Category: Food for Thought

Paul’s Greeting to the Philippians

Posted by on 08/03/2017 in: ,

“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” —Philippians 1:1-6

Verse-by-Verse Insights
1:1 – 2 Opening Greeting. As in most ancient letters, the authors and recipients are both mentioned at the beginning.

1:1 Paul and Timothy. Paul often co-authored letters with Timothy. The son of a Jewish mother and Greek father (Acts 16:1), Timothy was from Lystra, and after Paul visited there on his second missionary journey, he took Timothy along as a co-worker (Philippians 2:19 – 24).

God’s holy people. As people who belong to God and are incorporated into his service, they are set apart from the world for him. The Old Testament uses the phrase “holy people” of Israel (e.g., Exodus 22:31), so it is striking that Paul can freely apply it to what was probably a pre-dominantly Gentile congregation in Philippi. As Paul emphasizes in chapter 3, those who believe in Christ and are incorporated into him now share in the privileges God bestowed on Israel in the Old Testament.

holy. Christ’s death has made Christians holy (Ephesians 5:25 – 26).

in Christ Jesus at Philippi. Expresses the double location of believers: (1) they are in Christ, no longer in Adam but members of Christ’s body, and (2) they belong to the Roman colony of Philippi.

overseers. Synonymous with “elders,” men responsible for the spiritual direction of and preaching in the congregation (1 Timothy 3:1 – 7).

deacons. Responsible for affairs in the church of a more practical nature. The role has its origin in the difficult situation in Acts 6:1 – 6, where believers select “deacons” to distribute the food to widows. This is no lowly task, however, for those appointed in Acts 6 were “known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3); deacons must display traits of mature godliness (1 Timothy 3:8 – 10, 12 – 13).

1:2 Adapting elements from Jewish and Greek letter writing, Paul prays for the Philippians to receive “grace” (God’s work in them to accomplish what they cannot do on their own) and “peace” (experiencing the blessings of being reconciled to God).

1:3 – 8 Thanksgiving. Paul expresses his great love for the Philippians, as is evident from the joy (verse 4), confidence (verse 6), and affection (verse 8) with which he thanks God for them.

1:4 with joy. Paul expresses the emotions that accompany his prayers, first mentioning joy.

1:5 partnership. Paul rejoices that the Philippians join in the work of the gospel, which includes financially supporting him (Philippians 4:15).

from the first day. When they first accepted the gospel (compare Philippians 4:15).

1:6 being confident. A second emotion (after joy in verse Philippians 4:4) that remembering the Philippians prompts. Paul’s confidence in God’s sovereignty leads not to inactivity but to prayer for what he knows God will do. Paul is convinced that prayers are a means God uses to accomplish his purposes.

work in you. Paul knows that the Philippians’ perseverance in the faith and the gospel fruit that they bear are the work of God himself (Philippians 2:12 – 13).

the day of Christ Jesus. God’s faithful work in them endures right up until the day on which Jesus returns.

What is something new you might take away from this passage after reading it a couple times?

This blog is a part of our NIV Zondervan Study Bible blog series! See the firstsecond, and third blog posts by following the links.

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His Great Love Toward Us

Posted by on 08/02/2017 in: ,

“Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the Lord.” —Psalm 117

This psalm captures the essence of praise in miniature — it is the shortest psalm in the Psalter and the shortest chapter in the Bible. The psalm opens with a call for the nations to praise the Lord (verse 1) and then gives the reason for praise: the Lord’s great love and eternal faithfulness toward his people (verse 2).

117:1
The Lord is more than a parochial or tribal deity; he is Lord of all the earth (114:3 – 8; 115:15 – 16). Consequently, all nations must praise him. Psalms pictures a great contest between the rebellious nations and their Creator (see 2:1 – 6). The nations submit to their Creator by praising him (see 2:10 – 12; 108:3).

The New Testament attests that the nations have submitted to God because they praise the Son (see 2:10 – 12). Paul quotes this verse in Romans 15:11to show that the salvation of the nations (Gentiles) has always been God’s plan. Thus, they should be welcomed into the worshiping family of God.

