Second Corinthians runs throughout this week of reading, so I hope you’re enjoying Paul’s interactions with the various churches he supported.
This week in the Old Testament is a bit of a whirlwind! We’ll finish Ecclesiastes, get all the way through Song of Solomon (Fun Fact: Medieval Jewish Rabbis discouraged anyone under 30 from reading Song of Solomon because it was erotic.), and head into the prophets, starting with the granddaddy (not biologically, just size-wise) of them all: Isaiah.
One really cool thing to look for in Isaiah is the connection between it and the New Testament, particularly the gospels. Jesus quotes Isaiah more than any other book! Plus, Isaiah has a lot of beautiful prophecies that Jesus fulfills. Plus, if you’ve ever heard Handel’s Messiah, you’ll recognize a very poetic portion of chapter 9.
You’re doing great! You are now officially two-thirds of the way through the Bible! Keep it up!!!
Have you ever been on a seesaw when the weight distribution on either end is way off? One person ends up doing all the work. It’s not the other person’s fault. They just physically can’t get down to the ground. This is a crude analogy of what Paul’s talking about when he encourages believers not to marry nonbelievers. They are simply not equally matched when it comes to their spiritual lives.
- 9-12 – These verses are key in helping us understand the importance of friendship and being in relationship in general. We are designed to lean on others and have them lean on us as well.
- 13 – The things that we value, wealth and power, are not always the things that benefit us most.
- 1-3 – These verses encourage us to enter God’s presence with reverence and awe. We are to listen for God first instead of assuming we know what he wants and how we should act.
- 4-7 – It is better not to tell God we’re going to do something and not do it than to never promise anything at all. This is similar to the parable Jesus tells in Matthew 21.
- 1-6 – Possessions truly don’t matter. Most of the time, when we have lots of things, we’re worried about maintaining possession of those things and often don’t enjoy them. This is a waste of life.
2 Corinthians 6:14-7:7:
- 14-18 – These verses are often used when explaining why believers should not marry nonbelievers. Similar arguments could be made for going into business with nonbelievers. Believers cannot expect nonbelievers to have the same priorities, beliefs, and understandings as them. As believers we are called to be transformed and to put Christ first. This effects every aspect of life.
- 5-7 – Paul’s unquenchable joy is so apparent here. He explains to the Corinthians the difficulties he has faced, but continues to rejoice in hearing of other believers joining in the battle with him.
- Our God is worthy of our praise. We should sing to him and honor him with song.
- God does not take kindly to the powerful oppressing the weak in any circumstance. He calls us to care for the poor, the widow, the orphan, the child, and the one who is new to the faith.
Today we start a new book, Ecclesiastes. Have you ever felt like you’re spinning your wheels? Not getting anywhere? Making futile efforts? You’re not alone. Solomon felt that way too at times. But through all his searchings and efforts, he ultimately found truth. Ecclesiastes is worth your time.
- 9 – “There is nothing new under the sun” is repeated throughout Ecclesiastes. This is used to remind us that the triumphs, tragedies, as well as daily successes and annoyances, are not new to us. Others have experienced them before us and others will after us.
- 12-16 – The traditional understanding is Solomon wrote this book. He is identified as a king, in the line of David, and having greater wisdom than anyone else. Some modern theologians argue that the language suggests that it had to have been written after the exile and thus was someone else. It has not been proven that Solomon didn’t write it. (We will refer to the writer as Solomon throughout the notes for simplicity sake.)
- 17 – “Chasing/striving after wind” is a repeated phrase in Ecclesiastes too. This simply means that it is a futile effort.
- 1-11 – First, Solomon sought out pleasure in wild living and material things. He found out, as many of us could tell him from our own experiences, that wasn’t going to work.
- 12-26 – Solomon then pursues wisdom and working hard to gain wealth. Both also prove to be pointless because it puts you in no better position when you die.
- 1-8 – These verses will sound familiar because of the popular song by The Byrds. These verses explain that God made everything to run in its course in its allotted time. We will face the good and the bad, but nothing should overwhelm or overtake us because it is passing.
2 Corinthians 6:1-13:
- 3-10 – Paul lists the merits of his ministry. Their boasting is not in their own accomplishments, but their ministry is legitimized by all God has brought them through and done through them.
