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You do not know about tomorrow James 4:14 Issue 17 January 2013

Living Word Magazine

Going Deeper into God’s Word

F r e e B i b l e St u d i e s f r o m D a n i e l K o l e n d a , D e r e k W i l l i a m s , K e n Le g g, M a t h e w B a r t l e t t, E d w i n & Li l l i a n H a r ve y & m o r e !


Bible Studies Online International

www.biblestudiesonline.co.uk YOUR LIFE IS A VAPOUR, THAT APPEARETH FOR A LITTLE TIME, AND THEN VANISHETH AWAY JMS 4:14 ©Photos above Marafilm CoverDanilo Ascione photo Back cover Peter Saharov

In this month’s issue: 2.

His Name is Wonderful

3.

Surviving Your Wilderness

7.

The Infallible Proof

8.

The Prophecy of Amos Chapter 9

Mathew Bartlett (UK)

11.

The Message of Mark (4)

Mathew Bartlett (UK)

13.

Effective Prayer (Part 1)

14.

Take and Use Home Bible Study

15.

The Book of Esther (4 & 5)

20.

In Depth Study – 1 Corinthians 1 Part 1 Mathew Bartlett (UK)

Ken Legg (Australia) Daniel Kolenda (CfaN) Edwin & Lillian Harvey (USA)

Isaac Mwagi (Kenya) Mathew Bartlett (UK) Derek Williams (UK)

Back Cover: Stock up on Great Britain’s cheapest gospel tracts for your evangelistic ministry! Professionally produced at nonprofit prices £1.99 for 50 includes UK postage!

©Photos above © Photoquest. Cover: © Dingalt Left © from top: Godfer, Ankevanwyk, Sebastian Grecu, Hladkymartin , Photowitch. Back Cover: Mcininch

1

IN THIS ISSUE


By Ken Legg (Grace Roots #85)

His Name is Wonderful Six hundred years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah foretold His coming with these words: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful…” (Isa.9:6). The Hebrew word used here for ‘wonderful’ is pele, meaning a miracle, a wonder, a marvelous thing. The word also means to distinguish or separate. One commentator said that this word is to be understood in an absolute sense, i.e. absolutely and supremely wonderful; as belonging to God alone. It is used 21 times in the Old Testament, each time it refers to belonging to God alone. So when Isaiah says that His name will be called Wonderful, it’s as if he was saying, “When the Messiah comes you will know Him; because everything about Him will be wonderful. He will distinguish Himself by doing and revealing things which could never be done or known by ourselves.” Think about it: He had a wonderful birth. A virgin conceived and brought forth a child. Man was totally out of the equation. It was not natural, but supernatural. He was a wonderful Person. He was fully God – co-equal and coeternal with the Father. And yet, He was fully man – in every respect a human being as you and I are,

except without sin. One Person, yet possessing two natures. He lived a wonderful life. He was tempted and tried in every point as we are, yet never once sinning. He knew no sin, He did no sin and in Him there was no sin. He fulfilled the law of God entirely. He could say, “I always do those things which please Him.” He threw out this challenge to His enemies: “Which of you can convince me of sin? Who can point to one fault in my life?” Everyone was silent! If I offered the same challenge, people would get crushed in the stampede of those wanting to respond! He had a wonderful ministry. He stepped into the domain which was ruled by Satan, yet He overpowered every weapon in his armory. When He came to town, demons left in a hurry. Disease bowed before Him as multitudes were miraculously healed. Even death was powerless in His presence. People “… were astonished beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done all things well’. (Mark.7:37). Others “… feared exceedingly, and said to one another, ‘Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!’” (Mark 4:41). This wonderful life culminated in a wonderful death; a death that would ultimately be the death of death. In His substitutionary death, He dealt with the death’s origin, which is sin. He paid its penalty in full, triumphantly declaring: “It is finished!” 2

Image: © Photowitch We Have His Wonderful Life! But we must go beyond His death to His resurrection, because He came, not only to die but to give us life, His wonderful life. “He who has the Son has life; he who does not h ave the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). In the original Greek the definite article is used here – ‘the life’. And the Greek word for ‘life’ is zoe, meaning ‘the quality of life as possessed by the one who gave it’. We are not Christ, but we do posses His life. We really are partakers of the divine nature. We possess a wonderful life, which includes: A wonderful birth. We have been born from above, not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (see Jn.1:13). A wonderful new nature. Christ, by His Spirit, lives in us as our hope of glory. A wonderful life. We are not sinlessly perfect, but we are set free from the dominion of sin. We have been empowered to reign in life by Jesus Christ. Our members that once served sin are now free to serve righteousness. A wonderful ministry. Jesus promised that the works He did, we will do also. Every day, as we present our humanity to Jesus, we are saying, “Lord, we are open for business. The works you did when you were on earth, continue to do through us today! Let the miracles begin!”


Surviving Your Wilderness A Bible Study by Daniel Kolenda (CfaN) Photos: © Sebastian Grecu & Overleaf: Hladkymartin

FIND

NOURISHMENT

Finding a source of food in the wilderness helps the survivor keep energy and focus. There are different kinds of plants that can be eaten in the wild, but some are poisonous. So a person must take great care in what he or she eats when stranded without provisions. That’s why it is ideal to learn what is edible before an emergency situation. Unfortunately, not everyone gets this luxury. As God’s people, however, we do get that luxury. We already know our source of nourishment in the wilderness. It is always healthy, always pure. And as I mentioned under the second survival tip, it is always available. Israel refused it in their wilderness, but Jesus welcomed it in His: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). This verse means that, along with the Spirit, God’s Word is the essence of human life. True life is not defined by our natural existence or sustenance (“eating bread”). It’s not even defined by arriving at our destined place in life, like a land flowing with milk and honey. True life is the eternal life that only comes through God’s Word. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come

into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men” (John 1:1-4 NASB). Jesus Himself is this Word, and He said, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life” (John 6:63 NASB). That means the way we relate to God’s words is the way we relate to Jesus, who is life itself. Thus He told religious people who opposed Him, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life” (John 5:39-40 NASB). This truth is so important, that God specifically led His people into the wilderness to teach it to them. He led them into a difficult situation, humbled them, and allowed them to go hungry so they would discover in the deepest way possible that trusting and obeying God’s Word is life itself (Deut. 8:2-3). “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word” (Psa. 119:67). Therefore, God takes us through a spiritual wilderness so we will learn to keep His Word. The good Christian duty of “reading our Bibles” is not enough. Our Father’s purpose is for us to live by His every Word. There are two aspects of this that deserve our attention. First, “living” by the Word means feasting on its truth till it becomes our way of thinking. It’s one thing to read our Bible; it’s another thing to devour its words until, as one preacher 3

put it, “they devour You.” God’s Word must become our mental culture, a way of thinking transformed from the natural to the divine (Rom. 12:2). This is why I talk about “feasting” on the Word. We cannot merely read our Bibles to log devotional time. We must share Jeremiah’s appetite: “When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart’s delight” (Jer. 15:16). And the Psalmist said, “How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psa. 119:103 NASB). This means we conform our old thought patterns to God’s way of thinking as revealed in Scripture. We read, we study, we meditate, we confess, we declare, we memorize. We bombard ourselves with God’s Word till it starts to reshape the creases in our brains and talk back to us. “My son keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you” (Prov. 6:20-22 ESV). With the Word of God sculpted into our souls, our lives morph into its shape. Then we’re not just reading the Word, but living by it. The wilderness is the very time designated by God for us to make His Word the ultimate source of our lives. The Word is, after all, the only thing we have to live on.


