Speaking in tongues is one of those things that people use as an example of why Christianity is weird. Many Christians are even totally turned off by it. Speaking in tongues is a gift of the Spirit, so it, in and of itself, is a good thing. The discomfort is often because we are simply not familiar with speaking in tongues or that gift is being used incorrectly. Paul goes to great lengths in our 1 Corinthians reading to explain how and when this special gift should be used. Hopefully this will clear up a little confusion and assuage some fear.
- 4:1-5:27 – Job’s friend, Eliphaz, suggests that it is Job’s sin that has brought his troubles about. While sin does bring on some of our afflictions, ancient cultures believed that all infirmities and difficulties (i.e. blindness or paralysis) were brought on by the sin of you or your parents.
- 6:1-7:21 – Job’s response asks to be shown whatever sin he has. He ends by asking God why he won’t take the pain and torment off of him.
1 Corinthians 14:18-40:
- 18 – Paul says this to explain that he’s not jealous of the Corinthians for being able to speak in tongues, because he can too. Paul spends a good amount of time explaining the proper use of tongues. Clearly the Corinthians were using them incorrectly.
- 20 – A good contrast. Be young in your knowledge and experience of evil. Be wise and mature in your thought.
- 22- This simply means that tongues gain the attention of unbelievers while prophecy serves that purpose for believers.
- 26-33 – Paul is trying to teach the Corinthians how to appropriately use their gifts so they can build up the body instead of confuse it.
- 31 – When the law of God is on our heart, it is considerably easier to follow it.
- Proverbs says similar things in 15:8 and 15:29. Sacrifices from the wicked are not given with the heart that they are intended.
Job is a tough book to read for a number of reasons, but there are a number of takeaways. One major one is in today’s reading. Job reminds us that the Lord gives and thus it is God’s right to take those things away as well. He confirms, though that either way, whether in blessing or wanting, the name of the Lord should be blessed. Here’s a musical version of the same concept:
- 1 – “Blameless and upright” is a description very few people in the Bible receive. Noah, before the flood, was described in a similar way.
- 5 – Job even hedged his bets by sacrificing for his children just in case they were sinful without his knowledge.
- 6-12 – Satan challenged God saying that Job was only faithful because God had, until then, protected him and all his things. God disagrees and allows him to torment Job in order to prove his faithfulness.
- 20-22 – After all the turmoil and trauma Job received back to back to back, he grieved but did not curse God like Satan said he would.
- 3-6 – This time God allows Satan to strike Job with any kind of personal illness as long as he doesn’t kill him.
- 9 – This must be what Proverbs warns against when it talks about basically anything being better than living with a quarrelsome wife.
- 10 – It is obviously much easier to receive the good God gives us, but Job reminds us that we can’t expect the good without being willing to receive bad too.
- 3-26 – Job basically wishes he was never born.
1 Corinthians 14:1-17:
- 5 – Speaking in tongues, unless it is interpreted for the body, is intended to be between that person and God.
- 16-17 – Speaking in ways others can understand is important in the larger body. Paul gives the example that it then allows someone to say “amen” in agreement with what you’ve said. They can only do that if they understood what was said.
- 14-17 – These verses basically explain that wicked people and the Lord are at war over the poor and needy. The wicked try to take them down while the Lord makes sure to lift them up.
- 23-24 – Even though we stumble and struggle at times, if we are faithful, the Lord keeps us from total destruction.
- 26 – What a powerful verse! When we are lazy and sloth-y, we tend to constantly want and need. The righteous, on the other hand, are willing to give and give abundantly.
Though Esther is a unique book, it’s understandable why it was included in Scripture. The Jews narrowly escaped total extinction by an evil man and a weasel king. Purim is still celebrated by Jews today as they remember God’s incredible provision and creativity in assuring that they were not wiped out.
- 10 – The Jews choosing not to plunder their enemies is supposed to be a sign that this was a holy war.
- 23-28 – Purim is a Jewish holiday still observed to this day. It is one of their most joyous occasions as they celebrate avoiding extermination at the hands of Haman.
1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13:
- 1-13 – Known as “the love chapter”, 1 Corinthians 13 is popular at weddings. It is actually helpful in all walks of life when thinking about what it means to love. If you want to know if you’re being loving or if someone is showing you love, place it up against these requirements.
- 1 – We do tend to envy wrongdoers because it often seems they get good things easily and are able to take shortcuts. We want their ease of success and don’t always recognize that that success is often short-lived and always dishonoring to God.
- David continually encourages the hearer of this psalm not to worry about those who are unfaithful and to focus on waiting on the Lord.
