May 26 - June 1
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: 2 Kings 20:1-21; Exod. 32:3-35; Dan. 9:1-19; Psalm 51; Acts 12:1-17.
MEMORY TEXT: "You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us in answer to many prayers" (2 Corinthians 1:11, RSV).
KEY THOUGHT: However difficult it is for sinful humans to understand all the principles of prayer, we are nevertheless admonished in Scripture to pray and prayand pray. Passionately and frequently, faithful men and women did indeed prayfor healing, for intercession, for liberation, for forgiveness, for prison release. And the Lord, in His wisdom and timing, answered according to His will, as He does today.
SUCCESS TIP! A group of success-oriented professionals invited a well-known Adventist minister to speak on strategies for living the Christian life. "Don't give us any of that read-the-Bible-and-pray stuff," a participant said. "Give us some practical suggestions instead." The preacher replied, "Sorry. Those are the only tips I have. There are no other successful ones."
How crucial for us to realize that earnest, persevering prayer is our source of power for the Christian life. Without that, we have nothing. Supplication to Godoffered by a soul understanding his or her own helplessness and need for entire dependence upon Himcan alone bring to men and women the power of the Holy Spirit, their only adequate source of strength in the daily battle against self, sin, and the principalities and powers in high places. To fight against these things alone, without prayer leading us to the power of God, is like trying to shoot down a missile with a slingshot.
"And it came about before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 'Return and say to Hezekiah the leader of My people, "Thus says the Lord, the God of your father David, 'I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you' " ' "(2 Kings 20:4, 5a, NASB).
Hezekiah came to the throne determined to do all in his power to save Judah from the terrible fate overtaking the northern kingdom because of its apostasy. He quickly instituted needed reforms in the southern kingdom, beginning with a restoration of the long-neglected temple services. However, as so often happens for reasons we so often don't understand, illness struck. "In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death" (2 Kings 20:la, RSV). In fact, he was given a message from the Lord that he would die.
Though told by God Himself that "you shall die" (2 Kings 20:1), Hezekiah prayed anyway that he would be healed. Was it presumptuous on his part to ask God to change His mind about something He had already declared? What does this incident tell us about the power of prayer?
|Second Kings 20 tells not only of Hezekiah 's miraculous recovery but of the incident with the Babylonian ambassadors. These men, bearing a gift to Hezekiah, came on a diplomatic visit. At one point, full of "pride and vanity" (Prophets and Kings, p. 344), Hezekiah showed them "all the house of his treasures. . . . There was nothing in his house or in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them" (vs. 13, NKJV). This actwhich Scripture says happened because "his heart was lifted up" (2 Chron. 32:25)resulted in God's warning of a future calamity that would fall upon the nation. How ironic that Hezekiah, given this miraculous reprieve by God, would use his extra time to make such a calamitous blunder.|
|God answered Hezekiah's prayer in a miraculous way. Yet how soon Hezekiah forgot just how dependent upon God He was. Though most of us might not have had such a miraculous experience as Hezekiah, we are all just as dependent upon God, even if we are just as prone to forget. What practical things can we do to help us never to lose sight of this dependence, thus avoiding, in our own ways, Hezekiah's mistake?|
"'But now, if thou wilt forgive their sinand if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written'" (Exod. 32:32, RSV).
The original Hebrew in this verse yields a wonderful truth regarding salvation. The word translated "forgive" comes from a common Hebrew word in the Bible (nasa) that means "to bear" or "to carry."
In fact, Isaiah, talking specifically about Christ's death on the cross, twice uses a form of that same word: "Surely he has borne (from nasa) our griefs . . . and he bare (from nasa) the sin of many" (Isa. 53:4, 12).
Thus, in this famous prayer of Moses, the prophet is saying to the Lord, "But now, if thou wilt bear (from nasa) their sin Mosesunderstanding the plan of salvation, understanding the principle of the cross of Christasked God Himself to bear the sins of His people. Yes! Talk about clear depiction of the gospel! Here, many centuries before the Cross, even before the earthly sanctuary was built, we are given a powerful depiction of the principle of substitution, in which God Himself pays the penalty for the sins of His created beings. This is the foundation of the great hope all Christians have.