117:2 Love. The Lord’s faithful covenant love. In Psalm 6:4, the term unfailing love (Hebrew hesed) is one of the richest in the Bible, often denoting God’s steadfast, loyal love for his covenant people Israel. It had special meaning for God’s people coming out of Egypt (Exodus 15:13; 20:6; 34:6 – 7), and God promised this love to many generations of Israelites, including David (Psalm 89:24,28,33; 2 Samuel 7:15; Isaiah 55:3). More than half of the Bible’s references to this covenantal love are found in Psalms, about half of those in psalms of David.

Endures forever. Never wears out. His faithfulness to his covenant promises does not have an expiration date; it will endure into eternity.

How has God shown His love and faithfulness towards you?

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Love & Grace

Posted by on 08/01/2017 in: ,

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” –2 Corinthians 13:14 NIV

The God of biblical revelation is no impersonal absolute. The living God is the God of love and grace. But what do such terms mean? It is in Scripture that big terms such as “love” and “grace” are embodied in stories as well as in direct affirmations. In particular, it is Jesus Christ and his story that provides the lens through which to view what the big biblical ideas are about.

What does divine love look like?

Love is manifested in action, as the story of Jesus exemplifies. Jesus embodies the divine love in his coming and his cross. As John 3:16 famously affirms, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.” Paul elaborates, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). John adds to this testimony: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).

As in the OT, in the NT practical consequences follow. Jesus exhibits a new paradigm for loving others (John 13:1-7). This love serves. This love shows hospitality. This love washes the feet of others. We are to love like that. Love is the new commandment (John 13:34). It is new because it is informed by the story of Christ.

This newness carries over into the Christian household. As in the OT, the NT presents no mere duty-ethic. This love is an answering love to the divine love as experienced in Christ: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). This love is not manufactured by us; it is the fruit of the Spirit of Christ living within us (Gal 5:22). This love cannot possibly claim to love God while hating other believers (1 John 4:20). Some things – like knowledge and prophecy – fade away (1 Cor 13:8). But love remains (1 Cor 13:13). It never fades.

What does grace look like?

Divine grace is undeserved favor of a superior bestowed on an inferior. The Israelites experienced God’s grace when he delivered them from Egyptian oppression. God proclaims to Moses on Mount Sinai, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God” (Exod 34:6). The exodus event also shows that when God acts graciously, it means salvation for some (Israel) but often judgement for others (Egypt and its gods as in Exod 12:12-13). In Jesus the divine grace comes into view in the most personal of ways, as John points out in his prologue (John 1:17). By coming among humankind and dying on the cross, Jesus Christ did what he was not obliged to do, and he did so not for his own sake but for ours, undeserving though we are. The nature of this undeserved favor removes any grounds for our boasting before God about our meritorious works. As Paul tells the Ephesians, “It is be grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:8-9).

Even though the accent on grace in Scripture focuses repeatedly on God or Christ as the gracious one, those who have received such grace must be gracious themselves. This graciousness must show itself especially in Christian generosity (2 Cor 8:9) and speech: “Let your conversation be always full of grace” (Col 4:6). Unsurprisingly such gracious speech characterized Jesus Himself (Luke 4:22).

Grace and love occur together in the Bible, and both express his goodness. We deserve neither God’s love nor his grace. Church leader Irenaeus rightly said in the second century, “[Jesus] became what we are that we might become what he is.” Such is grace. Such is love.

How has the grace and love you receive from Jesus Christ affected your life and relationships with others?

Looking for more encouragement? Right now we are going through, publishing content found within this helpful resource, the NIV Zondervan Study Bible! You can read the first post in this series here.

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4 Scriptural Types of Worship

Posted by on 07/31/2017 in: ,

“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” –Psalm 95:6 NIV

Worship is a dominant theme from Genesis to Revelation because the God who created all things and redeemed us in Christ is worthy to receive all honor, praise, service, and respect (e.g., Gen 12:7-8; 14:19-20; Exod 15:1-18, 21; Rev 4:11; 5:9-10, 12). Four groups of words throughout the Bible convey aspects of what we commonly call “worship.” New Testament writers use these and related terms in a transformed way to show how Jesus has fulfilled for us the pattern of worship given to Israel.

