• Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part 1.3: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Joshua 6

    Victory, first fruits, judgement, and salvation –  The occupation of Jericho



    Part 1.3: Understanding God’s Word – Bible commentary on Joshua 6

    Bible passages being discussed: (Joshua 6:21-27)

    In our previous instalment of our Bible study on Joshua 6, we learned that the Israelites were preparing to launch at attack on the fortified city of Jericho in Canaan. God had assured them victory at this first point of their three-part military plan to conquer the land (Joshua 6:2), whose occupation God had promised to them as their inheritance (Genesis 5:18-21).

     And yet to the human eye, the odds were severely stacked against the Israelite’s favor. Not only was Jericho considered impregnable, but the Canaanites were experienced warriors with an expanse of military resources at their disposal. The Israelites were former slaves, with no military experience, who had been wandering the desert for 40 years.

    However, God makes a way, where there is no way. He had a plan to thwart the military expertise and reinforcements of the Canaanites. However, in order to realize this plan, the Israelites were to obey God, trust Him, have faith, and praise Him with a great shout at the imposing walls of Jericho, before their victory was even realized.

    All this they did and as God promised, the walls of Jericho fell, and they were able to charge into the city and capture it (Joshua 6:5).

    “By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days.”

    Hebrews 11.30 (NRSV)

    However, although victorious, the Israelites still had work to do in Jericho, if they were to maintain their strategic advantage and take the land God had promised them from the hands of their enemies.

    God exacts His judgement on Jericho

    What the Israelites did after taking over Jericho was in accordance to the Law of Moses in Deuteronomy 13:12-18:

    „If you hear it said about one of the towns that the Lord your God is giving you to live in,  that scoundrels from among you have gone out and led the inhabitants of the town astray, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods,” whom you have not known,  then you shall inquire and make a thorough investigation. If the charge is established that such an abhorrent thing has been done among you, you shall put the inhabitants of that town to the sword, utterly destroying it and everything in it—even putting its livestock to the sword.  All of its spoil you shall gather into its public square; then burn the town and all its spoil with fire, as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God. It shall remain a perpetual ruin, never to be rebuilt.  Do not let anything devoted to destruction stick to your hand, so that the Lord may turn from his fierce anger and show you compassion, and in his compassion multiply you, as he swore to your ancestors,  if you obey the voice of the Lord your God by keeping all his commandments that I am commanding you today, doing what is right in the sight of the Lord your God.

    The Mosaic Law had been provided to the Israelites by God to give them revelation of who He was, how to worship and honor Him, and live in a manner that was pleasing to Him. However, it had also been written to protect them and set them apart from other nations.

    God wanted the law to teach His people and others that He was mighty, holy, and to be feared. For that reason, there were ironclad decrees in place for anyone or anything that violated the holiness of God and the sanctity of His ways.

    This was especially the case for anyone or anything that had been set aside as being “devoted”. Devoted has two meanings: The ancient Hebrew noun cherem translates devoted as a “devoted thing” – a pleasing offering to God. The verb charam on the other hand, means “devoted to destruction”, God’s judgement.

    Because the Canaanites had indulged in wicked practices and had refused to devote (cherem) themselves to God, He declared them to be devoted (charam) to divine judgement. Canaan was God’s property to do with according to His will. God had made His decision and Jericho, with its inhabitants, buildings, and resources was doomed for destruction.

    Let’s us look at the ways that God instructed the Israelites to carry out his divine judgement on the Canaanites – the devoted.

    God commanded the Israelites to destroy every living creature in Jericho

    Prior to causing the walls of Jericho to fall down, God specifically instructed the Israelites to destroy every living thing that lived within the refuge of the fortress city walls in His name.

    “The city and all that is in it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction.”

    Joshua 6:17 

    Why would a God, who is supposed to be merciful, demand that the Israelites execute His death sentence on the people of Canaan?

    If you notice in the above verse, the word “devoted” is expressed. God had a reason for hardening His heart towards the welfare of the Canaanites.

    God punished the Canaanites for their spiritual disobedience

    The slaughtering of the inhabitants of Jericho admittedly raises some challenging issues for Christians and non-Christians alike.

    The fact is, God cannot be in the presence of sinners. And the Canaanites were sinners, who kept idols and followed practices such as child sacrifices and sacred prostitution that were an abomination to God. Hence, God exacted a punishment for their spiritual disobedience. And this meant death.

    As we mentioned earlier, the Mosaic Law had specific instructions for any violation of the Holiness of God. Observe the following decrees:

    “No human beings who have been devoted to destruction can be ransomed; they shall be put to death.”

    Leviticus 27:29

    Exodus 22:20 provides further confirmation of this:

    “Whoever sacrifices to any god, other than the Lord alone, shall be devoted to destruction.”

    The presence of the Canaanites also posed to spiritually sully the Israelite’s faith. The Israelite’s were God’s chosen people – His children. Thus, in order to sanctify them and maintain their spiritual virtue, God needed to eradicate the Canaanite threat. Hence, he made them devoted (charam).

    Burn the city and curse it

    God demanded that the Israelites burn the city. This was to not only ascertain the complete destruction of the city, but to also offer a burnt sacrifice (charam) to God.

    “All of its spoil you shall gather into its public square; then burn the town and all its spoil with fire, as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God. It shall remain a perpetual ruin, never to be rebuilt.”

    Deuteronomy 13:16

    Furthermore, Jericho wasn’t supposed to re-built (Joshua 6:26): On God’s instructions, Joshua laid a curse on any man who tried to re-build the city.  Hence, a spiritual cleansing was necessary to prevent revenants from returning and resurrecting the city – which actually  happened when Hiel the Bethelite attempted to resurrect Jericho, most likely under the patronage of King Ahab (1 Kings 16:34).

    The Israelites were to stay away from the property of the Canaanites

    God specifically instructed the Israelites to keep their hands off any idols or any other objects that God had declared as accursed (Joshua 6:18). They were devoted artefacts and were meant to be destroyed. God knew that having such objects in their possession would taint the purity of the Israelites.

    Additionally, according to the Law, God would turn His anger upon anyone who violated this specific request: They in turn would be devoted.

    This is exactly what happened.

    Following the victory at Jericho, 3000 Israelites were sent to attack the city of Ai. However, they were forced to retreat by the inferior numbers of the men of Ai, who slaughtered 36 Israelites in the process (Joshua 1:5).

    It was an unnecessary loss, but one that occurred because one of the Israelites Achan had stolen a devoted object during the destruction of Jericho. By this act, he had caused God to remove His compassion and instead, incur His judgement (Joshua 7:11-13).

    Photo by Cherry Laithang on Unsplash

    Was it necessary for God to incur such merciless wrath on Jericho?

    It is true that the fate of the Canaanites at Jericho was harsh, but there were unique times in the Bible when God did this, for example with He destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:23-25).

    Moreover, the Canaanites were not only shut-in physically behind the city walls, their hearts were closed to God. Not at any point did the Canaanites consider surrendering to the Israelites, nor did they sound a parley. There weren’t even any deserters.

    In fact, the Canaanites were well prepared for a siege. The attack on the city took place around harvest time (Joshua 3:15) and within the walls was a spring to provide water for the inhabitants. There was no way that they were going to budge.

    If the Canaanites had repented, there may have been a chance that God could have spared their lives. After all, He spared those of Rahab and her family (Joshua 6:23). God always offers each of us a chance to enter into a relationship with Him – but it is up to us to take it.

    God didn’t want the Canaanites to become a future threat to the Israelites

    Whereas we have a limited perspective of our lives, God’s perspective supersedes ours. And He knew that if the Israelites didn’t clean up the city of Jericho when they claimed it, then the threat was real that any Canaanites could return to challenge their conquest of Canaan. This actually happened, as the Israelites spared the lives of a minority of the Canaanites, thinking that they might prove useful as servants.

    Instead of focusing on the wrath of God in this situation, it is important to remember that God is indeed good. Remember that He sacrificed His one and only son, in order that we may know Salvation and enjoy a loving relationship with God for all eternity. The biblical accounts that declare His love, mercy, and grace far outnumber God’s acts of judgement.

    Additionally, God offers to save anyone who comes to Him and repent (Romans 10:13). Only one person in the entire city of Jericho was prepared to open her heart for God – the prostitute Rahab.

    Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

    Rahab’s salvation paves the way for our own redemption

    Just as God commanded that the Israelites destroy Jericho in its entirety, so He also reminded them to honor their promise to Rahab and spare her life and the lives of her family (Joshua 6:17).

    Rahab had faithfully followed the instructions of the two Israelites by binding a scarlet cord to the window of her house. When the Israelites entered the city to kill the inhabitants, the cord at the window was a sign for them to spare the inhabitants of the people who were inside.

    Rahab’s house was built against the north side of the city wall, so there is postulation as to whether that part of the wall remained intact or if the wall somehow fell outwards.  Scientists claim that the entire wall construction consisted of an inner and an outer stone retaining wall, with Rahab’s house being part of a mud wall that had been constructed on top of the outer wall.

    Whatever the case may be, Rahab and her family survived the fall of the wall and the Israelites brought them out of the city and set them outside their camp. They were saved not only by Rahab’s kindness, but by her faith.

    “By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.”

    Hebrews 11:31

    Rahab’s salvation and ultimate survival had a more consequential effect on the Israeli nation than anyone at the time could ever have imagined. Rahab secured the line of David when she married Salmon and had a son Boaz, who was David’s grandfather. Jesus was born out of David’s genealogy, which is why He is sometimes referred to as “the son of David”. 

    Therefore, Rahab’s salvation made it possible for us to know redemption from our sins through Jesus.

    The importance of giving God your first fruits

    Earlier in this Bible study, we discussed the difference between cherem and charam – the devoted things.

    Whereas the Canaanites had been set aside as charam – to be destroyed – God required that the treasures of Jericho be devoted to him as cherem – a pleasing offering. This offering was called the first fruits. Hence, the Israelites had to set aside all the gold, silver, and iron and bronze vessels and dedicate them to God’s treasury.

    “But all silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are sacred to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.”

    Joshua 6:19

    This decree of offering first fruits is established again in the Book of Leviticus:

    Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: When you enter the land that I am giving you and you reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest.”

    Leviticus 23:10

    So, where does the term “first fruits” actually come from?

    It derives from providing God with the choicest agricultural produce that your harvest brought in. It was about giving God the first and best of your blessings, as everything was created by Him and belongs to Him.

    “The best of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God.”

    Exodus 34:26

    Many of us know this as tithing, which we are encouraged to do in the New Testament, for example in Matthew 5:17-20 and 2 Corinthians 9:7.

    Although the city of Jericho had been given into the Israelite’s hands, it was not theirs to benefit from the riches of the spoils of war. God did not want them to use what belonged to Him to further themselves. God had enabled their victory and all the honor and glory belonged to Him.

    By giving the first fruits of Jericho to God, the Israelites would remember that it was not by their might nor power that Jericho had fallen into their hands, but by God’s spirit.

    “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”

    Zechariah 4:6

    Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

    This concludes the final part of our Bible commentary on Joshua 6. We hope you enjoyed reading our extended 3-part analysis of this fascinating Bible chapter.

    Next week, we will be moving on to Part Two – “Living God’s Word” of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Joshua 6.

    If you would like to know how you can apply the lessons of Joshua 6 to your everyday life, then feel free to join us next week.

    Until then, stay be blessed my friends.

    Sources:

    bibleorg.com, “5. Destroying Fortresses; Victory at Jericho (Joshua 6:1-27)” 

    enduring word.com, “Joshua 6 – The fall of Jericho” 

    thetorah.com, “How Many Years Were the Israelites in Egypt?” 

    christiancourier.com, “Joshua 6:2, 16 – The Gift of Jericho”  

    desiringgod.org, “The Conquest of Canaan” 

    gotquestions.org, “Who was Joshua in the Bible?” 

    thejc.com, “What is Pesach?” 

    ligonier.org, „Why Did God Command the Children of Israel to Kill Every Man, Woman, and Child in the Promised Land?”

    biblehub.com, „1 Kings 16:34“

    churchofjesuschrist.org, „Joshua 1-24”

    answersingenesis.org, “The Walls of Jericho”

    focusmagazine.org, „Devoted Things”

    compellingtruth.org, „Why did God give the Mosaic Law? What is the purpose of the Mosaic Law?“

    rccg.org, „First fruit offering“

    biblestudytools.com, „First fruits“

    openbible.info, „Tithe In The New Testament”

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part 1.2: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Joshua 6

    Faith, obedience, endurance, and praise – the secret behind God’s military plan 

    Part 1.2: Understanding God’s Word – Bible Commentary on Joshua 6

    Bible passages being discussed: (Joshua 6:3-20)

    In the first instalment of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Joshua 6, we started this month’s study by reading about the pivotal events and preparation that led to the Israelite’s victory at the city of Jericho, where God caused the walls of this fortress city to fall down and the Israelites to establish themselves as the new rulers of the land of Canaan – the Promised Land. 

    We started our Bible commentary with Israelite’s successful crossing into the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua. Though Canaan truly is the land of milk and honey, as God promised them, it is also occupied by their enemies, the Canaanites.  

    As part of their 3-part military strategy to possess the land of Canaan, the Israelites are about to embark on what no one has done before – they are planning on conquering the impregnable military fortress city of Jericho, which had been strategically built to defend the access point to the central mountain ranges that divide the land from east to west.  

    However, the Israelites are not going against the seasoned warrior Canaanites alone – God has been preparing His people for victory by re-instigating His covenant with them and insisting on traditions and customs being observed that had been discarded in the wilderness. In addition, God has planted a weakness behind the enemy lines in the form of Rahab, a prostitute. Moreover, the Israelites believe in God’s promise to deliver Jericho into their hands (Joshua 6:2). If God says it’s a done deal, then it’s a done deal! 

    Now that their preparation is complete, the next thing that the Israelites need to do is carry out God’s plan to overcome Jericho – a plan that tests the boundaries of human logic and military expertise, because it simply does not make sense to us. And yet it worked!  

    Would you like to know what this plan was and why it led the Israelites to the capture of Jericho? Then keep on reading! 

