Human Relationship with God Regarding Work

Guidance Faith Work and Miracle

Would you end 2018 understanding that God defines work for every person, divides the work into task increments, initiates each task, and provides the person guidance to proceed and complete the task on time? Christ explains and illustrates this relationship through interactions with a man born blind. Each task, if completed, leads to a miracle and ushers in the next task. To receive and complete your tasks, you need to stay connected to God: by praying continually, interacting with other believers in fellowship, and living in the image of God. You will receive his guidance, follow with faith, and complete each task on time to receive your miracle and guidance for the next task.

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Jesus teaching
Jesus teaching
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We invite you to end 2018 learning from Christ’s teaching on human relationship with God regarding work, through interactions with a man born blind. Christ uses the interactions to lead us step by step through an illustration of the relationship. Apostle John provides an account of the teaching and illustration in the first 39 verses of chapter 9 [John 9:1–39]. In the teaching, Christ explains that God defines a work mission for every person, divides the work into task increments with a performance time for each, initiates each task, and provides guidance for the person to continue and complete the task on time. Each task completed on time results in a miracle and ushers the person onto the next task.

The mission for the man born blind appears to be to start proclaiming the gospel message to all, using his life experience as physical evidence that Jesus is the Messiah and to illustrate the work aspects of human relationship with God. He performed the mission in task increments as God guided him. The biblical account describes the first three tasks and the beginning of the fourth. We describe the three tasks using a sketch format to emphasize the relationship they illustrate.

Each task description identifies an objective, initiation, instruction, outcome, and miracle.

Task Objective represents the purpose to be accomplished through the task. The objective of a task could be identified at the end of the task but is usually not obvious at the beginning. For example, when Christ told the blind man to “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” [John 9:7], he did not tell the man the objective was to gain sight.

Go to pool of Siloam and wash
Go to pool of Siloam and wash
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Task Initiation represents something that God does to get the task started. For example, Christ anointed the man’s eyes with moist clay before giving him the instruction to go and wash in the pool: “He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay” [John 9:6]. We encountered an example in a previous bible study under Peter Escapes from Herod’s Prison, when an angel released Peter from prison and left him outside the prison gates to complete his escape from King Herod. God’s initiation of a task is at times contained in the miracle of a previous task. Anointing the man’s eyes with moist clay appears symbolic to illustrate task initiation by God. If all he wanted was to heal the man, he could have accomplished that just by touching him and pronouncing the healing.

Task Instruction represents a specific command to do something. God gives the recipient an instruction to do something: either a clear and direct instruction as in Task 1 or an instruction that becomes evident with the unfolding events as in Tasks 2 and 3.

Task Outcome describes the result of a task and includes a miracle.

Task Miracle Every task includes a miracle with the outcome. The miracle is an aspect of the task outcome that could not have happened through human effort alone.

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Husband-Wife Conflict Resolution from Abraham-Sarah

Abraham-Sarah in the Challenge of Ishmael

We learn several lessons from Abraham-Sarah interactions in the separation of Ishmael from Isaac: Quick and permanent resolution of a potentially dividing husband-wife disagreement to remain united as one before God; conflict resolution strategy based on understanding and addressing the underlying concerns in a conflict; and opportunity selection based on remaining connected to God to receive guidance regarding opportunities that one may de-emphasize in order to focus on proper development of other opportunities.

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We discuss Abraham-Sarah interactions regarding Ishmael to learn about resolving a potentially dividing husband-wife disagreement quickly and permanently. Also, the interactions help us understand that certain things or opportunities that are important to us may at times need to be de-emphasized or abandoned in order to make room for proper development of other opportunities.

Celebrating Birth
Celebrating Birth
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Sarah gave birth to Isaac, a son with husband Abraham in their old age, fulfilling God’s promise: “… Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him” [Genesis 17:19]. Therefore, Isaac was the child of promise: God’s promise to Abraham-Sarah will be fulfilled through Isaac’s offspring. However, Abraham with Sarah’s approval had fathered a child Ishmael with Sarah’s maid-servant Hagar. He loved Ishmael, felt a responsibility for him, and maybe wondered about Ishmael’s rightful inheritance as his son.

During a feast to celebrate Isaac’s weaning, Sarah noticed Ishmael display apparent hostility toward Isaac: “And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, scoffing” [Genesis 21:9]. She recognized the behavior as a sign of potential future threat to Isaac growing up in the presence of Ishmael. Therefore, she demanded Ishmael and his mother be expelled from the household to protect Isaac: “Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, namely with Isaac” [Genesis 21:10].

Hagar and Ishmael
Hagar and Ishmael
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Her demand troubled Abraham greatly: “And the matter was very displeasing in Abraham’s sight because of his son” [Genesis 21:11]. He likely was sympathetic to Sarah’s demand but felt an internal conflict with throwing out his son because of a sense of responsibility and concern for his well being. God intervened: He directed Abraham to accept his wife’s demand and resolved his internal conflict by explaining that he will bless each of the two children separately [Genesis 21:12–13]: “But God said to him, ‘Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.’”

