As we worked our way through the middle chapters of Genesis in December, we saw the Lord establish a covenant relationship with Abraham and his descendants and give them prosperity in the land of Canaan. But in these final chapters of Genesis, God providentially uses the dramatic events of Joseph’s life to guide the family of Jacob out of Canaan and into Egypt. Then, in the beginning chapters of Exodus, we see God directly intervening to deliver his people out of slavery in Egypt to wander in the wilderness. If God was going to give his chosen people the land of Canaan as he had promised, why was he leading them out of it? The section of Israel’s history that you will read this month is filled with the twists and turns of family squabbles and famine, slavery and salvation. It was a time of waiting and wondering for God’s people.
Our natural response to being forced to wait for something is often anger or doubt. We may feel resentment because God is leading us down a path that was not part of our own plan. We may question why he is giving us an affliction that is so difficult to deal with. We may even begin to lose faith in God’s promises and wonder whether he is really working all things for our good as Romans 8:28 says. Joseph probably wondered how God was going to fulfill his dreams of being a ruler over his brothers when he was working as a slave and languishing in prison. God’s people probably wondered how God was going to fulfill his promise to give them the land of Canaan while they were in slavery in Egypt. Moses probably wondered how he was going to be the deliverer of Israel after the people rejected him and he spent forty years in the desert of Midian as a shepherd. It is natural to experience confusion and discouragement when we are going through times of waiting or intense suffering. But if we allow difficult days and sleepless nights to lead us away from God, we will have the wrong perspective of our struggles.
One reason that we often question God’s way for us is because it is so far beyond the understanding of our limited human minds. As Paul reminds us in Romans 11:33, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” We do not know exactly what God is going to do in our lives, but we may take comfort in what we do know about God’s character from his word and creation. We know that God is powerful. Nothing is out of his control! He controls the big things like nations and rulers, weather, and the events of history. But he also controls even the smaller things that we think we have control over, like our bodies, possessions, relationships, and circumstances. We also know that God is perfectly good and works all things for the good of his people. We are reminded of this in Genesis 50:20 when Joseph tells his brothers, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”
Providentially, Psalter 211 was chosen as the chapel theme song at my children’s school in the 2020–2021 school year, which was an especially difficult time for many of us. I distinctly remember sitting outside on the soccer field for the all-school program surrounded by families who were dealing with all sorts of different trials, including struggling to navigate daily life with COVID restrictions and schism due to doctrinal controversy. Uncertainty regarding the future of our families, churches, and schools was rampant, yet we all joined together in singing the beautiful words of stanza 3:
Thy way was in the sea, O God,
Thro’ mighty waters, deep and broad;
None understood but God alone,
To man Thy footsteps were unknown;
But safe Thy people Thou didst keep,
Almighty Shepherd of Thy sheep.
We do not know the ways of God any more than the nation of Israel did when they stood at the edge of the Red Sea with deep water in front of them and enemies closing in behind. We do not know where he is going to lead us in the coming months as individuals, families, and churches. But what we do know is that our good Shepherd will always protect and preserve his people. We may not be able to see around the bend of the path we are on, but we know where it is ultimately leading. So by God’s grace we live in faith, like Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and so many saints who have gone before, trusting that the unchanging God who has acted so powerfully in the past on behalf of his people will continue to do so in the future. In your devotions this month, pray for the humility to recognize that you are not God and the faith to place your trust in his understanding instead of your own (Prov. 3:5–6).
Abby is a wife and mother in the home. She worships at Trinity Protestant Reformed Church with her family.
||How do the events of Joseph’s life recorded in this chapter foreshadow what Jesus would experience during his ministry?
||How is God’s sovereignty over sin shown in the events of this chapter (see also Matt. 1)? Why is this important to remember?
||How did Joseph exemplify the teaching of Ephesians 6:5–8 in his life? Who are you called to faithfully obey?
||How does Joseph’s experience here remind you that God does not always answer our prayers right away? What do you do to endure times when you must wait on the Lord?
||How do the names that Joseph chose for his sons show that he remained humble even when he was exalted to such a high position? Do you remember to give God the glory for your accomplishments?
||How did God use the events of this chapter to prick the consciences of Joseph’s brothers? Have you ever experienced this?
||How does Joseph exemplify the mercy of God in his behavior toward his brothers, who had sold him into slavery? What can you learn from this?
||Did you notice the change in Judah from what we read about him in chapters 37–38 to now? How does this testify to the transforming power of God?
||How does Joseph point out the truth of God’s providence when he reveals his identity to his brothers? Why is this truth so important for you to remember?
||How is Joseph’s advocacy for his family in Egypt a picture of how Jesus intercedes for you with the Father?
||What can you learn about your responsibilities toward your own employer from Joseph’s faithful labors in the service of Pharaoh?
||How does Jacob remind his sons of God’s faithfulness as he nears the end of his life? How are you reminded of God’s faithfulness in your life?
||How did Jacob’s burial request show his trust in God’s promises? How can you live out your trust in God?
||How was the pilgrimage to Canaan to bury Jacob a witness to the nations? How can you be a witness to others when you experience the loss of a loved one?
||How was God strengthening the nation of Israel through their afflictions in the land of Egypt? How has he strengthened you through your afflictions?
||How did Moses choose a life of suffering over a life of ease? (See Heb. 11:24–26.) How are you called to make the same choice in your own life?
||How does Moses make excuses for not obeying God’s call? What can you learn from the Lord’s answers?
||How does the Lord encourage Moses and Aaron after the disappointment they had recently faced (see Ex. 5)? What does this teach you about God’s character?
||How do plagues 1–3 make clear that no other gods are like the Lord? What does this teach you about the futility of serving anything other than the one, true God?
||How do plagues 4–6 show that God’s mercy is only for his people and not all people? What comfort do you find in the truth of election?
||How do plagues 7–9 show the power of God’s wrath upon the wicked? What is your response as a child of God to the power of God’s wrath?
||What truths about Jesus and his work on your behalf do you see pictured in the Passover lamb?
||What purpose did the feasts serve for the children of Israel? What institutions do we have today that serve the same purpose?
||Of what was Israel’s passage through the Red Sea a picture? How does your own baptism picture the same spiritual reality?
||What can you learn about worshiping God from the song of Moses?
||How was the manna in the wilderness a picture of Christ? How can you partake of the Bread of Life daily?
||What does it mean to “tempt the Lord” (v. 2)? Why is this so serious? (See also Ps. 95.)
||How does Jethro’s wise advice here show the need for elders and deacons to serve in the church? How can you serve in your church as a young person?
 No. 211, in The Psalter (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1927), 178.
Originally published February 2023, Vol 82 No 2
As we examined the first eleven chapters of Genesis last month, we took note of the fact that the book of Genesis is theological, meaning it helps us to grow in our knowledge of God. In addition, we noted that the book of Genesis is historical, meaning that the events chronicled in it are the true history of humanity. As we continue in our reading of Genesis this month, we will see that it is also covenantal; it shows us God’s faithfulness to his people and how he established a covenant relationship with them. In the beginning, Adam and Eve had a perfect relationship with their heavenly Father. They lived in the garden as his friend-servants and cared for the creation. But this relationship was severed by Adam and Eve’s disobedience against God. Since Adam was the representative head of the whole human race, by nature all people are now born in sin and separated from God (Rom. 5:12). But by God’s grace, he reestablished a relationship of friendship with his elect people in Christ, the promised seed of Genesis 3:15. This relationship is called the covenant of grace.
The covenant of grace spoken to Adam and Eve was reestablished with Noah after the flood and again with Abraham, but these were not entirely new covenants. They were renewals of the one, unified covenant that God established with Adam and continues to establish with all his elect people throughout time. As we go on to read through Genesis 12–36 this month, we can trace the history of this covenant through the lives of the patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God worked through the lives of these men and their families to grow his people from one chosen family to a chosen nation. Hebrews 11 counts these men among the great heroes of faith. But as we read the stories of their lives, we can see that their faith, though genuine, was far from perfect. They were all sinful men who sometimes acted selfishly and made decisions out of fear instead of faith. The great weakness of these fathers of our faith serves to emphasize the great faithfulness of our heavenly Father. Throughout their history we can see the truth of Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”
God’s steadfast faithfulness to his people during the time of the patriarchs is still a comfort to us today as well. We are all weak, sinful children of Adam, no more able to maintain the covenant than Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were. But as we look back at God’s faithfulness to his people in the past, we are given hope for the future because we know that God is not only faithful, but he is also immutable, or unchanging. He declares in Malachi 3:6, “For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” Our God, who established the covenant unilaterally by his grace so long ago, is still faithful today and will continue to be faithful forever. God sovereignly shaped his chosen people and guided them to the promised land by means of the circumstances and trials of their lives. We can be confident that the trials and troubles that we face in our own lives are accomplishing the same purpose.
