Stories and News
Bible Studies For Life
January 2, 2022
THE LIGHT AND GLORY OF GOD
The role of prophet in the Bible is one of speaking for God. In practice, two aspects are evident. In some cases—particularly in the Old Testament—prophets like Daniel and Isaiah foretold events that God had revealed and would bring about in the future. But in other cases, prophets acted more directly, acting as mouthpieces of God, sharing His truth by correction or instruction. I have always said that John the Baptist was the last of the Old Testament prophets, fulfilling the prophetic role of Elijah (see Mal. 4:4ff). But thirty years earlier, two other prophets appeared (Simeon and Anna) marking the transition from Old Testament prophet to New. In this week’s lesson, we see the story of Simeon. Three key words stand out.
Simeon (vv. 25-27). We begin with a description. Simeon was in the Holy City. Righteous speaks of his character. Devoutspeaks of his practice. The old word means scrupulous, careful, and disciplined in spiritual things. He was obviously well-known, wise, and respected. He was educated in things of the past but looking to the future; anxiously awaiting “Israel’s consolation.” This word shares the same root with paraclete, the Comforter Jesus promised in John 14:16. Here, it has overtones of deliverance, guidance, and peace. There is no doubt that Simeon is a prophet of God, for “the Holy Spirit was on him” (v. 25). Notice the Spirit is mentioned three times in these three verses. The Spirit was not only present with him, but revealed truth to him, and guided him to his encounter with the Lord. For reflection: What truths can we glean about the Holy Spirit’s role in the Old Testament? The New? Is there a difference?
Savior (vv. 27-32). God’s promise to Simeon was finally being fulfilled (v. 26). The encounter occurred when Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple to fulfill their religious obligations (v. 27). Leviticus 12:6-8 required mothers to offer a simple sacrifice after giving birth, and Exodus 13:2 required dedication of the firstborn to God. Simeon’s actions are both tender and profound. Without human explanation, the Holy Spirit prompted Simeon to approach His parents and take baby Jesus gently in his arms. While he rocked the infant in his arms, his eyes looked again to heaven and acknowledged the fulfillment of God’s personal promise to him as well as His sovereign plan for the ages. Notice the prayer is not about Simeon’s fulfillment, but all about God’s faithfulness. Six times the words “You” or “Your” used. The movement of His prayer is significant as well: from personal (vv. 29-30) to all people (v. 31) to His people (v. 32). For reflection: The theme of these verses is salvation. What do you think Simeon meant when He called Jesus “Your salvation?”
Sign (vv. 33-35). While Mary and Joseph marveled at the glory of salvation prophesied through their son, Simeon continued with a harsh reality. First, Christ’s advent would cause a turning point in history. For some, He would indeed be the consolation of Israel so longed for. But for others, He would be their downfall (v. 34). In addition, He would be a sign from God (as prophesied in Isaiah 7:14); yet as such would be rejected! (v. 34; see Is. 8:14; Is. 53:3; John 1:11). While His passion and death some thirty years later would break Mary’s heart (v. 35), it would be a necessary thing; for how one responds to Christ’s confrontation with sin and the grave ultimately indicates the true intentions of his heart. For reflection: How did Christ become responsible for the rise and fall of many in His day? Does that principle still apply today? In what ways?
January 9, 2022
THE RULER WHO CARES FOR HIS PEOPLE
Micah 5:2-5a; Matthew 2:1-6, 9-11
Our Christmas emphases often focus on the miracle of the incarnation (His virgin birth) and the results of His incarnation (Immanuel, God with us). Certainly, the role and of the Messiah is highlighted, particularly by the Old Testament prophets (as in Is. 9:6 ff). But in the majesty of His reign, we might overlook exactly what kind of ruler the Christ would be.
Perhaps what separates a good king from a great king is not his ability to direct his people, but his ability to lead them. In this week’s lesson, we get some hints about the newborn King. Three characteristics are mentioned.
He would be a shepherd king (Mic. 5:2-5). Micah 5:2 is best known as the only Scripture in the Old Testament that specifically mentions the birthplace of Christ. But the verses that follow describe the Messiah. He is from eternity past (v. 2). The shadowy language of verse 3 refers to the captivity Israel would face. The idea of abandonment is “to give over;” not forever, but for a season in preparation for the rebirth (or restoration). The prophet then looks beyond the literal restoration of Israel. For this Eternal One who will come is more than a deliverer; He will be a shepherd for the nation. Rarely do we see the majesty of a king (v. 4) made so compassionate. The motif of the shepherd is one of the most prominent in the Scriptures. Moses, a foreshadow of Christ, was a shepherd. David, the progenitor of Christ, was a shepherd. The first to hear of Christ’s birth were shepherds. Jesus referred to Himself in John 10 as the Good Shepherd.Strength, courage, protection, provision, guidance, care…all of those characteristics that are embodied by the shepherd apply to Christ Jesus. Added to those things are the benefits to His sheep. They would live in security, prosperity, and peace (vv. 4-5). For reflection: For another perspective of the shepherd motif, read Isaiah 53 where Christ is likened to the sheep rather than a shepherd.
