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28 February, 2017

Search The Scriptures —Study 2 — Habakkuk 2:6-20

Study 2 From the Book of Habakkuk is: Habakkuk 2:6-20
      1.      Sum up in one or two words each of the evils against which the five ‘woes’ of these verses are pronounced.  Are these evils found in the world today? What may those who commit them expect?
      2.     In contrast to verses 18, 19, ponder the promise of verse 14 and the command of verse 20. How were these a warning to the plunderer, and a comfort to the plundered? What response should they inspire in us? Cf. Ps. 73: 16-26.

27 February, 2017

Search The Scriptures —Study 1 — Habakkuk 1:1- 2:5

Study 1 From the Book of Habakkuk is: Habakkuk 1:1- 2:5
     1.      What is the prophet’s first complaint, and what is to Habakkuk God’s strange answer? 1:2-4, 5:11.
     2.     What further problem does this raise in the prophet’s mind, and what answer is he given? See 1:12-17 and 2:2-5.
     3.     What course of action does 2:1 suggest that the Christian should adopt when perplexed at God’s dealings? Cf. 73:16, 17; Mi 7:7.  Are you faithful in this way?
1.      1-7b. The Chaldeans so called ‘justice and dignity’ are arbitrary and self determined.
2.     2:2. God’s answer is to be written down plainly so that it may be read at a glance.
3.     2:4, 5. God’s answer is in tow parts (a) The arrogant Chaldean, whose soul is not upright, shall fail and pass away. Cf. Is. 2:12-17. (b) The righteous man will endure. He will live by his faith, a faith inspired by God’s faithfulness, which keeps him steadfast.  The profound truth here expressed is seen in its full significance in the gospel of Christ.  Cf. Rom. 1:16, 17.

26 February, 2017

Search The Scriptures —Study 0 — Introduction to Habakkuk

Study 0 From the Book of Habakkuk is: The Introduction of the book of Habakkuk
Introduction: We know nothing about Habakkuk himself except that he was a prophet, and the only clear historical reference in the book is to the Chaldeans in 1:6, on the basis of which a date just after the Battle of Carchemish (605 BC) is suggested, when this ‘bitter and hasty’ nation was marching westwards to subjugate Jehoiakim, king Judah. Habakkuk was thus a contemporary of Jeremiah, but the two men were very different. Jeremiah’s problem was how God could destroy his people. Habakkuk’s problem was how God could use so evil a nation as the Chaldeans as His instrument (cf. Isaiah and the Assyrians).  The problem is set forth in chapter 1, and God’s answer is given in chapters 2 and 3 in words of extraordinary depth and grandeur.


25 February, 2017

Search The Scriptures —Study 2 — Nahum 2 and 3

Study 2 From the Book of Nahum is: Nahum 2 and 3
With this study we end the book of Nahum today. Tomorrow we will delve into the book of Habakkuk
These two chapters are two separate odes describing the fall or Nineveh. In chapter 2 the prophet depicts the approach of the enemy (verse 1a) and ironically summons the people to defend their city (verse 1b). Then follows a description of the attackers within and without the walls (verses 3-5). The river gates are forced, the palace is in panic, the queen captured, the people flee (verses 6-8), and looting follows (verse 9). The chapter ends with a picture of Nineveh overthrown, lying desolate in her ruins. Chapter 3 declares the city’s guilt and her punishment (verses 1-7), and bids her take warning from the fate of Thebes (verses 8-10).  Nineveh’s strength fails (verses 11-15a). Though her people are without number, and her merchants are as numerous as locust, yet like locust, they will fly away (verses 15b -17). Her rulers perish her people are scattered. All who hear of her fall will rejoice (verses 18, 19).
1.      Read each chapter aloud, if possible in Moffat’s translation.  What were Nineveh’s sins that brought upon her so terrible a retribution? See also 1:11. What does this show of God’s attitude even to non-Christian societies? Does He care whether they are righteous or corrupt? If God cares, should we?
2.     How does Nahum show the converse of Rom. 8:31; i.e., if God be against us, who can be for us? 34:16; Je. 37:9, 10. Have you ever experience this in your own life, with all circumstances going against you, that in fact God was against you?
1.      2:5. ‘Officers’: or ‘elite troops’. The same word is rendered ‘nobles’ in 3:18. A ‘mantlet’ is a missile-proof screen under the shelter of which the attackers advance.
2.     2:7. ‘Mistress’: the word may refer to the queen (cf. verse 6), or to the Assyrians goddess Ishtar or her image.
3.     2:8. ‘Nineveh is compared to a breached reservoir
4.     2:11. ‘Cave’: ‘pasture’ (rsv mg., av), or ‘feeding place’ (rv).
5.     2:13. ‘Messengers’: envoys; cf. 2 Ki. 19:9-23
6.     3:4-6. The use of this figure to symbolize Nineveh was doubtless suggested by the sacred prostitution prominent in the cult of Ishtar.
7.     3:8. ‘Sea’: i.e., the mighty waters of the Nile.
8.     3:9. ‘Put’: an African people, perhaps form Somalia or Libya.

