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The text for this lesson is 1 Samuel 1:1–2:21.
- God cares and provides for the humble and lowly.
- Law: The Lord is not pleased with those who provoke others, as Peninnah did to Hannah, or with those who ignore Him and mock His worship, as did Hophni and Phinehas.
- Gospel: When we are abused by others, we may suffer for a time, but the Lord has not forgotten us. He shall bless us through His Son, Jesus.
- These opening chapters describe the degenerate state of worship during the final generation of the judges and introduce us to Samuel, the last judge, who will help Israel transition to a monarchy. (Samuel eventually anoints the first kings of Israel, Saul and David.) Samuel also becomes a great prophet (1 Samuel 3:19–21) and ministers in a priestly way (1 Samuel 7:7–9). This threefold office of prophet, priest, and judge (kinglike ruler) foreshadows the way Jesus serves His people as Prophet, Priest, and King. As you study the life of Samuel, look for parallels between his life and Jesus’ life, beginning with the blessed and miraculous conception of both and the songs of humility sung by both Hannah and Mary (1 Samuel 2:1–10; Luke 1:46–55).
- These first chapters of Samuel present clear contrasts between the arrogant and the lowly. Hannah is juxtaposed with Peninnah, the wife who appears to be more blessed than Hannah because she has children. Rather than treating Hannah kindly, Peninnah provokes Hannah, year after year
(1 Samuel 1:6–7). Although Elkanah, their husband, treats Hannah kindly, there is no indication that he tries to prevent Peninnah from harassing Hannah.
- The blasphemy of the priest’s sons Hophni and Phinehas is also contrasted with the quiet piety of Hannah and her son Samuel. The story clearly indicates that Hophni and Phinehas were unbelievers and robbers (1 Samuel 2:12–17) not only from the people but also from the Lord Himself. They took the fat that was to be cooked as a gift for the Lord. Scripture reiterates the evil of the two sons, who slept with the women who served around the tabernacle (1 Samuel 2:22), and foreshadows their judgment (1 Samuel 2:27–36). By contrast, Samuel is described there as truly “ministering before the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:18) and as growing in the favor of the Lord (1 Samuel 2:21, 26).
- When we are faced with difficulty or trouble in this life, or when we think that God is not caring for us, we can remember Hannah’s story and be reminded that God always looks out for us and that His blessing is persistent, even when we have temporary ups and downs. Hannah’s song proclaims the wonderful truth that no one can ultimately rely on his own strength or arrogance, as Hophni and Phinehas tried to do, but that God is the true rock, the true foundation, even when events lead to the rise of some and the fall of others. The Lord protects His “faithful ones” while punishing those who are wicked (1 Samuel 2:9).
- Ultimately, this judgment depends on the Christ, “His anointed” (1 Samuel 2:10). This is the first reference in the Bible to the Christ. It is really the Christ who judges, not according to works but according to His grace and mercy. As Christ conquers sin and death on the cross, He gives life to the faithful and turns the unfaithful over to destruction.
The text for this lesson is Joshua 2.
- No matter what sins we may have committed, God works through our repentance and faith to deliver us from destruction and eternal death.
- Law: God will punish all who fight against Him and refuse to fear and trust Him, as happened with the people of Jericho.
- Gospel: God’s mercy is even greater than His wrath, for He forgives and restores to life all who repent and fear Him, as happened with Rahab.
- After leading Israel forty years in their wilderness wanderings, Moses died. He had appointed his assistant, Joshua, to lead the Israelites into Canaan to conquer and settle the land. Not only would this fulfill the Lord’s promise that the Israelites would receive this land as an inheritance, but it would also be an example that the Lord punishes evildoers. The Canaanites were idolaters whom the Lord devoted to destruction as a warning against those who fail to worship Him as God. Jericho was the first city of Canaan to be conquered because of its economic and tactical importance. It was a center of commerce, and it was also a central power in Canaan. By destroying Jericho, the Israelites would weaken the center of Canaanite resistance and also make space for their own military base, from which to carry out further operations against other Canaanite cities.
