TLW31B for Sunday August 8
Welcome to The Living Word Bible study for Sunday, August 1 (TLW30B). This non-denominational study relies on the Bible explaining the Bible, uninfluenced by any church’s practice or preferences and it follows the Bible’s sequence of progressive revelation. We recommend that you read the whole passage first and let the Holy Spirit begin speaking to you through it, then go deeper with the verse by verse commentary and reflections. Bible readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, a resource shared by many different churches and chapels and the text is the widely-used and contemporary NIV © Biblica.
2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33 — Absalom’s pride and betrayal ends in a shameful death in the forest
John 6:35, 41-51 — Inflexible attitudes cause some to grumble at Jesus’ declaration that He is the Bread of Life
Ephesians 4:25-5:2 — Those who belong to the Lord are recognised by living renewed, transformed lives full of Christ’s love
And also read: Psalm 130
Theme: Attitude! Our ego doesn’t play out well with God.
• See also this week’s linked article Removing three barriers to God in our lives
2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33 — Absalom’s pride results in his fall
The son that betrayed David is put to death in the Battle of Ephraim Forest
5 The king commanded Joab, Abishai and Ittai, “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.” And all the troops heard the king giving orders concerning Absalom to each of the commanders.
“Be gentle” – whether out of fatherly love or a sense of guilt towards Absalom is not clear.
6-8 David’s army marched out of the city to fight Israel, and the battle took place in the forest of Ephraim. There Israel’s troops were routed by David’s men, and the casualties that day were great– twenty thousand men. The battle spread out over the whole countryside, and the forest swallowed up more men that day than the sword.
“Forest of Ephraim” – a densely wooded area east of the Jordan in Gilead. Unable to move effectively in a forest, the larger army fell prey to David’s experienced force.
9 Now Absalom happened to meet David’s men. He was riding his mule, and as the mule went under the thick branches of a large oak, Absalom’s hair got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in mid air, while the mule he was riding kept on going.
“Riding his mule” – the usual mount for the king’s sons, 2 Sam. 13:29.
“Absalom’s hair” – what he gloried in, 2 Sam. 14:25-26, became the instrument of his downfall. In life he had exalted himself with his own monument, 2 Sam. 18:18. In death he was thrown into a pit heaped up with rocks (like stoning) a monument of shame.
15 And ten of Joab’s armour-bearers surrounded Absalom, struck him and killed him.
“Joab’s armour-bearers” – David’s senior officer and his close support had conflicting feelings about the leader of a bloody rebellion. The narrator stresses David’s orders to spare Absalom, v.5, but Joab had fallen for his deception before, 2 Sam. 14:1-24, and with the king’s safety in view, acted against David’s instructions.
31 Then the Cushite arrived and said, “My lord the king, hear the good news! The Lord has vindicated you today by delivering you from the hand of all who rose up against you.”
“Cushite” — ‘man from Ethiopia’, NLT.
32 The king asked the Cushite, “Is the young man Absalom safe?”
The Cushite replied, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up to harm you be like that young man.”
33 The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you – O Absalom, my son, my son!”
“If only I had died” – David had lost his son and any possible reconciliation. The tone of David’s exclamation suggests he is seeing what Nathan prophesied, 2 Sam. 12:10-11, the consequences of his sin with Bathsheba.
SUMMARY Absalom had ingratiated himself with others to gain a following and even built a monument to himself, but his pride led to his fall, caught in a tree by the symbol of his pride. To the last, David hoped for reconciliation, not the cost of his sin with Bathsheba that has been prophesied.
APPLICATION This is a picture of the old life before we know God, self-centred, independent and rebellious. New life in Jesus is a freedom from having to prove ourselves, and an enabling to live differently for Jesus.
QUESTION What in this story of Absalom’s demise is a particular lesson for you?
And also read: Psalm 130
1-2 Out of the depths I cry to You, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let Your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
3-4 If You, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve You.
5-6 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His Word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
7-8 Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption. He Himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.
John 6:35, 41-51 — Inflexible minds grumble at Jesus’ declaration
Many struggle to believe Him while others are seeing the Messiah among them
35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.
“I am” – tone of a number of statements where Jesus refers to Himself using the words “I am”, making His hearers recall God’s words to Moses in Exodus 3:14. This is the first of seven such sayings recorded by John.
“The bread of life” – the crowd had said (v.34) “Always give us this bread” or ‘keep on giving us free food’. Jesus makes clear He is speaking of Himself.
41-43 At this the Jews there began to grumble about Him because He said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can He now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”
“Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered.
“Grumble about Him” – recalling the attitude in the desert which delayed the Israelites from entering the Promised Land. This is the same lack of faith and inability to imagine better, as the grumbling about God’s provision of manna.
44-45 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from Him comes to Me.
“No one can come… they will all be taught” – this carries the fuller meaning of ‘no one is able’, balanced by Jesus’ quotation of Isaiah 54:13. There is a tension between God’s election in “no one can come… unless the Father… draws them” and man’s freewill in “they will all” responding to the tug of the Holy Spirit. There is a process of grace: the Holy Spirit begins the work in our hearts, and enables us to respond. Our choosing to trust Jesus changes us, the spiritual transformation we call salvation or becoming a Christian.
