Sin’s Enticement | Proverbs 1:8-19

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Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck. (Proverbs 1:8-9 ESV)

My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. (Proverbs 1:10 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

Proverbs is the Bible’s handbook of wisdom, which is essentially the skill of navigating through life’s complexities well. The book’s primary author, King Solomon, was one of the wisest men to ever live because he received his wisdom as a direct gift from God. Solomon, therefore, is the ideal candidate to teach us about biblical wisdom.

The first seven verses of Proverbs explicitly tell us the goals and main thesis of the book. The goals include helping us to know wisdom, enabling us to understand words of insight, and learning how to behave wisely. The thesis of the book regards the necessity of fearing the LORD. Verse 7 gave us our first taste of Proverbs’ two paths. One path means walking in the fear of God, and it leads to wisdom and life. The other path rejects the LORD, despising wisdom and instruction. Its end is death and foolishness.

The primary literary device of the first nine chapters of Proverbs is a father giving wise teachings to his son. After reading the purpose and thesis of the book in the first seven verses, we now move into the first fatherly speech. Here the father pleads for his son to refrain from becoming associated with sinners. Sin is the ultimate foolishness because it is rebellion against God, and godly wisdom flees from sin at all costs.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read chapter 1:8-19 and discuss the following.

  • Which verses stood out most to you as you read Proverbs 1:8-19 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  • What is the Shema? How do verses 8-9 relate to the Shema? Would you say that the Scriptures saturate every aspect of your life? What are some practical ways to integrate God’s word into your life?
  • What is the ultimate end of sin? Why is sin still so alluring? How can we kill the sin in our lives?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.

The Beginning of Wisdom | Proverbs 1:1-7

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• The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7 ESV)

• The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever! (Psalm 111:10 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

Wisdom’s beginning is the fear of the LORD (9:10). You cannot possess wisdom without fearing God. This is the primary message of Proverbs. Those who do not know God may behave wisely at times, but they cannot be wise. True wisdom comes from knowing
that God is God and I am not. It seems simple enough… until I catch myself in idolatry again. And again. And again.

Calvin said that our hearts are idol factories. We rarely ever truly revere God as God; instead, we continuously bow our hearts before lesser things, gods that will never satisfy. Our sin testifies that we do not actually fear God; therefore, our sin constantly proclaims our foolishness. Each time we sin, we temporarily live as if there is no God. We embody folly by sinning. We turn against the omnipotent and eternal Creator for instant gratification. There is, therefore, no greater display of foolishness than sin.

Fortunately, once we realize that we are fools in need of wisdom, God promises to give it to us if we ask. James 1:5 says that “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” No strings attached, God promises to give wisdom to all who ask for it. As we dive into Proverbs, will you forsake your own “wisdom” and embrace the wisdom of God?

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read chapter 1:1-7 and discuss the following.
1. Which verses stood out most to you as you read Proverbs 1:1-7 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
2. Proverbs begins by saying that its goal is to help us to know wisdom. What is biblical wisdom? How does it compare with knowledge, insight, prudence, etc.?
3. What are a few principles to remember when reading Proverbs?
4. What is the fear of the LORD, and why is it called the beginning of knowledge and wisdom? Why does Solomon use knowledge instead of wisdom here? What role does humility have in gaining wisdom? What role does pride have in foolishness?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.
• What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
• What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
• How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking,  lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
• Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.

 

Dwelling in Egypt | Genesis 46:31-47:31

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Then Joseph settled his father and his brothers and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded. And Joseph provided his father, his brothers, and all his father’s household with food, according to the number of their dependents. (Genesis 47:11-12 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

The book of beginnings, Genesis perfectly sets up the story and themes for the remainder of the Bible. After describing creation, humanity’s fall into sin, and the great flood, the narrative shifts onto the family of one man, Abraham. The LORD gave his family three promises: they would become a great nation, possess the land of Canaan, and bless all the families of the earth. Both Abraham and Isaac, his son, died without seeing these promises fulfilled.

Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, had twelve children, and drama ensued. He loved Joseph, the eleventh son, most of all, so the older ten brothers sold Joseph into slavery to get rid of him. By the providence of God, Joseph went for slave, to prisoner, to ruling all of Egypt. Also by providence, God used Joseph to rescue the world from a severe famine, which also gave him the opportunity to be reconciled with his brothers.

With his father and brothers in Egypt, Joseph must now present his family to Pharaoh. The meeting with the Egyptian king is made tense by the Egyptians disdain for shepherds, but God uses Pharaoh to graciously bless Jacob’s family. In turn, Jacob pronounces two blessings upon Pharaoh. We are then told how Pharaoh came to be blessed through Joseph wise management of Egypt during the time of the famine.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read 46:31-47:31 and discuss the following.

