The following is a list of suggested answers for those who would like to know the author’s thoughts behind the questions in the Study Guide to The Name Quest. However, the best way to use the guide is to prayerfully and thoughtfully answer the questions for yourself or in your group. Questions that require an answer from personal life or experience are not included in this answer guide. The numbers to those questions are skipped.
Click on the chapter title to go to the suggestions for that chapter.
Epilogue The Long Hallelujah
- The story in the Prologue (The Camel Brand) uses the concept of a name in different ways. In what ways is it used and what does branding have to do with naming?
Branding animals puts a mark of ownership on them, a form of identity. When God adopts us as His children He begins to change our nature to be more like His. In the book of Revelation God gives us a new name.
- In Genesis 11:4 the people of Babel wanted to make a name for themselves. In what ways do you and I do that today?
Anything that makes us look good or draws attention to ourselves could fit here, especially accomplishments that last a long time. That is not to say that such things are wrong; it depends on our motives.
- a) What legacy do you hope to leave behind? b) What legacy does the Bible say we should aim to leave behind?
The legacy of blessing on the lives of others. Jesus called us to make disciples who make other disciples. Paul talked about the church being his “letter” (2 Cor. 3:2-3).
- a) What does the Bible mean when it says that God made a name for Himself in the exodus (Psalms 79:9; 102:18-22; 142:7; Isa. 63:12-14)?
The exodus showed the greatness of God and His commitment to His people. It established a reputation for Him. It brought Him glory in Israel and among the nations.
b) In what ways does He make a name for Himself today?
Whatever God does to manifest His nature and power in the world increases His reputation and glory. It might be lives drawn to Him or miracles done.
- a) Do you want to live and speak the heartbeat of God? b) What steps do you need to take to enter the “council of the Lord”?
Another way of putting this is “God’s presence”. This can happen any time we spend in prayer, worship or reading His word. Meditating on Him. Inviting His presence. Sometimes He initiates the encounter with Him.
- a) What does Psalm 44:5 mean when it talks about defeating enemies “in your name”?
It means winning the battle in line with God’s character and agenda, not only for personal motives. The end does not justify the means in God’s kingdom; the means have to be consistent with the end.
b) Think of some of your “enemies”. How best might you apply this verse to them?
The battle is won in spiritual places. Prayer, perhaps fasting, are important. Often, responding to people in an “opposite spirit” helps. So, for instance, when someone is unkind to you, be kind and gentle back.
- God’s commitment to His people was because of His own reputation. Even when Israel sinned by asking for a king, God remained loyal. What lessons are there for us in 1 Samuel 12:19-25?
God has a vested interest in His people because His reputation is seen in how He treats them. He guards them, and He is slow to punish them. God often gives another chance to people when they fail.
- What, if anything, has changed from the arrangement described in Deuteronomy 28:9-10?
In the Old Testament, it seems that keeping God’s commandments is the condition for being a holy people. Under those conditions, other people recognize and fear God’s people. Because of Jesus we have been given holiness. We do what He says out of love and faith. People see the difference in us, but they don’t need to be afraid because we live to serve and bless them.
- a) Paul’s prayer in 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 is that the people would live up to their calling and glorify God’s name. Does living up to our calling sound like legalism or performance?
Paul’s prayer is that God would empower people to fulfill the calling and works of faith. It should be a natural outflowing of the life of God in His people. And the glory goes both ways; to us and to Him.
b) How do you reconcile living up to our calling with our freedom in Christ and being “saved by grace”?
Our calling is not a performance goal; it is our spiritual destiny. God adopts us as His children and we will naturally grow into the image of Christ if we stay close to Him. We are saved or freed from sin and the downward spiral to death and decay.
c) How can we be sure that God will answer a prayer like this?
Because it has always been His plan for us to reflect His image and for mutual glorification. There are many other promises in the Bible that apply to this prayer.
- a) In what ways are His glorification and ours similar things?
In the sense that glory has to do with beauty. Godly people are generally recognized as having beautiful character.
b) In what ways are they different things?
In the extent of glory. Our glory will only ever be tiny compared to God’s.
- Based on the fact that God is a personality who cannot be divided, in what ways is it appropriate or inappropriate to have a favorite name for God?
In a casual sense there is no problem having a favorite name of God. But God wants us to know Him as well and thoroughly as we can. Knowing the God behind the names is the key. We don’t want to stop at just a few aspects of His character; we want to know everything that we can. God is One, a “personality”. As much as we can, we need to know Him as the integrated being that He is.
- Psalm 20:7 talks about boasting of God’s name. What does this look like practically in our culture?
To boast of someone is to point to that person and give them credit. God’s “name” is His entire nature. We point to all that He is as our trust.
- Considering the answers you gave to the previous questions, how would you now explain the significance of the “name” of God?
The “name” of God is the sum of His character, will, and ways. Names tell us what a person is like or what they do. God’s “name” does the same. Individual names of God express parts of who He is and what He wants and what He does. Together the names form a picture of Him, His complete nature.
- What is meant by “experiential knowledge”? (Psalms 9:10; 33:21)
Simply put, it is knowledge that is based on and backed by experience; it is not just head knowledge.
We often talk about our Christian lives in terms of faith. Faith rests on two foundations:
- Truths stated about God, which we can choose to believe or not believe.
- Experiences of Him that reinforce those truths but can never replace them.
Typically, our challenge is to believe God’s truth before we receive the reinforcing experience. (NQ p.22)
- a) Can we have faith over the long term without both of these foundations in our lives?
Our faith is always two-legged. It rests on biblical truths and practical experience. Except for the beginning days of following Jesus both really have to be present. Sometimes there are periods when we do not have much experience of Him acting. In these times we have to remember His words and reflect on what we have seen Him do in the past.
b) How can we ensure that both continue to be present?
Never forget that faith cannot remain theoretical. The essence of following Jesus is to learn to hear His voice and to obey Him. Ultimately, there is a practical side to obedience. We should always ask ourselves what the application of what we hear or read is to our lives.
- How would you explain the meanings of the primary names of God: Adonai, Elohim, and Yahweh (or Jehovah)?
Adonai means Lord or master. Elohim is the word for God. It is often associated with creating. Yahweh (YHWH) or Jehovah is the personal name of God in the Old Testament. It is probably an expression of endless existence.
- Many people have debated the pronunciation of the personal name of God (Yahweh or Jehovah). Do you think it is important to correctly pronounce the personal name of God? Why or why not?
For various reasons, people will take both positions on this question. However, God wants relationship with us, not rigid accuracy in our understanding of details. Perhaps that is why God allowed the pronunciation to be forgotten.
- The Jewish people are known for taking great care when it comes to the name of God. What is the balance between reverent intimacy versus flippancy and disrespect when it comes to God’s name?
When we understand that God is a loving Father who wants to converse with His children while they grow to be more like Him and to share in His work then it is easier to find balance. If we really love our Father we will treat Him with relaxed respect knowing that He does not expect us to discover some special relational formula before we can approach Him.
- Talk about the times in the Bible when God manifested His glory. What unusual phenomena occurred during those times?
Earthquake, storm, lightening, wind, fire, cloud, smoke, darkness, sounds like a trumpet, angelic visitations, brightness.
- What is the most important reason that God manifests His presence?
Probably to get our attention and woo us into a closer relationship with Him.
- Notice the titles used for God and Jesus in Hebrews 12:18-24. What is the message of these verses?
The old system centered on Mount Sinai and the Law has been replaced by a new one. When God manifested in various phenomena at Sinai people were afraid. The Law explained how to live in a tenuous relationship with a God who appeared like that. But the new system is one of dwelling with God. It is possible because we have been made perfect by the blood of Jesus, our mediator.
- Read Isaiah 9:2; 42:6; 49:6; 60:1-3. Where does our spiritual light come from and what should be the result of it?
The light is from God and is seen in Jesus. We become bearers or reflectors of that light so that others can see it for themselves.
- What do we learn from Ephesians 5:1-14 about living in the light?
We are now children of light. Life in the light is not just an idea, it is a lifestyle. It is behavior that is distinctly different from the lifestyle of the kingdom of darkness. As we have been born into new life in Christ His life shines out of us. The new lifestyle is aligned with the character and will of God as revealed in the Bible and in Jesus.
When God launched the nation of Israel by giving the Law at Sinai, He had a purpose: “Out of all nations you will be my treasured possession” (Ex. 19:5 NIV; Deut. 7:6; 26:18). The words “treasured possession” (segullah) cast Israel as a precious jewel that was on display for neighboring nations. He crafted Israel as another ray of glory to sparkle like a diamond, reflecting and radiating His glory. (NQ p.45)
- In what ways is this paragraph true of the church today, or not true?
This has always been true of God’s people. In those days it was the tribal family of Joseph, forged into a single nation. Now God’s people have a common faith in God through Jesus. It is important to remember that our adoption into God’s family is not for our benefit alone; we are to pass the blessing to others and bring glory to Him through the way we live. Sadly individuals and groups fail to reflect Him and cause onlookers to misunderstand Him.
- a) Does Isaiah 43:1-7 apply to Christians today?
b) What promises does God make?
To protect His people. To ransom them. To be with them and gather them together.
c) What names occur in the passage?
LORD, Creator, Your God, Holy One of Israel, Your Savior.
d) What is the basis for the promises?
God’s creation, redemption and choosing of His people. His naming them with His name.
e) What is God’s purpose?
His own glory.
- b) What happened when Jesus did miracles? (Matt. 15:31; John 11:4-6, 40)
People marveled and God was glorified.
- a) What different opinions have you heard about why God heals people sometimes but not at other times?
Lack of faith in the sick person or those who are praying. Not His will to heal. Sin in the sick person’s life.
b) How can we respond to the different opinions?
There are no clear answers except that, ultimately, healing depends on the will of God. But it is helpful to look at the examples in the gospels where some people were healed and not others. Faith certainly seems to be an important factor there.
