Isaac – Genesis 17-18 & 21 – Bible Study Notes

Context: Genesis 16:1-18:15 & 21:1-26:5

New series on miracle births in the Bible (Jesus wasn’t the only one). In each case we see God’s kindness to the people involved and also his kindness to all people, as each child is born for a particular purpose in God’s big plan for the world.

1. Who was Abraham?

He was chosen by God to lead his people.

2. Why does God promise Isaac?

God made promises to Abraham. Kings shall come from Sarah.

3. Are you surprised by Abraham and Sarah’s response?

Both laughed. She thought it was impossible so the laughter is understandable. She shouldn’t have denied it though.

4. Do you think we can be tempted to doubt God’s promises?

Possibly. Different culture now to that of OT.

5. Are there situations we face today where we need to be reminded of God’s plan for the world?

Time of suffering. We live in a broken world and need to be reminded of the gospel and the promise that God will make things right again.

6. What do we see of God’s character through this story?

He keeps his promises. He provides the sacrifice so we (and Abraham) don’t have to.

7. How is the birth of Isaac similar to that of Jesus? How is it different?

Sarah thought it wasn’t possible. Mary didn’t understand either at first. Both births seemed impossible.

8. How do we see a picture of Jesus from what happens in chapter 22?

Abraham was told to offer Isaac (who was in his early thirties) as a sacrifice. He was told to go to a mountain called Moriah. Years later that same mountain was known as Golgotha, the place where God sacrificed his only son. God stopped Abraham at the last minute and provided another sacrifice, a ram with its head caught in thorns. Jesus is depicted in Revelation as the ram with seven horns, signifying strength. At the same spot another young man (also in his early thirties) was sacrificed with his head caught in thorns. A picture of Jesus.

9. How does Jesus show he’s greater than Isaac?

He paid the ultimate price and was sacrificed. Only he could satisfy God’s wrath. Only he can save people.

Living with a Holy God – Exodus 19-20 & 32 – Sermon Notes

These are notes from the fifth part of a Bible overview series.

Recap last week. We looked at how God rescued his people from slavery in Egypt. We saw his power at work, as well as his holiness and judgement.

Exodus 19-20

Summarise. Focus on the commandments.

There are three legal collections in the second half of Exodus (second – Book of the Covenant – laws related to community life; third is the book of laws in chapters 25-31 – concerned with worship).

1. Why is 20:2 important when understanding the context of the Ten Commandments?

It refers back to Egypt. These laws are for people who have experienced his past and are expecting his future (and therefore live in his present).

2. What are some of the main principles outlined in the commandments?

Respect. A healthy, holy society is built on respect.

Responsibility. We’re responsible before him for how we live with regard to this law.

Retribution.

3. How does the last commandment differ from the others?

Most of them are about acts or words but the last one is about feelings. When we desire something we don’t have, our problem is with our inner life.

4. What does Moses mean in 20:20? What does it mean to fear God?

A right fear of God will lead us not to sin.

Exodus 32

Summarise. Focus on Moses’ prayer.

5. What went wrong? What’s happened? How is Aaron’s behaviour similar to Adam and Eve’s?

People have quickly forgotten the commands. Aaron blames others instead of taking responsibility for his actions.

6. What was Moses’ role?

He acts as a mediator between a just God and a sinful people but also shows righteous anger at their sin.

7. What do you notice about Moses’ attitude?

He’s not going to sit back and do nothing. He pleaded.

8. Looking at the content of the prayer, what characteristics of God does Moses talk about?

  • Grace (brought out of the land of Egypt)
  • Glory (God being discredited among the nations)
  • Goodness (asks God to keep promises to Abraham, Isaac and Israel)

9. Looking at v14, it could be easy to think that God changes his mind. How do we know that this isn’t the case?

God didn’t destroy Israel and he knew he wouldn’t destroy it. He deliberately put Moses in that position so that he would show God’s heart for the people. He prayed in the way God wanted him to.

10. What can we learn about prayer?

God wants us to pray. We don’t have less privilege in prayer than Moses had. We don’t have less access to God. We should pray in a way that reflects God’s character and the love that he has for his people.

11. What do the glimpses of judgement tell us?

A warning of the final judgement to come.

Pray.

Life Outside the Garden – Genesis 3:1-24 & 11:1-9 – Bible Study Notes

These are notes from the second part of a Bible overview series.

Recap last week. We are made in the image of God. Perfect creation. Perfect new creation. Looked at how great Jesus is from Ephesians. We’ll see why our world isn’t perfect.