  1. Which verses stood out most to you as you read Genesis 46:31-47:31? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  2. Through Joseph’s shrewd management, he saved Egypt from the famine while also prospering Pharaoh richly. Why does Genesis present Joseph’s actions in a positive light? How do our tithes and offerings resemble the people of Egypt’s tax to Pharaoh? How does the gospel impact our giving?
  3. Our text ends with Jacob demanding that Joseph pledge to bury his body in Canaan. Why was Jacob so adamant about ensuring that his body was carried down to Egypt? Like Jacob, how are you planning to display your faith in God’s promises beyond your own life?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you in obedience to His Word.

The Journey to Egypt | Genesis 46:1-30

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So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.” (Genesis 46:1-4 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

Because Genesis is the Bible’s introduction, we cannot properly understand the rest of the Scriptures without knowing this book. Here we learn that God made the world good and created humans in His image, but we rejected God’s paradise, choosing rebellion instead. But God did not give up on us. In fact, He promised a Savior that would one day defeat sin and death for good, and that Savior would come from the family of a man named Abraham.

Although none in Abraham’s family have proved to be the Savior, God miraculously uses Joseph (Abraham’s great-grandson) to save his family. After being sold into slavery by his brothers, Joseph went from being a slave, to being a prisoner, to becoming Pharaoh’s right-hand man. Through divine wisdom, Joseph guides Egypt through a devastating seven year famine, and now he beckons his brothers to bring his father Jacob down to Egypt.

Regularly fearful and nearing 130 years old, the journey to Egypt would have been frightening for Jacob, but God speaks to the patriarch, encouraging him to make the journey down to his long-lost son. Just as Joseph, the grain supplier in Egypt, is an image of Jesus being the bread of life, so Jacob’s journey into Egypt is similar to the journey we must all make toward Christ.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read chapter 46:1-30 and discuss the following.

  1. Which verses stood out most to you as you read Genesis 46:1-27? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  2. Jacob responds to the news that Joseph is alive in Egypt by worshiping God through sacrifices. Do you regularly turn to God in worship upon receiving blessings? What does that worship look like?
  3. Even in his old age, Jacob must make the perilous journey into Egypt to meet Joseph and save his family from the famine. How does this journey parallel our daily walk as Christians? How is Judah similar to Jesus in preparing the way for his brothers? In what ways does discipleship help others on their journey toward Christ?
  4. The always fearful Jacob finds peace to die upon reuniting with Joseph. How is this similar to Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 4:6-8? How does the gospel remove the sting from death?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you in obedience to His Word.

Introduction to Nahum

Are you familiar with the book of Nahum?

Forgive me for assuming, but I imagine not.

The minor prophets are a rather neglected section of our Bible to begin with, but Nahum seems to be spectacularly unmemorable. I’ve read through God’s Word in its entirety multiple times, so I know that I’ve read Nahum. But for the life of me, I still didn’t know anything about it. A lack of knowledge, I think, is as a good of a reason as any for studying a book of the Bible.

It turns out that Nahum is essentially the spiritual sequel to Jonah (the prophet most famous for being swallowed by a fish). God sent Jonah to the Nineveh, a chief city of the Assyrian Empire, at the time when they were the greatest threat to Israel, and though God sent a message of judgment, the people repented and God showed them mercy.

Unfortunately, their repentance did not last long, and within a few decades, the Assyrians had thoroughly destroyed Israel. About a century after Jonah, Nahum writes his message against the Assyrians (probably at the height of their power), proclaiming again that God’s judgment is coming for them.

A quick reading of Nahum will reveal that the book is undeniably filled with the message of God impending wrath. God’s wrath is not a popular topic with people today, but we must also remember that the wrath of God has never been a pleasant topic. People have always preferred to dwell on God’s friendlier attributes (i.e. love and grace), but a sober study of His wrath is both necessary and beneficial.

As we read Nahum, it is important, therefore, to remember that God’s wrath is good. In fact, Nahum says as much: “The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him (1:7).” And in the very next verse, the prophet declares that God will not spare any of His enemies.

How can these things coexist?

God’s wrath is an outpouring of justice; therefore, it is good. The wrath of God is the criminal receiving due punishment. It would be unloving and unjust of God not to avenge those who have been sinned against. We only need to read stories of the Holocaust, of the African slave trade, or of any terrorist organization to understand the beauty found in God’s wrath.

Of course, the problem of God’s wrath is that we have committed sins that put us on the receiving end of God’s vengeance. The promise that “the LORD will by no means clear the guilty (1:3)” is a great promise to those offended by the sins of others, but we have also been the offenders. No one is innocent of committing sin, and no one is exempt from God’s wrath. As Christians, we know that our sin did not go unpunished, but Jesus absorbed the wrath of God upon Himself in our place. Only in Christ, therefore, do we have hope to be spared from God’s fiery and just judgment.

This knowledge should impact our reading of Nahum. Although we may have not committed the level of violence of which the Assyrians were guilty, we are no less deserving of God’s wrath than them.