- The story of Rahab is a wonderful narrative of God’s grace for individuals of all nations, no matter their background or past. Rahab is a prostitute (Joshua 2:1). Yet her story is one of the wonderful conversion that God worked by grace in her. Rahab’s actions show her fear and trust in God. From an earthly perspective, the spies are at her mercy and have little to offer her. The city gates have been closed; with one word, Rahab could have handed over the spies and perhaps received some kind of reward. There is no earthly reason whyshe should think the Israelites would conquer Jericho. Jericho was a mighty fortress with superior military technology. Rather than turn the spies over to Jericho’s officials, Rahab hides them in her house at great personal risk.
- Then Rahab gives an account of the reason for her trustin God (2:8–11). The reports of God’s mighty works have reached all the way to Canaan. He parted the Red Sea to provide for the Israelites’ escape from Egypt, and He recently led the Israelites in conquest over Sihon and Og, two powerful Amorite kings east of the Jordan (Numbers 21). But Rahab sees these conquests not just as struggles between gods but as the victory of the true God. It is not as though the Lord is a god only of the Israelites and He happened to defeat the Egyptian gods and the Amorite gods on a good day. Rather, the Lord is “God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath” (Joshua 2:11). He is God over all the nations, even the Egyptians, Amorites, Israelites, and Canaanites. Rahab has come to believe this. She confesses her belief and asks for deliverance and salvation through this faith.
- The spies ask her to hang, as a sign of her faithful confession, a scarlet cord from her window to indicate to the invading army not to harm those in the house so marked. The red color of this cord also symbolizes the blood shed to cover all of God’s faithful. For it is not Rahab’s blood, nor the blood of the Israelites or of the people of Jericho, that purifies, but the shed blood of Jesus alone that cleanses all from sin. This blood of Jesus also marks everyone in Rahab’s household so they are forgiven and delivered from destruction..
The text for this lesson is Exodus 1:8–2:10.
- God sent Moses and then protected him so that he could deliver the Israelites from slavery; in the same way, God sent His greater Son, Jesus, to deliver us from the slavery of sin.
- Law: Sin, death, and the devil try to tempt, oppress, discourage, and enslave us because they are opposed to the joy of life in Christ.
- Gospel: God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, born in a humble way, to deliver us from this temptation, oppression, discouragement, and slavery.
- Jacob’s son Joseph became a great ruler in Egypt, second only to Pharaoh, and helped the rest of his family—Jacob along with his eleven other sons and their families—to settle in Egypt (Genesis 37–50). At first, the pharaohs were favorable toward the Hebrews and entrusted to them the care of all the flocks and herds of Egypt. However, as the Hebrews grew more numerous and the memory of Joseph’s wisdom and management faded, a new pharaoh arose who turned the relationship between the nations from one of friendship to one of fear.
- The whole account of Pharaoh’s oppression of Israel, his struggle with the Lord, and his eventual destruction demonstrates God’s faithfulness to His people and His victory over His enemies and the enemies of His people. For Christians today, this account reminds us that while Satan and our sinful nature work to enslave us and put us to eternal death, the Lord fights against them for our release.
- Fearful of the rapid growth of the Israelites, Pharaoh enslaves them and tasks them with making bricks, and then constructing buildings and cities with these bricks, and toiling in the fields (Exodus 1:11, 14). Slavery and hard work do little to control the population of the Israelites, however; they continue to multiply and spread in Egypt. In a second attempt to reduce the number of the Israelites, Pharaoh commands the Hebrew midwives to slay the boys birthed to the Hebrew women. Although threatened and oppressed, the midwives secretly refuse, protecting life rather than engaging in murder. As a reward, the Lord gives the midwives their own children. Now Pharaoh’s fear increases, and he tries to make his whole nation complicit in the murder of the Israelites (1:22).
- Pharaoh represents not only the oppression of God’s people but also the fear that strikes each of us when we fail to trust God. Without the faith and peace God gives us by His Holy Spirit, we would all be mistrustful of others. To the extent it would be in our power, we would attempt to control and even harm others to avoid the perceived threat they present.
