We begin our teaching on foundations of our faith with the Bible, as it is the source of our faith.
Many people feel as if they have no compass for their lives. They are asking themselves questions. Where am I going? Am I lost? Will I ever find the right way? God has heard our questions and He has already given us a Book to guide our lives. Before searching for the answers, let’s look together at the great Book. We will see how it was written and how it was given to us.
This lesson will help you describe the origin and structure of the Bible and understand how and why the Bible was given to us.
The Holy Bible, made up of 66 books, is like a small library that God has given us. The first part of the Bible (the Old Testament) contains 39 books. The second part (the New Testament) contains 27 books.
Over a period of 1600 years approximately 40 men were involved in writing these books. The Bible tells us that these men were holy men of God. They were kings and peasants, poets and merchants, military and religious leaders. They were from different backgrounds, different cities, and of different interests.
The books of the Bible cover many different subjects, like history, prophecy, and poetry. It has songs and wise sayings called proverbs. It contains stories to interest the young and the old. Yet it all fits together because it has one central theme-the relationship between God and man.
Perhaps you noticed what may seem to be a contradiction in the first part of this lesson. It says that God gave us the Bible, but it also says that men wrote it. How can this be?
The forty men who wrote the Bible were divinely inspired. This means that the Holy Spirit put in the authors’ minds the thoughts that God wanted them to write. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God.” This verse also tells why the Bible was given for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and giving instruction.
God has given us instructions for right living because He desires our highest good. He knows that when we do not live according to His principles we hurt ourselves. Our minds, our bodies, and especially our spirits suffer. The best way to avoid hurting ourselves is to follow His Word closely. Through it we get to know Him personally; we understand that His ways are best for us.
Like a chart or a guide book, His Word was written for us to turn to for help and strength. How wonderful that we can have His personal instructions to us always at our side!
Test your knowledge by taking this short quiz which covers what you just read on this page.
The Bible consists of ________ books written by ________ men of different backgrounds.
a) 40, 66
b) 60, 46
c) 66, 40
d) 46, 60
The Bible was written over a period of _______ years.
When we say that the Bible is divinely inspired we emphasize that __________.
a) it tells us about God.
b) God gave the authors the thoughts they should write.
b) it contains valuable religious history.
The authors wrote on the same theme and did not contradict each other because _________.
a) God was the real author and they wrote the thoughts He gave them.
b) each one left instructions for the following writers.
Select all of the TRUE reasons why God has given us the Bible.
a) He wants our highest good.
b) He wanted to give instructions for right living.
c) He wanted us to realize that He is too great for us to know Him.
d) He wants to establish His relationship with us.
Some people fear God and others love Him-depending on what they have been told and what they do about it. You cannot see God, but you can study what He does. In Lesson I we learned that it is the Bible that tells us all about God-about His qualities and how He deals with mankind. In this lesson we will look into the Bible and explore a few of the many things it has to say about God.
This lesson will help you name several attributes of God and explain what your attitude toward God should be.
Objective 1. Name at least five attributes of God
The Bible says in John 4:24 that God is a Spirit. The dictionary says that a spirit is the vital principle that gives life. Since God is the Creator, this means that He is the supernatural force that gives life to all of His creation. Because He is a Spirit, He cannot be seen unless He chooses to show Himself in some visible form.
He did show Himself through His Son. John 1:14 says, “The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived among us. We saw his glory, the glory which he received as the Father’s only Son.”
God has revealed Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three Persons which are called the Godhead or Trinity. The three are referred to in many places, one of which is Matthew 28:19: “Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the HolySpirit.”
One good way to learn more about God is by studying His attributes or qualities. God is good, holy, just, all-powerful, all-knowing, and eternal. Let’s look at a series of verses that mention these qualities and others as well.
Exodus 34:6 states, “I, the Lord, am a God who is full of compassion and pity, who is not easily angered and who shows great love and faithfulness.”
Leviticus 11:44 says: “I am the Lord your God, and you must keep yourselves holy. because I am holy.”
The fact that He is all-powerful can be seen in Daniel 4:35. It says. “No one can oppose his will or question what he does.”
God knows everything.
There is nothing that can be hid from God; everything in all creation is exposed and lies open before his eyes. And it is to him that we must all give an account of ourselves (Hebrews 4:13).
Revelation 10:6 tells us that God is eternal. An angel “took a vow in the name of God, who lives forever and ever, who created heaven, earth, and the sea, and everything in them.”
The few verses that we have read, verses that give a little description of God, help us to realize how great He is. He is powerful and He is strong-but He is also merciful and kind. And He wants to have a close relationship with us, His creation.
Objective 2. Recognize that your first responsibility is toward God.