    However, before we begin, let us take a quick look at why God chose Jericho, a city whose defenses were considered impenetrable, as a first point of victory for the Israelites in their military campaign on the Promised Land of Canaan. 

    Photo credit:  Adam Zvanovec on Unsplash

    The victory at Jericho was designed to give God glory and establish His might

    The victory of Jericho was going to be monumental, not only for the Israelites to drive a wedge into Canaan and set up a new ruling dynasty in the land, but for God to show His people, the Canaanites, and the surrounding nations how mighty He was.  

    This was God’s battle, and He was going to choose a divinely superior method of deliverance that would display His power and establish for the Israelites and the surrounding nations that He was the source of the Israelite’s victory – not man’s carnal intelligence or expertise at wielding weaponry. 

    So why did God seek out Jericho specifically? 

    Although it is true that the city of Jericho posed as a major obstacle for the Israelites in their pursuit of claiming the land God promised them, what really offended God were that the city’s inhabitants were worshipping pagan idols and holding occult practices that were offensive to Him (Joshua 6:18). This spiritual disobedience was an abomination to God and needed to be stopped and the Canaanites made an example of.  

    For that reason, God chose to pitch His people, who were inexperienced in warfare and ill-equipped for battle, against the Canaanites, who were superior to them in military experience and resources, in order that all would recognizable that the Israelite victory could only come through God’s might and power and not through human strategizing.  

    Additionally, this plan was unique in that it had never been implemented before, nor would it ever be used again to conquer a city. 

    Now, let’s find out what God’s military strategy for defeating the Canaanites at Jericho was. 

    Photo credit:  Juan Jose on Unsplash

    The art of war – minus the weapons and the fighting

    The Art of War” is one of the most renowned military treatises ever written. It is attributed to the ancient Chinese general and military strategist Sun Tzu. 

    When it came to ancient warfare, Sun Tzu and his contemporaries used their experience on the battlefield to form innovative and crippling strategies to gain victory over their opponents. These strategies were documented, resulting in the famous publication we know today. 

    Sun Tzu’s treatise includes tactical advice in conquering a besieged city, however the people of Ancient Palestine were also seasoned in this type of warfare. 

    The strategy behind invading a besieged city such as Jericho would have covered a timespan of weeks, if not months. There were various options that an attacking army could implement to force their enemy to surrender: 

    • They could starve the city inhabitants into surrendering 
    • They could assault the city with battering rams, moving towers or catapults 
    • The integrity of the fortress walls could be compromised by tunneling or using fire 
    • A dirt ramp could be constructed by heaping earth until it reached the most accessible point in the parapets 

    God’s military plan for the overthrow of Jericho

    However, God does not strategize as man does. First of all, His military plan was designed to achieve a victory in 7 days – an impossible timeline in ancient warfare. God reveals further details of His strategy to Joshua: 

    ‘”You shall march around the city, all the warriors circling the city once. Thus you shall do for six days, with seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, the priests blowing the trumpets. When they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, as soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and all the people shall charge straight ahead.” 

    Joshua 6:3-5 (NRSV) 

    Let’s break down God’s plan: 

    • The Israelites needed to march around the walls of Jericho once each day, for 6 days 
    • At the front of the cavalcade would be 7 priests bearing 7 trumpets made out of ram’s horns 
    • The priests were to walk ahead of the ark 
    • On the 7th day, the Israelites were to walk 7 times around the city walls 
    • At the sound of the priests blowing the trumpets, all of the Israelites were to give an almighty shout  
    • The walls of Jericho fall down 

    God’s presence is a formidable weapon

    God’s plan did not involve weaponry or a convoluted military strategy. It didn’t even require the Israelites to build trenches or erect battering rams. God’s plan comprised of a very simple strategy that entailed two key symbols of God’s presence: 

    The ark 

    The ark was to play a prominent role in the victory of Jericho.  God was showing His people that He was with them, leading them to victory. Seeing the ark before them would also have reassured the Israelites, reminding them of how they crossed the Jordan (Joshua 3:2-43:8-14). God also wanted the ark in front of them to keep the Israelite’s hearts and minds on Him, and not on their upcoming battle. 

    The trumpets

    The trumpets that the priests used were not the silver instruments traditionally used in ceremonies. These trumpets were designed to be used in battle. They were made out of ram’s horns and only ranged a few notes, which evoked spiritual overtones. When blown into, they emitted a dull, penetrating sound, which was designed to make the Israelites associate it with God’s voice.  

    Can you imagine how these trumpets sounded and the effect it had on the Israelites? And what about the Canaanites? The sombre resonance being emitted from the ram’s horns would have intimidated the Canaanites watching from the walls above them, making them think that the time of their doom was nigh. Talk about an added bonus!  

    What is also so unusual about this plan is that every Israelite was involved – not only the non-soldiers such as women and children, but also the priests, who traditionally were excused from warfare. God wanted a group effort for a group victory. 

    I wonder what Sun Tzu would have thought about this plan? 

    One thing is for certain: Though this strategy challenges our logic (and even our survival instincts), it is evident that God factored in details in His plan that we as humans may otherwise not have considered. Let’s find out what they were. 

    Photo credit:  Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

    Don’t fight the enemy his way – fight your way

    The Israelites could not engage in direct warfare, as they were ex-slaves and nomads, who had wandered the desert for 40 years. They were not warriors like the Canaanites, and they certainly did not possess battering rams, catapults and such to even launch such an assault. Their few swords and slings (though these were very effective – remember David versus Goliath [1 Samuel 17]?) would be of little use against the fortified walls of Jericho. And God knew that.  

    Therefore, God wanted the Israelites to fight with what they had. Let’s see what the Israelites had in their strategic assemblage.  

    Photo credit:  Michael Uebler on Unsplash

    The weapons of our warfare are spiritual, not carnal

    Based on what we’ve just read, this was always going to be a spiritual battle, not a physical one. Hence, instead of using the meagre supply of weapons in their arsenal, the Israelites were going to fight with far greater weapons – their faith, obedience, courage, and endurance.  

    Faith

    The Israelite’s declaration of faith in God’s assurance of victory starts with Joshua. He not only listened to what God told him about the imminent fall of Jericho, he believed that God would deliver the city into the Israelite’s hands (Joshua 6:2). 

    Then, with continued faith, Joshua told the plan to the Israelites, who in turn, accepted this untried and illogically-sounding strategy with their own faith. This was highly commendable on their part, considering that Joshua intentionally only told them God’s plan in increments. Joshua wanted the Israelites to focus on God and be dependent on Him throughout every part of the process to achieving victory and the prize of capturing the city.  

    Thus, the Israelites marched around their enemy’s camp trusting God’s promise, which only Joshua had heard directly. They believed in the battle plan. 

    This was a tremendous leap of faith for the Israelites, for they didn’t have the reassurance of a tried and tested strategy to gauge their odds, nor could they rely on their limited experience in warfare. They had to put their trust and reliance in God.  

    Courage

    Despite the battle plan being fraught with danger – walking around a highly defended city being observed by battle-hardened giants for 7 days – the Israelites gathered their courage and walked.  

    Going around and around the city walls, the Israelites would have been able to see clearly what they were up against – giants armed to the teeth in weaponry, impenetrable walls with ramparts wide enough for chariots to ride across, and a looming stone tower that rose 28 ft above them.  They also would have made themselves vulnerable to attack from the Canaanites. And yet, the Israelites refused to let themselves be intimidated. They walked in courage, knowing that God was Jehovah Nissi – their battle standard. 

    Obedience

    Joshua and the Israelites followed God’s strategy down to the last detail. For 6 days, every man, woman and child walked in absolute silence around the walls of Jericho in the cavalcade that God had decreed – even when they saw nothing happening.  

    It was only on the 7th day, that the Israelites shouted once – again in obedience to God at Joshua’s command. 

    The Israelites demonstrated their obedience by fulfilling Joshua’s instructions as he issued them, without having an overview of God’s strategy.  

    Additionally, the Israelites most likely would have marched on the Sabbath. However, they chose to obey a God, who didn’t allow Himself to be restricted by His own laws, as opposed to strictly following a religious practice. We see this repeated in Mark 2:23-28, when Jesus countered the Pharisee’s accusation that His disciples plucked at heads of grain to still their hunger on the Sabbath.  

    Instead of relying on their own human logic and carnal strategizing, the Israelites chose to completely obey God, without questioning His plans, nor His timing. 

    Endurance

    The Israelites exhibited tremendous endurance by persisting in following a plan day by day that didn’t make sense to them. This was remarkable, especially when you consider that walking around the walls of Jericho only exposed the Israelite’s apparently futile situation to the Children of God, which could only have attempted to whittle away at their insistence in obeying God. 

    These elements, together with the presence of a mighty and powerful God, made up the winning military strategy required to make the walls of Jericho fall down. 

    Photo credit:  Joshua Earle on Unsplash

    The sound of silence

    Have you ever heard of the phrase “Speech is silver, but silence is golden?” Well in the Israelite’s case, silence played a key role in their victory. 

    Although it doesn’t specifically state in the Bible why God wanted the Israelites to march in silence – He could have equally required of them to sing and dance in worship, or march around praying loudly – the Israelite’s observation of silence demonstrates an important precedence for us all to come to God in silence. Instead of running around trying to solve our problems with our own strength, we need to come to rest and be still in God’s presence and draw on His strength.  

    “Be silent, all people, before the Lord; for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.” 

    Zechariah 2:13 

    In addition, by being silent, while at the same time not exactly being told why, was a further act of obedience from the Children of God. 

    Finally, through the silence, the Israelite’s could better hear the trumpet fanfare that represented the voice of God, which helped them focus on God’s promise of victory for them. 

    Photo credit:  Kristina Flour on Unsplash

    On six and seven* – the significance of the numbers 6 and 7 in the Bible

    When you read about God’s strategy for the Israelites to conquer Jericho, did the number 7 keeping popping out at you?  

    • 7 days 
    • 7 trips around the city walls 
    • 7 priests 
    • 7 horns 
    • The Israelites shout on the 7th day 

    Well, that is not a coincidence on God’s part. Numbers play a significant role in the Bible.  

    The number 7 is found 735 times in scripture. It represents completeness, perfection and the foundation of God. 

    When you think about what you already know about the number 7 from Sunday school or your own study of the Bible, the significance of this numeral makes sense: God created the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th – the Sabbath. Passover is celebrated in Israel, according to biblical tradition, for 7 days.  

    The number 7 is also represented in other ways in the Bible: 

    • According to the Hebrew calendar, God created Adam in the 7th month 
    • The bible is divided into 7 divisions:  

    1) the law 

    2) the prophets 

    3) the Psalms 

    4) Gospels and Acts 

    5) the (general) epistles 

    6) Paul’s epistles 

    7) The Book of Revelations 

    In comparison, the number 6 symbolizes man and his weakness: 

    • God created man on the 6th day 
    • In ancient times, Hebrew slaves were to serve 6 years and be released in the 7th year 
    • 6 (x3) is associated with Satan 

    For 6 days, the Israelites walked around the walls of Jericho and nothing happened. It was only when God intervened on the 7th day, did the walls fall down, thus completing the Israelite’s victory. 

    God has given the Israelites a purpose in Canaan, as well as a plan by which they can claim the land of milk and honey for their own. The Israelites know that they have to accept God’s plan with faith and carry it through with obedience, if they have any chance of conquering Jericho. However, there is one final thing they need to do, before they see the walls of the city fall down. 

    They needed to give an almighty shout of praise to their God! 

    *(From Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde) 

    Photo credit:  Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

    Praise God before the breakthrough

    Every Israelite – from the 7 Levite priests before the ark to the smallest child – obeyed God and walked in absolute silence around the walls of the fortified city of Jericho for 6 days. 

    The city encompassed an area of about 6.5 acres, so it didn’t take the Israelites long to march around the perimeter. However, it did give them ample opportunity to do a thorough reconnaissance of their enemy’s layout.  

    Being so close to Jericho’s infamous impregnable walls, the Israelites were confronted with just how colossal the task ahead of them was. Their proximity to the walls would have most likely put them in danger from an airborne attack of spears, slings or arrows from the Canaanites manning the parapets. At the least, the Israelites probably had to endure ridicule and jeering from the Canaanites, with the intention of intimidating them. Yet through all of this, they did not break their silence. 

    Until the 7th day.

    On this day, God wanted the Israelites to shout – just once – before He made the walls fall down. And the shout was to be a response to the sound of the ram’s horn, which was supposed to be akin to His voice.

    Why did God ask His people to that?

    We established earlier that this was a spiritual battle and that God wanted to use the victory of Jericho to set a precedent for the surrounding nations.

    God didn’t need the Israelite’s help – but He did want their partnership, which required them to show Him a visible sign of their faith. And what better way to show God your faith than by praising Him before you see a breakthrough?  

    This is what the Israelite’s one and only shout symbolized – that they believed God would keep His promise of victory, before they saw one stone from the wall of Jericho being dislodged and that He was their Lord, who would never fail them, nor forsake them. 

    Praising God before a breakthrough is also demonstrated in other biblical accounts: King Jehoshaphat sent men to sing and praise God before his battle against the combined armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir (2 Chronicles 20:20-22). In Acts 16:25-32, Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God in prison. In response, God brought about an earthquake that shook the foundations of the prison, released captives from their chains, and brought a Phillipian jailor to Christ. 

    And so, the Israelite’s raised their voices on Joshua’s command and shouted their praise to the Lord in faith: 

    So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpets, they raised a great shout, and the wall fell down flat; so the people charged straight ahead into the city and captured it.” 

    Joshua 6:20 

    And in response, God caused the walls of Jericho – the infamously impregnable walls of Jericho – to fall down.  

    Photo credit:  Jeremy Perkins on Unsplash

    However, the lesson of God’s promise doesn’t end here. The Israelite’s still need to fulfil God’s final commands in the captured city of Jericho, before they can claim their inheritance as the new leaders of the land of Canaan.  

    If you would like to learn more about what the Israelite’s get up to in their first days as the victors of Jericho, then feel free to join us in our next and final instalment of Part One of our Bible Study on Joshua 6, which we will publish next week.  