- Pharaoh’s fear and tyranny do not win this time. With her fear of God greater than her fear of Pharaoh, Moses’ mother hides him for three months; then she places him in a waterproof basket among the reeds of the Nile. (Notice that she does not send him drifting uncontrollably down the river.) Because the Nile was the center of Egyptian religion, agriculture, and commerce, Moses’ mother could have expected that her baby would be discovered after a short amount of time and perhaps cared for by an Egyptian household. Not only does this happen, but Moses is also brought into the very household of Pharaoh himself. God’s care and provision is clearly evident, working directly against the one who is trying to destroy God’s people.
- This account shows how God’s hand is at work to protect and release His people, even when the greatest of earthly powers works against us and when it appears that God has forsaken us. God actually works through evil and perilous circumstances to bring forgiveness and salvation.
The text for this lesson is Genesis 9:18–19; 11:1–9.
- God sends temporary disruptions into our lives to call us to repent of the sinful desire to attain glory for ourselves apart from God. God will make a name for us and bless us through His Spirit.
- Law: Our resistance or failure to listen to God’s Word leads Him to disrupt our self-glorifying plans.
- Gospel: Such disruptions are calls to repentance, which our heavenly Father follows up with His grace, forgiveness, and eternal life.
- The events surrounding the tower of Babel in Genesis 11 actually occurred prior to the spread of the nations described in the genealogies in Genesis 10. Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, were commanded to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1), just as Adam and Eve had been commanded earlier. However, Noah’s descendants were afraid to be dispersed (11:4). The events surrounding the tower of Babel describe how these descendants changed from a homogeneous group working together to make a name for themselves into diverse nations with many languages, spread over the face of the earth.
- In the time just after the flood, all people spoke the same language and appeared to operate together as a united society. They moved together, migrating from the region of Ararat (the eastern part of modern Turkey) southwest into the plains of Mesopotamia. Shinar is the ancient Hebrew designation for northern and southern Babylonia (see Genesis 10:9–10), perhaps related to the Akkadian word for the region, Sumer.
- Due to a scarcity of rock in the region, the people baked clay to make bricks, and joined these together with a coal or tar slime (bitumen; 11:3) as mortar. The people hoped to use these bricks to create a monument to themselves, a tower marking their empire that would compete with God by reaching all the way to heaven. Rather than submitting to God’s command and trusting His provision for them, they sought to compete with God. They thought that to survive and establish themselves, they had to resist dispersal. They viewed God’s command not as a blessing to fill and enjoy the whole earth but as a threat of extinction. Lack of fear, love, and trust in God was the motivation and cause for this suspicion and rebellion.
- The Lord’s observation that “nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them” (11:6) is hyperbole. It is not that the Lord felt threatened or thought that the people could compete with His rule. Rather, He was concerned that the people might think themselves invincible and be confirmed in their sinful arrogance. By confusing their speech, the Lord was not cursing them; He was reminding them of their
limits. He was hindering their ability to build up themselves falsely and make an idol of themselves.
- Instead, God called the people to repentance, to be aware of their limitations, and to again call upon God to care for them. God wanted them to trust Him again, rather than to put false hope in the name they desired to make for themselves. Similarly, God calls us to trust Him, and He offers every blessing of this life and the life of the world to come, even in those uncertain times when we feel dispersed over the face of the earth. Centuries later, at Pentecost, God’s Spirit announced the Gospel of forgiveness in many languages, demonstrating that God, not our human efforts, makes a name for us through His Son, Jesus (Acts 2:1–11).
The text for this lesson is Matthew 5:1–12.
- Jesus explains in His Word that He was poor, hungry, sorrowful, hated, and rejected for our sake so that God would grant us His gifts and blessings.
- Law: In this world I suffer and struggle because of my sin.
- Gospel: Jesus offers comfort, mercy, and grace through faith in Him and grants eternal riches and blessings.
- In light of what you have just read, in what way can the Beatitudes properly be called “the definition of a saint”?
- If you work hard at your job, you often will get promoted. The world usually blesses diligence. How does Jesus’ description of blessedness in the Beatitudes differ from the world’s views? According to Matthew 16:16–17, what is the only source of blessing?
- The first beatitude is “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Jesus opens His first public sermon with these words, so they must be important.
In this case, being poor in spirit refers to how a person stands before God. The poor in spirit do not make any claims on God but stand before Him as beggars who expect no rewards. The kingdom of heaven cannot be a reward for works but is God’s work in Jesus to save the world.
