’s Author, God himself!”

How do you plan to engage this Bible reading challenge in a way that will help you get to know God better?  What are some helpful devotional practices that you have learned that might benefit others?

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