    In the weeks to come, we will be publishing the remaining parts of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Joshua 6: In Part Two – Living God’s Word, we will share with you how you can implement the lessons learned in Joshua 6 in your own life. In Part Three – Studying God’s Word, we will be offering study and discussion questions, reading material, and a prayer that you can use in your own small group or adapt to your own private study of Joshua 6. 

    Until then, stay blessed my friends! 

    Sources:

    bibleorg.com, “5. Destroying Fortresses; Victory at Jericho (Joshua 6:1-27)” 

    enduring word.com, “Joshua 6 – The fall of Jericho” 

    thetorah.com, “How Many Years Were the Israelites in Egypt?” 

    christiancourier.com, “Joshua 6:2, 16 – The Gift of Jericho”  

    desiringgod.org, “The Conquest of Canaan” 

    gotquestions.org, “Who was Joshua in the Bible?” 

    thejc.com, “What is Pesach?” 

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part 1.1: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Joshua 6

    Before the walls fell down: The promise and the preparation 

    Part 1.1: Understanding God’s Word – Bible Commentary on Joshua 6

    Bible passages being discussed: (Joshua 1- 5), (Joshua 6:1-2 

    The fall of the city of Jericho in Joshua 6 (NRSV)  is one of my favorite biblical accounts, as it provides a wonderful testimony about what God can do when we act in obedience and faith. It also gives a clear insight into the difference between how we perceive our circumstances, in comparison to how God sees them.  

    We start this epic biblical account in the land of Canaan. Under the anointed leadership of Joshua, God has brought His people, the Israelites, out of their 40-year wilderness period in the desert of Sinai, by crossing over the Jordan River into Canaan (Joshua 3). Safe on the other side, the Israelites have set up camp in Gilgal, which borders to the east of the fortified city of Jericho.  

    The land of Canaan is significant to the Israelites, as it is the Promised Land, the heritage of the Israelites, that God had promised to Abraham when He made a covenant with Him (Genesis 15:18-21).  

    The only things is, the Promised Land is still occupied by the Canaanites, who are their enemies. In order to stake their claim as the new owners of the land, the Israelites need to defeat the Canaanites by taking the city of Jericho and claiming the fortress city for themselves. 

    The momentous task is the final and decisive step for the Israelites on a long journey to receiving the promise of God’s inheritance.  

    The Israelites had been enslaved in the bronze fetters of Pharaoh for 430 years in Egypt (Exodus 12:40-41). After their exodus from Egypt, they were then nomads for 40 years in the wilderness, which severely tested their faith (Numbers 32:13). Their steadfast leader Moses died and didn’t get to see the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 34:1-8), and all males who had been born in the desert had to be circumcised, even the adults (ouch). 

    One the other hand, the Israelites had also experienced signs, miracles and wonders of God’s provision: God parted the Red Sea for them so they could escape Pharaoh and his army (Exodus 14), and He provided them with manna and quail in the desert when they were hungry (Exodus 16). Through Moses, He gave the Israelites the 10 Commandments and the Ark of the Covenant, which symbolized God’s holy presence amongst His people.  

    Finally, God promoted Joshua, Moses’ second-in-command and one of the original 12 spies who scouted Canaan (Numbers 13:1-16), as the new leader of the Israelites. It was Joshua’s faith and obedience towards God that played a monumental role in the Israelite’s triumphant campaign in conquering Canaan, which lasted a total of 7 years.  

    Now, the Israelites are about to bear witness to another of God’s miracles – He is going to give them the city of Jericho – a fortress city which is reputed as being impregnable (Joshua 6:2-5) and is manned by a race of people well accustomed to warfare.  

    However, despite God’s promise of victory to make the walls of Jericho fall down, the Israelites still need to prepare themselves spiritually by obeying God’s laws. Moreover, they need to exercise their faith by holding on tightly to the promises that God has made them. 

    As an exception to our conventional layout of the Jacob’s Ladder Bible Studies, this month, we are going to break down Part One further into three sub-segments, with each part analyzing a section of Joshua 6.  Many of us are going through adversity right now and it is on our hearts to explore in depth how God is in fact with us, making walls fall down and providing the path to breakthrough, when all the while we hear is His silence.  

    We hope that this deeper analysis of Joshua 6 will give you comfort and encourage you that God hears your pleading and prayers, and has already made a way when you don’t see a way.  

    We will post the two remaining sub-segments on Thursday and next Monday respectively. In the following weeks we will also be looking at Part 2 – “Living God’s Word”  and Part 3 – “Studying God’s Word” to complete our Bible study series on Joshua 6.

    Photo credit: eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

    The importance of Jericho for the Israelites

    So, before we look at how the Israelites overcame Jericho, we need to know why, out of all the cities in Canaan, did the Israelites choose this particular city as their first launch of attack in their campaign on the Promised Land? 

    Conquering Jericho was important to the Israelites for two reasons: 

    1. Jericho was part one of a three-part military campaign on Canaan

    The northern and southern parts of Canaan were separated by a ridge of mountains running east to west. Jericho was situated at the gateway to this mountain ascent. In order to prevent a hostile approach into the hill country from the east, the city had been built as a military fortress with 12-17 ft walls, which were wide enough to cater chariots as an added defense feature. Inside the walls was a stone tower about 28 ft high. 

    The first part of the Israelite’s military strategy was to capture Jericho and thereby gain control of the central mountain ridge. This would effectively divide a wedge between the northern and southern parts of Canaan, thus dividing their enemy’s army in two. It would also ensure that the Israelite’s didn’t have any enemy forces right at their back once they entered the high country.  

    Map Courtesey of: Free Bible Land Maps – New Testament Christians.Com, “Conquests of Joshua.”

    Following their conquest of the center of the land, the Israelites planned on executing the second part of their campaign, which was to attack the Canaanite armies to the south. Their third and final military goal was to overcome the more remote armies to the north.  

    2. God uses the fall of Jericho to show His power and that He keeps His promises

    Ancient warfare tactics required weeks or even months to capture a city, however God delivers Jericho into the Israelite’s hands in just 7 days based on: 

    •  His power  
    • His promise to His people to give them every place where they set foot and to always be with them (Joshua 1:1-5
    • The Israelite’s faith in God and their obedience in following His instructions 

    This is especially significant when you consider that the Israelites had previously failed to enter Canaan and confront their enemies due to a negative reconnaissance report from Moses’ spies (Numbers 13:25-29). They feared the Canaanites, believing them to be physically superior to them and their cities to be well fortified (Numbers 13:28). The inhabitants of Jericho were also seasoned warriors, armed to the teeth with military resources, whereas the Israelites were a nation of ex-slaves with no military experience. 

    This was indeed all true, but God uses these odds to show that the walls of Jericho can only fall down through His power and not by man’s prowess or strategizing. This should be an unusual achievement, a unique triumph that highlights the majesty, goodness, and might of God. 

    The victory of Jericho should not only be to encourage the Israelites that they can face anything that opposes them in Canaan, but it is to also send a message to the other nations of the glory and power of God. 

    God also wanted to show the Israelites the fulfilment of His promise that they would inherit Canaan, the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey (Leviticus 20:24). And God always keeps His promises.  

    Photo credit:  Valdemaras D. on Unsplash

    Why the battle was won before it even began

    When God leads you to experience a breakthrough or enter into a new level of spiritual promotion, He will line everything up in your favor. In the case of the Israelites, we see in three ways, how God had been laying the groundwork for their victory at Jericho long before they arrived at the fortified walls.  

    1. God has already given us the victory 

    The Israelites are preparing themselves for what could be the most impactful battle of their lives. Looking up at the walls and seeing their enemy leering down at them from the high parapets, l guess we can safely assume that they are feeling just a little bit nervous about the outcome of their undertaking, despite their faith in God. It’s only natural right?  

    However, God is totally relaxed, because He considers the battle to be already won. He says the following to Joshua: 

    ‘“See, I have handed Jericho over to you, along with its king and soldiers.”’ 

    Joshua 6:2 

    Did you notice how God said, “I have handed Jericho over to you?” (emphasis mine). God is reassuring the leader of the Israelites that He has delivered Jericho in their hands, before they have even left their camp in Gilgal! 

    Hebrew scholars refer to this term as the prophetic perfectIt is a literary technique, which is most distinguishable in Hebrew and Aramaic translations of the Bible, where a future event is so sure to happen, that it is referred to in the past tense, as though it has already occurred.  

    This reassurance of God is a gift, an unmerited expression of God’s mercy and love. However, in order to receive this gift, the Israelites need to obey God’s commands to the letter.  

    2. God renews His covenant with the Israelites and prepares them for victory

    God likes to plan – we just don’t always see it.  Sometimes, when it appears that God has instantaneously answered our prayers, He has actually been preparing us for His provision and grace.   

    Since arriving in Canaan, God is preparing the Israelites spiritually for their onslaught on Jericho and consequently the rest of the land. Not only does He want the Israelites to commit to a covenant relationship with Him, He wants to train them to put their faith and obedience in Him. This is how God achieves this:

    God instructs the Israelites to set up 12 memorial stones in Gilgal 

    The Canaanites regarded the River Jordan as a natural defense. However, not only did the Israelites chose this route to enter into Canaan, they wanted to cross it during the harvest time, when the banks of the river were flooded over.  

    When God separated the waters and dried up the river bed in order for His people to cross over (Joshua 3:16-17), He instructed the Israelites to set up 12 memorial stones where they first set foot in Canaan, which was Gilgal. The stones were to serve as a reminder for future generations of the miracle of the River Jordan crossing and to let all the people of the earth know how mighty and fearful God was (Joshua 4:20-24) 

    God requests that all males born in the wilderness be circumcised.

    The rite of circumcision was first performed by Abraham (Genesis 17:9-14), establishing the covenant relationship between God and Israel. However, the Israelites who had left Egypt had not continued with this covenant tradition in the wilderness.  

    Therefore, it was necessary for the Israelites to undergo circumcision in their camp at Gilgal, in order to seal a covenant with God and distinguish themselves as His chosen people. God also wanted to remove any taint of their former lives as slaves (Joshua 5:9). For this reason, Gilgal means “rolling”, as it was here that God rolled away the Israelite’s past.  

    Though undergoing circumcision meant that the Israelites needed a time-out in order to heal from their wounds, God was more concerned with establishing a spiritual bond between Himself and His people, rather than having the Israelites go to battle without His presence.   

    The Israelites were to observe the Passover

    The Passover commemorates God’s deliverance of the Israelite’s from Egyptian slavery, as well as their new-found liberation as a nation. It comes from the Hebrew word Pesach, which means to pass over.  

    It was first observed while the Israelites were in Egypt, where God passed over the blood-smeared doorposts of the Israelites to kill every firstborn – human and animal alike (Exodus 12:1-28). It was God’s tenth and final plague against Pharaoh, a judgement issued to Egypt because Pharaoh refused to release God’s people from the bonds of slavery (Exodus 11:4-8). With the demise of his firstborn son, Pharaoh conceded defeat and released the Israelites from their bondage (Exodus 12:31-32).  

    39 years had passed since the Israelites had last observed the Passover, which had taken place in their second year in the wilderness. However, before the Israelites could face their enemies at Jericho, God required them to take up the Passover tradition once again (Joshua 5:10). 

    Not only did God want the Israelites to obey His laws as He had decreed them when the Israelites were on the brink of freedom, He wanted His people to remember how He had delivered them from their enemies in Egypt, before doing the same at Jericho. 

    God stopped providing manna and quail

    As part of the keeping of Passover, the Israelites were required to have a feast. While they were in the wilderness, God had provided them with manna, which was similar to bread, as well as quail from heaven (Exodus 16:12). However, for Passover, they ate the rich produce of the land. From then on, God ceased providing them with manna and quail. 

    Why did He do this? For 40 years, God had generously provided the Israelites with a constant, albeit limited food source. Now, God was teaching them that there was abundance to be had in Canaan, but instead of it being presented to them every morning and twilight, God was training them to be self-sufficient (Philippians 4:11-12). 

    Joshua receives a Heavenly visit

    This point is an important one. In Joshua 5:13-15, a Man with a drawn sword appeared near Joshua, as he was by Jericho. This was no ordinary man, but an angel of God’s army. Theologians call this kind of encounter a theophany, which is a heavenly visit from God in the Old Testament, where He takes the form of, but is not limited to, a human. Similar theophanies are to be found in Judges 6:12-22 and 2 Kings 6:17

    Joshua needed to take his shoes off, because he was standing on holy ground. Moses experienced the same in Exodus 3:5 when he was on Mount Horeb. Being on holy ground meant you were in the presence of God in the Old Testament, which was a rare and privileged experience.  

    Not only did the angel appear to reassure Joshua in his role of leader, but He wanted to make it clear to Joshua, that He was not there to be on the Israelite’s side; rather, the Israelites needed to side with God if they wanted victory.  

    The angel also wanted to make it clear that this was God’s battle and consequent victory and would therefore be won on His terms, for His glory (Joshua 6:16-17).  

    Photo credit: Felix Mittermeier on Unsplash 

    God has already planted a weakness behind the enemy lines

    If Jericho had been nigh impossible to penetrate in the past, it was even more so now. On seeing the Israelites, the inhabitants of the fortress city have gone into lockdown mode.  

    Word of the Red Sea parting and the miracle of the Jordan River crossing have reached the ears of the citizens of Jericho (Joshua 2:10). Though the Israelites may not be seasoned warriors such as themselves, the Canaanites acknowledge that the Israelite attack is not to be taken lightly.  

    The people of Jericho don’t want to follow God, and yet they know of the promise He has made to the Israelites to take their land away from them, which has them shivering in their leather sandals (Joshua 2:9).  The entire city of Jericho is determined to shut the presence of God out – literally and spiritually and is thereby on full alert.

    However, what the Canaanites don’t know, is that God has already compromised the impregnable defences of the city in a manner that no one could have reckoned with – through a prostitute named Rahab.  

    After Moses’ failed attempt at a reconnaissance trip (Numbers 13:25-29), Joshua sent two men on a second scouting expedition – but this time in secret (Joshua 2:1)).  The presence of the two spies was quickly found out and the king of Jericho issued orders for the men to be found. 

    At the risk of her own life, Rahab offered the two Israelites refuge by hiding them on the roof of her house under stalks of flax. When the king of Jericho sent his men to Rahab with the request to hand over the men, she told the king’s officials that the Israelite’s had already left. 

