Grace and Hope IN THE BIBLe
THE Songs and Philosophy Books Anne Oâ€™BrieN Bible Studies on Grace and Hope in the Songs and Philosophy Books
Grace and Hope in the Book of Job Sometimes GRACE can take a long time! Job is a very long book but a summary should help the reader to understand God’s purpose for Job’s life: Chapters 1-3 We are introduced to the characters of Job, his wife, Satan, and God and to the questions surrounding suffering and affliction. Chapters 4-27 We hear the advice and counsel from Job’s three friends – Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. And we hear Job’s replies. Chapters 28-37 A new, younger, more spiritual man – Elihu – offers advice to Job. Chapters 38-41 After everyone else has had their say, The Lord speaks. Chapter 42 Job listens to God, repents, accepts God’s grace and healing, and shows grace to his friends. Job is honoured with wealth and family and old age. Chapters 1-3 Read ch.1 verses 1-5. What sort of man was Job? Read ch.1 verses 9-11. What was Satan trying to prove? Read ch.1 verse 12. How limited is Satan’s power? Verses 13-19 tell us that Job lost his cattle and servants, his herds of sheep, the camels and their keepers, his house and all his family apart from his wife. What was Job’s response? Read ch.1 v 2022. Read ch.2 verses 3-6. Satan had lost round one! He tries again. Why do you think God accepted Satan’s challenge? Why do you think God chooses to work through our weaknesses rather than our strength? Read ch. 2 verses 7-10. How did Job, and his wife, respond? The question is now set for the rest of the book – How do we help others who are going through difficult times? Read ch.3 verses 11, 16, 20, 23-26. Job was in pain, distressed and depressed and had lost his peace with God. His question, common to mankind, was – WHY? Chapters 4-27 Job’s three friends (often called comforters, an ironic description!) – Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar – offer advice. Here are some of the reasons they gave for Job’s sufferings: Read ch.4 verses 7-8. The old chestnut – suffering is a result of sin. Do you think this is true? Read ch.4 verses 18&19. If God doesn’t show grace to his (fallen) angels, why should he show grace to Job? In your opinion, who can receive God’s grace? Read ch.5 verses 17&18. You should be pleased God is dealing with you. In other words, cheer up! Does this help? Read ch.8 verses 1-7. Job’s friend(!) says, “Don’t keep going on about yourself. If it wasn’t you who sinned it must have been your children. Someone must be to blame”. Do you think suffering is connected to blame? Read ch.11 verses 13-15. If you trust in God you will be healed. Job’s friends were giving him false promises without foundation. Why do we know this? Because many who trust in God still continue to suffer. This kind of thinking puts them in a place of guilt and shame. Job’s response to his “comforters”. Read ch.19v25-27. Job knows that there is more to life than our carnal bodies. He understands things in the light of eternity. This changes his perspective. Read ch.23 verse 10. Job understands that he is being tested – like gold – purified. Despite his pain and groanings, he knows God has a reason and he still trusts God in that. Read ch.27 verses 1-6. Job understands that the advice of his friends is erroneous (based on false thinking) and misleading. Page 2
Read ch. 29 verses 11-17. Job finishes his defence against his friends’ accusations by self-justification. Chapters 28-37 Enter a new advisor - Elihu. He has held back because he is younger, but his words show that he is spiritually mature. He says: Read ch.33 verses 6&12. We are like clay in the potter’s hands. God can do with us as he wishes, irrespective of who we are. But God will always hear our prayer and show grace. Read ch.33 verses 29&30. Whatever God does it is for our eternal good. He can use sickness and suffering to turn us to him and away from the world. His aim is to ensure our place in heaven for eternity. Read ch.35 verse 2. Who are we to say what is right? With our limited understanding how can we question God who knows all things? Read ch.37 verses23&24. God is exalted, he does not oppress us, he regards (shows grace to) the wise who understand him. Note how Elihu’s words were more constructive and helpful than those of Job’s other three friends. Chapters 38-41 The Lord speaks. God doesn’t impose his will on us. He has allowed Job to listen to all the advice – good and bad – and make up his own mind. He has kept Job from blaspheming. He has helped Job to stay strong spiritually (“renewing the inner man” – see 2 Corinthians 4v16). He has not taken Job’s