According to 2 Corinthians 8:9 and Matthew 20:25–28, how does Jesus live out this beatitude?
- The second beatitude is “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). For whom does Jesus mourn in Matthew 23:37 and Isaiah 53:4? According to Isaiah 61:1–2, why did Jesus receive the Spirit? According to Revelation 21:4, what promise does Jesus make?
- The third beatitude is “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). In Genesis 12:1, the Lord promised Abram a land for possession, which was never retained by Israel.
Jesus merited the true Promised Land for His people through His impoverishment on the cross. According to 2 Corinthians 5:17, how do Christians inherit the earth? According to Matthew 25:34, when will the full inheritance occur?
- The fourth beatitude is “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). Jesus’ great love for us manifested itself in a hunger and thirst to acquire righteousness for us.
Righteousness is what God has done for us in Christ. He has justified us, that is, declared us righteous. See Romans 4:24–25. When was that hunger and thirst for righteousness fulfilled?
- The fifth beatitude is “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7). Jesus bore the sins of the world on the cross, and when He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46), He was asking for His Father’s mercy.
The Father was merciful in raising His Son from the dead. According to Matthew 18:23–27, how does Jesus act mercifully to us?
- The sixth beatitude is “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). Pure in heart means completely committed to God with complete integrity. Jesus is truly the only one who loved the Lord with all His heart and mind and strength. He also is the only one who can see God face-to-face, as John 1:18 says.
According to 1 John 1:5–10, how does Jesus make us pure in heart? According to John 14:9, how can we see God’s face?
- The seventh beatitude is “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). Jesus is identified as a peacemaker in the messianic prophecy of Isaiah 9:6, when He is called “Prince of Peace.”
In His Baptism, Jesus fulfilled all righteousness and was called “Son of God.” According to Romans 5:1 and Colossians 1:19–20, how does God make peace with us? When are we made sons of God?
- The eighth beatitude is “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). Jesus exemplifies suffering for righteousness’ sake. His work is what merited the kingdom of heaven for us.
Who identifies Jesus as the “Righteous One” in Matthew 27:15–20? Who should have died instead of Jesus? According to 1 Peter 2:21–25, in what manner did Jesus endure this persecution? According to 1 Peter 3:18, what was His purpose for enduring this?
- What kinds of things do you normally think of as blessings? What are typical emotions and experiences brought about by persecution? How does Jesus turn everything upside down (or right side up) in the ninth beatitude? How did the apostles in Acts 5:40–42 live out this beatitude?
Should the absence of persecution in the life of a Christian be cause for alarm? When we are given the opportunity to suffer for the name of Jesus, how should we receive it, according to 1 Peter 4:13?
- At Pentecost, God sent the Holy Spirit to His Church. Through Word and Sacrament, God gives us His Holy Spirit to create and sustain saving faith in Jesus.
- Law: I sin when I believe that I can understand and trust in God on my own.
- Gospel: By the power and work of the Holy Spirit through His Word, the Spirit grants me faith in Jesus and empowers me to will and do that which is good and God pleasing.
The text for this lesson is Acts 2:1–21; John 14:23–31.
- With the previous discussion in mind, compare John 19:34; 20:20–23 with 1 John 5:6–8. What connections between Jesus’ death and the Holy Spirit can we draw from these passages? How would Jesus later hand over the Holy Spirit to His followers?
- Jesus told His disciples not to leave Jerusalem and start their evangelization of the whole world until they were “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). They were to wait for the promise of His Father (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4), the Holy Spirit with which they would be baptized (Acts 1:5). Even before Jesus’ ministry began, the disciples were being taught to anticipate Pentecost.
How does Acts 2:1–4 describe the fulfillment of this prophecy? What does the wind symbolize? What does the fire symbolize? Why is the traditional liturgical color of Pentecost red?
- We are familiar with Peter’s previous failures to confess Jesus. Immediately after confessing that Jesus was the Christ, he denied Jesus His right to be the suffering Messiah (Matthew 16:13–23).