Genesis 3:1-24

Adam and Eve are living in the perfect world God had made. God’s given them one command.

1. Why is it significant that Satan went after Eve? How does he treat her?

Women tend to be more trusting than men, who tend to be distrustful. Satan treats Eve as if she was the head of the house.

2. What should Adam have done?

He was there with Eve but didn’t intervene. He knew what God has said and kept silent when he should’ve spoken up. In the NT he is blamed for allowing sin to enter the world.

3. What do you notice about the strategy Satan uses in his approach to Eve?

First he encourages doubt with the mind, then desire with the heart and the disobedience with the will.

4. Who does Adam blame?

Eve and God. He didn’t fulfil his role as a man by denying his responsibility to look after his wife.

5. How does God respond?

Judgment. God hates sin and must deal with it.

6. What is the nature of the punishment?

Adam is punished in relation to his work and Eve in relation to the family. The reptile becomes a snake.

7. Do you think it’s right to blame Adam and Eve? Why or why not?
We’re all prone to turn away from God and reject him in all kinds of ways. 

 

Genesis 11:1-9

Since Genesis 3 the flood has occurred. The problem of sin still exists.

8. What did the people want to do?

They wanted to challenge heaven and build a name for themselves.

9. How does God react?

He’s offended. He gave the gift of tongues for the first time to confuse them. They could no longer understand each other. Humanity split, scattering and speaking different languages.

10. How does this passage show what we’re like?

We can’t undo the effects of the Fall ourselves.

11. What does this passage tell us about God?

He’s more powerful than our efforts to replace or remove him.

12. How does the problem of sin help us understand God’s grace?

It’s so much greater than our sin. Thank God for Jesus.

We can’t eliminate the problem of sin ourselves. It’s become part of humanity since the Fall. Thankfully God’s grace far outweighs our sin.

Pray.

God’s Perfect Kingdom – Genesis, Revelation & Ephesians

Genesis 1:1-31; Revelation 21:1-4, 21:22-22:5; Ephesians 1:3-14 (Bible Study Notes)

These are notes from the first study in a Bible overview series.

We’ll be looking at passages from three different books. They set the scene for the series and give a glimpse into the big picture. Hopefully if we keep them in mind, they’ll help us to understand the other passages throughout the rest of the series.

Read Genesis 1:1-31 (split to v19).

1. What do you notice about the use of repetition?

Lots of phrases are repeated. “And God said,” “And it was so,” “And God saw that it was good.”

2. What’s significant about the structure of how God created the world?

Three days creating places, three days filling them.

3. What do we learn about God from this passage?

God is in complete control. No randomness.

4. The first four words are crucial. “In the beginning God…” What are the implications for us as we study the rest of the Bible?

If we don’t believe these words, we can’t take the rest of the Bible seriously. We may as well go home and cancel the series.

Read Revelation 21:1-4 and 21:22-22:5.

We see the end of the world that we live in, and the start of a new perfect world.

5. Revelation is full of apocalyptic literature. What are some of the images used and what do they tell us about God?

Temple, light, Jerusalem. God will be with his people forever. The sea can represent the dangers of the fallen creation.

6. How should this passage make us respond?

Worship.

7. How does this hope increase our confidence in the good news of the gospel?

We have a hope beyond this broken world. A hope of eternal life in a place with no tears or pain or suffering.

Read Ephesians 1:3-14.

Paul is writing to the Ephesians Christians and he talks a lot about the unity that the gospel brings.

8. What does this passage tell us about God’s plan?

He brings people to know him through the gospel.

9. From this passage, what is Jesus’ role in God’s plan?

We have adoption to sonship through him. All things are united under him.

10. As Christians, what do we gain?

Redemption, forgiveness, an inheritance, knowledge, unity.

11. The Holy Spirit is mentioned briefly (v13). Why did Paul explicitly include this detail?

Enforcing the idea of the Trinity. Highlighting that He lives in us and guarantees our inheritance.

12. In light of the passages from Genesis and Revelation, how does this passage encourage us?

We don’t need to fear messing up the new creation. We can have complete confidence in Jesus’ blood.

Let’s remember God’s great plan for the world to bring people to Him through Jesus. Just as God made a perfect world in the beginning, we have the hope of a new world where we’ll live with Him forever.

Pray.

Jephthah (Part 2) – Judges 12:1-7 – Bible Study Notes

Final part of the story of Jephthah. Last week we saw how he made a vow that resulted in him killing his daughter.