24 February, 2017

Search The Scriptures —Study 1 — Nahum 1

Study 1 From the Book of Nahum is: Nahum 1
      1.      What do we learn in this chapter about God (a) in relation to His own people, and (b) in relation to His enemies? Cf. Lk. 18:7, 8; 2 Thes. 1: 8; Nu. 14: 17, 18; Ps. 46:1.
      2.     Nineveh’s boastful spirit is seen in Is. 36:18-20; 37:23-25; Zp. 2:15. But how does Nahum regard her in relation to God’s power? See verses 3b-6, 9-12a, 14;  and cf. Ps. 37:35, 36
     3.     Consider how verse 7 is illustrated in the story of 2 Ki. 18 and 19, which happened less than a century before Nahum’s time.  Have  you your own illustration to give out of your own experience?
1.      Verse 1. ‘an oracle concerning Nineveh’, or ‘The burden of Nineveh’: see Note on Je. 23:33-40. Where ‘Elkosh’ was is not known with certainty; it may be in Judah.
2.     Verse 2.  ‘A jealous God’: behind this description lies the figure of the marriage relation used in Scripture of Israel’s relation to God. ‘Just as jealousy in husband or wife is the energetic assertion of an exclusive right, so God asserts and vindicates His claim on those who belong to Him alone.’  Or, in terms of kingship, it is His ‘passionate determination that His sovereignty be recognized among all men, to the benefit of the humble and loyal among his subjects and the confusion of the presumptuous.’ Cf.  Ex. 34:14; 1 Cor. 10: 20-22.
3.     Verse 7. ‘Knows’: i.e., takes care of.
4.     Verses 8-10.  The translation here is often difficult: see mg. The RSV too readily follows alternative readings.  In verse 8 read with mg. ‘her place’ i.e., probably the sanctuary of Nineveh or its goddess Ishtar.  Verse 10 has been rendered (cf. mg.): ‘Though tangled as thorns, and drenched as their drink, they shall yet be consumed as stubble fully dry’. (Eaton), i.e., however tricky an enemy (for men) to deal with, God’s flame will run through them like dry stubble.
5.     Verse 11.  Possibly a reference to Sennacherib Cf. Is. 10:7-11.
6.     Verses 12, 13 and 15 are addressed to Judah, and verses 11 and 14 to Nineveh.
7.     Verse 12b. rv mg. reads: ‘So will I afflict thee, that I shall afflict thee no more’ (i.e., I shall not need to’). Cf. Verse 9. Then the verse is addressed to Nineveh.
8.     Verse 14. ‘vile’ here does not mean depraved, but rather abject, reduced to the meanest condition.
9.     Verse 15. The ‘good tidings’ is the news of Nineveh’s downfall.

23 February, 2017

Search The Scriptures —Study 0 — Introduction to Nahum

Study 0 From the Book of Nahum is: The Introduction of the Book of Nahum
In the prophet, Nahum God found a man who, with flaming conviction, proclaimed the astonishing message that great Nineveh, still at the height of her power and glory, must fall and disappear. Nahum concentrates on this seemingly incredible event to the exclusion of all else. With great poetic skill and vivid realism, he portrays the attack upon the city and her final end.  We can almost see the battle, the capture, the looting, and hear the noise of her fall and the silence of her desolation. Nahum’s purpose in writing, however, is not to gloat over the downfall of the great enemy of his people. It is to magnify the God of Israel, to declaim that He is, on the one hand, faithful to His promises and strong to save those who put their trust in Him, and on the other hand, the Holy One, who is adversary and Judge of the wicked.  It is because the Assyrian Empire was built with ruthless cruelty upon the principle that might is right that God, as the moral Governor of the world, rises up to smite it to the dust.

