10-Minute Bible Studies

by Tom Wolpert on December 12, 2022

First, a poem, by way of warming up:

O Mary, Bounce on your Donkey

I didn’t send an angel to make an astonishing announcement.
Didn’t overshadow myself with the Holy Spirit.
Didn’t convince my betrothed I wasn’t unfaithful.
An angel did that, in a dream.
I just bounce along on the donkey.

I didn’t issue an edict that all the world should appear for a census.
Caesar August did that. Quirinius obeyed – governor now.
Didn’t order that we should all go to our hometown to register.
Came to register with Joseph, to our hometown.
My whole job – bounce along on the donkey.

I don’t know where we’re going to stay.
Joseph doesn’t look too happy about our prospects.
There’s not much I can do.
Didn’t make myself Jewish.  Or even a young woman.
All I do is manage the labor pains – and bounce on the donkey.

Didn’t issue promises to Abraham, or rescue Isaac or wrestle
an angel with Jacob. Didn’t meet God in the desert like Moses.
The promises made were passed on to me; didn’t hear them for myself.
Took them to heart, I heard and believed.  My receiving
but not my doing. What I do is bounce along on the donkey.

Wasn’t there when Isaiah counseled Hezekiah about the Assyrians.
Wasn’t there when the Babylonians took us off to exile. Daniel had
visions about the Son of Man. When we came back from exile, didn’t
rebuild Jerusalem. Alexander conquered the world and spread the Greek
language, Greek ideas across vast miles. I bounce one step at a time.

The Romans came and built roads, crushed enemies.  Including us. They
instituted laws, harsh, efficient to impose them. They conquered peoples,
created vassal states, imposed the Pax Romana. At least we can travel
the roads safely.  Didn’t do any of that. There was rebellion against Rome
and bloodshed.  Wasn’t there. My job is to be pregnant riding on a donkey.

Perhaps when this child is born, I’ll sing a song. Perhaps when this child is born
we will be delivered out of the hands of the Romans. The angel made some
extravagant promises.  I haven’t forgotten one. But now my sole duty and
only job, the one thing to do for this kicking son, for Joseph – for us and
for the Jews – for the whole world, is to bounce carefully on this donkey.

Someday your kicking son, now grown, a wedding guest, is going to say to you,
“Woman, why do you bother me?  My time is not yet come.”  Overheard.
And because you knew him well, you will give a surprising answer.
Do whatever he tells you.” Whatever the servants thought, they did as they were told.
You did not debate your son.  You understood, you knew the power he held.

Jesus had two more terse statements to make – one to you, and one to John.
Woman, here is your son.”  That will be on a day when a sword is piercing
your own heart as well.  The depth of that piercing would fill many poems.
Here is your mother.”  In agony on the cross, Jesus spoke to his beloved disciple, 
making one last disposition of love  –  ending a most memorable ride
on a donkey.  One for you, and one for him.   Yes, welcome into our home.

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                                                    Daniel’s Prayer 

(prepared as a 10-minute Bible Study for PrayerWorks at Christ Community Church.  If done in a group setting, suggest that people take turns reading the italicized portions.)

The prophet Daniel was deeply concerned about the Jewish people exiled in Babylon and so he prayed. Beginning in the middle of Daniel’s prayer, after he recited some history in his prayer in Dan. 9:15-19.:

 Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.

Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.

An angel, Gabriel, comes to give an explanation to Daniel, while he was speaking, praying, confessing, and making his requests. Gabriel’s explanation starts by saying,
Seventy sevens are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression,
to put an end to sin,
to atone for wickedness,
to bring in everlasting righteousness,
to seal up vision and prophecy and
to anoint the most holy.

Gabriel’s explanation has been the subject of much discussion and at times, differing interpretations. Daniel had questions.
I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked,
My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?
Dan. 12:8.
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The prophet Habakkuk starts his book with some difficult questions.

How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen?

Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ But you do not save?

Why do you make me look at injustice?

Why do you tolerate wrong?

Habakkuk waited patiently for his answer. Then he received an answer he did not expect, but understood well.

The Lord answered: “I am raising up the Babylonians, that bitter and hasty people, who sweep across the whole earth . . . guilty men, whose own strength is their god.” Hab: 1:6, 9.

Habakkuk knew what that meant for Israel.