1. What are the Ephraimites doing at the start of the passage? (What are they seeking?)

Talking big after the battle is won, suffering from wounded pride because they want the greater glory.

2. What do you notice about what the Ephraimites say?

Their words were untrue. They accused Jephthah of not giving them an opportunity to join the battle. He did summon them but they didn’t answer the call.

Violence was threatened. They threatened to burn down Jephthah’s house. Prone to anger.

3. How does Jephthah deal with them?

He is polite and speaks the truth. He’s willing to back it up with military if necessary.

4. How did the Ephraimites respond?

There was a deeper rift between the Ephraimites and Jephthah and the Gileadites. We know that Jephthah was a Gileadite. The land of Gilead was east of the Jordan and was possessed by Ruben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. The Ephraimites spoke disparagingly of Jephthah’s people, who were of the tribe of Manasseh. The Ephraimites spoke of Jephthah’s people as renegades, people who fall short of the high standard set by the “blue bloods” of Ephraim and Manasseh (verse 4).

5. What went wrong? Could the 42,000 deaths have been prevented?

If the Ephraimites had learnt from the past and recalled history correctly, they may have been saved.

6. What can we learn from the story of Jephthah?

  • God is still at work even when we mess up. He works out his purposes through everyone.
  • Jephthah is commended in Hebrews 11.
  • Words matter.

Jephthah (Part 1) – Judges 11:29-40 – Bible Study Notes

Recap. Jephthah had been driven out by his half brothers and ended up in Tob. The elders of Gilead asked him to be their leader in the campaign against the Ammonites but he wanted a higher position. They said he could be their permanent leader if he won the battle. We pick the story up just as Jephthah has challenged the Ammonites.

1. What’s surprising about the first part of the passage?

Focused on the vow and its consequences rather than Israel’s victory over the Ammonites.

2. What’s strange about the first thing Jephthah does after the Holy Spirit empowered him?

He makes a vow he would later regret.

Vows like this weren’t uncommon in Israel. See Numbers 21:1-2 and 1 Samuel 1:11.

3. Based on this, was it wrong for Jephthah to make a vow to God? What was wrong with the vow?

It wasn’t wrong for Jephthah to make a vow to God. The vow was carelessly worded.

4. Was Jephthah wise to assume an animal would meet him?

No. How many animals come out to greet their master?

5. What does Jephthah’s reaction when returns home say about his feelings?

Distressed.

6. Was there any way out of this vow?

Jephthah and his daughter didn’t seem to think so. God didn’t intervene as he did with Abraham and Isaac.

7. Who was the real hero?

Jephthah’s daughter. She encouraged Jephthah to keep his vow at her expense (v36) and urged him to be faithful to God, even if it cost her life to do so.

8. How can we ensure we don’t make stupid promises?

Discuss. It’s better to break your word than to sacrifice someone else in your pride.

Gideon (Part 2) – Judges 7:1-24 – Bible Study Notes

Recap. Gideon struggled to believe God’s promises. Had to be prepared. Fleece.

1. What’s God showing about himself in v1-8?

If Israel wins, the battle really is the Lord’s. God doesn’t want any doubt that he fights for Israel and wins the battles.

2. Based on what God says in v9-11a, how do you think Gideon is feeling? Do you think he’s completely ready yet?

God knows Gideon and his weaknesses and hesitation.

3. What’s amazing about v11b-14?

God speaks through a Midianite solider. God orchestrates the dream, the interpretation and the conversation.

4. What do you make of Gideon’s response in v15?

He doesn’t wait to get back to camp where he’ll be safe. He immediately worships God. The ‘valiant warrior’ is finally living up to his name.

5. How had Gideon and his men grown in their faith? What had they learnt?

They wanted to fulfil God’s promise. You can’t be too small for God to use but you can be too big. If you want the credit for what God is doing, God won’t use you. They know that only he can get the glory. God turns the Midianites against themselves.

6. How does God use people in their weaknesses?

He can use weak words to perform miracles. We need to keep trusting his promises.

Related Sermons:

Gideon (Part 1) – Judges 6:1-40 – Bible Study Notes

Before we meet Gideon, we see the same old pattern.

1. How does God use the Midianites?

They are a vast army who come on their camels each year and take the harvest from Israel. This causes the people of Israel to cry out for help.

2. What’s unusual about what God does in v7-10?

He sends an unnamed prophet to rebuke his people. They need understanding before relief.

3. Why does the angel call Gideon a ‘mighty man of valour’/’valiant warrior’?

The angel spoke to Gideon not as he was at that moment but according to what he would be in the future.