Nahum prophesied between the overthrow of Thebes in Egypt, about 663 BC (to which he makes reference in 3:8), and the fall of Nineveh in 612. There is no certain clue as to a more exact date, but the most likely period for his ministry seems to be in the early years of King Josiah. If so, he preceded Jeremiah by only a few years. 

22 February, 2017

Search The Scriptures —Study 3 — Zephaniah 3:8-20

Study 3 From the Book of Zephaniah is: Zephaniah 3:8-20
With this lesson we end the book of Zephaniah. We will start the book of Nahum Tomorrow
     1.      Throughout this passage the Lord is seen acting. What is He pictured as doing? How many of these actions were, or can now be, fulfilled in Christ? Are there some which still await fulfillment, and, if so, why?
   2.     Consider the character of the remnant that the Lord leaves (verses 12, 13). Compare 2:3; and contrast 2:1; 3:1, 2.  Does 3:17 suggest a reason for this change of character? How is it brought about? Cf. 2 Cor. 5: 17; Eph. 4:24.
Note. Verses 9:12. To ‘seek refuge in the name of the Lord’ is an expressive figure for trust in the Lord’s revealed character.  Truly to call Him Lord means to acknowledge Him as such, and to give Him the service that is His due. Cf. 1 Pet. 3:6a.

21 February, 2017

Search The Scriptures —Study 2 — Zephaniah 2:1 – 3:7

Study 2 From the Book of Zephaniah is: Zephaniah 2:1 – 3:7
      1.      What phrases are used to describe the nations over whom Judgment is impending? See 2: 1, 10, 15. What was especially sinful about Nineveh’s attitude (2:15; cf. Is. 47:6-11), and has it a modern counterpart? What qualities does God look for in those who desire his help (2:3)?
       2.     ‘Hidden on the day of the wrath of the Lord’ (2:3). Is there such a hiding-place?  Cf. Je. 23:24; Am. 9:3; Rev. 6:15 – 17; Rom. 5:9; 1 Thes. 1:10.
3.     The indictment against Jerusalem is the most grievous of all (3: 1-7) Cf. Lk. 12:47, 48. List the evils found in her, and consider especially how they were sins against the Lord.
1.      2: 1. ‘ Come together…’ i.e., solemn assembly to seek the Lord.
2.     2: 13-15. No man alive at the time had known anything but the greatness and glory of Assyria. So these words, would have had an astonishing impact.
3.     3: 5-7.  The Lord’s faithfulness in judgment on their enemies is matched by the shamelessness of His people.  They were heedless of the lessons He was seeking to teach them.

20 February, 2017

Search The Scriptures —Study 1 — Zephaniah 1

Study 1 From the Book of Zephaniah is: Zephaniah 1
The effects of God’s universal judgment (verses 2, 3) upon Judah and Jerusalem are described in detail (verses 4-13).  The chapter ends with a terrifying picture of the day of the Lord (verses 14-18)
      1.      On whom particularly will God’s judgment fall according to this chapter, and why? Can you think of any modern counterparts to the sinful actions described?
     2.     Having considered the reasons for judgment, now ponder the accompaniments of the day of the Lord in verses 14-18. What may we learn from these about God’s view of sin?  Cf. Pr. 11:4; Ezk.
1.      Verse 4.  To ‘cut off… the name of’ mean to ‘obliterate the memory of’
2.     Verse 5.  ‘Milcom’: a foreign deity of this or a similar name was worshipped in several of the countries surrounding Judah.
3.     Verse 12.  ‘Thickening upon their lees’: cf. Je. 48:11. This picture, taken from the wine-trade, refers to the sedimentation of wine.  The idle, stagnant, muddy-minded men in Jerusalem, who thought they could settle down in their godless indifference, will be punished.