We learn several lessons through these events. First, we learn an important conflict resolution strategy through God’s resolution of Abraham’s internal conflict. Second, we discuss the urgency of his intervention and the resolution he provided to underscore the need for quick and permanent resolution of any potentially dividing husband-wife disagreement. Third, the separation of Ishmael from Isaac provides a lesson on opportunity selection—recognizing available opportunities that may need to be de-emphasized or abandoned in order to make room for proper development of other opportunities.

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Husband-Wife Blessing Revealed to One

God’s Covenant with Abraham-Sarah

God’s promise to a husband-wife union could be revealed through the husband or wife and will be fulfilled to them as a unit. Because the husband and wife are one, a promise to one is a promise to the two-in-one and will be fulfilled to them together. God interacts with husband and wife as one and illustrates the relationship through his covenant with Abraham-Sarah: a conditional promise to be God to all that worship and serve him.

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Alone with God
Alone with God
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We discuss God’s interaction with Abraham regarding his conditional promise to be God to all that worship and serve him. The promise was for Abraham-Sarah as a union, their descendants, and all humanity. However, God revealed the promise to Abraham as an individual. The context of the interaction enables an understanding of aspects directed at Abraham or Sarah individually and aspects directed at Abraham-Sarah as a union. God provides a message through the interaction: that his promise to a husband-wife union could be revealed through the husband or wife but will be fulfilled for them together as a unit.

Abraham understood the message but doubted the promise could be fulfilled for him and Sarah considering their age. He appealed for Ishmael in an apparent attempt to “help” God find a path to fulfillment of the promise [Genesis 17:17–18]: “Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, ‘Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’ … ‘Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!’” Then God clarified the promise: “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him” [Genesis 17:19]. Thus, God explained to Abraham that the promise is for Abraham-Sarah and will be fulfilled to their descendants through a son of their flesh. He spoke to Abraham to convey a conditional promise for Abraham-Sarah.

Husband-wife and child
Husband-wife and child
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It is perhaps easy to understand that the promise of a child to a husband or wife is a promise to the husband-wife union. However, we may need greater consciousness of the message to appreciate its other implications. Whether in regard to wisdom or knowledge, physical possession, child bearing, or any other areas of human need, God’s promise to a husband or wife belongs to the husband-wife union and will be fulfilled to them as an indivisible unit. They need to be functionally together and interact with God as one in order to receive fulfillment of the promise. They could lose the promise if one person should become greedy and seek to claim individual ownership of any part.

We discuss God’s interaction with Abraham as described in Genesis 17 to understand the message of the covenant as it relates to husband-wife interactions and relationships.

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Supremacy of Marital Union

Abraham-Sarah Overcome Temptation of Hagar

Abraham and Sarah sought to have a child through their maid Hagar because of anxiety about God’s promise regarding their offspring. They were old and losing hope of child bearing. Hagar conceived but tried to use the pregnancy to disrupt their relationship. They resisted her successfully, choosing their union over the possibility that the child of Hagar might be the key to their promised offspring expansion.

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God promised Abraham and Sarah a great expansion of their offspring and blessing for them and all humanity through their offspring. As we discuss in a previous bible study under Husband-Wife Leadership from Abraham-Sarah, God spoke to Abraham alone but the promise was for Abraham-Sarah union. They were anxious about the promise because they did not have a child and were old and losing hope of child bearing. They explored the possibility of having a child through Sarah’s maid, Hagar, in accordance with their custom. Abraham impregnated Hagar as permitted under agreement with Sarah.

Abraham-Sarah in agreement with Hagar
Abraham-Sarah in agreement with Hagar
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Hagar was to remain subservient to Sarah and bear the child for her according to their custom. But she displayed a different aspiration as she sought to displace Sarah from her husband’s love. However, Abraham and Sarah valued their union more than the possibility that Hagar was carrying the child of their promise. They resisted Hagar and sought to impose Sarah’s authority over her. But Hagar would not submit. She instead fled from the household.

The attempt to have a child through Hagar was a temptation that potentially could have disrupted the Abraham-Sarah union and maybe fulfillment of God’s promise to the union. They overcame the temptation because of their belief in the supremacy of their union. In this bible study, we discuss: (1) their initial succumb to the temptation because of anxiety to receive fulfillment of God’s promise; (2) their recovery to overcome the temptation because nothing mattered enough to them to disrupt their relationship; and (3) aspects of their history to understand they built their marital bond through longevity of several decades of respecting, honoring, and caring for each other.

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Husband-Wife Leadership from Abraham-Sarah

Leadership and Communication from Call of Abraham

Interactions at the call of Abraham illustrate God considers husband and wife as one and relies on husband’s leadership and effective communication with his wife to guide them toward his purpose. He spoke to Abraham alone about a mission and promise for his family and relied on him to share the information with wife Sarah to lead their unity of purpose and obedience to God toward accomplishing the mission.

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We continue our study of God’s purpose for husband-wife interactions through a mini series on Abraham and Sarah. The biblical accounts of Abraham and Sarah are more often about God’s interactions with Abraham, which intertwine with Abraham-Sarah interactions to tell us about God’s view of their relationship, thus adding to understanding his purpose and expectations for husband-wife interactions and relationships. In a previous study on Adam and Eve (Union of Seamless Complements), we saw that God considers a husband and wife to be one and inseparable. We see more evidence through Abraham-Sarah interactions, based on God speaking to Abraham alone during most encounters when he provided instructions and promises directed at Abraham-Sarah family.