    God literally placed a weakness in the wall, as Rahab’s house was built into the defensive stone exterior (Joshua 2:15). After the city’s gate had been shut for the night, Rahab let a rope out of her window, which the two Israelite’s used to flee the city.

    Why did Rahab decide to help the spies?  

    • She was the only one in Jericho that understood that God reigns supreme above all powers in heaven and on earth (Joshua 2:11
    • She knew that with God on the Israelite’s side, the fall of Jericho was inevitable
    • With that in mind, Rahab wanted to switch sides and declare her allegiance to God in faith (Joshua 2:11
    • Rahab was securing her family’s survival: In return for helping the spies escape the city, Rahab wanted the Israelite’s promise that they would spare her life and the lives of her family once Jericho was theirs (Joshua 2:13).  

    Due to Rahab’s assistance, the 2 spies were able to make it back safely to the Israelite camp and pass on the intel they had gathered, including Rahab’s allegiance. They now had a (wo)man on the inside! 

    Photo credit: Alexandru Zdrobău on Unsplash

    We hope you enjoyed reading Part 1.1 of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible commentary on Joshua 6 “Before the walls fell down: The promise and the preparation”.

    If so, feel free to join us next week, where we will post Part 1.2 “Faith, obedience, and praise – the secret behind God’s military plan”.

    Until, then may God’s blessings be upon you!






    Sources: 

    enduringword.com, “Joshua 6 – The fall of Jericho”

    blueletterbible.org, “The fall of Jericho”

    bible.org, “Destroying Fortresses; Victory at Jericho (Joshua 6:1-27)”

    thetorah.com, “How Many Years Were the Israelites in Egypt?” 

    christiancourier.com, “Joshua 6:2, 16 – The Gift of Jericho”  

    desiringgod.org, “The Conquest of Canaan” 

    gotquestions.org, “Who was Joshua in the Bible?” 

    thejc.com, “What is Pesach?” 

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part Three: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Ephesians 1

    Knowing who you are in Christ

    Part Three – Studying God’s Word

    Welcome to the third and last section of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Ephesians 1 “Knowing who you are in Christ”.  

    In Part One, we studied Paul’s epistle to the church at Ephesus. We discovered that Paul was writing to the Ephesians to encourage them in their faith in Christ and to remind them that they are forgiven, loved, and chosen to be adopted by God into the Body of Christ. 

    God’s endgame to unite all nations under Jesus Christ through the church is also revealed. 

    Paul continues to tell the Ephesians that upon receiving salvation that they – and by extension, us – are stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit, who comes to reside in us. The Holy Spirit provides us with a portion of the blessings, which is known as a pledge,  that we are to inherit as children of the Most High God.  

    Finally, Paul establishes Jesus as the Head of the Church, whose authority is greater than any entity or dominion and whose power is independent of space and time. If Jesus is the Head of the Church, then we as a community of Christians, are His body.  

    In Part Two, we explored the ways in which we can apply our understanding of God’s promise of love and blessings to our everyday lives. We also discussed how we can be ambassadors of Christ and spread the gospel as individuals and as churches to the nations.  

    Part Three of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study is intended as a study guide for those of you, who would like to delve deeper into the biblical and life themes presented in Ephesians 1.  

    If you would like to know more about the benefits of studying the Bible, then l recommend that you read our page “Why study the Bible?” 

    Blog banner credit: ditya Saxena on Unsplash 

    The aim of this study section

    This study section of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series is intended as a guide to promote discussion and reflection on Ephesians 1.   

    As a start, I suggest that you read Part One and Part Two of the Bible Study on Ephesians 1 that l have already posted, in order to fully appreciate the lessons portrayed in this epistle and to consider the chapter’s themes.   

    For whom is this study section intended? 

    You can apply this section within a group setting, such as a house group, a Bible Study group, or a prayer group.  

    Alternatively, you can also study on your own. If this may be the case, l have written some suggestions below in the section “If you are studying on your own” to assist you in your learning.   

    I encourage you to customize this study preparation by taking out of it what you wish and adding your own ideas and insight. Have fun with it!  

    What you will need: 

    • A Bible, preferable a study Bible. I personally use the  “The Everyday Life Bible” from Joyce Meyer Ministries  
    • An exercise book or journal and a pen  
    • As an alternative to pen and paper, you could use a tablet or a similiar electronic device  

    This study section composes of five parts:  

    1. Discussion questions  

    2. Testimony  

    3. Suggested reading   

    4. Journal writing  

    5. Prayer  

    These are just guidelines to help you structure your group time. Feel free to add or take out elements as you see fit! 

    Additionally, talk with your group and ask them for suggestions about what they would like to do. The more ideas, the merrier!  

    If you are studying on your own  

    If you are not in a group and you would still like to apply this study section of Ephesians 1 to your own private study of the Bible, that is also great! Quiet time with God is valuable time, and you can learn a lot about Him during it.   

    The following are a few suggestions of how you can adapt the 5 sections of this study guide for private study purposes:  

    1. Discussion questions:  

    You could start a journal and write down your thoughts to the listed discussion questions.   

    2. Testimony  

    You could use our suggested topics in the Testimony section as stimulation to write down all the wonderful things God has done in your life by starting a testimony journal or a blessings jar.  

     3. Suggested reading   

    Applicable in a group setting as well as for private study purposes.  

    4. Journal writing  

    Applicable in a group setting as well as for private study purposes.  

    5.Prayer  

    You can speak the prayer at the end of this section over yourself. Your words have power, especially if you speak them over yourself:  

    “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;  
        it shall not return to me empty,  
    but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,  
        and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”  

    Isaiah 55:11  

    Let’s look at the 5 sections of our study guide. 

    Photo credit:  Green Chameleon on Unsplash 

    1.Discussions questions

    The following are some discussion topics l have thought of to assist you in delving deeper into the themes of Ephesians 1. There is no right or wrong answer; these topics are merely suggestions to stimulate conversation and an exchange of views within your group. Also, feel free to ask others if they have suggestions regarding this topic that they would like to discuss and go with it!  

    As each person experiences a different walk with God, it is interesting to hear other people’s perspectives and thereby learn from each other and grow together as a Christian community. Happy talking!  

    Possible discussion topics on Ephesians 1:  

    1.  God loves us unconditionally. How do you define this kind of love? What are some examples of how God has demonstrated His unconditional love for you? 
    2. Paul writes to the Ephesians that we have been foreordained, pre-chosen to be sons and daughters of God.  Does that mean that those who aren’t believers of Christ have not been pre-chosen to be in a relationship with God? What role does free will play in all of this? 
    3. God’s great plan is to unify all nations under Jesus Christ. That means having an end to all religious conflict in the world. Considering the extent of religious disunity, persecution, and acts of terror that occur in the name of religious conviction, do you see global unity under one God and one church as a possibility? 
    4. God considers us holy and blameless in His presence (Ephesians 1:4). Considering that we are all sinners and are constantly trying to find our way, what does this mean to you? 

    Note: These topics might be a bit sensitive for people to address, so introduce it into a group situation at your discretion. 

    Photo credit:  Christin Hume on Unsplash 

    2.Testimony

    Sharing your life experiences and the victories that God has vouchsafed you, is a verbal expression of your gratitude. It gives not only our Father glory, but it encourages fellow Christians who may be going through the same trial that you have undergone.   

     I will declare your name to my people;  
        in the assembly I will praise you.”  

    Psalm 22:22   

    Paul’s letter to the Ephesians gives us reason to be joyful, for God declares that not only are we loved and forgiven for our sins, He lavishes us with His grace, blessings, and invites us into His family as His adopted children.  

    Possible testimony topics on Ephesians 1:  

    1. How did you come into a relationship with Christ? Share your story of salvation with the rest of the group. Give a testimony of a time when God blessed you abundantly – over and above your expectations. 
    2. It is stated often in the Bible that we should seek God, for example, in Matthew 7:7. However, in this epistle, Paul makes it very clear that God seeks us out.  Share with the group of an encounter you had with God when He sought you out at a time when you needed Him the most.
    3. When we give our lives to Christ we are stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit and He comes to reside in us. How do you feel the Holy Spirit working in you since you have entered into a relationship with Jesus?  

    To help you with your answer, refer back to Part One of our Bible Study under the section “Signed, sealed, and stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:11-14)”. 

    Photo credit:  Wesley Eland on Unsplash 

    3. Suggested reading

    Reading the Word of God teaches us about how much God loves us and gives us guidelines on how to live the life He wants us to live – a life of victory and joy. 

    The following are some scriptures you may enjoy reading about how much God loves you and that He always has your back. 

    Scriptures:  

    Reading the remaining 5 chapters of  the Book of Ephesians will give you more depth and insight into God’s unconditional love for you and the plans He has for you as an individual, as well as for the church.

    • Ephesians 2 – God raised us from the death of a life of sin and has sat us in High Places with Him. It is by faith that we have been saved, not by works. Paul discusses the foundation of the Church, which are the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as her cornerstone.
    • Ephesians 3 – Paul declares from his confinement in Rome of his role in revealing God’s eternal plan for His children.   The power of God is greater than any other authority, and the Church under Christ should reflect His glory. Paul prays that the Ephesians have an encounter with Christ that embeds itself in their hearts. 
    • Ephesians 4 – In this chapter, Paul lists the spiritual gifts that God has given us to fulfill His vision of a functioning Church. Additionally, Paul reminds us to live in humility and morality that honors the Holy Spirit, such as to not steal, be obscene, or allow the sun to go down on your anger. 
    • Ephesians 5– God is love so we should also walk in love. Again, Paul gives us instructions on living a Christian life that reflects God’s will for us. He also talks about the role of men and women in a marriage. 
    • Ephesians 6– Paul gives instructions about family life, specifically the role of both parent and child in the home. Lastly, Paul teaches us that we have a spiritual enemy, Satan, and that we must put on spiritual armour daily to fend off the enemy’s attacks.  

    Interesting online articles relating to Ephesians 1:  

    theprayingwoman.com, “God has your back” Sophia Vilceus 

    www.joelosteen.com, “Claim Your Inheritance” Lisa Comes 

    www.crosswalk.com, “Teaching Life Skills: Practical Outreach for Any Church” Chris Bolinger 

    https://ymi.today,  “5 lies to stop believing about yourself” 

    www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com,  “Are There Some People God Will Not Save?” 
     

    Inspirational quotes relating to Ephesians 1:  

    ‘God proved His love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, “I love you.” ‘- Billy Graham 

    “The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.” C.S. Lewis 

    “The life of success is one of going forward to posses our possessions. It has been said that God’s will does not send a man to where His grace cannot sustain him. God’s will and His grace go hand in hand.” – Benson Andrew Isahosa 

    Photo credit:  Josh Applegate on Unsplash 

    4. Journal writing

    Writing down all the good things that God has done in your life is a very powerful tool for a Christian. Not only does it help us to remember what God has done for us; reading over God’s past victories and blessings over you provides encouragement and empowerment in times of trouble. All you need to start is an empty exercise book and a pen. Alternatively, you can keep a digital journal.  

    There are a number of forms of journals, where regular writing in it will strengthen you in your walk with God:  

    •  A testimony journal  
    •  A dreams and visions journal  
    •  A blessings journal  
    •  My favourite –  a gratitude journal  

    Try to write optimally once a day. All you need is 5-10 min to jot down everything good that has happened to you during the course of your day, no matter how trivial.   

    Meditate upon what you wrote and acknowledge that it is God who was responsible for these good things happening today, and not you or your own works.   

     ‘”Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty.’  

    Zechariah 4:6 (NIV)  

    Journaling in your group:  

    You can e.g. allot 10-15min for journaling in your group, and afterwards share your written thoughts with each other.  

    An alternate suggestion, is to incorporate journal writing as part of your quiet time with God, then discuss your results when you meet as a group.  

    Journaling on the Bible Chapter Ephesians 1 

    1. In your journal, divide your page in half to form two columns. In the left column, write the title “How the world sees me”. In the right column, write the title “How God sees me”.  

    Fill out in the left column how your family, colleagues, friends, and neighbors sees you. Include not only roles and job descriptions but also personality and behavioral traits. 

    Example: “mother”, “husband”,  “reliable”, “shy” 

    In the right column, write a list of everything that God says about YOU

    Example:  “beloved Child”, “forgiven”, “redeemed” 

    As an extension, consider starting a gratitude journal, where you write down the great things God is doing in your life every day. I personally love using the Five Minute Journal from Intelligent Change.   

    Photo credit:  fotografierende on Unsplash 

    5.Prayer

    If you wish, you can read the following prayer aloud as a group, or one person can read it aloud on behalf of the others.   

    Prayer:  

    Oh, Great and Almighty God, 

    You are the Alpha and the Omega, the God who is, who was, and who is to come – You are the Almighty and the Ruler of All. 

    I come to You today full of awe and humility. I lay myself at Your feet, overcome by the love, grace, and mercy that You lavish upon me. Your acts of kindness towards me are countless, as are Your blessings which are as numerous as the stars in the night sky.  

    Precious Lord, l thank you that You chose me to be your child, before l was even in my mother’s womb. Thank you, that when l was swayed by the temptations of this world and dwelled in the darkness of spiritual death, Your love was a light that shone out and brought me back to life through the redeeming blood of Your son Jesus Christ. 

    Now, l am seated in heavenly places with You, adopted into the Body of Christ as Your child. I am Yours, marked with the stamp of the seal of the Holy Spirit that denotes me as belonging to You and You alone. Your grace and love fill me with wonder that You would have chosen me into Your heavenly family.  

    Father, teach me Your ways, in order that l may live the life You have planned for me. Instruct me in the ways of Your love and grace and imprint it on my heart, in order that l do not sin against You. For without You, where l would l be? 

    Mature me in my gifts through the teachings of the Holy Spirit, in order that l may serve You well in my church and help further Your great plan to unify all mankind under the leadership of Jesus Christ, Your son.  
     

    To You be given all the honor and the glory, for You are worthy to be praised. 

    In Jesus’ name, 

    Amen.  

    Photo credit:  fotografierende on Unsplash 

    We hope that you enjoyed our Bible study on Ephesians 1 in our series Jacob’s Ladder Bible Studies.  