We are able to learn many lessons from the lives of the patriarchs. Their lives provide us with both instruction on how to live a godly life and dangers to avoid. We can see the wonder of God’s grace and his faithfulness to his covenant promises in their lives. But the beauty of studying this covenant history is that not only can we look back to see the importance of the past and what we can learn from it, we are also compelled to look forward to the future. Each of these men in their own way was a dim picture of the promised seed who was coming. This promised seed is essential to the covenant!
As we celebrate the birth of our Savior this month, take time to seek and find Jesus in the stories of his forebearers. Recognize that the people and events contained in these chapters serve as signs, directing us ahead to something even better. Jesus Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of all the promises that God made from the very beginning. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob “died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off” (Heb. 11:13). But from our vantage point in the twenty-first century, we can see beyond this history to trace God’s covenant people from a nation to a kingdom, through exile and restoration, to the New Testament church, and can look forward by faith to the promise of a new Jerusalem. “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29).
Abby is a wife and mother in the home. She attends Trinity Protestant Reformed Church with her husband and three children.
||How does the promise that God gives to Abram in Genesis 12:3 find its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ? (See also Gal. 3:8–16.)
||Where can you see man’s sinfulness and God’s faithfulness in this account of Abram’s time in Egypt?
||What can you learn about the correct way to respond to conflict with other Christians from Abram’s godly example here?
||In what way was Melchizedek a type of Christ? (See also Heb. 7.)
||What does verse 6 mean when it says that God counted it (Abram’s faith) for righteousness? Where does faith come from?
||What can you learn about man’s part in the covenant from the fact that Abram was sleeping when God passed between the animals?
||How did Abram and Sarai rebel against the will of God? What consequences did they face as a result?
||What attributes of God do you see displayed in the Lord’s meeting with Hagar?
||Why could God call Abram (and all believers) to live a sanctified life? (See also Heb. 13:20–21.)
||How was circumcision a “token” or sign of the covenant? What has replaced circumcision as a sign of the covenant today?
||How would you answer the question of verse 14, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (See also Mark 10:26–27; Luke 1:34–38.)
||What are the dangers of allowing worldliness to have a place in your life and family as shown in the sad story of Lot’s life?
||How do the events of this chapter show that God’s ability to fulfill his promises cannot be dependent on man?
||In what way does the birth of Isaac foreshadow the birth of Christ? See if you can find seven similarities.
||How does God’s test of Abraham’s faith here underscore the truth of God’s great love for you in sending his only Son as a sacrifice for your sin?
||What is the significance of the fact that Abraham purchased a burial plot for Sarah in the land of Canaan?
||How is the truth of God’s sovereignty shown in the events of this chapter?
||Thinking about this passage and what you have read this month so far, how would you describe Abraham’s life? How does his life point to Christ?
||How are God’s promises to Hagar and Abraham in Genesis 16:10–12 and 17:20 fulfilled here? How does this show the truth of Ishmael’s name—“God hears”?
||How does the struggle between Jacob and Esau that began in the womb echo that of Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac? What great conflict are these foreshadowing?
||How did Isaac echo the sins and strengths of his father Abraham? How is God’s graciousness evident in the lives of both father and son?
||How did God use Isaac’s family squabbles, which resulted from Isaac’s own weakness, to accomplish his good purposes?
||What short-term and long-term promises did God give Jacob here?
||How do these events make clear that God is in control of conception no matter how much we may think we are?
||How did God use the afflictions of this family to lead his people to the promised land? What can you learn from this?
||What can you learn about praying according to the promises of God’s word from Jacob’s prayer before he meets with Esau?
||What did Jacob learn about self-sufficiency when he wrestled with the Lord? How did his changed name emphasize this?
||How did Jacob show his humility when he came to Esau? How does pride often get in the way of reconciliation?
||How did Jacob repeat Lot’s mistake? What can you learn about the dangers of forming friendships with ungodly people from Jacob’s children?
||How did Jacob experience both sorrow and joy at this time? Why are these two things so often experienced together in the life of a Christian?
||What can you learn about the difference between material and spiritual blessings from examining the life and descendants of Esau compared to his brother Jacob?
Originally published Vol 81 No 12 2022
Who am I? What is my purpose on this earth? Why is everything the way that it is? These are the kinds of questions that often trouble young people as they become more independent from their parents, enter the world of college or career, and make major life decisions such as choosing a spouse, a school, a career path, or a church for themselves. They are constantly bombarded with the lies of the world, encouraging them to doubt what they have learned about their identity from their pastor and parents, telling them that their purpose in life is to do whatever makes them happy.
But if the believing young person wisely turns to Scripture for counsel, they will see that the most fundamental, true answers to all these questions can be found in the opening chapters of Genesis. The title of the book comes from the Greek translation of the Pentateuch and means “origin.” Moses was divinely inspired to record in the book of Genesis the origin of all things—the universe, time, humanity, gender, marriage, good and evil, language, culture, nations, industry, and God’s covenant people. Genesis goes back to the beginning to give infallible instruction about who we were meant to be by revealing where man came from, why he was created, and what his relationship to God is.
Essential to the knowledge of who we are is the knowledge of who God is. We cannot truly know ourselves apart from the knowledge of God, our Creator. We can only understand our place in this world if we know God as he has revealed himself through his word and creation. From the very first verse of Scripture, it is clear that the Bible is a book primarily about God and we must read it as such. One of the first truths that we read about God is that he has no origin; he is eternal. We also see that he has the power to do whatever he wills—he is omnipotent. And all the verses and chapters and books that follow continue to slowly reveal the many different facets of God’s infinite perfections. The historical narrative describing the events of creation, the fall, the flood, and the tower of Babel in Genesis 1–11 especially highlights God’s sovereignty over everyone and everything that happens and his unwavering covenant faithfulness to his people. These truths about God give life-changing comfort to the believing young person. Your life has purpose and meaning because God sovereignly planned it even before he created the universe. You can live your life with the confidence that God is faithful to do what he says he will do in his word.
Yet the beautiful and reassuring truth of these opening chapters of Genesis is widely disregarded by a majority of people today. It is no longer just worldly scientists who promote the theory of evolution instead of a literal interpretation of Genesis 1–11. Sadly, varying forms of evolution are now taught in many Christian colleges, seminaries, and churches as well. But any attempt to reconcile the truth of the Bible with the teaching of evolution is a denial of the unity, reliability, clarity, sufficiency, and authority of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16). In his pamphlet about the historicity of Genesis 1–11, Prof. Engelsma states, “Merely to allow for the possibility that Genesis 1–11 is mythical is unbelief. Seriously to pose the question about Genesis 1–11, ‘Myth or History?’ is to do exactly what Eve did when she entertained the speaking serpent’s opening question, ‘Yea, hath God said?’ (Gen. 3:1). Tolerance of doubt concerning the truth of God’s Word is a revolt against Him and apostasy from Him.” As a believing child of God, you must read Genesis 1–11 as historical truth. These opening chapters of Genesis are the foundation on which both the rest of Scripture and all the basic doctrines of the Christian faith lie. The events found in these chapters are not just myths or stories or metaphors, they are history—your history.
Abby is a wife and mother in the home. She attends Trinity Protestant Reformed Church with her husband and three children.
||How is it evident from the very first verse of the Bible that it is a book all about God? How will remembering this truth change how you read not only Genesis but also the entire Bible?
||How do you see the glory of God displayed in the creation account? Does this lead you to worship him?
||How does man reflect the glory of God in a way that is unique from the rest of creation?
||What principles from the original Sabbath that is recorded here govern the way that we observe the Sabbath today?
||How does the fact that work existed before man sinned affect your view of the work that you are called to do on this earth?
||How does Paul’s teaching on marriage in Ephesians 5:22–33 echo God’s design for marriage that is revealed at the creation of the first woman?
||How did Satan make sin look attractive when he came to tempt Eve? How does he make sin attractive to you?
||How did Adam and Eve’s sin affect their relationship with God? How does your sin affect your relationship with God?
||What were the consequences of the fall for all those involved? How do we still experience these consequences today?
||As you read these verses again, where do you see glimmers of the hope that we have in Christ shining through?
||Why did God reject Cain’s sacrifice but accept Abel’s sacrifice? (See also Heb. 11:4.) What can you learn from this?
||How did Cain’s response to God show the hardness of his heart? What is a godly response to being confronted with our own sin?
||How do you see Cain’s unrepentant sin being carried even further by his descendants? What can you learn about the nature of sin from this?
||What two rays of hope for God’s people do we read of in these verses? How do we receive a better fulfillment of these things in Christ?