- It is not the fault of the child that he is foolish. It is his nature. It is the job of the parent to discipline him and lead him to wisdom.
How do you know if you’re saved? You must become a new creation. In other words, you can’t live the same way and be the same as you were before and be saved. Salvation transforms us into the new creation God originally intended. Just think of it as baking eggs into a cake. You can’t get those eggs back, but they’ve now become something so much better!
- 1-14 – God seems angry that Job would not respond to him. Job had had so many questions for God in his previous speeches but is unwilling to speak in God’s presence.
- 40:15-41-34 – God describes both the Behemoth and the Leviathan. The original words are related to something like a hippopotamus and a crocodile, but also could have been mythical type creatures. They are both very strong and powerful and cannot be contained. The point is how much bigger and stronger they were than Job but that God was still the master of them.
- 1-6 – Job finally speaks and it is with utter humility.
- 7-9 – Ultimately Job is justified from his friends’ accusations and is able to pray for their forgiveness.
- 10-17 – Though Job went through a lot, God blesses him for his faithfulness even in the midst of terrible difficulty.
2 Corinthians 5:11-21:
- 11-13 – Paul had been accused of boasting in himself and even of not being in his right mind. He says that if any of these accusations are at all true, it is solely for the sake of winning these people for Christ.
- 17 – We cannot be saved and remain the same as we were before. That old self is no longer, but we are made into new creations in Christ.
- 18-19 – We can have complete reconciliation to God through Christ. Our sins are no longer counted against us.
- Some translations say this song was intended for a royal wedding.
One of the cool thing about reading the Bible this way is sometimes you can see direct connections between the Old and New Testament or between the New Testament and the Psalm, etc. Today, our psalm is very similar to the message of Job. Like Job, the Israelites in the psalm are wondering what they could have possibly done to feel so rejected by God. You may have felt this at some point. Hopefully you can reflect on your readings and realize, God is never too far away and always meets us when we are most in need.
- 1-24 – Elihu speaks of the majesty of God based on his workings in nature.
- Chapters 38 and 39 are a series of God proving his omnipotence, power, and control over the universe. He does this to remind Job that he is in no position to question God, his actions, or his motives.
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:10:
- 15 – The more people know God and receive his grace, the more people will offer him praise and thanksgiving. It’s a beautiful cycle.
- 17-2 – These verses remind us that we shouldn’t focus on the fleeting things that are earthly because we have far greater eternal things waiting for us.
- This section is similar to Job. The Israelites can’t think of how they may have brought affliction upon themselves and yet they feel rejected by God. This is most likely not referring to the exile when God did reject Israel for a while because then Israel’s sins had been explained to them over and over before God acted.
I have come to hate the word “deserve”. It wreaks of entitlement and, honestly, what do we actually deserve? In today’s Job reading, Job is trying to rebut Elihu. Job argues that just because we live righteously, we are not guaranteed blessings. We live righteously because that’s what we’re called to do. We don’t, then, deserve a reward for doing so.
- 1-37 – Elihu continues to assert, like Job’s friends, that God cannot do anything unjust. He also contrasts Job with someone who repents suggesting that Job has not and needs to. They continue to assume that Job has sinned to cause all this destruction.
- 1-16 – Elihu continues to argue with Job and correct him for saying that righteousness doesn’t earn a reward from God.
- 1-33 – Though Elihu, for the most part sings praise to God for his greatness, he also calls himself “perfect in knowledge”, which seems to equate himself with at least the knowledge of God. This seems counter to the majority of his thoughts.
2 Corinthians 4:1-12:
- 5 – This is something we must make sure we are doing. We are not trying to bring glory to ourselves or promote ourselves as saviors, but to share Christ with the nations.
- 7 – We are the jars of clay. Jars of clay are fragile and hold the thing that is important. We have the Holy Spirit inside us.
- 8-12 – Though Paul and his companions had received a lot of persecution and difficulty, they were still able to share the gospel. Nothing had been able to destroy them.
- 1-3 – These three verses explain the importance of sharing our faith with younger generations. The Sons of Korah believed in God’s power and provision because their fathers told them how he had displayed it.
- 11-12 – Kindness and graciousness will always gain you favor, while hateful words are eventually found out.