1) Worship as Homage or Grateful Submission to God:

The most common word for “worship” literally means “bend over” or “bow down.” It describes a gesture of respect or submission to human beings, to God, or to idols (Gen 18:2, Exod 18:7, 20:4-6). Combined with other gesture-words this term came to be used for the attitude of homage that the gesture represented.

Also, people sometimes expressed homage to God with prayer or praise (Gen 24:26-27, 52; Exod 34:8-9) and sometimes with silent acceptance or submission (Exod 4:31; Judg 7:15). The book of Psalms contains many different expressions of worship, including lament, repentance, prayers for vindication, songs of thanksgiving, and praise. “Bending over to the Lord” now means responding with repentance and faith to the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 2:36-39; 10:36-43; cf. Rom 10:9-13). Such worship involves praying to him (Acts 7:59-60; 1 Cor 16:22; 1 Thess 3:11), calling on his name (1 Cor 1:2; Heb 13:15), and obeying him.

2) Worship as Service to Others:

Another group of biblical terms often translated “worship” literally means “serve” or “service.” The people of Israel were saved from slavery in Egypt so that they could serve the Lord (Exod 3:12; 4:23; 8:1). The parallel expressions “offer sacrifices to the Lord” (Exod 3:18; 5:3, 8, 17; 8:8, 25-29) and “hold a festival” (Exod 5:1) indicate that some form of ritual service was immediately in view. The sacrificial system was given to Israel to enable cleansing from sin, consecration to God’s service, and expressions of gratitude to God (Lev 1-7). The New Testament describes Jesus’ death as “a sacrifice of atonement, through shedding of his blood – to be received through faith” (Rom 3:25; cf Heb 2:17; 1 John 2:2). In response to what God has done for us in Christ, we are to present our bodies to him as “a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Rom 12:1; cf Rom 6:13, 16). In particular, Christians are to offer to God through Jesus “a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” (Heb 13:15).

3) Worship As Reverence or Respect for God:

There is a third group of words sometimes describes worship differently than the previous examples. Words meaning fear, reverence, or respect for God indicate the need to keep his commands (Deut 5:29; 6:2, 24; Eccl 12:13), obey his voice (1 Sam 12:14; Hag 1:12), walk in his ways (Deut 8:6; 10:12; 2 Chr 6:31), turn from evil (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3; 28:28; Prov 3:7), and serve him (Deut 6:13; 10:20; Josh 24:14; Jonah 1:9). Sacrifice and other rituals expressed reverence for God, but faithfulness and obedience to the covenant demands of God in every sphere of life also distinguished true from false religion (Exod 18:21; Ps 25:14; Mal 3:16; 4:2). The New Testament indicated that humanity’s failure to fear God and show him proper respect brings his wrath (Rom 1:18-25; Rev 14:6-7). Only by being “redeemed…with the precious blood of Christ” can we be set free to serve God “in reverent fear” (1 Pet 1:17-21; cf. Heb 12:28-29).

4) Worship And Congregational Gatherings:

Worship in the Old Testament sometimes had a corporate expression, and this was meant to encourage God’s people to serve him faithfully in their individual lives (Isa 1:10-17; Jer 7:1-29). The New Testament rarely applies the specific word “worship” to Christian meetings (but see Acts 13:2, 1 Cor 14:25). Nevertheless, prayer, praise, and submission to God’s will were central to congregational gatherings (Acts 2:42-47; 4:23-37; Eph 5:18-20; Col 3:16-17).

It may be best to speak of congregational worship as a particular expression of the total life-response that is the worship described in the new covenant. In the giving and receiving of various ministries, we may encounter God and submit ourselves to him afresh in praise and obedience, repentance, and faith (Heb 10:24-25). Singing to God is an important aspect of corporate worship, but it is not the supreme or only way of expressing devotion to God. Ministry exercised for the building up of the body of Christ in teaching, exhorting, and praying is a significant way of worshiping and glorifying God.

Which of these types of worship do you most often engage in?

Like what you read? This blog was adapted from content found in the NIV Zondervan Study Bible, available in our store. Look for a new blog post being released each day this week for our NIV Zondervan Study Bible blog series.