||What does it mean that Enoch “walked with God” (v. 24)? (See also Heb. 11:5–6.) Who else in Scripture is said to have walked with God as well (Gen. 6:9)? What can you learn from the example of these two godly men?
||How does this passage highlight the danger of marrying someone who is ungodly? What implications does this have for your dating life?
||Keeping in mind God’s immutability (1 Sam. 15:29; Mal. 3:6), what is the meaning of verse 6?
||What can you learn about living faithfully in the midst of this wicked world from the life of Noah?
||Why is Noah included in Hebrews 11:7 as one of the great examples of faith? How did he exemplify the truth of Hebrews 11:1 by building and entering the ark?
||What do the powerful details of the flood that are recorded here teach you about the nature of God’s judgment? What is your response to this?
||How does reading about God’s faithfulness to Noah through the flood give you comfort for tumultuous times in your own life?
||What does the dove symbolize in these verses? How does the symbolism of a dove in Matthew 3:16–17 compare to its use this passage?
||How is Noah’s sacrifice after he exits the ark a picture of Christ’s sacrifice for his people on the cross?
||How are God’s words to Noah here similar to his words to Adam in Genesis 1:26–31? How are they different because of the presence of sin in the world?
||What is the beautiful promise of God symbolized by the rainbow? How has the wicked world today perverted the symbol of a rainbow to stand for rebellion against God?
||How does the juxtaposition of God’s covenant promise in the previous verses and Noah’s fall into sin here make clear that salvation must be all of grace?
||Do you recognize any of the names of the nations that will come from the descendants of Ham/Canaan? How would these nations experience God’s wrath later in Old Testament history?
||How is the superiority of God’s greatness over even man’s greatest accomplishments emphasized in this passage?
||How did God restrain sin for a time by creating many different languages at Babel? Do you think that the world will ever all speak one language again? (See 2 Thess. 2:5–8.)
||How does reading through the genealogy of Shem remind you of God’s personal, covenant care for his people? (See also Luke 3:34–36.)
 David J. Engelsma, Genesis 1–11: Myth or History? (Byron Center, MI: Byron Center Protestant Reformed Evangelism Society, 2002), 1.
Originally published November 2022, Vol 81 No 11
The group of churches that John writes to in this trio of epistles had recently experienced a split because of doctrinal controversy. We do not know the exact content of the error that these false teachers were spreading, but it is apparent from John’s writing that their teaching somehow denied the truth of the incarnation—that Jesus was both fully man and fully God. They deceived many people with this teaching and eventually convinced a group to leave with them. John references this group that left in 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us.”The apostle John was divinely inspired to write these general epistles in order to address this
situation with the loving concern of a shepherd for his sheep. He desired both to clearly point out the error of these false teachers and to encourage the believers who remained in these churches.
Often when a group of people leave a church, the members who remain will begin to doubt their own doctrine or even their own salvation, and begin to wonder, “What if those who left are actually correct?” John seeks to reassure the discouraged remnant that was left after this controversy by pointing out to them the three clear marks of a true child of God. The truth of these marks is to be used in two ways, both to reassure the true child of God of his salvation and to help identify those who are not walking as children of God and may even be false teachers. As most readers are
probably members of a church that was recently affected by doctrinal controversy, it is beneficial for all of us to examine our own lives for these three marks.
The first mark of a true Christian that John gives is right doctrine. He speaks harsh words against the false teachers who denied the truth of Christ’s incarnation: “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist” (1 John 4:3). Do you believe in God as he is revealed in the holy Scriptures, or a different version of God that more closely aligns with your own personal opinions?
The second mark of a true Christian that John gives is love for others. He reminds us that our
love for our neighbor is evidence of a true love for God with this simple statement: “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar” (1 John 4:20). Do you love your brothers and sisters in Christ? Not just the ones who are easy to love or the ones who agree with you, but all of them?
The third mark of a true Christian that John gives is obedience to God’s commands: “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments” (1 John 2:3). Do you strive daily to live your life in a way that is obedient to God’s commands in Scripture? Or do you get caught up in the way that the world is telling you to live your life?
The threads of these three marks of a true Christian are woven throughout the books of 1, 2, and 3 John, as are many examples of direct contrasts between the lives of those who are God’s children and those who are the children of this world. Although there are some “gray areas” in matters of Christian liberty, the basic aspects of the Christian life are black and white. Those who truly love God will be characterized by confession of sin, obedience to God’s commands, love, truth, and fellowship with God and his people. In contrast, those who do not love God will be
characterized by self-deception, disobedience to God’s commands, hatred, lies, and fellowship with others who walk in darkness.
The bold words of this epistle are not meant to push us into the ditches of legalism or despair, but rather to encourage us to abide in Christ. “And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us” (1 John 3:24). We cannot “walk in the light” (1:7) apart from the power of the Holy Spirit in us.
And while our faith, love, and obedience will always be imperfect on this side of heaven, every tiny step that we take on the right path is evidence of the work of the Spirit in us and gives us confidence that we are true children of God who will live with him forever in glory.
||1 John 1:1–4
||Why is it so important for God’s people to understand the truth of the incarnation according to verses 3 and 4?
||1 John 1:5–7
||What does it look like for you to “walk in the light” in your daily life as opposed to walking in darkness?
||1 John 1:8–10
||Can you think of a time when you were tempted to deceive yourself about the true nature of your sin instead of acknowledging and confessing it?
||1 John 2:1–2
||Why does the promise of Christ’s payment for all your sins lead you to “sin not” instead of making you feel free to sin more?
||1 John 2:3–6
||Why is obedience to God’s commands a necessary part of the Christian life?
||1 John 2:7–11
||How does the hatred of a brother in Christ show the hypocrisy of someone’s faith?
||1 John 2:12–14
||What two specific reassurances does John give to the young men here? How do they encourage you in your life as a young person?
||1 John 2:15–17
||Think of a specific thing you are often tempted to love more than God. Why is it so foolish to love this thing?
||1 John 2:18–19
||How do the “antichrists” that John refers to here differ from the antichrist that is still to come?
||1 John 2:20–27
||How does the fact that you are anointed with the Spirit of truth encourage you as you endeavor to study the Bible on your own?
||1 John 2:28–29
||How does thinking about the imminent coming of Christ drive home the importance of abiding in him? How do you abide in him?
||1 John 3:1–3
||How does the extraordinary love of God transform those upon whom he bestows it?
||1 John 3:4–10
||Given that we have already read in 1 John 1:8–10 that all men are sinful, what does John mean when he writes, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin” (v. 9)?
||1 John 3:11–15
||Are you ever tempted to minimize the sin of hating one of your brothers or sisters in Christ? How does John’s teaching here remind you of the seriousness of hatred?
||1 John 3:16–18
||Is your life characterized by love? What are some practical ways that you could show the love of God to others?
||1 John 3:19–24
||How does God’s promise here encourage you when you experience guilt because of your own inability to obey God’s commands perfectly?
||1 John 4:1–6
||How can you identify false teachers in your church according to these verses?
||1 John 4:7–10
||What does it mean that Jesus is the propitiation for our sins? How is this the ultimate example of love?
||1 John 4:11–16
||What is the difference between worldly kindness and Christian love? Why can’t there be any true love apart from God?
||1 John 4:17–21
||What kind of fear does the love of God drive away? Why?
||1 John 5:1–3
||What is the connection between belief, love, and obedience in the Christian life according to these verses?
||1 John 5:4–5
||In what ways do you engage in spiritual warfare each day? How does God’s promise here give you encouragement in this warfare?
||1 John 5:6–13
||Have you ever been in a situation (perhaps in a college classroom) where you were tempted to believe the words of man over the word of God? How did you remind yourself of the truth?
||1 John 5:14–17
||Do you ever pray for others in your church who are caught up in sin? How can you improve in this area?
||1 John 5:18–20
||How are John’s affirmations here about what every Christian knows to be true different from the kinds of affirmations that are so popular today?
||1 John 5:21
||How does John’s final warning to “keep yourselves from idols” fit in with the main theme of this epistle?
||2 John 1–6
||Why is it so important for a child of God to walk in both truth and love? What happens if one or the other is missing?
||2 John 7–13
||Why is it so dangerous to even entertain someone who is a false teacher?
||3 John 1–8
||What can you learn from the good example of Gaius’ life?
||3 John 9–14
||What can you learn about how the sin of pride affects the church from John’s description of Diotrephes?
Have you ever thought about how amazing it is that we can pray? How incredible is it that we can come into the presence of God at any time and bring our needs to him? Prayer is a wonderful, miraculous gift of grace that God has given only to his children. Yet even though one of the greatest privileges that we have as children of God is to come to our heavenly Father in prayer, why do we often struggle to pray? Part of the reason we struggle to pray may be that we don’t make it a priority in our busy daily lives. But another reason may be that we just don’t know how to pray. Learning to pray is an important part of maturing in your Christian life. But if you have not yet established good daily prayer habits, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Or even if you already pray consistently, you undoubtedly recognize room for improvement.
