Jani Ortlund: Hello, everyone. I’m so glad you’re listening in again on this discipleship series. I think that you are probably drawing to a close of your year of discipleship, as I am in my group. But keep listening through these final few podcasts on discipleship so that you’ll know how to bring your group to a close before you dismiss for the summer.
If you are like my group, than you are reading through the Old Testament right now, probably somewhere in Second Chronicles. And I want to help you understand the Old Testament a little bit better, and finish our overview of the Old Testament in these next two podcasts. I believe this information will help you understand better what you are reading and apply it to your own life.
Old Testament Timeline
Now leaders, before the meeting begins, you want to make copies of the Old Testament timeline to help your disciples see visually what I’m talking about. You can find those in Episode 135 from December 15, 2021. So pause the podcast and go back to that episode, which is entitled, “What the Old Testament is All About,” from December 15, 2021, and make copies for your group of the Old Testament timeline.
If you plan to continue using weekly calendars to pray for one another, make sure you have copies of those as well, leaders.
Now during this time together, I want you to start with accountability. For accountability, discuss with your disciples how their quiet times are going. What about their verses of meditation and their memory verses? I think it would be wise for you to pause the podcast and have each member of the group recite her verses that she’s memorizing, tell you a little bit about what she’s learning, how it’s been helpful, what struggles she has; encourage each other and hold each other accountable for this part of your assignment.
Teaching for Today: Old Testament Survey [Part 3]
Now that you’ve finished with accountability, let’s head into our teaching section for today. Today, we want to continue our Old Testament survey—that overview, that bird’s eye view of the Old Testament—and we’re going to finish this overview next week. Hopefully over the summer months, you will all keep reading through your Old Testament, even when you’re not meeting and holding each other accountable week to week. Maybe you can set up a text where you check in once a week and let each other know how it’s going. It always helps to have someone read along with you when you’re in a reading program like this.
Do you remember the basic theme of the Old Testament (Episode 134), which was stated weeks ago as we began this? God is imposing His reign of peace and righteousness upon this rebellious world through the agency of Abraham’s seed, and He will not be defeated. As He establishes this rule, man is continually rebelling, but God is continually saving. Let me repeat that once more. This is our basic theme of the Old Testament. You can see it in every book: God is imposing His reign of peace and righteousness upon this rebellious world through the agency of Abraham’s seed, and He will not be defeated. As He establishes this rule, man is continually rebelling, but God is continually saving man.
Now we have studied in previous episodes (Episodes 134, 135), how God formed the nation of Israel through his miraculous acquisition of a people, his intentional revelation of His laws for this people to follow as a kingdom of priests, and a this people’s conquest of the Promised Land (which you’ve read about in Joshua). We also have spent some time talking about the cycle. We see in the book of Judges, which went on for over 350 years. Do you remember that cycle we talked about?
Well, the priestly rule of the judges proves ineffective, climaxing with the Ark being captured in1 Samuel 4. Do you remember that last verse that we spoke of from Judges 21:25:
“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”Judges 21:25
Why did God judges people? Because they sinned. Continually. They kept on sinning. Psalm 78:54-64 talks about putting God to the test, rebelling against the Most High. The Psalmist tells us in Psalm 78 that his people disobeyed. They were disloyal. They were faithless, they were unreliable. And so God judged them.
Now why did they rebel? Why were they disloyal and faithless and unreliable? Well, I see three reasons.
- First of all, they hadn’t been taught the Word of God (Judges 2:10).
- Secondly, a new generation when they rose up, didn’t want to fight. They were hesitant to break down their opponents altars. We see this in Judges 3:1-2. But let me tell you there is great value in engaging yourself in God’s battles. Let’s not resist that.
- And then thirdly, we see from Judges 5:16-17 that they put material prosperity before fighting for God.
Therefore, God kindly and mercifully has a new act of salvation.