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3 Ways Bible Dictionaries Improve Your Bible Study

Posted by on 07/24/2017 in: ,

You know what a Bible is. You also know what a dictionary is. But do you know what a Bible dictionary is, or why you should use one? Here’s three reasons to use a Bible dictionary, based on my own recent study of God’s Word.

LEARN A LITTLE CHRISTIAN TRIVIA

I was reading Psalm 111 the other day and decided to pull open the Resource Guide. As I was scrolling, I noticed that “Hallelujah” was listed under Topics. Now, I know that “Hallelujah” means “Praise the Lord” (and the app told me this, too), but I was curious if there was any other information on the phrase that I hadn’t heard before.

When I tapped on “Hallelujah” and opened my Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary, I learned something hilarious. You see, when I was in high school, I sang in the choir, and we always sang songs that incorporated “Alleluia.” Turns out that, according to Vine’s, it’s a misspelling of “Hallelujah”! All this time I’ve been wondering what the difference was…

 


LEARN ABOUT GOD’S PROMISES IN HISTORY

Exodus 4 is another passage I was looking at recently. It’s here that Moses is instructed to inform Pharaoh that Israel is Yahweh’s “firstborn.” If Pharaoh does not relinquish the Israelites, God promises to kill the Egyptian ruler’s his firstborn son.

“Firstborn” is most definitely a key word in this passage–but what is its significance? There is a deep, rich history of God expressing the closeness of His relationship to the Israelites through this term, that is discoverable through using a Bible dictionary. Vine’s provides references to many other passages that teach about the cultural view of firstborn children in the Israelite community, revealing that it was a coveted position that held many benefits. A firstborn son was considered to be the most loved and to receive the greatest inheritance.

So, when the Israelites hear that God has called them His “firstborn,” a lot of emotions are stirred! According to Vine’s, being God’s “firstborn” meant enjoying a privileged position and blessings, in comparison all other nations. In Exodus 4, God is making it known that Israel is His prized child, and that no one—not even Pharaoh—can mess with them.


LEARN ABOUT GOD’S PROMISES FOR TODAY

But it doesn’t stop there. Vine’s is searchable, like a normal dictionary, and you can find a word’s definition for either the Old or New Testament. By looking up “firstborn” in the New Testament, I found passage after passage where Jesus is referred to as the “firstborn” (protokos) of creation. The most interesting reference I found was when John the Baptist proclaims that “He (Jesus) was first (protos) of me.” He’s saying much more than “Jesus was born before I was.” Instead, he is putting Jesus in the ultimate privileged position with God, receiving the highest blessing, because he is not just a son, but the Son.

Now, the important question: how does this apply to our lives? Time and time again we see God be faithful to His people, the Israelites. Better yet, we see the Father praise, glorify, and bless His Son. This seems like a pretty exclusive group.

But, we’re invited! When we believe in Christ’s atoning work, we are welcomed into this family. We enter this promise, into this privileged position with God. If you study the word “firstborn” across the Old and New Testaments, you can learn more about the history of God blessing those He calls His own. For thousands and thousands of years, God has been drawing people to Himself—and you are one of them.


ONE LAST THOUGHT

Overall, the main reason to use a Bible dictionary is this: The Bible is not our own. The Bible is a compilation of God speaking to His people through His people, in a time and culture we weren’t around for.  So, although we have been welcomed into this family, we must recognize that this family has existed for thousands of years! That takes a bit of help and research to understand—but it’s worth the investment.

This week, we are discounting Bible dictionaries in hopes of encouraging deeper study of God’s Word. Check out the Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words or the Anchor Bible Dictionary (6 vols.) while they’re on sale.

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Insight on Ecclesiastes:
When Life Seems Meaningless

Posted by on 07/21/2017 in:

Sometimes, life seems meaningless. And sometimes, God seems distant. If you’re feeling this way, you aren’t alone! The author of Ecclesiastes struggled with the same issue, but he continued to call God good and just all the same.

“The book of Ecclesiastes, or Kohelet as it’s called in Hebrew, is not meant to comfort the reader. The author was frustrated by the contradictions, tensions and incomprehensibility of life. He asked again and again if life is meaningless.