Although there is much to learn from hearing and reading the prayers of fellow saints, there is no substitute for the instruction that we receive from reading and meditating on the many prayers that are recorded in Scripture. These are not just prayers of faithful saints who have gone before us, but divinely inspired prayers that have been placed in God’s revealed word in order to teach his people. As the One who has given us the right to pray, our heavenly Father also has the right to tell us how we must pray. The Lord’s prayer, which Jesus gave to his disciples as a perfect model of how to pray, is the most important of all these prayers. It is the prayer that teaches us how to pray all other prayers. In this month’s reading plan, you will go through the various petitions of the Lord’s prayer as well as selected prayers spoken by Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Jehoshaphat, Ezra, Daniel, Habakkuk, Jesus, and Paul.
A common theme among the prayers that are recorded in Scripture is that they start out by praising God. The first petition of the Lord’s prayer is similarly a request for God’s name to be honored and praised. Praise is not only a vital part of prayer, but also the best way to begin. Starting off your prayer by praising God for his character will encourage a humble mindset as you remember the vast difference between who God is and who you are. Since there is an endless number of things to praise God for, how do you decide what to start with? If you are praying as part of your daily devotions, think especially about what God has revealed about himself in the Bible passage that you just read. Or remember what God has revealed to you about himself through creation recently.
Thanksgiving naturally flows from praise because as we consider who God is from his word and creation, we cannot help but think about what he has done on our behalf. Giving thanks for what God has already accomplished for our salvation and what he continues to do in the lives of his people is another essential part of prayer. Whether we are experiencing sickness or health, accomplishment or loss, joy or sorrow, we are called to give thanks to God for every circumstance of our lives because they are all part of his perfect plan. At times giving thanks will be easier and at times it will be very difficult. But by God’s grace we can trust that he is always working for our good even if we cannot see it yet.
Although we have seen that we must come to God humbly, the petitions of the Lord’s prayer also remind us that we may come boldly to his throne of grace to ask for what we need. Even though God already knows everything that we need, we are still called to bring our needs to him in prayer as a confession of our faith, love, and dependence on him. For this reason, petitions are an important part of prayer as well. This is also an area of prayer where selfishness can easily creep in. Are the petitions that you bring to God in prayer only concerned with your goals and comfort in this life, or are you praying for things with eternal value such as spiritual maturity, the glorification of God, and the ability to live out God’s purposes? Do you pray only for yourself or for others as well?
One specific petition that we must always include in our prayers is asking for forgiveness for our sins. This is the greatest need of the child of God because it is necessary for peace and fellowship with him. If we do not have forgiveness of sins, we have nothing. This is not to say that God doesn’t forgive your sins until you ask him in prayer, because that is not true. But conscious assurance of forgiveness comes by means of true confession in prayer. If you usually just tack on “forgive my sins” as an afterthought at the end of your prayer, try to expand on this. You could confess specific sins that you are aware of, ask God to show you your sin, and pray for the strength to resist sin.
Are you still feeling overwhelmed about how to pray? Let me remind you of a handy acronym that you probably learned as a child to remember the four elements of prayer that I just went through: ACTS—Adoration (Praise), Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication (Petitions). And let me also remind you of the fact that your prayers will not be perfect, because you are not perfect. But they don’t need to be! Do you remember what we learned from Romans 8 last month? Christ is sitting at the right hand of God making intercession for us (v. 34), and the Holy Spirit also intercedes for us when we pray and works desires in us that are in accordance with God’s will (vv. 26–27). As you study various prayers from Scripture this month, ask God to help you to use these as a foundation to build your own prayers on and for growth in your daily communion with him.
||Read Genesis 18:16–33
||Abraham dared to intercede on Lot’s behalf by appealing to God’s righteousness because he had faith in God’s character. How does trusting God’s character give you confidence in your own prayers?
||Read Exodus 15:1–19
||The song of Moses taught the nation of Israel to praise God for his glorious works on behalf of his people. How often do your own prayers include praise to God for his glorious work in your life?
||Read 2 Samuel 7:18–24
||David’s prayer in response to God establishing a covenant with him was one of humility and praise. How do you acknowledge both the greatness of God and your own insignificance when you pray?
||Read 2 Samuel 7:25–29
||David’s prayer also contained petitions that God’s will would be done. Why should believers pray that God will carry out his promises even though we already know that he certainly will?
||Read 1 Kings 8:22–54
||Notice Solomon’s posture as he begins his prayer in verse 22 and as he ends his prayer in verse 54. What does this tell us about his attitude as he came before God? What is your posture as you pray?
||Read 1 Kings 8:22–54
||Forgiveness is a major theme in Solomon’s prayer because he knew it was the most important need of the people. Do you recognize the significance of asking for forgiveness in your prayers or simply include it as an afterthought?
||Read 2 Chronicles 20:1–12
||As Judah faces a terrifying attack from their enemies, Jehoshaphat turns to God in prayer on behalf of the nation. Why can it be difficult to turn to prayer when we are afraid? What are you tempted to trust in instead of God?
||Read Ezra 9
||Ezra’s prayer for repentance on behalf of the people serves as a reminder that we desperately need the grace of God to battle our own sinfulness. Do you ask God to help you fight against specific sins in your daily prayers?
||Read Psalm 20
||David and all those who were gathered for worship offered a prayer for blessing on King David as he led the people. What can you learn from this psalm about how to pray for your spiritual leaders?
||Read Psalm 21
||In this psalm, David offers praise and thanksgiving to God for answering his prayer in Psalm 20. Do you ever think back to prayers that God has answered and thank him for answering them?
||Read Psalm 22:1–21
||Psalm 22 is David’s prayer of lament to God that also foreshadows the suffering of Jesus on the cross. Do you boldly and honestly cry out to God when you are going through difficult suffering?
||Read Psalm 22:22–31
||In the second part of this psalm, David goes on to praise God for answering his prayer. How does praising God in your prayers help you to declare his praise to those around you as well?
||Read Psalm 104
||This psalm celebrates the power and goodness of God as it is revealed in creation. Can you think of some ways to include what you observe in creation in your prayers?
||Read Daniel 9:1–19
||Daniel’s prayer for God to end the captivity of Israel is a beautiful example of how to pray. Where do you see the elements of praise, thanksgiving, confession, and petitions in this prayer?
||Read Daniel 9:20–27
||God answers Daniel’s prayer here by giving a prophecy through the angel Gabriel. What does this prophecy teach you about how all of our prayers will ultimately be answered in an even better way than we can imagine?
||Read Habakkuk 3:1–16
||In the final prayer of the book of Habakkuk, the prophet speaks of God’s past work as a basis for his praise and trust in God. How does remembering the history of God’s faithfulness to his people help you to pray in faith?
||Read Habakkuk 3:17–19
||What do the closing verses of Habakkuk’s prayer teach you about being content even when God does not answer your prayers by changing your circumstances as you would like him to do?
||Read Matthew 6:5–6
||Are you tempted to put a lot of effort into prayers that you say in public while neglecting your personal, private prayers? How would this be an example of hypocrisy?
||Read Matthew 6:7–8
||What type of prayer is Jesus warning against here when he mentions “vain repetitions” (v. 7)? How can you keep from falling into a pattern of praying this way?
||Read Matthew 6:8–9
||Do you ever think about what a great privilege it is to call God “Father”? How does knowing that you are a beloved child of God affect how you approach him in prayer?
||Read Matthew 6:9
||What does it mean to “hallow” God’s name? Why is it so important that this petition is first in the Lord’s prayer?
||Read Matthew 6:10
||What is God’s kingdom? What exactly are you asking for when you pray for God’s kingdom to come?
||Read Matthew 6:10
||Do your prayers reflect a desire for your will to be done or God’s will to be done? How will a desire for God’s will to be done show itself in your daily life?
||Read Matthew 6:11
||Why does Jesus teach us to pray “this day” for our “daily” bread? Why can it be so difficult to recognize that we are completely dependent upon God to provide even our most basic needs?
||Read Matthew 6:12
||Does this petition mean that when we forgive others it ensures that God will forgive us? If not, what is the meaning of this phrase?
||Read Matthew 6:13
||Do you have a certain person, situation, or thing that is especially tempting to you? As you pray this petition for God to deliver you from temptation and evil, are you willing to cut that temptation out of your life?
||Read Matthew 6:13
||What is significant about the fact that the Lord’s prayer begins and ends with seeking the glory of God? Do your prayers also follow this pattern?
||Read John 17
||What does Jesus’ prayer here reveal about the relationship between the Father and the Son? What do your prayers reveal about your relationship with your heavenly Father?
||Read John 17
||What a comfort it is to know that Jesus prays for his people! What encouragement does this give you in your own prayer life to know that Jesus is continually interceding for you in heaven?
||Read Colossians 1:1–8
||Paul repeatedly thanked God and prayed for the saints in Colossae even though he had never met most of them (v. 3). How often do you pray for other believers who are outside of your local church?
||Read Colossians 1:9–14
||What does Paul specifically pray for the saints at Colossae here to help them deal with the attacks of false teachers? How can you include these petitions in your own prayer?