May Nahum’s vision of Nineveh’s doom remind us, therefore, of the great salvation we have received in Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Joseph Tests His Brothers | Genesis 44

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And Judah said, “What shall we say to my lord? What shall we speak? Or how can we clear ourselves? God has found out the guilt of your servants; behold, we are my lord’s servants, both we and he also in whose hand the cup has been found.” (Genesis 44:16 ESV)

Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord, and let the boy go back with his brothers. (Genesis 44:33 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

As the first book of the Bible, Genesis sets up the story and themes for the rest of God’s Word. It opens with the account of God creating the world good, but humanity quickly ruins paradise by rebelling against the LORD. In order to save humanity, God narrowed His focus upon one man’s family, Abraham. Though Abraham is called the man of faith, he was not humanity’s savior, nor was his son Isaac or grandson Jacob.

The story now focuses upon Jacob’s twelve sons, particularly Joseph. Being his father’s favorite, Joseph’s ten older brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt. As a slave, Joseph displayed the favor of the LORD… until he was wrongfully accused and thrown into prison. But God’s providence worked to move Joseph from prison to Pharaoh’s right hand man. As second-in-command of Egypt and with a severe famine ravaging the world, God ordained that Joseph’s brothers would travel to Egypt for food, meeting their lost brother.

For two chapters, Joseph has tested the hearts of his brothers to see whether they have changed for the better. With Jacob’s beloved son, Benjamin, in Egypt, Joseph is now ready to orchestrate the final test. By framing Benjamin for stealing from him, Joseph gives his brothers a chance to betray one of their brothers again. Most notably, we are able to see the change God has worked in Judah’s heart, when he passionately pleas to be a slave in Benjamin’s place.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read chapter 44 and discuss the following.

  1. When Joseph’s servant finds the cup in Benjamin’s sack, all of the brothers tear their clothes in anguish. This quite a change from when they torn off Joseph’s coat and felt no remorse. Likewise, a softened conscience is a distinctive mark of being saved by God. What examples have you seen in your life of God’s work in softening your heart?
  2. When the brothers stand before Joseph for stealing the cup, Judah admits guilt even though they did not steal it. What guilt is weighing on Judah? Why is guilt a blessing from the LORD?
  3. How does Judah’s offer to take the place of Benjamin reflect the gospel? Why is Judah’s speech such an important development in the story of Joseph and his brothers?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you in obedience to His Word.

Joseph’s Brothers Return to Egypt | Genesis 43

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.” (Genesis 43:14 ESV)

He replied, “Peace to you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks for you. I received your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them. (Genesis 43:23 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

When it comes to understanding the Bible, Genesis is a crucial book to know. Its first eleven chapters establish how the world was made and why it is now broken by sin. The rest of the book concerns itself with how God plans to fix humanity’s problem of sin. God promises to do this through the family of Abraham. Even though Abraham was a man of faith, he was just as marred by sin as anyone else (and his son, Isaac, and grandson, Jacob, were the same).

But the narrative now follows the life of Joseph, Abraham’s great grandson. After being sold into slavery by his brother, Joseph rose to a prominent rank as a servant only to be falsely accused and cast into prison. As a prisoner, Joseph was placed in charge of other prisoners, like Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker. After correctly interpreting the cupbearer’s dream, Joseph beg him to mention Joseph to Pharaoh, but two whole years passed before the cupbearer remembered Joseph. In a blur of a moment, Joseph found himself removed from the prison, interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams, and placed as second-in-command over all of Egypt. But God’s providence is displayed even greater when Joseph’s brothers come before him in Egypt.

Our present chapter deals with Joseph’s brothers’ return to Egypt. We find two major sections of the text. First, the brothers must convince their father, Jacob, to allow Benjamin to travel with them to Egypt. The patriarch’s struggle to entrust his beloved son into the hands of his other sons and ultimately God is a battle with which many of us can relate. Second, the brothers are invited to a lavish dinner with Joseph in Egypt, wherein Benjamin is given five times the portion of his brothers. Here Joseph’s brothers are forced to confront their envy, jealousy, and covetousness, the very sins that caused them to sell Joseph so many years ago.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read chapter 43 and discuss the following.

  1. The chapter opens with the brothers needing to return to Egypt, but Jacob is still hesitant about sending Benjamin with them. How does Judah’s answer to his father differ from Reuben’s in the previous chapter? Why might we call Judah a wise leader? Why might we call Reuben foolish?
  2. Jacob eventually realizes that he must let Benjamin, his treasured son,  go to Egypt, trusting God and Judah to bring him home safely. What do you similarly treasure? Have you similarly experienced leaving them in the hands of God and others? What benefit is there in surrendering our treasures over to God?
  3. At the banquet, Joseph gives Benjamin five times the portion of his other brothers. This is meant to test the jealousy which they had for Joseph long ago. How does your heart respond when other receive more from God than you? Why is jealousy such a destructive sin? How can we combat jealousy in our lives?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.