The route that Jesus took—to glory via suffering—is sometimes the same route that we take (Romans 8:17-18). Playing on the basic meaning of kavod (“weight” and “glory”), Paul quipped that our momentary light afflictions are an investment for a greater weight of future glory (2 Cor. 4:17). (NQ p.51-52)
- Read John 12:23-28. In what ways did the crucifixion bring glory to God?
Crucifixion led to the vindication of the resurrection. Resurrection glorified God by showing His power over death and it glorified Jesus by showing that He had been rightly aligned with God all the time, that everything He had said was true.
- In 1 Peter 5:10 what do Peter’s words about God calling us to His eternal glory mean in light of the rest of this chapter in The Name Quest?
God has destined us to share glory in Christ. The path to glory often leads through some kind of suffering because suffering tests our resolve to obey God no matter what. Suffering strengthens us in the image of Christ.
- a) Read Romans 8:17-18. Does any kind of suffering qualify?
Paul talks about suffering with Christ. Suffering that is not done because of Christ or in relationship with Him does not lead to glory. Self-centered or self-inflicted suffering, or suffering because of our own sin, crime, addictions, or poor choices do not qualify.
- a) In Exodus 33:7-10 the people chose to watch and worship at a distance while Moses visited with God. In what ways do we appoint proxies to approach God for us?
The most common way is probably to expect our leaders to seek God for us and give us all the answers, rather than going to God for ourselves. Perhaps our proxies are not people; perhaps they take the form of religious activities or gatherings.
b) What is a healthier role for us to give those people in our lives?
It is biblical to follow the example of more mature followers of Jesus and to be discipled by them. Discipleship means learning to hear the voice of God for ourselves and to obey Him out of faith and love. People can be an example of that and they can encourage us in that.
- a) How does God manifest His presence to His people today? b) Does it differ from Bible times? If so, in what ways?
The answer to these questions is that God may well make His presence known in the same ways as He did in the Bible. But we rarely hear of the phenomena recorded in the Old Testament, of earthquakes, fire and storm, for example. God frequently makes His presence felt by putting His love into our hearts, revealing His truth to our minds, and demonstrating His power in healing and other miracles.
- a) What do the different descriptions in Exodus 34:5-6 tell us about God wanting to reconcile relationship with us?
There are two sides to God’s character. He is faithful to His people, forgiving, patient, and merciful, but He also deals justly with sin. There are more attributes that make relationship with Him possible than there are attributes that we think of as distancing,
b) How do the “two seemingly negative qualities” fit in?
God punishes the guilty and “visits” iniquity down through several generations. They are only “seemingly negative” because He does those things out of His justice and as a discipline to restore His people to Himself.
- In Isaiah 48:9 God says, “For the sake of My name I delay My wrath.” How does delayed wrath benefit God’s name?
Because it shows His patience. It gives people time to repent and join those who gladly glorify Him.
- Do the statements in Exodus 33:19 and Romans 9:14-16 suggest that God is random and unpredictable or do they indicate something else?
Perhaps we read it with the idea that God rations His mercy and grace. But there is nothing to suggest that they are not abundant. God is sovereign, so He decides who He will show them to, but His desire is to include as many people as possible.
- a) If God were to speak the words of Exodus 34:10-17 today, what gods would He be referring to?
There could be many answers to this but perhaps we should include excessive dependence on relationships, career, and possessions. Things that we depend on, turn to for help, hope in, or dream for might have the place of a god for us.
The arrival of Greek pilgrims asking to see Jesus marked the hour for the Son of Man to be glorified. (NQ p.65)
- What is the significance of the visit of the Greeks in John 12:20-23?
It seemed to be a sign to Jesus that non-Jews were showing an interest in Him (though He had already done miracles for a few non-Jews). The good news was spreading as it was meant to.
- a) Read Luke 22:14; John 13:1; 16:32; 17:1; Mark 14:41. What do we learn about Jesus’ glorification?
There was a sense of gathering His followers to conclude their training. Glorification came through suffering, including the temporary scattering of His followers.
b) What do the verses mean by “the hour”?
Suffering was an expected and predicted ‘season’ for Christ.
- 2 Corinthians 3:18 speaks of our transformation. What brings about the transformation?
When we turn to the Lord and look at His glory in any way it changes us to be more like Him.
- Colossians 1:26-27 uses the phrase “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” How would you explain the phrase?
Christ comes to live in us through His Spirit. The Spirit is a down-payment or guarantee of future fullness. When Jesus returns we will be transformed to share His glory as God’s children. (My devotional blog ** expands on this.)
Until Jesus returns, the church is the brightest token of God’s glory, shining outside of heaven’s veil for the world to see. (NQ p.67)
- a) If we as individuals made the glorification of God in the world our highest goal what changes might we see?
The world would be more impressed with God and more likely to turn to Him.
b) What would our churches become like if they adopted that goal?
Many churches already want God’s glory. But perhaps there could be less emphasis on the church getting larger or more successful. Just as individuals can be self-centered so can churches. That would change.
- What does hallowing God’s name mean to us in practice (Matthew 6:9)?
To “hallow” comes from the word “holy,” which means “to set apart”. The name of God represents all that He is and does. So It means giving a special place to Him and His purposes. Respecting Him. Being devoted to Him.
- Do Joshua’s words in Joshua 24:19 still have relevance today?
It is still true that in our own strength we cannot serve God. Also, there are still other “gods” that lure us away from Him. But today we have the promise of His help and of forgiveness through Jesus.
- a) How would you explain the idea that we are destined to be filled to the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19)?
We cannot have the full quantity of God’s character in us but we can have the same qualities. Also, the body of Christ as a whole can demonstrate more of the fullness of God. (My devotional blog **expands on this.)
- How do you reconcile the fact that God had a covenant with Israel with His warning to them to obey Him (Deuteronomy 4:23-24)?
Covenants are two sided. Although God fulfills the hardest part, we still need to remain committed to Him exclusively. Although we might fail to live up to His standards sometimes, God is pleased when we want to obey Him.
In Israel during the monarchy, the valley of Hinnom, which was just south of Jerusalem, served as the municipal dump. Sooty plumes and pungent odors regularly wafted through the streets. When garbage collection services are not provided, homeowners must dispose of their own trash. I spent one summer at a Christian conference center on Mount Carmel in Israel. No garbage truck stopped there. Instead, we had a large open pit behind the buildings. It was ten feet deep, strewn with rocks, and overgrown with thorns at the edges. We tossed our waste over a low wall into the pit. The heap grew until a volunteer climbed down, wary of snakes basking among the rocks, and put a match to it. One biblical word for hell, Gehenna, derives from ge Hinnom, the valley of Hinnom. It is an apt picture of hell. Hell is a cosmic burn pit for the devil and his angels; God never intended it for humans. However, if we trash our relationship with God on earth, we get consigned to an eternity without Him. (NQ p.74)
- Based on this description, how would you explain to someone how they can avoid hell?
By taking our relationship with God seriously and asking Him to clean us up and fix us when we fail Him.
- Is John 17:3 the best definition of eternal life? What others can you suggest?
It is the quality of life that God has. It lasts for ever. But Jesus’ definition of relationship with God is probably the best.
In Isaiah 33:14-16 Isaiah described “the practical righteousness of a people who avoid evil and are scrupulously honest.” (NQ p.75)
- Does the idea of “practical righteousness” fit in Christianity? What does it look like?
When we turn to Jesus in faith, confess our sins and receive His forgiveness our sincerity is seen in our willingness to do what He says. Jesus calls His followers to live differently, God’s way.
- Sometimes we wish that God would judge evil sooner than He seems to. To what extent is that a biblical attitude or not?
Many people in the Bible called for judgment and wanted it quickly. However, God wants people to repent, and He gives them time to do so.
- Is the fear of sinners different from the fear of those who are considered righteous? In what ways?
“Fear of God” is a mixture of terror and reverence. Sinners who are unwilling to change live with the terror. When we agree with God about our sin and allow Him to change us the terror lessens and the respect or reverence grows.
Exodus 20:20 says, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” (Ex. 20:20) How could Moses say, “Don’t be afraid” and in the same breath talk about a lasting fear? (NQ p.77)
- a) How do you answer the question in the text?
The fear is of potential punishment, but when we pass His “test” by avoiding sin then we have no need to be afraid.
b) In light of this paragraph, how would you define fear of God?
Fear has to do with respecting or revering Him, taking Him seriously, trusting that the way He calls us to live really is the best for us and everyone else.
- How does 1 Timothy 6:1-2 apply to our economic system?
We have to update the meaning since slavery is no longer a norm. The verses can apply to any kind of employer – employee relationship.
- In what ways are we tempted to do what Malachi 1:6-7 describes?
We are tempted to give God less than the best of our lives, or only part of our lives.
The cross provides the broadest, most balanced and appealing perspective on God. The friendly and the fierce met at Calvary. Jesus bore God’s just judgment in His act of supreme substitutional love for us. The crucifixion combined God’s burning wrath against sin with His deep love for us. Only Jesus could bear the combination.
This combination of justice and love is central to God’s heart. Six times in the Bible the Holy One of Israel is called Redeemer. On the cross, God lifted up both justice and love to demonstrate that He is both “a Righteous God and a Savior” (Isaiah 45:21). (NQ p.83)
- What is the significance of these combinations?
For us, God’s love and judgment do not seem to fit together. But that is the measure of the glory of God. Within Him are combined both characteristics and they are both good. Jesus bore the “fierce” so that we could enjoy the “friendly”.
- a) What does Colossians 1:19-23 tell us about God’s peace making process?
The good news is that when Jesus shed His blood and died on the cross He paid the penalty for our sin. That bought reconciliation to God because we were then counted as holy.
b) Are there any conditions?
To receive and continue in that reconciliation we must, in faith, accept what Jesus did.
18. a) What are the two mountains that are compared in Hebrews 12:18-24?