In Matthew 22:37 Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
There are various ways of showing God that we love Him. Our worship and praise can put our love into words said directly to Him. But we should also show our love. Now listen to what the Lord your God demands of you:
Have reverence for the Lord and do all that he commands. Love him, serve him with all your heart, and obey all his laws (Deuteronomy 10:12 13).
“But whoever obeys his word is the one whose love for God has really been made perfect” (I John 2:5).
If we want to show our love to God, we will follow the instructions He gives us in His Word.
Another way to show our love to God is by giving and sharing with others. I John 3:17-18 says: If a rich person sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against his brother, how can he claim that he loves God? My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action. The love that is obedient and sharing will be a satisfying and rewarding love.
Jesus says in Luke 10:28 that if we love God above all else we “will live.” Some people think that “real living” is wealth, power, and position. But these things in themselves will never satisfy because we were made in God’s likeness and for His glory. Our spirits must be satisfied with the spiritual. Real living is loving God. Jesus said. “Be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things” (Matthew 6:33).
Don’t limit yourself to the less important things. Love God with all your heart.
You will need to read verses in the Bible to answer most of the questions in this short quiz. Test your knowledge of what you find in the Bible and in the teachings on this page.
1. Read Matthew 6:9-11 and choose the correct words for the following statement: God is likened to a loving _______________ who provides for ___________________ .
a) father, his children
b) employer, their employees
c) king, his servants
2. Read Isaiah 66:13 and choose the correct words for the following statement: God comforts even as a __________ comforts _______________ .
a) father, his children
b) mother, her children
c) grandparent, a grandchild
3. Look up the Scripture 2 Kings 4:42-44. Choose the attribute of God that it most closely suggests to you:
e) all-knowing or all-seeing
4. Look up the Scripture Genesis 9:13-17. Choose the attribute of God that it most closely suggests to you:
e) all-knowing or all-seeing
5. Look up the Scripture 2 Chronicles 7:13-14. Choose the attribute of God that it most closely suggests to you:
e) all-knowing or all-seeing
6. Look up the Scripture Exodus 3:7. Choose the attribute of God that it most closely suggests to you:
e) all-knowing or all-seeing
7. Look up the Scripture Psalm 97:10-12. Choose the attribute of God that it most closely suggests to you:
e) all-knowing or all-seeing
8. Above all else, you should love
a) power so that you are in control of your life.
b) God, and put that love into practice.
9. Read the Bible verses listed below and click on the ones that tell you what your first responsibility toward God is.
a) Deuteronomy 6:5
b) Deuteronomy 10:12
c) Deuteronomy 13:3
d) Joshua 22:5
e) Mark 12:30
f) Jude 21
There is a children’s story about a famous wood carver who one day carved the figure of a little boy. It was a beautiful carving and the man called it Pinocchio. He was proud of his work but there was no way the carving could love him in return.
What would have happened if the carver had put a little talking-machine inside the wooden boy? Maybe he could have made the little figure move and say, “I love you.” Would that have satisfied the carver? Would he have been thrilled and said, “Now I know my carving loves me?” No, because that would not be an expression of love. It would be only a mechanical phrase with no real feeling.
The story says that somehow the wooden boy came alive. He had a mind of his own and when he would say, “I love you,” it did thrill the carver. Why? Because the wooden boy wasn’t forced to say it-he said it with love.
We know the story is just a fable, but it gives us a little picture of how God felt when He made man. He made him beautifully and, most important, with the power to make his own choices.
God made man, but not carved from a block of wood. How did He make him? What qualities did He put in man? In the last lesson we studied some of the qualities of God and our attitude toward Him. Now let’s look at how God made man and the responsibility He gave him.
In this lesson you will study …
Man’s Condition at Creation
Man’s Condition Now
This lesson will help you …
Objective 1. State how man was made and identify a reason for his being created.
God created a beautiful world with trees, flowers, and animals. The Bible says that God was pleased with what He saw. But it wasn’t complete. There were no people to enjoy and share that beauty.
Genesis 1:26-27 tells us:
Then God said, ‘And now we will make human beings; they will be like us and resemble us. They will have power over the fish, the birds, and all the animals, domestic and wild, large and small.’ So God created human beings, making them like himself.
Man was different from the animals already created because he was made in God’s likeness. He was a glorious creation, perfect in body, soul, and spirit. Further details of the story are given in Genesis 2 where it tells how God formed man out of the soil of the ground. Then He breathed life-giving breath into man’s nostrils and the man began to live.
With life came responsibility. Man could make his own decisions. He could glorify God in his everyday living. Isaiah 43:7 gives us God’s words, “They are my own people, and I created them to bring me glory.”