A new act of salvation
The United Monarchy
So today, I want to talk about Israel’s greatest period in history, the United Monarchy, perhaps you can find that on your Bible timeline that you leaders copied off for you. Let’s begin by talking about two women who changed Israel’s course. God is going to establish a kingship, and two women are responsible for turning around the nation: Ruth and Hannah. I love this. Why is Ruth in the canon? Why is it included in the Bible? Because of the very last word: David. If you turn to the end of the book of Ruth, you will see that Boaz is David’s great-grandfather. This story of Ruth tells us how Israel’s greatest king came to be. We can learn much about how God works in this book of Ruth. But a major theme we will see is that God rewards those who choose Him, those who want him, and God bypasses those who are uncommitted. As God accomplishes His purpose on earth, He rewards the faithful and He bypasses the uncommitted.
Now how do I see this? Well, look at Ruth 1:14-16. Turn there now. Here we can see the contrast between Orpah and Ruth. In Ruth 1:14-16, we see that Orpah kissed and then she departed. She gave her mother-in-law kiss and then left. Ruth chose God and stayed with her mother-in-law and became part of God’s plan to rescue his people through the Eternal Kinsmen Redeemer.
We also see the contrast between the nearer kinsmen and Boaz. We see this in Ruth 4:5-6. Now the nearer kinsmen, was, well, I think he was a little self-centered. He was more interested in his own money than in doing the right thing. He says, “I don’t want to redeem Ruth, lest I impair my own inheritance.” Boaz chose to honor God, and do the right thing by redeeming Ruth.
What about Hannah? Oh, this was such a bleak time in Israel’s history. It’s the time of the judges where there were idols everywhere, and everyone was doing what was right in his own eyes. How does God enter into that? He listens to a barren woman’s cries. This is the turning point of Israel’s history. First Samuel chapter one, turn there right now as a group. Israel needed a great leader to rebuild the social and religious unity of the nation, and to set up the monarchy. Hannah would be the one to open the door to Israel’s greatness. I love that.
Now, Hannah’s problem seems almost trivial in light of all that Israel is going through. A barren woman? But that is the whole beauty of this account. God cares for Hannah in her agony. When she turns to him, he meets her. In fact, he was the one who allowed that pain, which finally draws her to Him. We read in 1 Samuel 1:5, that it was the Lord who had closed her womb. Look there in 1 Samuel 1:5. Do you see it? “The Lord had closed her womb.”
3 Observations from Hannah’s Prayer
Now we see Hannah’s prayer. Let’s talk about it, both of her prayers, really. What can we learn about God? What can we learn about prayer through this turning point in Israel’s history?
1. Our prayers prepare us for what God is going to do
We see in 1 Samuel 1:7, that this had been going on for years. We can see from this that our prayers are not so much trying to get God to do what we want, but they are preparing us for what God is going to do. If God is waiting to answer one of your prayers, it’s not because you haven’t tried hard enough to get God to do what you want him to do. He’s using this waiting period to prepare you for what he’s going to do next.
2. Our motives don’t always have to be pure
And I love to see in Hannah’s prayer here that our motives don’t always have to be pure. Hannah was tired of her humiliation, she wanted a son. That’s okay to bring your prayers to God. Just keep bringing them to him.
3. Our prayers can change our perspective
Thirdly, I believe Hannah’s prayers show us that when we pray for a long time over a hard situation, those prayers can change our perspective. Look at the way she prays in 1 Samuel 2:1-10. Her prayer is recorded here. Now, she prays for a kingdom and a king. Look at 1 Samuel 2:10.
“The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.”1 Samuel 2:10
And her son Samuel was going to anoint Israel’s first three kings, and two of the greatest kings in Israel.
Samuel is the last judge. Let’s turn in our Bibles as a group to 1 Samuel 8:4-9.
“Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”1 Samuel 8:4-9
Well, as you can see there, in verse seven, Israel rejected God as their king. God is patient with us. He lets us try it our own way. He gives us warnings, which you can find in 1 Samuel 8:10 and following where Samuel warns against kings. God is not capricious. That’s why our Bible study is so important. We can learn to do it God’s way.
