A good portion of 1 Corinthians, including today’s reading, are about how to handle things internally, amongst the believers, versus externally, between believers and non-believers. Not that it’s done to be secretive or deceitful, but simply to bless the non-believer and not to cause them to stumble. In a modern context this might mean avoiding language like “the blood of the lamb” that doesn’t make much sense and might sound off-putting to a non-believer when around one. This is not about separation but instead because of the hopes of eventual inclusion.
- 1-5 – The Israelites realized their sin and turned away from it.
- 9-14 – The sin was so rampant amongst the Israelites that they were going to have to be cleansed in shifts.
1 Corinthians 6:1-20:
- 1-8 – Paul is telling the believers not to defame each other, even if justified, in front of nonbelievers because it lessens the chances that they would want to come to faith. He urges them, instead, to accept and forgive a few wrongdoings for the good of the whole.
- 12 – Though all things that God created are permissible for us to use, but not all are beneficial to us and thus should probably be avoided.
- 16-17 – Paul states that when we affiliate ourselves with anything else, we are connected to that thing instead of to the Lord.
- 19-20 – Life is not just about what we want or what we enjoy. We, through our bodies, have been entrusted with the temple of the Lord and should handle it properly.
There are double-standards in the world. Some are frustrating and unfair, while others are totally necessary. In today’s 1 Corinthians reading there is a justified double-standard. It is that believers are held to one moral standard while non-believers are not. We cannot expect non-believers to abide by God’s commands, but we as believers should and should even help one another do so. Yes, it’s a double-standard, but it is a necessary one for believers and non-believers alike.
- 21-23 – Ezra told the Babylonians God would take care of them on their journey, so now he had to put his money where his mouth is. This is why he has the people all call on the Lord through fasting and prayer.
- 31 – God hears their prayers for protection on their journey and answers them.
- 1-2 – The Israelites, and particularly the priests, had just finished traveling safely, because of God’s provisions, and have just completed their burnt offering, and immediately they’re breaking one of the main laws God has given them – to be set apart.
- 6-15 – Ezra’s prayer is honest and forthcoming. He confesses God’s goodness to his people and that they continue to sin against him. Particularly starting in vs. 13, Ezra seems to be very humbled by God’s graciousness in continuing to care for them despite their continued lack of faithfulness.
1 Corinthians 5:1-13:
- 9-11 – This is an interesting perspective. This is encouraging us not to try to avoid all sinners or even those who are still caught up in sin, but to avoid those who call themselves believers and are currently engaging in any of the sins listed. As believers we are called to a higher standard.
- 12-13 – Our moral law and faithfulness to Christ is not to be expected of those who do not believe, but we are to hold our own to Christ’s standards.
- 5 – Jesus repeats the first part of this verse when dying on the cross.
- 6-8 – David continually gives acknowledgment and praise to God for providing protection from his enemies.
It’s finally time for the Israelites to return home from Babylonian exile. They’re city and everything they’d worked to establish is destroyed. They’re still under the watchful eye of their captors, and well, what will their relationship with God be like? Check out these powerful books that you may have overlooked in the past.
It’s interesting how our reading lines up today. We’re reading about Ezra trying to reestablish the function of the second temple and reading a psalm helping dedicate the original temple. But this kind of thing can be confusing at times because the Bible is not chronological. Which temple are we talking about when? Who were contemporaries? Etc. Here is a timeline of some of the major biblical events this will hopefully be helpful.
- 1-6 – When Ezra showed up, it had been 58 years since the dedication of the temple.
- 11-20 – The king gives all the priests permission to go back to Jerusalem with Ezra and to equip the temple with everything it needs.
- 25-20 – Ezra is appointed to begin to rebuild the structure of authority within Jerusalem as people head back to settle there.
1 Corinthians 4:1-21:
- 6-7 – We are not to boast in our gifts or good fortunes because all of it was given to us by God.
- 9-13 – Though Paul’s description of what it’s like to be an apostle of Christ doesn’t sound incredibly appealing, it is well worth it when we get to share Christ with others and bring them to him.
- 16 – This is the goal! We want to be so active in our faith that we can encourage others to live like we do knowing that will help them live more like Christ.
- This would have been written for the first temple dedication, not the one we just read about in Ezra. It very well may have been read at the second dedication too though.
- 5 – A reminder that there is always joy to come.
- 11-12 – These verses, as well as the majority of the psalm, are clearly transitioning out of a time of pain into a time of great celebration. The dedication of the temple would have been such a time of hope for the Israelites.
Obedience is a tricky thing. We often want to obey partially, but that is actually not obedience. The good news is, as our proverb tells us today, we have the Holy Spirit to act a little like bumpers on a bowling lane when our obedience starts to slip. Thank goodness for all the checks and balances God has put in place for us.