Originally published Vol 81 No 8, August 2022
Every believer is fighting a battle—a battle within themselves. God has created a new, holy nature in each of his children. But even though elect believers are regenerated and sanctified, their old, totally depraved nature remains in them while they are still on this earth. Their old nature and new nature are constantly in conflict with each other. Paul describes the frustration of this inner spiritual struggle in Romans 7:19: “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” As a believer continues to mature and study God’s word, they are brought to an increasing awareness of the depth of their own sin and sorrow for it. They may exclaim along with Paul in Romans 7:24, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
To the discouraged believer who feels like their sinful nature is always winning the battle comes the answer to Paul’s question, the promise of Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” Christ has borne the guilt of your sin. Even though you will never be able to live a sinless life on this side of heaven, in Christ you have the Holy Spirit working in you, enabling you to fight the battle against your sinful nature. As you go on to read the entire chapter of Romans 8 this month, you will be reminded of all the amazing benefits that come from the Holy Spirit dwelling within you. The presence and work of the Holy Spirit, shown by its fruit in the lives of believers, gives us confidence that we are indeed adopted children of God and serves as a guarantee of our future resurrection.
Every believer is also fighting another battle—a battle against Satan and all his powers of evil. Satan is a fierce adversary. First Peter 5:8 describes him as a “roaring lion” that prowls around looking for someone to devour. He will use any means necessary to try to draw us away from God. He uses the difficult circumstances of life in this broken world to try to convince us that God does not have our best interests in mind. He uses persecution to tempt us to deny God and join with him instead. He uses the pleasures of this world to distract us from being vigilant in our fight against sin. He even uses our own minds to accuse us and to tempt us to doubt our salvation.
To the discouraged believer who feels like Satan is winning the battle comes the promise of Romans 8:35–39 that nothing, no matter how powerful it seems to be, is able to separate us from the love of God. Romans 8:37 also assures God’s children of the final victory over Satan that we have in Christ when it says that “we are more than conquerers through him that loved us.” Romans 8:32 emphasizes the great love of God for his people by reminding us that he gave up his own Son to pay for our sins. And the familiar promise of Romans 8:28 combats the lies of Satan by reminding us that God is using all things, even the most difficult and painful circumstances of our lives, for the good of his people.
Romans 8 is a beautiful chapter that holds a special place in the heart of many believers, including myself. It has often been called the greatest chapter in the Bible, not because it is more important than other chapters, but because of how it sets forth the truth of the gospel in an especially clear and powerful way. As you read and meditate on the promises of Romans 8 this month, I challenge you to see how many of these verses you can commit to memory. Being able to recite these promises to yourself as you engage in the daily battle against Satan and your own sinful nature will give you strength to press on. They will remind you of the life and peace that is found in Christ Jesus now, the certainty of victory in him at the last day, and the eternal life and perfect peace that awaits you in heaven.
Abby is a wife and mother in the home. She attends Trinity Protestant Reformed Church with her husband and three children.
||What is Paul describing in these verses? How have you experienced this struggle in your own life?
||Why is there no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus? What comfort do you find personally in this promise?
||“Before the Throne of God Above”
||What role does each person of the Trinity play in your salvation?
||For what purpose has God redeemed you according to verse 4? Does your life show this?
||Read Rom. 8:5–8
||Can you think of some examples of “things of the flesh”? How about “things of the Spirit”? What things do you set your mind on?
||How does the spiritual condition of your mind influence the way that you live?
||What is the “life and peace” that comes from being spiritually minded? Have you experienced this?
||How have you observed the work of the Holy Spirit in your own life?
||How is the Holy Spirit’s presence in you a guarantee of your future resurrection?
||What does it mean to mortify sin? How can your Christian community help you do this?
||How do the errors of antinomianism and legalism both hinder the mortification of sin in a person’s life?
||What does Paul mean here when he says that believers are “led by the Spirit of God” (v. 14)? How have you experienced this?
||What amazing privileges do you have as an adopted child of God?
||Why do believers need to be reminded of their identity as children of God through the witness of the Spirit?
||Why should Christians expect to experience suffering in their life on this earth?
||Where can you see the effects of the curse of sin on the creation around you?
||What does it mean for you to have the “firstfruits of the Spirit” (v. 23)?
||How should you react to/feel about the present state of the world according to these verses?
||How does the Holy Spirit help you to pray?
||What does it mean that the Spirit intercedes for you “according to the will of God”?
||What is the difference between God working for your good and God working for what makes you feel good? Which one is promised in this verse?
||How does reading this very familiar verse in the context of the rest of the chapter add to your understanding of the promise that is found here?
||What did God do for you in eternity past? What does he do for you now? What will he do for you in eternity future?
||How does the truth of God’s sovereign and loving work in your life that is described here show the error of Arminianism?
||How does the truth of “these things” that you read in verses 29–30 give you confidence as you face the trials and temptations of daily life?
||Why can you be certain that God will graciously give you everything that you need?
||“How Great Thou Art”
||What means does the devil use to accuse you from both within and outside yourself?
||How does contemplating the work of Christ on your behalf help you to challenge the devil’s accusations against you?
||What does it mean that believers are “more than conquerers” (v. 37)? How is this possible?
||What truths about God from Romans 8 can you cling to when you face any of the hardships that are listed in these verses?
||Reread Rom. 8
||How can you use the promises of Romans 8 to encourage and strengthen others who are facing difficult circumstances?
Originally published Vol 81, No 7, July 2022
What is the church? Do you remember the answer to this question from your Essentials catechism book? “The church is the elect body of Christ, which is revealed on earth as the gathering of elect believers and their seed.” The epistle of Paul to the Ephesians elaborates on this basic truth by presenting us with several more descriptive terms for the church. In chapter 1 we are reminded that the church is a body (vv. 22–23), a picture that is further described in chapter 4 and various other places in Scripture as well. Paul also refers to the church as “the household of God” (2:19), a “building fitly framed together” (2:21), a “holy temple” (2:21), and the “habitation of God” (2:22). In the familiar passage on marriage in Ephesians 5, the church is described as the bride of Christ (vv. 23–32). And in the final chapter of Ephesians, we learn that the church is a soldier, called to put on the armor of God to fight against the devil and all his powers of evil.
As you will see in your reading of Ephesians this month, each of these different descriptive pictures of the church in Scripture teach us important lessons about how its members should live in the spheres of church, world, and home. But the most important lesson they teach us is that the church would not exist apart from Christ. What is a body without its head? What is a building without its chief cornerstone? What is a bride without her groom? The Holy Spirit led Paul to see that the glory and victory of the church is not in who its members are and what they can do, but in the person and work of Christ. Christ is the head and leader of the church and the foundation on which the church rests.
The first three chapters of Ephesians contain powerful doctrinal truths that highlight the extent of God’s grace to us in Christ. Through Christ, God unites his chosen people unto himself and “bless[es] us with all spiritual blessings” (1:3). We cannot receive any of these blessings, great or small, apart from Christ, and we receive these blessings on no other condition than being in Christ. In Christ, we are adopted, accepted, redeemed, and forgiven (1:5–7). In Christ, we are confident that an eternal inheritance is waiting for us in heaven (1:11). In Christ, we have the Holy Spirit in us so that we can experience a small taste of this inheritance while still on this earth (1:13–14).
You may be wondering, how is the church “in Christ”? Since this relationship between Christ and the church is spiritual, not physical, it is often difficult for us to understand. Ephesians 5:32 refers to it as “a great mystery” for good reason. But by faith, we can trust that this connection is real. Though it defies human comprehension, the church’s union with Christ provides incredible comfort for every child of God. As the popular hymn expresses so beautifully, “what heights of love, what depths of peace” are found “in Christ alone!”
In the latter three chapters of Ephesians, Paul applies this doctrine by showing how those who have been redeemed are called to live as the body of Christ for the glory of God. The truth of our union with Christ is a help and encouragement to us as we seek to “walk as children of light” in this dark world (5:8). We know that we could never do these things apart from him. In Christ, we are able to live in unity with our fellow believers in the church. In Christ, we are able to walk a path that is radically different from the world around us. In Christ, we are able to faithfully serve in whatever role God has given us, whether it be child or parent, mother or father, master or servant. In Christ, we are equipped to wake up every single morning and fight our daily battle against sin and Satan.
