Lenten Bible based on Messiah Part 2
Lenten Bible Study
The words from the Bible chosen for Handel’s Messiah form a wonderful sequence, and come to an unforgettable climax. But the Scriptures from which they are taken are crucial: the aim of these group or personal studies is to set the texts in their context, and to see what God’s Word says in these passages.
Hopefully, in a group setting, the leader will take time in advance to go through the relevant Bible chapters, recognizing there may be a need to put the questions in words more appropriate for the particular group. The aim always is to see what the Bible means, what it says, and how it applies to personal and church life.
We pray God will encourage us as we come to the Book where he has chosen to make known his mind and heart, his plans and purposes, and to lead us (as did Newton’s addresses on Handel’s Oratorio over 200 years ago) to his Son, the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ.
on behalf of The John Newton Project
in his grace and in his glory
Lenten Bible studies for groups or individuals
setting in context some of the texts used by Handel in his Oratorio
Suggested Bible translations:
English Standard Version; New International Version;
New Revised Standard Version.
A Bible with cross references is very helpful,
and a Study Bible (e.g. ESV) extremely useful.
Further resources are available at:
Study One: The Lamb of God
Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world
Please read: John 1:19-42
John has introduced Jesus as the eternal Word of God made flesh (1:1-18). He has spoken of John the Baptist as the Forerunner of Jesus. Now we have John the Baptist’s testimony to Jesus, and Jesus calling his first disciples.
1. What does John the Baptist say about who he isn’t, and who he is? (vv 19-23)?
2. In the light of Isaiah 40:3 (please look it up!), which John quotes in verse 23, what is indicated about the new stage God’s plan is entering?
3. What does John tell us about Jesus in verses 24-36? How could we put into our own words the significance of what we are told?
4. How would you summarize what it means to be a Christian disciple from verses 35-42? How does this challenge us about our relationship with Jesus?
5. Although John the Baptist’s ministry was unique, what can we apply to our own lives as we look back over the whole passage?
6. Again looking at the whole passage, how would you contrast Jesus as revealed here with many people’s views of him today?
7. Overall, what impact is this study going to make on our lives?
Study Two: The Servant of God
He was despised and rejected of men… And the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Please read: Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12
From Isaiah 42:1, the prophet has been speaking of “my servant”. Initially, the servant appears to be God’s people . But they have failed him, and in this remarkable passage, it is clear that God’s servant is an individual. He will accomplish God’s remarkable plan for human sin to be justly punished, and for people like us to be put right with God. Remember the prophet wrote hundreds of years before the coming of Jesus, in whom the servant prophecies are clearly fulfilled.
1. With 52:11, read Isaiah 6:1. What phrases occur in both? How is the Servant’s true identity hinted at in 52:13?
2. What sharp contrast is being depicted in 52:14-15, and what two stages in God’s plan are being foretold? (See Matthew 27:24-37 and 28:18-20) “Sprinkle” (52:15) refers to cleansing (see Leviticus ,17).
3. How do you think 53:1-2 was true of the early life of Jesus? How might that encourage those from less privileged backgrounds today?
4. What led so many to oppose Jesus when he came? (53:3, 7-8; cf John 11:45-57, Matthew 27:15-23)
5. How would we put in words, which would help someone not yet a Christian, what the Servant Messiah was going to accomplish through his death? (53:4-8)
6. How was 53:9 very literally fulfilled? (Matthew 27:57-60)
7. If 53:9-10(a) speak of the death of the Servant and 53:10(b)-12 speak of his triumph, what intervening event must be assumed? (One word answer!)
8. What are we told in 53:10-12 about the Servant’s triumph, and what does that mean for us? (on 11(b) see Romans 3:20-26 and -19)
9. In summary, why has it been said that “this passage is one of the most awe-inspiring in the whole Bible?
Study Three: The Son of God – Heir of all things
Unto which of the angels said he say any time, Thou art My son, this day have I begotten thee? …[and again] let all the angels of God worship him.
Hebrews 1:5 and 6
Please read: Hebrews 1:1 – 2:4
The writer wants to warn the Jewish readers of the danger of returning to Judaism at a time of persecution of Christians. He shows the absolute superiority over everything (including angels) of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. A string of Old Testament quotations remind us of how the OT points forward to the coming of the Anointed One (Messiah; in Greek: Christ) – see Luke 24:44-47. The study would be too long of it included questions on all the OT quotations, but perhaps you could follow them up!
1. What are we told in verses 1-4 about the Lord Jesus Christ? (There are 9-10 marvellous truths here!) Can you think of other Scriptures (including from Jesus’ own teaching) that say the same?
