Our bible study program continues in 2021 with focus on Living in the Image of God. We will explore the implications for human interactions and relationships; such as husband and wife, parent and child, leader and follower, people versus government, providers and clients in nonprofit or for-profit activities, and among siblings and others. We will share each biweekly session by providing a short description, ten-minutes video, and a modifiable guide for independent study or discussion. We invite everyone to share in our studies, thank all previous participants in our program, and look forward to connecting with you in 2021 and thereafter. God bless you.
The Banking Blessings Ministry bible study program will continue in 2021 with focus on Living in the Image of God, exploring implications for various aspects of human interactions and relationships. The program will be re-focused to seek clear understanding of Living in the Image of God as applied to specific aspects of human interactions and relationships: such as husband and wife, parent and child, leader and follower, people versus government, providers and clients in nonprofit or for-profit activities, and among siblings and others. We have general ideas and will continue to work on the details of how the study needs to proceed. We invite every person to consider participating more with us as we work on developing opportunities for expanding participation. We thank all previous participants in our program and look forward to connecting with you in 2021 and thereafter.
An understanding of God’s covenant with Solomon implies the performance of political leadership could determine the fate of a nation in more ways than the direct effects of a successful or failed regime. The government of a people could receive a covenant (conditional promise) from God on behalf of the nation; with the king, president, prime minister, or other head of government as custodian of the covenant. The nation benefits or suffers, depending on the custodian fulfilling or failing to fulfill the conditions of the covenant. An example from Solomon as king of Israel illustrates the relationship. God promised great benefits to Israel if Solomon lived in obedience to him and followed his decrees, laws, and commands. However, he will punish the nation severely if Solomon broke the covenant. That is, God made a covenant with king Solomon on behalf of the nation of Israel.
We discuss God’s covenant with Solomon as king of Israel to understand that a nation’s relationship with God can be affected by its political leadership. As we discuss in a previous study under Authority of Government—Israel Asks for King, God delegates political leadership responsibilities to government, such as represented by the king during the time of Solomon as king of Israel. He expects the government to provide positive leadership (also referred to as effective leadership in A Ruler’s Motivation); whereby the king, president, prime minister, or other head of government walks in obedience to God and leads the nation to do the same as he/she focusses on addressing the nation’s needs. In contrast, negative leadership does not walk in obedience to God or care about the needs of the nation.
God rewards positive leadership and punishes negative. He directs rewards or punishment to the leader and to the nation. His covenant with King Solomon on behalf of Israel provides an example to illustrate the relationship.
We examine Christ rebuke of the teachers of the law to understand Solomon’s vision of effective leadership in the context of assessing the promises and performance of a modern-day political leader. Christ rebuke of the teachers of the law indicates effective leadership includes promoting conditions for equal application of laws and regulations to all, irrespective of status; focuses more on the purpose of laws and customs and less on symbolic gestures; promotes their intrinsic values; and refrains from living for display, admiration, personal honor and actions or behavior that could mislead the people.
Solomon’s vision of effective leadership is presented in the bible as an interaction whereby God approved of Solomon’s desire to govern effectively as king of Israel based on capability and habit of “discernment in administering justice” [1 Kings 3:11]. Although Solomon’s reign provides several illustrations of effective leadership, we turn to Christ teaching in a rebuke of the religious leadership of Israel for a conceptual understanding of effective leadership applicable to modern-day experience. Christ rebuked the teachers of the law for misleading the people because of living a life that suggests the law, Scriptures, and customs applied more to the people and less to their leaders—the teachers of the law. In the rebuke, often referred to as the Seven Woes (Matthew 23), he advised the people to honor and heed the teachers because of their authority but abhor their lifestyle that was inconsistent with their interpretations and teaching.
We examine Christ rebuke of the teachers of the law in the Seven Woes: to understand the meaning of effective leadership as envisioned by Solomon, in the context of God’s purpose for the promises and performance of modern-day political leadership.
We discuss an example from the bible to illustrate human responsibility in opposing usurpation of government. David’s fourth son Adonijah circumvented the law and due process to proclaim himself king based on seniority. In his capacity as a citizen, Prophet Nathan sought audience to sensitize King David to Adonijah’s rebellion. David responded quickly. He organized a people’s parade to lead Solomon to be anointed, introduced, and accepted as king. After the coronation, Solomon occupied the throne to begin his kingship. Thus, Prophet Nathan activated his citizen’s voice of authority to initiate effective opposition against usurper Adonijah. His success illustrates every person’s responsibility and prerogative to contribute their citizen’s voice of authority to bring down a usurper: by voting in elections; participating in protests; or adding a voice in speech, writing, music, or other forms of expression. Usurpers can be recognized based on their characteristic disregard for the law and due process.