Receives instruction and promise
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Our study of Abraham-Sarah interactions is divided into four parts in order to focus enough on some of the details. We learn through the four-part series that God considered Abraham leader and representative of the Abraham-Sarah union (therefore, family). Secondly, he considered them as “one in God” such that his promise to one is a promise to the union and any commitment from one is a commitment from the union. Although subtle and at times easy to overlook, the lesson about God relating to Abraham-Sarah as one appears central to his relationship with them. He spoke promises to Abraham that were really promises to Abraham-Sarah and got commitments from him that really were commitments from the husband-wife union.

He gave directions to Abraham, spoke promises to him, and received commitments from him: all on behalf of Abraham-Sarah union. His communications with Abraham applied equally to Sarah as if he spoke to Abraham-Sarah when he spoke to Abraham. For example, when he instructed Abraham to relocate to “a land I will show you” [Genesis 12:1], he was calling Abraham-Sarah to a mission. Abraham’s responsibility to obey God included effective communication with his wife so they could work seamlessly together to accomplish the mission.

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Union of Seamless Complements—Adam and Eve Purpose of Marriage

United and Inseparable Except in Judgment

The biblical account of Adam and Eve conveys an understanding that God created marriage to combine a man and woman into a union of fitting complements, well suited to fulfill the purpose of representing him among all creation. We learn from his judgment of their disobedience that God holds a man and wife in inseparable responsibility to obey him. Both will incur punishment for an act of disobedience. However, he judges them individually when they disobey and assigns each separate responsibility for his or her punishment.

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We study the account of Adam and Eve to understand God’s purpose for marriage as a union of fitting complements well suited to fulfill his purpose for human beings. He created Adam first to fill the purpose but decided that Adam alone was inadequate. He declared that Adam needed a comparable helper from within in order to fulfill the responsibilities of representing God among other creations. Therefore, he created Eve as Adam’s comparable helper so the two together will be adequate to fulfill God’s purpose for humans.

Husband accepts from wife
Husband accepts from wife
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The creation account includes their initial life in the Garden of Eden, disobedience to God in eating from the forbidden, and punishment and removal from the initial “Garden of Eden” environment to the current life that we know. He pronounced a specific punishment for each after they disobeyed him. We learn from his judgment of their disobedience that God holds a man and wife in inseparable responsibility to obey him. Both will incur punishment for an act of disobedience. However, he judges them individually when they disobey and assigns each separate responsibility for his or her punishment.

We discuss the account of creation to understand the broad but clear statement of God’s purpose for people, he created Adam to fill the purpose, and later created Eve as a fitting complement for Adam because he found Adam inadequate alone to fulfill the purpose. Further, we discuss the disobedience and punishment to understand he held them jointly and inseparably responsible for obedience but punished them individually so each can manage his or her punishment separately.

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Samson Breaks Covenant with God—Seeking Delilah Love

Intoxicated with Love Samson Breaks Covenant

Samson-Delilah interactions provide important principles for a man or woman seeking marital love and wondering whether to press on or withdraw from a proposed relationship. Samson was determined to win Delilah’s love despite confronting strong negative indications against a marital relationship with her. All she wanted was to spy on him for enemies that sought to neutralize his leadership of Israel. He ignored the danger signs against seeking her love, because he thought he could win her over by giving in without compromising his core belief. He eventually succumbed, broke his covenant with God, but did not win Delilah’s love.

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Samson slays lion bare-handed
Samson slays lion bare-handed
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Samson was born in covenant that endowed him with special capabilities and specific mission to begin delivery of Israel from Philistines. He was dedicated to God and to the mission from conception. As a symbol of his commitment, his hair would not be shaved or cut [Judges 13:5]: “For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.” He grew up with extraordinary strength that struck fear on the Philistines. He could stand up to them, was always successful against them, and was promising as leader to free Israel from Philistine rule. The Philistine rulers had no answer to him.

Samson courts Delilah
Samson courts Delilah
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Then they saw an opportunity. Samson loved a Philistine woman named Delilah that did not love him. The Philistine rulers persuaded Delilah to pretend to be interested in him so she could gain access to spy on him. They would pay her handsomely for information that enabled them subdue Samson and end his leadership of Israel [Judges 16:5]: “The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, ‘See if you can lure him into showing you the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him so we may tie him up and subdue him. Each one of us will give you eleven hundred shekels of silver.’”

Delilah scolds Samson
Delilah scolds Samson
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Although Samson had sufficient information to understand the woman was spying on him, he continued to seek her love, trying to deceive her by giving in somewhat without revealing the secret that she wanted. However, she eventually wore him down: “With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was sick to death of it” [Judges 16:16]. He succumbed and revealed the secret of his extraordinary strength. Delilah took advantage as soon as she could [Judges 16:19]: “After putting him to sleep on her lap, she called for someone to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him.”

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