WELCOME to The Living Word Bible study for Sunday, August 15 (TLW32B). 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.
OT: 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14 — God appears to the young Solomon in a dream and his desire for a discerning heart pleases Him
NT gospel: John 6:51-58 — Jesus promises new and eternal life to those who believe and trust Him wholeheartedly
NT letter: Ephesians 5:15-20 — We can choose to live each day, filled and led by the Holy Spirit in an awareness of God’s purpose
And also read: Psalm 111
Theme: How to live in partnership with God
- See also this week’s linked article Partnership, God and Us
- And a Really Quick Introduction for this week on video, God wants your partnership! on YouTube and Instagram.
1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14 — God appears to the young king in a dream
Solomon’s desire for a discerning heart pleases God and He covenants with him
2:10-12 Then David rested with his ancestors and was buried in the City of David. He had reigned forty years over Israel — seven years in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David, and his rule was firmly established.
“Forty years” – he became king at age 30, 2 Sam. 5:4.
3:3 Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.
“Except that” —he was inconsistent. He should have destroyed the high places and made the one place the Lord chose the focus for worship. Solomon’s toleration of local sacrifices to the Lord after the temple was built, led to him worshipping other gods at high places, and his downfall.
• For further study, read Deuteronomy 12.
4-5 The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want Me to give you.”
“Most important high place’ — significant as the last of the pre-temple shrines, Gibeon, six miles NW of Jerusalem, hosted the tabernacle after the Philistine destruction of Shiloh, 1 Chron. 21:29, 2 Chron. 1:2-6.
“The Lord appeared” – in this period Solomon’s practice of offering local sacrifices was from good motives.
6 Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to Your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.
“Great kindness” – chesēd, often translated as faithful love, unfailing love or mercy. A rich word, it has overtones of God’s favour by the original promises made through Moses. Covenant faithfulness is a mainstay of OT theology.
• For further study, see 2 Sam. 7:15, Psalm 6:4, Deut. 7:9,12.
7-8 “Now, Lord my God, you have made Your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number.
“A little child” – exaggeration. Solomon is about 20 years old, and aware of his lack of experience for this responsibility.
“Too numerous” – the twelve tribes, settled and knowing God’s ‘rest’ under David’s unifying rule, which recalls the origins in one family in Egypt.
9 “So give Your servant a discerning heart to govern Your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
“Discerning heart” – able to hear all sides and come to a wise and impartial decision. This request marks a shift from military success to good governance.
10-12 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.
“Long life… wealth… death of enemies” – the usual requests to deities made by ancient near eastern monarchs.
13-14 “Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for – both wealth and honour—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to Me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.”
“And if you walk in obedience…” – a conditional promise. Later in life, Solomon went back on the condition and did not stay obedient to Moses’ law as David had. He reigned for 40 years, 1 Kings 11:42, and did not live much beyond the age of 60.
SUMMARY Solomon’s strength was that he understood from his father, David, the principle of covenant in partnering with God: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”. Solomon asked for this (as we can) and the Lord was pleased with his request.
APPLICATION Solomon’s weakness was in not being consistent in following through. The slide always starts in small ways. Are we, like Solomon, too easily swayed by others and ready to take the path of less resistance?
QUESTION How good a partner are you? How consistent are you?
John 6:51-58 — Jesus’ promise of eternal life through Him
Responding to His call to trust Him in His entirety brings new life in Him
51 “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.”
“Living bread” – Jesus explains His unique gift in two linked ideas: 1, He is the “living bread” who satisfies spiritual hunger, and 2, He will become this spiritually satisfying answer by sacrificing His physical body to death on the Cross; in this sense He says that the spiritually satisfying “bread” is “My flesh”.
“I will give” – Jesus sees clearly what must happen “for the life of the world”, the first of many such explanations of how eternal life was linked to the manner of His death to come, to perplexed hearers. However, they would have been familiar with Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 which foretold the crucifixion 700 or more years beforehand. The giving would be extremely costly to the Giver.
52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”
“How can this man” – Jesus used physical object references as metaphors to teach spiritual truths, and He was often misunderstood at first.
53-54 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.
“Eat the flesh” – Jesus is not meaning this literally or sacramentally, but spiritually. It is a graphic picture of how eternal life is received by complete trust in Him and – later – participation in His death. His shocking language is explained later in verses 60-63.
“Whoever eats… and drinks…” – in Jewish idiom, as in English, ‘flesh and blood’ stands for the whole person — trusting in Him and all He represents. Jesus is not speaking about the Lord’s Supper, which He instituted much later, see Luke 22:19, and the early Christians spoke of the Lord’s Supper as the body and blood of the Lord, not (as here) the flesh and blood.