The book’s portrait of God is unlike that found in the rest of the Hebrew Bible. Nowhere does the author address God as YHWH, the more personal and intimate name for God in Hebrew and the sacred name not to be misused in the Ten Commandments. YHWH walked closely with Adam and Eve in the garden and spoke to Moses from within the burning bush.

The author instead opted for addressing God as Elohim, actually a title and a more generic and less personal Hebrew name for God. The opening lines of Genesis begin with the actions of Elohim bringing forth the heavens and the earth. Kohelet prefers this choice of addressing God, Elohim, a slightly more distant or transcendent God. “God is in heaven and you are on earth” (Ecc 5:2). The book argues for caution and reverence for the divine (see Ecc 5). It also insists that God is both just and sovereign (see Ecc 3:17; 9:1); however, the justice of God is slow and at times seems absent: “There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve” (Ecc 8:14).

The fact that Ecclesiastes is in the canon of Hebrew Scripture speaks to the depth, richness and nuance of Jewish theological and philosophical thought in the ancient world. The Christian canon also includes this theologically complex book. Human wisdom is often frustrated when contemplating life and the divine. But frustration, wondering and questioning all have a place in the religious life, which Ecclesiastes makes clear.

Ecclesiastes urges the reader to enjoy life, though much of life is cruel and meaningless. One should fear God, tread lightly and be grateful for simple pleasures.

The end of Kohelet also raises some interesting questions about the author’s view of God: “Here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (Ecc 12:13–14).

This passage is an epilogue, a common literary device in wisdom literature. But it also seems a bit out of place. Some scholars have suggested it was added by a later editor who was uncomfortable with the book as it was originally written.

Whether added later or written by the author, it is meant to balance out the tone of book. It is clear from the book that the author believed in God’s justice, though he did not always see it. The final line acts as a kind of last word. Whether one sees it or not, God’s justice will prevail.”

Does this encourage you? How does it give you a different perspective when you’re going through difficult times?

This blog was adapted from First-Century Study Bible Notes, on sale now.

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Generation of Hope

Posted by on 07/20/2017 in:

This blog is written by guest author Casey Fleet. He is a youth pastor at Higher Ground Church in North Carolina and is passionate about teenagers knowing Christ.

For the past six years I have engaged myself in ministry deeper than I could have ever imagined. I was ordained two years ago, and have served in many different capacities already. I am so thankful to have a loving wife and two beautiful young girls who support me. I am currently serving as a youth and a children’s pastor at my church. Working in ministry has been phenomenal for my life, changing me in many ways. Not only that, but I’ve also been able to see God touch the lives of many children and teenagers. My desire, passion, and hope for this next generation is that they will be blessed and prosperous.

I titled this blog post “Generation of Hope” because I truly want people to know that there is hope for this next generation of kids. So often we hear negative comments about the youth: “There’s no hope for them!” We even hear these comments in our churches, and it cuts me deeply. In retaliation, I hear some respond by asking, “If this generation is so bad, what does it say about the one before it?” In other words, if the younger generation is so bad, it must be because the previous generation has been doing something wrong. However, I do not believe that is the case. I believe God is preparing us for something great, working through all His children—the whole Church. I believe we are a chosen generation, and in the end, God is going to bless all of us in phenomenal ways if we pursue Him.

With all of this being said, I believe in the youth of this world. They are loving, smart, caring, helpful . . . and smart. Did I say that already? They are so smart! Instead of tearing down the children of the world today and blaming them, we should be lifting them up. We should encourage them. Do you know what that will do? Do you recognize how powerful our words are? It will create a generation of hope!

Serving teens and children has blessed me tremendously. I have been able to see them through many obstacles. In return, their love and compassion has helped me and my family as well. It is such a blessing to come alongside the youth and teach them about God’s Word. The greatest tool I have ever discovered for my study is Olive Tree Bible App. It has been my companion lately and helped me tremendously. As a matter of fact it is now my favorite app! Last week, I typed out my sermon notes in a Google doc, pasted it into the notes section in Olive Tree, and guess what—it automatically hyperlinked my scripture references. Technology is such a gift, and I am happy to use it to present hope for the next generation.