We discuss Adonijah’s attempted usurpation of the throne of Israel with focus on Prophet Nathan’s successful opposition against the rebellion. The bible indicates Prophet Nathan acted in his capacity as a citizen (see discussion under Activating Citizen’s Voice of Authority). Therefore, his role and accomplishments in the events model God’s expectation of every citizen. Opposition initiated by Prophet Nathan resulted in the king mobilizing the people to make Solomon king according to due process. Further, Adonijah’s rebellion ended without as much as a whimper. We discuss Prophet Nathan’s successful opposition as a model of human responsibility against usurpation.
We discuss a biblical example of usurpation by puppetry, whereby an extraneous power colludes with a witless accomplice as puppet to capture state powers. The puppeteer was Abner, commander of Israel’s army under Saul. His puppet was Saul’s son Ishbosheth. After Saul died, Abner appointed Ishbosheth king, circumventing the people’s process for making a king. Subsequent events showed Abner enabled usurpation by Ishbosheth in order to launch war against David to win power for himself. When the arrangement began to collapse, he dropped Ishbosheth like hot potato and initiated negotiation to transfer rulership to David. However, Abner and Ishbosheth met sudden and violent death through acts of other citizens. Although their sudden demise may indicate divine judgment over a usurper, a future study in this series will illustrate human responsibility in lawful opposition against a usurper.
This study continues our miniseries on usurpation of government under The King and the People series. We discuss an example from the bible, in which the usurper acted under control by a powerful enabler that sought power for himself but chose to use a puppet king as his channel. Unlike the previous example under Recognizing Usurper 1of2, in which usurpation was planned and executed essentially alone by the usurper; this example focuses on usurpation by puppetry, whereby an extraneous power colludes with a witless accomplice as puppet to capture state powers. The frontal usurper cherished power but was clearly aware and fearful of the puppeteer. Subsequently, his feeble attempt to regain a measure of authority from the master ignited a rift that led to collapse of the arrangement.
The puppeteer was Abner, commander of Israel’s army under Saul. His puppet was Saul’s son Ishbosheth. After Saul died, Abner appointed Ishbosheth king, circumventing a well-established process of the people for making a king. He did not consult with the people or seek their authority. He wanted to control the affairs of Israel but recognized his only option to claim legitimacy was to go through Ishbosheth as a puppet. He usurped power for Ishbosheth to begin establishing control over Israel. Then, he launched war against David but was defeated in the first battle. Thereafter, having realized his puppetry arrangement was unlikely to hold, he bolted from Ishbosheth to initiate negotiations for transferring rulership to David.
Both Abner and his puppet Ishbosheth met sudden death from violent acts of other citizens, much like Absalom from the previous study. Their sudden demise could be interpreted to indicate divine judgment of a usurper, especially in the absence of a people-established due process for human adjudication. Additionally, our next study under this series will illustrate human responsibility in lawfully opposing a usurper. The current study focuses on usurpation of the throne of Israel by Ishbosheth with Abner as enabler.
Two essential and independent selections are needed to confer rulership authority on a person: a selection by God followed by selection by the people without knowing God’s choice. A person that circumvents one or both selections to become ruler is a usurper. It is easy to recognize a case of circumventing the people’s authority but more difficult to recognize a case of circumventing the authority of God. We begin a three-part study focused on understanding usurpers based on characteristics described in the bible, to potentially learn how to recognize them. The current study examines the usurpation of the throne of Israel by Absalom—to understand that one or both components of rulership authority can be circumvented and identify some characteristic features of a usurper. Absalom became king over Israel (albeit for a short period) with neither the authority of God nor the authority of the people.
We resume our study series on The King and the People, which focuses on understanding God’s purpose for people-versus-government relationships. Based on biblical information regarding people-versus-government interactions in Israel during the periods of King Saul, David, Solomon, and others; the series seeks to contribute toward reducing the apparent gap in expectations between people and governments in the modern world. What should governments expect of the people and what should the people expect of their government? The bible often provides answers to such questions in enough details to guide everyday interactions among government leaders and recipients of government leadership.
We realized while studying David that his life as King in Waiting offers a wealth of information deserving examination in a different focus. Therefore, the series branched off awhile to study David as King in Waiting with a different focus, through a series on Waiting for God’s Time and another on Following God’s Schedule. To resume our study of David’s period as king of Israel with focus on the objectives of The King and the People series, we begin a three-part miniseries on Usurper—to understand that a person could usurp the authority of government, i.e., become a ruler without the authority of God or authority of the people. The study will examine the characteristics of known usurpers described in the bible to potentially learn how to recognize them. Also, we will examine an example in opposing a usurper to understand such opposition could be successful but requires adherence to due process.