But then again, it’s the only thing we need. It is our feast in the wilderness. Second, “living” by the Word means obeying the Word. Obedience to God is always important. But it’s especially important in the wilderness, because that is the time when God is testing us to see if we will obey. If we won’t obey during difficult times, we won’t obey in easy times. The author of Hebrews warned Christian friends going through a spiritual wilderness, "Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tried Me by testing Me, and saw My works for forty years. Therefore I was angry with this generation, and said, 'They always go astray in their heart, and they did not know My ways'; as I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest'" (Heb. 3:7-11 NASB). He went on to explain, "To whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief" (Heb. 3:18-19 NASB). Thus He used strong terms to warn His Church against disobedience in a spiritual wilderness. Just as God disciplined Israel, so would He discipline them if they continued to disobey. Suffering a difficult season was no excuse for violating God's Word. Now let's look a little closer. The author of Hebrews linked obedience to faith like two sides of the same coin. The two words were interchangeable in the verse quoted just above. God banned Israel from the Promised Land for disobedience in the first sentence, and for unbelief in the second. Their lack of faith led to their disobedience. Their disobedience indicated their lack of faith. Further,

the author made very clear exactly what "word" Israel disbelieved and disobeyed. "For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard" (Heb. 4:2 NASB). So Israel did not believe "the word they heard." Specifically, the "word" Israel rejected was God's promise that they would enter the Land of their destiny! God pledged them a land flowing with milk and honey. He promised them a good and spacious land where they would enjoy security and have rest from their enemies. Indeed, He would liberate them from bondage and personally escort them into the home of their dreams Himself. This was His promise, His "word" to them. After centuries of slavery in Egypt, what exhilaration they must have felt when they "heard" this promise. What delight they must have taken in the dream-come-true "word" declaring their own country, identity, and freedom. Yet here they were in a desert - no milk, no honey, no safety, no inheritance, no promise fulfilled. Months earlier, as the Red Sea parted before their eyes, God's promises must have felt so real to them! They must have almost tasted their Land's fruit and smelled its lilies. But instead: dust, danger, rocks, thirst, serpents, and fears - the desert. God said, "Promised Land," but then He led them into the wilderness. Instead of entering their glory, they were wandering in a wasteland, battling cruel elements, and scrounging for strange food every morning. Israel faced a predicament. The word of God that promised a glorious future now looked absurd in the barren wilderness of shattered dreams. The 4

"word they heard," instead of inspiring hope through fulfillment, now seemed to hang suspended above them, just out of reach, sneering and jeering at them as they roamed the desert. Israel was caught in that long, strange tension between promise and fulfillment, between God's integrity and circumstances that appeared to contradict His Word. But that was the very time they needed to believe. If they would have believed God's Word amid such crisis, then they would have obeyed it and profited from it. Since they did not believe, they did not obey - and did not receive its benefits. God put them in this situation and watched to see what kind of people He had. Their response was regrettable. They complained about their conditions. They longed for their days of slavery in Egypt. They worshipped idols. They committed immorality. They criticized their leadership. They tested the Lord who delivered them and promised them something good. And when they heard about the inhabitants of their "Promised Land," they said, "If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness! Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn't it be better for us to return to Egypt? Let's choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!" (Num. 14:2-4 NLT). No wonder God was angry with them. They questioned His faithfulness based on what their natural senses perceived, rather than on what God said. Put another way, Israel wanted to live by bread alone and not every word that came from God's mouth. Their lack of faith turned into rebellion. They scorned God's promises and defied His directions. As a result, they did not benefit from the


original "word they heard." They died in the wilderness without seeing the Promised Land. Therefore, when we enter a spiritual wilderness, we must not confuse our situation with God's integrity. Living by His every word means continuing to believe His promises even if they seem contradicted for the moment. That's the whole point of the wilderness! When God declares to us, "Promised Land," He will usually take us through its opposite first - the desert. Those are the ways of God that Israel did not know. But they are the ways of God we must know. In God’s Kingdom, before the resurrection there must come death. Eternal life rises from a grave just as spring emerges from winter. The key is, we must understand these mysterious, divine ways and believe the word promising life during the season of death. Jesus declared this kind of faith on the cross when He said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46). So must we. God wants to see if we will believe His Word during the desert season, when He is stripping us of self-sufficiency before He fulfills that Word. If we do believe, that kind of faith gives us the strength to remain loyal to Him – to obey Him – in the wilderness. It keeps us from murmuring, criticizing, and worshipping false gods. And it prepares us for the reward of resurrection – entering the Promised Land. Thus God’s Word becomes our source of nourishment in the desert. For the desert itself will not offer spiritual sustenance to our weary souls. The devil will come during these seasons, point to the wilderness circumstances, and insist that God’s promise is really a failure or that we misunderstood it. But we must resist his temptations. We must not feast on the situation as

it stands, but continue to feast on God’s Word by believing and obeying it – even when it seems absurd to do so. Remember: The reason God took us down the route of hard places is to see if we would still believe His Word while there. That’s when it counts. The Word is our nourishment in the desert. Hebrews offers one more thought about the Word for Christians in the desert. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12 ESV). At first this verse seems oddly placed in its context. The author had been discussing entering God’s rest after a desert season. “Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience” (Heb. 4:11 NASB). Then suddenly in the next verse, he mentions that God’s Word is sharper than a sword and able to dissect the deepest recesses of the human heart. The “Word” of God’s promise is a breath of inspiration when He first declares it in Egypt. But when that same Word – declaring “Promised Land!” – follows us into the desert, it becomes a sword that reveals the depths of our hearts. The real intentions of our hearts only become exposed when present circumstances flatly contradict the Word of promise. Only then is it clear if we really trusted God. Only then does that grey, blurry line between soul and spirit focus into a clear, dark line separating two ways of relating to God: on our terms (soul), or His (spirit). In other words, when God’s Word of promise enters the wilderness with us, it accurately reveals whether we are truly loyal to God, or we merely wanted Him to serve our own interests. 5

It’s easy to trust God’s promises when all is well and we’re in a good mood. But when life’s music descends into minor keys, and dark clouds gather above, God’s Word is more challenging to believe. That’s when it’s tempting to get frustrated and blame God – or at least friends or church leaders – for His Word’s failure to perform. And those are the very moments it becomes clear if we are actually loyal to God as God – at all times, no matter what the circumstances – not just loyal to Him when it serves our selfish interests. Those who are proven to be people of “spirit” may not enjoy everything about the wilderness, but they are willing to embrace it. They know that only in the wilderness can God see if we are truly loyal to Him. Only in the wilderness does God’s Word become a sword revealing our true spiritual grit. If we know God’s ways, we know that He brings life out of death. As we go through the desert of a kind of crucifixion, we must believe God’s Word that promises life. So let’s avoid Israel’s example of disobedience. Don’t resist God’s Word when it seems contradicted by the wilderness. Feast on it! Devour it by replacing natural thinking with divine thinking, and by continuing to believe it when it opposes your circumstances. That is how to “live” by every word from God’s mouth. That is how to be nourished in the desert.

CONCLUSION - The Greatest Spiritual Reward The wilderness is an untamed place, a most difficult season for the human soul. But it can become the source of greatest spiritual reward. As we have seen in the history of Israel, as well as

the life of Jesus Christ, God


establishes His greatest works in the wilderness. In God’s wisdom, life comes out of death, glory out of suffering, streams out of the desert. All of this happens so that God alone may be glorified for His marvellous handiwork in the lives of those who dare to be fashioned in barren places. “I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive. I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together, that they may see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it” (Isa 41:18-20). But for this to happen we must remember God’s purposes for the wilderness, and be determined to reap its benefits. The desert strips us of self-sufficiency, teaches us to rely totally on God, and molds us into the image of His Son. In other words, it increases God’s glory in us by shaping us into human channels of divine life. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be

manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor 4:7-11). At the beginning of this study, I quoted Churchill who said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” For us this means, “If you’re passing through a spiritual desert, don’t waste it by crumbling or complaining; recognize God’s purpose for it and don’t quit till you make it through!” Yet the only way to do that is to put into action God’s wisdom for the wilderness. That is what this spiritual survival guide was meant to help you do. So let’s briefly summarize the six survival tips we covered: 1. Don’t panic – Refuse natural fear and embrace God’s love for you. 2. Assess your situation – Take stock of the resources God provided for your journey, and use them. Also, identify the kind of wilderness you’re in so you will know how to navigate it. 3. Find shelter – Know that God is present to you now more than ever, and hide yourself in Him. 4. Build a fire – Set yourself ablaze with passionate worship for protection and purification. 5. Drink water – Keep yourself spiritually hydrated by praying at all times in the Spirit, especially with other tongues. 6