The Bible says that in the cool of the evening God would walk and talk with man in the beautiful garden where they lived. God loved those first people, Adam and Eve, and wanted their perfect fellowship to continue forever. But He knew it could not be perfect if it were forced, if Adam and Eve had no choice but to fellowship with Him.
Because God has the freedom to choose and He made man like Himself, He gave man the freedom to decide whether that fellowship should continue as it had – unbroken and beautiful. Perhaps Adam and Eve wanted to keep it that way, but they wanted some other things too. One day they would come to a place of having to decide what they wanted most of all.
Objective 2. Recognize the condition of man as a result of man’s fall.
What a joy the heart of God must have felt having communion with His creation. Then Adam and Eve chose to break that precious fellowship with God.
That is how man fell from his perfect state. He made the wrong choice and became sinful. Romans 5:19 says, “All people were made sinners as the result of the disobedience of one man.”
The justice of God could not ignore sin. God cannot lie and go against His word. He had said that disobedience would cause man to become mortal. Adam and Eve had to leave that paradise garden of Eden and be separated from the presence of God.
Man’s condition today is still sinful. Romans 3:23 says, “Everyone has sinned and is far away from God’s saving presence.” Man has never lost the ability to choose. Wrong choices still keep people away from God.
Test your knowledge by taking this short quiz which covers what you just read on this page and some Bible verses.
1. Select each TRUE statement.
a) Man was made for God’s glory.
b) God created man out of nothing.
c) God’s breath made man a living soul.
d) Man was created perfect in body, soul, and spirit.
e) Man was created with a freedom to choose.
2. Memorize Revelation 4:11. After you have memorized it, select the words that are ordered properly to fill in the blanks below. Our ……………………………….. and ………………………………….! You are …………………………. to receive……………………………., and………………………………..For you………………………………… all things, and by your will they were given …………………………. ……………………… and, …………………………………………………..
a) Lord, God, worthy, power, created, existence, life, glory, honor
b) Lord, God, worthy, glory, honor, power, created, existence, life
c) Lord, created, God, worthy, glory, honor, power, existence, life.
d) Lord, God, worthy, glory, created, honor, power, existence, life.
e) Lord, God, worthy, glory, honor, power, created, existence, life.
3. Choose the correct completion for the following statement. Man was made to be
a) oppressed and overworked.
b) forced into service to God.
c) a glory to God.
4. Zephaniah 3:17 says that when you are in communion with the Lord He
a) feels it is the least that you can do.
b) sings and is joyful over you.
c) knows man will soon disobey Him again.
d) will give you new life.
5. Job 8:3 says “God never twists justice; he never fails to do what is right.” Because of this God had to be true to His character and
a) man lost the ability to choose right or wrong.
b) carry out His word by punishing sin.
c) Adam and Eve had to leave the garden of Eden.
d) decided Adam and Eve hadn’t really under stood His instructions.
6. Man’s condition now is one of
a) separation from God.
b) a sinful nature.
c) no responsibility for his sins.
Let’s imagine a friend has given you a palace full of beautiful things. It is yours to enjoy. The only request he makes is, “Please don’t jump from the tower because you will die.”
Then an enemy comes to your palace. He says, “Who told you not to jump? Go ahead. You’ll feel wonderful! You will know how it feels to fly. You will be able to see your palace from a different view. Don’t worry about what happens when you hit bottom; just think about all the new things you’ll learn on the way down.”
Would you run to the top of your tower and jump? Of course not. It would be stupid to trust your enemy and do as he says.
Adam and Eve had a similar experience. God put them in a beautiful garden and made them masters over everything. He gave them permission to eat of every tree but one. Along came the enemy, Satan, who told them to eat the fruit of the tree anyway-that it wouldn’t hurt them. They trusted his word instead of God’s. How foolish!
As we studied in the previous lesson, man was made perfect but through disobedience sin entered his life. How would we define sin? Did Adam bring it into the world? What is the punishment for sin? Is there any escape? The Bible verses in this lesson will give us the answers.
This lesson will help you describe the nature and consequences of sin and appreciate the work of Christ in removing man’s sin.
Objective 1. Recognize descriptions of sin.
Sin is disobeying God’s laws. It is saying to God, “I am more important than You. I don’t take Your Word as my final authority.” Sin is rebellion.
“No one has a right to limit me,” you might say. “I’ll do what I please.” The limits God has set for us were made for one reason-our highest good. For instance, God knows that bitterness and hate can cause severe headaches; a desire for revenge can cause ulcers. These attitudes hurt other people too. God showed His love for us by setting certain limits, or laws, as protection. For us to go outside these limits is to sin. First John 3:4 says, “Whoever sins is guilty of breaking God’s law, because sin is a breaking of the law.”