In today’s Job reading, Elihu encourages Job to repent, but Job feels that he has nothing to repent of. Though Job may have been right, the conversation brings up a good point: we all require repentance. Repentance is hard because it means turning away from sin and sin is often enticing. So, if I may briefly play the role of Elihu, is there something you need to repent of today?
- 1-40 – Job makes a case for his high moral standards. He seems to be willing to accept his plight as punishment if sin can be found in him.
- 2 – Elihu is a new character and an Israelite.
- 6 – Age, experience, and establishment were highly revered in their culture. They saw the elderly as wise. We tend to see them as having lost their edge.
- 1-33 – Elihu tries to relate to Job so that Job will listen to him and then explains that God is continually trying to steer people away from sin. Elihu also suggests that Job’s experience may have been God giving him an opportunity for repentance.
2 Corinthians 3:1-18:
- 1-3 – This is to say that the faithful Corinthians were proof of Paul and his companions’ efforts to share Christ with the nations.
- 4-6 – “The letter” refers to the law. It led to death because people could not follow it and remain righteous while the Spirit is given to us upon salvation and thus gives life.
- 16-18 – The Spirit brings freedom from sin and death.
- 3 – This is actually a pretty bold request, because if God sends his light and truth to lead you, then that’s what you have to follow. We aren’t always willing to make that commitment.
- These verses give the consequences of the actions mentioned in yesterday’s proverb and then offers an alternate option.
As modern day Americans, we can fulfill most of our needs on our own. Though this may sound like a great thing, it actually has great potential to cripple us spiritually. Read today’s Psalm. Note that the psalmists need for the Lord is so great, it manifests as a physical need. It’s scary to have that much reliance on someone else, but God will never let us down.
Job 28:1-30:31 –
- 1-28 – This section of poetry elaborates on the extent of God’s wisdom. It seems like an odd insertion and is stuck between two sections where “Job takes up his discourse” so it seems odd that this too would be him speaking.
- 1-31 – Job is lamenting as he remembers how great his life was. He used to be a respected member of his community and now is forgotten and despised.
2 Corinthians 2:12-17:
- 14-17 – Thinking about being the fragrance of Christ suggests that our responsibility of sharing Christ with others goes far beyond simply saying the words. We are to exude the nature of Christ to the world.
- 1-3 – These verses depict a desire for God so great that it becomes an actual, physical need.
One of the great benefits of reading the Bible in its entirety is seeing the prophecies and expectations over centuries fulfilled in Christ’s coming. In today’s 2 Corinthians reading, Paul maps out a number of these fulfillments. What prophecy that Jesus fulfills is most powerful to you?
- 2-7 – Job believes if he could get an audience with God, God would agree that he had been far too righteous to receive such a harsh and heavy hand.
- 1-25 – Job explains that often, throughout life, the poor have difficulties and the wicked reap the benefit. He seems to explain that God doesn’t seem to be watching, but in the end he explains that everyone is brought low in the end.
- 1-6 – Bildad quickly retorts that God is simply greater than humans and cannot be compared.
- 1-6 – Here Job resolves not to turn his back on God, but to remain faithful.
- 7-23 – Here Job lays out how he hopes his enemies are treated in the end.
2 Corinthians 1:12-2:11:
- 20 – All the sacrifices, laws, and prophecies given for thousands of years were fulfilled in Christ. We know that everything God promises us becomes a “yes” through Christ and his offer of salvation.
- 1-4 – Paul’s intentions did not go over well with the Corinthian church. His visit seems to have caused them pain when he meant for it to show them his love for them.
- 5-11 – Paul urges the group to forgive those who sin against the group. Amongst believers, this is very important so the devil doesn’t have an easy way in.
- 1-3 – Here David explains how God will repay those who have cared for the poor in life.
- 4-13 – This is encouragement not to listen to what others say of you, but to believe what God says about you.
- 6 – It is difficult to guide and discipline a child. In our society, it is even harder to assure they are raised in the faith. As difficult as it is in the moment, it is the easiest way to assure they will be faithful for a lifetime.
Many of us have had to correct someone (i.e. a child, our dog, a coworker) and then go back and reassure them you still love them and are still for them. In addition to other topics, this is a key reason for Paul’s second (canonical) letter to the Corinthians. Enjoy!