6. Find nourishment – Feast on God’s Word through intense meditation, as well as radical faith and obedience.

When we adopt these words of wisdom for surviving hard times, we “clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness, and make smooth in the desert a highway for our God” (Isa 40:3). He is always with His children, but we pave a wider path for His involvement when we trust Him and walk in His ways. With the Lord at our side, even when things are hard, we can emerge from the desert like Jesus, “in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14). So take courage. Keep moving forward. The pain of the wilderness may be great, but greater still is its significance for your life. The Promised Land awaits you…

Reproduced with kind permission Christ for all Nations. Consider making a donation to CfaN and receiving a FREE copy of Daniel’s new book ‘Surviving Your Wilderness’ You may do so following this link: donate to CfaN


The Infallible Proof An extract from “Royal Insignia” by Edwin & Lillian Harvey

OUT NOW ON KINDLE! Price $4.22 (FREE to Amazon Prime Members!) Reproduced by kind permission of Harvey Publishers. www.harveycp.com

Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith (Hab. 2:4). THE great test of whether the holiness we profess or seek to attain is genuine is manifest in the increasing humility it produces. In the creature, humility is the one thing needed to allow God’s holiness to dwell in him and shine through him. In Jesus, the Holy One of God Who makes us holy, a divine humility was the secret of His life and His death and His exaltation; the one infallible test of our holiness will be the humility before God and man which marks us. Humility is the bloom and beauty of holiness. The chief mark of counterfeit holiness is the lack of humility. Every seeker after holiness needs to be on his guard, lest unconsciously what was begun in the Spirit is perfected in the flesh, and pride creep in where its presence is least expected. —Andrew Murray. There was a nun renowned for her great miracles. The Pope heard of it and sent his servant, Phillip, to report on her witness and work. Bespattered with mud and weary from the long journey, the Papal messenger finally reached his destination and was ushered into the presence of the famous nun. Putting his muddy boot up, he asked if she would help him with

it. Disdainfully she refused such a humbling task. Phillip returned to the Pope, saying, “Sir, you need not concern yourself. There is no miracle because there is no humility.” An experienced servant of God said that, while popularity is a snare that not a few are caught by, a more subtle and dangerous snare is to be “famed for holiness.” The fame of being a godly man is as great a snare as the fame of being learned or eloquent. It is even possible to attend with scrupulous anxiety to secret habits of devotion in order to get a name for holiness. Archbishop Fénelon who tutored the son of King Louis XIV of France was an able and saintly man who valued highly humility that Christian trait, admired on earth and honoured in Heaven. “He who is conscious,” he said, “that he is lowering himself has not yet reached his true place, which is below all lowering. Such as these are very proud in their humility, which, indeed, is often but a subtle spirit of vain glory. And this is not the humility which will enter into Heaven, unless it acquires pure charity, which alone is worthy of God, and which He delights to fill with Himself. “They who are really thus filled never feel either humbled or 7

lowered, for they count themselves as below all humiliation. Before they could humble themselves, they must rise from whence they are, and they would not leave that place to which God has called them. They are not humbled by men’s contempt or condemnation, neither do they triumph in any applause, for neither concerns them. They think that One only, in taking upon Him the nature of man, humbled Himself.” I want the first approach to feel Of pride, or fond desire; To catch the wand’ring of my will, And quench the kindling fire. —Charles Wesley.

When Dr. Cairns was Head of the Theological College in Edinburgh, he was offered the principalship of the university there, but declined it, preferring to serve his church in a humbler way. On public occasions, he was accustomed to stand back and let others pass him, saying, “You first, I follow.” When he was dying he said farewell to those whom he loved, but his lips continued still to move. They bent to catch the final word, which doubtless was spoken to Him Who was dearer to him than life—“You first, I follow.” Such lowliness is one of the richest ingredients of love, and in its presence pride becomes an impertinence and an offence. — Graham Scroggie.


The Prophecy of Amos – A Warning for Today

commanded the capitals or lintels holding up the roof be struck and the supporting beams be broken, bringing the whole building crashing down on the worshippers, inflicting death and serious injury - “cutting them in the head”. The vision indicates the destruction of the whole system of idolatrous worship.

Our best- selling book Buy paperback Buy for KINDLE Amos 9:1-15. No Escape - But a Saviour Promised. The Temple Destroyed

at

Bethel

1. I saw the LORD standing beside the altar, and he said: Strike the capitals until the thresholds shake, and shatter them on the heads of all the people; and those who are left I will kill with the sword; not one of them shall flee away, not one of them shall escape.

God is long-suffering, but when His wrath comes it is both terrible and inescapable. The vision refers not only to those worshippers gathered, but the whole nation whose practice of idolatry had provoked His wrath. The sword of the Assyrian army would be the instrument of Divine punishment against the people. No one would be able to avoid it, attempts of escape would be futile.

No Escape Judgment

from

God’s

2. Though they dig into Sheol, from there shall my hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, from there I will bring them down. When God has determined to judge, there can be no obstacle to His will being done. If men hid themselves in the deepest caves of the earth, God would lay His hands on them. If they climbed the highest mountain and even reached heaven itself, they would be taken and brought down.

Amos saw the Lord standing near the altar of the temple in Bethel which, though consecrated to the worship of God, had been used as a centre for idolatry.

3. Though they hide themselves on the top of Carmel, from there I will search out and take them; and though they hide from my sight at the bottom of the sea, there I will command the seaserpent, and it shall bite them.

As the people were gathered to worship their pagan god, the Lord

If they hid among the caves of Mount Carmel, God would search them out 8

that they might face His judgment. The language used is of course poetic and figurative. God has no need to search in order to find anyone for He knows all things. Similarly, no one was able to hide at the bottom of the sea, but if they did, God could easily command a creature of the deep to pursue and destroy them. In other words, there is simply no place to hide from God. 4. And though they go into captivity in front of their enemies, there I will command the sword, and it shall kill them; and I will fix my eyes on them for harm and not for good. Surrendering to their enemies to be taken as captives would not preserve their lives since God had purposed to kill them. The great lesson for today is this, where can any of us hide from the Day of Judgment? The answer is nowhere. Even death offers no hiding place for impenitent rebels. At the final judgment, death and the grave will give up the dead who are in it and all shall stand, resurrected in their bodies, to be judged by God for the things they had done during their lives (Revelation 20:11 - 15). God had warned the people to repent for many years through the voice of His prophets, but they had not listened. It is a terrible thing for people to continue to spurn grace until no more grace can be offered. 5. The Lord, GOD of hosts, he who touches the earth and it melts, and all who live in it mourn, and all of it rises like the Nile, and sinks again, like the Nile of Egypt; God’s judgment is often associated with His power. He has only to touch the earth and it shakes with a mighty earthquake. Indeed, one day by His word the heaven and earth shall flee


away and there will be found no place for them. But that is a future time. In Amos’ day, God’s punishment of Israel would be as overpowering as the flooding of the mighty river Nile, causing death and mourning, not in isolated towns, but throughout the whole nation.

6. who builds his upper chambers in the heavens, and founds his vault upon the earth; who calls for the waters of the sea, and pours them out upon the surface of the earth--the LORD is his name. In a similar utterance, Isaiah declares “heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool.” (Isaiah 66:1). God’s greatness extends throughout the material universe and also far beyond it. Heaven and earth are but the beginnings of His power and are not in themselves able to contain Him. God has power over nature, as we see in this graphic description of the water cycle. Once, men may have thought that God sent the rain directly from heaven. Scientists later gave a more natural explanation, that through evaporation and condensation there is a continual cycle of rain. But the truth is far more glorious for, as Amos explains, God is the mind and power behind such natural processes and takes as much care over them as if He were watering the earth by hand. All natural processes find their origin in God and continue to be utterly dependent on Him for their continuance. He is Lord with absolute power over all other powers, for whatever other powers exist, they merely derive their power from Him. (1 Timothy 6:15).

