This is The Living Word Bible Study for Sunday, July 23, based on these Bible readings from the interdenominational scheme used by many churches and chapels.
Theme: Conflict nags us but God’s will and way is our inheritance
Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24
1-2 You have searched me, Lord, and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar.
3-4 You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue — You, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before, and You lay Your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
7-10 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.
11-12 If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You.
Genesis 28:10-19 — Jacob escapes conflict and is reassured by God
• In a vivid dream he sees heaven connected to earth and God speaks to him
10-11 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep.
“Jacob… set out for Harran” — sent away from Canaan by his father to find a wife.
“He put the stone under his head” — People then were used to sleeping on the ground. A large stone afforded protection rather than comfort.
12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
“He saw a stairway” — like an ancient ziggurat, rather than a ladder
“Resting on the earth” — a sign to Jacob that God intended to be present on earth.
13-14 There above it stood the Lord, and He said: ‘I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.
“There above it stood the Lord” — Jacob found himself in what appeared to be a temple antechamber with access to the gate of heaven.
15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’
“I am with you” — local deities were believed to be territorial but God reassures Jacob of His presence on the journey, restating the promise made to his grandfather Abraham.
16-17 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.’ He was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.’
“He was afraid” — having had an encounter with God, more than a dream.
18-19 Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He called that place Bethel [house of God].
“Set it up as a pillar” — marking the place and the occasion in the way of the ancient world.
SUMMARY Away from his homeland, Jacob has a surprising encounter with God who assures him that He will safeguard his destiny.
APPLICATION This is an arresting and life-changing experience for Jacob, reminding him that his need to move away had not distanced him from God.
QUESTION How do we encounter God and seek His renewed guidance?
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 — Weeds in the wheat mimic the true crop
• Understanding why fruitful and harmful forces coexist in a confusing world
24-26 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed ears, then the weeds also appeared.
*”The kingdom of heaven is like” – introduces six of the seven parables in this chapter. The sower and soils is also a kingdom parable, but needs a different introduction to allow the story to unfold.
27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?”
28 ” ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“Enemy… sowed weeds” – malicious crop ruination was recorded. The bearded darnel “weeds” (or tares) look like wheat until the heads form with poisonous black seeds.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
29-30 ‘“No,” he answered, “because while you are pulling up the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: first collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ “
“While you are pulling up the weeds” – which are too similar with intertwined roots. The farmer’s unusual confidence in saving such a crop is a stand-out part of the story.
36 Then He left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
37-38 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom.
“The field is the world” – Jesus sets a wide context for the story. Jews are undecided about who Jesus is; the Messiah was expected to destroy evildoers and affirm the righteous.
38-39 “The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
“Harvest… The end of the age” — Jesus shows that the devil trespasses on the whole world belonging to the Son of Man. The punishment and blessing will come at the end of the age.
40-42 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will weed out of His kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
“There will be weeping” – when the Son of Man returns He will establish fully His righteous kingdom, that we see in part now. The final judgment will make clear separation between good and evil, submitted and rebellious.
“They will weed out of His kingdom” – defines the kingdom of God as those who are righteous and belonging to Jesus. The parable brings out how the kingdom exists in the world alongside the wicked, to be separated when Jesus returns.
“Weeping and gnashing of teeth” – a phrase only used by Matthew.
• For further study, see Matt. 13:40, 50, 8:12, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30.
43 “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.
“Shine like the sun” – believers reflect the brightness of the glory of God by the Holy Spirit. See Daniel 12:3.
SUMMARY The scenario of a spoiled crop, familiar to hearers, is a down-to earth way to explain how our lives are affected by a confusing but real spiritual conflict.
APPLICATION Jesus is Lord, but those who do not acknowledge Him as their Lord are vulnerable to being used disruptively by the devil.
QUESTION How aware are we of the spiritual conflict around us? How do we influence it?
Romans 8:12-25 — Life comes by the Spirit, slow death by the flesh
• In the kingdom we can make empowered choices as children and heirs of God
12-13 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation – but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.
“Children of God” – God called Israel His children, saving them in the exodus and promising them an inheritance in the Promised Land. By using this language, Paul identifies believers in Jesus as the people of God.
• For further study see Exodus 4:22, also Jeremiah 31:9 and 20.
15-17 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.
“Adoption to sonship” – in Roman culture, an adopted child received the full privileges and rights of the family as a full heir to the family estate. Becoming a Christian is to become part of God’s family, gaining a new identity, spiritual authority and the privilege of living guided by the Holy Spirit, Galatians 4:5-6.
18-19 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.
“Our present sufferings” – persecution was expected and remains a reality today. Paul and Barnabas warned new believers in Galatia, saying “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” We set out to live righteously, aware of the kingdom, and expecting to experience difficulty in a world of opposing values – as Jesus did.
20-21 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
“Creation… liberated from… bondage to decay” – everything in nature is in a cycle of decay because of sin. Left to itself, everything starts to deteriorate and rot — not just food and vegetation. Spiritual initiatives unsupported by prayer and left to carry on after God’s presence has lifted, decline and die.
22-25 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
“Creation has been groaning” – like a woman’s labour pains, and a reminder of the curse that Adam brought on creation by his independent folly.
SUMMARY While Jesus’ parable was about theconflict we observe, here the teaching is about the conflict we experience personally between our selfish impulses and the leading of the Spirit.
APPLICATION We have to suffer the decay of God’s perfect creation but we can can make good choices, to know our privilege and as God’s children, use it to live in harmony with His Spirit.
QUESTION If life is conflicted and complicated, how are we helped to overcome?
PRAYER No-one, Lord God, can be compared with You, and with You there is no pretence, no shadow of turning, nothing unsubstantiated.
You are true, and You call us to be true disciples, growing up to be fruitful. We turn from everything that is presentation rather than substance, and from building our empire without growing Your kingdom.
Help us to live in the freedom and reality of what Jesus has won for us at such cost — like the fully adopted children of Yours that we are. Amen.