He would be a sovereign king (Matt. 2:1-6). Few characters in the Christmas narrative are more fascinating than the wisemen. The term is magi (or “magicians”). These were not showmen, but scholars; well known for their mastery of math, science, philosophy, astrology, etc. History tells us such men were often religious priests, served as advisors to the kings, and were held in high regard. As foreigners from the east (likely Persia or Arabia), their knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures is as remarkable as their devotion to seek out this new “King of the Jews” (v. 2). Their quest was to find this new sovereign ruler, whose remarkable birth was signaled by the appearance of a remarkable star. For reflection: In the past, God used things like pillars of fire and clouds to direct His people. Why do you think He used a star to guide these wisemen from the east?
He would be sacrificial king (Matt. 2:9-11). The long journey of the magi led them not to the stable, but to a house where the young family had quickly relocated. Notice the verbs signifying the magi’s actions: they saw the star and were overjoyed beyond measure (v. 10); they entered the house, saw the child, fell to their knees, and worshiped Him (v. 11). They opened their treasures and presented Him gifts (v. 11); then they returned to their own country (v. 12). Their celebration of the new King was a mixture of both praise and of prophecy. The gold was a gift befitting the royalty of a king; but the frankincense and myrrh were perfumed ointments most commonly used to anoint a dead body. For reflection: Do you think the gifts the magi brought were coincidental? Is it possible that these scholars knew much more about the Old Testament prophesies regarding Christ’s birth—and death— than just Micah 5:2?
Special Focus Session
January 16, 2022
SEEKING JUSTICE IN AN UNJUST WORLD
Obadiah 1-4, 10-17
God’s “kingdom picture” is a big one.
From the separation of the peoples in Genesis 11 to the gathering of the peoples around His throne in Revelation, God’s purpose and subsequent plan has been the redemption of all people, regardless of ethnicity, race, skin color, economic condition, gender, or social status (see Gal. 3:28). Whether mainstream or marginalized, God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). So, if God is not a “respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34-35), how does He react to those who do show partiality? What happens to those who oppress the innocent and prey on the upright? This kind of injustice is exactly what the 9th century BC prophet Obadiah addresses in his little book.
The perception of pride (vv. 1-4). God has always used the heathen nations to bring about His divine purpose. In this case, He summoned a league of pagan nations to tear down a bitter enemy of God’s people. The Edomites were descendants of Jacob’s brother Esau. Jacob became the father of the Israelites; Esau became the father of the Edomites. Although God’s people were commanded not to hate the Edomites (Deut. 23:7), the Edomites stayed at odds with Israel and attacked them frequently. Even later, when subjugated and assimilated into Israel’s society, the Edomites remained bitter against them. Interestingly, king Herod the Great, who sought to destroy the Lord at His birth, was descended from the Edomites.
Verse 3 gives the reason for their demise: It was their pride. The imagery reflects their fortifications in the caves and steep cliffs of the mountains. The Edomites saw themselves as both invincible in their lofty perches, and elite because of it (vv. 3-4). But notice the source of their pride. Verse 3 says, “Your presumptuous heart has deceived you.” This reminds us of the claim from Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Hence the nation of Edom had decided they had the riches, knowledge, prestige, and position to exert their will on everyone else. But “Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18); and when it came to Edom, God said enough is enough: “I will bring you down” (v. 4). For reflection: What applications can be drawn from this text regarding our own nation? Our government? What is going on in our world today that warrants the same kind of warning from God’s word?
The penalty for pride (vv. 10-17). Edom’s continual antagonism towards Israel (and presumably against other nations) is then described and condemned (vv. 10-11). Notice the harshness of their humiliation. Ultimately, they would be covered with shame and destroyed forever. The time frame of verse 11 is unclear. Whether their indifference to their brethren Israel was related to some previous invasion, or one yet to come, their smug satisfaction of Israel’s defeats was soundly condemned. Again, note the harshness of the scolding and warnings that follow: “Do not gloat…do not rejoice…do not mock” (v. 12); “do not enter…do not gloat…do not take from them” (v. 13); “do not cut them off…do not hand them over” (v. 14). Why? “For the Day of the Lord is near” and “as you have done, so it will be done to you” and “what you deserve will return on your own head” (v. 15). For reflection: What biblical principles can be gleaned about God’s sense of justice? What promises does God make in the verses that follow regarding His people who have been treated so badly? How do you think that applies to the church today?
January 23, 2022
THE PITFALL OF BETRAYAL
Genesis 37:1-5, 19-24, 26-27
This series of lessons focuses on pitfalls, those hidden and unexpected dangers along life’s pathway that threaten to slow us down at best, or totally entrap us at worst. Some appear totally coincidental. Others are set intentionally against us. And some may be the consequences of our own making. The good news is that these pitfalls are often avoidable, and those that aren’t need not destroy us. The series will draw upon the life of Joseph to illustrate not only the types of pitfalls we all might face, but how God can work through them to accomplish His purpose.