Misplaced Trust 7. Are you not like the Ethiopians to me, O people of Israel? says the LORD. Did I not bring Israel up from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir? Despite continued warnings because of their sin, Israel trusted in the fact that they were the covenant people of God. They considered themselves better and superior to other nations because of their unique relationship with the Lord. Yet this covenant relationship did not come about because of Israel's righteousness or superiority. God did not choose them because they were better than others, but because of His own purpose and grace, that they might keep His laws. Since they had not kept His laws, how were they better than any other nation? God had been involved in the affairs of all nations, not just Israel. The Syrians and Philistines had attracted just as much concern from God although they had not been privileged to receive the revelation which was entrusted to Israel.

nation of Israel should be viewed in the context of its existing separately from Judah. It would never again have another king, for as we see later in this chapter, there would be no king until the “the descendant of David” reigns over all twelve tribes and the whole earth. In destroying the nation, God would not destroy all the people, for He would keep His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So a remnant would remain, that God might fulfil His promise to give a Saviour for the world through the Hebrew nation. 9. For lo, I will command, and shake the house of Israel among all the nations as one shakes with a sieve, but no pebble shall fall to the ground. The nation would be sifted like corn by many troubles, scattered throughout many foreign countries. The purpose of sifting is to remove the worthless chaff and to safely collect and store the grain. So, the grain, that is the godly, will by no means be lost. As Beeley says, “Though judgment is universal in its outreach it is individual in its discernment”.

God had to teach His people that their privileged relationship would not lead Him to show favouritism, especially when the relationship had already broken down.

Jesus assures us of the security of the godly when He says that in spite of trouble or death “not a hair of your head shall perish” (Luke 21:18) and we will never be lost for “no man can pluck them out of my hand”. (John 10:28).

Scattering and Sifting

10. All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, who say, "Evil shall not overtake or meet us."

8. The eyes of the Lord GOD are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth--except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, says the LORD. God’s penetrating gaze was fixed on the sinful kingdom to remove it from being a nation. The cessation of the 9

Sinners, rebels who refuse to repent, think that no harm will come to them because of their sin. They like to think that they are immune to punishment and in this self-deception they continue in sin. But they will be destroyed.


The Restoration of the Davidic Kingship 11. On that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen, and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old; Here is one of the great Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. God is speaking of a day when the kingdom would be restored to the house of David. Remember that Israel was split into two parts at this time, Israel and Judah, and David’s descendants ruled only Judah. Later still, Judah would be captured and the kingly line lose all its power and influence. In this prophecy God refers to a day when the whole kingdom of Israel and Judah would be reunited under the leadership of a new king, whose kingdom would be exalted and blessed, just as David's had been, so that all the people would rally to him. 12. in order that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name, says the LORD who does this. Not only the Jewish nation, but people from all other nations (rather than “the remnant of Edom”, it should read “the rest of mankind”) would gather to this exalted king and own Him as their own Lord and Master, so that both Jew and Gentile, by accepting the Lordship of that king would become God’s own people.

This king of course is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. The fact of His eternal kingship was announced by the angel before his birth (Luke 1:32 - 33). It was

accepted by the Wise Men (Matthew 2:2) and confirmed by other scriptures (e.g. Matthew 21:5). About the matter of Christ becoming king over a “greater nation” made up of both Jews and Gentiles who believe in him, Jesus said much. (e.g. John 10:16). Although it took time to sink in, James had an understanding of this prophecy in (Acts 15:14 - 17). It is explained briefly by Paul in Ephesians (e.g. Ephesians 3:6). Christ will one day be king over all the earth for He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Psalm 2:8; Rev. 12:5). 13. The time is surely coming, says the LORD, when the one who plows shall overtake the one who reaps, and the treader of grapes the one who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. This day of restoration would be accompanied by such blessings as are here figuratively described. Imagine the scene painted by Amos: a harvest so abundant that before it is gathered in, autumn arrives and new seed must be planted. Last year’s grapes are still being pressed when the new crop is sown and the mountains run with rivers of wine. Such is the abundant blessing which God has outpoured on His people through Christ. (Ephesians 1:3). 14,15. I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the 10

ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant them upon their land, and they shall never again be plucked up out of the land that I have given them, says the LORD your God. Yet a day of material blessing and restoration is also promised for the nation of Israel, under their new king. He promises to bring them back from captivity and to settle them again in their land, where they will rebuild the waste cities and live in them, enjoying the produce of the land. Since God himself would give them back the land, no one could ever remove them from it, for his purpose is immutable. What a great comfort this gives to us who are saved by His grace! If God has once brought us into His loving favour, no one can ever remove us from it. “If God be for us, who can be against us?”. (Romans 8:31). God’s promise embraces a series of events. Some Israelites may have returned to the land at various times after the Assyrian war and a greater number during the reign of Cyrus. But the nation was to be scattered once again by the Romans so that for nearly 2000 years there was no such nation as Israel. Today, God has given them their own land and Israel is a nation again. Are they living in abundant blessing? No, their return to the land is only a beginning of the fulfilment of this promise. When Jesus Christ comes again and is welcomed by Israel, “a nation will be born in a day”. Then the fullness of the promised Messianic blessing will be ushered in and Christ will reign on earth for a thousand years, a time of unimaginable blessing.


Chapter Four: The Cost of our Salvation and of Following Jesus (Mark 8:31-10:52)

The Message of Mark An Introduction to St. Mark’s Gospel

In this section the Lord Jesus makes three predictions concerning his death (8:31; 9:3032, and 10:32-34). It is good for us to remember what our salvation cost. Salvation is free to all who believe in Christ, but it cost Christ his life to make this salvation available. Though salvation is free, Jesus teaches us that there is a cost involved in being His disciple. To follow Jesus is not to choose the easy way. As Jesus took the road to Calvary, He called His disciples to take up their cross and follow him, whatever the cost to themselves. After all, as Jesus points out, it is far better to lose all in the service of Christ than to lose our souls (8:34-38). Christ’s followers are called to a difficult path, following his example of suffering (Phil. 1:29). Many of the apostles suffered violent deaths as a result of their faith in Christ. Before making a decision to follow Christ, we must count the cost. Let us consider:

The Cost of Discipleship The Cost of Humility (9:33-37 and 10:35-45)

(c) Jorisvo

Mohammed Ali was not the first to declare “I am the greatest.” In Mark we read of the disciples arguing about who was the greatest and of James and John trying to steal a march on the 11

others to get the most important place. Our modern age has been described as a time of superlatives. Men speak of the greatest evangelist, the greatest sportsman or the greatest actor. But Jesus taught His disciples that to follow Him was to learn from His example of humility (10:44-45). Jesus Himself was humble. He could say “learn from Me, for I am gentle [meek] and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29). Of Christ we read that though He was God Himself, He was “found in appearance as a man, (and) humbled Himself becoming obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8). On the night before his crucifixion, when no one else cared to wash the feet of His disciples, he did. He taught them "If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all." (Mark 9:35). Little wonder, then, that God exalted Him to the highest place in the universe (Phil. 2:5-11).

The Cost of Unity (9:38-41) It would be easy, perhaps, for the privileged disciples to develop a high view of their own importance. Here we see that they did, for they were tried to forbid an unknown person to cast out demons in Jesus’ name. Jesus had not come to promote an elite group of followers. The “do you want to be in my gang” attitude may have its place in the school playground, but ought never to be found in the church. It is possible for every man and woman, by faith in Christ, to


be saved. All those who receive the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour are born of His Spirit and become members of His body. Paul expounded how every member of the body is important (Rom 12:5 and 1 Cor. 12:12). The NT teaches that Unity is an essential part of Church life, reflecting the unity of the Godhead, and the unity that Christ has with His people (John 17:11 and John 17:21). It costs to remain united, for it involves humbling ourselves and putting others first. Still, unity is well worth maintaining. That does not mean that we should strive for unity at any cost. We have already seen in these studies that we are to oppose and resist that which contradicts Christ’s teaching.