life. He has given him friends – some more helpful than others! But now, God wants Job to listen to what he has to say: Read ch.38 verse 4. Where was Job when God created the world? Job is encouraged to think about himself in the light of God’s greatness. God goes on to ask Job if he has the power to control the climate, the seas, the Sun, the stars etc. It is a reminder to us that when we come into God’s presence, we are coming to the One who has control over all things, all powerful and all mighty. Read ch.40 verse 1. God asks Job, “Would YOU correct ME?” Actually, only a very gracious King would be willing to listen to a man who disagreed with him. God, in his grace, had listened to Job, but now it was God’s turn to remind Job of a few “home truths”. Read ch.40 verse 8. Here God is saying, “Would you say I am in the wrong just to make yourself feel better?” The Lord, by pointing out the relative positions of Job and himself, is trying to help Job identify his sin. Job had not been guilty of any of the things his accusers threw at him – he had indeed lived a good and as near perfect a life as possible. So, what was Job’s sin? Anyone who thinks they are without sin is suffering from the sin of pride and arrogance. Fundamentally, these are the worst sins, because they stop us from being humble in God’s sight. Pride was the great sin of the ‘perfect’ Pharisees. Pride often brings down great men, and even mature believers such as Job. JOB has a change of attitude. Read ch.42 verses 1-6. Leading a good life was not enough. He had to know God personally and humbly repent before Him – as indeed we do, if we want to know God and be a part of his eternal kingdom family. JOB has a change of approach. He stopped arguing with his friends and with God, he prayed for his friends and showed the grace which God had shown to him. Now we get to the last chapter we can see how God used all the circumstances to bring Job to the point of accepting God’s grace. God had worked all things together for Job’s eternal good. JOB has a change of circumstances. Read ch.42 verses 10-17. The Lord gave Job a double portion. Once again, he knew health, wealth, family and happiness – not because he was good, but because of God’s GRACE.
Grace and Hope – Psalms The word ‘Psalms’ in Hebrew simply means ‘Praises’ – most of which were written as songs. In various ways they all offer praise to God for the differing aspects of his grace and provision. The Psalms were not written to rhyme or to have rhythm, like our hymns. They were written with parallelism, that is each stanza (each few verses) contains a thought which is repeated in two or three different ways, to get the full meaning. King David was known as “The Psalmist of Israel” and wrote 73 of the Psalms. The remaining Psalms were written by Asaph and Korah (Priests), Solomon, Moses, and others – forty-nine unnamed. Many words are used in the Psalms to denote the Grace of God: Grace, graciously, gracious, mercy, merciful, favour, favourable, compassion, compassionate, the light of The Lord’s face, the light of The Lord’s glory or presence, The Lord’s countenance (shining on us) and faithfulness. All carry the meaning of GRACE – unmerited favour. It’s not possible to study more than one Psalm, so I have chosen one which is representative of most Psalms, with the addition of a few cross-references. Psalm 86 – a Psalm of David Let’s read through the Psalm and then we will look at the five stanzas Psalm 86 verses 1-4 As usual David begins by telling us where he’s coming from. He is poor, sad, and in need of protection. But he quickly goes on to show us how to rely on God’s grace. Q. What things does David ask God for? How is mercy different from grace? How does David explain this in Psalm 5 v 11&12? Psalm 86 verses 5-7 Here we see that David is in distress (v7). But he talks about the forgiveness, goodness and love of the Lord, and KNOWS that because of God’s grace, he will be heard, and his prayer will be answered. Notice David’s way of writing: · Affirm what you know to be true about God – remember who God is and what he has done for you in the past · State not just your needs and requests, but any sin that is in your life too, and ask for forgiveness · Accept that God will answer – remember what God promises Prayer should be like a ‘sandwich: praise, request, thanks. Q. How does David know that God is a forgiving God? Can you think of instances of David’s past sin that had been forgiven? Read Psalm 30v5 to see David’s experience of grace. Psalm 86 verses 8-10 David reminds himself again of just how mighty God is. God is in charge and in control of all the earth. Q. How can knowing this give us peace? Psalm 86 verses 11-13 Always, we see David’s humility. He begins with the words, “Teach me thy way, Lord”. David relied on God’s faithfulness (v 11) – all part of God’s grace. Whatever we do, wherever we are spiritually, God remains faithful – what grace! Faithfulness is one of the attributes of God. He cannot be other than faithful – it is who he is, Faithful God, unchanging – ever the same. So, David knows he can depend on God. Q. Read Psalm 57v9-11. We can see how the theme of faithfulness was a favourite theme in David’s songs of praise. Page 4