Right before Jesus’ death, Peter lied instead of risking the chance of suffering for the sake of our Lord, denying that he even knew Him (Matthew 26:69–75). Yet on Pentecost, we see a different side of Peter. How does Acts 2:14 portray him? What could account for this change? See 2 Timothy 1:6–7.
- In John 14:26, Jesus tells His disciples that “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” Keeping in mind that John’s Gospel was written several years after Jesus had risen and ascended, how do John 2:18–22 and 12:12–16 illustrate the working out of this promise?
- As we noted, the Holy Spirit allowed the disciples to, in retrospect, understand the true meaning of the words or works of Jesus and of the Old Testament. How does the Spirit work in our lives to accomplish what Jesus did for His disciples in Luke 24:44–47?
According to 2 Corinthians 3:12–18, why can’t the Jews truly understand the Old Testament? How are Christians enabled to interpret the true meaning of the Old Testament?
- Even though we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, what we emphasize in our teaching on this day should be governed by the contents of Peter’s sermon in Acts 2. Peter had received the Spirit, and what did the Spirit lead him to proclaim in Acts 2:22–24, 32–33, 36?
According to 2 Corinthians 2:1–5, what does Paul say should be the emphasis in our preaching if we want it to make a “demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Corinthians 2:4)?
- “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Since we live “by every word that comes from the mouth of God,” we had better have a dependable source for obtaining that Word.
According to 2 Timothy 3:16–17 and 2 Peter 1:21, what role did the Holy Spirit have in leaving the Word of God to the Church? How does the Spirit ensure that the Word continues today?
- Often the Pentecost account in Acts is used as an example of why speaking in tongues should be done in the Church. But the speaking in tongues of Acts 2 was a unique, one-time gift of the Holy Spirit so that the Galilean apostles could be miraculously understood by people who spoke different languages. The goal in this case was intelligibility, not incomprehensibility, as is so often the case in churches that speak in tongues.
Rather than focusing on speaking in tongues as a spiritual gift, we should contemplate the fruit of the Spirit that Paul describes in Galatians 5:22–26. What does he encourage there?
- It seems to be an oxymoron, but we are truly born dead, as Ephesians 2:1 tells us, “You were dead in . . . trespasses and sins.” What does the Holy Spirit do to give us new life according to John 3:5–6 and Titus 3:4–6?
The text for this lesson is Acts 1:1–11; Luke 24:44–53.
- Jesus, our risen Savior, ascended into heaven to prepare a place for us there with Him.
- Law: I sin when I believe and act as if the ascended Christ is no longer active in my life and the world.
- Gospel: Jesus ascended into heaven to prepare an eternal home for me, and I can trust His promise to be with me now and always.
- In Matthew 5:14, Jesus tells His disciples, “You are the light of the world,” and in Psalm 119:105, we hear that God’s Word is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. In light of these verses, what might the candles that remain lit after receiving light from the paschal candle symbolize?
- Luke begins Acts by saying, “In the first book . . . I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up, after He had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom He had chosen” (Acts 1:1–2).
By saying that Jesus “began to do and teach” things in Luke, it suggests that Jesus will personally continue to do and teach. What do this passage and Acts 1:8 tell us about how Jesus’ “doing and teaching” will continue even after His ascension? How is this reminiscent of Luke 10:16?
- This week we celebrate Jesus’ ascension into heaven. Where is heaven? What insights do Philippians 2:9–11 and Ephesians 4:8–10 give us concerning Christ’s ascension and exaltation?
- In Acts 1:4–5, Jesus tells the apostles to wait for the promised Holy Spirit to come, “for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Some people argue that water Baptism does not give the Holy Spirit, but that there is a separate Baptism of the Holy Spirit. How do John 3:5; Ephesians 4:5; and Acts 2:38 refute the idea that the Lord ordained more than one kind of Baptism for the Church?
- On the road to Emmaus, two of Jesus’ disciples were lamenting His death and expressing their disappointment, saying, “we had hoped that [Jesus] was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). In other words, they were hoping that Jesus would be a powerful earthly Messiah who would restore Israel to greatness.
How does the question from the apostles in Acts 1:6 demonstrate that they had not yet gotten it? What do John 18:33–38 and 19:1–3, 18–19 teach about Jesus’ kingdom? When would the apostles finally get it? How does Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:29–36 demonstrate this?
