This is The Living Word Bible Study for Sunday, July 16, 2023, drawn from the readings set in the interdenominational scheme used by a cross-section of churches and chapels.
Theme: God’s purpose flows through Word and Spirit
105 Your Word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
106 I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow Your righteous laws.
107 I have suffered much; preserve my life, Lord, according to Your Word.
108 Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me Your laws.
109 Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget Your law.
110 The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from Your precepts.
111 Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.
112 My heart is set on keeping Your decrees to the very end.
Genesis 25:19-34 — How Jacob came to gain Esau’s birthright
• Of the twin brothers one valued the birthright and the other despised it
19-20 This is the account of the family line of Abraham’s son Isaac. Abraham became the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram and sister of Laban the Aramean.
“Isaac… married Rebekah” — had he married one of the corrupt and syncretistic Canaanite people, the covenant faith would have been in danger.
21 Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant.
22-23 The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”
“She went to inquire of the Lord” — by visiting a prophet, possibly Abraham.
“The older will serve the younger” — contrary to custom; quoted in Romans 9:10-12 as an example of God’s sovereign right to act according to His perfect will
24-26 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.
27 The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents.
28 Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished.
30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.
31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”
‘Sell me your birthright” — Jacob saw the value of the birthright, but it was by God’s appointment that the blessing came to him.
32 “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”
33 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.
“Selling his birthright” — ancient texts of the period mention transferable birthrights.
34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.
So Esau despised his birthright.
“Despised his birthright” — and also the covenant promises Isaac had inherited from Abraham.
SUMMARY God’s purpose was in the covenant promise He made to Abraham about him being the father of a nation. Now two generations on, God favours Jacob to carry the flame.
APPLICATION When God’s way is not the way that we expect, it is a reminder to respect God’s sovereign choice.
QUESTION How do we react when God upsets our preferred order?
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 — Disciples receive and multiply Jesus’ word
• Like seed sown in good soil we grow truth into a harvest of others
1-2 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around Him that He got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore.
“Sat by the lake” – the Cove of the Parables near Capernaum was one of a number on Galilee’s shores which provided a natural acoustic for a crowd to hear.
3 Then He told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed.
“In parables” – there are about 30 of these illustrative stories in Matthew, Mark and Luke, with other figures of speech recorded in John. Parables taught a main point with additional meaning for serious enquirers, and were difficult for Jesus’ enemies to argue with.
4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.
“Some fell along the path” – paths often crossed fields.
5-6 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.
“Rocky places” – sowing was often carried out before cultivation, hence the variety in the soils.
7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.
8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop — a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
“A hundred times” – far more than expected. True disciples will be supernaturally fruitful.
9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
“Whoever has ears” – a challenge to engage with the meaning and respond.
18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means:
“What the parable… means” – a rare instance of Jesus interpreting His own story.
19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.
“The message about the kingdom” – or “the word of God”, Luke 8:11.
“Does not understand” – in the sense of believing and understanding. The kingdom spiritual rule of Christ is discerned through faith.
20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.
“Falling on rocky ground” – like the hard ground of the path, vv.4, 19, lacking a place for the message to take root, owing to hard-heartedness, or a shallow emotional response.
21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.
“Last only a short time” – wanting the benefits of salvation without accepting the cost of being a disciple.
22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.
“Deceitfulness of wealth” – as long bas we have faith and live accordingly, God is not against wealth.
• For further study, see Matthew 4:8-10, 6:24, 13:44-45; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17.
23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
“Produces a crop” – unlike the three soils which produced none; disciples are intended to be supernaturally fruitful.
SUMMARY This well-known story told by Jesus is does not focus on the sower or the seed but the four kinds of soil where it tries to take root.
APPLICATION This emphasises our need to have soft and receptive hearts toward God’s word, valuing it as the message of the kingdom.
QUESTION What does it look like for us to “produce a crop”?
Romans 8:1-11 — Our revival is the intention of the Holy Spirit
• Any way of thinking which begins and ends with ourselves is hostile to God
1-2 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.
“Therefore” – concluding the argument of chapters 5-7.
“Condemnation” – guilty and facing due penalty; the opposite of justification, Romans 5:1-2, 9, 18. The human condition from having inherited Adam’s sin, Romans 5:12-6:23; however, every believer in Jesus, is justified, declared free, owing to Christ’s payment of the penalty in self-sacrifice.
“The law of the Spirit who gives life” – now for the believer the ‘control’ is the enabling and leading influence of the Holy Spirit.
3-4 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
“Law was powerless” – to enable us to live above sit.
“Likeness of sinful flesh” – Christ was incarnated truly human and looking like any other self-centred, independent person – except that He wasn’t.
“Righteous requirement of the law” – for the believer not a route to salvation but an internalised moral compass enabled “according to the Spirit”.
5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
“Live according to the flesh” – compare “Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.” (NLT)
6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.
“Governed by the flesh” – compare “Obsession with self… is a dead end… the opposite of focusing on God.” (The Message)
7-8 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.
10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.
“Realm of the flesh… of the Spirit” – describes two mindsets, one with a bias towards sin and independence from God, the other renewed with a bias towards living for God.
“The Spirit of God… the Spirit of Christ… if Christ is in you” – the language is of the Trinity, one God existing in three persons.
11 And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who lives in you.
“He who raised Christ from the dead… life to your mortal bodies” – the promise of resurrection by the Holy Spirit whose presence is evidenced by a Spirit-controlled life, vv. 4-9.
SUMMARY The power of the word is associated with the mind governed by the Spirit. With the Spirit of God indwelling, the believer in Jesus has a practical, realistic choice to live and think by the leading and enabling of the Spirit, and to say ‘no’ to what Paul calls the flesh,
APPLICATION This is the word – God’s truth and the expression of the kingdom – working with the Holy Spirit in a life-giving way which transforms how we think and act.
QUESTION What is the unique characteristic of the Holy Spirit that transforms us? (vv.2, 6, 10, 11)
PRAYER Lord God, at the beginning of time You spoke the world into existence by Your creative word. You have never stopped speaking, and Your word is a real force for bringing new life. May we be fertile soil for hearing Your word, agreeing with Your word and speaking it to each other and to You. Help us to partner with the work of Your Spirit in being a joyful, peace-bringing life-giving force for You — and Your glory. Amen.
• See this week’s article Becoming Fruitful for God — Living in Alignment with Word and Spirit
• Watch the video Becoming Fruitful for God…
• Listen to the podcast The Secret the Old-time Preachers and Pastors Knew