As you read the book of Ephesians this month, take time to marvel at the “exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (2:7). Then pray with a thankful heart that he will help you to “grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (4:15).
 Herman Hoeksema & Herman Hanko, Essentials of Reformed Doctrine: A Guide in Catechetical Instruction (2002), 50.
 Keith Getty & Stuart Townend, “In Christ Alone,” www.gettymusic.com, accessed April 15, 2022.
||How is the truth of predestination a comfort to you as a child of God?
||What do you learn about the riches of God’s grace from the phrase “he hath abounded toward us”?
||What is the promise of being sealed with the Holy Spirit?
||Why does Paul pray that the believers would increase in their knowledge of God? Do you pray for this as well?
||What does it mean that Christ is the head of the church?
||What amazing work has the grace of God accomplished in you according to these verses? Have you thanked God for his great mercy and love today?
||What is the role of good works in the life of a Christian according to these verses? Why do you think there is so often controversy over this issue in the church?
||How did Christ’s death remove the division between Jews and Gentiles?
||What does it mean that Christ is the chief cornerstone of the church?
||What was the “mystery” that Paul was given to make known to the people? Why is this good news for you?
||What are the “riches of Christ” that Paul was called to preach to the Gentiles? What does he mean when he says they are “unsearchable”?
||How does the “boldness and access” that believers have in Christ impact your own prayer life?
||What spiritual blessings does Paul ask of God for the church at Ephesus? Do you regularly include these things in your prayers?
||What is the primary purpose of the church? How can you carry out this purpose?
||Why is it necessary for the church to work to maintain unity? How do the members do this according to verse 2?
||What eternal realities that are listed in this verse serve as an example for the unity of the church?
||How can difference in spiritual gifts unite the body of Christ instead of dividing it?
||What is the relationship between spiritual maturity and maintaining unity in the church?
||Why must Christians live differently from those in the world around us?
||What are some specific ways that the behavior of a Christian should be different from that of an unbeliever?
||What will your life look like if you are walking in love? What will it look like if you are walking down the wrong path?
||What is the light that shows you the right path to take in this life?
||Do you spend your time wisely? How could you improve in this area?
||How does the life of someone who is filled with the Spirit differ from someone who is filled with the intoxicating things of this world?
||Ephesians 5:22–24, 33
||Why are wives called to submit to and respect their husbands?
||Ephesians 5:25–33, 6:4
||Why are husbands called to lead their families in love?
||Why are children called to obey their parents?
||Why are slaves and masters called to be faithful in the roles that God has given them?
||How does the fact that you are always engaged in spiritual warfare impact your daily life?
||How does prayer equip you in your daily fight against the devil?
Originally published June 2022, Vol 81 No 6
As the time of the judges came to an end, the people of Israel asked God to give them an earthly king like the heathen nations that surrounded them. God answered their request by raising up Saul to be their king. Saul’s reign, however, was marred by disobedience and rebellion against God. After Saul’s sin of offering an unlawful sacrifice at Gilgal, Samuel rebuked him with these words in 1 Samuel 13:14: “But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart.”
Who was this man the Lord had chosen? None other than David, a shepherd boy from Bethlehem, whom God would raise up to be Israel’s greatest king. But even though he had been specially chosen by God, David’s path to the throne would not be an easy one. David’s life, from the time when he was anointed by Samuel as a young teenager to when he was crowned king at age thirty, was filled with many difficulties. He experienced friendship and betrayal, success and defeat, confidence and uncertainty. David had many different roles during this time in his life, including shepherd, warrior, musician, fugitive, and leader. God used each one of these roles to teach David important lessons about how to be a godly king.
The psalms that David was inspired to write during this tumultuous time in his life are a mixture of praise and lament, eloquently expressing the spiritual ups and downs that he experienced. But whether he is praising God for his faithfulness or pouring out his heart to God in lament, the common thread that runs through all of David’s psalms is an emphasis on the character of God. This is where David found comfort and confidence even when his life was scary and unpredictable. He confesses in Psalm 9:10, “And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee.”
Because David knew who God was and had a close, personal relationship with him, he had faith that God would help him through whatever he faced. David could be confident in God’s character because he saw it revealed in creation and the history of the nation of Israel, as well as through God’s work in his own life. Even though David stumbled often because of sin, the path of his life was guided by trust and obedience to God’s will. That is why he is called a man after God’s own heart.
How did David develop this close, personal relationship with his heavenly Father? We find the answer in the second half of Psalm 9:10: “For thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.” Through the psalms that David wrote, we are given an inside look at his strong prayer life. He sought the Lord daily through prayer, often mentioning times when he rose early in the morning to talk to God and ask for guidance before he started his day. David’s prayers are a beautiful example to learn from if you are struggling in your own prayer life. They were not formal and perfunctory, but personal and sincere. They were not centered on David and what he needed, but humbly centered on God and who he is. David would always come to God first with worship and thanksgiving, acknowledging his dependence on him. He often would confess and repeat God’s promises to himself. But he was not afraid to be honest with God about his worries and doubts as well.
Is your life feeling tumultuous right now? In his commentary on Psalm 9, C. H. Spurgeon refers to the attributes of God as “every one of them anchors to hold the soul from drifting in seasons of peril.” As you read through a selection of the psalms of David this month, take hold of these anchors. Notice which attributes of God David mentions over and over again in the psalms, such as God’s justice, holiness, mercy, power, and love. Pour out your troubles to God in prayer just as David did. Pray that he will use your study of his word to work in your heart an increasing knowledge of and confidence in him. Pray for growth in obedience to his will for your life. And remember the truth of Proverbs 18:10: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.
||How does praying for humility during difficult seasons change your perspective on your trials?
||How does learning more about God’s character increase your trust in him?
||What do you learn about how God cares for his people when you consider this picture of him as your shepherd?
||Why is starting your day by spending time in God’s presence so important?
||How do the “pure words” (v. 6) of Scripture give you hope when you are discouraged by the darkness of this sinful world?
||What can you learn from David here about how to pray when you are treated unjustly?
||How would you answer David’s question in verse 3?
||How does remembering God’s past faithfulness encourage you in times of spiritual weakness when it seems like he is far away?
||How does contemplating God’s justice give you confidence when you face bullying or mistreatment in your life?
||What means does God use to teach and guide you through your daily life?
||What does it mean to walk in integrity? How can you do this according to 2 Peter 1:3–8?
||What does it mean to “taste and see” (v. 8) that the Lord is good? How have you experienced this in your own life?
||What truths about God can you cling to when you struggle with the fear of other people and what they can do to you?
||What can you learn about prayer from the way that David freely pours out his heart to God when faced with the troubles of life?
||Do you have true, godly friends who will lovingly rebuke you when you fall into sin (see Prov. 27:5–6)?
||Have you ever been hurt by someone who used their “tongue like a sword” (v. 3)? Are you careful with your own words?
||Why does contemplating God’s judgment of the wicked produce both fear and laughter in the righteous (v. 6)?
||Do you regularly pray for God to deliver you from evil? If not, why?
||How would you describe God’s goodness? How have you experienced it in your own life?
||How does trusting in the Lord’s mercy help you to be patient when you are in a long, difficult season of life? (See also James 5:7–11.)
||What does it mean to be the apple of God’s eye (v. 8)? (See also Deut. 32:7–14.)
||How does fixing your eyes on God help you to let go of the hurt and anger that come from being betrayed by someone?
||How do you experience the benefits of your eternal inheritance in a small way while still on this earth?
||What can you learn about how to treat your enemies from this passage and Romans 12:17–21?
||What are you most tempted to fix your heart on in times of trouble instead of God?
||What does it mean to long for God? How do our trials serve to deepen this longing?
||What can you learn from the fact that this psalm is almost identical to portions of Psalm 57 and Psalm 60?
||What truths about God found in this psalm enabled David to sleep peacefully despite his many troubles?
||How does Romans 13:1–5 fit with this psalm to show how you should think, pray about, and respond to wicked leaders?
||How does God’s role as King of creation give you assurance as you face the stormy waters of this life? (See also Matt. 8:23–27.)
||What do you learn about the characteristics of true worship from David’s song of praise here?
Originally published May 2022, Vol 81 No 5
Job had the perfect life. He was a godly man who was rich and successful. He had a loving family consisting of a wife and ten children. But in the blink of an eye his perfect life fell completely apart. In one day, he lost all his livestock and servants, and all his children were killed. Then to make matters worse he was afflicted with sores all over his body. Have you dealt with poverty, grief, or illness in your life? Can you imagine enduring all these afflictions at the same time? Job was overwhelmed with both physical and mental anguish. Yet even in his pain, he still recognized the sovereignty of God over his life. When his wife encouraged him to “curse God, and die” (2:9) he responded wisely, “What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (2:10). Despite facing the most intense trials of his life, as a believing child of God Job recognized that he was not without hope.
