Tag: Image of God

Divine Favor—Mordecai Triumphs Over Adversity

Mordecai and Esther Win Deliverance for their People

Mordecai’s triumph over adversity started with King Xerxes recognizing that intense hatred by his second in command Haman resulted in a decree to annihilate Jews, including Esther, his queen. The king also recalled that Mordecai, a lowly attendant at his palace gate, foiled an assassination plot against him but was never rewarded for the courageous act. He ordered Haman executed, elevated Mordecai to second in command, and issued a decree that empowered Jews with the right of self defense. All these occurred in one evening, but started years earlier by Mordecai raising his orphaned cousin as his daughter, reporting an assassination plot against the king, and refusing to worship Haman—all because he lived according to his commitment to worship and serve God in all circumstances, even in adversity.

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Celebrating Mordecai: king's second in command
Celebrating Mordecai: 2nd to king
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Mordecai overcame adversity because of unwavering commitment to worship and serve God in all circumstances. He endured hardship due to living in captivity, modest economic conditions, and a conspiracy against him and his people that was hatched in reaction to his refusal to compromise worship. While living through the hardship, he raised his orphaned cousin as his own daughter and guided her to become the queen of the land; reported an assassination plot against the king and earned recorded credit for the report; and refused to worship Haman, an agent of the king that people honored in a way that connoted worship. Mordecai’s refusal to worship Haman triggered a sequence of events that initially increased the scope and intensity of his adversity but ultimately led him to overcoming the adversity.

As we discuss in a previous bible study under Finding the Bigger Picture in Adversity, Haman reacted to Mordecai’s “disobedience” by issuing a decree under the authority of the king to annihilate all Jews on a chosen date. The decree became law through all 127 provinces under King Xerxes. Jews protested and mourned everywhere. Mordecai protested at the king’s gate until he convinced his stepdaughter Queen Esther to appeal to the king against the annihilation order.

Concerned about going to king uninvited
Concerned about going to king uninvited
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Queen Esther initially was reluctant to appeal to the king because she was concerned about violating a law against visiting the king uninvited, which could attract punishment by death. However, Mordecai redirected her to see the request as an opportunity to use her royal access to appeal the annihilation order and maybe win deliverance for her people. Having thus seen the bigger picture, she called for prayer and fasting and vowed to appeal to the king even if it meant the ultimate punishment [Esther 4:16]: “And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!”

Esther’s appeal to the king was successful. The conspiracy against Jews was overturned. Another decree was published on the king’s authority that gave Jews the right to assemble, protect themselves, and destroy their enemy. Thus, Mordecai’s refusal to worship Haman triggered an event sequence whereby he triumphed over the conspiracy against him and his people, defeated his enemies, and overcame poverty. This study focuses on Queen Esther’s appeal and Mordecai’s triumph over adversity as a result.

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Living in the Image of God through Adversity

Example from Mordecai—
Worshiping and Serving God Even in Adversity

Mordecai’s interactions with others show he was committed to worship and serve God, determined what the commitment meant in every situation, and interacted in a way to uphold his commitment. He did this while facing severe adversity due to being the descendant of a captive exile in Babylon. In a subsequent study we show that living in the image of God in spite of his adversity propelled him to triumph over the adversity.

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We continue our study series on Responding to Adversity with a sub series on Mordecai, descendant of one of the Jews that fell captive to Nebuchadnezzar and lived in Babylon as exiles for several decades. We examine Mordecai’s life in captivity, focusing on adverse circumstances that befell him and three interactions with others as he lived through the adversity. We discuss the interactions to show how they relate to the meaning of a commitment to worship and serve God. Further, in subsequent studies under the sub series on Mordecai, we highlight how the interactions triggered event sequences that coalesced to lead him to triumph over his adversity.

The sub series helps us understand the life of Mordecai as an example of living in the image of God through adversity and lifting over the adversity as a result.