I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound;

Decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled.

Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.

Hab. 3:16

Habakkuk received a further, unexpected answer to his questions:

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,

Though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,

Though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign LORD is my strength;

He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.

Hab. 3:17-19
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In his letter to the church at Rome, the Apostle Paul had something to say about spiritual Judaism:

“To be a Jew is not just to look like a Jew, and circumcision is more than a physical operation. The real Jew is the one who is inwardly a Jew, and the real circumcision is in the heart – something not of the letter but of the Spirit. A Jew like that may not be praised by man, but he will be praised by God.” Rom. 2:28-29.

Paul also wrote about topics that involved having answers to our many questions to God. Rom. 11:32-33:

For God has imprisoned all men in disobedience,

so he could have mercy on them all.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

How unsearchable his judgments and his paths beyond tracing out!

 For who can know the mind of the Lord?
Who has been his counselor?”

Three men were concerned about God’s will and had questions for God. Daniel didn’t fully understand his answer, even after an angel appeared to explain. Habakkuk understood the answer he received, but it wasn’t what he wanted or expected to hear.  In fact it was all too clear – it was deeply disturbing. The Apostle Paul praised God for a divine wisdom and knowledge beyond anyone’s understanding and beyond any particular answers. Yet all of them – one who didn’t understand, one who did, and one who jumped past human understanding – were circumcised in the heart by the Spirit, Jews perhaps not to be praised by men, but to be praised by God.
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We worship and know Jesus, the One who holds, guides and directs the outcome of all our questions.

I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. . . .

When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

Rev. 6:1, 8:1.

Our prayers may have different answers – at least at times and for some time – but they go to the same God.
Rev. 19:11, 16.

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. . . .

On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

We pray whether we have our immediate, sought-after answers or not – whether or not we like, or understand, the answers which do come. We are to be circumcised in our hearts by the Spirit and become inwardly as Jews, with the true, interior circumcision of faith, and trust in God.  Then we have feet like a deer, for the heights.

Then we can be praised by God. And we have our answer to all questions because our Lord Jesus opens the 7th seal. He absolutely has, holds and directs the future – which is sure, because it is done.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. . . . It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. 
Amen, come, Lord Jesus.

Rev. 21:1, 6
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                                                                    Repentance

David. Repentance restores our relationship with God. David’s relationship with God was broken after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. David’s prayer of repentance is a model we can all follow. He does not defend or excuse his conduct – he doesn’t wallow in guilt either. He looks to God, who can act in connection with his conduct, his conscience, his soul and his spirit.

Have mercy on me, O God,
According to your unfailing love;
According to your great compassion
Blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
And cleanse me from my sin.

Do not cast me from your presence
Or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
And grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

In your good pleasure make Zion prosper;
build up the walls of Jerusalem.
Then there will be righteous sacrifices,
Whole burnt offerings to delight you;
Then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Psalm 51: 1-2, 11-12, 18-19. What is interesting is that an intensely personal prayer of David’s will end with a prayer to God about a city, about Jerusalem of the future, where there will righteous sacrifices, a symbol of our right relationship with God.

Jonah. The word of the Lord came to Jonah, and commanded him to go preach in Ninevah. But Jonah ran away from the Lord and found a ship for a distant place. A violent storm arose, so violently that the ship’s captain despaired, after throwing all the cargo overboard to try and save the ship. So he rebuked Jonah:

How can you sleep?
Get up and call on your god!
Maybe he will take notice of us,
And we will not perish.

The sailors knew that some curse had come upon them, and determined to cast lots to find out why.

“Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” This terrified them.

“What have you done?” they asked him. What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

Jonah acknowledged his sin, the beginning of his repentance. Actions have consequences.

Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm.
I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

From inside the belly of the whale, Jonah’s prayer of repentance was heard.

In my distress I called to the LORD,
And he answered me.
From the depths of the grave I called for help,
And you listened to my cry.

You hurled me into the deep,
Into the very heart of the seas,
and all the currents swirled about me;
All your waves and breakers have swept over me.

Jonah went to the great city of Ninevah and preached the message God gave him. The Ninevites believed Jonah and believed his message from God. They declared a fast and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. Jonah was angry the city wasn’t destroyed. God had sent him a vine to protect him from the sun; then took the vine away. Jonah was angry about the vine. In fact, Jonah declared he was angry enough to die.

