* Principles of God’s Old Testament law still apply today
Sometimes we are tempted to excuse non-Christians from following God’s guidelines for living. Christmas and Easter, for example, often have other meanings for them. We would not expect them to understand Lent. Yet foreigners at this time were expected to follow and apply the same laws and ordinances as the Israelites. God did not have a separate set of standards for unbelievers, and he still does not today. The phrase “They must follow these same laws and regulations” emphasizes that non-Israelites were also subject to God’s commands and promises. God singled out Israel for a special purpose—to be an example of how one nation could, and should, follow him. His aim, however, was to have all people obey and worship him. (NLT)
Numbers 9:14 – And if foreigners living among you want to celebrate the Passover to the Lord, they must follow these same laws and regulations. The same laws apply both to you and to the foreigners living among you.
* The people didn’t know how to apply the Bible
The people of Judah were biblcally illiterate. They had never taken time to listen to and discuss God’s law and understand how it could change them. Jehoshaphat realized that knowing God’s commands was the first step to getting people to live as they should, so he initiated a nationwide religious education program. He reversed the religious decline that had occurred at the end of Asa’s reign by putting god first in the people’s minds and instilling in them a sense of commitment and mission. Because of this action, the nation began to follow God. Churches and Christian schools today need solid Christian education programs. Exposure to good Bible teaching through Sunday school, church, Bible study, and personal and family devotions is essential for living as God intended. (NLT)
2 Chronicles 17:7-9 – In the third year of his reign, Jehoshaphat sent out his officials to teach in all the towns of Judah. These officials included Ben-hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, and Micaiah. He sent Levites along with them, including Shemiaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah, and Tob-adonijah. He also sent out the priests, Elishama and Jehorma. They took copies of the Book of the Law of the Lord and traveled around through all the towns of Judah, teaching the people.
* Importance of application
The Book of the Law of Moses was probably the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. The people listened attentively to Ezra as he read God’s Word, and their lives were changed. Because we hear the Bible so often, we can become dulled to its words and immune to its teachings. Instead, we should listen carefully to every verse and ask the Holy Spirit to help us answer the question, How does this apply to my life?
After Ezra read God’s laws to the people, they studied them further and then acted upon them. A careful reading of Scripture always calls for a response to these questions: What should we do with this knowledge? How should our lives change? We must do something about what we have learned if it is to have real significance for our lives. (NLT)
Nehemiah 8:1-5 -Now in mid-autumn, when the Israelites had settled in their towns, all the people assembled together as one person at the square just inside the Water Gate. They asked Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had given for Israel to obey.
So on October 8 Ezra the priest brought the scroll of the law before the assembly, which included the men and women and all the children old enough to understand. He faced the square just inside the Water Gate from early morning until noon and read aloud to everyone who could understand. All the people paid close attention to the Book of the Law. Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform that had been made for the occasion. To his right stood Mattithiahk Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah. To his left stood Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Messhullam. Ezra stood on the plaltform in full view of all the people. When they saw him open the book, they all rose to their feet.
* Applying a true principle wrongly
Job compared his three friends to doctors who did not know what they were doing. They were like eye surgeons trying to perform open-heart surgery. Many of their ideas about God were true, but they did not apply to Job’s situation. they were right to say that God is just. They were right to say God punishes sin. But they were wrong to assume that Job’s suffering was a just punishment for his sin. They took a true principle and applied it wrongly, ignoring the vast differences in human circumstances. We must be careful and compassionate in how we apply biblical condemnations to others; we must be slow to judge. (NLT)
Job 13:4 – For you are smearing me with lies. As doctors, you are worthless quacks.
* Application makes faith come alive
The psalmist asked God for discernment. Faith comes alive when we apply Scripture to our daily tasks and concerns. We need discernment so we can understand, and we need the desire to apply Scripture where we need help. The Bible is like medicine: It goes to work only when we apply it to the affected areas. As you read the Bible, be alert for lessons, commands, or examples that you can put into practice. (NLT)
Psalm 119:125 – Give discernment to me, your servant; then I will understand your decrees.
* Knowledge must be applied
Paul was exposing a heresy in the Colossian church that was similar to Gnosticism (from the Greek word knowledge). Gnostics valued the accumulation of knowledge, but Paul pointed out that knowledge in itself is empty. To be worth anything, it must lead to a changed life and right living. His prayer for the Colossians has two dimensions: 1) that they might have complete understanding of what God wants to do in their lives, and that they might be wise with spiritual wisdom; (2) that they would continually do good, kind things for others and learn to know God better and better. Knowledge is not merely to be accumulated; it should give us direction for living. Paul wanted the Colossians to be wise, but he also wanted them to use their knowledge. Knowledge of God is not a secret that only a few can discover; it is open to everyone. God wants us to learn more about him, and also to put belief into practice by helping others.
Sometimes we wonder how to pray for missionaries and other leaders we have never met. Paul had never met the Colossians, but he faithfully prayed for them. His prayers teach us how to pray for others, whether we know them or not. We can request that they (1) understand what God wants them to do, (2) gain spiritual wisdom, (3) honor and please God, (4) continually do good, kind things for others, (5) learn to know God better and better, (6) be strengthened with God’s glorious power, (7) have great patience and endurance, (8) stay full of Christ’s joy, and (9) give thanks always. All believers have these same basic needs. When you don’t know how to pray for someone, use Paul’s prayer pattern for the Colossians. (NLT)
Colossians 1:9-14 – So we have continued praying for you ever since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you a complete understanding of what he wants to do in your lives, and we ask him to make you wise with spiritual wisdom. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and you will continually do good, kind things for others. All the while, you will learn to know God better and better.
We also pray that you will be strengthened with his glorious power so that you will have all the patience and endurance you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father, who has enabled you to share the inheritance that belongs to God’s holy people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the one who rules in the kingdom of darkness, and he has brought us into the Kingdom of his dear Son. God has purchased our freedom with his blood and has forgiven all our sins.
* Bible can be applied because it is inspired
The whole Bible is God’s inspired Word. Because it is inspired and trustworthy, we should read it and apply it to our life. The Bible is our standard for testing everything else that claims to be true. It is our safeguard against false teaching and our source of guidance for how we should live. It is our only source of knowledge about how we can be saved. God wants to show you what is true and equip you to live for him. How much time do you spend in God’s Word? Read it regularly to discover God’s truth and to become confident in your life and faith. Develop a plan for reading the whole Bible, not just the familiar passages. (NLT)
2 Timothy 3:16-17 – All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.
* Using the Bible for life’s application
The Bible is not a collection of stories, fables, myths, or merely human ideas about God. It is not a human book. Through the Holy Spirit, God revealed his person and plan to certain believers, who wrote down his message for his people. This process is known as inspiration. The writers wrote from their own personal, historical, and cultural contexts. Although they used their own minds, talents, language, and style, they wrote what God wanted them to write. Scripture is completely trustworthy because God was in control of its writing. Its words are entirely authoritative for our faith and life. The Bible is “God-breathed.” Read it, and use its teachings to guide your conduct.
In our zeal for the truth of Scripture, we must never forget its purpose–to equip us to do good. We should not study God’s Word simply to increase our knowledge or to prepare us to win arguments. We should study the Bible so that we will know how to do Christ’s work in the world. Our knowledge of God’s Word is not useful unless it strengthens our faith and leads us to do good. (NLT)
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