55-57 “For My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me.
“The one who feeds on Me” – one level is being intellectually persuaded by Jesus, another is following Jesus, and deeper still is ‘feeding on Him’ in a committed and ongoing internalising of Jesus’ life, values and the risks in being His.
58 “This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
“Ate manna and died” – manna was God’s provision of food for that day. Jesus is God’s provision of life every day for eternity.
SUMMARY Here Jesus makes His hearers work hard to grasp what He is saying, using graphic imagery to convey the gravity of this profound truth in an unforgettable way. He emphasises constantly in Scripture that the new and eternal life He offers comes through really believing and trusting in Him.
APPLICATION If we would rather try to earn salvation through dutiful church attendance and good works, this is the shock we need to take on board what Jesus is actually saying — and respond to His call.
QUESTION In what ways may we be consciously or unconsciously trying to earn a salvation, or allow church to be our salvation, because it’s much less demanding than believing and receiving?
Ephesians 5:15-20 — The good choice, be filled with God’s Spirit
We can live each day led by the Spirit in an awareness of God’s purpose
15-16 Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
“Be very careful” – literally ‘walk circumspectly’ or we would say, ‘watch your step’.
“Unwise… wise” – having drawn a contrast between darkness and light, vv.9-13, Paul now makes a parallel distinction between unwise and Spirit-led living. This looks back to the OT wisdom literature, especially Proverbs, where awe of God (the fear of the Lord) leads to the wisdom of following God’s revealed will.
• For further study, see Job 28:28; Proverbs 1:7, 9:10, Psalms 19:7, 119:98, Matt, 7:24; James 3:13-17. Compare also what Paul writes in a similar vein in Colossians 3:15-4:1.
17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
“Do not be foolish” – the “unwise” v.16 or “foolish” person does not understand or think to prioritise God’s purposes.
“Understand” – not taking our lead from feelings and emotions, but rather understanding, from Scripture and the Holy Spirit’s revelation, what God is saying.
“The Lord’s will” — God’s purposes are a major theme of Ephesians.
18-20 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Drunk… filled” – the person who is under the influence of alcohol has surrendered control to drink. The person being filled with the Spirit of God surrenders control to Him.
“Be filled” – the Greek tense is present continuous i.e. ‘be being filled’. What is in view is a moment-by-moment repeatable action, and Paul elsewhere commands believers at Ephesus to do this. Jesus taught “Ask and you will receive”, Luke 11:10, John 16:24. Although all Christians have been sealed by the Spirit of God, Eph. 4:30, we can, as an act of the will, be being filled with His presence.
“Filled” is plēroo which relates to being filled with the whole measure of the “fullness“, plēroma, of Christ urged in Eph. 3:19 and 4:13.
“Sing and make music” – expressionate worship and “making music” comes from being filled with the Spirit, joyfully experienced together.
SUMMARY Jesus has shocked us into thinking about whether we really do receive Him, trust Him and make Him part of us and Lord of our hearts — but we are glad He doesn’t leave us there. He gave us His Holy Spirit at Pentecost to be our Teacher and Helper and Coach to find our way in this new life.
APPLICATION Paul tells us, “Be continually being filled with the Spirit.’ How do we do that? Ask! Like any kind of charge, it soon begins to run out with the drain this world puts on us. We need to be intentional about asking God to fill us with His fullness. Our lives will show it, not least in the inner joy that carries us through.
QUESTION How much is being filled with the Spirit something you ask the Father for?
PRAYER It is so encouraging, Father, to be reminded of Your good promises for me so that I can discern Your ways, know Who to turn to for life and life eternal, and be able to ask day by day for Your Spirit to fill me, lead me and empower me.
Fill me afresh with Your Holy Spirit, Lord, and may He be my Helper and Enabler in walking with You closely and consistently.
I ask this in Jesus’ name for His glory, Amen.
1-2 Praise the Lord. I will extol the Lord with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly. Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them.
3-4 Glorious and majestic are His deeds, and His righteousness endures for ever. He has caused his wonders to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and compassionate.
5-6 He provides food for those who fear Him; He remembers His covenant for ever. He has shown His people the power of His works, giving them the lands of other nations.
7-8 The works of his hands are faithful and just; all His precepts are trustworthy. They are established for ever and ever, enacted in faithfulness and uprightness.
9 He provided redemption for His people; He ordained His covenant for ever — holy and awesome is His name.
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts have good understanding. To Him belongs eternal praise.
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