God, are to present holy and pure lives before Him (9:49-50). “Put to death the deeds of the flesh” is a phrase employed by Paul, and is similar to what Christ says here. Paul does not envisage the harsh treatment of the body, any more than Christ wants us to literally cut our hands off. Both mean that we should leave the life of sin and live a new life for Christ (Eph. 4:17 -32). In this world of failure, it is comforting to know that when as believers we do sin, we have an advocate with the Father and that if we confess our sins that he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9)

The Cost of Chastity. (10:1-12) The Cost of Purity (9:42-50) The attitude rejected by Jesus here is rejected by Paul in Romans 6. It is the attitude which says “sin doesn’t matter”. Being saved by grace is not an excuse to take sin lightly. Jesus does not call His followers to have easy morals, but to be tough on sin. In the language of the epistles, Jesus has died to set us free from sin (Rom 6:18), and has given us a new nature which delivers us from sin’s power and sets us free (Rom 8:2 and John 8:36). Old Testament sacrifices were salted, salt symbolising purity. So believers, whose lives are to be offered on the altar of sacrifice for

Christ presents the Christian view of marriage. In these days of relativism and compromise it is important that believers listen to the word of the Creator rather than the opinion of man. We often use the word chastity to mean “no sex before marriage” and of course the Bible teaches that abstinence before marriage is the only option for Christian couples. But the word has a wider usage. Jesus is dealing with the subject of being faithful to our marriage partners. The ordinance of marriage, instituted by God in the beginning, is meant to be a permanent relationship. In answering the question of the Pharisees, it is clear that Christ saw neither marital unfaithfulness nor divorce as in the plan of God for 12

His people. The Christian attitude to marriage is that it is “till death do us part”. (10:13-16) The natural result of Christian marriage is that children are born into Christian homes where they may be brought up to know Christ’s teaching and encouraged to accept Him as Saviour. As Christ announces, children as well as adults are able to enter the kingdom of God by faith in Him.

The Cost of Poverty (10:17-27) Here is another teaching which cuts right across the standards of today. In this money loving, get rich quick world, many people’s chief aim is to make money and to win the lottery is their highest ambition. Increasingly a person’s status and importance is measured in pounds. These values are completely alien to the gospel of Christ. Mark tells of a clean living, law abiding young man who had everything going for him, but with one serious problem. He loved money. He loved it more than he loved God. He loved it more than his own soul, for he was prepared to reject Christ and lose his own soul rather than let go of his wealth. Jesus was poor (Matt. 8:20). He called his disciples to live simply, as He did. Paul tells us that godliness with contentment is great gain, and the love of money gives rise to many evils (1 Tim 6:610).


Christians are called to have a very different attitude to the world around them. And Christians are different, for they are not of this world. The difference can be costly, especially in terms of the opposition it provokes (John 15:19).

The Reward of Discipleship (10:28-31) After all we have said about losing all to follow Jesus, what are the rewards which await the faithful? We have the priceless blessings of fellowship with God and each other now and eternal life hereafter (Phil. 3:7-10, Rom. 8:18 and Eph. 1:3). Peter knew something of this, for with James and John he was present at the Transfiguration (9:113) where Christ revealed His true heavenly glory. In the light of that glory, “the things of the world grow strangely dim”. After the resurrection, when the disciples knew the reality of Christ living in them, they shared a new hope that one day they would share His glory (Col 1:27). The glory that is Christ was in them, that they may look forward to the day when they would be changed into his likeness, with new bodies fitted for eternity (1 John 3:2 and; 1 Cor. 15:51-53).

Conclusion Christ’s teachings bring a complete change of lifestyle for those who believe and obey Him. But whilst

living for Jesus in the present world may involve many difficulties, the rewards far outweigh them all. It is not merely that Christians have changed their minds as a result of hearing Christ’s word, it is that He has renewed the spirit of our mind - we have had a change of HEART by receiving a new spirit, and this leads to the new attitudes outlined above.

EFFECTIVE PRAYER. “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). A righteous person is a person who is in right-standing with God. A righteous person has a personal relationship with Jesus as personal Saviour. Righteousness means a person wants what is right according to the Word of God. We see the power and effectiveness of the prayers of a righteous man in the Old Testament prophet Daniel. His prayers provide a model for us to follow. First, read his powerful plea to God in Daniel 9:4-19. Now, let’s take a look at the key components of his prayer. 1) START WITH PRAISE

The Message of Mark is an easy to follow Bible guide, introducing the gospel of Mark. The Message of Mark Paperback Now available also on Kindle: The Message of Mark KINDLE

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Daniel began his prayer by praising God. He prayed to “the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands” (Daniel 9:4). He acknowledged God as absolutely righteous, but also merciful and forgiving. Begin your own prayers with praise and thanksgiving to God! Praise Him for His glory, His power, His love. Thank Him for His daily provision in your life, your salvation, and your many blessings. Before asking for anything, remember to spend time just adoring God. ISAAC MWAGI


Read Mark 8 v 31 to 10 v 52 c 9 v 33-37; c 10 v 35 -45 Mohammed Ali was not the first to declare “I am the greatest.” James and John did too. But who did Jesus say would be the greatest in the Kingdom of God? _______________________________________________________________________________________________________ c 9 v 38-41 Why do you think John wanted to stop a man doing miracles in Jesus name? _______________________________________________________________________________________________________ Why did Jesus tell him not to? _______________________________________________________________________________________________________ c 9 v 42-50 What attitude did Jesus want his followers to have toward sin? _______________________________________________________________________________________________________ Christ does not want us to literally cut our hands off. He wants us to leave the life of sin and live a new life for God. c 10 v 1-12 Where does Jesus say marriage comes from? _______________________________________________________________________________________________________ According to Jesus, how long is a marriage meant to last? _______________________________________________________________________________________________________ What is Jesus’ view of divorce? _______________________________________________________________________________________________________ What is Jesus’ opinion on the re marriage of divorced people? _______________________________________________________________________________________________________ c 10 v 13-16 Are children able to enter the Kingdom of God? YES / NO How? _______________________________________________________________________________________________________ c 10 v 17-27 Why do you think the young man was sad when Jesus told him that to have eternal life he must give his money to the poor and follow Him? _______________________________________________________________________________________________________ c 10 v 28-31 What does Jesus promise to all those who leave everything behind to follow him? _______________________________________________________________________________________________________ Jesus’ teachings are totally contrary to the way we think life should be. The world wants us to be great, famous or rich. It promotes immorality. But Jesus’ teachings bring a complete change of lifestyle for those who believe and obey Him. Living for 14 far outweigh them all. Jesus in this world can bring many difficulties but the rewards


The Book of Esther

Chapters Four & Five: A brief Bible study by Derek Williams. Photo: © Dreamstime Agency

A Great Lamentation 4.1. Now when Mordecai became aware of all that had been done, he tore his garments and put on sackcloth and ashes. He went out into the city, crying out in a loud and bitter voice. When Mordecai learnt about all that had been done he responded as was the custom among Jews and Persians when mourning the death of someone. He tore his clothes and put on sackcloth. Then covered his head with ashes and went throughout into the city crying out with a loud and grievous wail. In this same way a repentance for sin is shown with prayer and fasting (Daniel 9: 3 - 4, Jonah 3:6). 4.2. But he went no further than the king's gate, for no one was permitted to enter the king's gate clothed in sackcloth.

He went as far as the gate to the king’s palace for no one was permitted to go beyond that point who was wearing clothes of mourning. 4.3. Throughout each and every province where the king's edict and law were announced there was considerable mourning among the Jews, along with fasting, weeping, and sorrow. Sackcloth and ashes were characteristic of many. As the news reached the king’s provinces there was a great lamentation among the Jews (that is a passionate and demonstrative activity of expressing grief) They fasted with weeping and wailing and many sat in sackcloth and ashes.