Psalm 86 verses 14-17 In verse 15 David shows us another facet of God’s great grace – which is compassion. David knew it personally. We know it and can see it in Jesus, who was the living proof of God’s compassion. Wherever Jesus went we read that he had compassion on the crowds, on the sick and lonely, on the elderly and frail, on the sinners – compassion is the driving force behind GRACE. We don’t have to earn compassion; God shows it to us ‘while we are yet sinners’. And David prays here, “In your compassion, show me your strength, Lord” (summary of v 15&16). Q. Why is compassion like grace? Read Psalm 18v30-33. David affirms that God is his strength. When was the first time David realised this? Do you think the battle with Goliath stayed with him forever as a reminder of his weakness and God’s strength? Read Psalm 51. Do you think the memory of David’s sin stayed with him forever as a reminder of God’s grace and forgiveness? May we always remember what God has done for us, for the times he has shown us forgiveness and mercy; given us strength and protection; provided for us and shown us his compassion; and ‘made his face to shine upon us’ (Read Psalm 67v1).
Grace and Hope – Proverbs In his grace God has given us laws to live by, and these we have studied in the Pentateuch. But if we blindly followed a set of rules, we would be little better than robots. God has also given us freewill, desires, relationships, the arts, beauty in nature, and a need for well-being etc. To know the right thing to do in any situation we need more than rules. We need wisdom and understanding. And this is how God shows his grace to us in the Book of Proverbs – by giving us words of wisdom. It has been estimated that altogether there are around one thousand proverbs and words of advice in the Book of Proverbs. For the sake of practicality, we will look at just 30, which can be studied almost like a ‘book within the book’ in chapters 22-24. These are often entitled ‘Thirty Sayings of the Wise’. Thirty Sayings of the Wise Saying 1: 22:17-21 These verses are like an introduction. We are reminded to take heed of the teachings and to pass them on truthfully (v21). How will they help improve our relationship with The Lord? (vv18,19) Saying 2: 22:22-23 The Lord was, is, and always will be the defender of the poor (Deut. 15:7-15, Psalm 140:12, Matt 26:11, Mark 12:41-44). Poverty, exploitation and need are an age-old problem. The law may say someone owes money, but compassion says they should be helped, not punished. What is the promise for those who are being exploited? (see v23) See also 19:17 Saying 3: 22:24-25 Steer clear of trouble!! Don’t get involved in a heated argument, partly because you will fall into the trap of being like the person who is losing control! The wise person speaks calmly but avoids someone with a hot temper. How easily do we fall into a heated argument? See also 18:24 Saying 4: 22:26-27 Don’t put up security for someone else’s debts – including help with a mortgage! The reasons are given, but they are also obvious (v27). Nevertheless, some people want to help (quite often, their children) and ultimately can find themselves losing everything. They are acting in love, but not in wisdom. Page 5
Saying 5: 22:28 There is more to this verse than meets the eye. The boundary stones, set up by their ancestors, designated the extent of the land given to each of the tribes of Israel. Each tribe’s land was their inheritance, to be passed down throughout the generations, so that each tribe would be able to be selfsufficient and provided for. Therefore, to move a stone would mean · Not being thankful to the Lord · Changing what The Lord had designated · Jeopardising the future inheritance of their descendants For us, it is talking about safeguarding our eternal inheritance by not moving the ‘boundary stones’ of our faith and by not compromising with the world. Every time we accept new norms in society (abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, bad language etc.) we jeopardise the eternal inheritance of the generations