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14 Facts about Biblical Life

Posted by on 07/07/2017 in:

When you understand ancient biblical life and the culture in which Scripture was written you can more easily see how it applied to life then and how it applies to life today.

Ancient Health Practices:
1. Although there was no theory of communicable diseases, the isolation of the leper looks very much like quarantine (Lev. 13:45). The modern disease called leprosy is a particular infection called Hansen’s disease. Its symptoms are different from the leprosy mentioned in the Bible.

2. Balm is a kind of resin taken from trees by cutting the bark. It was used as a perfume and was considered effective as a medicine (Jer. 51:8). Although Gilead is mentioned together with balm (Jer. 8:22; 46:11), the substance was not produced in Gilead. It may have been transported through Gilead or sold there. Ancient pharmaceuticals consisted mainly of plant products recommended by tradition.

Ancient Food Practices:
3. The salt used in ancient times was not refined, and there was always some proportion of chemicals present in addition to sodium chloride. If the fraction useful for flavoring food was leached away by dampness, what remained was without value. It was sometimes strewn on paths like gravel, since it was “then good for nothing” (Matt. 5:13).

4. The custom of eating while reclining seems to have come from Palestine from the East. People ate from common dishes on a low table as they reclined on large couches. The banquets of the rich included musicians, fine foods, and perfumes for the guests. Ivory inlays decorated the wooden parts of luxurious furniture (Amos 6:4). Examples of such inlay survive, showing how it was carved by artisans.

5. Fasting appears in the Bible as a natural expression of feeling distress, sorrow, and guilt (Deut. 9:18). It does not play a large part in the Law of Moses, where only one mandatory fast is found – on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29-31). The apostle Paul called this day “the Fast” (Acts 27:9).

Ancient Marriage & Family:
6. Jewish people regarded marriage as the natural duty of men and women. In line with Jewish tradition, Paul suggested that a person should marry in order to avoid sexual immorality (1 Cor. 7:9). The apostle also understood marriage and celibacy to be gifts of God (7:7). When he advocated remaining single (7:8), he was conscious of people’s usual expectation that adult men, and especially religious leaders, would marry.

7. A marriage was a union of two families, not just of two people. The formalities and celebrations could continue for several days, or even into the night. Jesus told a parable of a midnight procession that took place during wedding festivities (Matt. 25:1-6). One could never know exactly when someone would return from a wedding feast (Luke 12:36).

8. The status of women in the ancient world was not the same in every culture. For example, Roman women were more independent than Greek women. The Book of Proverbs describes the “virtuous wife” (Prov. 31:10) as a woman who has authority over her household economy and is free to do many different things. She is industrious (31:13-15) and resourceful (31:16-19).

Ancient Fashion & Clothing:
9. Sandals were such personal items that they symbolically represented their owner in some legal transactions. In one type of business transaction, removal of the sandal confirmed an exchange of buying and selling. Such an exchange could even include the acquisition of a wife (Ruth 4:7-10).

10. Ancient societies did not change their fashion of clothing every year. Certain garments and styles could persist for generations. At the same time, there was room for people to exercise vanity and to advertise their rank in society (James 2:2). Rings and other items of jewelry clearly had such functions.

11. A wedding party was a substantial, almost public affair. Guests wore their best clothes as participants in an important ritual of the social order. A person who attended without being properly dressed proclaimed indifference, not so much to the one holding the party, but to the people of the village and their common interests. Jesus’ hearers would sense the dishonor of a guest lacking the appropriate wedding garment (Matt. 22:11).

Ancient Music & Literature:
12. Traditionally riddles were important tests of someone’s wisdom, insight, and skill. In some cases a riddle was offered as a test whose outcome was of far-reaching importance, if not life and death. Although Samson was marrying a Philistine woman, relations between Israelites and Philistines were strained. The Philistines were serious about finding the answer to Samson’s riddle (Judg. 14:14).

13. The ancient world had wind, percussion, and stringed instruments. The main instruments of the Israelites seem to have been small harps and percussion instruments, not including drums (1 Chr. 13:8). The percussion instruments include the metal rattle called a sistrum that was a favorite in Egypt. The titles of the psalms probably include some names of musical tunes.