Esther Informed about the Plot 4.4. When Esther's servant girls and her other servants told her what Mordecai was doing; she 15

became very upset and sent Mordecai some clothes to wear in place of the sackcloth. But he refused to take them. It is obvious that Esther did not know anything about Haman’s plot or the king’s command. When her maids and attendants came and told her what her uncle Mordecai was doing she was greatly distress and sent some clothes for him to wear instead of the sackcloth. This she did in order to make him presentable to come into the palace so that she could find out from him the reason for his grief. But he would not accept them. 4.5. So Esther called for Hathach, one of the king's eunuchs who had been placed at her service, and instructed him to find out the cause and reason for Mordecai's behavior. Esther called Hathach one of her attendants that the king had given to her to go out to Mordecai and


ask him what was wrong and why he was behaving in such a manner. 4.6. So Hathach went to Mordecai at the plaza of the city in front of the king's gate. So Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open square in front of the king’s gate. 4.7. Then Mordecai related to him everything that had happened to him, even the specific amount of money that Haman had offered to pay to the king's treasuries for the Jews to be destroyed. Mordecai told him all that he knew not only about the king’s command to destroy the Jews through all his domains but also the exact amount that Haman had offered to pay into the king’s treasurer to cover the cost. How did Mordecai know about this money? There would have been other Jews in the king’s palace besides Esther who would have been brought in as servants. One of these must have overheard while serving the king at his meeting with Haman and reported it to Mordecai. 4.8. He also gave him a written copy of the law that had been disseminated in Susa for their destruction so that he could show it to Esther and talk to her about it. He also gave instructions that she should go to the king to implore him and petition him on behalf of her people. He also gave him a copy of the king’s order that had been distributed in Susa for the destruction of the Jews so that he

could show it to Esther and explain to her what it meant. He also asked Hathach to tell her to go to the king and plead on behalf of her people that he might have mercy on them.

Esther’s Dilemma 4.9-10. So Hathach returned and related Mordecai's to Esther. Then Esther replied to Hathach with instructions for Mordecai: Hathach went back to Esther and told her all that Mordecai had said and on hearing it she told him to go back to Mordecai with her reply. 4.11. "All the servants of the king and the people of the king's provinces know that there is only one law applicable to any man or woman who comes uninvited to the king in the inner court — that person will be put to death, unless the king extends to him the gold scepter, permitting him to be spared. Now I have not been invited to come to the king for some thirty days!" Although she was Ahaseurus’ chosen Queen she was still subject to the law of the king. Therefore her reply to Mordecai was that everybody knew that the law stated that any man or woman who comes uninvited to the king in the inner court would be put to death unless the king holds outs his golden scepter. It had been thirty days since the king had sent for her so she dare not approach him. In Psalm 24: 3 the question is asked “Who may ascend into the 16

hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place?” The answer comes back in verse 4 “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully”. God made a way into His presence in the Old Testament only for His appointed High Priest but now through Jesus Christ every believer may come before His presence without fear (Hebrews 10: 19 - 22). 4.12-13. When Esther's reply was conveyed to Mordecai, he said to take back this answer to Esther: When Esther’s reply reached Mordecai he said a reply to her that brought her to a place where she had to decide who she would serve. 4.14. "Don't imagine that because you are part of the king's household you will be the one Jew who will escape. If you keep quiet at this time, liberation and protection for the Jews will appear from another source, while you and your father's household perish. It may very well be that you have achieved royal status for such a time as this!" Firstly he tells her that she need not think that because she is sitting comfortably in the palace that she will be one Jew who will escape the onslaught. In saying this he is reminding her that as a Jew she is one of God’s chosen people and therefore has a responsibility before God in standing by them. Secondly he tells her that if she should decide to remain quiet and


do nothing at all then God will bring freedom and protection from another source and she and all her relatives will die. Thirdly he comes to the point of challenge for her; perhaps it is for this time and for this reason that she was made queen to be the means whereby God will bring about a deliverance for His people. In Isaiah 6:8 God asks "Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me." In this instance the prophet replied here am I send me but way before Isaiah in eternity it was the Lord Jesus Christ’s answer to His Father ‘here am I send me to the cross of Calvary as a sacrifice for sin to deliver the people from everlasting destruction’. So Jesus Christ sent His disciples into the world to preach the Gospel Message and so He calls every believer to do so in their day and age. He has brought us into His kingdom for such a time as this!

Esther’s answer: Prayer, Fasting and Complete Commitment 4.15. Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: I am sure that Esther’s reply to Mordecai was not a glib one (only superficial). She would have weighed everything up and what it would cost her to make her stand. After saying to His disciples “whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:27) Jesus says in the next verse “which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the

cost” At the end of it He says “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33).

4.16. "Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa and fast in my behalf. Don't eat and don't drink for three days, night or day. My female attendants and I will also fast in the same way. Afterward I will go to the king, even though it violates the law. If I perish, I perish!" Esther realized that she could not do it on her own she needed the support of her fellow countrymen. So she asks Mordecai to gather together every Jew living in Susa to fast and pray without ceasing for three days and nights. She and her maids would also fast and pray in the same way. After this time she will go to see the king although it is against the law. “If I perish, I perish!" is not a fatalistic outlook “ Oh well if I die I die” but a positive trust in God who she was committing her life to. This was Paul the apostle’s sentiment (Acts 21: 12 - 14).

gathered together all the Jews in Susa to a prayer meeting. As their life depended upon it I am sure that everybody who could get to it did so and those that were unable joined in where they were.

Wise as a serpent as harmless as a dove 5.1. It so happened that on the third day Esther put on her royal attire and stood in the inner court of the palace, opposite the king's quarters. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the palace, opposite the entrance. When Jesus Christ sent out His disciples to evangelize He told them to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16). This is how Esther approached the problem that had been put into her hands. She did not “rush in where angels fear to tread” but on the third day of prayer and fasting she went as God was directing her. She put on her full royal regalia and entered the inner court of the palace just in front of the throne without being called for by the king. The king was sat on his throne facing the open door.

4.17. So Mordecai set out to do everything that Esther had instructed him.

5.2. When the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she met with his approval. The king extended to Esther the gold sceptre that was in his hand, and Esther approached and touched the end of the sceptre.

So Mordecai went and did all that Esther had instructed him. He

When the king saw Esther daring to come to him without permission

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instead of ordering her to be taken away and punished she found grace in his eyes. He extending the gold sceptre towards her which showed his approval. Esther came forward and touched the end of the sceptre. This would be in acknowledgment of his benevolence and of her subjection and obedience to him. Right throughout the Scriptures we find the grace of God reaching out to everyone. (Genesis 6:8, Exodus 33:17, Ephesians 2: 5, 8 - 9). 5.3. The king said to her, "What is on your mind, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even as much as half the kingdom will be given to you!" The king realized that Esther must have had a good reason for her boldness in coming to him uninvited. So he asks her what does she want and to name her request to him. He is prepared to give her as much as half his kingdom for to such an extend she found favour with him. In the Lord Jesus Christ all who are born again of His Spirit are inheritors in the kingdom of God (Romans 8:17, Galatians 4:7, James 2:5). 5.4. Esther replied, "If the king is so inclined, let the king and Haman come today to the banquet that I have prepared for him." Here is wisdom! she didn’t blurt out her real reason for coming. If she had the king would at this time not understood and her mission would have failed. She is biding her time. Instead she asks the king if it pleases him to come to a banquet

that she has prepared for him today and extending the invitation to Haman. 5.5. The king replied, "Find Haman quickly so that we can do as Esther requests."

to grant her petition and carry it out then let the king and Haman come to a banquet she will prepare for them tomorrow. At that time she will do as the king desires.

So the king and Haman went to the banquet that Esther had prepared.

Haman’s Pride does not Gratify him

The king did not hesitate but told his servants to go and find Haman immediately so that they could except Esther’s invitation. So they both went to the banquet that the Queen had prepared for them.

5.9. Now Haman went forth that day pleased and very much encouraged. But when Haman saw Mordecai at the king's gate, and he did not rise nor tremble in his presence, Haman was filled with rage toward Mordecai.