- 6-17 – King Cyrus had approved the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, but King Artaxerxes, his predecessor had halted the progress. Now the leaders trying to get it built again were appealing to Darius to allow them to search for the gold and silver vessels used in worship in the original temple.
- 6-12 – King Darius makes a decree putting all the building plans back in progress.
- 16-22 – It would have been a huge celebration for the Israelites to return to their land, dedicate the temple, and celebrate Passover again. It is hard for us to relate to how significant that would have been for them.
1 Corinthians 3:5-23:
- 5-9 – This is great encouragement for people investing in the faith growth of the next generation or anyone really. We are called to be faithful in giving them the information they need. God is responsible for growing it and making it flourish.
- 16-17 – It matters how we treat the dwelling place of the Lord. This is both true of our physical bodies as well as our holistic health.
- We are quick to minimize the power and majesty of God. We look to other things in our lives, or even ourselves, to do the work of God. This psalm reminds us of the power of God and how he should be praised for it.
- 27 – It is the Spirit’s job to test our hearts and help convict us in the places where we are not obeying God.
Do you ever thank God for something before it happens? This takes a great deal of trust to do it genuinely. It means that you truly believe that God will fulfill your need. This is how today’s psalm is written. A requested is made and, presumably, before the prayer is answered, David thanks God for answering it.
- 2 – Zerubbabel and Shealtiel were both in Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew.
- 8 – The Levite men were in charge of overseeing the construction of the temple, but considering how long they had been in captivity, some of them would have never seen the original temple.
- 11 – We see this sentence used in praise over and over, particularly in the Psalms.
- 1-3 – Zerubbabel and Jeshua knew that they were intended to be set apart. We don’t know what the adversaries intended to do, but they aren’t allowed to be a part of the temple build.
- 7-16 – Artaxerxes succeeded Cyrus as king of Persia. Some of his advisors discouraged him from allowing the Israelites to leave exile and return to and rebuild Jerusalem.
- 17-24 – Artaxerxes halts the rebuild of the temple. This must have been a devastating blow to the Israelites who were trying to reestablish their identity.
1 Corinthians 2:6-3:4:
- 11-13 – The Spirit is our advisor on the things of God. The Spirit gives us insight into how God is leading us and what he would have us do.
- 1-4 – Paul is calling out the Corinthians for not having matured spiritually. There are many things he had not taught them because they were not ready for it.
- This Psalm is split into two parts. Verses 1-5 are asking God for help, while 6-9 are thanking God for the help. It is most likely that David is thanking God in advance and simply believing that God will take care of the problem.
- 24 – This is a very intriguing question. It is basically that God guides our paths and leads us to where we need to go. If he is capable of that, who are we to expect to understand why or how he does it?
The exile was one of the most significant events in the history of the Israelites. It’s hard for us to understand, but the Israelites might have felt a little like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz felt. They were plucked from everything they knew and plopped down in a land where they didn’t know the culture and had no freedom or ability to live their normal lives. To make it worse, they had lost what made them special, their unique connection with God.
In our current Old Testament book, Ezra, and the one following, Nehemiah, we get to read about the Israelites’ return from exile. If you imagine that it would be a rocky transition, you’d be right. If you imagine that the former captors would have trouble giving up control. You’d be right.
Take the time to read these less familiar books and try to put yourself in the position of the Israelites though it’s something very difficult for us to imagine.
Today we begin Ezra, which begins telling the story of the Israelites returning from exile. It’s not the smoothest transition and God handles it in some surprising ways, but the Israelites finally get to return to their given land and restoration with God.
- Ezra begins the same way 2 Chronicles ends. It explains that God calls a non-Israelite king, Cyrus, the King of Persia, to return the Israelites from exile and build a new temple since the old one was destroyed when the Israelites were exiled.
- This is an account of all the Israelites left who needed to move back to their own land.
1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5:
- 18-25 – Humility, self-sacrifice, and relying on grace as opposed to our own abilities seems crazy to those who haven’t received salvation through Christ. We see it as freeing and life-giving, but that is not the case for those who seek other things for value.
- 26-31 – We see this throughout Jesus’ ministry and his disciples’ after him. He flips all cultural norms on their heads. Just look at the Beatitudes or the parables.
- 1-5 – Paul did not seek to impress or argue people into faith, but simply to share his experience with salvation.
- 8 – David commits to following God’s command to seek him no matter what else is going on.
- 10 – David knew what it was to be forsaken by a parent. Of his 8 brothers, he was the only one not presented as the possible next king when Samuel was looking for one of Jesse’s sons to anoint.
- 13 – This is a clear sign of hope and a promise we can hold onto.
- 22 – Interesting that our Psalm reading ended with “wait for the Lord” and the Proverb reading began with it. God must be speaking to us.