    In August, we will be studying  Joshua 6, which describes the fall of Jericho, a fortress city in the land of Canaan. We would love for you to join us!  

    Until then, my friends, be safe and may God’s love and blessings be upon you!  

    Sources:

    https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary, “Ephesians 1 – God’s ulimate plan” 

    https://www.studylight.org, “William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible 
    Ephesians 1” 

    www.jcblog.net/ephesians/summary, “Summary of the Book of Ephesians” 

    https://www.gty.org/library, “What Does It Mean to Be Sealed With the Holy Spirit?“ 

    https://www.ephesus.us/, “St. Paul in Ephesus” 

    https://www.gotquestions.org, “What does the Holy Spirit do?” 

    https://www.bibleref.com, “What does Ephesians 1:15 mean?” 

    johnkking.wordpress.com, “Applying Ephesians to my life” 

    withalliamgod.wordpress.com, “Application Of Ephesians 1:3-11 in Local Churches Leadership” 

    www.gotquestions.org, “What is a blessing according to the Bible?” 

    www.lsmradio.com, “What is God’s Blessing?” 

    www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com, “10 Effective Ways To Spread Christianity” 

    http://www.crosswindschurch.com, “Bible Study Basics – Ephesians 1” 

    http://dsntl8idqsx2o.cloudfront.net, “Ephesians Small Group Series Lesson 1 – Introduction to Ephesians & Chapter 1 The Extent of God’s Love and Power” 

    biblesummarybychapter.blogspot.com, “Ephesians Bible summary by chapter” 

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part Two: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Ephesians 1

    Knowing who you are in Christ

    Part Two: Living God’s word – Applying Ephesians 1 to everyday life 

    Last Friday, we started Part One of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Ephesians 1, which is an epistle that Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus.

    In this letter, Paul tells the Ephesians that they – and by extension, us – are loved. His blessings are ours through Jesus’ blood sacrifice at the Cross of Calvary, and we receive them when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We are His children, adopted into the body of Christ. 

    Furthermore, Paul tells us that God has foreordained us for salvation and holiness. His reasons for choosing us are according to His will and purpose. Upon receiving salvation, we are marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit, which identifies us as belonging to God and enables us to receive a portion of our divine inheritance while we are on earth.  

    Additionally, God’s wishes for His children are reflected through Paul’s prayers over the Ephesians:  

    • wisdom and revelation of God 
    • an awareness of our blessings as recipients of God’s inheritance 
    •  comprehension of the omnipresent and immeasurable power of God, which not only shows itself in us but through us. 

    Finally, God’s secret plan of bringing all things of the world under the unification of Christ is revealed. Paul makes us aware that with Jesus being the Head of the Church, we, as a community of Christians, are the body who can spread the Good News of the gospel to the rest of the world, in order to bring God’s plan to fruition.  

    Not only reading and studying the Bible is an integral part of every Christian’s God walk; we should also try and apply its messages to our daily life. Lukes aptly states in his gospel:

    “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”  

    Luke 11:28 (NRSV)   

    Now that we understand the message behind Ephesians 1, let us explore in Part Two of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series, how we can take the lessons that Paul imparts on us and implement them to live blessed, purposeful lives as children of the Most High God, the beneficiaries of the divine blessings of the Kingdom of Heaven! 

    Additionally, let us explore how we can be ambassadors on earth through our churches and also as individuals in spreading the Word of God.

    Stop condemning yourself 

    God’s greatest message that He wants to share with us, is that He loves us. However, self-condemnation can prevent us from receiving God’s unconditional acceptance of us.  

    Why? 

    Because we see only our weaknesses and failings. We focus on all the times we messed up and the people we hurt and let down. 

    We need to see ourselves as God sees us. We are forgiven, chosen, and unconditionally accepted by Him. Nothing that we can do, no power or entity, can ever separate us from the love of God, which is given to us through Jesus Christ. Paul confirms this for us in the Book of Romans, another of his epistles: 

    “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

    Romans 8:38-39 

     God knows what is in your heart and He still loves you.  He is omnipresent through space and time (Revelations 1:8): He knows the mistakes you have done, are doing now, and will do in the future, and He’s still there for you. God doesn’t condemn you – why should you condemn yourself? 

    Photo credit:  Sydney Sims on Unsplash

    Know that you are unconditionally loved

    This is the point that Paul wishes to emphasize the most with the Ephesians.  

    God loves you. Unconditionally. Unrequitedly. Uncompromisingly.  

    His love cannot be earned, nor can we lose it when we mess up in life. God loves us because He chooses to.  

    God went through the lengthy process of adoption through the sacrifice of His own Son, Jesus Christ, in order to bring you into His family.  

    Now, that is love! 

    God chose you – yes you – to be a part of His family. He knew you and chose you to be His child before you were even a twinkle in your mother’s eyes.  

    “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, 
    and before you were born I consecrated you; 
    I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 

    Jeremiah 1:5 (NRSV) 

    God set you apart, not only because He loves you, but  because  He has a wonderful plan for your life, a life of abundance until it overflows (John 10:10). 

    When you have God in your corner loving you and cheering you on, it shouldn’t matter what anyone else thinks of you. If someone doesn’t like you, breaks up with you, or doesn’t appreciate you, you don’t need to let their treatment of you influence how you live your life. God’s opinion of you is the only one that matters, and He thinks you are precious and worthy! 

    Hold on to that! 

    Photo credit:  Bart LaRue on Unsplash

    You have God’s grace – accept it!

    Paul began his letter to the Ephesians by wishing that grace and peace be theirs: 

    “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

    Ephesians 1:2 

    As we learned in the first part of this Bible Study, “grace” is derived from the Greek word charis, which means charm.  

    One can interpret that in a few ways. It can be a quality which endears you to someone, or it can be a quality that you express towards others. 

    In the case of God, l believe it is a combination of both. God’s expression of grace towards us is one of His most beautiful personality traits. It is His gift to us, a token of love and favor that we don’t deserve because we are sinners.  

    For that reason, God’s gift of grace is one of the qualities that cause us to love God even more. It humbles us, stirs us, and has us in awe of the majesty and benevolence of our Creator; especially when we consider that God’s greatest act of grace was His gift of Salvation. 

    “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us.” 

    Ephesians 1:7-8 

    God wants us to accept His gift of grace. He loves you so much, and you are His greatest treasure.  

    Nevertheless, many of us are unwilling to accept it because we feel ashamed about our past mistakes or feel like we are not worthy enough. 

    However, that is not who you are in Christ. Jesus went to the cross to die for your sins, He took your shame, your mistakes, your regret – from the past, present, and future – and He nailed it on that Cross so that it would never have a hold over you again.  

    Therefore, accept God’s gift of grace, and live your life knowing you are forgiven, loved, and cherished! 

    Photo credit:  Kirill Pershin on Unsplash

    Blessed to be a blessing

    God’s blessings are a point that Paul emphasizes in his epistle.  

    “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” 

    Ephesians 1:3 

    The Greek word for “blessing” means to speak well or voice a positive utterance. In Hebrew, “blessing” can be translated in two ways: It can mean barak, which means to compliment or praise, as well as esher, which can be translated as happiness.  

    God literally spoke blessings to His people throughout the Bible. He blessed Abraham, declaring him to be the father of a multitude of nations (Genesis 17:4). He blessed Mary with the promise that she would bear the Savior of the world (Luke 1:31-33). God even blessed Paul as being the instrument through which He would bring the gospel to both the Gentiles and the Israelites (Acts 9:15).  

    When God blesses us, it is an expression of an act of favor or a declaration of His will for us. These blessings may come in the form of talents, health, opportunities – even material and financial acquisitions. In whatever form they may manifest themselves, God’s blessings are meant to enrich us.  

    However, these blessings are not given to us with the purpose of self-fulfillment.  God blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others.  

    Numerous verses in the Bible instruct us to bless others. Here are just a few: 

    Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 

    Philippians 2:3-4 

    “Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contraryrepay with a blessingIt is for this that you were calledthat you might inherit a blessing.” 

    1 Peter 3:9 

    And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.” 

    Hebrews 10:24 

    So, how can you bless others? You can use your talents to help others in your church and community. In my case, l am a fluent German speaker. In the church l attend here in Bochum, Germany, l offer my services in the Translation team, where we translate the church services from German into English.  

    Additionally, you can give financial gifts, volunteer in local charity organizations, host people in your home by preparing a meal or doing a Bible Study, or give food and clothing donations to a local shelter.  

    And of course, the most powerful blessing you can give someone is to pray for them.  

    Photo credit:  zhang Mickey on Unsplash

    Embrace the gifts of the Holy Spirit

    When we give our lives to Christ, God confirms the transaction by stamping us with the seal of the Holy Spirit. We are now beneficiaries of the promise of a divine inheritance.  

    The Holy Spirit comes to reside in us and provides us with a portion of our heavenly inheritance. In the Ancient Greek business world, a down-payment or “earnest” known as arrabon was considered a part of the purchase price of a good. In the same way, the Holy Spirit provides us with a pledge, or a down-payment of the blessings we are to receive once we are in the Kingdom of Heaven. 

    “In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.” 

    Ephesians 1:13-14 

    The pledges of the Holy Spirit are varied and many. Here are a few: 

    The thing about these pledges, is that they come in seed form. That means, that these provisions will become stronger in us the stronger we become in Christ.  

    When we give our lives to Christ, we become new creations – we start anew. Just as a human baby grows by progressing from milk to solid food, so too do we need to grow from “baby” Christians to mature Christians. 

    “And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food.” 

    1 Corinthians 3:1-2 

    How can we do this? By spending time with God in prayer and quiet reflection, by reading the Bible and being in fellowship with other Christians. In Part Three of our Bible Study, which we will post tomorrow, we outline ways in which you can strengthen yourself in Christ and grow as a community of believers.  

    The potential to become a mature, formidable man or woman of Christ lies within you. If you are feeling undernourished, spend time with God today. Ask Him to show you through the Holy Spirit, how you can tap into the gifts and blessings He has placed inside you. 

    Photo credit:  Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

    Church leaders – be encouraged

    Paul places great emphasis on the role of the Church in furthering the Word of God. As an apostolic missionary, Paul was well aware of the vocation and responsibility involved in braving the outside world and sharing the gospel with people who didn’t know God or believe in Him. 

    The church is of vital importance to Jesus. As her head and cornerstone, He has great plans for the church where each of us has designated roles to fulfill in furthering the gospel. Paul talks more about this in Ephesians 4

    Being a church leader in the modern-day church comes with its challenges. In a time where more and more people are  turning away from God and dedicating themselves to the pursuits of the world, church leaders are under pressure to preach the Word of God, while at the same time not rocking the boat with messages or values that can deter people from wanting to enter their church doors.  

    Paul wants to encourage the Body of Christ that Christ’s power is greater than any authority, power, and dominion in this world and beyond.  

    “God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” 

    Ephesians 1:20-23 

    Jesus created the church to stand out amidst the brokenness of the world, to be a source of light when others sit in the darkness of unbelief and lack of knowledge of God’s redeeming love.  

    Therefore, church leaders need not fear reproach or rejection for telling the infallible Truth of the Word of God. It is their divine-appointed calling, endorsed by the power of the Name that is above all Names, under which every knee must bow – not just in this age, but for all ages to come.  

    Jesus has your back! 

    Photo credit:  Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash

    Go out and spread the Word

    As we stated in the segment above, Jesus is the head of the Church. That makes us, as the Body of Christ, His movable body parts. 

    God’s application of His great plan of unity amongst the nations is through the church. This means, that we all have a role to play in making God’s endgame come to fruition. We need to be the mouth, hands, legs, heart, and spirit of Christ on earth. 

    God calls us to go out and teach the gospel to the four corners of the world, He wants us to bring people into the family of God through salvation. We call this the Great Mission. 

    “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

    Matthew 28:19-20 

    As Christians, we need to be identifiable as a vessel of Christ in today’s broken world. DL Moody, the great Christian theologian famously said, “A man ought to live so that everybody knows he is a Christian… and most of all, his family ought to know.” 


     So how can be known as God’s messengers on earth? 

    We can reflect Christ’s personality through our own behavior

    When l gave my life to Christ, people noticed an immediate change over me. I thought before l spoke, l was quieter, and l stopped swearing (and l used to swear a lot!).  

    People notice that Christ is in us in subtle ways, such as through our behavior, what we choose to talk or not talk about, how we react in situations that are challenging.  

    Reminding ourselves that Christ is in us and going out into the world with a spirit of patience, grace, kindness, and humility will have more of an effect on others than grand, sanctimonious gestures. It will show others who Christ’s true personality is. 

    We can pray 

    Praying is our most formidable and effective tool in making spiritual change. 

    “For the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.” 

    2 Corinthians 10:4-5 

    Not only can we pray for our friends, families, and neighbors, but we should be praying for our nation’s leaders and the spiritual stability of our countries and the cities we live in. Through prayer, chains of pride and disbelief can and will be broken! 

    Have you heard of the film “War Room”? Miss Clara, one of the protagonist’s, had set up her closet as a prayer room. She wrote down everything that was on her heart that she wanted to pray over – may it be requests for herself or requests that were on her heart for others.  When Miss Clara went into her War Room to pray, she was on a divine mission from God to stir things up in the spiritual realm! 

    We can take action

    It is impossible for people to hear about the Word of God if we don’t bring it to them. In Hosea 4:6 it states “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” 

    For that reason, we can make the gospel accessible to others in different ways. Here are a few suggestions: 

    • plant a church 
    • Start a Bible Study in your home 
    • Invite a friend or neighbor who doesn’t know Christ to church 
    • Speak about Christ when you see an opportunity 
    • Start a blog (that’s what l did) 
    • Share a favorite Bible verse on social media like your Facebook or Instagram account 
    • Take flyers from your church and leave them in public places (l leave mine in the locker room of my gym and doctor’s waiting rooms) 
    • Have a Bible app on your phone and show people Bible verses when the situation comes up. This also provides an example for how others can have the Bible always at their fingertips.  I highly recommend the YouVersion Bible App, which was  designed by Craig Groeschel, the pastor of Life.Church and his team. (My husband even offers to download the app for people on their phone, right in that moment.) 
    • Invite people over for a Christian movie night. One of my friends regularly invites others to watch The Shack, the film adaptation of Wm Paul Young’s famous book. If you don’t know what the book is about, you can read our book review on The Shack here

    Photo credit:  Jon Tyson on Unsplash

    This concludes the second part of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series on Ephesians 1 “Knowing who you are in Christ”.  To see Part One of our Bible study of Ephesians 1, click here

    If you have enjoyed the series thus far, we would love to have you join us on Saturday, when l will post the third and final part of our series.  