4. In this exchange, what does Gideon lack? Why does he keep making excuses?

He wants a sign and is inadequate. He wants to be reassured.

5. How has Gideon’s attitude towards God changed by v24?

He builds an altar named ‘The Lord is peace’. He now believes that God is able to use him, not because of who he is, but because of who God is.

6. In v25-32, how is God preparing Gideon for battle?

He has to take his stand in his own village before facing the enemy on the battlefield.

7. The focus of this narrative is on Gideon’s struggle to believe God’s promise. Are you surprised by what he does next (v36-40)?

He’s still unsure. When you know God’s will, you are to do it.

‘We live by faith and not by sight’ or ‘We live by faith and not by fleeces’.

8. Do we ever doubt God’s promises? Have you ever struggled to work out God’s will?

Open for discussion.

Related Sermons:

Deborah – Judges 4:1-24 – Bible Study Notes

This is a two-part account of God’s deliverance through Deborah and Barak. Judges 4 is a historical account and Judges 5 is a poetic account.

1. How is the culture described at the beginning similar to that of ours today?

The writer refers to sins that are evil ‘in the Lord’s sight’. The Israelites probably didn’t see their actions as sin.

God sold the Israelites into the hands of Jabin, a Canaanite king who reigned in Hazor, a city located approximately 12 miles north of the Sea of Galilee. It was once a major Canaanite city that was defeated and destroyed (by fire) at the hand of Joshua. Later on, the Canaanites returned and rebuilt the city, making it a royal city. Hazor was located in the territory of Naphtali which explains why Barak was commanded to gather troops from Naphtali and Zebulun (verse 6). It also should be noted that “Jabin” is a dynastic title, like “Pharaoh”.

Sisera was the commander of Jabin’s military forces, and thus he becomes more prominent in our text. He is said to live in Harosheth Haggoyim, a place whose location is uncertain.

2. Why did Barak want Deborah to go with him?

She was a prophetess. He might’ve thought that God would go with him if Deborah was with him.

3. Can we identify with Barak’s fears?

Yes but we can’t defend them. He didn’t need further word from God.

4. Who does Barak think will get the glory for this victory?

Deborah.

Wonder what Deborah’s husband thought of all this. Left a note on the kitchen table – ‘Gone off with Barak. Back in a couple of weeks or so. Don’t forget to feed the kids.’

5. Verse 11 seems to disrupt the flow of the story. What’s significant about it?

Heber was a Kenite. This means that he was a descendant of Moses’ father-in-law, who accompanied the Israelites into the Promised Land. It also means that he was not an Israelite. Having said this, the Kenites had associated themselves with the Israelites and lived among them (Judges 1:16).

6. It seemed like an impossible battle. What does God do?

  • He himself had gone before them.
  • God caused confusion among Sisera’s warriors. From Judges 5, he possibly sent a thunderstorm.
  • The Israelites fought, but it was a matter of cleaning up after God did the work.

7. How had God prepared Jael to have victory over Sisera?

She had been setting up tents and driving tent pegs for years.

8. What do we learn in the final two verses? Why do you think the writer doesn’t tell us who killed Jabin?

The writer wants the glory to go to Jael.

9. What can we learn from this passage? How does it relate to the gospel in the NT?

  • God uses unlikely people and uncommon means to achieve his purposes and promises.
  • Those who identify with God will be blessed and those who don’t will perish.
  • Those who identify with Jesus are those who will be saved.
  • God is the ultimate judge.

Ehud – Judges 3:12-30 – Bible Study Notes

Strange story. It begins in the same way as the previous passage.

1. The writer states that Ehud is left-handed (v15). Why?

Key point. The whole story is built around Ehud being left-handed. It’s a limitation.

2. The writer also states that Eglon was ‘a very fat man’. Why?

Suggests that he was lazy and selfish.

3. What do you make of the James Bond-esque episode?

Open for discussion.

4. Verses 24-25 are quite humourous. What are the three surprises that the king’s servants experience?

Three ‘behold’ statements: doors are locked, the king doesn’t respond, and the king is dead.

All this took time so Ehud had the opportunity to escape, like James Bond.

5. Ehud stepped up to the plate and led his people to defeat 10,000 of God’s enemies. What gave him this boldness and courage?

He turned his back on idolatry (v19 and 26).

6. How does God use our disabilities and weaknesses in ministry? What has he taught us?

Examples of self or others.

7. What can stop us from achieving God’s work in and through us? How can we change this as a result of studying this passage?

Open for discussion.