Suffering with hope does not mean that the believer must always be happy and never be affected by pain or grief. It is okay for Christians to be sad sometimes! Even if we know that our loved ones who have died are in heaven, we may still mourn the loss of our earthly relationship with them. Even though we have hope that God has a purpose in our pain, we still struggle with the daily ups and downs of earthly suffering. There are many examples in Scripture of godly saints voicing their misery. There are approximately forty-two psalms written as “laments” where the psalmists are crying out to God to express their grief and sadness. The entire book of Lamentations expresses the great sorrow that Jeremiah had because Israel had rejected God. And as you will learn this month, the book of Job contains many statements of lament that emphasize the deep despair that Job felt because of his afflictions. Children of God should not be afraid to be honest about their pain when bringing it to him in prayer.
We are reminded in Ecclesiastes 3:4 that God has ordained different seasons for our lives, “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” In the times of mourning and weeping, turning our eyes to heaven in prayer and worship will take our mind off our suffering and ourselves and help us to view the events of our life from an eternal perspective. After he heard about the death of all his children, we read about Job both grieving and worshiping. “Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, and said…The Lord gave, and the Lord had taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (1:20–21). Job could still worship, even in his grief, because he had the hope of one who knew that his Redeemer lived and would come again one day to deliver him from this life of suffering for eternity (19:25–27). This hope is yours too!
When we are in the midst of a trial, we may struggle to remember this hope. God often gives us faithful friends and family who will come alongside us in our struggles to bring us the true comfort of Scripture and encourage us in prayer and worship. But this is not always the case. Our fellow Christians are all sinners just like us. Often those who are trying to help us unintentionally add to our suffering by what they say (or what they don’t say). Job definitely experienced this. His own wife encouraged him to curse God, and his three friends brought cruel accusations of sin as supposed “comfort.” Yet Job prayed for those who hurt him and forgave them, and we should too. We should be thankful if God has given us the gift of supportive friends and family in our trials, but it is easy to idolize the comfort and attention that we receive from others when we are suffering. It is important to remember that our only unfailing comforter is God and our hope rests in him alone.
Job trusted that God was in control of his life, but as you will see, his great struggle throughout this book was that he wanted to understand why God had given him these great afflictions. He was confident that his friends were wrong, and it was not because he had secret sins to repent of. But he speaks repeatedly about wanting to plead his case before God, whether personally or by means of a mediator. Have you ever asked God, “Why? Why are you sending me this trial?” Have you ever received an answer? Sometimes God will make the purpose of our suffering clear, but more often (as was the case for Job) his purposes will remain unseen in this life. God never did answer any of Job’s questions or explain why he had given Job such great trials. But Job eventually came to realize that understanding is not necessary (40:1–5). What we do understand is that none of Job’s suffering or your suffering is meaningless. Every single second of it is part of God’s perfect plan for your life. And what we do know is that the ultimate purpose of both our suffering and our entire existence on this earth is to glorify God. Instead of asking “Why?” ask God to show you how you could use your trials to further display his glory.
The book of Job is partially written as historical narrative that relates the events of Job’s life, but the majority is written in a style known as wisdom literature (like Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon). The expressive poetic language of Job and his friends strikingly illustrates their arguments and emotions but is often difficult to understand. It would certainly be beneficial to do a more in-depth verse by verse study of Job, but this month’s reading plan is more of an overview since you will be reading one or more chapters per day. It would be wise to try to grasp the overall concept of each chapter and not get too caught up in trying to decipher the meaning of each phrase. An excellent resource to use alongside the reading plan for this month would be Job: God’s Sovereignty in Suffering by Ronald Hanko. Learning more about God’s character and his faithfulness to his people in their suffering as is displayed in the book of Job will better equip you to seek him in your own personal struggles.
Abby is a wife and mother in the home. She attends Trinity Protestant Reformed Church with her husband, Tedd, and three children.
||Job 1 & 2
||What do you learn about the extent and limitations of Satan’s power from his interactions with God here?
||Were you shocked by Job’s deep expressions of despair in his lament? Or have you had similar feelings?
||Job 4 & 5
||Does God ever send suffering as a punishment for a specific sin like Eliphaz implies here? If yes, can you think of some examples?
||What part of Job’s response to Eliphaz shows how his friend’s words only added to his affliction? Have you ever been hurt by someone who was trying to help you?
||Do you ever hesitate to bring your burdens to God? How does Job demonstrate the truth of Hebrews 4:16 in this chapter?
||How does remembering the work of Christ on our behalf add necessary comfort to what Bildad says about God’s justice and righteousness here?
||Job 9 & 10
||What does Job desire in chapter 9:33? How does Jesus fill this need in Job’s life and in your own life?
||How did Zophar fail to apply the truth of God’s incomprehensibility to himself? Do you ever forget about or ignore the limitations of your own knowledge?
||How can you explain the contrast between Job’s attitude in verses 15 and 24 of chapter 13? Have you ever experienced this range of emotions while dealing with a difficult trial?
||How does Eliphaz wrongly apply the doctrine of total depravity to Job’s situation in his second speech? Have you ever been tempted to judge someone’s sin without knowing the truth?
||What made Job’s friends such “miserable comforters”? What can you learn from their mistakes about how to help others when they are suffering?
||How does Job find hope in the resurrection amid great despair and loneliness? Do you have this same hope?
||Job 20 & 21
||What do you learn about the experience of the wicked on this earth from the different perspectives of Zophar and Job in these two chapters?
||Why do you think Eliphaz brought all these false charges against Job in this chapter? What can you learn from this wicked behavior?
||Have you ever experienced a time when God felt far away from you like Job describes in verses 8 & 9? What did God teach you during this time?
||Why does it seem like the righteous suffer while the wicked prosper in this life? How does keeping an eternal perspective prevent us from being discouraged by this? (See also Psalm 73.)
||Job 25 & 26
||How does Job further explain God’s greatness and power in his answer to Bildad? Why is this truth a comfort to men instead of a discouragement as Bildad implied?
||How was Job able to have such strong confidence in his righteousness despite the attacks of his friends’ words? Do you have the same confidence?
||Where does true wisdom come from? How does wisdom help us when we are dealing with trials?
||Can you reflect on the blessings that you have experienced in your life so far? Have you thanked God for them today?
||Job 30 & 31
||Do you think that Job’s confidence in his own righteousness here is sinful or is it a declaration made by faith? Why?
||What differences do you notice between Elihu and Job’s other three friends? In what ways is he similar?
||Where does Elihu point to the hope that we have in Christ in his speech to Job?
||What sins does Elihu rebuke Job for in this chapter? Is his chastisement justified?
||What reasons does Elihu give here for why Job should trust in God despite his circumstances?
||Job 36 & 37
||How do Elihu’s proclamations about God here serve as an introduction to God’s appearance to Job in a whirlwind in the next chapter?
||Job 38 & 39
||What is God teaching Job (and us) with the many questions he asks in these chapters?
||Job 40 & 41
||What aspect of his character is God revealing to Job in these chapters? How is this a comfort to the believer experiencing trials?
||How did his experience of suffering help Job to know God more fully? How do your trials accomplish this as well?
||How does the fact that God doubly restored Job’s wealth show us his covenant faithfulness? How do you experience this covenant faithfulness in your own life?
Originally published April 2022, Vol 81 No 4
As we ended our study of the book of Luke last month, Jesus had just ascended into heaven and left his disciples behind (empowered by his Spirit) to continue the work of establishing the early church. Now we fast-forward about thirty years to consider the two epistles that Paul wrote to Timothy. Churches had been established in many different cities by this time as a result of Paul’s missionary journeys, but the church community as a whole was still relatively new and faced many threats from persecution, false teachers, and internal disputes. Paul is now an old man who has been imprisoned by the Roman government for his faith before and expects that it will happen again. As he nears the end of his life, he writes three last epistles—1 Timothy, Titus, and 2 Timothy. These epistles were addressed to specific individuals rather than an entire church. Timothy and Titus were both younger men who were emerging as leaders in the early church and needed further instruction and encouragement from their mentor, Paul.