to come. See also 13:22 Saying 6: 22:29 Whatever you do, do it well and as unto the Lord. There is honour in doing a job properly. And, of course the opposite can apply – there is dishonour in not doing a job well. If we don’t do our best, we are letting The Lord down. Saying 7: 23:1-3 Watch out for the person who seeks some advantage from you by offering you a meal and good food. They might be ‘buttering you up’! Don’t put yourself in a position where you are indebted to someone. In other words, don’t let your appetite get the better of your wisdom. Sadly, this is how evil men get people into drugs. They give gifts, they flatter, they share drugs etc. and then when someone is ‘hooked’ they become their enemy, abusing and exploiting them. See also 17:1 Saying 8: 23:4-5 This is not a condemnation of riches, but rather a warning about desiring them and putting too much stock by them. The writer is saying, ‘Why wear yourself out trying to get rich, when riches don’t always last?’ And there are other more important things. Didn’t Jesus say, ‘Where your heart is, there your treasure is also’? Saying 9: 23:6-8 Another word of wisdom about eating! Often circumstances and relationships that seem right can contain hidden moral dangers. When Jesus was in the desert, he resisted the Devil’s temptation to turn bread into stones. I think maybe this proverb is to warn us of the dangers of subtle temptation. See also 15:15 and 15:17 Saying 10: 23:9 This verse is talking about a fool (not someone who is ignorant or who has a low IQ). The fool is someone who does not want to listen to good advice anyway. Perhaps we could turn it round and consider if we are sometimes the fool, not wanting to listen to good advice from a friend who has the mind of God. See also 14:7 Saying 11: 23:10-11 At first sight, this looks like a repeat of Saying number 5. But number 5 probably refers to one’s own boundary stone and this saying refers to moving someone else’s boundary stone to take ground from a vulnerable person, e.g. someone without a father/protector. This saying reminds us that the Lord is the Protector and Defender of the weak (the fatherless, the widow, the poor). This might not impact on us much in British society as much as some other countries. For example, there are 52 million orphans in Africa at the latest count (as a result of AIDS and Ebola and war). Praise God, the numbers have started to decrease. But, if God is their defender then, as Christians it should be our responsibility too. Saying 12: 23:12 People will say, “I find it hard to read the Bible” and, “I don’t understand it”. But this verse says we are to apply our hearts and our ears. It’s not about our brains and our intellect, it’s not a case of forcing our minds to work, but it is having a desire in our heart to hear and follow the teachings in God’s word. Page 6
Saying 13: 23:13-14 Punishment of children is non-PC and a very contentious issue these days. Note: it is not talking about revenge or cruelty or losing our temper, but about a means of discipline and correction – and also note, it is a Biblical concept. It can have more than one application: · Fair punishment will teach a child right from wrong and give them an understanding of sin · Understanding we are sinners is a prerequisite for our salvation. How can we be saved from sin if we do not understand sin? This verse is talking about eternal values and consequences. Therefore verse 14 can literally be true. The onus is on parents to help children understand why they need correction. Children cannot be held responsible for the failure of parents to do this. See also 22:15, 19:18, 13:24 Saying 14: 23:15-16 This verse naturally follows on the theme from the previous verse. What are the important qualities we want to see in our children? Do we want them to do well in school, get a good job and earn a lot of money? Or do we want to see them growing in wisdom and righteousness? These are the things that will fill us with gladness and joy in our inmost being. These are the qualities that will help them to be good members of society. These virtues will help them to be independent of their parents. Saying 15: 23:17-18 What things would make us envious of sinners? A Sunday off, time to do the garden and have a roast dinner? A booze up!? Less responsibility to always do the right thing? Latest fashions and music; fast cars and good food? What else do they have? Many have far less. They do not have the ‘future hope mentioned in verse 18! We have a hope that is steadfast and sure and dependable. We have what we need for today, but also a hope for the future. Saying 16: 23:19-21 These verses