- Acts 1:9 says that Jesus “was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight.” The presence of the cloud was a sign that Jesus was not really leaving but just changing His mode of presence with the apostles. According to Exodus 13:21–22 and 14:24–25, what was the significance of the cloud over Israel during the exodus?
According to Exodus 40:34–38, where did the cloud reside with Israel? What might the cloud at the ascension have to do with that Old Testament cloud?
- Acts 1:11 states, “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.” What exciting thing for believers does Luke 21:25–28 tell us about Jesus’ return?
What event does 2 Corinthians 5:10 say will occur when Jesus returns? According to Mark 13:32, when should we expect Jesus’ return to happen? What should be the Christian’s constant expectation and prayer, according to Revelation 22:20?
- The disciples’ separation from Jesus was not a sad one. “They worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God” (Luke 24:52–53). Based on Matthew 28:20, why were they so joyful? How does the celebration continue in Acts 2:42? What pattern did their worship set for the Church of all ages?
- Sometimes people call God the man upstairs. Since the ascension, perhaps that’s not such a bad title for Jesus. However, that expression comes from the days when the office of the boss was located above the factory floor. His office had windows, and he could observe what everyone was doing without their knowledge.
That’s actually intimidating and scary, but according to Hebrews 4:13, what is the nature of God’s knowledge of our lives? Is that passage Law or Gospel? What do 1 Timothy 2:5–6 and Romans 8:33–34 tell us about the man upstairs? Are those passages Law or Gospel?
- What words in John 14:1–3 show us that to be in heaven is to be where Jesus is? Why is the passage so frequently used as the text for funeral sermons?
The text for this lesson is Luke 11:1–13; John 16:23–33.
- Our heavenly Father invites us to pray and promises to hear our prayer for the sake of His Son, Jesus.
- Law: I sin by not trusting God and failing to pray to Him for all things.
- Gospel: God promises to hear and answer my prayers because of His Son, Jesus, and to do what is best and good for me.
- Several years ago, a book called The Prayer of Jabez was quite popular. The central thesis of The Prayer of Jabez is that if you pray the prayer of Jabez daily and believe hard enough that the Lord will grant your desires, then He will bless you in incredible ways.
According to 1 Chronicles 4:9–10, why did God grant Jabez that for which he asked? What part of this passage indicates that the prayer of Jabez is to provide a model for the prayers of believers? What does Matthew 6:9 tell us about Christian prayer?
- According to Luke 3:21–22, what event resulted in Jesus being identified as the beloved Son of the Father? What similar connection does Paul make in Galatians 3:26–27? According to Romans 8:14–17 and Galatians 4:4–7, what gives us the right to pray the Lord’s Prayer?
- In John 16:23, Jesus tells us to pray in His name—in the name of Jesus. Because of the need for Christians to pray in the name of Jesus, what implications are there for the occasion when we might be called on to pray in public, especially in a context where different religions are represented?
How do Matthew 6:6 and James 5:16b inform our view of prayer in the public square?
- In Luke 11:1–4, one of Jesus’ disciples asks Him to teach them to pray. He responds with a condensed version of the Lord’s Prayer, containing only five petitions. In Matthew 6:9–13, which is part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives the Lord’s Prayer as we know it with seven petitions. The Fourth and Fifth Petitions (Third and Fourth in Luke) could grammatically be combined to read, “Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our debts (Luke: sins).” In what part of the Divine Service is the Lord’s Prayer prayed?
How does this relate to the combined petitions above? What kind of bread is received by faith and discussed in John 6:33, 35, 51, and 54?
- In the illustrations that Jesus gives in Luke 11:5–8 and 11–13, He uses a rhetorical technique called arguing from the lesser to the greater. In the first instance, Jesus basically says, “If your neighbor is willing to help you out because you are annoying him (the lesser), how much more will the Father, who loves to be bothered, help those who ask (the greater).”
In the second instance (11:11–13), how does Jesus argue from the lesser to the greater? What is so surprising about what Jesus calls the disciples in 11:13? What is a bit surprising about the prayer itself? What does this teach us?
