This week we have a bit of a dichotomy in our reading. Paul praises the Thessalonians for their faithfulness to Christ. Jeremiah preaches destruction to the Israelites for their lack of faithfulness.
One major point for why the Thessalonians were faithful and the ancient Israelites were unfaithful is attached to their willingness (or lack there of) to endure difficulties for their faith.
Over and over Paul praises the Thessalonians for enduring persecution for their faith and their diligence in sharing the gospel. On the other side, Jeremiah explains that the Israelites continually seek out idols and, when given the opportunity, turn towards the sinful practices of other nations.
What do we tend to fall back on when times are tough? Faithfulness or anything else?
Words tend to be a large part of a variety of our sins. Deceit, manipulation, lies, etc. are all sins of words. Our words have power and we often forget that. Let today’s Proverb remind you to be careful with your words.
1 Samuel 10:1-11:15:
1-8 – Samuel anoints Saul as prince (eventually king) of Israel and explains to him what God will do to confirm that this is all true. It would be pretty hard to believe that you were being anointed as the king of Israel when there had never been one and you weren’t seeking to be king.
9-13 – Though Saul’s anointing hadn’t been made public yet, he was quickly revealed to some people who knew him as a prophet.
20-24 – Though Saul was reluctant, the people of Israel accepted him immediately as king. He looked the part, being tall and handsome.
1-15 – This story is a little confusing without context. The Ammonites attacked the Israelites in Jabesh-gilead (also known as Jabesh). The men of Jabesh are willing to make a treaty with the Ammonites to serve them. Note that they never seek God’s help throughout the story. The Ammonites want to gouge out an eye because it disgraces the Israelites and renders them unable to fight in battles. The men of Jabesh send for help and the plea reaches Saul. Saul’s army defeats the Ammonites and Saul’s position is solidified with the people.
47-51 – God provided for the physical needs of the Israelites in the desert. God uses Jesus to take it a step further by offering himself up for people’s eternal needs.
52-58 – Jesus did not actually intend for the people to gnaw on his body. He did, however, intend for them to practice communion (which began with the last supper), and to allow his body and blood to be what sustained them.
67-69 – Peter is the only disciple who publicly identifies Jesus as the Messiah or Son of God.
1 – This verse often starts psalms and other portions of Scripture meant for praising God.
8-9 – Too often we forget these things when we feel forgotten, desperate, or alone. It is beautiful when we can remember God’s “wondrous works” and testify to his faithfulness so that other “hungry souls” can hear and be filled.
10-13 – Sometimes we fail and have to face our consequences, but when we cry out to God, he is always faithful to bring us back to himself.
23-32 – This portion of the psalm would have been helpful for the disciples to know when they were in a storm on a boat and panicked.
1-2 – The book of James dedicates a large section to taming the tongue. The tongue is compared to a horse’s bridle or a boat’s rudder. It steers and can control us. This Proverb supports that.
Today’s reading from 1 Samuel says, “the word of the Lord was rare in those days.” We see with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and others, God has conversations and advice for these people throughout their lives. But for a time, whether by God’s choice or because the Israelites had strayed so far from him, God was silent. God’s voice was so absent that Samuel didn’t recognize it when he called. Is it possible that we too have strayed far from God and don’t recognize his voice when he calls?
1 Samuel 2:22-4:22:
25 – Eli’s sons had sinned continually against God, choosing to sin directly against his laws, against the women who served God, and against the offerings given to God. Their hearts were hardened through their vast sins and then God chooses to harden them completely.
27-36 – God cuts off Eli’s family from the priesthood because of his son’s great sins. Though Eli didn’t sin to the extent of his sons, he also didn’t make a great effort to stop them.
1 – This means God was not speaking directly to people much at this time. This could be a choice by God or it could be because of Israel’s distance from God.
4 – Yet another biblical character who responds to God’s call with the faithful response, “Here I am.”
7 – Samuel was still young and hadn’t had a direct encounter with God so he was unable to recognize his voice. In John’s gospel Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd and because of that, the sheep know his voice.
9-10 – A beautiful, willing response.
11-15 – Eli raised Samuel so hearing such a negative report about Eli from God would be quite troubling to the young man. It is not surprising that he was scared to tell Eli.
19 – Samuel was eager to learn all he could from the Lord.
3-11 – The Ark of the Covenant, which contained the Ten Commandments, represented the presence of God. God could have caused the Israelites to defeat the Philistines but decided not to because of the sins of Hophni and Phinehas.
22 – The Ark of the Covenant being captured would be like Washington D.C. being taken over by our enemies. But it was even worse than that because it represented God no longer being in their presence.
25-29 – This passage tells us that there will be a resurrection for the dead and both believers and non-believers will be judged by Christ.