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Motivation for Worship—Choice, not Coercion

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego Defy Nebuchadnezzar

Interactions between King Nebuchadnezzar and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego illustrate two forms of motivation for worship. One is coercion; characterized by the use of force, intimidation, or any kind of threat of punishment to compel worship; and typified by King Nebuchadnezzar using threat of death in a fiery furnace to compel worship of an image of gold he set up. The other is choice, a personal decision to worship God based on understanding our relationship with him and illustrated by the action of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in defying Nebuchadnezzar’s threat. Worship by choice is based on God’s covenant—his conditional promise to be God to all that worship and serve him.

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We discuss interactions between King Nebuchadnezzar and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; regarding the image of gold that the king set up as god over Babylon. The interactions illustrate the contrast between two forms of motivation to worship. One is coercion, which is typified by Nebuchadnezzar using threat of death in a fiery furnace to compel worship of his image of gold. The other is choice based on understanding our relationship with God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego defied Nebuchadnezzar’s threat based on their choice to worship God.

Messiah for all people
Messiah for all people
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Worship by choice is based on God’s covenant—his conditional promise to be God to all that worship and serve him. Abraham received the covenant from God on behalf of himself, his descendants, and all that receive Christ as the Messiah. God promised the Messiah for all people when he called Abraham to a mission to establish homeland and ancestry for the Messiah: “… And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” [Genesis 12:3]. Thus, his covenant with Abraham confers on every person the right to choose to worship him based on understanding that he will be God to all that will worship and serve him.

We discuss Nebuchadnezzar’s example to illustrate worship by coercion. Thereafter, we discuss God’s covenant with Abraham as the Christian basis for worship by choice, using information from the gospel according to John to understand the promise of the Messiah extends God’s covenant to all people. Then, we discuss meanings of “worship and serve God” based on information from previous bible studies.

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Joseph Called to Mission—Messaging Child through Parent

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.

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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.

Jacob family moves to Egypt
Jacob family moves to Egypt
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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.

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Coping with Adversity—Lessons from Hannah and David

The first step in coping with adversity is to commit personally and wholeheartedly to worship and serve God. Resign to his resolution of the adversity, and commit to living in his image, representing him in every human interaction, such that your actions and words radiate Godliness and elicit positive response from others. Furthermore, resigning to the will of God may include applying human effort to accomplish what you can while seeking his intervention. God will intervene to guide us out of adversity but expects us to apply human effort as part of finding the solution. Because the nature and timing of his intervention are generally not known a priori, we have to actively seek solutions at the human level in order to position ourselves to receive and utilize his intervention.

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Samuel handed to Eli
Samuel handed to Eli
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We continue our study series on Samuel with a study focused on understanding how his mother Hannah coped with the adversity of childlessness. Hannah’s experience leading to the birth of Samuel was dominated initially by her bitterness due to not having a child after several years of marriage. Her husband’s other wife sought to take advantage of her condition. In contrast, her husband was kind and sympathetic and sought to comfort her into accepting barrenness. Hannah, therefore, was alone in seeking a solution to her problem. She dealt with the problem initially by nursing self-directed bitterness that she showed by weeping and often refusing food. However, one day during her family’s annual trip to worship at the tabernacle in Shiloh, she decided she could not continue to bear the problem in her heart. She took the problem to God in prayer and appeared to have left it with him because her demeanor changed completely after the prayer.

We examine her experience in this bible study to understand how she transitioned from wilting under the weight of childlessness to a feeling of being completely relieved of the problem even when there had been no humanly observable change in her situation. Also, we use the opportunity to revisit a previous bible study on David coping with adversity brought on him by virtue of a rebellion led by his son, Absalom. We see that lessons from Hannah’s experience and the lessons from David complement each other and provide useful insight into what a Christian can do to cope with adversity.

From both, we learn about wholehearted commitment to worship and serve God and total resignation to God’s resolution of the adversity in his way and at his time. From Hannah, we learn about living in the image of God as a manifestation of the commitment. And from David, we learn about diligence in human effort while resigned to seeking God’s solution through his intervention.