The story of Joseph is an epic journey into human drama. There is lying, deceit, slavery, and accusation. But there is also integrity, redemption, forgiveness, and restoration. In the 20 chapters of Genesis that tell his story, we see him portrayed as an arrogant young man; then, an enslaved and humbled adult; and finally, a compassionate and forgiving elder. Joseph is a true hero, but it took him a long time to achieve that status.
The set-up (vv. 1-8). The events of Joseph’s teenaged years present a recipe for disaster in regard to his brothers. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, both Joseph and his father Jacob contributed to the animosity that existed among the siblings. First, Joseph was a spoiled tattletale. At the age of 17, he was charged with tending his father’s sizeable flocks alongside his older brothers. We have no details about what shenanigans took place, but we do know that Joseph “brought a bad report about them to their father” (v. 2). Second, Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son…and everyone knew it. We must remember that Jacob’s first and deepest love was for Rachel, the barren second daughter of his father-in-law Laban, and sister to the older (and less attractive) Leah (whom Jacob was deceived into marrying). When Rachel finally gave birth to a son, Jacob favored him above the rest (v. 3). To make matters worse, Jacob presented his favorite son with a colorful coat. The word literally means “wrists and ankles.” Hence, the coat of many colors was actually a robe; an ornate outer tunic that far outshined the coarse and sleeveless peasant cloth shepherds typically wore for their work. To his brothers, the message was clear. He was their father’s favorite and they hated him because of it (v. 4). Third, Joseph had an attitude of arrogant superiority. His dreams depicting him as the center of attention and object of their obeisance infuriated his brothers (vv. 5-8) and even offended his parents (vv. 9-10). For reflection: Without even knowing the rest of the story, can you see how the combination of Jacob’s affections and Joseph’s own arrogance was setting him up for disaster? How might Proverbs 16:18 apply in this situation?
The scheme (vv. 19-26). While the actions of the brothers are harsh with hatred (v. 20), one can understand the emotions that fueled them. Reuben, the eldest of them, did his best to calm their anger by offering a compromise. Throwing Joseph into the dry pit would perhaps satisfy the remaining brothers until Reuben could return for him later (v. 22). His motives may not have been entirely pure, though, for “returning him to his father” implies gaining favored treatment with Jacob over his brothers. The remaining narrative is both colorful and fascinating. They must have found some satisfaction in tearing off Joseph’s fancy robe and enjoying a meal when the deed was done. Notice the irony of it all: Joseph was being left to die of starvation in an empty well while his brothers filled their stomachs! (v. 25). But God’s providence overruled their own devices, and Joseph was soon sold into slavery. Again, there is irony here. The Ishmaelites (v. 25) were descendants of Abraham from his illegitimate son Ishmael. Hence, Joseph became a slave to his great-grandfather’s descendants; literally his third cousins! For reflection: Looking back at the series of events, who do you think was at fault for Joseph’s demise? How can we observe God’s hand in the story so far?
During her 30 years as Florida Baptists’ director of communications, Barbara ventured across the state — and to Cuba and Haiti — to report on Baptist witness and, amid natural disaster, Baptist compassion.
Barbara and her husband, Dick, are currently enjoying spending time with their first grandchild, Finley, along with Finley’s parents Ashford and Chantal and Barbara and Dick’s daughter, Addie.
Keila earned a B.S. in Communications from Florida International University in Miami. She writes news and stories about Florida Baptist churches, creates and posts social content to the FBC’s social media channels, and is a Baptist Press contributor.
When she’s not working, Keila enjoys bike rides and spending time with her family.
Barbara, a member at Eau Gallie First BC, Melbourne, and a graduate of Florida State University, B.S., Speech Pathology/Audiology, taught Pre-K/VPK for many years. While living and serving in Maine, she wrote articles for the NEW ENGLAND BAPTIST, and currently writes for the Brevard Baptist Association’s newsletter, THE BRIDGE. She loves serving alongside her husband Mike (Associational Mission Strategist, Brevard Baptist Association), spending time with their three grandchildren, sewing and reading.
David Moore has been writing and editing for newspapers and magazines in Florida for more than 20 years. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Florida. A proud member of First Baptist Church of Ocala, David serves in the worship, deacon and NextGen ministries. He and his wife Beth have three children.
Jessica received her B.S. in Biblical Studies from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. She contributes to Florida Baptist Conv, Biblical Woman, Baptist Press, The Devotional for Women, and Daily Devotional Bible for Women. Her greatest joy is serving beside her husband who is the Senior Pastor of Fellowship Church.
Brandi is a writer and editor for N2 Publishing, a community magazine that honors God. She and her family attend Fishhawk Fellowship Church and are a Host Family for Safe Families for Children, Bethany Christian Services. Her background is in Healthcare Management, Policies & Procedures.