5.6. While at the banquet of wine, the king said to Esther, "What is your request? It shall be given to you. What is your petition? Ask for as much as half the kingdom, and it shall be done!" While they were drinking the wine the king asked Esther to make her request known to him and it will be granted her. He knew that she had not dared to come to him without being invited just to invite him and Haman to dinner. If she were to ask for half his kingdom it will be given her. 5.7-8. Esther responded, "My request and my petition is this: If I have found favor in the king's sight and if the king is inclined to grant my request and perform my petition, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet that I will prepare for them. At that time I will do as the king wishes. Again she withholds her request and promises that if she has found favour with him and if he is willing 18

Haman went from the banquet well pleased with himself and more puffed up with pride than before. Proverbs 21: 24 well describes him “A proud and arrogant person, whose name is "Scoffer" acts with overbearing pride”. But when he reached the king’s gate and saw that Mordecai did not rise or fear before his presence he was filled with rage. 5.10. But Haman restrained himself and went on to his home. He then sent for his friends to join him, along with his wife Zeresh. He controlled himself however and went to his home. There he sent for all his friends and his wife to come to him. 5.11. Haman then recounted to them his fabulous wealth, his many sons, and how the king had magnified him and exalted him over the king's other officials and servants.


There were three reasons why Haman invited them. The first was to boast of the great possessions that he had, the number of sons he was blest with and the high position that he had been exalted to by the king above all the other officials and servants. 5.12. Haman said, "Furthermore, Queen Esther invited only me to accompany the king to the banquet that she prepared! And also tomorrow I am invited along with the king. Secondly that he and he alone was invited to accompany the king to the banquet that Queen Esther had prepared. And again tomorrow he was invited along with the king. He would have done well to heed the words of Paul given to Timothy concerning the rich “As for the rich in this world, charge them not to be proud and arrogant and contemptuous of others, nor to set their hopes on uncertain riches, but on God, Who richly and ceaselessly provides us with everything for [our] enjoyment” (1Ti 6:17 Amp). 5.13. Yet all of this fails to satisfy me so long as I have to see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate." Yet for all that, he has riches, honour and glory from men and takes great pride in it Haman is not satisfied. The preacher in Ecclesiastes, who was Solomon, for all that he had in this life concluded that “Everything is meaningless," says the Teacher, "completely meaningless!" (Eccl.

1:2, Eccl. 2: 26). His reason for his dissatisfaction is Mordecai who sits at the king’s gate and will not show obeisance to him. 5.14. Haman's wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, "Have a gallows seventy-five feet high built, and in the morning tell the king that Mordecai should be hanged on it. Then go with the king to the banquet contented." It seemed like a good idea to Haman, so he had the gallows built. Haman’s wife Zeresh had a wonderfully simple plan to end all his problems and all his friends agreed with her. Let him have a gallows constructed seventy-five feet high “that it may be more conspicuous to all, and thereby be more disgraceful to Mordecai” (John Wesley). Then in the morning go to the king and ask the king to have Mordecai hanged upon it.

Our Bible study guide ‘The Message of Mark’ is accompanied (on website) by a series of Home Group Bible study notes These notes have been tried and tested in church, home and youth groups for the last decade. They are a great way to introduce yourself or your group to the message of Mark’s gospel – that Jesus Christ is the only Lord and Savior of humankind! If you like these notes, look for more at our website:

MARK HOME STUDIES

It would seem that his wife and friends had such confidence in Haman’s possession with the king that no reason for hanging Mordecai was given. After the hanging Haman could go merrily on his way to the banquet. This greatly pleased Haman and he had the gallows immediately constructed. There was only one problem - they had made all their plans without reckoning on God (Proverbs 19:21, Job 5:12-15) and without realising that all who raised their hands against the Jews were to be slain by them. 19

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Our In Depth Study. 1 Corinthians 1Part 1 By Mathew Bartlett. Photo © Godfer Scripture taken from the NET Bible®.

Chapter 1 The Church of God Greetings 1:1 From Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Sosthenes, our brother. It is appropriate in a letter which deals with the doctrine and discipline of a local church, for Paul to begin by establishing his apostolic credentials, and more so when we realise that his credentials were being challenged by many in Corinth (see 1 Cor. 1:12; 2 Cor. 13:3). From the start, Paul makes absolutely clear that he had the authority to speak in Christ's name. No one has the right to take such an office in the church unless they are called by God, just as Paul was. Paul usually dictated his letters, and his amanuensis on this occasion was Sosthenes, who was most likely a native of Corinth. Some suppose him to be the synagogue ruler referred to in Acts 18:17, later converted under Paul's ministry, but it this by no means definite. We may only say for certain that he was a brother. 1:2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called to be saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours. The letter is addressed to the church of God in Corinth. The word translated church was used to describe any gathering of people, but here Paul specifically refers to the church of God. The church is that specific group of people who have been purchased for God with Christ's own precious blood and set apart for Him. Through Christ’s death the believers at Corinth had already been sanctified (in the sense of

being set apart for God) and were called to be saints. Paul’s concern was always that those who are made holy by Christ should endeavour to live holy lives, and some of the Corinthians were failing to live up to this high calling. Yet the call to holiness is an indispensable part of Christ’s call to all who believe. God’s purpose for His church is the same today as it was then, that all its members should be holy, for I am holy (1 Pet. 1:16). To a far greater extent now than in Paul’s time, there are believers all over the world. These are ‘all those in every place who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’. Each believer shares in the same holy call by the abundant grace of God, and Paul found it necessary to emphasise this fact to the members of a fledgling church who considered themselves unusually blessed and spiritually superior to others. The reality is that the church of Jesus Christ is far bigger than any one congregation, no matter how large or how blessed. As Blomberg observes ‘the Corinthians must recognise that they are not the centre of their religious universe, but merely one cog in a large wheel.’ Even a cursory review of modern western churches reveals that some are making the same mistake as the Corinthian church in thinking themselves exceptionally blessed. May we never forget that a church with a congregation of four, meeting in a suburban slum in the poorest part of Asia, is as important to God as a rich, modern church in the West with a congregation of thousands. Indeed, as Johnson observes, The universal church… is manifested, emerges phenomenologically, comes into concrete realization in the various particular churches in which the faithful gather to express their 20

faith… and commune with their fellow Christians. 1:3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! Paul employs his usual greeting; it was a common enough greeting in letters of those times, but for Paul the words carried special significance. The word grace expresses God's free gift to all men through His Son Jesus Christ; whilst peace speaks of the wholeness, fullness and satisfaction of the entire life: spirit, soul and body which are available through Christ. Both grace and peace come to us from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ who are the joint origin of them. A Church Called into Existence by God 1:4 I always thank my God for you because of the grace of God that was given to you in Christ Jesus. Paul thanks God that by His grace the Corinthians had received Jesus Christ as Saviour and consequently they had received every spiritual blessing that is found in Him (Eph. 1:3). Paul was anxious to correct a lack of gratitude among the Corinthians. It might be argued that it was this lack of gratitude to God for what He had already done which made them fail to reach out for more of God. Consequently, they had ceased to grow in Christ as they should. Since all which they possessed had been given to them freely by God through Jesus Christ, and was not of themselves, their self-satisfied attitude (1 Cor. 4:8) was entirely out of place. As Leon Morris says Human achievement means little to Paul... His thanks are not for anything that the Corinthians have done by their own efforts, but for what the grace of God given them in Jesus Christ… has accomplished in them.