“Is it all right then to do anything that doesn’t hurt me or others?” No, everything is lawful ONLY if it is inside the limits that God has set. We might think that something doesn’t hurt us or others and be mistaken in our belief. For example, there were parents who thought they shouldn’t obey God’s law of correcting their children because that would frustrate or confuse them. Now a recent magazine article informs us, “It’s time to discipline our children.” Man’s opinions change. For a while he thinks one thing won’t hurt us and later he says it will. The only safe conduct for us is obedience to the laws that God has set, whether we understand the reason for them or not.
Objective 2. Identify statements showing how sin entered the world.
Satan tempted man to sin, and man yielded to that temptation. First John 3:8 says. “Whoever continues to sin belongs to the Devil, because the Devil has sinned from the very beginning.” It was Satan that brought sin into the world, but this does not free man from blame. Man is responsible too.
Adam did not have to yield to temptation from Satan. We know that temptations do not come from God. James 1:13-14 tells us:
If a person is tempted by such trials, he must not say, “This temptation comes from God.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one.
It is not sin to be tempted. Even Jesus was tempted by the devil. But it is sin to yield. How different the world would be if Adam had not yielded.
What happened to man when he sinned? God said that if he disobeyed he would die. He didn’t die immediately as we know death, but he immediately became mortal. Death began to work in his body, soul, and spirit.
Sin came into the world through one man, and his sin brought death with it. As a result, death has spread to the whole human race because everyone has sinned (Romans 5:12).
Yes, all people are sinners. “Everyone has sinned and is far away from God’s saving presence” (Romans 3:23).
The penalty for sin today is the same penalty that was given to Adam and Eve-death. Romans 5:12 expresses it this way: “Death has spread to the whole human race.” In Romans 6:23 we read: “For sin pays its wage-death.” No. the sinner doesn’t physically die the moment he commits sin. Sometimes it even looks as though he prospers. But death is working there nevertheless, and eventually he will not only die physically but spiritually also. Spiritual death means eternal separation from God.
Objective 3. Explain how a sinner can escape the penalty of sin.
Do you remember the story that I told you at the beginning of this lesson? The person who jumps from the palace tower will surely die. But what if a friend was near and stretched out a strong net just below the window? If the one who jumped caught the net, his life could be saved.
God has given us a way to escape the punishment of sin which is spiritual death and everlasting separation from Him. The way is through accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior. In a future lesson we will learn the verses that tell us how to reach out and be saved. For now, it would be good to memorize two verses that show us how to escape the punishment of sin.
God has shown us how much he loves us-it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us! (Romans 5:8).
If we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing (1 John 1:9).
Test your knowledge by taking this short quiz which covers what you just read on this page and some Bible verses.
1. Sin is __________ .
a) whatever you feel is wrong.
b) whatever others tell you is wrong.
c) being discovered doing something wrong.
d) rebellion and disobedience to God’s laws.
2. God set limits to man’s conduct because He __________ .
a) wanted to frustrate Adam and Eve.
b) doesn’t want man to enjoy himself or be free.
c) loves man and wants the best for him.
3. To step outside the limits God has set is __________ .
a) all right if no one gets hurt.
b) permissible as long as we are not discovered.
c) sometimes necessary to get us out of trouble.
d) never to be done.
4. Sin entered the world __________ .
a) through Satan who sinned from the beginning.
b) because Adam yielded to Satan’s temptation.
c) when Adam deliberately disobeyed God.
5. Since sin entered the world __________ .
a) Satan no longer has to tempt anyone.
b) everyone is a sinner and can be tempted.
c) there is both physical and spiritual death.
6. Read I John 4:9 and choose the right answer to fill in the blank: God showed how much he loved us by __________ his one and only Son into the world so that we might have __________ through him.
a) sending, eternal life
b) birthing, hope
c) allowing, forgiveness
7. Read I John 4:10 and choose the right answer to fill in the blank: This is __________ – not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our __________.
a) truth, mortality
b) hope, doubt
c) real love, sins
8. Complete this statement: a sinner can escape the penalty of sin only by __________ .
a) accepting Jesus Christ as Savior.
b) doing what is right regardless of the circumstances.
c) being baptized by full immersion.
There are several Bible reading calendars which will take us through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation in one or two or three years. Choose a plan that suits you and be regular to read the daily portion. Early hours of the day are the best because your mind will be fresh enough to absorb a lot. This is just reading. Close meditation can be on a few verses from the daily portion or from elsewhere. When you read through the Bible again and again, comparing Scripture with Scripture becomes easy. Thomas Watson has interestingly said, “Nothing can cut the diamond but the diamond; nothing can interpret Scripture but Scripture!” There are two outstanding benefits of this method of studying the Bible. One, very difficult passages suddenly become clear when other passages throw light on them. Second, we can be saved from wrong interpretation leading to false doctrines. False doctrines, like false witnesses, agree not among themselves!
