- In the shadow of the blessings and the curses: Naomi has a tragic family situation, but… Think about the blessings and curses listed in Deuteronomy 27-28, and answer the following questions: Why is there a famine in Israel? Should this family have left Israel to flee the famine? What may have been a better course of action? Ruth and Orpah were not Israelites, so should these Israelite men have married them?
- A tale of two women: Orpah returns to her people and her gods, Ruth 1:6-15. Ruth identifies with the people of God saying, “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” Ruth 1:16. Ruth ends up with a loving husband Boaz, and is in the lineage of Christ. See Ruth 4:18-21, Matthew 1:5.
- Gleanings: Interestingly, Ruth meets Boaz collecting the gleanings from his crops. In this, Boaz is obeying the law. Not only that, but did you notice that Boaz has a harvest in the land? What must have happened between the famine and the gleaning? See Deuteronomy 24:19, Lev. 19:9; 23:22.
- In the hands of God: In a beautiful twist, Naomi finds back in the presence of God’s people what she had lost outside of the land – a son to raise. Ruth 4:16. Not just any son, but one who would continue what is the line of Jesus Christ! Although Naomi could see no hope, how did the faithful actions of Ruth and Boaz put her in a position to have hope again?
- Laws for a reason: See Deuteronomy 25:5-10 on the topic of Levirate Marriage. See also Matt. 22:25; Mark 12:20; Luke 20:29.
1 Samuel 1-8
- Hannah: A desperate prayer leads to worship. Can you find the many spiritual lessons here? Eli’s actions were mixed. What did he do wrong? What did he do right? 1 Samuel 1:1-2:11.
- Eli & Sons: Not a particular good example for his sons, the current priest-judge Eli only half-heartedly corrects them. (Bessinger) 1 Samuel 2:12-36. God predicts that he will purify the priesthood as he will with Samuel. When God predicts something in the Bible, actively look for it. This of course comes true in 1 Samuel 4. How did Israel handle the ark against the Philistines? Why did it not work?
- The Philistines: How did it go for them to include God alongside their god, Dagon? What does this teach us about God? Does this have personal application in our lives? This turns out to be a somewhat humorous episode, but try to understand just how serious it is. 1 Samuel 5-6.
- Samuel: Samuel judges Israel righteously, but also struggles with the faithfulness of his sons. Decades pass between chapters 6 and 8. Notice that the key is not Samuel’s abilities, but the fact that he led the nation to repentance. 1 Samuel 6-7.
- “Like all the nations”: 1 Samuel 8 is terribly sad. Not because Samuel is slighted and insulted (although the charges were true) but because the outcry of the people was to have a king “like all the nations.” If there has been anything clear since Genesis 12, it has been that God desires His people to be different. An interesting New Testament parallel is found in 2 Timothy 4:3-4. Based on this, what warnings would you give to your Christian brothers and sisters?
- Gospel outlaws: Peter and John (and the others) are brought before the authorities following all the commotion of healing a man, then the subsequent continuation of preaching, signs, and wonders. Acts 4:18, 5:29. They remark, “We must obey God rather than men.” Use Romans 13:1-7 and Matthew 28:18-20 and this example to formulate a principle concerning civil disobedience and the gospel. Acts 4:24-30 contains rich theology which is key to the church persevering under persecution. What theological truths are present? How are the attitudes expressed healthy? Did God approve? See Acts 4:31.
- Property in common: The church was practicing the love for one another (John 13:35) in very real and material ways. Acts 2:44-45 introduces the issue, Acts 4:32-27 expounds on it and gives the example of Barnabas. Acts 5:1-11 gives the negative example of Ananias and Sapphira. Notice that this was AMONG BELIEVERS! Many movements throughout history have tried to reproduce this, but the sinfulness of man always interferes. However, with the Spirit of God, a great deal of good things can be realized. If a brother or sister in Christ is in need of something that you have, and do not absolutely need, are you ready to give it over? How does this fit in with good stewardship of what God provides? Notice that this depends on how we define need? Do we overlook this in a culture of robust government programs? Should we?
- Growing Pains: All of this sharing seems to have run into difficulty. In Acts 6:1-7, there is a complaint, and the office of deacon is born. Notice the qualifications mentioned here and in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. Is this how your church does it? Should it be? Is this a leadership position? Contrast this with what’s called elder/overseer in 1 Timothy 3:1-7.
- Stephen and Saul: Stephen is introduced with the office of Deacon in Acts 6:1-7. Then his ministry is described along with a lengthy sample of his final sermon. This sermon offers a profound commentary on the history of Israel. What was Israel’s greatest problem? As Stephen is stoned, he is given a look into heaven where Jesus is standing at the right hand of the Father, Acts 7:56-57. In all other occasions, Jesus is described as seated at the right hand of the Father. This happens to be when we meet an Apostle who will be “untimely born.” Acts 7:58, 8:1.
- Psalm 37: Ever feel bad about the seeming ‘success’ of the wicked while you seem to struggle? Here is the cure Psalm. See Psalm 37:4, and ask yourself, “How might my desires change if indeed I delight myself in the Lord?”
- Psalm 120: How critical is it to pray about saying the right things?
- Psalm 23: The Lord being your shepherd implies that you follow him. So what are you doing in the “valley of the shadow of death”? Notice that the good shepherd leads you ‘through’ it, not around it! The rod and staff represent God’s protection and correction.
Regenerate Church Membership. (An article from our friend Justin Bessinger)
Definition: Baptists believe that the local church should permit only regenerate persons (i.e., those who have been born again or believed the Gospel) into its recognized membership. While unbelievers and the unbelieving children of Christians are certainly allowed and encouraged to attend weekly worship services, they should not be granted the privilege of local church membership. As one Bible teacher put it, “Historically Baptists have stood for the principle that regeneration is a prerequisite to church membership.”
Scriptural Support: The biblical support for regenerate church membership is strong and clear. In Paul’s Epistles, whenever he addresses a church, the collected local churches are addressed as believers. The local church in Rome is addressed as the assembly of “the called” or as “saints” (Romans 1:6, 7). The congregation in Ephesus is comprised of those who are “faithful in Christ Jesus” (1:1). The church in Philippi is addressed as “the saints in Christ Jesus” (1:1). These descriptions could only describe born again people.
Furthermore, the scriptural metaphors for the church make sense only if the church is comprised of believers. God describes the church as the family of God (1 Timothy 3:15), Christ’s “flock” (Acts 20:28), “the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27), and “the Temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 3:16). None of these metaphors retain their meaning if the local church is a collection of both believers and unbelievers.
 Good, Kenneth H. God’s Blueprint for a Church (Rochester, NY: Backus, 1974), 53. Another author put it this way:
“If there is any one defining mark of the Baptist, it is the understanding that membership in the church comes by personal profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The church is not merely a voluntary association of those who have been born to Christian parents—even Baptist parents—or of those who might have been moistened as infants. Rather, the church is an assembly of those who make a public profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and gather together in congregations under the covenant of Christ.”
 Mohler, Jr., R. Albert, “Southern Baptist Identity: Is There a Future?,” Chapter 1 of Southern Baptist Identity: An Evangelical Denomination Faces the Future, edited by David S. Dockery (Wheaton: Crossway, 2009), 26.