- Read Luke 11:9–10. On face value, what seems to be the immediate result of prayer? Do our own experiences with prayer seem to contradict Luke 11:9–10?
Luke 11:9 could be better translated, “Keep on asking, and it will be given to you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you.” Does this translation make Jesus’ words fit more closely to our actual experiences?
- In John 16:23–24, Jesus tells His disciples, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He will give it to you. . . . Ask [literally “keep on asking”], and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” This also seems like an absolute, if-then statement about prayer—that if we ask for a specific thing in Jesus’ name, then the Father will give it.
Yet we are reminded of the discussion above concerning Jesus’ emphasis on prayer for spiritual things (e.g., prayer for the Holy Spirit in Luke 11:13) and also the future orientation of the fulfillment of our prayers. Where does 2 Corinthians 1:18–22 teach us to look for the final answer to all of our prayers?
- Sometimes people say that rote prayers are not from the heart but are merely spoken without meaning them. It may be true that we often say prayers without paying much attention to what we are saying—which is not a good thing—but what has Jesus taught us in Luke 11:2 and Matthew 6:9?
What is the advantage to rote prayers? Which book in the Bible is helpful to study if we desire to learn how to pray more faithfully?
- Prayer in the ancient world—and still today in many places—was almost always spoken; the idea of praying in thoughts would have been unusual. In fact, reading was almost always done out loud as well.
What advantage have we lost by becoming less oral in our praying and reading? What does Romans 10:17 remind us? In what context are our prayers still always spoken or sung?
- Paul admonishes us, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18). Yet sometimes we do not or cannot pray as we should. What wonderful comfort does Romans 8:26–27 give us when we feel that we have failed to pray or do not know how to pray correctly?
The text for this lesson is Luke 10:1–24.
- God chose the seventy-two to serve Him for a special task. God places us in various callings, giving us opportunities to serve Him and share our faith with others.
- Law: I sin when I see my calling, my vocation, as unrelated to my Lord and my faith.
- Gospel: God, in His mercy, uses all vocations to meet the needs of the world and, in His Son, Jesus, provides for my spiritual needs through pastors, Christian parents, and others.
- Today we study how Jesus sent out seventy-two men to heal the sick and proclaim the Gospel. We also will discuss the doctrine of Christian vocation, which comes from the Latin word vocatio, meaning “calling.” The seventy-two were called to do a specific task for the Lord. Likewise, each Christian has one or more callings to do specific tasks in service of the Lord, for example, in family, country, and workplace.
But there is one major difference between the calling of the seventy-two and our own callings. What is this difference, and why is it important to make this distinction? What are some examples of ways that Christians sometimes fail to make this distinction today? How does the Lord call us into our various stations in life?
- According to 1 Corinthians 6:9–11, what activities have Christians been called away from through Baptism? What does this passage suggest about the content of Christian preaching?
- Much like Jesus had called the Twelve (Luke 9:1) and sent them out to preach and heal the sick, He now calls seventy-two men and sends them out ahead of Him (Luke 10:1). The word translated “sent” is the Greek word apostello, like apostle, which means “one who is sent.” In the ancient world, people in positions of authority often selected delegates and sent them out with the authority to speak and act on their behalf. This is even true today, such as when the president sends delegates to foreign lands to speak and act in his place.
How does Luke 10:16 make it clear to the sent ones what kind of authority they had? According to John 20:21–23, what were the apostles eventually authorized to do? How does Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 20:25–28 prevent the ones He sends from abusing the authority they are given?
- In Luke 10:3–4, Jesus sent the seventy-two out “as lambs in the midst of wolves” with no provisions for the journey. This sounds terrifying, but in what way was Jesus actually blessing them? What is the similar message that Jesus gives us in Matthew 6:31–34?
- In Luke 10:9, Jesus tells the seventy-two to heal the sick and proclaim, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” Based on what Jesus says in Luke 7:18–23, why might He have had the seventy-two perform miraculous signs along with preaching? Why do we no longer need miraculous signs to accompany Christian preaching today?
- If God chose us to be saved, does that mean that He elected others to be damned? According to 2 Peter 3:9, does God desire that any people be condemned?
According to 1 Timothy 2:3–6, for whom did Christ die? Whom does God desire to be saved? When we struggle to understand all of these things, what does Romans 11:33–36 teach us?