Mount Sinai (called Horeb in a few places) and Mount Zion. The first represents the law (it was given to Moses there). The second stands for the eternal dwelling of God with His people (the city of the living God).
b) What makes the difference in the way that we approach them?
Jesus and His sprinkled blood. He mediated a new covenant with God. Through faith in Him we do not come under the judgment that Mount Sinai pointed to.
- Does the Law fit in the Christian life? If so, how does it fit?
Yes. But it is no longer the standard which we have to meet to have access to God. Our relationship with the Father is through Jesus. The Law tells us of the holiness of God and shows us how much we need Jesus. As followers of Jesus we have new lives; the Holy Spirit lives in us. He empowers us to live to please God. Parts of the Law still describe the life of God’s people (but our motive is love, not fear); other parts (sacrificial rituals, for example) are no longer valid practices.
- Do you still feel uncomfortable discussing holiness? In what ways, and why?
Some people will feel uncomfortable because there is still a sense of shame and failure or a requirement to perform. None of those feelings are necessary, because of Jesus.
The Law signposted blessings; it defined how to have a satisfying relationship with God. God’s Law marked the boundary of the blessed life, but it was nonetheless His welcoming invitation to that life. God did not say “be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy” (Lev. 19:2) to ruin lives and spoil people’s fun. The Law spelled out how to succeed at life. (NQ p.82)
- What other things has God done or provided for us to succeed at life and obey His command to be holy (see also Lev. 20:26; Eph. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:15)?
The Holy Spirit. The example of Jesus and other mature followers in the Bible and in history and our churches. Encouragement from brothers and sisters in Him.
A healthy relationship with the Lord grows in two directions. On the one hand, we develop a deepening knowledge of and reverence for the Holy and Righteous One. On the other hand, we develop a stronger grasp of the peace that Jesus obtained for us. Knowing the good news in light of the bad deepens our relationships with the Lord God. (NQ p.87)
- How can we ensure that our relationship with the Lord continues to grow in both directions?
Reading the Bible in a balanced way (not just a few favorite passages, but as much of it as we can over time). The Bible presents both the holiness of God and the work of Jesus.
- In what sense does our worship magnify God?
Worship declares God’s worth. It exalts Him, or declares how high He is. It magnifies Him—helping us see how great He is (like a telescope) but also highlighting the details of His beautiful character (like a magnifying glass). (My devotional blog **expands on this.) In essence, worship is surrender. We surrender to Him when we know He is worth it.
- What is the significance of the captain’s statement in Joshua 5:15?
God does not take our side. He requires us to align with Him, to be on His side. Often our perspective on life is polarized—we think one way is right to the exclusion of another way. In God things are often different. His wisdom is not of this world. When we invite Him to show us His will we are often surprised at how a different way of looking at things is revealed to us.
- What contrasts are there between “the gods” and “God” in Jeremiah 10:11-16?
The gods did not create anything and have no power over creation. The images are deceitful because they are lifeless. They will perish.
- We often quote Psalm 46:10, but in what ways does the rest of the psalm make the verse more significant?
God is mighty and unchanging. He helps His people.
- Praise and prayer often belong together. If Exodus 17:9-13 is a picture of intercession, how does it help explain the relationship between praise and prayer?
Moses’ uplifted arms are a picture of intercession but the staff is important too. It was the instrument of leadership. Moses lifted it to the Lord perhaps as an act of surrender and acknowledgment of his need for the leading of God. Surrender is an essence of worship. It aligns us with the will of God and releases what He wants to do.
a) In 1 Peter 2:4-8, is Peter describing two different responses to Jesus? b) What are they and how do they differ?
As living stones we offer ourselves as spiritual sacrifices. Unbelievers stumble over Jesus, the Living Stone. They disobey because they do not trust Him. As a result they stumble and are offended.
c) Who responds in each way?
Believers and unbelievers.
- What does it mean to “hand the Holy Spirit the keys to our life”? (NQ p.97)
It means to give Him permission and invitation to come into our lives and do whatever He needs to make us more like Jesus.
- How do you distinguish between condemnation and conviction?
Condemnation is broad and unspecified. Conviction of the Holy Spirit points at specific thoughts or actions and shows the way to change.
- b) What lessons are there for you in 2 Samuel 6?
Probably lessons about making pursuit of the presence of God our highest priority. This could be broader and more detailed for each person.
- In Isaiah 31:4-6 what are the people of Israel called to do so that the Lord of Hosts can protect them from their enemies?
Simply return to Him.
- Read Zechariah 14:16-21. In what ways will the nations become prepared to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts?
They will begin to worship God. And holiness will be part of everyday life for the people who dwell with God.
- a) How do you feel after reading passages like Isaiah 40:6-8?
Many will feel small, temporary, or futile. Others will be grateful that in God there is a lasting life.
b) What comfort is implied in these verses for those who have experienced new birth in Christ?
We are alive in the Spirit even though the flesh dies.
- How would you answer Pilate’s question, “What is truth?”?
Perhaps one answer is that it is an eternally established fact beyond the temporary or the opinion. There are other possible answers.
- a) In what ways does Revelation 1:7-18 connect Jesus, the Son of Man, with the Ancient of Days as He is described in Daniel 7:9, 13, 22?
The quotation in Revelation 1:7 is from Dan. 7:13, which is about the Messiah but the title “Alpha and Omega” is similar to what is said of God the Father in Isaiah 41:4. The description of Jesus is almost the same as the description of the Ancient of Days in Daniel. Several other descriptions of God in the Old Testament are woven in too.
b) What does this tell us about the nature of Jesus?
Jesus is God become man. He is one with God.
- b) How does that compare with Jesus’ definition in John 17:3?
Jesus said that eternal life is to know the true God and Jesus. It is a revelation received by faith and it is a relationship with God.
c) What other definitions can you suggest?
Everlasting life. Abundant life. The life of a person who is formed in the image of God living in the way God lives (to a lesser degree, of course).
- Why does knowing God make us strong and active? (Daniel 11:32)
Because when we are full of the knowledge of God we are confident, full of faith, aware of His will and ways so that we can act and speak in the right way for Him.
Four kinds of idols are mentioned on pages 114-115 of The Name Quest.
- Objects like religious statues.
- Excessive desires.
- Religious legalism.
- Images made to represent spiritual beings.
- In 1 Corinthians 8:4-6; 10:14-22, Paul says that idols are not really gods. So how and why should we deal with the four different kinds of idolatrous behavior?
Anything that we put trust in or serve in some way takes up at least a part of the place that God should have in our lives. It depends how a person thinks and feels about something like a religious icon. Some people see no value in them beyond the artistic value; others see something more.
Excessive desires easily dominate and damage our lives and need to be removed for spiritual and practical reasons.
Religious legalism blocks us from relationship with God and fools us into thinking that we are OK (or that we are failing miserably and there is no hope).
Images that are directly linked to spiritual entities must be shunned. They can easily gain spiritual influence over people if people trust them or live in terror of them. Demonic forces easily operate through them.
- a) What are the elements of Hezekiah’s prayer argument and the main reason for his request in Isaiah 37:8-20?
Hezekiah begins with Yahweh’s supreme greatness as the creator and the God of all nations. He asks Him to listen to the mockery and threats. He wants God to demonstrate that He is real while the gods of other nations are not. Based on those things he asks for deliverance.
- a) In Galatians 4:3-11, who was Paul speaking to?
All those who used to follow other gods or superstitions.
b) In what ways do his words apply to us today?
Whenever we give value to ideas or practices that compete against God’s ways they might apply.
- What is the significance of what Elijah did and said in 1 Kings 18:20-40?
He began with a challenge in verse 21: to choose the true God. The contest demonstrated that Yahweh was the only true and living God.
- How could anyone accuse Jesus of using Beelzebul’s authority (Matthew 10:25; 12:24-27; Mark 3:22-26; Luke 11:15, 18-19)? What were they thinking?
They hated the idea that Jesus could upset their traditions. That made it easy for them to think He was an evil imposter. From there they concluded that He was in league with the devil. But Jesus explained that the argument was illogical, which left only their biased hatred of Him as the reason for their mockery.
- If you had to teach someone about the number of the beast in Revelation 13:18, what are the most important points to include? Which is the most important?
The meaning of the number is very unclear but it is probably code for a Roman emperor. What matters most is that it indicates human rather than divine qualities. Yet our true identity is in Christ.
Another delegate in Satan’s evil scheme is the Antichrist, who opposes Christ and is a dark alternative to Him. The Antichrist denies the Father and the Son, and Jesus’ incarnation. John called him a deceiver and a liar. He mentioned many human antichrists who were once part of the church. One overarching agent, the spirit of Antichrist, controls them all. (NQ p.118)
- a) Based on the meaning of “Antichrist,” what kind of activities, entities, and individuals tend to display the spirit of Antichrist today?
Most obvious are those who follow occult beliefs. However, there are many that claim alternative power, including anything or anyone that presents as a wonderful solution to the world’s problems. The Antichrist will not become prominent by being obvious or unpopular, so beware.
b) How should we respond or help others to respond?
Teach and reinforce the truths about God. Warn about the mechanisms of deception and what makes people vulnerable.
- a) How would you define true worship?
Perhaps the answers will include surrender/submission, obedience, putting God in the highest place, telling of how great He is.
Temptation is another one of Satan’s businesses. He successfully tempted David to count Israel. As the tempter, Satan confronted Jesus in the wilderness. In Eden, he deceptively tempted Eve to “be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5, 13). Instead of receiving 20/20 vision, humans grew spiritual cataracts, our moral insight became smeared, and we fell from God’s intended glory. The god of this world continues to blind eyes to the “light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:3–4). (NQ p.120)
- What do we learn about spiritual conflict from events in Eden (Genesis 2:9, 15-17; 3:1-24)?