19 February, 2017

Search The Scriptures —Study 0 — introduction of Zephaniah

Study 0  From the Book of Zephaniah is: The Introduction of the book Zephaniah
Zephaniah prophesied in the reign of Josiah, and probably in the early years of that reign, before Josiah began his religious reforms. For when Zephaniah delivered his message, idolatrous, customs, which Josiah abolished, were still openly practised (cf., e. g. 1: 4, 5 with 2 Ki. 23: 4, 5). Zephaniah was therefore a contemporary of Jeremiah and possibly began his ministry somewhat earlier. If the Hezekiah from whom his descent is trace (1:1) was, as many think probable, the king of that name, then Zephaniah was related to the royal house.
The theme of his prophecy is the day of the Lord, which was about to break.  It is pictured as a day of terrible judgment, under the imagery of war and invasion, in which Judah and Jerusalem would be thoroughly purged of those who practiced wickedness.  But, the judgement would embrace all nations; it was to be a day of universal judgement.
When the judgment was completed there would be a remnant of Israel, a lowly but upright people who, trusting in the Lord would rejoice in His favour. Zephaniah foresaw also that other nations, would ‘call on the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord’ (3:9). His message is marked by breadth of view and profound insight, and charged with an ardent vehemence of moral passion. 

Zephaniah’s word received a striking fulfillment in the fall of Nineveh, and a quarter of a century later in the fall of Jerusalem.  But, the fulfillment is not yet complete. The final day of God’s judgment has yet to come. 

18 February, 2017

Search The Scriptures —Study 2 — Joel 2: 18 – 3:21

Study 2  From the Book of Joel is: Joel 2: 18 – 3: 21
With this lesson, we end the book of Joel. Tomorrow we start the book of Zephaniah
    1.      What is God’s reaction to His people’s repentance? What principle does this teach?
    2.     How has the prophecy of 2:28, 29 been fulfilled far more wonderfully than Joel foresaw?
    3.     Chapter 3 is a vision of mercy upon Israel, and judgement on her enemies. In what ways had the nations angered God by their treatment of Israel, and what judgment would fall on them?  What according to 3:17 and 21 is the supreme blessedness of God’s people?

17 February, 2017

Search The Scriptures —Study 1 — Joel 1:1 – 2: 17

Study 1 From the Book of Joel is: Joel 1:1 – 2: 17
Two addresses on the plague of locust, both describing in different ways its severity, and summoning the people to repent.
      1.      What teaching is given in this passage on the need for corporate repentance for national sin? What essentials of true repentance are given in 2:12, 13?
      2.     Gather together the teaching on ‘the day of the Lord’ in this passage. What is its significance?

16 February, 2017

Search The Scriptures —Study 0 — Introduction of Joel

Study 0 From the Book of Joel is: The Introduction of the Book of Joel
Nothing is known of this prophet beyond what is stated in the first verse of this book, and the evident fact that he prophesied to Judah. It is generally agreed that he was either one of the earliest of the prophets, or one of the latest. The date is not important for the study of his message.
The occasion of his prophecy was an unprecedented plague of locust, apparently accompanied by drought (1:18-20).  He summoned the people to national repentance and self-humbling, and on their doing this, he was authorized to declare the speedy departure of the locusts, and the restoration of the land.

But, the prophet was given also a more distant vision. The plague of locusts was a symbol of the approaching day of the Lord, and Joel foresees the outpouring of the Spirit, and the gathering of the nations to answer for their misdeeds towards Israel. The Lord will triumph and Israel be blessed. 

15 February, 2017

Search The Scriptures —Study 2 — Jonah: 3 and 4

Study 2 From the Book of Jonah is: Jonah 3 and 4
With this study, we end the book of Jonah and will start the book of Joel tomorrow.
     1.      God is unchangeably consistent in His attitude to men.  What moral action is necessary to avoid judgement and find mercy? Cf. Joel 2:12-14. Acts 10: 34, 35. How did Jesus commend the Ninevites’ actions?  Cf. Mt. 12:41.
    2.     Jonah the patriot almost hides Jonah the prophet. How do 4:2b, 4, 10 and 11 rebuke his attitude? Contrast the attitude of Jonah with that of Jesus the Jew. Cf. Mt. 23: 37, 38; Mk. 10 45.
3.     What aspects of the character of God stand out in this short book?
1.      3:3. ‘An exceedingly great city’: The administrative district of Nineveh, which could be referred to here (as distinct from the city alone), was thirty to sixty miles across.
2.     4:2. ‘Repentest of evil’: the Hebrew root means ‘to breath heavily’. A change of mind is not so much meant; the thought is almost that the Lord takes a deep breath of relief that He does not have to act in judgment as the consistency of His character would otherwise demand.
3.     4:6. ‘A plant’ a fast-growing, trailing or climbing plant with broad leaves.
4.     4:9-11. ‘Jonah (for selfish reasons) pities the insignificance plant for which he was not responsible.  Should not God much more (and unselfishly) have pity on the poor ignorant inhabitants with their cattle in the evil city of Nineveh?