“But the Lord said, ‘You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”

Jonah 4:10-11. The message of God is never arrested because the compassion of God is never limited.

Nahum. What started with Jonah and his intensely personal flight from the word of the Lord, ended with a great city. Finally though, Nineveh fell away from repentance and the worship of the Lord. Nahum would deliver a final prophecy over Ninevah, completing the warning of the Lord.

Woe to the city of blood,
Full of lies,
Full of plunder,
Never without victims!

Nothing can heal your wound;
Your injury is fatal.
Everyone who hears the news about you
claps his hands at your fall,
for who has not felt,
your endless cruelty?

Nahum 3:1, 3:19.

The Seven Churches of Asia. In the New Testament, the Seven Churches in the province of Asia are called to repentance: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea. They are real churches which existed then, but John’s message intends us to hear because they are also a symbol for all our churches, which exist now.

The seven Churches are commended for their strengths, encouraged in their trials, but also called to repentance for their shortcomings:

Ephesus: You have forsaken your first love.
Smyrna: Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer.
Pergamum: Do not eat food sanctified to idols; do not commit sexual immorality.
Thyatira: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who misleads my servants.
Sardis: Strengthen what is about to die.
Philadelphia: I know you have a little strength.
Laodicea: You are lukewarm. I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

Between Chapter 4 of Revelation and Chapter 20, there are a great many difficult conflicts, persecutions, tribulations which the Churches endure. At no point is a specific reference made to describe any of the churches repenting of their specific weaknesses. Yet they must persevere. And in their perseverance, they must overcome. Gog and Magog appear for the last battle of Armageddon:

The Camp of God’s People. They [Gog and Magog] marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. Rev. 20:9. Disconnected churches, each with its own problems, had become one camp, one city that God loves. How or when they repented isn’t stated. What we know is that they persevered.

As in David’s prayer of repentance, as for Jonah, what begins individually, or locally, ends with us joined together, the camp of God’s people.

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. Rev: 21:2, 22-26.

Repentance, confession, thanksgiving, praise, are the bulls we sacrifice, the splendor we bring, coming into the great City of God.
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                                                        Visions from God

Our church (and our prayer group), as yours, might want to seek a new vision from God to carry out her ministries. The following visions from God are presented powerfully in the scriptures and can be a source of inspiration as we pray.  There are other visions of, or from, God in the Bible; these seven were selected (three from the Old Testament, two from the Gospels, two from the New Testament) as exemplars.   After reading the initial written prayer, prayers are open, as the Spirit leads.  In our prayer group, we began with a song about the glory of God and ended with a song echoing Isaiah’s statement: ‘Here am I!’ 

Isaiah’s vision. Isaiah was in the temple when he saw his astonishing vision:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
The whole earth is full of his glory.
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. . . .

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
“Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Isaiah 6:1-3, 8

Prayer. We should pray that we will be as willing as Isaiah, and cry out to the Lord, ‘Here am I. Send me!’

Ezekiel’s vision. Ezekiel was among the exiles to Babylon, by the Kebar River, when the heavens were opened for him.   Ezekiel saw deep and brilliant visions of God and the Glory of Israel, overwhelming in their power. His book captures the presentation of how God and his angels may be ‘other’ than we are.  We will not see anything like it again until John’s visions recorded in Revelation. Ezekiel’s visions are particularly powerful, almost disturbing, certainly enough to cause us to feel a sense of godly fear.  I have spread out the verses on this web page, as if they were poetry, to try to capture the immensity of Ezekiel’s vision and its impact.  If we think we have God figured out, Ezekiel reminds us we have not. 

I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north – an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light.

The center of the fire looked like glowing metal, and in the fire was what looked four living creatures.

In appearance their form was that of a man, but each of them had four faces and four wings. Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze.

Under their wings on their four sides they had the hands of a man. All four of them had faces and wings, and their wings touched one another. . . .

Their faces looked like this: Each of the four had the face of a man, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle. . . .

As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the ground beside each creature with its four faces. This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparkled like chrysolite, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel.

As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the creatures faced; the wheels did not turn aside as the creatures went. Their rims were high and awesome, and all four rims were full of eyes all around. . . .

Spread out above the heads of the living creatures was what looked like an expanse, sparkling like ice and awesome. . . .