14. Ministers today often use sermon illustrations to help their hearers understand a sermon’s point. In the same way, ancient Jewish teachers often told stories to illustrate whatever moral principle they were trying to communicate. Sometimes these parables had one central point. In other cases, such as Jesus’ parable of the sower and the four soils (Mark 4:2-8), parables included several points of comparisons. Because Jewish parables were usually stories, we understand Jesus’ parables best when we consider them as stories.

You can learn more about the historical context of Scripture by using a resource like the NKJV Chronological Study Bible!

Blog adapted from Bibleconnectionnews.com

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Yielding to God’s Purposes

Posted by on 06/23/2017 in:

“But the wisdom that is from above is the first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. –James 3:17 NKJV

Consider this: God is perfect. Eternal. Almighty. He knows everything about everyone (Ps. 139:1-4). On the other hand, we are imperfect. Sinful. Our lives are but a vapor (James 4:14). The more we learn, the more we realize we don’t know.

So why in the world wouldn’t we align our plans with God’s purpose?

We tend to think we know enough to make our own way in life.

But because God actually cares, get over that tendency. He is God. You are His. He provides the resources you need to accomplish His purpose.

Isaiah 41:10 records God’s assurance to His people:

“Fear not, for I am with you;

Be not dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you,

Yes, I will help you,

I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

God’s purpose for you is not mysterious – see Micah 6:6-8. This is the foundation of God’s will: to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him. All of the specific decisions we make can fall under these categories.

So make every one of your actions purposeful. And know that obedience is tightly tied to how your purpose is lived out.

If God’s absolute care for you is not enough motivation, consider this: There were many times God called specific people to do specific things; and from those who did not obey He took away His hand of protection and provision (Jer. 7:13-15; Rom. 1:18-32). Even in such cases, His distance is intended to bring us to repentance and reconciliation.

David wrote Psalm 57 when he fled from Saul into the cave. Perhaps David doubted God’s purpose for him at this point. Maybe he wondered what was going on. He may have even been tempted to think God was wrong. But instead he wrote, “I will cry out to God Most High, to God who performs all things for me. He shall send from heaven and save me” (Ps. 57:2-3). David did not turn away from God’s purpose for his life, even when circumstances made it difficult to see the way forward.

Jesus said, “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgement is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (John 5:30). James calls us to follow Jesus’ example when he reminds us that the fruit of wisdom is becoming a person who is “willing to yield” (James 3:17).

What might the Lord be asking you to yield or surrender so that you might do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly alongside Him? Think on these things.

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Love Is An Action

Posted by on 06/19/2017 in:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” —John 13:34-35 NKJV

Faith is compelling when it is seen in action. When Jesus announced that He would be leaving, He gave one very simple and profound instruction: “Love one another.”

This is harder than it seems. We are prone to argue, hate, and fight. We default to selfishness and wanting to win. Love doesn’t naturally fit.

But we crave it.

And love is the mark of Jesus’ followers.

Jesus asked His disciples to practice the love that He modeled. If they reflected the example of Jesus’ love, they would stand out in a world that does not understand love.

Jesus explained, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (v. 35).

The distinguishing mark of Jesus followers is how faith influences their daily actions: how they work alongside coworkers, how they solve problems, how they speak to spouses and children, how they work out problems with church members. Jesus’ followers live differently, demonstrating love consistently toward others.

Jesus kept it simple. He taught and demonstrated that love is an action. As John explains, “Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

Faith transforms us into people of love who live differently in the world. There are plenty of distinguishing characteristics when it comes to the church. Unfortunately, and all too often, outsiders looking into the church see it as a place of hatred and condemnation. Our churches are to be oases of love. In a world where so many people feel beat down, insecure, and worn out, the behavior of a loving Christian is refreshing water for parched and weary souls.

Love is an action. What actions can you take to love more like Jesus? A helpful exercise may be to write down a list of ways you remember Jesus loving others as told in the Gospels. Not only will this help you to remember God’s love for you, but it will inspire you to be a person who loves as well.

Need help thinking through other passages of scripture? Know the Word Study Bible Notes (used in the writing of this blog!) can run parallel to your Bible in our app, helping you navigate and apply God’s Word to your life.

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