All the trees in the garden looked and tasted good but God said to not eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The Fall happened because Adam and Eve did what looked good instead of obeying God. The serpent questioned and twisted God’s words.
- Satan offered a form of knowledge. Why did God not provide that knowledge to Adam and Eve?
Perhaps God wanted them to learn the knowledge from Him. He may have wanted them to grow in wisdom so they could handle the knowledge correctly. It seems that God included discernment of good and evil in His longer term plan for maturity but that it would come through practice (Heb. 5:14).
- How are knowledge and wisdom related, and how does Proverbs 1:7 influence your answer?
Wisdom enables us to correctly handle knowledge. We gain knowledge from respecting God.
- a) What does false prophecy include?
Anything that is not revealed by God could be included. Things that come from the imaginations or agendas of people or from evil spirits count. False prophecy does not reveal or correctly reflect the character and will of God. Its predictions are wrong.
b) How should we test prophecy (1 John 4:1-6)?
John says that false prophets who do not confess that Jesus came in the flesh are influenced by the spirit of antichrist. We could add that true prophecy is consistent with God’s will and ways, therefore biblical and seeking God’s kingdom and glory.
- a) Make a list of spiritual weapons.
Ephesians 6:10-17 provides a list. We could add humility and prayer.
b) What weapons does Paul refer to in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5?
He refers to weapons that destroy speculations and anything that interferes with knowing God. They take thoughts captive so that Jesus is obeyed. This probably includes teaching and exhortation.
- Is it fair to say that Satan has “little real power”? (NQ p.121)
The statement is carefully worded. Satan does have some power but it is mostly dependent on our wrong thinking which allows deception. When we walk with God in obedience based on love and faith, we are in the safest place.
- Where does our authority in the spiritual battle come from (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-18; Acts 1:8)?
From Jesus’ commands to us and His delegation of authority.
- What are the contrasts between God and Satan?
Satan is limited in power; God is all-powerful.
Satan is evil; God is good.
Satan promotes himself; God is secure and can bless others.
Satan destroys; God creates and gives life.
Satan induces fear; God loves.
Oaths often invoke an authority figure. To swear by someone is to appeal to them as a witness of the truth of a statement; the highest available authority is usually chosen. David and Jonathan swore loyalty to each other in God’s name. When God made His promise to Abraham, “since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself” (Heb. 6:13). He used expressions like, “as I live” (Num. 14:21). No authority is higher than God. (NQ p.124)
- a) Are there other things that God could have said in an oath instead of, “as I live”?
Perhaps, “as I am” or “by my greatness”, but they amount to about the same thing.
b) Why do you think God chose this phrase?
That God lives sets Him far above false gods. And His life is eternal and of a supreme quality not seen in any other life-form.
The fact that God has Satan on a leash does not make Him the source of evil. Evil comes from Satan, often as a consequence of human choices. Of course, God could instantly eradicate all evil, but that would override our free will and turn us into robots. Free will is the only context for a true love relationship. (NQ p.126)
- How would you explain the two highlighted sentences to someone who is struggling with evil in the world?
Some people think that because God allows evil, He is responsible for it. Evil comes from Satan and/or humans by deliberate acts or by neglect. God allows evil to remain for a time so that humans have a chance to turn to Him by free choice. The alternative would be to judge evil not just to eradicate it. In judging those who do evil God would end their opportunity to turn to Him.
- 2 Chronicles 32:13-19 and 1 Kings 20:28 describe mockery and misunderstanding. What form do these things take today and how should we combat them?
Any ways in which God’s power and character are belittled, or the significance of other forces or authorities is made to look bigger. We combat them by restoring correct perspective on each side.
- In what ways did Jesus demonstrate the four broad characteristics of God—life, love, power and life-giving (NQ p. 123-127)?
Life: Rising from the dead.
Love: Being gentle and caring for people’s needs.
Power: Over sickness, natural forces, and demonic power.
Life-giving: Improving lives and raising a few people like Lazarus.
- a) Matthew 16:18 says that “The gates of Hades shall not prevail against” the church. Which party is the aggressor (Hades or the church)?
In Jesus’ words, the gates try to prevail against the church. They are not attacking; they are trying to protect Hades from the church. Church is the aggressor.
b) What do we learn from this about our role in the spiritual conflict?
We don’t need such a defensive mentality. The role of the church of Jesus’ followers is to extend His kingdom. That means overcoming Satan’s lies with truth, freeing his captives and bringing justice and righteousness.
- Read pages 128-129 in The Name Quest. In what ways do each of the three Hebrew words for “champion” apply to Jesus?
He showed His might over Satan and his demons. He came between Satan and humans to deliver us from Satan’s grip. He won many contests against Satan and ultimately defeated sin and death on the cross.
- b) Is it a problem if someone has little or no experience? Why, or why not?
Experience of God’s faithfulness and deliverance certainly strengthens our faith. It is part of how we grow. But faith always starts with what God has said is true and what He calls us to obey. Faith does not depend on experience. We make a choice to trust God and obey. That happens with or without experience.
- What safeguards are mentioned in 1 John 5:18-21?
Remembering that we are born of God into a new life helps us remain in His care. Jesus gives us understanding of Him and our place in Him. Guarding ourselves from idols that compete with God also keeps us safe.
- How can we guard ourselves from idols (1 John 5:21)?
Keeping Jesus central. Being aware of things that become very important to us. Asking the Holy Spirit to convict us of idolatry and then turning from them.
Apart from Judaism, Islam is the most similar religion to Christianity. (NQ p.132)
- Do you agree with that statement? Why, or why not?
Islam is monotheistic (believes in one God only). Much of the Quran is an adaptation of parts of the Bible. Jesus and many of the biblical prophets are mentioned in the Quran. Allah is described in some similar ways to God.
Many people will emphasize that the differences are huge. However, as it stands, the statement is true. There are no other religions that are as similar to Christianity as Islam and Judaism.
People who convert to Christianity from a Muslim background find it appropriate to use the name Allah for God, though some call Him “Allah al Ab” (God the Father) to highlight an important distinction. (NQ p.132)
- The use of “Allah” as a name for the God of the Bible by some Muslim converts to Christianity makes some people uncomfortable. How would you answer objectors?
The word “Allah” was part of the language of Arabia before Mohammed adopted it as the word for the god he spoke about. Other languages choose commonly used words to speak of the God of the Bible (including the English word, “God”). The word used is far less important than the biblical characteristics that we know Him by.
- Do you think that Jesus intended His claim in John 14:6 to be exclusive? Explain your answer.
Jesus is like a door to relationship with the Father. He might have been emphasizing that He was the only door. But He might also have been making clear that there is a way for everyone to know the Father and that the door is signposted and not locked. Don’t waste your time on what look like other doors, there are no others.
- a) Does Acts 15:14-19 suggest that God has replaced the Jewish people in His plan?
No. The tabernacle of David is also restored. The Gentiles are being added to the Jews, who more naturally fit the place of God’s people because they had the prophets and promises of God.
b) What other New Testament passages shed light on God’s plan for the Jews? What do they tell us?
Romans 9-11 is the main passage. It tells us how the Jews have temporarily rejected the news of Jesus but will one day be grafted back into God’s family through accepting Jesus.
Galatians 3 talks of the blessing of Abraham coming to the world. The Jews (like all of us) were always meant to live by faith, not by Law.
The book of Hebrews explains God’s plan in detail from the Old Testament to help Jewish followers of Jesus as well as Gentile followers.
- What can the created world tell us about God? What can it not tell us? Look at Romans 1:18-25 to help form your answer.
It tells us about His power and many other attributes. But it does not tell us about reconciliation to God through Jesus and the new life we have in His Spirit.
- What ground rules of love and respect would you suggest for anyone who is sharing the gospel with an unbeliever?
If we define love as seeking the best for someone on the understanding that the best is always found in a relationship with God then we would express our desire for their best. That means showing our care for them and our interest in them and their needs and gifts. Relationship with God is always a choice, so we cannot argue or coerce people into following Jesus; we must respect their current position and their freedom to change or not.
- 2 Corinthians 3:3 gives the church a central place in God’s purposes. What other passages can you think of that do the same thing?
Ephesians 1:22-23; 3:10; 1 Peter 2:4-10 and perhaps others.
An unbending line divides lives into two periods. On one side are “times of ignorance.” On the other side is a time of crucial knowledge about Jesus. The line demands that we decide whether to repent and believe in Jesus or not. When the gospel is proclaimed to someone, they cross the line. Paul implied, “Athenians, your ignorance is over. I have told you about Jesus and His resurrection. Now, how will you respond to His claims?” (NQ p.143)
- a) Do you agree that the unbending line lies where the author says it does? b) Is it really “the unbending front line of missions”? c) If you disagree, where would you place the line and how would you define it?
Some might argue that understanding all about Jesus and what He has made available to us comes gradually. In that sense the line is wide and gradually becomes clearer. However, there is a point where the claims of Jesus are understood and have to be responded to.
- Why do missionaries try to change other people’s beliefs?
Our relationship with God is reconciled when we believe in the claims of Jesus. Missionaries rightly want people to come to believe in Him. Also, beliefs are the root of all our behavior; we don’t really change until we believe differently. However, it is wrong to think that everything about a culture needs to change. Cultural practices and beliefs need to be compared with biblical ones. Some will not be at odds with the Bible.
- Why can’t people be left to their own religions?
Without a relationship with God in this life, people cannot receive resurrection life. Jesus taught clearly that He is the only way to relationship with the Father.
- a) What does James 4:4-5 mean by “friendship with the world”?
Living in the world’s ways. Agreeing with the world’s values. Where those things disagree with God’s.
b) Does his phrase expand on the Old Testament prohibition to worship other gods?
It is easy to dismiss worship of gods as irrelevant to our culture. James uses language that makes it harder to ignore our compromises.
- In Zephaniah 1:18; 3:8-9, 12, what protects a remnant from God’s wrath?