Though Timothy was much younger than Paul, they clearly had a close relationship because Paul addresses him as “my own son in the faith” and “my dearly beloved son” at the beginning of both epistles. They were also partners in ministry. We read in Acts about Timothy accompanying Paul on missionary journeys and serving as Paul’s scribe and cowriter for the books of 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon. Evidently, Paul had left Timothy at Ephesus to continue working in the church there while he went on to do further missionary work in Macedonia. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul reminds him of everything that he has taught him and gives further instruction on how to govern the church at Ephesus. As he writes his second letter, Paul’s situation is very different. He is now in prison, facing death by execution. Although Paul desires to see his dear friend again before he dies, he is not sure that Timothy will be able to make it to Rome in time. He reflects on his own life and encourages this young leader to labor faithfully for the sake of the gospel even after he is gone.
Paul’s instruction to Timothy in these letters was undoubtedly beneficial for him and the other leaders in the early church. They contain valuable instruction and encouragement for church leaders today as well. Those who have been chosen to govern the church have been entrusted with the “glorious gospel” just as Paul was (1 Tim. 1:11). This is a very serious responsibility that has eternal consequences. Do you regularly pray for the leaders of your church as they seek to carry out this weighty calling? Officebearers are responsible for making sure the truth is proclaimed to the congregation each week by means of faithful, gospel preaching. They are also responsible for rebuking false teachers who try to infect the church with heresy.
The other way that church leaders protect the truth of the gospel is by instructing the members of the church on how to live in a godly way that accords with this gospel. This instruction comes from the preaching and also from the godly example that officebearers set in their own lives. Additionally, they are responsible for using Christian discipline to correct those who are not living in accordance with the gospel. The preaching of the gospel and Christian discipline are referred to as the “keys of the kingdom” (Matt. 16:19) because they are the means that God has given church leaders as his agents on this earth to open the kingdom of heaven to believers and shut out unbelievers. Since 1 & 2 Timothy contain so much instruction about church leadership and government, they (along with Paul’s letter to Titus) are often referred to as the “pastoral epistles.”
At this point you may be wondering, “Why should I read these books of the Bible? I am not a leader in the church yet, and maybe I never will be.” First of all, we know from 2 Timothy 3:16 that all Scripture is profitable for every believer to read. Second, these two epistles do contain important truths for all believers, not just those in church leadership. It is vital for each member of the church to understand what proper biblical leadership looks like so they can be sure to attend a local church where the leaders are faithful to the gospel. It is also essential for each member of the church to be able to identify the characteristics of false doctrine and false teachers for themselves. One who relies on others to tell them what is true and what is false can be easily led astray in their ignorance. And finally, every single church member can benefit from the instruction on how to live a godly life according to the truth of the gospel that is found in 1 & 2 Timothy. In gaining further understanding of these truths through studying the word and the work of the Spirit in your heart, you will grow in your personal faithfulness to the gospel and will be equipped to ensure that your church maintains faithfulness to the gospel as well.
Abby is a wife and mother in the home. She attends Trinity Protestant Reformed Church with her husband, Tedd, and three children.
||1 Tim. 1:1–7
||How were the false teachers that Paul warns about misusing the law of God?
||1 Tim. 1:8–11
||What are the good purposes of God’s law? (See also Ps. 19:7; Rom. 3:19–20; Gal. 3:24.)
||1 Tim. 1:12–17
||How is the mercy and grace of God evident in your life? Does it lead you to praise?
||1 Tim. 1:18–20
||How are faith and a good conscience key weapons for spiritual warfare? What happens to those who reject these things?
||1 Tim. 2:1–2
||Why is it so important for you to pray for the civil authorities? Do you pray for them often?
||1 Tim. 2:3–8
||Does verse 4 mean that God wants every single person to be saved? Why or why not? (See also Rom. 9:14–18; Eph. 1:1–12.)
||1 Tim. 2:9–15
||How is the instruction for the conduct of women in the church here in stark contrast to modern feminist ideals?
||1 Tim. 3:1–7
||What are the qualifications for elders listed here? Why are these qualifications necessary?
||1 Tim. 3:8–13
||What are the qualifications for deacons listed here? Why are these qualifications necessary?
||1 Tim. 3:14–16
||What did Paul want Timothy to learn from his letter according to these verses? Are you learning this in your study as well?
||1 Tim. 4:1–8
||What type of false teaching is Paul warning Timothy about here? Can you think of a current-day example?
||1 Tim. 4:9–16
||How can you be a godly example to others even in your youth as Timothy was called to be?
||1 Tim. 5:1–2
||How can you treat both the older and younger members of your church with respect? (See also Phil. 2:1–4.)
||1 Tim. 5:3–16
||What could you do to care for the widows in your own church?
||1 Tim. 5:17–25
||What could you do to encourage the elders in your church?
||1 Tim. 6:1–5
||What are some ways that one could misuse God’s word while claiming to honor it?
||1 Tim. 6:6–10
||Is the love of money a temptation for you? How can you cultivate an attitude of contentment?
||1 Tim. 6:11–16
||Why is seeking to live a faithful, godly life such a struggle for the believer?
||1 Tim. 6:17–21
||What are true riches as opposed to the riches that are merely of this world?
||2 Tim. 1:1–5
||Why was the promise of life in Christ Jesus especially precious to Paul at this time? (See 2 Tim. 4:6.) Is it precious to you?
||2 Tim. 1:6–11
||Where does the strength and courage needed to persevere through the hardships of the Christian life come from?
||2 Tim. 1:12–18
||What gave Paul confidence and hope throughout the many afflictions he endured during his ministry?
||2 Tim. 2:1–7
||What do a soldier, athlete, farmer, and minister have in common according to these verses?
||2 Tim. 2:8–13
||How is the resurrection of Christ from the dead a key part of the believer’s assurance?
||2 Tim. 2:14–19
||What does a church do to root out an “infection” of false doctrine? What happens if it is left unchecked?
||2 Tim. 2:20–26
||What is necessary for you to be a vessel of honor that is useful to God?
||2 Tim. 3:1–9
||Why is it wise to “turn away” (v. 5) from false teachers rather than trying to engage with them?
||2 Tim. 3:10–17
||How can you continue to grow in your knowledge of Scripture during your current season of life?
||2 Tim. 4:1–5
||Does Paul’s exhortation to Timothy here remind you of your own faithful pastor? What could you do to encourage him?
||2 Tim. 4:6–8
||As you think about your own death someday, can you make the same confession of joy and hope as Paul did?
||2 Tim. 4:9–22
||Have you ever been hurt physically or emotionally by people like Paul had? How do verses 17–18 give you hope and comfort in this situation?
Originally published March 2022, Vol 81 No 3
As we worked our way through the middle chapters of Genesis in December, we saw the Lord establish a covenant relationship with Abraham and his descendants and give them prosperity in the land of Canaan. But in these final chapters of Genesis, God providentially uses the dramatic events of Joseph’s life to guide the family […]
Who am I? What is my purpose on this earth? Why is everything the way that it is? These are the kinds of questions that often trouble young people as they become more independent from their parents, enter the world of college or career, and make major life decisions such as choosing a spouse, a […]
The book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon to his young adult son. Solomon’s purpose in writing Proverbs was “that the generation to come might know them [God’s wonderful works]…that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Ps. 78:6–7). Throughout the book, Solomon […]
The Christian is placed in many different circumstances while on this earth. Some are characterized by hardships and trials, and others are full of joy and peace. How should the Christian respond? Throughout the Bible there are numerous times where God’s people sang in response to their various circumstances. Singing in response to God’s ordering […]
As we examined the first eleven chapters of Genesis last month, we took note of the fact that the book of Genesis is theological, meaning it helps us to grow in our knowledge of God. In addition, we noted that the book of Genesis is historical, meaning that the events chronicled in it are the […]
The group of churches that John writes to in this trio of epistles had recently experienced a split because of doctrinal controversy. We do not know the exact content of the error that these false teachers were spreading, but it is apparent from John’s writing that their teaching somehow denied the truth of the incarnation—that […]
This article was originally presented as a speech at a Protestant Reformed mini convention held at Quaker Haven Camp in August 2021. Jael lived during the era of the judges. Deborah the prophetess was the judge who served Israel at the time of Jael. During this time, the Canaanites under the rule of king Jabin […]
Although it’s been a couple of months since we’ve been immersed in news coming from Japan about the 2020/2021 Olympic games, it’s still worth considering how these events are understood in the modern worldview of our country. The “Top Story of the Day” on Monday, August 9 (at least according to my newsfeed), was how […]
One of this year’s “mini conventions” was hosted by Grace and Grandville Protestant Reformed Churches at Quaker Haven Camp. Located just over two hours away in northern Indiana, the camp was a perfect fit for the 120 kids and 15 chaperones who attended. A total of twelve different churches were represented: Byron Center, Faith, First […]
At the point that this edition of Beacon Lights arrives in the homes of our subscribers, most young people in the Protestant Reformed Churches will have been sitting under the catechism instruction of their pastor or elders for more than a month. If our readers are honest, that observation probably comes with a (quiet) sigh […]