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Aligning with God’s Purpose—Hannah’s Petition and Birth of Samuel

Hannah’s prayer aligned with God’s purpose and resulted in the birth of Samuel to lead the beginning of a new phase in the life of Israelites. She did not “know” God’s purpose to align with it by any deliberate human choice. Instead, the misery she felt from childlessness and her resignation to God as the only source of relief caused her to lift her spirit toward God, close enough to be guided to a spiritual understanding of her need that was consistent with God’s purpose. Based on her interactions with people and with God regarding the birth of Samuel, we learn about petitioning directly to God, respect for priestly authority, humility, and interacting with a fellow human being facing adversity.

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Interactions regarding the birth of Samuel provide opportunities to learn about petitioning directly to God, respect for priestly authority, humility, and interacting with a fellow human being facing adversity. Hannah was grieved of childlessness and a feeling of loneliness due to people around her either seeking advantage from her adversity or asking her to accept the condition as a sentence to barrenness.

Birth of Samuel
Birth of Samuel
Sweet Publishing FreeBibleImages.org

However, she did not succumb. Instead, she sought relief from God. In a moment of intensely focused prayer, she petitioned God directly and asked for a son that will be dedicated to serving God full time through all his life. Her prayer aligned with God’s purpose for a spiritual leader to unify Israelites through the next phase of their development. Though she petitioned God directly in the presence of Chief Priest Eli, when Eli scolded her for what he thought was drunkenness, she responded with humility and promise of obedience that moved Eli to join her prayer without knowing her prayer points. God granted her request in the form of the man we know today as Samuel.

 

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Living to Receive God’s Intervention—Lesson from Life of Ruth

LIVING TO RECEIVE GOD’S INTERVENTION We learn through the life of Ruth that living in the image of God prepares a person to receive God’s intervention. She inherited an opportunity to receive a grand blessing because of being a descendant of Lot. However, the opportunity alone would not have been enough. She positioned herself to receive fulfillment of the promise by living in the image of God; which manifested through her compassion, humility, sensitivity to needs around her, and persistent diligence in doing what she could to provide for the needs. Ruth married Abraham’s descendant Boaz; they had a son Obed, grandfather of David; and, thus established a family to link the lineage of Abraham and the lineage of Lot to David, a great grandfather in the lineage of the Messiah. Therefore, we learn through her life that living in the image of God prepares a person to receive God’s intervention, even fulfillment of inherited blessing.

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We conclude the study series on Ruth by looking back at her life as an illustration that living in the image of God prepares a person to receive God’s intervention. Ruth inherited an opportunity to become a channel for fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, because her ancestral father Lot was co-beneficiary of the promise by following and assisting Abraham on a mission to establish homeland and ancestry for the Messiah. However, the opportunity alone would not have been enough to ensure fulfillment of the promise through Ruth. Her life includes several events in which she took specific action that brought her closer to fulfillment of the promise but could have diverted her away from it if she had behaved differently. Understanding the Godliness of her choice in each case helps us learn that living in the image of God prepares and positions a person to receive God’s intervention.

Sharing food to a multitude
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As we discussed in a previous bible study under Keeping Watch, living in the image of God implies representing God in every human interaction such that your actions and words radiate Godliness and provide opportunities for other people to feel God. Living in the image of God implies a person fulfills responsibilities as God’s provider assistant, willingly and diligently providing service to benefit others when God places a need in his/her path, or accepting service provided by others with heart-felt appreciation and happiness.

The life of Ruth provides specific examples of living in the image of God. First, she chose to live as a widow in order to comfort and assist her mother-in-law to cope with severe adversity. The choice brought her to Bethlehem from her home country of Moab. Second, her humility and sensitivity to the needs of her family led her to seek opportunity to glean for leftover grains. The search brought her to Boaz’s farm. Third, Boaz granted her preferential gleaning access in his field because of her humility, politeness, diligence and persistent effort; and his prior knowledge of her positive interactions with Naomi. In each of these events, she did something positive that advanced her toward ultimately meeting and marrying Boaz, with whom she established an ancestral link in the lineage of the Messiah.

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