describe the consequences of excessive good living – loss of earnings, loss of selfrespect. We may have electricity and technology in the twenty-first century, but the heart of man is still the same as it was three thousand years ago. There are many people who become addicts to one thing or another. These saying are written to help people see the pitfalls. Saying 17: 23:22-25 These verses show how wisdom can run through the generations. If we had wise parents and listened to them, we are likely to pass on that wisdom to our own children. In the New Testament, grace puts the onus on God to save us and show us his will. And we cannot be saved without God’s grace. But we have to remember not to forget the onus which is on us – to learn wisdom, discipline and understanding – and to pass it on to our children and grandchildren. “Buy the truth and do not sell it” – in other words, value truth. Saying 18: 23:26-28 This is applicable to both sexes in this century! Sadly, there are millions of broken homes because nobody has spoken the truth about extra marital affairs. Twenty five percent of children live in single parent families in Britain. All because of the ‘bandit that lies in wait’ – in other words, relationships outside of marriage ensnare us – and it’s the children that suffer. Verse 26 exhorts us primarily to give our heart to Jesus – he is the one who can help us with discipline and self-denial. Saying 19: 23:29-35 There’s nothing new under the sun! Here we are told, “Don’t mix your drinks, and don’t drink too much”. If nothing else, you will get a hangover – but apart from that you may do something you regret. Drink is the enemy of wisdom. And drink is addictive. These words describe the process from drink to drink dependency and can also relate to drugs, and describes the process of tolerance by the body, then cravings and addiction. It’s a warning not to be tempted in the first place. (Again, there’s nothing new!)
Saying 20:1-2 If we follow this piece of advice, maybe we wouldn’t get into the situation mentioned in the previous saying! These things are easier for older people to say because they have seen the results of following the wrong people – either in their own life or in the lives of others. The onus is on the older generation to counsel the younger, and to pray for them. Saying 21: 24:3-4 Happy families are not established by chance, or without care, love and understanding. A good household is built on wisdom and understanding between all who live in it. What are the rare and beautiful treasures referred to in the second verse? Elsewhere in Proverbs the rare treasures are a metaphor for beautiful qualities in a person. See Proverbs 3:13-15, 31:10 Saying 22: 24:5-6 Often wisdom and knowledge are much more important and powerful than strength in war. When the Israelites followed God’s guidance and wisdom, they had very few casualties – and they suffered when they neglected to follow his advice. Solomon was the ‘wisest man on earth’ and he reigned over 40 years of peace in Israel. How does this apply to us? We are not building a country – but we may be building a family, a church, a group of friends etc. See also 3:6 Saying 23: 24:7 Don’t make a fool of yourself in front of others! “The Assembly at the Gate” was the place of governmental meetings. In important decisions, if you do not have a word of wisdom, it’s best not to say anything. What a shame our politicians do not heed this advice. On the other hand, in meetings such as ours, it is good to ask questions and we shouldn’t be afraid of looking silly. Everyone benefits from the answers and advice given by members of the group. Saying 24: 24:8-9 Plots and schemes are the work of trouble-makers. If you disagree with someone, say so, but do not mock or talk about them behind their back. Unity is one of the “rare treasures”, but anyone who stirs up disunity in the family or in the church will bring discredit on themselves. Being able to complain – with wisdom – is a very useful quality! Saying 25: 24:10-12 We need physical, mental and spiritual strength to get through this life. We need to build up our spiritual strength in the good times so that it will carry us through the bad times too. It has been said: It is not just that we need a large ‘piggy bank’ of strength, but that we need access to a much bigger bank account. How do we increase our bank account of spiritual strength and wisdom? The other side to this is that we have a duty to strengthen one another. If we see someone struggling, we should not turn away (v12). If we hear of fellow Christians being persecuted and suffering, we should respond with help. The Lord knows