46-48 “No one has seen the Father except the One who is from God; only He has seen the Father. Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.
“No one had seen… the one who believes” – as in John 1:18. Accepting what we can see is not faith. Jesus requires us to believe, so that we can see.
49-51 “Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
“Ate the manna… yet they died”. Manna gave them food for the moment, but Jesus, the Living Bread, offers new life that endures.
“This bread is My flesh” – or ‘this bread is Me’. By believing in Him, Jesus satisfies spiritual hunger. He becomes this ‘bread’ by sacrificing His body – “My flesh” – to death on the Cross. His perplexed hearers would understand this later.
SUMMARY Jesus’ sign with the feeding of the huge crowd was a kind of re-enactment of the manna in the wilderness — or a fulfilment. As then, now it provoked a little outbreak of negativity and criticism, as Jesus urges them to perceive spiritually what He was showing them — and believe to receive life.
APPLICATION God is always doing a new thing, and we can miss it if we are holding on to the last thing too tightly. The challenge Jesus gives us is to remain open to Him
QUESTION Surveys reveal that more and more people who identify as ‘catholic’ also recognise the need for a personal encounter with Jesus. What does Jesus, the Bread of Life, mean to you?
Ephesians 4:25-5:2 — Paul urges living renewed, transformed lives
Those who belong to the Lord are recognised by living full of Christ’s love
25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry…
“Each of you must” – i.e. ‘because you can’. Those who are redeemed by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit are empowered to live renewed lives. The five instances that follow all include an aspect not to do, an aspect to do positively instead, and a spiritual principle.
“Put off falsehood” – anger and bitterness lead to twisting of the truth — as in Jesus’ trial. An emotional response of the moment, like anger, is not of itself sin, but anger unresolved that carries over and becomes bitterness forms a resentful and often slanderous attitude that is a denial of the gospel.
27-28 …and do not give the devil a foothold…
“A foothold” – from topos, ground. All sin gives the devil legal rights to oppress. The sin of unforgiveness and unresolved conflict, often unrecognised as sin, is perhaps the most common way the devil gains ground to exercise a measure of control over our thoughts and lives.
…Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
“Steal no longer but… work” — repentance can be defined as stopping what is harmful, starting something positive instead, in a changed lifestyle that all can see.
29-30 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
“Only what is… building others up” — practical advice on how to avoid obscene language, gossip and slander which, like a spoiled fruit, corrupts others it touches and the community.
“Grieve the Holy Spirit” — showing the Holy Spirit to be a person and One who is sensitive to any harshness of attitude.
• For further study, the Holy Spirit referred to as a person: John 14:16-17, 15:26, 16:8-11,13-14; Acts 13:2; 16:6-7; Rom. 8:26-27; 1 Cor. 2:11, 12:11.
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
“Bitterness…anger” – people who have been forgiven so much, cannot morally withhold from others that same grace. A consequence of unforgiveness is ‘anger, clamour and malice’ (ESV) as the sentence sets out logically.
32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
“Be kind” – be kind, chrestos, because of Christ, Christos.
“Compassionate… forgiving — the opposite of the bitter attitude. God’s forgiveness of us is the standard we apply to others: “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors”, Matt. 6:12.
For further study, compare with Hosea 3:1, Colossians 3:13, 1 John 4:19.
Eph. 5:1-2 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
“Follow God’s example” – more literally, “Be imitators of God”. Believers have been exhorted to learn the way of Christ, and not to grieve the Spirit, Eph. 4:20-21, 30. Now they are set the challenge of adopting and demonstrating God’s values to the world around them.
“Walk in the way of love” – a summary of the section. Christ’s demonstration of loving us was fragrant, i.e. acceptable to God, like an OT sacrifice, Gen. 8:1, Ex. 29:18, 25; our fragrant offering is being like Him, walking in love towards others.
SUMMARY The new life that comes through asking Jesus to be Lord of our lives is — new. Here are common traits from the old self-centred life which we are to say ‘no’ to, not just dishonesty and swearing but critical attitudes and resentments. They make our lives a mixed message, not a witness, and compels the One who empowers us to grow more Christlike to back off.
APPLICATION A lot of our more selfish and distasteful traits lose their hold when we become Christians, but there’s still baggage we need to recognise and actively lay down. The good news is, the Holy Spirit empowers us to do this and live in our new nature.
QUESTION Out of these five example traits or attitudes to switch, which is most difficult? How does the Holy Spirit help you in it?
PRAYER Father God, as we come to You in Jesus we are so grateful for the new life You hold out to us.
Jesus, You truly are the Bread of Life! Help us to grasp this new life with its new attitudes eagerly.
As You have promised, fill us with the love Your Holy Spirit puts in our hearts, and empower us to live out Your values even in difficult and hurtful situations, so all can see what You have done. Amen.
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