The unnamed Ethiopian government official had the habit of reading through the Scripture even if he didn’t understand it. He had picked up the Book of Isaiah for his recent trip to Jerusalem. See how a brief exposition by Evangelist Philip could bring him to a consummate understanding of Gospel truth! (Acts 8:26-40). Keep a fine ballpen or pencil, whenever you open the Bible, to underline words, phrases and sentences which have a special appeal to you. Because the Bible paper is thin, don’t use poor quality ballpens which bleed and smudge. Leave a question mark on the margin against a verse or passage you don’t understand. You will have the joy of striking out some of them in your next reading! Questions will disappear one by one in subsequent readings. God reveals His truths to us in stages according to our level of understanding and maturity. Once Jesus told His disciples, “Oh, there is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now!” (Jn 16:12). Growth in Biblical understanding will be in proportion to our response to the illumination of the Holy Spirit (v 13). On another occasion Jesus said, “You don’t understand now why I am doing it; someday you will” (Jn 13:7). Keep a notebook exclusively for jotting down points which make your heart glow. Laziness will prevent you to do this, and the loss will be heavy.
(99% of people won’t even read this far into the post! Yet they say their serious about Christ!)
For starters, it is important to realize that the Bible is not an ordinary book that reads smoothly from cover to cover. It is actually a library, or collection, of books written by different authors in several languages over 1500 years. Martin Luther said that the Bible is the “cradle of Christ” because all biblical history and prophecy ultimately point to Jesus. Therefore, any first reading of the Bible should begin with the Gospels. The gospel of Mark is quick and fast-paced and is a good place to start. Then you might want to go on to the gospel of John, which focuses on the things Jesus claimed about Himself. Mark tells about what Jesus did, while John tells about what Jesus said and who Jesus was. In John are some of the simplest and clearest passages, but also some of the deepest and most profound passages. Reading the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) will familiarize you with Christ’s life and ministry.
After that, read through some of the Epistles (Romans, Ephesians, Philippians). They teach us how to live our lives in a way that is honoring to God. When you start reading the Old Testament, read the book of Genesis. It tells us how God created the world and how mankind fell into sin, as well as the impact that fall had on the world. Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy can be hard to read because they get into all the laws God required the Jews to live by. While you should not avoid these books, they are perhaps better left for later study. In any case, try not to get bogged down in them. Read Joshua through Chronicles to get a good history of Israel. Reading Psalms through Song of Solomon will give you a good feel for Hebrew poetry and wisdom. The prophetic books, Isaiah through Malachi, can be hard to understand as well. Remember, the key to understanding the Bible is asking God for wisdom (James 1:5). God is the author of the Bible, and He wants you to understand His Word.
It is important to know that not everyone can be a successful Bible student. Only those with the necessary “qualifications” for studying the Word can do so with God’s blessings:
Are you saved by faith in Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 2:14-16)?
Are you hungering for God’s Word (1 Peter 2:2)?
Are you diligently searching God’s Word (Acts 17:11)?
If you answered “yes” to these three questions, you can be sure that God will bless your efforts to know Him and His Word, no matter where you start and no matter what your method of study. If you are not sure that you are a Christian’that you have been saved by faith in Christ and have the Holy Spirit within you”you will find it impossible to understand the meaning of the words of Scripture. The truths of the Bible are hidden from those who have not come to faith in Christ, but they are life itself to those who believe (1 Corinthians 2:13-14; John 6:63).
Now those that have read this entire article are serious Bible students! those who haven’t probably only read the first two sentences and moved on to the next great pictured post, wondering why their lives are falling apart not knowing what to pray and who God is.
Holy Bible, Book divine, Precious treasure, thou art mine; Mine to tell me whence I came, Mine to teach me what I am! (John Burton, Sr., 1773-1822)
The Lord said if only 2 or 3 are gathered in His name He will be there also. If we are alone the spirit will guide us and keep us.
There are many areas of the world, such as China, where many restrictions are placed on Christians in regard to when, where and how they may worship. In some countries, Christian worship in any form is not permitted, and some repressive governments arrest and kill Christians simply for declaring or exercising their faith. For Christians who live in such areas, considerable effort must be expended to ensure they will continue to grow and mature in the faith while away from any kind of church atmosphere and in a country hostile to God.
For the Christian in a country that allows possession of a Bible or studies on various books or topics of the Bible, diligent daily study of the Word is essential, especially if fellowship with other Christians isn’t possible. It’s essential for those Christians to carve out time each day to study God’s Word and spend time in prayer with God, asking Him to reveal to them what He wants them to learn and the strength to apply it each day. Prayer is a most crucial component in the Christian life in situations like this and should not be neglected, not even for a day. For those in countries where Bibles are outlawed, but who have open internet access, numerous websites that contain whole word-for-word versions of the Bible are invaluable. There are even online fellowship groups for believers to meet and encourage one another.