and sees, and ultimately rewards. Saying 26: 24:13-14 What is it about sweet, sugary things? We love them in one form or another! They cheer us up if we feel down, and they make us feel better (at least, they do if we don’t think about the weight gain, the bad teeth, and diabetes!!). And wisdom is like honey – it brings us hope for today, a future hope for tomorrow, and an eternal hope after we die (v14). Saying 27: 24:15-16 “You can’t keep a good man down” is our modern version of this saying. Notice the verse says ‘righteous’, not good or religious. Our righteousness is accredited to us when we believe in Jesus. The figure seven – seven times – means an endless number of times. God will always pick us up. Don’t be discouraged if you are attacked or if you fall. If you feel like you have failed, for whatever reason (and don’t we all?), there is the assurance in this verse that you will rise again … and again … and again. Saying 28: 24:17-18 To gloat: If we rejoice over someone else’s downfall, we sin. We have enemies of war and we have spiritual enemies – people who do not like us because we are Christians. Our aim is to defeat them and rejoice when we do. But are there just nasty people, dangerous men, spiteful women, callous people with no regard for others. How do we feel abut them? Would we be glad if they were Page 8
incapacitated by illness or they were put in prison? Would we gloat and think they got their ‘just desserts’? What does verse 18 have to say about it? Saying 29: 24:19-20 Don’t gloat – but also, don’t worry. I find this hard. When I see the damage that drug barons do to so many people, and how their behaviour impacts on society, I worry that there is no way out. But once again, we are reminded that things are different if we look at them in the light of eternity. We can look forwards to this. But it is also the only way that evil men can be changed – to realise their sin and turn to Christ for forgiveness and eternal life. Saying 30: 24:21-22 Fear the Lord and the King. Paul reminds us in the New Testament that we should pray for those in authority and obey them. We should never forget that they both have power over our lives in their hands. Solomon wrote in chapter 1v7 that The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. This is why we fear God – not because we are afraid of him – but because he is the only one who has absolute wisdom and IN HIS GRACE, he imparts it to us.
Grace and Hope in Ecclesiastes Solomon’s theme in this book is philosophical: Where is the meaning in life? It is written in a way that is meant for us to search for the answers ourselves. It has been said that this book is a negative preparation for the gospel – for only in Jesus can we find true meaning. Solomon reveals the thoughts of men and women, without contradicting Scripture. Without an understanding of the New Testament it would be difficult to see God’s grace, so we must study it in that context. Chapter 1 – Read verses 12-14 Solomon introduces himself (in verses 1&2) as teacher, Son of David and King. He states that nothing is new “under the sun”, and he repeats this phrase around 30 times in this book. He talks about the weariness of life, day after day. Q. Have you ever felt that you are just going around in circles? Why is life like this – what caused the need for such toil and trouble? Chapter 2 – Read verses 24-26 Solomon talks about pleasure (v1-11), possessions and self-gratification. He had all of these but they brought him no meaning to life (ch.10v19). He goes on to talk about knowledge and work not being an end in themselves, and therefore not satisfying. Q. How should we view our work? See verses 24,25 Chapter 3 – Read verses 2-8 Solomon talks about the concept of time and what we make of it. He says all things go in cycles, and all things die. He looks at hard work in the light of eternity. The ‘daily round’ is a burden: get up, go to work, eat, bed, get up’ etc. But – he throws in a thought: God has set eternity in man’s heart (v.11). It isn’t just about this life. Q. How do verses 11 and 17 demonstrate God’s grace? Chapter 4 – Read verses 9-12 Solomon talks about the ‘rat race’ and ‘keeping up with the Joneses’, selfishness and envy (v4-6). He talks about the importance of having others to rely on, and in verse 12 he hints at where our help comes from. Q. Verse 9 talks about two people – so who is the third strand in verse 12? Page 9