God sees and encourages human work and will intervene with a miracle as he considers necessary. If your motivation and methods and approach are consistent with Living in the Image of God; then focus on doing what you can humanly do, because your battle belongs to God and he will guide you to victory. We discuss these principles based on Christ interactions with the disciples in their encounter with two storms. Both ended in miracles. However, he scolded the disciples in one and encouraged them in the other. Differences between the two help us understand human relationship with God regarding faith, human work, and miracles. Also, we examine David’s motivation and faith in his victory over Goliath. He focused on doing what he humanly could and received a miracle to end the battle.
We conclude our study series on Following God’s Schedule with a discussion of human relationship with God regarding faith, human work, and miracles. We begin with a discussion of Christ interactions with the disciples in their encounter with two storms on the sea of Galilee. Both storms ended with a miracle. However, Jesus scolded the disciples regarding their behavior in the first storm but encouraged them in the second storm. We examine the different interactions in relation to the behavior of the disciples during the storms to understand that God encourages human work that is consistent with his purpose; is aware of the human effort; and will provide a miracle as needed based on his consideration.
The study leads to an understanding of the basis for faith as a driver for human effort. If the motivation for your effort is consistent with God’s purpose and you are committed to methods and approach consistent with the principles of Living in the Image of God, then the battle belongs to God (see Following God Schedule by Living in His Image). Therefore, he sees your effort and wants you to succeed. He will determine if you need a miracle and what, when, and how. Therefore, focus on doing what you can humanly do—with faith of God intervening as necessary according to his schedule.
We use this understanding of basis for faith to examine David’s famous victory over Goliath. He was motivated to fight Goliath to remove a “disgrace to Israel” due to Goliath’s defiance and confirm that Israel’s army was the “army of the living God.” He expected victory because the battle belongs to God, focused on fighting as he humanly could, and won victory by a miracle that manifested through his human effort. God sees your effort in human work, wants you to succeed, and will intervene with a miracle as he considers necessary.
Humility promotes an environment conducive to fulfilling God’s purpose for every person to represent him in interactions with others. It manifests as an invitation, by action or words, and conveys a promise to be respectful of others, polite, attentive, responsive, peaceful, and truthful in human interactions. The invitation offers promise of goodness; promise of care and diligence; promise of appreciation; and promise of obedience—overall, essentially a promise to be available and willing to provide service to benefit others, accept and appreciate service provided by others, and submit to and respect others’ authority. We discuss humility from Christ teaching and an example from David waiting seven years to be made king by due process after the death of the preceding king.
David was anointed to be king of Israel and was expected to become king at the end of Saul’s reign. However, after Saul died, David waited additional seven years to become king of Israel. He did not announce himself king or seek in any way to coerce the people into making him king. Instead, in his humility he waited to be made king by the people according to due process. In this study, we discuss the humility of David in the context of a general understanding of humility based on Christ teaching. We focus on Christ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount; interactions with his disciples, when he explained humility as the greatest virtue; and interactions with guests at a dinner party, when he explained the humble will be exalted.
Humility in the Sermon on the Mount
Humility is important in Following God’s Schedule. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ describes humility as one of the guiding principles of Living in the Image of God (see Following God Schedule by Living in His Image). He describes humility toward God and toward other people. Humility is important to committing to the responsibility of representing God in human interactions: by seeking and following his directions [Blessed are the poor in spirit] through repentance of sin [Blessed are those who mourn] and humility [Blessed are the meek].
This study focuses on humility in human interactions, which manifests as an invitation and conveys a promise to be respectful of others, polite, attentive, responsive, peaceful, and truthful in interactions with others. The invitation is conveyed through action and words and is essentially a promise to be available and willing to provide service to benefit others, accept and appreciate service provided by others, and submit to and respect others’ authority. Furthermore, the invitation offers promise of goodness; promise of care and diligence; promise of appreciation; and promise of obedience.
Promise of Care and Diligence conveys a message that the person can be relied upon to recognize when he/she is in position to provide for a need, recognize the need, care for the needy, seek diligently to alleviate the need, and will persevere through.
Promise of Appreciation conveys a message that a potential receiver of human service will appreciate the service and will do his/her part as needed. Promise of appreciation motivates care and diligence.
Promise of Obedience is important when a person interacts with higher authority, such as proposing a choice to the authority or requesting service controlled by the authority. Through promise of obedience, a person conveys a message of willingness to submit and accept the decision of the authority, even if unfavorable. Promise of obedience motivates a promise of care and diligence from the authority.
As we discuss in a previous study under Value of Humility, humility promotes an environment conducive to fulfilling God’s purpose for every person to represent him in interactions with others. The interactions often occur as part of a network of mutual provider-receiver relationships, whereby every person is potentially a provider of service to benefit others and receiver of service provided by others. Humility conveys a promise to recognize and appreciate others as potential providers of human service and offer self to do likewise. Humility conveys a recognition that another person better than I can be found. As Paul said in his letter to Philippians 2:3, “…in humility value others above yourselves.” Therefore, humility conveys Godliness and motivates others to do likewise. God creates every person to be humble, expects and rewards humility, but punishes haughtiness.