Humility, lowliness, waiting on the Lord, and taking refuge in His name (which means being immersed in what His name represents: His will and ways).
- What is the modern western equivalent of the situation that Hosea describes in Hosea 2:5-6, 8-15?
Thinking that everything we need comes from our own efforts or from other sources rather than recognizing God as the provider and protector. Sometimes God interferes with our comfortable lives to help us turn back to Him.
- To whom do God’s words in Isaiah 62:1-5 apply?
The church, the people of God.
- What did Mark point out about Jesus’ action in the temple (Mark 11:15-17)?
Mark includes the statement that the temple was intended as a house of prayer for all people groups, not only Jews.
- a) According to Isaiah 56:3-7 what did God want Israel to do with respect to the temple?
Keep it open for all peoples to worship the Lord.
b) In what ways do these verses apply to the church?
Church should always be wide open for any seekers or worshippers to join. The barriers between different kinds of people should no longer separate the people of God (Eph. 2:11-22; Col. 3:11).
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- What does the parable in Luke 15:1-32 tell us about the nature of God as our Father?
Father longs for relationships with Him to be restored. He loves all of His children the same, though we may not be able to receive it equally. He quickly forgives and restores us when we turn back to Him. He gives us authority (the ring) in His kingdom business. He provides for us. He likes it when we ask Him for provision and blessings in faith that He enjoys providing and has all the resources we could ever need.
- a) To what extent is Jesus’ relationship with the Father unique?
Jesus had great clarity about His oneness with the Father and being sent by Him on a special mission.
b) To what extent can we follow His model?
Perhaps we can never honestly answer to what extent we can be like Jesus. The answer depends on how much we surrender to the work of the Holy Spirit in making us like Him. The more we do so, the more we will become like Him. In this life none of us will be perfect but our perfection in God’s eyes is from faith in Him anyway.
- Does it seem strange that the Son of God would learn obedience through suffering (Hebrews 5:8)? Discuss that in light of Philippians 2:5-9, Hebrews 2:9-10, 14-18, and 4:14-16.
The verse is not saying that Jesus was ever disobedient. It can only mean that His obedience was tested and grew stronger. That could only happen through situations that tempted Jesus on the deepest most painful levels. Jesus’ obedience was also a sign of His humility. That humility led to His exaltation. His victory over the temptation to dodge suffering is an example to us of how to respond and the blessings that result.
- In light of Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Matthew 6:5-13 and 7:7-11, is there any place for formal (or liturgical) prayer in the Christian life?
Jesus presented prayer as simple conversation with the Father done in faith. That is surely always the best way. Liturgy easily becomes rote and mindless. However, liturgy can help us in a few ways alongside simple conversational prayer. The language is often carefully crafted to be full of awe and reverence for God. Liturgy also provides a framework for praying more broadly, about things that might otherwise never occur to us.
- What do just those two words “Our Father” (Matt. 6:9) teach about relationships in the family of God?
Relationships are horizontal (with other followers of Jesus) and vertical (with the Father).
A sense of belonging has already begun, and it is reflected in the word “Christian.” James referred to “the fair name by which you have been called” (James 2:7). The family likeness, which the “fair name” points to, implies increasing love and righteousness, and diminishing sinfulness. (NQ p.156)
- What does it really mean to be a “Christian”?
2 Cor. 1:21 is probably a play on words in the Greek original. We are “in Christ” (that title means “the Anointed One”). God anoints us, so “Christian” means “little anointed ones”. We are anointed with the Holy Spirit of Jesus to live like Jesus. Perhaps a better way of referring to “Christians” is the more active and deliberate “followers of Jesus”.
- John emphasizes in 1 John 3:1-3 that we are children of God. Do you feel you need to do anything to be sure that you are God’s child?
The Holy Spirit gives us assurance; we should not need to do anything to be sure once we have given ourselves to trust and follow Jesus.
Maturity lies in a place of balance between God working in us and us allowing Him to. (NQ p.158)
- a) What does this mean?
There are things that God initiates in us. Some happen with little involvement from us; others need us to surrender to His working.
- a) Do you “pour out your soul” to God (Ps. 42:3-4)? b) What does that involve in your case?
It should include honesty before God and might include positive and/or negative emotions.
- David spoke of breakers and waves rolling over him (Psalm 42:7-9). How do you avoid letting circumstances rob you of satisfaction in God?
David took the storms of life to God frankly, which opened the door for God to meet him in the midst of them. We can do the same. We can remind ourselves that God is faithful and greater than our circumstances. When we stand firm in what He calls us to then He eventually brings us through. There is hope in that.
- In what practical ways can you begin to speak to or exercise your soul as the psalmists did in the following verses: Psalms 25:1; 35:9, 13; 62:1, 5; 63:8; 103:1-5; 108:1; 116:7; 130:5-6; 131:2?
We can learn to cultivate deep inner silence and waiting, which might coincide with times of fasting. We can focus ourselves on God, remembering who He is and what He does. That is a source of praise and blessing of God.
- What do the following say about our joy: Nehemiah 8:10; Psalms 5:11; 16:1-11; Isaiah 51:11?
The joy of the Lord is our strength. We find joy and gladness when we take refuge in the presence of God. As He delivers us we experience joy.
- What “view” of God did each of the following have: Elijah, Hezekiah, Shadrach and friends, Daniel?
Elijah knew God’s sovereignty over demonic gods and idols. He learned that God never abandoned His people or left Himself without a remnant.
Hezekiah experienced God’s deliverance against all odds.
Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego experienced the vindication and deliverance of God as they stood firm on His command to avoid unclean foods and not to worship idols. They also received wisdom from Him that blessed even the pagan nation they were in.
We need to respect those who know the biblical God in a slightly different way due to their cultural background or the experiences He has brought them through. (NQ p.171)
- Are there any exceptions to this statement?
So long as the knowledge of others is consistent with Scripture then it is legitimate. We can probably learn new perspectives on God from them. But God is not defined by our cultures or experiences; He is beyond them all.
The events surrounding the exodus from Egypt are the background for the following statement: The nation was encouraged in one basic item of faith: God looks after His people because they belong to Him. (NQ p.172)
- In what ways are the highlighted words true for Christians?
When we put our faith in Jesus we become part of the family of God. If we allow ourselves to be caught up in His purposes then we will experience the provision, protection and fruitfulness of God. Being His people implies that we are learning to live His ways and become like Him. That increasingly brings us under the shadow of His care.
- a) Genesis 12:1-3 speaks of God blessing Abraham so that the blessing would overflow to the nations. What blessings did God promise Abraham?
Blessings, including to become a great nation and to have a great name. All in a land that God would show.
b) What blessings did God say Abraham would give to others?
He did not specify, but promised blessings to all the families of the earth.
- a) Read Genesis 14:17-24. Three names occur in this passage (El elyon, Possessor of heaven and earth, Yahweh). Who used which names?
Melchizedek was priest of El elyon and blessed Abram in that name and in the name of the Possessor of heaven and earth. He also blessed El elyon for giving Abram victory.
Abram spoke to the king of Sodom about his oath to Yahweh, El elyon, possessor of heaven and earth.
b) What is the significance of the pattern?
Abram identifies El elyon as Yahweh, Possessor of heaven and earth, his sole provider. That was a new spin on what Melchizedek understood about El elyon; he had never known Him as Yahweh.
- Genesis 15 is an example of God’s patience with Abraham’s unbelief. Why was God so patient?
Because His purpose was clear and strong and He knew Abraham would grow in faith in Him.
- Apart from Genesis 15, which other biblical covenants include eating and/or drinking?
The Lord’s Supper.
God’s dealings with people fit a pattern: when we reach the end of ourselves, the Almighty meets us. While we rely on our own abilities and ideas, we exclude God; when we sprawl helplessly on our faces, we give Him room to work. (NQ p.179)
- Is it possible to rely solely on the Lord without reaching the end of ourselves?
Humility involves recognizing our failings and limitations so that we discount ourselves and look to the Lord. In theory we could be completely humble without reaching our end.
El shaddai left marks on Abram and Sarai by changing their names (Gen. 17:4–5, 15–16). Abram, the “exalted father,” became Abraham, “father of a multitude,” emphasizing God’s commitment to providing descendants. There may be significance in the insertion of the h; it’s a sound that uses extra breath, and it is a letter from Yahweh’s own name. God’s Spirit breathed into Abraham more divine life resources. Similarly, Sarai became Sarah. God also required the circumcision of Abraham and all males in his household (Gen. 17:9–14). It was a physical mark of the covenant, indicating inner transformation and a stripping away of self-dependence. We all need an infusion of the Almighty’s life to transform us into new men and women. (NQ p.179)
- a) What is the New Testament equivalent of God’s transformation of Abraham?
The Holy Spirit gives us new life; we become new creatures in Christ.
- a) In Genesis 18 what does God say was the purpose of Abraham observing how God dealt with the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah?
Genesis 18:17-19 suggests that God was preparing Abraham to teach the nations more about Him, notably about righteousness and justice.
b) What does the incident teach us about prayer?
Many people think this passage teaches that we can persuade God to change His mind by repeatedly coming to Him. Though there is some truth in the idea of prayer influencing God, this passage does not support that idea because it ends with Abram requesting mercy on ten righteous people. There were not that many righteous people in Sodom and Gomorrah but God arranged for them to leave anyway. That shows His justice on the righteous and His mercy exceeding Abraham’s request. He destroyed the wicked cities as an act of just judgment on sin. Abram had a conversation with God and learned how righteousness and justice interacted in this case.
c) What does it have to do with Genesis 12:1-3 and Exodus 19:5-6?
Israel was chosen as a special treasure on display to the nations to show them how great a nation can be when it is in relationship with God. This is central to the children of Abraham being a blessing to all nations. Other nations should be attracted to the same relationship because of the people of God.
- What is the connection between “fearing” God and faith in God?