- 23 – Our mouths tend to get us into trouble. It is wise to watch our words and think through them carefully.
Yesterday we talked about how God can use any gift he’s given us, using Esther’s beauty as an example. Today, in 1 Corinthians, we look at gifts of the Spirit. These are gifts specifically designed to build up the body of Christ. If you haven’t done a Spiritual Gifts Inventory to figure out your specific gifts, here’s one. Take a few minutes to explore the gifts God has given you.
- 1-3 – Sackcloth and ashes were signs of mourning.
- 4-9 – Esther was distressed by Mordecai’s actions and the fact that he was mourning. She still did not know about the decree to destroy the Jews. Mordecai sent the news through Hathach, the eunuch.
- 11-17 – In order to talk to the king about the decree, Esther had to break the law and risk her life. The king would be well within his rights to have her killed when she approached him.
- 14 – A powerful statement from Mordecai that Esther may have been put in her unique position for this specific purpose.
- 10-11 – Haman must have been fuming as he had to honor the man that he was hoping to have killed.
1 Corinthians 12:1-26:
- 3 – This is to say that the Spirit of God cannot speak against Jesus so if we truly have the Spirit within us, we cannot speak against Jesus.
- 4-11 – We are all given different gifts from the Spirit and these gifts are intended for the building up of the body of Christ.
- 12-20 – All our gifts are meant to work together for the good of the group. We shouldn’t feel bad or be jealous that we don’t have certain gifts. Instead we should use our gift to our best ability in order to benefit the whole.
- 5-9 – These verses explain what all the Lord offers to us. There are vast benefits to loving and serving God. The verses before this, however, profile those who do not honor and love God.
Isn’t it amazing what God can use? We think of God using those who can preach or those who have a heart for service, but we view other gifts and attributes as fairly neutral when it comes to God’s work. That is a mistake. With Esther, God uses her beauty to get her near the king during a key time in Jewish history. It makes you think, what in you, can God use?
- 10-12 – Eunuchs were often assigned to female royalty because they could be trusted to not assault her sexually. It was unheard of, even for the queen, to not obey the king’s commands.
- 10-11 – Esther and Mordecai were Jews living under a Persian king. Mordecai told Esther, as she entered the king’s harem, not to reveal this part of her identity.
- 12-14 – After a year’s worth of dolling up, each girl got one sexual encounter to impress the king. If she didn’t, she was relegated to the harem for the rest of their lives.
- 19-23 – Though the king still didn’t know Esther’s relationship to Mordecai, he still got credit for saving the king’s life.
- 1-6 – It’s not that Haman didn’t want to harm Mordecai, he didn’t want to hurt just Mordecai. He wanted to go ahead and hurt all the Jews.
- 12-15 – Haman is given the power to demand the destruction of all the Jews in the land and he even sets a date for it to happen.
1 Corinthians 11:17-34:
- 23-26 – After Jesus’ death, we see, very early on, Christians participating in communion. Paul is reminding them what it looked like.
- 27-29 – This is why we have a time of confession before we take communion.
- 17 – This verse is different from many of David’s psalms in that it recognizes God’s presence but notes that God is failing to act. Most often, David acts as though God has turned his face away and or has forsaken him. Here he recognizes that God sees what is going on.
- 20 – The wise man takes care of what he has and keeps it safe. The foolish man uses is frivolously.
Chocolate. Money. Cell Phones. These things are all enjoyable and not bad in and of themselves. But any can easily become a god to us if we allow it to. Our proverb, today, reminds us what role our stuff should have in our lives.
- 27-43 – This was a large celebration, led by the Levites, to give thanks for the restoration of Jerusalem.
- 6 – Remember that Nehemiah has asked for leave in order to restore the walls of Jerusalem. At this point, he returns to the king.
- 15-18 – Working on the Sabbath disobeyed one of the 10 Commandments. Nehemiah reminds the people of this and explains that they are engaging in the same kinds of sinful acts that their fathers did which eventually sent them to exile.
- 23-27 – The children not being able to speak the language of Judah is just an example of how intermarrying caused the Israelites to lose their national purity.
1 Corinthians 11:3-16:
- 6 – Apparently short or shaved hair was a disgrace for women at the time. Paul is relating to the present culture to make his point.
- 11-12 – God brought man and woman’s dependence on one another full circle by having woman be created from man in the beginning, but now men come from women in birth.
- 1-6 – David seeks God’s help in his fight against his enemies. David is quick to trust God for help throughout the psalms.
