Key verse: 1 Kings 8:56
Big idea: Worship gives rest.
Back in Exodus 33, when the Israelites had built the golden calf and Moses had to plead with God to continue personally dwelling among them. God's answer was staggering, "My presence will go with thee and I will give thee rest." From the Garden of Eden on, people had lost both the presence of God and their own home because of sin, and were forced to wander apart from Him. It was impossible to restore one without the other: there is no rest without God and no real understanding of God that does not bring rest. Here, when the Temple was finally completed, the presence of God came to rest in the Temple (like He had in the Tabernacle), and His brightness was so intense that no one could enter. Solomon prayed to dedicate the Temple, and said something very interesting: "Blessed be the LORD, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant. The LORD our God be with us, as he was with our fathers: let him not leave us, nor forsake us."
Israel had been in the land of promise for centuries, but when the Temple was inaugurated, a new level of peace and rest became available to them. They could rest in His forgiveness, His provision, and His promises. The knowledge that He would not leave them or forsake them gave them rest. For us, there is no greater rest than in worshipping the God of grace. We do not need to earn His love, but can rest knowing that we have His Spirit by faith.
Discussion idea: Have you ever felt refreshed and rested after a time of worship? What is the connection?
Prayer focus: Pray for the kind of faith that brings peace and rest.
Key verse: Romans 8:3
My daughter is terrified of having a splinter removed. I am not sure where she got the idea that it involves amputating her arm, but there is no removing it without lots of tears (sometimes she cries, too). The easiest thing for me to do would be to give her some Tylenol and keep it from hurting. No more pain, no more problem! Except the splinter would stay inside, an infection would fester, and a minor problem could become a significant one.
Like an intervention with an addict, sometimes the best approach to a problem is to make it clear. Muddling it and numbing the pain seems kind in the short term, but it is ultimately cruel. God never chooses the easy path over the loving one, and so we should not be surprised that He does not deaden the infection, but intensifies it until we are willing to have it removed.
God did not give people the Law to get them to Heaven; no amount of good work could ever cancel out our guilt. He knew that we could never keep the Law because of the weakness of our bodies (Romans 8:3). All the Law could ever do is expose our guilt by accentuating it. When Paul was a child, he did not know not to covet, but when God commanded him not to do so, the sin in his heart rose to rebel against God’s Word, and his rebellion bore the fruit of death. Is this a failure of the Law? Not at all. The sinfulness of Paul’s heart appeared more clearly when it corrupted even a righteous commandment. It brought Paul to the point of crisis where his behavior and his values contradicted one another (Romans 7:22-23). The Law showed his frailty as it shows ours. When we realize how weak we are, we recognize that our only hope is the gospel.
There is no way that we could ever work our way to God’s level. The only way out is a radical one: like the boundaries of marriage are nullified by death, the domain of the Law ends when we die. It would be an unsatisfying escape hatch (out of the frying pan and into the fire) if we have to pass into death alone, but Jesus offers a better way. We are joined to His death by faith in Him. All the wrath of God against sin is spent on Him already; we do not just go into death but through it. We have died in the old world of Adam with Christ, and are born into a new life in the realm of the Spirit. There is no condemnation in this Kingdom we have entered by faith, only life with the Spirit that gives life (Romans 8:1). The Law has not failed; it has fulfilled its purpose by teaching us to walk in the Spirit (Romans 8:4).
Discussion Idea: How does a life of obedience in the Spirit look different than someone who is just concerned with following a list of rules? Does trying to obey God in our own strength put the sin of pride into everything we do?
Prayer Focus: Pray for help being sensitive to the guidance of the Spirit in what to do and open to the strength of the Spirit to accomplish it.