Finding other believers in the area can lead to starting a quiet, underground home group where believers get together weekly to study God’s Word and pray with and for one another. The home church movement in China produced a strong and vibrant community of Christian faith in an atmosphere of the worst repression and persecution. Those who have started underground home groups in Middle Eastern countries have found a tremendous hunger for God’s Word among English-speaking, foreign workers living in their area. These faithful believers rotate the meetings each week, keep it to word-of-mouth only, and grow tremendously in their faith during these difficult times.
The Greek word for fish is “ichthys.” As early as the first century, Christians made an acrostic from this word: Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter, i.e. Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. The fish has plenty of other theological overtones as well, for Christ fed the 5,000 with 2 fishes and 5 loaves (a meal recapitulated in Christian love-feasts) and called his disciples “fishers of men.” Water baptism, practiced by immersion in the early church, created a parallel between fish and converts. Second-century theologian Tertullian put it this way: “we, little fishes, after the image of our Ichthys, Jesus Christ, are born in the water.”
Greeks, Romans, and many other pagans used the fish symbol before Christians. Hence the fish, unlike, say, the cross, attracted little suspicion, making it a perfect secret symbol for persecuted believers. When threatened by Romans in the first centuries after Christ, Christians used the fish mark meeting places and tombs, or to distinguish friends from foes. According to one ancient story, when a Christian met a stranger in the road, the Christian sometimes drew one arc of the simple fish outline in the dirt. If the stranger drew the other arc, both believers knew they were in good company. Current bumper-sticker and business-card uses of the fish hearken back to this practice.
However a Christian chooses to maintain a close relationship with the Lord while in isolation from other believers, God will encourage him or her and give His strength. Believers have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit who resides within us (Ephesians 1:13-14) for exactly these types of situations. The history of Christianity is filled with stories of believers who maintained strong faith under the worst persecution and isolation imaginable. The power of the Holy Spirit within the hearts of believers is never to be underestimated.
Martin Luther, the great Protestant reformer, wrote the following in regard to the importance of understanding Greek and Hebrew when studying the Bible: “The languages are the sheath in which the sword of the Spirit is contained.” God sovereignly chose to have His Word written in Hebrew (the Old Testament) and Greek (the New Testament).
Our modern English translations of the Bible are excellent. Most of the major English translations available today are superb renderings of the original Greek and Hebrew. However, in any translation, not everything that was communicated in the original language can be precisely conveyed in another language. Some nuances do not transfer well from one language to another. As a result, a translation rarely is a perfect rendering of the original. (This is one reason why the Amplified Version was published.)
An example of this is the “aspect” of Greek verbs. English verbs have tenses—past, present, and future. Greek verbs have these same tenses, but they also have what is known as “aspect.” Present-tense Greek verbs mean more than the action is occurring presently. A Greek verb can also carry the meaning that the action is occurring continually or repeatedly. This is lost in English unless the aspect word “continually” or “repeatedly” is added to the translation along with the verb. A specific example of this is Ephesians 5:18, “…be filled with the Spirit.” In the original Greek, this verse is telling us to continually be filled with the Spirit. It is not a one-time event—it is a lifelong process. This “aspect” is lost in the English translation.
With all that said, the Bible also makes it clear that the Spirit is the author of the Bible and that He will help us to understand the His Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17; John 14:26). You do not have to know Hebrew and Greek in order to understand the Bible. God’s intended message for us is accurately communicated in English. You can have confidence that God can reveal the meaning of His Word to you without your knowing Greek and Hebrew.
Perhaps this is a good analogy: reading the Bible without knowing Greek and Hebrew is like watching a basic television, while reading the Bible knowing Greek and Hebrew is like watching a curved 80″ UHD 4K television with stereo surround sound. You can fully understand what is going on with the basic television, but the curved 80″ UHD 4K television with stereo surround sound gives added depth and clarity. With the help of the Holy Spirit, anyone can accurately understand the Bible in English. However, knowing Hebrew and Greek helps to better understand the nuances and richness of the biblical texts.
If attending church one service is good, won’t attending four more be better? Is this what God wants? This is what the Jewish remnant wanted to know as they came to ask about the fasts they had been keeping for over 70 yrs. Let’s see what God has to say about true worship and true obedience.
PRINCIPLES: One’s attitude weighs more with God than one’s actions; God hates hypocrisy because He is a jealous God.
AIM: That we may learn what God requires for pure worship and then demonstrate that in our everyday walk.