Every person is individually accountable for their responsibility in any human relationship or event, independent and irrespective of others’ behavior. God’s expectation and judgment of every person in a relationship or event depend on his specific assignment for the person and are independent of his expectation and judgment of the other party. He holds each person accountable to fulfill their role. He rewards those that do and is displeased with those that don’t, irrespective of what others do or fail to do. We discuss Christ teaching in the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard and an example from David: based on his reverence for Saul in life and honor at death, not minding that Saul considered him an enemy and sought relentlessly to take his life.
Every person is accountable for his/her responsibility in any human relationship, independent of the behavior of the other party. God’s expectations and judgment of an individual regarding conduct of a human relationship are independent of his expectations and judgment of the other party.
Apostle Paul describes the message in his letter to Romans [12:17–18], where he admonishes every person to perform their individual responsibility in any relationship irrespective of the other party performing or failing to perform theirs: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Paul used the phrase “…If it is possible, as far as it depends on you…” to emphasize you should explore all options to determine how it is possible, focus on the aspects that depend on you—the things you control, and leave the other party to handle the things they control. Therefore, Paul’s message emphasizes that God holds every person accountable to fulfill their individual responsibility in human relationship, independent and irrespective of the performance of the other party in the relationship.
We discuss Christ teaching in the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard [Matthew 20:1–15], regarding a hypothetical landowner that hired different groups of workers at different times based on a separate wage and service agreement for each group. At the end of the day, he honored the wage and service agreement for each group independent of the agreement for the others. He expected those he hired in the morning to work for the entire day whereas those he hired late in the day he expected to work for the remaining time. He judged that each fulfilled his expectation and had them paid according to each individual agreement. The landowner’s expectation and judgment of each worker were independent of his expectation and judgment of other workers. Similar to God’s expectation and judgment of an individual regarding behavior in a human relationship.
Also, we discuss David’s response to the death of Saul as an example of a person focusing on his individual responsibility in a relationship without minding the behavior of the other party. For several years, Saul considered David an enemy and pursued him relentlessly to take his life but was unsuccessful. In contrast, David was respectful of Saul as the sitting God-anointed king of Israel, would not “lay a hand” on Saul even when he encountered enticing opportunities to kill him, and mourned Saul at death to honor him as a fallen God-anointed king of Israel. His reverence for Saul in life and honor at death illustrate individual responsibility in human relationship is unidirectional and independent.
God is displeased when a person departs from following his schedule and he provides opportunities to redirect the person to return to him. He is pleased and there is great celebration in heaven when redirection is successful. An opportunity for redirection could be voluntary and provide a person freedom to re-evaluate and abandon a course of actions that would result in departing from God’s schedule, like in the parable of the lost son. Also, God may offer coercive redirection to compel a return to him, like in the parables of the lost sheep and lost coin. We discuss Christ teaching of God’s promise of redirection and examples from David, regarding his encounter with Abigail and his forced exit from a Philistine battlefield.
We begin this study with a recap of the basis for our study series on Following God’s Schedule. As we discuss in Prayer of Joseph from the Dungeon, God at times grants a prayer with a promise to be fulfilled to fit his overall plan for the recipient; sets a schedule for fulfilling the promise; requires and guides the recipient to follow the schedule; but may not reveal the promise, schedule, or plan. He is displeased when a person departs from following his schedule and he provides opportunities to redirect the person to return to him. He is pleased and there is great celebration in heaven when redirection is successful, that is, the departed returns to Following God’s Schedule: “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” [Luke 15:10].
Through opportunities for redirection, God implements his promise to not abandon those committed to following his ways by doing what is right and just, even if they miss a step. He will intervene to provide them opportunities to return to him. An opportunity for redirection could be voluntary or coercive, as God chooses. An opportunity for voluntary redirection provides a person freedom to re-evaluate and voluntarily abandon a planned course of actions that would result in departing from God’s schedule. In contrast, God may choose to intervene by placing an insurmountable obstacle that compels the person to abandon planned wrongdoing. That is, in coercive redirection, a person planning to do something that would cause them to depart from God’s path encounters circumstances beyond their control that force them to abandon the plan.
We discuss Christ teaching of opportunities for redirection, through three parables: Parable of the Lost Sheep, Parable of the Lost Coin, and Parable of the Lost Son (the Prodigal Son). Also, we discuss two examples from the life of David as king in waiting: his encounter with Abigail and his forced exit from Philistine battlefield. The first example illustrates voluntary redirection whereas the second illustrates coercive redirection.