We respect Him and know that His will is best for us even if it does not appeal to our nature. We can trust that when we do what he says He will bless us.
- Describe what a healthy connection between faith and works looks like.
We serve and obey God out of love for Him and trust in Him, not to qualify us or to earn something from Him.
- Read Genesis 22:13-14. Is Yahweh yireh (sometimes, Jehovah Jireh) a name of God?
Actually, it is a statement made over the mountain (Moriah) where God provided a sacrifice in place of Isaac. But it works well as a name for God because it expresses part of His nature.
- a) Consider Genesis 22:15-18. God had already made a similar promise, doesn’t repeating it devalue it? What is going on here?
Sometimes God adds details to His promises. He restated it as a reminder and also as an affirmation of Abraham passing the test of faith-filled obedience.
b) What new statements are made and what is the significance of them?
God swore to do this. Abraham had learned to obey to a new degree. He was ready for fulfillment of the rest of the promise.
- Look at the times when El shaddai’s covenant promises were passed on to Abraham’s descendants (Gen. 28:1-4; 35:9-15; 48:3-4). What similarities are there with the times when Abram was given promises (Gen. 12:1-3; 13:14-17; 15:4-5, 18; 17:1-8)?
Isaac sent Jacob on a journey just as God sent Abram. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel. He used the name El Shaddai.
- a) How do you feel about the claim that our emptiness is the best preparation for El Shaddai to fill us? b) Consider how it applied to Naomi’s life (Ruth 1:20-21 has the name Shaddai)?
Naomi was desperate because she had lost her husband and both sons and was living in famine-stricken Moab. As a widow, her future was extremely insecure.
- What is the spiritual DNA of the “family of Abraham” of which we are a part?
Faith in God is probably the most important part. But Abraham is also an example to us of how God accepts grains of faith and helps us to grow in faith. He is patient with us.
In the best relationships, after many years together, little remains for couples to discover about each other. The relational learning curve plateaus. It requires extra effort to nurture the relationship, find out new things, enjoy fresh experiences together, and grow closer. Love must be innovative for a relationship to continue deepening.
We can become bored and simply drift along in our relationships with God too. Having read a lot of the Bible, we assume we know what it says. We have heard the sermons before and sung all the good songs. For some people, pain has poisoned the relationship, or frustration about an unmet goal has stifled it. Maybe we think our past sin hinders new depth. It can be hard to find fresh fire in our walk with God. (NQ p.187)
- What might be the signs if your own relationship ever reaches a plateau?
Boredom, lack of things to talk about, loss of interest, complacency and a sense that we know all there is to know. Perhaps some things make it too painful to relate in certain ways. Worse, we start being drawn to other relationships or things that offer satisfaction.
- For a long time Jacob had a second-hand relationship with God. How can a person in that condition develop a more personal and first-hand relationship with God?
Begin by asking God through His Spirit to make it more personal. Develop personal disciplines like reading the Bible and meditating on it, praying, worshiping in your own times. Take seriously the things God tells us to do because obedience is a response of love and faith.
Notice that Jacob’s opponent appeared as a man. How often do we demand, “God, unless I experience a supernatural visitation, I will not respond”? However, God usually mixes His presence and power with the down-to-earth. It takes a strong sense of desire and humility to meet God on His terms and to admit that an apparently earthy and human vessel is somehow God’s face-to-face representative (Gen. 32:30). Jacob fought for God in the ordinary. (NQ p.190-191)
- What does it mean to wrestle for God’s blessing in our lives today? (NQ p.190-191)
Our determination is seen when we make sacrifices. That could mean giving God time, obeying Him by being generous, observing the Sabbath, and forgoing pleasures that distract from Him. It can mean persevering in prayer, perhaps fasting, waiting for Him to answer.
- Jacob paid the price for God’s blessing by accepting and admitting his true identity. Why does admitting our true, fallen identity allow God to give us a new one?
It is an act of humility and an admission of our need for Him to give us new life.
- a) What differences do you notice between the blessing given to Jacob by Isaac and that given to Jacob by God (Genesis 27:27-29 and 35:10-12)?
Isaac spoke of earthly abundance and honor from the nations and his family. God promised a legacy of descendants, kings and nations as well as a land. God’s promise went beyond Jacob’s life.
- Why do you think Rebekah was unable to trust in God’s prophetic promise to her (Genesis 25:22-23) but instead chose to teach Jacob to scheme (Genesis 27:5-17)?
Presumably she did not trust the Lord’s explanation about why her twins were struggling in the womb. God prophesied that the younger one would become dominant even though, in that culture, it was not normal. She trusted her scheming more than God’s ability.
Isn’t it remarkable that God would allow His name to be associated with His people’s name? The association is tolerable when Israel aligns herself with God and enjoys His blessing and triumph. However, there was the distinct possibility that after one of Israel’s shameful moments someone would sneer at the idea of “worshiping their God!” First impressions of God often derive from His people’s example. Imagine what Muslims surmise about the God who was represented by the crosses on the battle shields of sword-bearing Christian crusaders. What do our cities learn about God from our churches? What impressions do our friends get of the Jesus we claim as Lord on our car bumpers and T-shirts? It’s sobering to consider the messages our lives convey. Why isn’t God more careful?
In reality, we do not define God. At best, we are a dim reflection of who He is. He does not change, even if we do. (NQ p.192)
- So why does our representation of God matter?
We are His ambassadors and might be the first or only representation of God to some people. People may assume that we are accurate representations of God. If we are distorting His character or will then we mislead them into thinking less of Him than He deserves. It is also evidence of how much of His new life we have received; that can be a positive or negative thing.
- What does Jesus’ Hebrew name, Yeshua, really mean?
Yahweh saves. Or Yahweh is salvation.
- When you read about Jesus in the Bible, how does it help to reduce the distance you feel from God?
Jesus bridges the gap between human and divine life. He helps us understand God in human form and what a human life is like when it is filled with God. He also shows how God relates to people who are needy and often sinful. He is frank but offers a better way, not rejection. All these should help us.
- Look at Jesus’ commissions to us (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-18; Luke 24:46-48; John 20:21-23). What is the significance of Jesus’ promise to be with us as we go?
He is with us in the form of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit directs and empowers us. His presence encourages us and is a better motivator than us trying to perform. We go in His strength, not our own.
- a) List all the things that God does for us as a Shepherd. Note which ones are the most evident in your life and which are the least evident.
The Name Quest explains nine things that a shepherd does for the flock: Provide, show the path to pasture, protect, care for health, pursue lost animals, guard the doorway to the fold, purchase animals, provide a point of focus, separate good and bad animals.
b) Do we need to experience every aspect of His shepherding?
It is not necessary. Faith is based on God’s word; but our relationship with Him grows as we experience more.
- In Luke 12:22-34 Jesus cautioned against anxiety and said that our Father has chosen to give us the kingdom. What did Jesus mean?
The kingdom of God was high priority for Jesus. The verses suggest that Jesus knew His followers would want it too. They might pursue it anxiously as though it was uncertain. Jesus reassured us that the Father is committed to bringing the kingdom and to our part in it. It does not depend on us beyond our remaining in relationship with the Father and sharing His desire for it.
- Read Exodus 15:22-26. Do you think that, “obedience is always the best preventative medicine,” is a good summary of the message of the passage (NQ p.212)?
The last verse contains God’s promise that listening and obeying Him will protect His people from the diseases that afflicted the Egyptians.
A shepherd’s hand feeding his sheep illustrates the most important form of unity. The focus of the flock is visible. They gather as close to the shepherd as they can. Heads point toward him; tails radiate away. If sheep lose either interest or trust in their shepherd, or if they are unable to hear his voice, they stop following and they scatter. The shepherd’s presence unites and orders the sheep. The church likewise needs her Shepherd-King. God desires a unity that allows for diversity with regard to style and opinion, but that unity requires a basic agreement about who the Shepherd is and what He has done for us. (NQ p.216-217)
- What important points about the Shepherd and His work should we agree about?
Jesus is the Son of God, sent by the Father to reveal Him. He died for the sins of the world. He rose from the dead after three days and ascended to heaven. He sent the Holy Spirit to teach His will and empower us to live His way and do His work. He will come again as Judge and to complete the establishment of His kingdom rule. Following Him means listening to Him and obeying Him out of love and trust for Him.
- a) In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus gives some clear criteria for separating sheep and goats. What are they?
Feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming strangers, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned.
c) Are the criteria consistent with other descriptions of judgment?
You might look at some relevant passages that mention judgment: Matt. 5:21-22; 7:1-2, 21-23; 10:14-15; 11:20-24; 12:36-37, 38-42; John 12:47-48; Rom. 1:18-32; 2:1-10; 2 Thess. 2:1-12; Heb. 13:4; Jas. 5:12; Jude 1:14-16; Rev. 20:12-13.
- a) Why do you suppose Jesus likened the shepherdless people to a ripe harvest (Matthew 9:36-38)?
Drifting and needy people are most likely to accept Jesus. He used the picture of the ripe harvest elsewhere (John 4:35-38).
b) Why did He go on to feed them in Mark 6:33-44?
Verse 34 says Jesus saw them as shepherdless sheep and began to teach them. He was giving them direction and explanation. He went on to care for their practical need for food and to demonstrate that He had power to do miracles. This helped them to believe in Him.
- What examples of the earthly and heavenly sides of Jesus’ nature do you see in the Gospels?
Jesus was born into a poor family and brought up in the typical Jewish way. He was limited just as other humans are: able to be in only one place at a time, needing rest and food, subject to pain and death. We know He showed several emotions.
On the other hand, He did miracles and had special insights. Divine signs appeared at His birth, baptism, transfiguration, arrest, death, resurrection, and ascension. He rose from the dead.
- a) What reasons are there for Jesus telling His followers not to use the titles “Rabbi”, “Leader/Guide”, or “Father”?