DAY ONE: Background and Zech 7:1-3: The people ask God about fasting
1.How much time has passed from the revelations of visions? It has been approximately 2 yrs. since God first spoke to Zechariah and showed him 8 visions.
Zech 1:1 2nd yr of Darius, 8th month
Zech 7:1 4th yr of Darius 4th day of 9th month.
2.A delegation came to ask the priests and prophets a question. From where did they come and what did they ask? See Ezra 2:28, Neh 11:31. They came from Bethel. The phrase “house of God” refers to that city, if it had said “house of the Lord” it would refer to the Temple. Zech 7:2 Now the people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-Melech and their companions to seek the Lord’s favor
The delegation came to inquire as to whether they should continue to weep and fast as they had been doing “these many years”.
Neh 11:31 The children also of Benjamin from Geba dwelt at Michmash, and Aija, and Bethel, and in their villages,
Ezr 2:28 The men of Bethel and Ai, two hundred twenty and three.
Note: Jdg 20:31 –
To the house of God – “To Bethel,” as in the margin. On “Gibeah in the field.”
Barnes: Zec 7:2 –
When they held sent unto the house of God – Rather, “And Bethel sent;” that is, the inhabitants of Bethel sent. “The house of God” is nowhere in Holy Scripture called Bethel. Bethel is always the name of the place. . The “house of God” is designated by historians, Psalmists, prophets, by the name, “Beth-elohim,” more commonly “Beth-Ha-elohim, the God;” or “of the Lord,” YHVH. Zechariah and Haggai use these names. It is not likely that the name, Beth-el, should have first been given to the house of God, when it had been desecrated by the idolatries of Jeroboam. Bethel also is, in the Hebrew order of the words, naturally the subject . Nor is there any reason why they should have sent to Bethel, since they sought an answer from God. For it would be forced to say that they sent to Bethel, in order that those at Bethel should send to Jerusalem; which is not said.
Osorius: Bethel then, that is, the assembly of the city, sent messengers to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to God and consult the wise there.”
3.The people had been fasting during several months of the year for over the last 70 yrs. They had mourned, fasted, wept as a way to remember the past. Read 2 Kings 25 to gain the background behind their question. Note specifically these verses: v 1, 3&4, 8&9, 25. What had occurred in each of these verses and in what months?
In vs 1: the siege of Jerusalem: 2Ki 25:1 And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he, and all his host, against Jerusalem, and pitched against it; and they built forts against it round about.
In vs 3&4: 2Ki 25:3: the famine in Jerusalem: And on the ninth day of the fourth month the famine prevailed in the city, and there was no bread for the people of the land.
2Ki 25:4 And the city was broken up, and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between two walls, which is by the king’s garden: (now the Chaldees were against the city round about:) and the king went the way toward the plain.
In vs 8&9: The burning of the Temple: 2Ki 25:8 And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, which is the nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem:
2Ki 25:9 And he burnt the house of the LORD, and the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man’s house burnt he with fire.
In vs 25: The murder of Gedaliah: 2Ki 25:25 But it came to pass in the seventh month, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, the son of Elishama, of the seed royal, came, and ten men with him, and smote Gedaliah, that he died,
4.Read Zech 7:5 and 8:19. What months did God note that they had been fasting? In chapter 7 God only notes the fasts for the 5th and 7th months, but in chapter 8 we find that He noted the 4th, 5th, 7th and 10th.
In Zech 7:5 we read: When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years
In Zech 8:19 The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth,
5.The people had been fasting for 70 yrs. Did God require these times of fasting? _NO____ What did God require?
Lev 16:29-31; 23:26-32; Num 29:7: This set of verses speak of the Day of Atonement and what God required: God only established one fast, which was on the Day of Atonement. There were other fasts but this one only was required.
Full explanation: 16:29 “This is to be a perpetual statute for you. 1 In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you must humble yourselves 2 and do no work of any kind, 3 both the native citizen and the foreigner who resides 4 in your midst, 16:30 for on this day atonement is to be made for you to cleanse you from all your sins; you must be clean before the Lord. 5 16:31 It is to be a Sabbath of complete rest for you, and you must humble yourselves. 6 It is a perpetual statute. 7
23:26 The Lord spoke to Moses: Lev 23:27 Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement:
29:7 “‘On the tenth day of this seventh month you are to have a holy assembly. You must humble yourselves; 20 you must not do any work on it.
The Israelites had placed a burden upon themselves that God did not require. Where have you placed a burden upon yourself that is not scripturally based? How often do we place boundaries and burdens upon ourselves that God did not require nor does He see them as pleasing. For instance, how often do we place the burden of church attendance upon ourselves? How often do we place the burden of dress codes, behavioral codes that are not scripturally based? God desires a contrite heart, pure attitude and pure motivation above “rules” and legalism.