- In Luke 10:5, Jesus told the seventy-two that whenever they entered a house they were to say, “Peace be to this house.”
Since they were sent out with Jesus’ authority to proclaim the Gospel, their greeting of peace was not ineffectual but actually delivered peace and salvation to those who received it. As we come to God’s house each week for worship, what parts of the service proclaim peace to us?
- God’s Word helps us understand how we are to live within our various vocations. Discuss the various vocations of Christians described in 1 Peter 2:9–17 and 3:14–16.
What basic form of evangelism is every Christian called to do? According to 1 Peter 4:10, do all people have the same gifts and vocations? Why or why not?
The text for this lesson is John 10:22–30; Psalm 23.
- We are like sheep who have gone astray. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who rescues, gathers, and cares for us through His Word and Sacraments.
- Law: Because of sin, I face physical and spiritual danger in this world.
- Gospel: Jesus, my Good Shepherd, guards and protects me from sin, death, and the power of the devil, feeding me through His Word and Sacraments to keep my faith strong.
- The theme of shepherding is important throughout Holy Scripture. There are passages in the Old Testament that had promised Israel that the Messiah would be like a shepherd. According to Ezekiel 34:15–16 and Isaiah 40:10–11, who would be the shepherd of Israel? Who is the shepherd in Ezekiel 34:23–24?
How do these three passages taken together point to Jesus? According to Matthew 2:1–6, who is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament predictions about shepherds of Israel?
- An allegory is a rhetorical or literary device used to express certain truths through symbolic fictional figures. Jesus’ parables are examples of allegories. In John 10, Jesus uses an allegory to depict Himself as the Good Shepherd of Israel.
According to John 10:10–18, what is the chief way that the Good Shepherd demonstrates His love for the sheep? How does this passage testify that Jesus is truly God? What is the ultimate goal of the Good Shepherd’s oversight of the flock?
- Let us examine each of the three phrases of John 10:27 in detail.
a. “My sheep hear My voice.” This phrase underscores the importance of being within earshot of the Good Shepherd. If we are so far away from the Shepherd that we cannot hear Him, then we will be lost. According to John 6:68, why is the voice of the Good Shepherd so powerful?
According to John 5:24, what is the result of hearing and believing the Word of the Good Shepherd? What does John 10:2–5 say is the way sheep recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd amidst the cries of strangers? What has Jesus done to ensure that His sheep can hear His voice, according to Romans 10:14–17?
b. “I know My sheep.” Occasionally people ask, “Do you know Jesus?” It is important that we know and confess Him, but in Galatians 4:9, Paul explains what is even more important. How does Paul help us keep first things first? According to John 10:14–15, what is so profound about the Shepherd’s knowledge of the sheep and their knowledge of Him?
c. “My sheep follow Me.” The result of hearing the Shepherd’s voice and being known by Him is that we follow Him. Following Him only comes about because the Holy Spirit moves us to do so through the Shepherd’s voice. We do not make a decision to follow Him; He knows and chooses us.
According to Romans 8:35–36, what often happens to sheep who follow the Good Shepherd? Yet according to Romans 8:37–39, what is the glorious promise of comfort given to His sheep?
- When Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30), He was emphasizing His divine oneness with the Father. How does John
10:28–29 also emphasize Jesus’ divinity and provide us with a source of comfort?
According to John 5:18 and 19:7, how did the Jews respond to Jesus’ teaching that He was the Son of God?
- In John 10:28, Jesus identifies Himself as the eternal Shepherd, for He says, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” How does Revelation 7:13–17 reiterate the theme of Jesus as the eternal Shepherd?
- “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). We are sinful sheep in need of a Shepherd to save us.
According to 1 Peter 2:21–25, how has the Good Shepherd saved us? Since the Good Shepherd laid down His life for the sheep, what kind of lives should we live?
- According to 1 Peter 5:1–4, whom did the Good Shepherd give to His Church to be shepherds of God’s flock?
- In what ways does Jesus, the Good Shepherd, use a rod and staff in caring for us? What instruments has He placed in the hands of His undershepherds, pastors, to use in their flocks?