How to evaluate the Kings of Israel
Now I want to teach you for just a minute about how to evaluate the kings of Israel. Way back in Deuteronomy 17:14-20, God talked about when the children of Israel would ask for a king and he talked to them about what it would be like to have a king.
Their kings were to be chosen by God. We see this in 1 Samuel 16:12, where David is chosen by God, we won’t take time to turn there right now. They were to be chosen by God through one of the prophets.
Secondly, they were to have a gift or charisma to be a king. In 1 Samuel 16:18, we read this,
“One of the young men answered, ‘Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the Lord is with him.’”1 Samuel 16:18
Do you see that gift or charisma to be king? He had a skill, he possessed leadership qualities he was talented, virtuous, he had a warrior mentality, a willingness to fight the Lord’s battles, and he was impressive—the presence of God was on him.
So how do we evaluate the kings of Israel? They were chosen by God, they had a gift or charisma to be king, and then finally (and this was most important of all), they had a servant mentality. A servant was the highest title God could give to his earthly king. And we see this through different scripture passages. First of all, the servant king would be obedient. He would subordinate himself to the priests, to the Word of God, the Torah and the prophets. He would be a wise man who could interpret historical situations so that he could rule the country politically and militarily. We see this as God talks about his king in Deuteronomy 17:18-20. We’re not going to turn there right now. But you can read that if you want. First of all the king would have a civil servant mentality by being obedient.
Next, he would have the motivation of a servant. He would have the mentality of serving his master, not himself. I think it’s important to see this so I’m going to ask you to turn to 1 Samuel 26:23 where we’ll see this in David. Saul realizes in this passage that David had the opportunity to kill him, as Saul had tried to kill David, and Saul is saying, “I’ve sinned.” Look at 1 Samuel 26:22-24:
“And David answered and said, “Here is the spear, O king! Let one of the young men come over and take it. The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness, for the Lord gave you into my hand today, and I would not put out my hand against the Lord’s anointed. Behold, as your life was precious this day in my sight, so may my life be precious in the sight of the Lord, and may he deliver me out of all tribulation.”1 Samuel 26:22-24
You see, David had a mentality of serving God before serving himself. He was obedient. He served his master, God, and he was dependent on God. In Deuteronomy 17 the king was told not to build up his army, or his treasury, or his house. That’s from Deuteronomy 17:16-17.
This is how we are to evaluate the kings of Israel as we read through the Old Testament: were they chosen by God? Did they have charisma, or a gifting to be king? And did they have the servant mentality of obedience, and have a godly motivation to serve God and not themselves depending on him? Think of those ways to evaluate the kings as you’re reading through the Old Testament. It will help you to judge the kings accordingly.
Now, I want to take just a minute or two and talk about the wisdom literature that you’re going to be reading through this summer as you read through your Bible. Remember the Five Books of the wisdom literature? Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes.
Job is a book on the universal problem of suffering. It’s really worth taking in and seeing how God deals with suffering. You will see that in suffering the main question God answers is not “Why?” but “Who”. We want to know why—“Why are you letting this suffering happen, God?”—and God says, “I want you to understand who. I want you to come and understand more of me.”
Next, the book of Psalms is the hymnbook of the temple. There are three different kinds of Psalms: laments—petitions; the crying out to God—and then psalms of thanksgiving, and psalms of praise. Oh, we enjoy the Psalms, don’t we? We benefit so much for them. Enjoy the book of Psalms. If you’re in my Bible reading plan, you’ll be reading Psalms all during the month of June.
And then you come to Proverbs. Proverbs is a book of maxims about four different kinds of people: the wise, the naive, the foolish, and the scoffer. We can learn a lot from Proverbs. These are not promises, they’re maxims; they show us how life often works.
Then God gives us Ecclesiastes. Now, Ecclesiastes is just a sermon. The writer is an apologist, like Francis Schaeffer. He forces us to re-evaluate our lives so that we can attach significance to that which is truly significant.