Jesus emphasized that He or the Father were the ones who should have those roles in our lives. It is easy for humans to become distracting substitutes for God. Refusing to accept the titles might be an act of humility.
b) Did He mean that we should never use them, or are we free to use them in some situations?
Other Greek words are translated leader with reference to roles in the church; those words do not have the emphasis of guidance. This is a matter of personal conviction. What matters most is for those who exercise leadership roles to always point to Christ as the leader.
- a) The Bible mentions a few observers of Jesus from among the Pharisees. Who were they and what do we know of their beliefs and expectations?
Nicodemus came to Jesus by night (John 3:1-21) perhaps as a seeker of truth about Jesus. Later he seems to be supportive of Jesus (John 7:50-51). Joseph of Arimathea was a secret follower (John 19:38-40).
b) Did Jesus change their beliefs and expectations?
Nicodemus did not turn away from Jesus after hearing what Jesus said about being born again, even though it puzzled him. Perhaps he became more sure of Jesus. Joseph cared enough to give Him a place in his own tomb.
- a) What does the emergence of new messianic figures in Israel in the decades following Jesus’ death and resurrection say about Jewish awareness of Jesus or the Jewish response to Him?
People were either not fully aware of Jesus’ claims and the evidence supporting those claims or they rejected Him and/or the evidence. It is possible in those times that pockets of people were isolated from news of Jesus. However, Jesus deliberately travelled widely and we are told that news spread and people came from many places to hear and see Him. It seems surprising that news of His death and resurrection did not spread around the entire region. Many messianic claimants came from Galilee.
b) What was happening to the church during the same period?
It was growing rapidly and spreading from Israel around the Mediterranean countries and to some other parts. It had grown most among Gentiles even though it began among Jews.
The Jews were desperate for God-appointed rulers who would establish justice and prosperity. (NQ p.235)
- a) How do those Jewish desires compare with what many people want today?
People still want justice and prosperity. Many look to leaders or systems of government, though prosperity is often sought in economic freedom. Today there are additional diverse things that people want, including freedom or independence in life choices. “Human rights” are a modern expectation too.
b) In what ways do Jesus’ methods meet people’s needs or disappoint?
Jesus calls for surrender to Him and a willingness to pay high prices. Often that includes self-denial or self-sacrifice. He calls us to love others, sometimes by laying down our lives for them. The way of life that Jesus and the Bible teaches is at odds with some of the choices that people want to make; the standards are different. God calls us to be holy (set apart or devoted to Him and His lifestyle). But Jesus still takes care of our basic needs as He did in the Gospels.
- Summarize the conclusions of the chapter on two points: how did the Jews expect the messiah to save them, and what did they expect him to save them from?
The Jews expected God to raise up a new king who would drive out the occupying foreigners. Some expected direct divine intervention, others a human Messiah.
- Give examples from the Gospels of the ways in which Jesus fulfilled the three anointed roles: prophet, priest, and king.
In the first place, Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit. His titles “Christ” (from the Greek) or “Messiah” (from the Hebrew) both mean “Anointed One” (Ps. 2:2).
The magi recognized Jesus as a newborn king. His entry to Jerusalem had royal elements to it (John 12:13). He never declared it openly until His trial. However, He did accept royal titles like Son of David. Even speaking of Himself as a Shepherd was a claim to royal function.
Jesus was mostly recognized as a prophet because He did miracles surpassing even the greatest prophets of the Old Testament. He also made predictions that came true.
As a priest, He not only mediated between God and humans, He also offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice.
- How many messianic names can you list from this chapter that have to do with Jesus’ role as king?
Christ, Messiah, Anointed One, Son of David, Son of God, Son of Man, King, Horn of David, Branch, Root of Jesse, Shoot, Prince, Firstborn, Sunrise from on high, Sun of righteousness. Perhaps a few lesser ones too.
- Take some time to read the “servant songs in Isaiah (Isa. 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12). What examples can you think of in the Gospels of Jesus fulfilling them.
Page 248 of The Name Quest lists some of the main examples.
- In what ways did Jesus redefine kingship?
Jesus came as a servant who was willing to suffer and die as a sacrifice. He extended His kingdom invitation to the Gentiles (the entire world).
God knew exactly how to deliver people, but people had cooked up their own job descriptions for the Messiah, and they had established their own requirements. Few people viewed Jesus as a viable candidate. It takes humility to abandon our cherished perspectives and accept God’s. (NQ p.250)
- Do you think the church in our own culture is in danger of cooking up wrong ideas about Jesus and the kingdom of God? In what ways?
This could be a long answer. Probably every culture strays from the truth about Jesus and His kingdom. In the western world, perhaps we like to emphasize individual blessings from God rather than corporate ones or our surrender to His will. Perhaps our religion is too focused on believers being “fed” and “fellowshipping” in church meetings and not enough on sharing the good news and caring for the needy in everyday life, making disciples who make other disciples.
While Jesus spoke against pagan politics, He also condemned violent reactions to paganism. Repentance included a renouncing of revolutionary aspirations and it required faith in Jesus. The nation was rushing blindly down a broad path leading to unspeakable destruction, and Jesus was not afraid to say so. (NQ p.253)
- a) Do you agree that Jesus spoke against pagan politics but that He also condemned a violent reaction to paganism? b) How can we follow His example today?
We should be careful not to think that any political system or party could ever be properly aligned with Jesus’ ways. Salvation does not lie in politics or in revolution. We should state clearly to people where politicians and policies align with Jesus and where they do not, and we should stand with Jesus.
God’s kingdom was more extensive than the nation. Israel had received her invitations first, but Jesus was gaily passing them out to the whole world, demonstrating His agenda by performing miracles for foreigners. What right did He have to redefine God’s people? Such teachings threatened Judaism and invited persecution on the part of the authorities. (NQ p.253-254)
- Who did the Jews think the kingdom of God was for?
Most thought it was only for the Jewish people.
b) What does Jesus’ practice of extending the kingdom of God to foreigners mean for us today?
Jesus surprised people by the unexpected ones that He interacted with. Perhaps that is a good guideline for us. Also, we should be looking to care for strangers, the lonely, the foreign visitor, those from other races and ideas. Cross-cultural missions is often overseas but there are many opportunities in our own countries too.
When betrayal resulted in arrest, Jesus’ friend Peter drew a sword and slashed out in defense. The best of us are tempted to adopt militant methods when we are cornered. This must be the moment for action. This must be the moment when God will intervene and rout the opposition. Surely, this was the signal for Jesus to launch His military campaign. But it was not. The One with God’s hosts at His disposal renounced the sword. Jesus rebuked Peter, and He allowed Roman soldiers to nail Him to a cross. (NQ p.254)
- In what ways are we tempted to adopt “militant” or other human-centered methods to extend the kingdom of God?
Frustration with slow or blocked progress tempts us to do many things and take shortcuts. Money is a powerful tool for getting things done, so are relational connections; we must be careful not to abuse them. Unbelievers might be attracted by gifts and services to them but they can lead to superficial Christians.
6. a) Write down what you know of the charges against Jesus that led to His crucifixion.
The Jewish religious leaders accused Him of blasphemy because He claimed to be the Son of God and accepted the title “Messiah”. They were angry because He seemed to break laws concerning the Sabbath and some others. They presented Jesus to the Roman leaders as a threat to Roman authority, a tax rebel, a rival to Caesar, and the “King of the Jews”.
b) How do the Jewish charges compare with the Roman charges?
The Jewish charges were based on traditional interpretations of Old Testament law (Torah). The Roman charges were political and concerned with maintaining order.
7. Do the political explanations for Jesus’ crucifixion in any way diminish the spiritual side of it?
If the leaders had understood the spiritual side of the crucifixion they might have reconsidered what they were doing. It is always because we are caught up in our human affairs that we fail to fully enter into spiritual blessings. However, God accomplished His purposes in spite of and through the misunderstandings of people.
8. a) What role did scriptural explanations and the illumination of the Holy Spirit play in the disciples coming to understand Jesus’ messiahship?
After Jesus’ resurrection He explained to them what the Scriptures said about Him (Luke 24:44-48). At Pentecost, Peter was finally able to give a bold and clear explanation of who Jesus was and what His death and resurrection meant.
b) To what extent should our understandings be formed in the same ways or differently?
The Holy Spirit was sent in part to guide us into all truth (John 16:13). Scripture is still our source of objective truth about God and His will and purposes.
- The kingdom of God is both “now and not yet”. What aspects of God’s kingdom rule are present today and what aspects await the kingdom coming in fullness?
There is a lot of overlap because we partially experience many of the blessings of the kingdom. For instance, God heals some people now, but in the full kingdom there will be no more sickness and suffering. We will know God’s presence more fully and constantly. His will and guidance will be clear. Evil will be completely defeated.
- How can we avoid squeezing Jesus into molds formed by our religious cultures? How can we remain open to the true Jesus?
Our beliefs and practices should come from Scripture, especially the Gospels and Acts. Paul’s writings and our church practices should always be viewed in light of them. Regular, humble invitation for Jesus to guide and form us by His Spirit is a good practice.
- Do you think that Jesus was sometimes adopting Yahweh’s words when He used the phrase “I am”? (Mark 14:62; Luke 22:70; John 8:58; 18:5, 6, 8)
It is impossible to know for sure because we do not have a record of Jesus’ words in the original language. However, the examples in John seem most likely. The first stands out grammatically. That everyone in Gethsemane fell to the ground when Jesus said it suggests that something spiritually powerful happened at the same time.
- a) Identify the main individuals or groups of people in John chapter 11.
Mary and Martha, the disciples, other mourners, Jewish religious leaders.
c) What happens to the faith of each group as events unfold?
Some grow in faith in Jesus; others are still suspicious and some even go to the religious leaders out of concern about what happened.