Chapter 5 – Read verses 18-20 This chapter is about food and money. Solomon says money is useful, but it can never make us rich in the things that are important. Solomon concludes that we should be happy with our lot. He repeats his conclusion that we should try and find satisfaction in our work (v18). Q. How can toil bring satisfaction? If we have no work (even voluntary) or function, are we more, or less, happy? Chapter 6 – Read verse 7 Solomon continues on the subject of money (v1-6). He says, use money wisely when you have it. Then he returns to his theme of all things being meaningless. We work to eat and eat to work – how can it ever change? Q. What does verses 7 mean? Chapter 7 – Read verses 8&9 Wisdom and foolishness. Solomon says: we don’t earn a good name until we have led a good life. We don’t grow character until we have undergone trials. It’s not how we started life that counts – but how we finish. Then Solomon contrasts wisdom with money and notes that whilst we can lose our money, we cannot lose wisdom (v11-18). Q. How is wisdom better than money (v12) Chapter 8 – Read verse 14 Solomon reminds us (as Paul does in the New Testament) that we should submit ourselves to the authority in the Land (v2-9). Then he changes subject and asks: Why do the wicked get what the righteous deserve – and vice versa? (v10-14) It’s the age-old question and it bugs us when we see good people suffer whilst bad people seem to prosper. The answer is in verse 13. Q. How does it change things when we look at them in the light of eternity? Chapter 9 – Read v7-10 This chapter is about the common destiny of mankind, but not a common eternity. When we die, we can take nothing with us – only our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Without that all is meaningless as Solomon points out. Those who are made righteous through the blood of Jesus will have a future. Even though bad things will still happen to us on the earth (v11&12), through the grace of God we have a future. Chapter 10 – Read verses 1,12&20 ‘A fly in the ointment’ is a saying we still use. A little folly can outweigh wisdom and honour. There is a responsibility on us to be careful in our speech and our actions. This even extends to our thoughts!! (v20). Q. How can a kind word spoken in grace have the opposite effect? Chapter 11 – Read verse 1 We are to “ship our grain” (NIV) or “cast our bread” (KJV) upon the waters. In other words, we should share what we have – our knowledge of Jesus, our wisdom and understanding, our possessions – and we will receive a return (v1). This verse has often been preached on referring to us sharing the gospel. It reminds us not to lose opportunities as they come. The chapter starts with ‘casting out our bread’ and finishes with ‘casting off our troubles’ (v10). Q. Is it true that we reap what we sow? Chapter 12 – Read verses 1-8 Rather depressingly, Solomon talks about the ageing process and repeats his theme that all is meaningless - what is it all for? Life goes around in circles, there is nothing new under the sun. Q. So, where is God’s grace in this book? · This book is 100% true for the non-Christian. But for the Christian who knows the joy of Salvation and has a sure hope of Heaven it does not tell the full story. · It is a great book to draw in unbelievers in order to speak to them on their level – and leave them wanting answers. Page 10
· Non-Christians should be encouraged to read it alongside one of the “Grace” books, e.g. Philippians · As Christians – we know that there is a God of Grace who gives us all the things that Solomon finds missing. Life with Jesus gives us meaning and purpose. · If we are honest, this book reveals our inner thoughts – but it does not contradict Scripture. · The New Testament, and our experiences, show us that All is not meaningless. We have a purpose. Life is more than our work here on earth Ultimately, we will be rewarded fairly God’s grace extends to good and bad The righteous in Christ will have a place in Heaven
Grace and Hope – Song of Songs Q. Can you remember your first love? How does it differ with age? Were you disappointed in love and/or marriage? This Book is primarily, on the surface, a song about human love. When you read it, you can see why it is rarely preached on in church. And yet, it is so much more than that. It is an allegory of the love between Christ and his Bride, the church. There is spiritual meaning within the text which shows us the love of God for his people. This is why it is called the Song of Songs – in other words, the greatest love song of all. An allegory is a representation of an abstract spiritual meaning through material forms. Its form describes one thing whilst portraying another. This is not unusual in the Bible. Many prophets spoke in figurative language, as did Jesus in the parables. When singing about the love of God we often use words from this