2. What implications do verses 1-4 have for the way we see God, Jesus, the world and ourselves?
3. Verse 5: see Psalm 2:7. Please read the whole of this Messianic Psalm, and asks how it affects the way we see godless rulers. (“Begotten” speaks of the unique Father-Son relationship, and of a new stage in that relationship at Jesus’ incarnation. It is not denying his eternity – see 1:2(b), John 1:1-3 and John 8:58)
4. Verses 8-9: see Psalm 45:6-7. If possible, read this Psalm too. Originally written for a royal wedding, is it partly “Messianic” in that only the divine Messiah, King Jesus, can perfectly occupy the throne of God’s Kingdom. None of ’s kings was perfect.
So how do we see God’s uprightness/righteousness shown in all that Jesus did on earth, and does now? How should this control personal and church life today? Are there areas where we know we need to recall Jesus’ righteous rule?
5. How may we be encouraged by the ministry of angels? (verses 13-14; see, eg, Acts 8:26; 12:6-11)
6. How can we drift away from the Gospel, and what are the dangers of doing so? (2:1-4)
Study Four: The Gospel of Peace
How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things… Their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words unto the ends of the world.
Romans and 18
Please read: Romans chapter 10
This chapter comes in the middle of Paul’s final doctrinal (teaching) section in Romans (9-11). Following his unfolding of God’s wonderful way of peace with himself through Jesus’ death for us (-26) and faith in him (5:1-5), these chapters speak of God’s sovereignty, and yet our real human responsibility.
In 10:1-4, Paul’s concern is for devout Jews who are still trying to “establish their own righteousness” before God – ie to achieve their own right standing with God. There is no hope that way (-20). Such people fail to see that God’s Old Testament Law (the Ten Commandments etc) should lead us to Christ as Saviour because no-one can keep God’s Law as he/she should.
1. Do we encounter today people who are still trying to work their way to heaven through what they do, and where are we likely to find them? (verses 1-4)
2. How can we help those seeking to “win their way” to God?
3. How can we encourage one another in praying for such individuals?
The point of verses 5-7 is that we don’t have to go searching for the way back to God. The Messiah (Christ), the living Word, has come to us, and now “the word of faith” (verse 8) – the message of faith in Christ – is being proclaimed.
4. What do verses 8-13 tell us about the way back to God?
5. How would we explain this to someone who is not yet a Christian believer, and especially to someone who is a religious “do-gooder”?
6. Why is it so important to make the Gospel known; and how can we take forward Gospel outreach in our churches and through our witness? (verses 14-18) (“Sent” in verse 15 applies to those specially sent out by the churches – eg Acts 13:1-3 – but all Christians are “sent” to spread the Word of the Gospel – Acts 8:1-4)
7. Verses 19-21 speak of surprised Gentiles (non-Jews) finding God “showing himself” (verse 20) to them through Christ, and of God’s sadness at ’s rejection of him. Is there someone in the group who was surprised to find that God in Christ was seeking him/her, and “showing himself” to them? (It’s always helpful for Christians to share testimony!)
Study Five: King of kings and Lord of lords
Hallelujah for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth… King of kings and Lord of lords
Revelation 19:6 and 16
Please read: Revelation chapter 19
“Revelation can be regarded as a drama in eight scenes” (Michael Wilcock). Many of the scenes are like an incoming tide, depicting the nature of this age from the first coming of Messiah (the birth of Jesus) until his return as Judge – King of kings and Lord of lords. Chapter 19:1-10 depicts the final fall of Babylon, a symbol (beginning with Babel in Genesis 11) of human society organizing itself apart from God. The rest of chapter 19 tells of the overthrow of the beast (representing the empires of the world that demand absolute allegiance (see Revelation 13 and Daniel 7), and of the false prophet (representing leaders and teachers from outside or inside the church) that leads God’s people astray (Matthew ).
The 24 elders (the 12 patriarchs of and the 12 apostles) represent the totality of God’s people, and the four living creatures the whole of God’s renewed creation (19:4).
1. What are we told about God himself in verses 1-10, and what is indicated about our right response to him? How can we express this in our lives now?
2. What do verses 7-9 indicate about the relationship of the Lord Jesus Christ and his church? Why is he called the Lamb and the church his Bride? (See John 1:29, Exodus 12:3, Isaiah 53:7, 1 Peter 1:19; and Ephesians 5:21-33.)
3. What difference would it make to our church’s life to live in the light of this?
4. Verse 10: “The point is this: prophecy here is the declaration of the message entrusted by God to his servant. It is a function of servanthood…” (PE Hughes). What are the dangers of giving to other beings – angelic or human, living or departed – honour that belongs to God alone?
5. “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild…” How do verses 11-16 show clearly the “other side” to Jesus? (cf John 2:13-17, Matthew 25:31-46)
6. Bearing in mind verses 11-16, how fully do we trust in, live by and proclaim the Jesus of “all Scriptures”? (Luke 24:47)
7. What are we to learn from the sobering picture of the Last Judgement in verses 17-21? How would we feel if there were not a God who judges wickedness?
8. How far has this series of studies deepened our knowledge of faith in and love for the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Messiah?