14 February, 2017

Search The Scriptures —Study 1 — Jonah: 1 and 2

Study 1 From the Book of Jonah is: Jonah 1 and 2
The key to Jonah’s flight is found in 4:2. He feared the tenderness of God. If he went to Nineveh as commanded, Nineveh might repent, and be spared (cf. Je. 18:8) to become later the destroyer of Israel. If he did not go, God’s judgment would fall upon Nineveh, and Israel would be saved.
    1.      ‘But Jonah’ (verse 3); ‘But the Lord’ (verse 4). Cf. Acts 11:8, 9 (where the context also concerns Gentiles). Of what truth had Jonah lost sight? Cf. 1 Tim. 2:4. How did the Lord retain control of the situation?  With 1:7b cf. Pr. 16:33, and notice ‘appointed’ in 1:17.
2.     Jonah (like Adam and Eve, Gn. 3:8-10) tried to escape from the presence of the Lord. (1:3, 10; cf. 2:4). Why was this impossible? In the light of this passage, look up Ps. 139:23, 24 and apply it to yourself.
3.     Jonah’s prayer, remarkable for its lack of direct petition, speaks of distress and passes into thanksgiving.  What was the fundamental cause of his distress? What caused the transition?
1.      1:3. ‘Flee…from the presence of the Lord’: this amounted to renouncing his vocation, for the prophet stood in the presence of the Lord (cf. 1. Ki.17:1).
2.     1:17. “three days and three nights’: cf. Mt. 12:40.  According to Jewish reckoning this may mean one full day with the night before and the night after.
3.     2:7. To the Hebrews, ‘remembering’ could be much more than a bare mental process; he could mean recreating to the imagination the historic deeds of the Lord; the use of the word repays detailed study.  With this passage cf. Pss. 77:11, 12; 105:4-6; 143:5.
4.     2:9. The vow was probably some sort of sacrificial thank-offering. Vowing is a biblical practice; but the Old testament counsels against hasty (Pr. 20:25) and empty (Ec. 5:5) vows.

13 February, 2017

Search The Scriptures —Study 0 — The Book of Jonah

Study 0 From the Book of Jonah is: Jonah Introduction of the Book of Jonah
Jonah is mentioned in 2 Ki. 14:25 as having predicted the victories of Jeroboam II by which the borders of the kingdom of Israel were greatly enlarged. If Jonah prophesied at the beginning of Jeroboam’s reign, he would precede Amos by about twenty years only. At that time Assyria was already a great power, and had begun to reach out westwards: in fact, Jeroboam’s victories were partly due to Assyrian raids upon Damascus and neighbouring states, which weakened these kingdoms. It would seem that Jonah was afraid of Assyria, whose cruelties were well known, and whose power was dreaded.
To this man came the commission to go to Nineveh and cry against it. One might have thought that such a commission would not be unwelcome, but to Jonah it was so hateful that he resolved rather to resign his prophetic office than obey it.  The book is the story of what happened.  It is one of the most remarkable books in the Bible, and rich in spiritual teaching.

12 February, 2017

Search The Scriptures —Study 10 — Matthew 7:13-29

Study 10 From the Book of Matthew is: Matthew 7:13-29
With this study we will pause briefly to study the small book of Jonah
    1.      In verses 13-23 what threefold responsibility does our Lord lay upon those who would enter His kingdom (verses 13-14); (b) as to a right discrimination between false and true (verses 15-20); and (c) as to the condition of being acknowledged by Him at the last (verses 21-23)?
2.     To what categories of men do verses 24-27 refer? In what way do the two houses differ? How is it possible to be building – yet building foolishly?
3.     Verses 15-20. In what way, may we tell the false prophet? Cf. Dt. 13: 1-5; 1 Jn. 4-6. Can you think of any modern guise in which he appears?