The Voice From Heaven
(Genesis 3, Isaiah 59, Amos 3, Joel 2, Hebrews 1)
Introduction: Would you like to talk with God? In the abstract, I certainly would. There are a number of topics I would like to discuss with Him. Why is it we don't have conversations with God? Is it "our fault?" I've thought that my selfish, rebellious heart might prefer that God's will be a little ambiguous at times. There are humans who have communicated with God and some of that talk found its way into the Bible. This quarter we begin a new study and our topic is the Bible. Since most readers of these studies first found them on the GoBible.org web site, you know promoting the study of the Bible is our mission: so let's dive right into our study and learn more about conversing with God!
- Whose Looking for Whom?
- Read Genesis 3:1-3. According to Eve, what is God's standard for her conduct when it came to this tree? (Don't eat or even touch the fruit of this tree.)
- Read Genesis 3:4. What is the temptation presented to Eve? (Trusting God. Vanity. Will she die if she eats, or will she become like God?)
- Read Genesis 3:6. Is this an accidental or a deliberate violation of God's standard for Eve's conduct? (Deliberate. She chose to disbelieve God and to believe the serpent.)
- If you were God, what would your reaction be to the sin of Eve and Adam? (I would be annoyed, to put it mildly. Eve, at least, does not trust me and has determined that I would be willing to lie to her.)
- In the universe of sins, how important was this one? (Very. It plunged the rest of us into sin!)
- Read Genesis 3:8-11. Based on what God does with Adam and Eve, how do you think God reacts to your deliberate, life-altering sins? (We see that God comes looking for Adam and Eve. He wants to talk with them about their sin.)
- Read Isaiah 59:1-2. When I was a kid, I was taught that if I sinned, God would not listen to my prayers. Do you think that is true?
- If you say, "no, I don't think that is true," what is wrong with that concept? (It seems to be a variation on the concept of righteousness by works. Instead of my works earning salvation, my works earn "access" to God's ear.)
- Let's parse these verses for a few moments. What does the length of God's arm ( Isaiah 59:1)have to do with communicating with Him? (This is a common Old Testament phrase which refers to God's power. His "arm" is long enough(He has enough power)for whatever task you have in mind. There is nothing wrong with God's ability to hear you or help you.)
- So what is the reason why God cannot hear us, according to Isaiah? (The fault is ours.)
- Getting back to our original question, if "the fault is ours," does that mean that if we sin God will not hear us? (Between the Genesis texts we looked at, and Isaiah's comments about God's arm and ear, the point is that God is willing and able to listen to sinners. The "equipment failure" is on our end. We don't, because of our sins, want to hear or understand God. Remember in the introduction where I said sometimes my selfish, rebellious heart might not want to clearly understand God's will? I think that is Isaiah's point.)
- Read John 12:37-40. How had sin blocked the communication between Jesus and the Jewish leaders? Was Jesus unwilling to communicate? Had God blinded and deafened them? (Jesus performed miracles in their presence! It was their decision not to understand the communication.)
- In the Garden of Eden we saw that God directly communicated with humans. When Jesus came to this earth, God again directly communicated with humans. What do you think is the reason why God does not still communicate with us face to face? (It seems, based on the texts we have studied, that our sins and our attitudes have something to do with this.)
- Read Amos 3:7. Why would God talk to His prophets and not to the population generally? (The prophets must have been special people, although stories (like that of Jonah) make us wonder about how special some of them were.)
- Read Joel 2:28-29. Is our sin the only cause of the limitations on God's conversations with humans? (In the end times, the Holy Spirit is going to be poured out so that God will again directly communicate with His people on a grand scale. That suggests that it is not just our sins that are at issue, it is God's timing that is also at issue.)
- Would you expect that there would be a difference between the type of people spoken of in Amos 3:7 and those spoken of in Joel 2:28-29? (I would expect that the standard for being a prophet would be much higher in Amos' time - unless the implication of Joel 2 is that the percentage of "prophet quality" people goes way up in the end times. In the end times, the people have the Bible, thus the concerns about accuracy that you would have if you had only a single source for determining God's would be diminished.)
- Read 2 Peter 1:20-21. How is God's word revealed through the words of the prophets recorded in the Bible? (The Holy Spirit leads humans to record (reveal)the will of God and not their own will.)
- Does this suggest that prophets have their writings dictated to them, word for word, by God? (No. The phrase "carried along" seems to be a cooperative effort between humans and the Holy Spirit to record the will of God.)
- Read Hebrews 1:1-3. In what ways has God spoken to us through Jesus? (Jesus' teachings are recorded in the New Testament. The fact that God became man and lived with us, and died for us, speaks volumes about God. Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God.)
- What do you think the text means when it says that Jesus is "the exact representation of [God's] being?" (He shows us what God is like. Jesus is a conversation about God.)
- When Hebrews 1:3 says that Jesus sustains all things by "his powerful word," what does that teach us about God? (Only a word from God is necessary to accomplish the most difficult feat.)
- Does this suggest a serious imbalance in that conversation you want to have with God?
- Read John 14:6-8. Was Philip satisfied with Jesus' statement that if you knew Jesus, you would know God the Father? (No. He says, "Show us the Father.")
- If one of Jesus' disciples questions Jesus' revelation of the Father, what should we conclude on the issue of whether God is revealed through Jesus? (Read John 14:9-10. Jesus tells Philip that he should be paying closer attention! God the Father speaks and works through Jesus.)
- We have previously discussed how God wants to talk to us, but our sins and our attitudes cause us not to listen. What else does Philip teach us can keep us from having a conversation with God? (Not paying attention!)
- The Bible
- If the Bible records God's conversations with humans, and you would like to talk with God, what does that suggest about you and the Bible? (That you should read it!)
- Read 2 Peter 1:19. What kind of attitude does this text suggest we should have towards the recorded words of the prophets? (Like Jesus' statement to Philip, this tells us to pay attention.)
- When this text says the inspired words of prophets are like the dawn, what kind of attention does this suggest we should give to the Bible? (First, dawn is special. If we want to really see it, we watch carefully as it slowly becomes day. Second, at dawn the light becomes steadily brighter. This is a general principle of Bible study - by studying the inspired words, more and more you understand the truth. The light of truth is more clearly seen. If you keep digging, you find more treasures.)
- Friend, God's words are available to you. If you want to hear the words of God, you need to read your Bible. "Reading" is more than a casual activity. The Bible tells us paying attention while we read, digging to understand God's will, will give us greater and greater light about God. Today, will you start to read and dig?
- Next week: The Final Word.