When, and how, was Moses' prayer answered? When, and how, did God bear their sin? What Bible verses can you find to back up your response?
Many biblical commentators have viewed Moses in this particular role as a type of intercessor, similar to Christ in His role as Intercessor. (See Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25.) When Moses came down from the mountain, after interceding for Israel, his face was glowing: "That divine illumination symbolized the glory of the dispensation of which Moses was the visible mediator, a representative of the one true Intercessor."Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 330.
|Think about what it means that God Himself, in the person of Jesus
Christ, bore the penalty of our sins! What does that act show us about the
futility of trying to save ourselves?
If it were possible for us to save ourselves, would Christ have died in our stead? Why should this great truth of God, bearing our sins, be so humbling to us? Why should it cause us to change our lives and bring us into obedience?
"'And now, O Lord our God, who didst bring thy people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast made thee a name, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly. O Lord, according to all thy righteous acts, let thy anger and thy wrath turn away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy hill; because for our sins . . . Jerusalem and thy people have become a byword among all who are round about us" (Dan. 9:15, 16, RSV).
Health promoter, dream interpreter, lion tamer, astute statesman, brilliant writer, handwritingcode breakerDaniel, first and foremost, was a man of prayer.
One of the most powerful and illuminating prayers in all Scripture is recorded in Daniel 9, when Daniel was interceding in behalf of his nation, which had been taken into captivity and whose holy temple was destroyed.
What first prompted Daniel to pray this prayer? See Dan 9:1, 2.
Besides being a man of prayer, Daniel was also a man of the Word of God. It was from his reading of Scripture that Daniel knew what to pray for, in this case the restoration of His people and the nation. Here is one simple example of the need for both prayer and the study of the Word. Each enhances the practice of the other.
Notice, too, the essence of Daniel's prayer. Though Daniel himself is never recorded as having any moral lapses (unlike many other Bible characters), his prayer is constantly in the first person plural. In other words, all through the prayer he identifies himself with the sins of his nation, even though he was a great man of God and a prophet. "We have sinned.... We have not heeded your prophets.... We have rebelled.
We have not made our prayer before the Lord our God. . . . We have sinned against Him."
Why did he pray this way? Perhaps Daniel simply so identified himself with his nation that he automatically linked their fate with his. Or more likely, Daniel understood the principle that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. He understood that all humans are guilty before God. This second option makes even more sense, considering that the 70-week prophecy concerning Jesuswho came as a cure for all humanity's guiltimmediately followed his prayer of repentance.
|It's so easy to look at the faults of the church and point fingers of blame at this leader or that pastor or whomever. What does Daniel's prayer teach us about our own guilt as well?|
"Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love; according to thy abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin"! (Ps. 51:1, 2, RSV).
Psalm 51, known as a penitential psalm, was composed by David after his great sin with Bathsheba, in which (among other things) he committed adultery and murder. It was written in anguish and self-abhorrence, brought upon Him by the power of the Holy Spirit upon a soul open to God's leading.
|"It is a prayer for forgiveness and for sanctification through the Holy Spirit. Accompanying the petition are vows of gratitude for God's mercy and promises for the future. Perhaps no other OT passage draws so clear a picture of the truly repentant sinner trusting in God's power to forgive and restore, as this portrait of David's experience of transgression. "The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 3.p. 755.|
What verses in the psalm show David's repentance? How is repentance related to forgiveness?
