Mision to the Powerful

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(Daniel 1-3, 2 Kings 5, John3)
Lesson Number: 

Lesson 9

Mission to the Powerful

(Daniel 1-3, 2 Kings 5, John 3)

Copr. 2023, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. If you normally receive this lesson by e-mail, but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this link: http://www.GoBible.org. Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study.

Introduction: Have you ever converted a very high status person to belief in Jesus? The Old Testament has many warnings not to cheat or abuse the poor, and to help them when they are in need. For some reason I think that causes Christians to focus on soul-winning for those who have little power. That makes absolutely no sense from either a practical or Biblical (Leviticus 19:15) point of view. If you had a computing company, would you want to gather low power calculators or the highest power computers? While every soul has equal worth before God, powerful people have a sphere of influence that a poor person would have great difficulty matching. Let’s jump into our study of the Bible and look at how God has used powerful people to advance His work!

  1. Daniel
    1. Read Daniel 1:1-2. What has happened to Judea? (It has fallen to the Babylonians.)
    2. Read Daniel 1:3-4 and Daniel 1:6. Was Daniel a person of high status before Judah was defeated? (Yes. He was either royalty or nobility. He was smart and educated.)
    3. The story of Daniel continues by explaining that Daniel is given special training by the Babylonians. As a result, Daniel chapter 2 reveals that Daniel is among the group expected to be able to reveal the contents and meaning of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Read Daniel 2:31-35. What do you know about this dream? (If you read Daniel 2:37-45 you will see that this dream maps the future of the world including the Second Coming of Jesus.)
    4. Read Daniel 3:1-2. What has happened to that dream? (It is now imperfectly reflected in this huge image that people from all over the kingdom will see.)
      1. Assume that God gave this dream to a homeless person and Daniel interpreted it for him. How far would that have gone? (Most likely nowhere. Because Nebuchadnezzar is the target for God’s message, the king spreads it everywhere.)
        1. Did you notice in this story a problem with targeting the rich and powerful with the gospel? What is that problem? (A powerful person is likely proud. Because of his pride, Nebuchadnezzar misrepresents the dream by the way he makes the image.)
  2. Naaman
    1. Read 2 Kings 5:1-2. Who gave Syria the victory? (The text says that God did.)
      1. Who do we find in this text that reminds you of Daniel? (The unnamed little girl.)
        1. Is there any indication that this little girl, like Daniel, was someone of high intelligence and status? (No.)
    2. Read 2 Kings 5:3-5. Why would Naaman believe this little girl? (There must be more to this story. While it could be that Naaman is desperate, this little girl must have shown special qualities. One being that she was reliable.)
    3. Read 2 Kings 5:6-7. How did the King of Israel receive the request from the King of Syria? (He thought that it was an attempt to start a war.)
      1. The King of Israel is an important and powerful man. He would be the logical person to share the knowledge of God with Naaman and the King of Syria. Why not use him? Why use this powerless girl?
    4. Read 2 Kings 5:8-10. What is wrong with the King of Israel? (He is not alert to opportunities to share the gospel.)
      1. What is wrong with Elisha? Why not use this opportunity to evangelize a powerful man as opposed to insulting him?
    5. Read 2 Kings 5:11-13. Who saves the day for Naaman? (His servants.)
      1. What challenge do we again find in witnessing to the powerful? (Their pride is a problem.)
      2. Do you think that Elisha anticipated this and made pride a test for Naaman? Is that why Elisha did not greet Naaman?
    6. Read 2 Kings 5:14. Does pride prevent you from receiving more opportunities and benefits from God?
    7. Read 2 Kings 5:15-16. What has happened that will tremendously advance the Kingdom of God? (One of the most powerful men in Syria now acknowledges the true God.)
    8. Read 2 Kings 5:17. What is going on here? Why does Naaman make this strange request? (A popular idea was that a god was sovereign over his specific territory. Naaman now believes that the God of Israel is sovereign over all, but he thinks that he needs some dirt from Israel on which to properly worship Him when he gets back to Syria.)
    9. Read 2 Kings 5:18. What is Naaman’s concern? (That he will appear to be worshiping Rimmon by bowing down to that god.)
      1. What does Naaman ask of Elisha? (He is asking God, not Elijah, for forgiveness when he bows down to Rimmon.)
    10. Read 2 Kings 5:19. How do you understand Elisha’s answer? Is he approving bowing to Rimmon? Is he simply telling Naaman not to worry about it right now, he will be able to work out the correct answer in the future? (The Bible commentators are against a reading that approves bowing down to false gods.)
    11. Let’s step back from both our Daniel and Naaman stories and consider how powerful men were approached to learn of the true God. What lessons do you learn? (These powerful men were not approached by their peers. Rather, they were approached by those who were slaves.)
      1. How would you apply this lesson when working to convert the powerful to believe in Jesus? Should you start by converting their staff?
  1. Nicodemus
    1. Read John 3:1-2. When Nicodemus said, “we know,” on whose behalf is he speaking? (It sounds like he is speaking for the ruling class. Not too long ago I read about an archeological discovery that suggested the House of Nicodemus was a powerful and wealthy family.)
      1. Is this message a compliment?(Nicodemus must have thought so. However, it was not the message Jesus wanted. He was not from or with God, He was God incarnate.)
    2. Read John 3:3. What about a little informal talk first? What about returning the compliment? How do you think Nicodemus would understand Jesus’ statement? (Jesus says that Nicodemus could not go to heaven unless he was born again. Likely, Nicodemus thought this meant he could not go to heaven.)
      1. Let’s consider this. Nicodemus compliments Jesus by saying that He is a teacher “come from God,” and Jesus essentially responds, “You are not going to heaven unless you change.” Is that the way to approach the proud?
    3. Read John 3:4. Nicodemus tells Jesus this does not make sense. Do you think Jesus intended for Nicodemus to understand? (In John 3:5-8 Jesus explains. Nicodemus probably understood the baptism part, since this was a Jewish practice, but the Holy Spirit birth was not understood.)
    4. Read John 3:9-10. Nicodemus now says that he does not understand and Jesus insults him. Why? (I suspect no one insulted Nicodemus. This got his attention. It made him think.)
    5. Read John 3:11-15. What is Jesus asking Nicodemus to believe? (That Jesus is the Messiah. He is God. He is the “serpent” on which the people looked and lived.)
      1. How would you describe Jesus’ approach to Nicodemus? Is He deferential? (He is not. I’m sure I don’t understand the cultural issues, but Jesus seems insulting.)
      2. Is this how we should approach the powerful? (Keep in mind that we are not God. Elisha also insulted Naaman. Romans teaches us to respect and honor those who are due it (Romans 13:7). Peter tells us to honor everyone (1 Peter 2:17). Sometimes shaking a person’s pride of opinion causes them to rethink their position.)
    6. Friend, do you have some new ideas about how to share the gospel with the powerful? Since we are not God, but the Holy Spirit is, why not ask the Holy Spirit to give you the right approach when witnessing to the powerful?
  2. Next week: Mission to the Unreached: Part 1.