    Until then my friends, take care and God bless!  

    Sources:

    https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary, “Ephesians 1 – God’s ulimate plan” 

    https://www.studylight.org, “William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible 
    Ephesians 1” 

    www.jcblog.net/ephesians/summary, “Summary of the Book of Ephesians” 

    https://www.gty.org/library, “What Does It Mean to Be Sealed With the Holy Spirit?“ 

    https://www.ephesus.us/, “St. Paul in Ephesus” 

    https://www.gotquestions.org, “What does the Holy Spirit do?” 

    https://www.bibleref.com, “What does Ephesians 1:15 mean?” 

    johnkking.wordpress.com, “Applying Ephesians to my life” 

    withalliamgod.wordpress.com, “Application Of Ephesians 1:3-11 in Local Churches Leadership” 

    www.gotquestions.org, “What is a blessing according to the Bible?” 

    www.lsmradio.com, “What is God’s Blessing?” 

    www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com, “10 Effective Ways To Spread Christianity” 

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part One: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Ephesians 1

    Knowing who you are in Christ

    Part One: Understanding God’s Word

    Bible commentary on Ephesians 1

    Prior to choosing a Bible chapter for this month’s theme, “Who l am in Christ”, a dear friend recommended that l read Ephesians 1 during my private time with the Lord.

    I am so glad l took his advice, for this chapter was a beautiful reminder for me of God’s declaration of love. We are cherished, set apart, and fore-ordained to be in a relationship with our Father, full of blessings, grace, and purpose. I knew l had to take the teachings of this chapter and share it on our blog with all of you.

    Ephesians 1 explains how not only have we been forgiven and redeemed, but we have been chosen by God to be adopted as His sons and daughters. On the occasion of this adoption, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, identifying us as belonging to Christ and who is a down payment of our eternal inheritance. 

    Additionally, Ephesians 1 provides us with revelation about the church, which is the Body of Christ with Jesus at its head, as well as our calling to teach and proclaim the Gospel. 

    However, before we begin with studying this pivotal chapter of the Bible, let us find out more about who wrote it. 

    A brief Jacob’s Ladder history lesson – Who wrote the Book of Ephesians?

    The book of Ephesians was written by the Apostle Paul to the church in Ephesus. Ephesus was an ancient Greek city on the coast of Ionia, in present-day Turkey. Ephesians is one of 13 epistles, or letters, that he wrote to various churches or followers of Christ.  

    Whereas some of the Pauline epistles were written to address issues that had arisen in certain churches, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was written to give revelation to the most important themes of Christianity – kind of a grand summary of what it means to be a Christian.  

    Hence, scholars have referred to the Book of Ephesians as “the Queen of Epistles” or “the crown of Paulism”, just to mention a few terms. It is also known as a “prison” epistle, as Paul wrote this book while under a 2-year house arrest, as he awaited trial in Rome for spreading the Gospel.  

    Upon studying this epistle, some scholars believe that Paul’s intended audience was not limited to the church in Ephesus, as a few of the ancient manuscripts show a blank space instead of the location of Ephesus. 

    Instead, they surmise that this letter was actually written as a circular for various churches across different cities.  

    Despite this postulation, Paul’s affiliation to the city of Ephesus is rather evident: He had come to Ephesus as an apostolic missionary and established the Church at Ephesus, which became head of the Seven Churches in Asia minor. Ephesus became the third renowned Christian city after Jerusalem and Antioch. 

    The first 14 verses of Ephesians 1 are important, as they set the tone for the rest of the book.  

    Paul wrote the Book of Ephesians in Ancient Greek, so l will be referring to the odd Greek term that Paul used in the ancient manuscripts, as it gives a vivid portrayal of his sentiments and provides us with an insight into the tone of that time. 

    Photo credit:  Paola Aguilar on Unsplash

    Greetings to the Church at Ephesus (Ephesians 1:1-2)

     Paul begins this epistle with his customary greeting to God’s people. In his salutation, he establishes his only two worthwhile credentials: 

    1) He is an apostle of Jesus Christ, sent out in His service

     The word “apostle” is derived from the Greek verb apostellein, which means to be sent out.  

    2) Any authority that Paul possesses has been delegated to him through Divine appointment 

    Paul is an apostle through God’s will, blessed to be a vessel to spread the Word of God by God’s grace and mercy. From the time he first gave his life to Christ (Acts 9:1-19), Paul was in constant amazement at the mercy and grace of God to use him as a vessel to spread the Gospel.  

    Paul continues his greetings to the Ephesians by wishing that “grace” and “peace” be theirs. These two words hold great significance in Christian faith.  

    The word “grace” is derived from the Greek word charis, which means charm. Grace is a gift that is only available from God, man cannot attain this for himself by earning it or deserving it. Therefore grace is the underserved merit of God. 

    The word “peace” comes from the Greek word eirene, but a Hebrew translation of the word is shalowm. In the Bible, peace does not necessarily mean the absence of trouble. It is a state that is independent of your surrounding circumstances. Hence, the only true peace a Christian can find is through God. 

    Photo credit:  Sunyu on Unsplash

    Blessed and chosen by God (Ephesians 1:3-6)

    Paul wants to accentuate some major points in these Bible passages:

    God’s blessings are ours  

    God blessings are ours through Christ and His sacrifice on the Cross at Calvary. We receive them when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. These blessings are spiritual, which far outweigh any material blessing or temporal joy that we can experience.  

    Gods wants to, nay, He seeks to bless us abundantly with everything available in the Heavenly realm, for we are His children. 

    God has chosen us  

    God has chosen us, though we are undeserving of His benevolence, for we are sinners. God’s reasons for choosing us are beyond our ability to comprehend, but what we do know is that God chooses according to the purpose of His will (Ephesians 1:5) In the Amplified version, this explanation is extended in brackets – (because it pleased Him and it was His kind intent). 

    God’s plan of adoption 

    Paul explains that it has always been God’s plan to adopt us as His own into the Body of Christ, before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4)  to be a part of His family. 

     In Rome, where Paul wrote the Book of Ephesians, there was a strict law for adults adopting children, as it was considered a serious responsibility. The process of adoption was ceremonial and exact, involving a “father” selling his son twice through the use of a symbolic scale and then buying him back twice. For a third time, the father sold his son, but instead of buying him back, the father had to go the local praetor, a principal Roman magistrate, and plead for his son’s adoption.  

    Once the praetor had agreed to the adoption, the child gave up his rights to his old family and received all the rights of his new family, being recognized as a legitimate son. Any debts or obligations that were connected to his old family were wiped clean.  

    In the same way, God’s adoption of us wipes us clean of our old sins. Our old lives are no more – we can start a new life as new creations in the Body of Christ. 

    Foreordained for salvation and holiness 

    God has foreordained our adoption as His sons and daughters so that we may not only know salvation, but that we may be holy and blameless before Him. The Greek word for “holy” is hagios, which carries the meaning of difference and separation, like a temple is separated in its categorization from other buildings through its purpose of holiness. To apply this to today, a Christian needs to be identifiable as a vessel of Christ in today’s broken world. 

    Paul wonders that God should choose man and not the other way around. This grace is a further blessing from God, given freely to us and one which we should give God praise and honor for.  

    Photo credit:  Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

    Deliverance as an ultimate expression of God’s grace (Ephesians 1: 7-8)

    Paul reminds us that it is God who has delivered us from our sins, by sending his son Jesus to pay a ransom for our transgressions with His precious blood.   

    The word deliverance comes from the Greek word apolutrosis, which originates from the verb lutroun, meaning “to ransom”. This implies the liberation of a man or an entity from a situation he was powerless to free himself of, by means of payment. 

    Redemption is only possible through the Father; it is impossible for man to earn through his own works or earn by his own merits. It is an expression of God’s ultimate grace and a reflection of His loving, merciful nature. 

    Photo credit: Jason Betz on Unsplash

    God’s secret plan for mankind is revealed (Ephesians 1:9-10)

    In these verses, Paul reveals God’s secret plan for mankind that had been previously kept hidden.  Now, God wants to reveal His secret to us, or as the Apostle puts it, “He has made known to us the mystery of his will. (Ephesians 1:9)”. 

    It is a plan that God has been setting into motion throughout the course of history; the passage of time has been used to arrange and guide events, so that God’s plan can come to fruition at His designated time. Paul uses the Greek word oikonomia to describe this, which means “household management”.  In Ancient times, the oikonomos was the steward of a household, whose duty it was to organize the family’s affairs.

     Yep, God has an end plan for us and He has been working on it for a long time! 

    Would you like to know what God’s secret plan for mankind is? To bring together all things of the world and unify them under Christ.  

    This means a few things. Most importantly, God wants us to know that His Gospel of love, hope, and salvation is available to everyone, Gentile and Jew. Until the coming of Christ, the teachings of the Bible were restricted to the Jewish nation. As a consequence, all tensions between the nations, regardless of their backgrounds, are to be resolved in Christ so that there is unity amongst mankind. Additionally, all rights are to be wronged and every dispute is to be resolved under Christ’s jurisdiction.  

    God’s plan is a plan that will glorify Him and set His children free from the bonds of decay and futility (Romans 8:18-22). 

    Sounds like a good plan, right? 

    Such unity was unheard of during Paul’s time. Now, Jesus wants the church, as His bride, to do their part in contributing to this unification process by spreading the good news of the gospel. 

    Photo credit:  Kristina Flour on Unsplash

    Signed, sealed, and stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:11-14)

    Beneficiaries of God’s inheritance 

    Paul tells the Ephesians in this part of his letter that they (and us by extension), have an inheritance in God when we receive His salvation.  

    God has chosen and appointed us as the beneficiaries of His heritage and portion long before we were even aware of it. In Jeremiah 1:5 it states, 

    “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, 
    and before you were born I consecrated you; 
    I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 

    Jeremiah 1:5 (NRSV) 

    As Paul has stated previously in verse 5, God’s reasons for choosing us are His own and are centered around the purpose of His will.  

    Ultimately, those who have chosen to trust God, have been destined and appointed for the praise of His glory (verse 12)!  

    Stamped with the Divine seal of approval 

    For those who have heard God’s Word and received it into their hearts by calling upon Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, God literally confirms the deal by stamping us with the seal of the Holy Spirit.  

    Just as a seal or a stamp denotes ownership, so too does the seal of the Holy Spirit on us denote us as belonging to God.  

    This is especially important when considering that we live in a broken world that tries to lure us away from God with the temptation of material and superficial goals, as well as giving in to our flesh. In such times, we need to remember that greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world (1 John 4.4). It is also important when considering spiritual warfare, as Satan constantly attacks us with lies and tries to deceive us into thinking that we are not worthy to God  (John 8:44). 

    So, what does it mean to be stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit? 

    It means that the Holy Spirit comes to reside in us (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) and does the following: 

    The Holy Spirit does more, but this gives you a working idea of how the seal of the Holy Spirit over us changes us into a new creation in Christ. 

    In the Ancient Greek business world, the term arrabon, meaning “earnest”, was the term for a down-payment or installment. On purchasing goods, this pledge was considered part of the purchase price. It was paid in advance as a guarantee that the full price would be paid in due course. 

    In the same way, Paul is stating that the experience of the Holy Spirit we receive on earth is a pledge of our total inheritance, a down-payment of the fullness of God blessings we are to receive in Heaven (2 Corinthians 1:22). 

    Photo credit:  Gian Cescon on Unsplash

    Paul’s prayer to the Ephesians reflects God’s wishes for us (Ephesians 1:15-20)

    Paul acknowledges the Ephesians love of Christ and His saints. This mention of the word saints is a reference to Christians as being “set apart” through their vocation of leading holy lives in the presence of God.  

    Although Paul had lived with the Ephesians, it seems that news of their continuing faith after his departure had reached him in his confinement in Rome.  Greatly encouraged by these glad tidings, Paul wants to assure the Ephesians that he continues to hold them in his prayers. 

    Paul lists three desires in his prayers over the Ephesians. These desires can also be seen as a reflection of what God wishes for us to also experience: 

    1. Paul prays for a spirit of wisdom and revelation of God which will lead to a deep and more intimate knowledge of him (Ephesians 1 1:17
    1. Paul wishes that the Ephesians have a revelation of their vocational calling in Christ “with the eyes of your heart enlightened”. Additionally, he prays that they are aware of how blessed they are by being recipients of His divine inheritance (Ephesians 1:18). 
    1. Paul desires that the omnipresent and immeasurable power of God is comprehensible to the people of Ephesus, which not only shows itself in us, but is available for us, as God mightily demonstrates to us in our lives (Ephesians 1:19). 

    Paul wants the Ephesians, and by extension – us, to know that we are so precious to God and that His power is great and available to those who believe in Him.   

    It is this same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead and has raised Him above any earthly and spiritual rule, authority, power, and dominion for now and all eternity. And this same power works in us as God’s believers. 

    Jesus Christ as the Head of the Church (Ephesians 1:21-23)

    As a continuing expression of the magnificence of Christ’s power, Paul tells us that all things are under Jesus’ feet and that God has appointed Him as the universal and supreme Head of the Church (Psalm 8:6).  

    If Jesus is the head, then we as a community of Christians make up His body.  

    What does this mean? 

    God’s plan of reconciliation for all the nations was through the life and death of Christ. However, God requires followers to spread this message of love and unity. 

    Each part of a living organism has a function. The head is the cerebral center of the body, whereas the legs have their own function, as do the hands etc. And yet, together, all the individual parts work cohesively as one unit.

    The same applies to us in our function as the Body of Christ. Jesus is the Head, the spiritual center, however, He requires us to be His voice to minister, His hands to pray, and His feet to go out and spread the gospel. Together, we unleash the full potential of Christ’s glory out into the world and fill the voids of this world wrought by brokenness and disunity.  