Book, The Song of Songs, such as: “Your name is like perfume poured out” Ch.1v3 “You are the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valley” Ch.2v1 “He leads me to his banqueting hall, his banner over me is love” Ch.2v4 “My beloved is mine and I am his” Ch. 2v16,6v3 Biblical references supporting the allegory: · In Exodus Moses talks about the Covenant with God as though it is a marriage contract, where Israel promises to love God and him only. · In the Book of Hosea, his love for his errant wife Gomer, is a picture of God’s love for us and his desire for us to return to him, even when we have gone astray. · Isaiah says, “Let me sing for my beloved (Yahweh) a love song ..” and this theme is continued in the Psalms and the Prophets. · In the New Testament, Ephesians 5v32, Paul says about marriage, “This mystery is profound – it refers to Christ and the church”. (i.e. It is a picture of Christ and the Church) · Under the New Covenant, in a parable, Jesus refers to himself as the Bridegroom. · In Revelation, we read about the marriage feast of the Lamb, when the body of God’s people – Jewish and Gentile believers, will be united with the Lord for ever. The Song of Songs falls roughly into 4 stages: 1. The meeting – representing the thrill of falling in love with the Lord, especially when we first become a Christian. Page 11
2. The seeking for a permanent relationship – learning to stay with God and not to go after other things. God always seeks us out to bring us back to himself. 3. The marriage and consummation – total commitment until that day when Christ will come again for his Bride and take us to his heavenly home. 4. Eternal companionship – living with the Lord for eternity. We can follow the story through the chapters The story is written like a conversation with alternate speeches from “she” representing us, and “He” representing the Lord. Falling in love Read chapter 1v1-3 (She) and 1 v15(He). Q. How does this passion translate into our experience of when we first became a Christian? Learning to stay faithful Read chapter 2v14 (He) and 2v16 (She) Q. Is it true that we all go through periods when we get drawn away from being faithful to the Lord? Why is this? God’s Love song to us Read chapter 4v1 and v10 (He). If you read the whole chapter you will see how God sees us as his perfect bride, how he loves every aspect of us, how he desires us and delights in us. Q. Do we really understand just how much God delights in us – even though we let him down? The Marriage Read chapter 4v16 (She) and 5v1 (He). This intimate conversation is referring to consummation of the marriage. Two people can be “in love” but they are not “lovers” until this stage is reached. (Note: Sadly, sex and love are not the same thing any more – this was meant to be read in the purest terms – and it represents spiritual communion, in the context of eternal faithfulness.) Q. This represents the Coming of Jesus for his bride – the church. Read Rev 19v6-9 – the biggest and most glorious wedding feast ever! Do we love Jesus enough to be looking forward to that day? Eternal companionship Matthew 1v23 tells us that the name of Jesus is Immanuel – God with us. God is with us now in Spirit, but after the Coming of Jesus our Bridegroom, we will see him face to face. Jesus wants that as much as we do! We will finish this study by reading Jesus’ prayer regarding heaven in John 17v24: Father, I want those you have given me, to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. The word GRACE was not mentioned in this book, and yet it is implicit in every word. God loves us and sees us as beautiful, despite our flaws and failures. THAT IS GRACE!
The Estuary Elim Group of Churches are three Essex based Elim Pentecostal Churches in Ashingdon, Rayleigh and Southend on Sea with a shared Leadership team. We are a group of people responding to the love of God and the life changing message of Jesus Christ. Our services are lively with contemporary music, worship and preaching and teaching relevant to the 21st Century. To find out more about us visit www.estuaryelim.church Whether you are new to church, someone with questions or a committed Christian, we want to serve you and help you discover and fulfil Godâ€™s purpose for your life. If you would like an opportunity to email or talk to one of the team email your contact details to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you. The Ashingdon, Rayleigh and Southend Elim Pentecostal Churches are branches of The Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance (Registered Charity No. 251549)
Bible Studies on Grace and Hope in the Songs and Philosophy Books