- 17 – It is not bad to love pleasurable things, but it is bad to let them rule us.
How do you help someone follow Jesus? Paul makes it really clear in our 1 Corinthians reading. If I’m following Christ, I can simply invite them to follow me. There is obviously a big “if” involved though. I first have to make sure I’m following Christ in order to ask a perspective disciple to follow me.
- 3-19 – This is the list of people who settled back into Jerusalem.
- 1-26 – These are lists of the various priests and Levites post exile.
1 Corinthians 10:14-11:2:
- 14-22 – Paul urges the Israelites not to participate in the sacrifices offered to idols, but to remember that participating in communion makes us connected to all believers.
- 23-30 – Based on how hard Paul is hammering this point home, clearly the Corinthians were struggling with what was good and lawful to eat. His point is that nothing starts out unclean any longer. However, anything already sacrificed to idols is off limits.
- 1 – The perfect model of discipleship. I can feel confident in asking you to follow me if I am confident that I am following Christ.
- 18 – A good reminder when we or someone we love is heartbroken.
There was a show on Nickelodeon called “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” in the 90s. I couldn’t watch it then and I feel quite certain I probably can’t watch it now. I hate scary things. But our psalm today reminds us how to conquer fear – seek the Lord. Elsewhere in Scripture it says, “perfect love drives out all fear” and frequently when messengers of the Lord show up they’re first words are “fear not”. So, what are you so afraid of?
- 22-31 – The Israelites conquer several nations and have large growth in their population. Both of these fulfill God’s promises to their ancestors.
- 32-33 – This third of a shekel was in addition to the taxes already put in place by former rulers. This was above and beyond.
1 Corinthians 9:19-10:13:
- 19-23 – Paul found ways to relate to all people so he could better present the gospel to them. This should not be misunderstood that he took on other people’s sins to relate to them.
- 24-27 – If athletes are willing to put their body through intense training to win a race, particularly when only one person wins the race, isn’t it worth it for Paul to discipline himself in order to share the gospel?
- 13 – This is the verse often misquoted and misunderstood as saying, “God won’t give you anything you can’t handle.” Read it again. That’s not what it says. This is regarding temptation and it simply says he will give you a way out of the temptation when you face it.
- 4 – Clear instructions on how to handle fear. Seek the Lord.
- 8-10 – We can see and experience God’s provision in so many ways.
- This sounds similar to the gospel story regarding Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16:19-31.
Our psalm today reminds us that our hope should remain in the Lord because he is the only one worthy of putting our hope in. This VBS song from last year reaffirms it:
- 61-65 – While yesterday’s reading was a list of Israelites who returned from exile in Babylon, these verses explain people who returned but could not prove that they were pure Israelites.
- 1-3 – There would have been a huge sense of restoration to the Israelites who were returning to the land given to them by God long before. They wanted to restore their culture as well. Ezra the priest reads the book of Moses’ law to them for hours and they’re all entranced by it.
- 9-12 – The Israelites were mourning for the many years when they were in exile and probably also for the ways they had not obeyed God’s law previously. Nehemiah and Ezra instruct them to, instead, rejoice because they have returned and God has restored them.
- 14-18 – The Feast of Booths was a time when the Israelites were to return to Jerusalem and stay in small booth-like structures to remember the Exodus.
1 Corinthians 9:1-18:
- Paul had been criticized that he was taking money from other believers. He is defending that apostles too have to eat. He did not, however, take a salary so he couldn’t be accused of only preaching for the money.
- 12-19 – We put our hope in all kinds of things that are not the Lord. He is the only one who is worth putting our trust in and yet we are so hesitant to do so.
- Because we are prideful, we often hate instruction or punishment. We rarely recognize that it is for our ultimate good and we need it to grow.
Today’s reading in Nehemiah reminds us how easy it is to get distracted from God’s purposes and plans for us. These days, we have far more avenues for distraction than the post-exilic Israelites. What do you do to keep yourself focused on God’s purposes for your life?
- 1-14 – It is easy to get distracted from the work God has set out for us to do, but Nehemiah was faithful in refusing to be distracted from finishing the restoration of Jerusalem’s wall.
- 6-60 – This is a listing of the people who returned to Israel from exile in Babylon.
1 Corinthians 8:1-13:
- Much of Paul’s instruction in this first letter to the Corinthians regards caring for those who aren’t as far along in their faith development. Though our faith may be strong enough to withstand certain temptations, others’ may not be. We are called to cater to their needs in those situations.
- We are to offer our praises to God because he is able to do great things and he does great things.