    Photo credit:  Aaron Burden on Unsplash

    This concludes the first part of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series on Ephesians 1 – “Knowing who you are in Christ”. 

    I hope you have enjoyed reading about Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. 

    If so, feel free to join us next week Thursday, when l post the second part of the series.  

    Until then friends, be blessed!  

     Sources:

    https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary, “Ephesians 1 – God’s ulimate plan” 

    https://www.studylight.org, “William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible 
    Ephesians 1” 

    www.jcblog.net/ephesians/summary, “Summary of the Book of Ephesians” 

    https://www.gty.org/library, “What Does It Mean to Be Sealed With the Holy Spirit?“ 

    https://www.ephesus.us/, “St. Paul in Ephesus” 

    https://www.gotquestions.org, “What does the Holy Spirit do?” 

    https://www.bibleref.com, “What does Ephesians 1:15 mean?” 

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part Three: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Genesis 32

    Why being defeated by God can lead to His blessings

    Part Three – Studying God’s Word

    Welcome to the third and last section of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Genesis 32 “Why being defeated by God can lead to His blessings”. 

    In Part One, which we posted on Monday, we joined Jacob on his journey back to his homeland of Canaan. 20 years previously, Jacob had sought asylum with his uncle Laban, in order to escape the wrath of twin brother Esau, from whom he had stolen the latter’s birthright.  

    On the eve of his reunification with his brother, Jacob wrestles with an angel, who is in fact God.  It is in the throes of combat that God breaks Jacob of his self-dependence and craftiness. Only when Jacob finally concedes defeat that God blesses Jacob with a new identity as well as a new name – Israel. 

    In Part Two, which we posted on Wednesday, we explored the ways that we can apply our understanding of Genesis 32 to our everyday lives. 

    Part Three of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study is intended as a study guide for those of you who would like to delve deeper into the biblical and life themes presented in Genesis 32. 

    If you would like to know more about the benefits of studying the Bible, then l recommend that you read our page “Why study the Bible?” 

    The aim of this study section

    This study section of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series is intended as a guide to promote discussion and reflection on Genesis 32.  

    As a start, I suggest that you read Part One and Part Two of the Bible Study on Genesis 32 that l posted this week, in order to fully appreciate the lesson portrayed in this biblical account and to consider the chapter’s themes.  

    Photo credit:  Ben White on Unsplash

    For whom is this study section intended?

    You can apply this section within a group setting, such as a house group, a Bible Study group, or a prayer group. 

    Alternatively, you can also study on your own. If this may be the case, l have written some suggestions below in the section “If you are studying on your own” to assist you in your learning.  

    I encourage you to customize this study preparation by taking out of it what you wish and adding your own ideas and insight. Have fun with it! 

    What you will need:

    • A Bible, preferable a study Bible. I personally use the  “The Everyday Life Bible” from Joyce Meyer Ministries 
    • An exercise book or journal and a pen 
    • As an alternative to pen and paper, you could use a tablet or a similiar electronic device 

    This study section composes of five parts: 

    1. Discussion questions 

    2. Testimony 

    3. Suggested reading  

    4. Journal writing 

    5. Prayer 

    These are just guidelines to help you structure your group time. Feel free to add or take out elements as you see fit!

    Additionally, talk with your group and ask them for suggestions about what they would like to do. The more ideas, the merrier! 

    If you are studying on your own 

    If you are not in a group and you would still like to apply this study section of Genesis 32 to your own private study of the Bible, that is also great! Quiet time with God is valuable time, and you can learn a lot about Him during it.  

    The following are a few suggestions of how you can adapt the 5 sections of this study guide for private study purposes: 

    1. Discussion questions: 

    You could start a journal and write down your thoughts to the listed discussion questions.  

    1. Testimony 

    You could use our suggested topics in the Testimony section as stimulation to write down all the wonderful things God has done in your life by starting a testimony journal or a blessings jar

     3. Suggested reading  

    Applicable in a group setting as well as for private study purposes. 

    4. Journal writing 

    Applicable in a group setting as well as for private study purposes. 

    5.Prayer 

    You can speak the prayer at the end of this section over yourself. Your words have power, especially if you speak them over yourself: 

    “ So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; 
        it shall not return to me empty, 
    but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, 
        and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” 

    Isaiah 55:11 

    Let’s look at the 5 sections of our study guide. 

    1.Discussions questions

    The following are some discussion topics l have thought of to assist you in delving deeper into the themes of Genesis 32. There is no right or wrong answer; these topics are merely suggestions to stimulate conversation and an exchange of views within your group. Also, feel free to ask others if they have themes regarding this topic that they would like to discuss and go with it! 

    As each person experiences a different walk with God, it is interesting to hear other people’s perspectives and thereby learn from each other and grow together as a Christian community. Happy talking! 

    Possible discussion topics on Genesis 32

    1. Have you experienced a situation in your life where you tried to fix it yourself, yet only made it worse? Did you finally ask God for help? How did His intervention make your situation easier? 
    1. Are there areas in your life that aren’t serving you, such as fear, pride, or unforgiveness that you are finding difficult to let go of? Why do you think you are holding on to them (e.g. fear of change, conflict aversion). 

    Note: This might a be sensitive topic for people to address, so introduce it into a group situation at your discretion. 

    Photo credit: mentatdgt from Pexels

    2.Testimony

    Sharing your life experiences and the victories that God has vouchsafed you, is a verbal expression of your gratitude. It gives not only our Father glory, but it encourages fellow Christians who may be going through the same trial that you have undergone.  

     I will declare your name to my people; 
        in the assembly I will praise you.” 

    Psalm 22:22  

    Jacob’s testimony after his struggle with God was the acquirement of a new identity and a new name – Israel. With God by His side, Jacob could embrace a happy reunification with his brother (Genesis 33).  

    Possible testimony topics on Genesis 32

    1. Do you have a testimony of how God wrestled you free of something that you were holding onto, like a poor mindset, a toxic relationship, or even an addiction? How has He blessed you since?  
    1. Have you learned to lean more and more on God in your life? How has your quality of life improved by relinquishing your self-dependence and instead, putting your trust and reliance in God’s hands? 
    1. Share a testimony with your group of a blessing that God has given you this week. 

    Photo credit:  Jason Hogan on Unsplash

    3. Suggested reading

    Reading the Word of God teaches us about how much God loves us and gives us guidelines on how to live the life He wants us to live – a life of victory and joy.

    Scriptures: 

    Bible chapters about God blessing broken people 

    • Job 42 – God blessed Job twofold for what he had lost  
    • Acts 2 – Peter, who had renounced Jesus three times, was baptized in the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and preached to the crowd, which commenced the movement of Christianity 
    • 2 Samuel 7 – After about 15 years of exile and persecution, God made David King of a united Israel and blessed him, his kingdom, and his progeny with love, rest from their enemies, and prosperity. 

    Interesting online articles relating to Genesis 32: 

    Crosswalk.com, “How wrestling with God will change you forever,” Dena Johnson Martin. 

    Desiring God, “Will you wrestle with God?” Jon Bloom 

    Inspirational quotes relating to Genesis 32: 

    “God is not looking for brilliant men, is not depending upon eloquent men, is not shut up to the use of talented men in sending His Gospel out in the world. God is looking for the broken men who have judged themselves in the light of the Cross of Christ. When He wants anything done, He takes up men who have come to the end of themselves, whose confidence is not in themselves, but in God!” – H.A. Ironside 

    “Whenever God means to make a man great, He always breaks him in pieces first.” – Charles Spurgeon 

    “God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.” Vance Havner 

    Photo credit:  Bethany Laird on Unsplash

    4. Journal writing

    Writing down all the good things that God has done in your life is a very powerful tool for a Christian. Not only does it help us to remember what God has done for us; reading over God’s past victories and blessings over you provides encouragement and empowerment in times of trouble. All you need to start is an empty exercise book and a pen. Alternatively, you can keep a digital journal. 

    There are a number of forms of journals, where regular writing in it will strengthen you in your walk with God: 

    •  A testimony journal 
    •  A dreams and visions journal 
    •  A blessings journal 
    •  My favourite –  a gratitude journal 

    Try to write optimally once a day. All you need is 5-10 min to jot down everything good that has happened to you during the course of your day, no matter how trivial.  

    Meditate upon what you wrote and acknowledge that it is God who was responsible for these good things happening today, and not you or your own works.  

     ‘”Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty.’ 

    Zechariah 4:6 (NIV) 

    Journaling in your group: 

    You can e.g. allot 10-15min for journaling in your group, and afterwards share your written thoughts with each other. 

    An alternate suggestion is to incorporate journal writing as part of your quiet time with God, then discuss your results when you meet as a group. 

    Journaling on the Bible Chapter Genesis 32

    1. Are there mindsets, people, or situations that you need to separate yourself from, but you can’t seem to do it? Write them all down in your journal, and pray for God to break you free of these things that are holding you back. 
    1. Write down in your journal three great ways that God has blessed you this week. 

    As an extension, consider starting a gratitude journal, where you write down the great things God is doing in your life every day. I personally love using the Five Minute Journal from Intelligent Change.  

    Photo credit:  Hannah Olinger on Unsplash

    5.Prayer 

    If you wish, you can read the following prayer aloud as a group, or one person can read it aloud on behalf of the others.  

    Prayer: 

    Sovereign Lord, thank you that we can come before You today with our imperfections and weakness and lay them before You at the Cross.  

    Please expose the thoughts and purposes of our hearts to us.  Give us the humility to hand those things over to You which aren’t serving us in order that You can create a clean heart in us and renew a right spirit within us.  

    For only then when our spirits are contrite and our entire being is reliant on You, can we walk in the fulfillment of Your wonderful purpose for our lives.  

    Thank You Lord that Your ways are always good, for You are a good Father who will never fail us, nor forsake us.  

    In Jesus’ name, 

    Amen 

    Photo credit:  Ben White on Unsplash

    We hope that you enjoyed our first Bible study on Genesis 32 in our series Jacob’s Ladder Bible Studies

    In July, we will be studying  Ephesians 1. We would love for you to join us! 

    Until then, my friends, be safe and may God’s love and blessings be upon you! 

    Madeline

    Sources:

    1. Bible.org , “Lesson 59: Broken, But Blessed (Genesis 32:22-32).”
    2. Blue Letter Bible, “Study Guide for Genesis 32.”
    3. StudyLight.org, “Spurgeon’s Verse Expositions of the Bible – Genesis 32.”

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part Two: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Genesis 32

    Why being defeated by God can lead to His blessings

    Part Two: Living God’s word  

    Applying Genesis 32 to everyday life

    On Monday, we started Part One of our Bible Study of Genesis 32, where Jacob wrestles with an angel all night, only to find out that the angel is God.   

    Jacob, who for all of his life has schemed and been dependent on his wiliness, struggles to relinquish these qualities, which is demonstrated symbolically through his wrestling match with God. However, it is only when Jacob realizes that God is stronger than he is, can he let go of his past and allow God to bless him with a new name “Israel” and the identity and life that he deserves. 

    Not only reading and studying the Bible is an integral part of every Christian’s God walk; we should also try and apply its messages to our daily life. Luke states aptly in his gospel: 

    “’Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’” 

    Luke 11:28 (NRSV)  

    Now that we understand the message behind Genesis 32, let us explore in Part Two of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study serieshow we can learn to let go of qualities, habits, and ways of thinking that aren’t serving us and instead learn to rely on God as our source of strength, salvation, and refuge. 

    Like Jacob, how can l learn to rely on God in my daily life?

    All of us have blemishes and imperfections – after all, we aren’t perfect.  They might be small foibles such as being untidy, not being able to align your shirt buttons to its corresponding buttonhole (that’s me) or always forgetting to check whether the stove is off before you run out the door.  

    Or, they could be more serious character flaws such as pride, selfishness, or an unwillingness to forgive others.  

    The first few examples are mere eccentricities: They may make our lives a tad more difficult, but they are not a reflection of our moral or spiritual fiber. The latter examples, however, can hold us back spiritually from being able to receive the blessings that God has spoken over our lives.  

    How? Because they lead us to focus on ourselves and keep our egos and our needs as the motivating force of our lives, instead of fixing our eyes on God and having Him as the nucleus of our existence. We become self-dependent, thinking that we can handle life ourselves, when in reality, we can’t. 

    This is the lesson that Jacob painfully learned and one that we would do well to keep in mind ourselves.  

    So, how do let go of those qualities that keep us from having a more intimate relationship with God? What do we have to do to become dependent on Him? 

    Photo credit:  Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

    Learn to trust God every day – not just when you’re in trouble 

    When we face difficulties, our nature is to try and figure out everything out for ourselves. We lay awake at night tossing and turning, churning out possibilities. Only when we have run out of options, do we turn to God for help. 

    However, God wants us to rely on Him in our daily life and not just when we’re in trouble. So, whether it’s deciding on what to buy in the supermarket to leaning on Him while you or a family member goes through a serious illness, learn to trust God in the mundane things and the life-changing events of your life.  

    “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, 
        and do not rely on your own insight.” 

    Proverbs 3:5 

    If you’re going through a difficult period in your life, and you’re struggling with making that leap of faith to trust God, try speaking to Him today about what is on your mind. God will meet you where you are at, and He will help you. All you have to do is seek Him.  

    “Do not fear, for I am with you, 
        do not be afraid, for I am your God; 
    I will strengthen you, I will help you, 
        I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” 

    Isaiah 41:10 

    Photo credit: Japheth Mast on Unsplash

    God should be your source of strength

    Life is tough and there are many hard lessons that we learn from it. Having survived hard times, we tell ourselves that we’re stronger as a result of what we’ve gone through. We wear our experiences like metaphorical medals of valor, grittily proud that we have survived warfare. We take the pain that we endured during those battles, and we tap into it as our source of strength. 

    However, our real source of strength should be God, not the resilience of our hearts and bodies to take life’s knocks. 

    “My flesh and my heart may fail, 
        but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” 

    Psalm 73:26 (NRSV) 

    By relying on God as our source of strength, we are already in His presence when challenges and adversity come. We can take refuge, knowing that we are where we should be – safe in the hands of our Lord who protects us. 

    “God is our refuge and strength, 
        a very present help in trouble.” 