Though repentance contains no merit in and of itself, it's about all we can bring to Godfor it's our acknowledgment that we, really, have nothing to bring to Him. In other words, there are no works we can do to save ourselves; all we can do is acknowledge our sins and seek forgiveness for them. That's repentance. Without it, God can do nothing to save us, not because the penalty for our sins hasn't already been paid but because repentance shows that we have realized our utter helplessness and need for God to save us. Repentance is, in many ways, sinners admitting their great need of God doing for them what they can never, in any way, do for themselves. True repentance expresses a person's understanding of salvation by faith alone.
|The first sin was not adultery, lust, or greed but self-exaltation and pride. It remains, today, one of the most dangerous sins, because, unlike many other sins, it is socially acceptable (people are disciplined in the church for adulterynot pride!). In the context of today's lesson, why are pride and self-exaltation so dangerous? How likely is a proud person, full of self-righteousness, to have true repentance?|
"So Peter was kept in prison; but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church" (Acts 12:5, RSV).
According to Scripture, Peter's supernatural deliverance from prison was a direct result of the church's prayers. And if anyone did need prayer at that time, it was Peter.
First, the same Herod who locked up Peter had just killed James "with the sword" (Acts 12:2), so Peter's future didn't look too bright. Second, besides being locked in a dungeon, Peter was "bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison" (vs. 6, NKJV), so the chance of escape looked bleak. Third, Herod was holding him until the Passover ended, when he intended to "bring him before the people" (vs. 4), and that time was fast approaching (vs. 6).
Despite the gloomy situation, Acts depicts Peter in prison doing something quite interesting. What was itwhat does it reveal about Peter's faith?
Peter, trusting in the Lord for deliverancedidn't expect it quite like this. Only after the angel brought him out of prison and he was in the street did he finally "come to himself," realizing that what happened wasn't a vision (vss. 9-11).
How interesting, too, that he seemed so astonished by this miracle. After all, here is a man who spent three and a half years with Jesus as one of His closest disciples. Peter had seen the dead raised, the blind given sight, the sick miraculously healed, the demon-possessed liberated, and so forth-miracles that, in many ways, were more incredible than what he had just experienced. And yet he was still astonished!
Peter, of course, wasn't the only one astonished Imagine the poor guards who, at some point, found their captive freed As a result, these men were commanded to be put to death (vs. 19)all as a result of God answering the prayers of His people.
FURTHER STUDY: And Jesus Prayed--"God Save the World!" Read this book: Roger J. Morneau, Incredible Answers to Prayer (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Pub. Assoc., 1990).
Jesus' most famous prayer is recorded in Matthew 6:9-13, KJV:
"After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen."
SUMMARY: Whatever the mysteries of prayer, the Word of God is clear: Prayer works, and we should be doing more of itboth as a church and as individuals.
David L. Lin
Many Chinese Christians have little access to Christian books or even the Bible, but God honors their faith as they put into practice the teachings of Christ.
The peasant woman always locked her door when she left home. But one Sabbath she returned from worship and found her door wide open. She saw a man standing beside her rice bin with an empty cloth bag in his hand. She realized he must be a thief trying to steal her rice.
She could have called out to the neighbors for help, but when the thief did not move, she felt impressed to pray for him instead. She remembered that the Bible taught that Christians must love their enemies and pray for those who mistreat them. She knelt in the doorway of her home and prayed. "Lord," she said, "this man must be hungry, for he has come to get some of my rice. Please forgive him for breaking into my house and help him to find work so that he will not have to steal."
She rose from her knees and walked to where the man was standing. She spoke kindly to him, telling the would-be thief about Jesus, who would forgive his sins if he confessed them. Then she invited him to worship with her at church the following Sabbath. The man was so touched by her sermon and prayer that he agreed to go with her to worship God the following Sabbath. Then he told her why he did not run when she came to the door.
The would-be thief had filled his bag with rice from her rice bin and hoisted the bag onto his shoulder. He turned to leave, but his feet would not move. He thought that the rice bag was too heavy, so he poured some rice back into the bin. Again he tried to leave, but he could not move his feet. He poured more rice back, and still he could not take a step. Finally he poured all of the rice back into the bin, but his feet remained glued to the spot. He was still standing beside the rice bin when the woman came home from church and found him.
This woman who practiced the truth that she had learned from the Bible won him to Christ.
David L. Lin (left) is a retired pastor from China now living in Highland, California.
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