Why does God sometimes keep us waiting until the last minute before He responds? Why did Jesus wait two more days before going to Bethany? Like a friend withholding a long-awaited present, He seems to tease out our love until the last possible moment. The anticipation grows. When the gift is finally unwrapped, joy and amazement reach their peaks. When God responds at the last minute, His timing proves that He did it, and our faith and love grow. Jesus’ delay produced the maximum glory for God. (NQ p.273)
- Do you agree that these are the reasons why the Lord sometimes keeps us waiting? Are there other reasons?
Other reasons might be that something needs to be made ready before God can answer. Daniel 10:10-21 is an example. Perhaps we need to be made ready.
- Read John 11:38-40. What was everyone thinking when Jesus asked for the stone to be removed?
Martha voiced the concern and perhaps disgust of some, that there would be a rotting corpse in the tomb. Perhaps others thought of the law about defilement by contact with a dead body. Maybe some people thought Jesus was crazy.
- Does faith always require a practical application?
Perhaps not immediately or in a way that is directly related to the faith issue.
- How do we know when it is time to stop gathering evidence or information and to obey in faith?
Perhaps we reach some kind of decision deadline. Maybe we start going round in circles in our thinking and we are making no progress towards greater clarity or understanding. It could be that God prods us in some way.
- What other examples are there of Jesus seriously violating cultural norms (other than Sabbath laws—there are lots of examples of Him doing that!)?
Touching lepers, interacting with Gentiles and sinners (tax collectors, prostitutes, adulterers), accepting messianic titles.
- What criteria should we use to decide when to slice through taboos and customs like Jesus did, so that God can be glorified?
When God clearly presents an opportunity for His glory or guides us clearly. A consensus among a group of Jesus-followers about a certain action. Taking a godly stand for justice or righteousness even when those around choose ungodly ways. It helps if there is an opportunity to gently explain what we are doing.
God’s kingdom is here, but it is not yet complete. (NQ p.282)
- a) What evidence do we see of it being here?
God heals and delivers people and does miracles now. We sense His presence and guidance. He blesses His church as it spreads the good news and His kingdom values.
b) What evidence do we see of it not being complete yet?
There are still evil, disease and other problems in the world. Our prayers are not always answered. People die. We are not clear about God’s presence and His will and ways.
Beyond the Gospels, the New Testament boldly states that Jesus is God’s Son, Savior, Christ, and Lord. (NQ p.283)
- In light of these four titles, how would you summarize the gospel message?
Jesus was sent by God as His Messiah (Christ) to die as a sacrificial ransom so that we can be restored to relationship with God. Jesus showed us what being Son of God looks like as a human so that we know our inheritance as God’s children. He also showed us what the Lord God is like in human form so that we know the Lord is both awesome and approachable.
In Daniel’s explanation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the stone was a picture of God’s kingdom rumbling irresistibly down through history. The stone toppled earthly dominions, pulverizing them like brittle dominoes: Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and so on. Jesus cited Psalm 118:22: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” He hinted that He was the Landowner’s rejected Son, the Stone. This stone, one way or another, gains dominion. Either a person falls on Him voluntarily or the stone crushes the un-submissive to dust. (NQ p.288)
- a) Do falling on a stone or being crushed by it sound equally harsh and painful?
Crushing sounds complete; falling is a humble choice we can make that does not destroy us. The word picture Jesus used in Matthew 21:44 and Luke 20:18 is of someone being broken versus pulverized and blown in the wind.
b) In what ways are the outcomes on people’s lives different?
Falling on Jesus breaks us and allows Him to remake us.
- a) In what ways do we try to control people or things in our lives? b) Is control always a bad thing?
Some would say that in an emergency it is necessary for someone to take control to save others. In general, control over other people robs them of free will; they are not free to make their own choice. In that case their hearts will not be in what they do and they will probably revert to old thinking and behavior as soon as they get a chance.
Emperors are gone, but we all love to be in control of something—partners, families, finances, careers, countries, and even ourselves. Every social grouping is as wholesome as the sum of the men and women who run it. When the first tyrant—self—surrenders to the Lord’s agenda, the change in that person cascades through his or her sphere of influence. As each follower takes the good news to the end of his or her piece of earth, God’s kingdom grows. (NQ p.288-289)
- Discuss how different social groupings are affected by the individuals that make them up.
Strong influencers gradually change those who follow them. They act as models or directly steer groups. They order, endorse or permit certain types of behavior. Some of the same things happen in the other direction; followers or citizens accept practices from leaders or each other. At other times people might rebel actively or passively to influence the whole group.
People like to be in groups. That makes it hard to question what the group believes and does and harder to influence things in a different direction.
- In what ways do each of the three Hebrew words for “champion” apply to Jesus? (NQ p.128-129)
He showed His might over Satan and his demons. He came between Satan and humans to deliver us from Satan’s grip. He won many contests against Satan and ultimately defeated sin and death on the cross.
- How would you define salvation?
Spiritually, it applies to Jesus ransoming us from slavery to and the penalty for sin. But the word applies more broadly and God saves us in broader ways: from sickness, demonic influence, danger, accidents, trouble. Salvation is rescue from anything that threatens or traps us.
- How many different ways of God saving us can you list?
See the above answer for a start.
- a) David’s confidence came from years of trusting God. What experiences of God’s deliverance (and other care for you) can you place your confidence in? b) Is it a problem if someone has little or no experience? Why, or why not?
Experience of God’s faithfulness and deliverance certainly strengthens our faith. But we can choose to trust God’s character and promises even without experience.
- a) Read Psalms 79:9; 102:18-22; 142:7; Isa. 63:12-14. What does it mean to say that God made a name for Himself in the exodus?
When God delivers people it builds His reputation as a deliverer. Reputation and fame are part of the idea of glory as well as thankfulness and worship.
b) In what ways does He make a name for Himself today?
Numerous things that God does build His reputation. Most noticeable are healings and other miracles, raising the dead, providing for people, protecting people, and breaking bondages. But He also reveals things and guides.
Predictive prophecies are like recessed spotlights. The lights themselves are incidental, and they should be inconspicuous. The studio designer intended them to shine on an object so that it would be easily recognized and clear. When a display stand is empty, spotlights have no subject to illuminate, so the beams fall on odd places like the wall or the floor. If we look directly at the lights, they dazzle and confuse us. As Jesus stepped onto the stage of history, the purpose of the diverse prophetic beams became evident. They shone on Him. (NQ p.299)
- a) Is this a good illustration of predictive prophecy? b) What other kinds of prophecy are there?
Prophecy also proclaims the character and will of God. It might warn people that they are not aligned with God and will be judged unless they repent. These two are evident in the Old Testament.
- What advice do you have about maintaining a “gallery of salvation art” to draw faith from? How would you do it?
This is a good reason to keep something like a journal to record all the significant things that God speaks or does in our lives. Perhaps sharing the stories sometimes with other people will help too.
- Imagine how the following people felt as they realized they had been redeemed:
- The captives set free (Isaiah 49:24-26).
- The rejected and forsaken wife (Isaiah 54:4-8).
Do you relate to either of these or to another example?
When hopelessly imprisoned and enslaved people are set free they must feel the greatest surprise, excitement, joy, relief, and vindication. A forsaken wife would feel much of the same along with the acceptance and compassion and the knowledge that her humiliation and shame will no longer be there for others to see.
- a) In Isaiah 43:3 God uses His name ‘Savior’. What other names and qualities of God are found in Isaiah 43:1-21?
Creator and He who formed you. Yahweh (LORD) your God, Holy One of Israel, I am He, God, Redeemer, Holy One, Creator of Israel, your King. He promises to be with His people, to ransom them, to make a way through fire, flood and desert; no one can oppose His will.
b) In what ways is God’s salvation seen in this passage?
It is seen in His ransom or redemption and His gathering of His people from the nations. He makes a way for them to return.
- Paul quotes the Greek version of Isaiah 59:20-21, but God is actually called ‘Redeemer’ in the Hebrew. What is the connection between redeeming and delivering?
God delivers the whole world from the deepest, darkest enemy by an act of redemption. The fuller context shows this is His solution to sin’s separation (Isaiah 59:2) and that the Holy Spirit is evidence that covenant relationship has been restored.
- a) Who do we say Jesus is and how do we respond to Him? b) What does it mean to say that 2. a) is the “question of the ages”? Do you agree? Why or why not?
The idea is that we will finally be judged on how we responded to Jesus and His claims. That assumes a response in practical obedience or rejection, not just belief. Can there really be any other key question? If we think it presumptuous, perhaps we have not examined or understood Jesus and His claims enough.
- What does it mean to say that God’s image is our destiny?
God created humans in His image. We fell from the glory of that image but He made a way for us to become like Jesus, His Son, our model of His image. Romans 8 speaks a lot about this destiny.
- How would you explain the difference between the cry in Revelation 11:15 and Jesus’ statement that the kingdom of God is at hand (Mark 1:15)?
Jesus announced and demonstrated the kingdom of God coming to earth. However, in His time, and since then, it has never come completely. What He started, and commissioned us to continue to announce and demonstrate, will finally be completed. That is what the angel in Revelation announced.
- a) To which images are we being asked to bow in our present age?
This could vary a bit depending on our culture. Perhaps we should ask ourselves what we are being told are the most important things to pursue in life? In the western world they might include material security; success in careers or other endeavors; faithfulness as a provider, homemaker, parent, or spouse; the value of family or friendships if those relationships compete against Jesus. It might well include certain religious expectations that are not necessarily aligned with Jesus’ teaching or Scripture in general. Sometimes political ideas and nationalism are mixed in. It might include something as subtle and simple as “being a nice/cool/kind person”.
b) Do you see other “brand marks” on your life that do not come from the Lord? What will you do about them?
Perhaps a good way to assess this it to ask, “What is stopping me from completely surrendering to Jesus?” The “what” stamps the brand on us.
Other questions are: Who am I? What is my identity? What gives me that identity? Repentance breaks the power of the brander; persistent surrender changes us. Accountability to others can help.