    Psalm 46:1 

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    Allow God to change and refine you

    It is not an uncommon belief, even amongst Christians, that God punishes us when we do something wrong. That could be farther from the truth. Though we are sinners, God loves us and has forgiven us for all of our transgressions – past, present, and future – through the blood of Jesus Christ. 

    “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” 

    Ephesians 1:7 

    That doesn’t mean that God won’t sometimes allow us to go through seasons of adversity. However, these times are not designed to ruin us, but as in Jacob’s case, it is God’s way of refining us and breaking us free of qualities, habits, and attitudes that are not serving us.  

    “So that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 

    1 Peter 1:7 

    Thus, when God allows us to experience difficulties, He does so because He loves us. He wants the best for us and wants us to live the joyful, abundant life He has planned for us. However, He knows that we can only do that when we let go of those things that hold us back. Therefore, allow God to change and refine you, for it comes from a place of love, not wrath. 

    Photo credit: Hannah Gibbs on Unsplash

    What can l do this week to rely on God more?

    Here are three things you can do this week to help you to rely on God more: 

    • Surrender yourself to God 
    • Give yourself grace in the process 
    • Seek God in prayer 

    Let’s look at these three points in some detail.

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    Surrender yourself to God

    There is a difference in saying to God, “Change me and refine me, Lord!” and actually surrendering yourself fully to Him.  

    After praying and asking God for help, Jacob still sent Esau a portion of his livestock as a present to appease him. Jacob was able to surrender his possessions, however, he wasn’t able to surrender himself to God and allow Him to do His will in Jacob’s situation. 

    Open yourself to God during your quiet time, or even when you’re going about your day, and tell Him you are ready to give yourself, your situation, and your family into His loving Hands. Don’t be afraid, for He will make all things come together for your good. 

    “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” 

    Romans 8:28 

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    Give yourself grace in the process

    Learning to surrender and trust God completely isn’t going to necessarily happen overnight, so don’t give yourself a hard time over it.  

    Strengthening yourself in the Lord is a gradual thing, and we can be thankful for the grace that He shows us as we become more like Him, from one degree of glory to another. (2 Corinthians 3:18

    Therefore, give yourself some grace during the process of completely trusting God. Joyce Meyers, the co-founder of Joyce Meyers Ministries, sums it up so aptly when she says, “I may not be where I want to be, but thank God I am not where I used to be.” 

    Photo credit: Ben White on Unsplash 

    Seek God in prayer

    God likes it when we communicate with Him. Whatever is bothering you, whatever you know is weighing you down and preventing you from receiving God’s blessings of a joyful life, know that you can lay it all before Him in prayer. 

    “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” 

    Philippians 4:6 

    Thank God for all the wonderful things He has done for you, and ask Him to show you the areas in your life where you still need to let go of those things that aren’t serving you. God hears your prayers and will always help you because He loves you!  

    “And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” 

    1 John 5:14 

    Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that God is a little old benevolent man who is watching us from the lofty heights of Heaven, just lingering around until we need Him. 

    However, God is not like that at all. He is Emmanuel – God with us. He is Yahweh – the Great I AM. God wants to not be just on the outskirts of our lives, He wants to be the center of our existence. He is the Almighty, the Creator of the Universe, the One who sees all and knows all. 

    God wants a relationship with us. He wants the best for us because He loves us. And sometimes, that means He has to refine us by helping us relinquish those things that are damaging us. Instead of wrestling with God to hold onto those things that aren’t serving us, let us start from today to surrender ourselves to God and allow Him to change and refine us. Let us put our trust and confident reliance in God, for He is always good! 

    Photo credit: Ben White on Unsplash

    This concludes the second part of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series on Genesis 32 “Why being defeated by God can lead to His blessings”. 

    To see Part One of our Bible study of Genesis 32, click here.

     If you have enjoyed the series so far, we would love to have you join us on Friday, when l will post the third and final part of our series. 

    Until then my friends, take care and God bless! 

    Madeline

    Sources:

    1. Bible.org , “Lesson 59: Broken, But Blessed (Genesis 32:22-32).”
    2. Blue Letter Bible, “Study Guide for Genesis 32.”
    3. StudyLight.org, “Spurgeon’s Verse Expositions of the Bible – Genesis 32.”

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part One: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Genesis 32

    Why being defeated by God can lead to His blessings

    Part One: Understanding God’s word  Bible commentary on Genesis 32

    Brokenness is the path to blessings

    As l was deciding on which Bible chapter l should choose in order to kick of our Bible study series, l wanted to focus on a biblical account that portrayed how the power of God can transform us.

    You see, God will change our situation, but He is more interested in changing us first. However, we as humans resist God’s attempts to change us, for it is our nature to trust ourselves. We take pride in our self-dependence and hold our ability to make our own decisions in high regard.

    However, God knows that it is only when we submit to Him that we can receive His blessings. For that reason, He at times need to break us, for it is only when we lose to God, that He can bless us as we cling to Him in recognition of our need for Him.

    Brokenness is the path to blessings.

    This is the powerful lesson that Jacob learned in Genesis 32. Over the course of this week, we will be studying how Jacob changed in one night from a self-dependent opportunist to experiencing God’s blessings, power, and a new identity. He did this by losing in a contest of wills against God Himself. 

    This bible commentary is part one of three in our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series on Genesis 32. Part Two will come out on Wednesday and Part Three on Friday. 

    Before we delve into Genesis 32, let us form a brief character analysis of Jacob.

    Photo credit: by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

    Jacob the supplanter

    All of his life, Jacob had schemed and stolen to gain favor.  

    Jacob came into the world grabbing his twin brother Esau’s heel (Genesis 25:26) . Years later, he tricked Esau into exchanging his birthright for a bowl of soup (Genesis 25:29-34). As a consequence, Jacob received his father’s blessings, a great honor that was reserved for the first-born son and which was essentially Esau’s to claim.

    Jacob also tricked his uncle Laban into giving him the goats and sheep of his choice from Laban’s vast flocks (Genesis 30:25-43).  It is no wonder that Jacob’s name meant “Supplanter” or “Usurper”.

    Photo credit:  KEEM IBARRA on Unsplash

    God sends His angels ahead of us (Genesis 32:1-2)

    After working for his uncle Laban in Haran for 20 years, Jacob is returning to his homeland of Canaan. 20 years previously, Jacob had entered his uncle’s household in order to find himself a wife and to escape the wrath of his brother Esau, who had threatened to kill Jacob for stealing his birthright.

    Now, Jacob is coming home, with two wives, 11 children, and vast herds of livestock and servants. He is the epitome of the self-made man.

    However, despite his success, Jacob is still apprehensive about entering the land of Canaan, as he remembers his twin brother’s death threat against him. Jacob presumes that Esau still carries vengeance in his heart against him and is dreading a reunification.

    We see in Genesis 32:1, that angels meet Jacob as he is on his way home. Jacob recognizes and is comforted by them, for he calls them “God’s army” and names the place of his encounter with them Mahanaim (two armies). It is good to know that God is with us to comfort us and provide for us, as we go through difficult situations.

    Photo credit: Raychan on Unsplash

    Jacob prays to God for help but essentially relies on himself (Genesis 32: 3-20)

    Jacob sends messengers ahead to Esau, who lives in Edom, which is a land south of Canaan. This is the news that he sends with them:

    Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: Thus says your servant Jacob, ‘I have lived with Laban as an alien, and stayed until now and I have oxendonkeysflocks, male and female slaves; and I have sent to tell my lord, in order that I may find favor in your sight.’” 

    Genesis 32:4-5 (NRSV) 

    Jacob’s motivation in informing his brother of his good fortune is not intended as bragging. Jacob wants Esau to know that he has not come to take anything from him, like he had done in the past – he has more than enough. Instead, Jacob hopes to lower his brother’s defenses by letting Esau know in advance that he, Jacob, poses as no threat to him.

    However, when messengers return with the information that Esau is already underway to meet Jacob and that he has 400 men with him, Jacob becomes very afraid (Genesis 32:6-7). 

    As a man of faith, Jacob prays to God for deliverance from Esau’s wrath. (Genesis 32:9-12). However, it is interesting to see what Jacob does both before and after he prays to God for help.

    Prior to praying: Prior to praying, Jacob divides his company, including the animals, into two groups (Genesis 32:7-8).  Where he has two God-blessed, superior armies at the beginning of this chapter to support him, Jacob now carves two human parties consisting of women, children, and livestock, who are dependent on him.

    Following his prayer: After he prays, Jacob sends Esau droves of livestock as gifts ahead of himself (Genesis 32:13-20).  

    Jacob’s action before praying to God is a defense tactic, a way to preserve at least a part of his hard-earned acquirements if Esau is indeed intent on attack his party. His action after praying is an appeasement tactic.

    Though Jacob loves and trust God enough to ask Him for help, his default setting is to be reliant upon his own strategies and scheming.

    Photo credit: Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash 

    Jacob fights God and loses (Genesis 32:21-30)

    Sending his brother Esau gifts does not make Jacob feel any more at ease about is impending meeting with his brother: He spends the night in his camp but sleep eludes him. He gets up in the middle of the night and sends his entire family, including his two wives, eleven sons, and servants over the ford of the Jabbok, where they will be safer. 

    Jacob is left alone in his camp, but not for long. An angel comes and wrestles with him until dawn (Genesis 32:24). 

    Jacob, having fought for everything he considered of value in his life, fights for his life against the angel. In fact, Jacob fights so resolutely that he and the angel are locked in a wrestling stance the entire night until daybreak. It is only when the angel touches Jacob’s hip and injures him, does Jacob finally concede defeat (Genesis 32:25). 

    Although God refused to reveal His name to Jacob, Jacob is very aware that he has wrestled with the Almighty and has been defeated by Him (Genesis 32:29). Jacob calls the location of his encounter with God  Peniel, meaning “the face of God” (Genesis 32:30). 

    Although God refused to reveal His name to Jacob, the latter is very aware that he has wrestled with the Almighty and has been defeated by Him (Genesis 32:29). Jacob calls the place where his encounter with God took place Peniel, meaning “the face of God” (Genesis 32:30). 

    Photo credit: Ian Espinosa on Unsplash 

    Why being defeated by God meant that Jacob could be blessed (Genesis 32:24-26)

    Jacob believes that his biggest adversary is his brother Esau. However, God wrestles with Jacob to show him that it is actually himself, who poses as his greatest opponent.  

    Jacob fights his inner man when he fights God. He fights the self-dependent schemer who seeks to take advantage over everyone under ever circumstance, instead of trusting God and handing the situation over to Him. 

    God knows that Jacob cannot enter into a proper relationship with Him until the young man realizes his own weaknesses. However, God allows Jacob to grapple with Him the entire night, in order to show Jacob the power of his own self-will.

    God wants to see whether Jacob will surrender himself to Him. However, when Jacob refuses to yield, God breaks his will with just the slightest touch on Jacob’s hip (Genesis 32:25). It is in this moment, that Jacob realizes that he is defeated.

    Broken and weak, Jacob clings to God, but this time in desperation. He recognizes his own weakness in the presence of God’s greatness. He is made meek by the revelation of how easily God has humbled him when he thought the fight had been evenly matched.  

    Though God asks Jacob to let go of him, he refuses. Being delivered of his own self-will and self-reliance has given Jacob a revelation of his need to keep God first and foremost in his life. He knows that he cannot face Esau without God by his side, especially as God has now crippled him.  Therefore, Jacob calls out, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me” (Genesis 32:26).  

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    Jacob is given a new name and a new identity (Genesis 32:27-32)

    God wants to bless Jacob, but before He does that, He wants to make sure that Jacob can admit who he really is. God asks Jacob to state his own name (Genesis 32:27) in order that Jacob acknowledges who he is, with all his weaknesses, and with all that his name stands for.

    It is after this confession that God gives Jacob a new name and with it, a new identity. In Genesis 32:28, He says to Jacob, “’You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.’” Consequently, God blesses Jacob.  

    As a reminder of his life-changing encounter with God, Jacob has the memorial at Peniel, as well as a permanent limp. 

    Jacob is ready to meet Esau (Genesis 33). He may be limping, but Jacob is now approaching his brother with God’s strength and in acknowledgment of his own weakness, which is more powerful than had he gone to his brother based on the strength of his meager self-reliance and craftiness.  

    As a reminder of Jacob’s life-changing encounter, many Jewish people to this day abstain from eating the area of the thigh where Jacob obtained his permanent injury (Genesis 32:32). 

    Photo credit; Sammie Vasquez on Unsplash 

    Be aware of falling back into old patterns

    Jacob in turn, asks God His name. However, God refuses to answer Him. Maybe God refuses to grant Jacob this request, because the question is being asked out of a fleeting curiosity. Alternatively, maybe God sees that Jacob is in danger of falling into old patterns of manipulation: By asking God for His name, Jacob could be trying to create an opportunity to try and control God for his own advantage in future. God wants to prevent Jacob from falling into the temptation of reverting back to his old self.   

    This situation shows us, that even when we have been humbled at God’s hands, we still need to be aware of our need to continue to submit to Him, rather than use Him as and when we need Him. The apostle Peter states:

    Discipline yourselveskeep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls aroundlooking for someone to devour.” 

    1 Peter 5:8 

    Coming into the presence of God means being confronted with our personal weaknesses. Because our flesh is resistant to change, God needs to wrestle with us at times to make us see that we need to let go of those characteristics which aren’t serving us.

    Only then, when we cling to God in acknowledgment that He is our source of strength, our salvation, and our refuge, can we be in a position for Him to bless us with the wonderful plans He has for us to live a life of abundance. 

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    This concludes the first part of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series on Genesis 32 – “Why being defeated by God can lead to His blessings”.  

    I hope you have enjoyed reading about Jacob’s journey of self-discovery and revelation of God. 

     If so, feel free to join us on Wednesday, when l post the second part of our series. 

    Until then friends, be blessed! 

    Madeline

    Sources:

    1. Bible.org , “Lesson 59: Broken, But Blessed (Genesis 32:22-32).”
    2. Blue Letter Bible, “Study Guide for Genesis 32.”
    3. StudyLight.org, “Spurgeon’s Verse Expositions of the Bible – Genesis 32.”