Finally, in the wisdom literature, is the Song of Songs, or some Bibles list it as the “Song of Solomon.” Now, let me tell you, I believe firmly that the Song of Solomon is not about our relationship to Christ. Some Bible interpreters interpret this book that way. I do not because the Bible never pictures Christ as a sexual partner. This is a book that shows us that men are called to be men and women are called to be women, and we rejoice in this; we can enjoy this.
So these five books, remember, are called “The Wisdom Literature.” They’re right there in the middle of the Bible. Enjoy reading them and gain wisdom from them.
Now there’s one more thing I want to teach on, before I end my teaching time today, and that’s the temple. I think it would be very helpful if you have a study Bible to pause the podcast, and look up a picture of the temple so you’ll know what I’m talking about as we go through this. Go ahead, pause the podcast and find a study Bible or a picture of Solomon’s temple online and look at it as we talk about it.
There are three great kings during this period, which we’re calling the United Monarchy. They’re Saul, David, and Solomon. Solomon’s reign was one of great prosperity and peace, and he built the temple, the most famous building in all of the Bible.
Now, temples for the ancients were not buildings into which people came to meet God. But for them, they were what we might call “God houses”—buildings, so beautifully made and kept, that when priests offered proper sacrifices there, God would be pleased and would want to come to his house and answer their prayers.
Solomon’s temple had two rooms, and then it had side chambers. You can see if you’re looking at a picture of the temple, these rooms. The first room was called the Holy Place. It was 60 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 45 feet high (very high!). The second room was called the Holy of Holies, and it was a 30 foot cube. Isn’t that interesting? It was a cube. The side chambers were three stories high, and they were used for storage and treasury vaults.
Now, the temple was distinguished from every other religious building of its day in that it had absolutely no idols. All the interior lines lead to the Ark of the Covenant in which were placed—do you remember?—the two tablets that Moses put in there. What were written on the tablets? The 10 Commandments. The lid of the Ark of the Covenant was called the mercy seat. At the heart of the temple was the Word of God, covered by the mercy seat. Oh, I love that.
Solomon, now was the last king before the kingdom divides. What happened after Solomon? Why did the kingdom divide? Well, I believe it’s because Solomon was divided. He was divided in four very important ways: his obedience, his building program, in his love, and in his faith. Let’s talk about that. Solomon was divided in his obedience. He multiplied armies, He multiplied his wives, He multiplied his money. He was divided in his building program. He had seven years for the temple, and he spent 13 years for his own house. He was divided in his love. Turn to 1 Kings 11:1-3. This shows us how he is divided in his love:
“Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart.”1 Kings 11:1-3
Oh, my Solomon was divided in his love: God versus his wives. He was also divided in his faith. Look at 1 Kings 11:4-8:
“For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods.”1 Kings 11:4-8
Do you see how he was divided in his faith? He was divided in his obedience in his building program, in His love, in his faith. Therefore, Solomon leaves behind a divided kingdom. Socially they were divided—there were the very rich and the very poor—and religiously, he built the high places.
Let me ask us all, what divisions do we see in our hearts in our lives? Are our hearts wholehearted, undivided, toward the Lord? Do our lives show a single purpose? Or do we somehow show divisiveness in our own hearts toward God and toward others? Oh, let’s be women who are wholeheartedly devoted to God.
Now, I want you to take a brief break a five minute break, and then come back.
As we finish up…
All right now leaders for the second part of your discipleship group, I want you to choose one of your ladies to share about her biography. Give her 20 minutes to share and discuss it together. And then take time to share your prayer requests and decide how you will pray for each other this week. Are you still sharing your weekly calendars for prayer needs? If so, pass those out and pray for each other, and then give your disciples an appropriate assignment requiring their quiet times and their Bible memorization and praying for one another. Make sure you know who’s going to give her biography report next week. And then close by singing or saying your blessing over each other from Numbers 6:24-26. May the Lord restore your souls as you meet together this week. God bless you.