Background Characters in the Old Testament

October, November, December 2010

Want to learn more about Background Characters in the Old Testament? Use these Bible Studies for personal devotion, group Bible studies, or teaching a church class. Below are links to the lessons in this 13-part series.

Lesson 1: Story and History (2 Timothy 3; 2 Samuel 12, Joshua 3, Judges 17)
Put yourself in the place of God. Imagine that you just created humans, and that you wanted to give them some sort of operator's manual. What would you write? What would be your main goal in writing? Would you give them a list of rules? Would you tell them stories about living? Would you tell them stories about you? This quarter our study is the background figures in the Old Testament. They are part of the story that God is telling us about how we should live. This week we consider the general goal of God's storytelling. Let's dive into our study and find out more!

Lesson 2: Caleb: Living With the Wait (Numbers 13 & 14, Joshua 14, Judges 1)
The Jewish people left Egypt and slavery and began a journey for freedom and property ownership in Canaan, the wonderful land God promised to them. The trip to Canaan took only about 15 months. Put yourself in their place. What would be your attitude if you were God's people? What questions would you have about the land? What expectations would you have? Would you be grateful for this opportunity? Let's jump into our study and find out what happens to Caleb and his fellow travelers!

Lesson 3: Hannah: Learning to Be Someone (1 Samuel 1)
Talking with my classmates at one of my high school reunions gave me a profound insight. I realized that everyone in my high school class, even the most popular, had feelings of inferiority when they were in high school. It just came with being a teenager. Do people ever get over that feeling? I doubt that anyone completely gets over feeling that others are better. Indeed, unless you are the most talented person in the world, others are better. The Bible tells us to think of ourselves with "sober judgment" (Romans 12:3) and encourages us to be "humble" (Ephesians 4:2). But, what happens when your sense of self-worth becomes so low that you have trouble living? How should we react when those closest to us have well-intentioned, but unhelpful solutions? Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and learn from the story of Hannah, a woman who suffered severe problems with her self-worth.

Lesson 4: Jonathan: Born for Greatness (1 Samuel 13, 14, 19 & 20King)
How many times do we look at sickness and death and say, "That is not fair?" Our sense of justice is offended when the virtuous die and the worthless live. When the injustice involves you and your life goals, it is that much harder to accept. How should we react when we faithfully serve God, but get passed over for promotion? How should we react when our life goals are swallowed up in illness or problems that are not of our making? Let's dive into our Bible study and see what we can learn from the life of Jonathan!

Lesson 5: Abigail: No Victim of Circumstances (1 Samuel 25)
Think about the people who seem to get along with everyone. What allows them to get along? Is that something you could possess? What they have is called "emotional intelligence," and you can learn to have it. Our lesson this week is about a smart, beautiful, practical and emotionally intelligent woman named Abigail. Her story introduces us to the Bible-based rules of emotional intelligence. Let's plunge into our study of the Bible to learn more!

Lesson 6: Uriah: Faith of a Foreigner (2 Samuel 11)
Can you point to something in your past and say, "I made a really big mistake?" I'll bet that others helped you make it. This week we look at a grand collision of mistakes that, at a minimum, cost one man his life, and created a never-ending problem for another man. Needless to say, these are the kinds of decisions that we want to avoid. Let's jump right into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn about avoiding life-altering mistakes!

Lesson 7: Abiathar: The Priest (1 Samuel 21-23, 1 Kings 1-2)
What do you do when you have a problem? How do you decide what to do when you lack good information? What if the matter is complicated by the people around you acting unreasonably or dishonestly? Life is not always fair. God's servants face these kinds of problems. This week our study looks at the actions of several of God's people who are faced with an unfair situation. Let's dive into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn to help us deal with the problems of life!

Lesson 8: Joab: David's Weak Strongman (2 Samuel 3, 13 & 18; 1 Kings 2)
Do you have power or authority over others? If so, God cares about how you use your power over others. Most power over others arises in the family, political or the employment context. Our government, our parents or our employer can do a great deal to benefit or harm our life. In Ephesians 6:9 God reminds those in power about the use of their authority. He tells them to respect those under their authority and refrain from threatening them. Why? Because God is Lord over everyone, and He is just. Our lesson this week looks at a military leader/ politician who has a great deal of power over others. Lets jump into our study and find out what lessons the Bible teaches us about the use of power and authority!

Lesson 9: Rizpah: The Influence of Faithfulness (2 Samuel 3 & 21)
Did you know that your life has an influence on others? I recall clearly the point in my life when I realized this and considered the nature of my influence. My influence was not what I wanted, so I started to make changes. Sometimes seemingly small things influence others. Many years ago an employee called me for help in obtaining a religious accommodation. When I asked why the employee held these beliefs, she said "I fear God." That made a big impression on me. Although I've forgotten the details of that lady's case, I have not forgotten her arresting words or the positive impression they made upon me. Let's jump into our Bible and study how a lady, with very little authority in this life, exerted a large influence!

Lesson 10: The Man of God: Obedience is Not Optional (1 Kings 12 & 13)
One of the goals of my life is to improve my "hearing" when God speaks to me. I'll bet that you know what I'm talking about: you have a sense that you should do something or not do something. You think it comes from God, but you are not sure. Is God impressing you through His Holy Spirit? Is it your conscience speaking - which comes from the training your parents gave you? Is it one of Satan's fallen angels trying to embarrass you? Is it indigestion? The older I get and the longer I walk with God the better I get at paying attention - but I'm still not very good. From time to time readers write and tell me I'm terrible at listening to God's will! How much should we trust advisors? On who or what can we trust? Let's dive right into our study of the Bible and learn more about the right foundation for knowing God's will!

Lesson 11: The Widow of Zarephath: The Leap of Faith (1 Kings 17)
This week my righteous wife told me that she did not want me to buy her anything for Christmas. Instead, she wanted me to give the money for her gift to a charity. My immediate thought was "I need to do that, too." Then I began to struggle with the decision. How about you? Do you struggle with selfishness? I'll bet right now you are asking, is it selfishness to accept gifts at Christmas? Good question! Perhaps the answer has to do with whether your needs are already met. What about helping others when your needs are not met? Let's dive into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn about real selflessness!

Lesson 12: Gehazi: Missing the Mark (2 Kings 4, 5 & 8)
If I asked you what your goal was for your life, what would you answer? Would your goal be about doing good? Advancing you? Advancing the Kingdom of God? Advancing both you and God? In our Bible study this week we look at those who did good without looking for reward, and those who merely looked for a reward. Let's dive into our study!

Lesson 13: Baruch: Building a Legacy in a Crumbling World (Jeremiah 7,36 & 45)
What if I told you that you would end your life owning only the clothes you were wearing? What if I also told you that you would be a faithful warrior for God your entire life? Would you feel that God had let you down? Would the Bible's promises of blessings for those who are faithful seem false and bitter? This week we study a man who had great personal ambition, stood strong for God against great opposition, yet escaped with only his life. Let's plunge into the Bible and see if we can make any sense of this!

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