1:5 For you were made rich in every way in him, in all your speech and in every kind of knowledge. Is it ironic, perhaps, that Paul chooses first to mention the two gifts of which, as Parry says ‘the Corinthians were especially proud.’ God in His grace had spiritually enriched them in their perception of the truth and in their ability to make this revelation known to others. 1:6 Just as the testimony about Christ has been confirmed among you. The Corinthians could neither have understood nor received the benefits of the gospel until they had first heard it for themselves from Paul, Silas and Timothy. The gospel had not originated with them, even though its power had been confirmed in them as they responded in faith to its call. In their lives, as in the lives of all believers, God’s Word had accomplished its purpose: saving and sanctifying them through the new birth. Yet the Corinthians did not simply know the gospel by hearing: they had experienced its effects first-hand in their lives, which had been completely changed (see 1 Cor. 6:11). It is because the gospel has such an effect in the lives of converts that its message rings true to others. As Morris says The changed lives of the Corinthians demonstrated conclusively the validity of the message that had been preached to them. The effects of the preaching were the guarantee of its truth. 1:7 So that you do not lack any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Corinthians lacked nothing of eternal worth, for in Christ God had freely given them all things (Rom. 8:32). In his Ephesian epistle, Paul asserts that God has blessed believers with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph. 1:3). Heirs to a great estate must, whilst they are children, learn to live and behave in a way fitting to their position before

taking on the full responsibilities of adult life. These young Christians, although blessed by God with all things, had first to grow into spiritual adulthood before they could take full possession of their Christian inheritance. When Paul refers to every spiritual gift having been given to them, he is speaking of the local church collectively and not of any individual. No one believer has exclusive possession or right to any gift of the Holy Spirit, but the church has them all. Of course, one gift of God that we all share is the gift of eternal life (Rom. 6:23); but the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given as the Spirit wills, and He may give several gifts to each believer. These gifts, together with the ministry gifts of Christ (Eph. 4:11) and all of God’s gifts (e.g. Rom. 12:7-8), are for the building up of the body of Christ, that the church might mature spiritually. One day, when Jesus comes again, there will be no more need for Christians to mature, for we will reach our goal, which is perfect likeness to Jesus. There will be no partial blessing or partial revelation then, such as we receive now through the spiritual gifts, for we shall see Him as He is and we shall know Him as we are known (1 John 3:2; 1 Cor. 13:12). In these introductory verses, Paul has endeavoured to direct the Corinthian’s attention away from their blessings and gifts to the great Giver Himself. 1:8 He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has given us all things through the gospel, will ensure that we lack nothing on our spiritual journey, so that we may continue to walk with Jesus Christ to the end of our lives. Those who are Christ’s when He returns will be found blameless, for no allegation can be laid against those whom He personally guarantees (Rom. 8:33). 1:9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into fellowship with His son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

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Paul turns the young believers’ attention from their own condition, with their blessings and their failures, to the God in whom their salvation originated, and in whom it will ultimately be consummated. Paul ‘focussed on the faithfulness of God rather than the fickleness of humans’, for despite the problems in the church of Corinth, Paul was confident of the end result. As Prior notes, ‘His confidence in the church at Corinth is based [not on their own merit but] on God’s generosity and faithfulness’. Paul believed in the entire preservation and ultimate glorification of all genuine saints, and knew that God is faithful to keep His promises. These promises, whilst they had been announced by Paul through the gospel were in fact not the promises of men, but of God who cannot lie (1 Thess. 2:13; Tit. 1:2). God Himself, through the gospel, had called them into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ. No one can become a Christian by his or her own choice, except in response to the call and will of God. Since we are called into communion with Christ, we are also called into fellowship with all other believers; our common fellowship with Christ being the basis for our solidarity. The reason Paul states this vital truth at this point is that in the following verses he will apply it to the first of the practical problems facing the Corinthians: that of division in the church. Concerning Divisions in the Church 1:10 I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to agree together, to end your divisions, and to be united by the same mind and purpose. Since all Christians have God for their Father, they are brothers and sisters in Christ. Just as it is important for families to live together in harmony, so Paul begs the Corinthian believers, as part of the family of God, to agree with each other. Jesus Himself had prayed for this unity in John 17:21-23.


Lightfoot says that the phrase agree together (in the AV perfectly joined together) is ‘used [in the Greek of the period] to describe political parties that are free from factions or different states who have friendly relations with each other.’ Whilst this is a good definition, Paul’s use of the word has an even deeper connotation when one relates it to his view of the church as one body, the body of Christ. Pauls’ efforts through this epistle to engender a practical unity among the Corinthians consist of several exhortations which are very well summarised by Blomberg: This section gives four methods of achieving unity: focussing on the cross of Christ (1:18-2:5), understanding true spiritual wisdom (2:6-16), recognising the fundamental equality of all believers (3:1-23), and treating Christian leaders appropriately (4:1-21). 1:11-12 For members of Chloe's household have made it clear to me, my brothers and sisters, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each of you is saying, "I am with Paul," or "I am with Apollos," or "I am with Cephas," or "I am with Christ." It had been made clear to Paul by members of Chloe's family, who were themselves members of the church at Corinth that certain factions had grown up in the church. Some commentators (including Blomberg) have assumed that the differences were largely doctrinal, or that Paul’s appeal for unity should be applied to those churches who disagree over points of doctrine. Whilst we would all do well to praise the merits of Christian unity, we may be tempted to forget that Paul's stance when it came to matters of doctrine was drastically different to the conciliatory approach taken here. Heretics were dogs (Phil. 3:2), to be rejected (Tit. 3:10), even handed over to Satan (excommunicated – 1 Tim. 1:20). The weight of evidence in the New Testament would tend to support the view that Paul would never endorse the idea of unity being maintained at the

expense of Christian doctrine. Unity is still possible for disagreeing factions, but only repentance of long held but mistaken belief will ultimately bring unity between those who differ doctrinally. Someone must be wrong there are not two truths! Error has always and can only divide the Christian church, whilst truth is the power which unites. Although problems involving the purity of doctrine had arisen at Corinth, these are dealt with separately chapter 15, for they were not the issues which divided the Corinthian church. Rather, at Corinth, the people had become obsessed with the gifts and personalities of those teachers whom they most admired. Some were attracted to the fluent preaching of Apollos, whilst others admired Peter - although whether this was because of his early association with Jesus, his Jewish upbringing, or his rugged fisherman's manliness, we can only guess. Others were loyal to Paul, who had established the church. But whatever the reasons were for these factions, Paul was dismayed by them. 1:13 Is Christ divided? Paul wasn't crucified for you, was he? Or were you in fact baptized in the name of Paul? Since it was God Himself who had called them all into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ, they owed their salvation to Him alone and not to any other. True, they had each heard of Christ through assorted teachers, but they had only come to know the God's grace in all its fullness through Jesus Christ. Given that He is the sole source of Christian grace, how could the church possibly have become divided? Using a series of rhetorical questions, Paul shows the absurdity of their behaviour. Is Christ divided can be translated ‘has Christ been parcelled out?’ Of course not, for Christ is one. Paul’s point is that since Christ is one and the same Christ to all, so His church must also be one. The absurd question was Paul crucified for you? is intended to focus the attention of the believers on the death of Christ, the basis of their 22

salvation, and the sacrificial act which brought the church into being. In later verses Paul reiterates the centrality of the cross, which the Corinthians for the time being seemed to have disregarded. Only Christ, by His death, could redeem sinful men and women for God. The third question is: were you baptised in the name of Paul? Some Christians had not realised the significance of their baptism, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Since they were baptised in Christ's name, their loyalty was to Him and not principally to their leaders. 1:14-16 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name! (I also baptized the household of Stephanus. Otherwise, I do not remember whether I baptized anyone else.) ‘It turned out,’ says Paul, ‘that it was just as well that I didn't baptise any of you, except in a couple of special circumstances. Otherwise you would probably say that you were baptised in my name’ (my paraphrase). So far as he could remember, Paul had only baptised Crispus, Gaius and the family of Stephanus. These exceptions would have been occasioned by special circumstances rather than by special favours (as was the case for the Philippian jailer in Acts 16). As usual in the New Testament, the word name as used here implies more than a name or title; it denotes the whole personality. If Paul had baptised in his own name, such baptism would signify that converts had been brought into fellowship with Paul and that their allegiance was to him. This was not the case; for Paul had simply directed the Corinthians to the Lord Jesus Christ.

An excerpt (without footnotes) from The Pentecostal Bible Commentary: 1 Corinthians by Mathew Bartlett (paperback £6.99) Buy now for Kindle!


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Living Word Magazine January 2013