Joseph’s father sent him on an errand to check on his brothers and the flock and report their conditions back to him. However, the errand happened to be God’s call to Joseph to undertake a special mission to Egypt: to prepare a sanctuary for the young nation of Israel to survive a severe famine, prosper, and multiply into a great nation. Neither Joseph nor his father recognized the call at the time. God delivered the message by prompting his father to send him on the fateful errand. Also, we learn that God may allow adversity as a channel for effecting a positive change for a person. The person will be in better position to realize the change by remaining steadfast in living in the image of God despite hurting from the adversity.
We continue our study series on parent child relationships focused initially on understanding that God sends messages to children through their parents. In previous sessions, we looked at examples in which the message was clear to the parent. In the Call of Samuel, for example, Eli eventually understood that God wanted to speak to Samuel and instructed him on how to respond. Similarly, each of the examples under Instruction to Parent for Child looked at a clear instruction to a parent to implement something for a child. The current study, in contrast, looks at an example in which the message was delivered as part of normal parent-child interaction with neither the parent nor the child knowing at the time that this was a message from God. We recognize the message today because of the benefit of hindsight based on accounts in the bible.
The example is drawn from the life of Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob (also known as Israel). His father sent him on what appeared like an ordinary errand to go and check on his senior brothers tending flock in the field.
However, later events indicate that God used the errand to call Joseph to a mission to Egypt: to prepare a sanctuary for the young family of Israel to survive a severe famine and grow and prosper to become the nation that God promised their ancestors. The example provides opportunity to learn the importance of clarity of parental communication and a child listening to a parent with intent to understand and implement the parent’s information. Furthermore, we learn from Joseph’s interactions with his brothers and other people that God may allow adversity as a channel for effecting a positive change for a person. Also, Joseph’s behavior during the adversity help us understand that such person will be in better position to realize the change by remaining steadfast in living in the image of God despite hurting from the adversity.
GODLINESS OPENS OPPORTUNITIES Ruth’s interactions with the community during her first season in Bethlehem highlight humility, politeness, respect for authority, sensitivity to needs around her, and persistent effort at contributing what she could to alleviate the needs. The interactions opened opportunities for her to step into the life for which she is known today. As we discuss in a subsequent bible study, the events that happened during this time led to Ruth marrying Boaz, becoming the grandmother of David, therefore, a grandparent in the lineage of Christ. Ruth’s Godliness opened opportunities for fulfillment of a grand blessing in her life.
This installment of our study series on Ruth focuses on events that occurred during the first season after her arrival in Bethlehem. Her interactions with mother-in-law Naomi and with family relative Boaz highlight the value of humility, politeness, respect for authority, sensitivity to needs around her, commitment to doing what she could to alleviate the needs, and persistent diligence at accomplishing her task.
Ruth and Naomi arrived in Bethlehem during barley harvest. Having been away for a long time, they likely faced economic hardship because they did not have any farm to harvest. Ruth recognized their hardship and determined to do what she could to alleviate the condition. With the approval of her mother-in-law, she decided to go gleaning (i.e., picking grains leftover from regular harvesting) in any farm that would accept her. She was accepted at the first farm she applied, which happened to belong to Boaz, a close relative of Naomi’s husband. Boaz did not only welcome her in his farm but also offered her protection and preferential gleaning access, because of her humility, politeness, positive work habbit (diligence and persistent effort), and his prior knowledge of her positive interactions with Naomi.
In this bible study, we discuss Christ’s teaching on humility through three interactions: first, an interaction with his disciples, when he presented a child as an exemplification of humility and declared that “whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” [Matthew 18:4, NKJV]; second, an interaction with fellow guests at a dinner, where he explained that people should refrain from assigning themselves to seats of honor, to avoid potential demotion by the host, for “whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” [Luke 14:11, NKJV]; and third, an interaction with his disciples and a large audience during the Sermon on the Mount.
Humility conveys a message that a person is available and willing to provide or accept assistance as needed. It sets up an environment for fulfilling God’s purpose of mutual provider-receiver relationships among people, whereby every person is potentially a provider sometimes and receiver at other times. Humility conveys a person as predisposed to appreciate other people as potential providers of human service and willing to perform services to benefit others. Therefore, a person’s humility conveys Godliness to others and motivates them to do the same. God creates every person to be humble, expects and rewards humility, but punishes haughtiness.
Christ uses the parable of the Sower to explain that God grants opportunities to every person to know him and grow, flourish, and bear fruit in him. Furthermore, he uses the parable to warn that a person may fail to accomplish the goal of flourishing and bearing fruit in God because of personal habits and environmental influence.
He identifies three potential causes of failure as poor understanding and assimilation of the message, inadequate connection to spiritual nourishment, and inability to withstand enemy competition. In this discussion of the parable of the Sower, we focus on the approach to guarding against and rising above the potential causes of failure. We discuss our understanding of the potential failures and identify various things we can do to avoid them, in order to attain maturity in God and live the life that he created in us. Also, we recall information from previous bible studies to discuss the meaning of bearing fruit in God.
Through the parable of the Talents, Christ teaches that God grants every person a set of capabilities and expects us to deploy them toward fulfilling responsibilities to ourselves and others.
He expects each person to expand the capabilities, by increasing their value, effectiveness, and variety of deployment. He rewards people that deploy and expand their capabilities and punishes those that stagnate theirs. Furthermore, we learn through the parable that God accepts using commercial enterprise to respond to a call to compassion and extend our capabilities in the process. However, the commercial activities need to satisfy principles of Godliness based on fair value for goods and fair fee for services.
The parable is part of a series of teaching through which Christ explains God’s purpose and expectations for people and how he will judge our performance toward fulfilling the expectations. He uses the parable to explain that God creates every person with the capabilities to perform their functions as his provider assistant. This bible study focuses on Christ’s teaching in the parable of the Talents and tries to increase understanding of the teaching by examining information from other bible passages that point to the principles of Godliness in commercial enterprise.
Christ urges us to convey the message of God to others through our deeds: let your Godliness radiate impact to others “that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” [Matthew 5:16; Luke 8:16]. If we do this, people will be drawn to us as they were drawn to him.
GODLINESS DRAWS PEOPLE People were drawn to Jesus because of his Godliness, which manifested as the power to perform miracles, heal diseases, cast out demons, and explain the word of God clearly. Similarly, human Godliness draws people and manifests as living in the image of God: whereby the person is a channel for God’s compassion (i.e., God’s provider assistant) and conveyor of the image of God. People feel the hand of God in the person’s actions. In this bible study, we examine accounts of people being drawn to Jesus in large numbers because of his Godliness, share understanding of what it means for a person to be Godly and let his/her Godliness shine to impact others. Also, we will recall an example from the life of Joseph to illustrate people being drawn to a person because of Godliness.
In the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5–7], Christ delivered an elaborate teaching on living in the image of God: i.e., living and interacting with people for the purpose of representing God in everything we do and accomplishing the objectives that he places on our paths. The teaching consists of two parts. First, he provided a set of eight principles for living in the image of God, which are known today in Christianity as The Beatitudes. Second, he described the essence of living in the image of God using examples from everyday life. We discussed the Beatitudes (first part of the Sermon on the Mount) in Part 1 of this study at This_Link. This week, our discussion focuses on the second part of the Sermon on the Mount.