DAY TWO: Zech 7:4-7 God Rebukes Hypocrisy
6.God sent Zechariah back to the people with 3 basic questions. List them from vs 4-7.
Question #1 vs 5: When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me?
Question #2 vs. 6: And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?
Question #3 vs 7: Should ye not hear the words which the LORD hath cried by the former prophets,
7.In what way were the people being hypocritical? The people were fasting without regard to the requirements that God had established. They imposed fasts upon the people that were not scripturally based and they were doing it with the wrong motives and attitudes. They were not doing it for God but for themselves. God rebuked them for their empty formalism that had no spiritual reality.
8.Read Is 58:1-7 for a similar time when God asked the people about their hypocrisy. What did God say He required? God begins this chapter with how the people were responding. Then He asks a pertinent question: Isa 58:5 Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD? But rather in vs. 6 God tells them what fast He is looking for: Isa 58:6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
Isa 58:7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? God does not see the affliction of one’s person to be pleasing, but rather God is looking for the outcome that comes from a fast. He is looking to see if there is fruit such as what James speaks of as true religion. Jam 1:26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.
Jam 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
9.In contrast to fasting, what does God desire? Micah 6:7&8, Is 1:16-19; 58:5-9a; Amos 5:21-24,1 Cor 10:31. God is looking for a changed heart that demonstrates that change in the society about us, which should bring glory to God because others see God in us.
Micah 6:7&8: what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
Is 1:16-19 Isa 1:16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
Isa 1:17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
Is 58:-5-9 God is looking for fruit that touches the lives of those around us: the oppressed, those under the yoke of bondage, to feed the hungry, to meet the needs of the poor
Amos 5:21-24 Put away the sacrifices that are not a sweet aroma in its place: But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.
1Co 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
DAY THREE: Zech 7:8-14 God Requires Repentance and Sincerity
10.In contrast to these self-imposed fasts, now God tells the people what He desires. Recalling our “4C’s” walk through vs. 8-14 to see it “played out in living color”.
C = consider the choice: what choice did God give to the people? They had a choice to demonstrate pure religion
C = compare to God’s Word: again Is 58:6 and Zech 7:9&10. What did God say to do? God said to prove your heart by touching the lives of others, meet their needs wherever they are and whatever circumstance they find themselves, execute true judgment and mercy as He would
C = choose God’s Way: Zech 7:11&12 What does God note about their choices? they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear
C = count on God for His provision and protection: Zech 7:13. Did the people experience these “2p’s”? NO: Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear,
Zec 7:14 But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not. Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned: for they laid the pleasant land desolate.
Where have you a choice and are refusing to choose His way and thus are not experiencing His provision and protection? Daily we face this as we choose to be obedient or not.
DAY FOUR: Zech 8:1-18 God Will Dwell in Their Midst
The 7 R’s ch. 8
8:1-3, 13-15 restoration –what will be restored? The city will be restored to a city of truth and God will dwell in the midst as He desired to do before: I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem:
8:4-6 the remarkable – how will it be remarkable? It will be remarkable because this city has been a city of violence and hatred but now it will be a city of peace and harmony: yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.
8:7-8 a relationship- what kind of relationship will be in evidence? God will be the people’s God and they will be His people: a parent/child relationship; Father and child: pure and holy: I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country; I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.
8:9-11 rebuilding- what will be rebuilt? The temple will be rebuilt: that the temple might be built.
8:12 renewal- what is renewed? Nature will return to its former glory: For the seed shall be prosperous; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things. The removal of the curse and in its place blessing:
Zec 8:13 And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong.
8:16-19 righteousness-how is righteousness revealed? Righteousness will be revealed in the actions that are demonstrated between everyone; and the attitudes that lead to proper actions. Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbor; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates: let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbor; and love no false oath: cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace.
8:20-23 reaching out-who will be reaching out and to whom? All from across the globe will come and say: the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts:
DAY FIVE: Zech 8:18-23 From Fasting to Feasting.
14.What a difference one letter makes! The people had asked a question about fasting, but God says now add one letter. You will no longer fast but feast! In what ways will this be different from the fasting in chapter 7? In chapter 7 the fasts were characterized by sadness and somberness as they in sorrow and misdirected motives recalled the tragedy of Jerusalem and the loss of the Temple, but in chapter 8 the feasts will be characterized by joy and gladness and the people will love what God loves.
Fasting is fruitless when done with the wrong attitude and wrong motives. Are you still dwelling beside the grave of your past sins and fasting in added rituals that God has never asked you to do OR have you added a letter to fasting to now make it feasting? How are you demonstrating that in your daily walk? Personal responses needed here.