When the creatures moved, I heard the sound of their wings, like the roar of rushing waters, like the voice of the Almighty.

Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man.

I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him.

Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him.

This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown.

Ezekiel 1:4-18, 22-28.

Prayer. Let us pray that we are filled with fire, that we follow the leading of the Spirit, without turning, following the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD.

Daniel’s vision. Daniel had visions at night in Babylon which left him puzzled. But he continued to look, to seek God. Then he had this vision, which is well-known, one which was consciously in Jesus’ mind, who frequently referred to himself as the Son of Man.

Thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.
A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him.
Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
The court was seated, and the books were opened. . . .

There before me was one like a Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.

He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14.

Prayer: Let us pray that we worship God the Father, the Ancient of Days, God the Son, who was (and is) also the Son of Man, one of us, who comes on the clouds of heaven. Let us pray to be part of his everlasting dominion that does not pass away, and part of his kingdom, one that is never destroyed. Let us pray that our worship will set an example and be a model for others.

The vision of Jesus Transfigured. As part of his ministry, Jesus took three of his disciples, Peter, James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them.  Peter still doesn’t quite get the point in suggesting that Jesus is so important that he is the equal of Moses and Elijah, but his intentions are good, and Peter’s respect, reverence and piety are endearing. 

Jesus’ face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three tabernacles, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love. With him I am well pleased. Listen to him!

When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up.” He said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

Matthew 17:2-8.

Prayer. Lord, we pray we might see you as you are. It is good to be in your presence, here in prayer. There is something so awesome in your divinity, when revealed, it causes us to fall to the ground, terrified. Come to us, Lord Jesus – touch us. Soothe our fears with your gentle instruction. When we look rightly, you are all we need.

The vision of the Ascension of Jesus. After Jesus suffering and resurrection, he showed himself to his disciples over a period of forty days. Jesus gave some final instructions to the disciples when they asked.  The disciples were still thinking about Israel. Jesus’ answer moved their thinking into another plane.

“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”  Jesus said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After he said this, he was taken up before the very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going. Suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee, “” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Acts 1:3-11.

Prayer. Lord, we pray not to know times or dates, but to be your witnesses, from Jerusalem wherever that may be for us, close to home, to the far ends of the earth. You have given us convincing proofs of your life, and it is our life now, too. In your Spirit, we will prophesy, we will see visions, we will dream dreams, all of us who are your servants.

Paul. A man named Saul, a fierce enemy and persecutor of the Lord’s disciples, was on his way to Damascus with letters authorizing him to take Christians as prisoners to Jerusalem. On his way, near Damascus, he was confronted, overwhelmed, by a vision:

Suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul – why do you persecute me?” “Who are you Lord?’ Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city. You will be told what you must do.” The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless. They heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing.

Acts 9:2-8.

Later on, now taking the new name of Paul, to reflect his new identify as a disciple of Christ, Paul had another vision and revelation.  This is a reminder that the fiercest enemies of the Gospel, the Church and the Word of God may be converted and become the most devoted of apostles, friends and advocates. 

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up into the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know – God knows. And I know that this man – whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows – was caught up to Paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.

2 Corinthians 12:1-4.

Prayer. Lord, grant us your light from heaven. We may have been blind once, but now by your grace we can see. Give us the command to ‘get up.’ Send us where you would. Tell us what we should do. When we do your will, Lord, we will be caught up into the third heaven. In your presence, we will be caught up into Paradise. Teach us inexpressible things, Lord, in accordance with your will.

John’s series of visions and revelations. The disciple John, a brother and companion in the suffering and the kingdom, now an old man imprisoned on the island Patmos, had a revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place.

On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet. . . .

I turned around to see about the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a Son of Man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One. I was dead, and behold I am alive – for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and hell.

Revelation 1:10-18.

The Apostle John had other visions, many visions.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. . .

Then the angel showed me the River of the water of life, as clear as a crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the Tree of Life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

Prayer. Lord, your eyes blaze like fire. You hold stars in your hand and your words are the sharp words of Holy Scripture. Your face shines like the sun, brilliant. Grant us your grace, Lord, and we will show others the River of Life, the twelve crops of fruit of the Holy Spirit. The leaves which are for healing of the nations. Help us, Lord, to receive your visions and to do your will.
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