45-47 – The Jews based their holiness and worthiness on Moses’ law. When Jesus says it is Moses that will accuse them before God and not him, he is expressing that none of them have succeeded in meeting Moses’ standards and thus none can be justified before God.
4-5 – God was extremely gracious to his people, the Israelites and the psalmist is asking for inclusion on this treatment.
7-12 – Of all the great works God did for the Israelites, clearly the most significant to them was being rescued from Egypt. It is, far and away, the most referenced act of God throughout the Old Testament.
This portion of the proverb contrasts peace and dissatisfaction. The former gives us life, while the other sucks it out of us.
Like in today’s reading from John, Jesus and the religious authorities were in a continual battle and a great deal of it revolved around priorities. The Pharisees and Sadducees knew God’s word and it said you could not work on the Sabbath. Jesus, on the other hand, believed the law’s importance and authority had limits, particularly in light of the suffering of another human. Today, Jesus prioritized a crippled man’s healing over the law. The religious authorities did not approve.
1 Samuel 1:1-2:21:
5 – It was not unusual for a man to abandon a barren wife.
1-8 – Note the similarities between these two women and Rachel and Leah. The less loved wife is able to bear children. Rivalry ensues. But notice how differently Hannah deals with her situation than Rachel.
8 – Elkanah sounds like a wonderful, loving man.
11 – Hannah is offering the son she hopes for up as a Nazirite, dedicated to the Lord’s service, like Samson.
19-20 – Obviously a huge answer to prayer! Note that in ancient Israelite culture, name’s had deep meaning. We’ve seen this a lot. Name’s were not given frivolously, but with great purpose and thought.
24-28 – What an incredibly difficult follow through! Hannah desperately wanted a son, but promised him to God’s service. She follows through with her promise and gives Samuel to the Lord. I’m not sure that I could do the same.
1-10 – The deep faith and commitment to God expressed in her prayer makes it a little more clear how she was able to keep her promise.
12-17 – The sons of Eli would have been priests as well and were not following the laws of how to sacrifice, but instead, taking the parts of the sacrifice that were meant for God.
2-9 – We often read these stories and think they’re neat or nice but fail to feel the weight of it. The man beside the pool had been an invalid for 38 years! 38 years is a long time to be sick or disabled! And then suddenly, with just a word, he is able to walk. That’s incredible!
9-17 – The religious leaders were very intent on keeping the law. Note that they did not rejoice that the crippled man was healed, they noticed his infraction of picking up his mat. We can tend to be pretty bad about that too. “Sin no more” is also an interesting statement because you wonder what sin of this man Jesus is referring to. He says the same thing to the woman at the well, but he was addressing a specific sin.
The continuation of this Psalm tells more of the story of God’s faithfulness to the Israelites through their escape from Egypt and his provision for them in the desert. If you were an Israelite reading or hearing this, it would be a great reminder of the lengths to which God was willing to go to save you.
Quick reactions, decisions, and emotions continue to be associated with folly.
Temptations are all around us. They’re so sneaky that at times, we don’t even know we’re being tempted. And though sin can be avoided, temptation cannot always be, but it is incumbent upon those of us who are believers to not create or introduce temptations to others. Instead, it is our job to lead others closer to Christ.
14-15 – Note that the Israelites and Joshua did not ask God what they were supposed to do in this situation.
19 – This is the reason the gospels say to “let your yes be yes and your no be no” and not to swear by God or anything else. They’ve made a promise with the Hivites that was not sanctioned by God and could cause them to have to disobey God’s instructions later.
12-15 – Sometimes it is hard for us to believe in some of the miracles described in the Bible, but we are told that with God all things are possible and we know that he is not constrained by the same things we are.
19-31 – We are often consumed with our own comfort on earth, but this story clearly tells us that comfort on earth is fleeting. It is our job to help comfort the afflicted while on earth and then enjoy comfort in heaven.
1 – Temptations are inevitable in life, but far be it for us to provide those temptations for others, particularly those who are earlier in their faith journey.
3-4 – We are not to judge, but we are to lovingly call people out for their sins. We are also called to forgive as we’ve been forgiven.
In today’s Deuteronomy reading we find the passage our children’s ministry is based on: Deuteronomy 6:4-9. It encourages us to be so immersed in the Bible that it is natural to teach it to our children as we spend time with them daily. I’d say reading the Bible every day for a year is a pretty great way to start the immersion.
Moses reminds the Israelites of the 10 Commandments the Lord gave them. This is a bit of an extended version of the commandments.
4-9 – This is the passage our children’s ministry uses as a guide. It encourages parents to pass down to the faith to their children and encourages families to keep God’s Word at the forefront.
10-15 – We often take pride in the things we have even when we did not earn or work for them. This often leads to relying on entities other than God.
16 – Jesus quotes this when he is tempted by the devil in the desert.
25 – When we put our faith into action, it is counted to us as righteousness.
11-17 – This woman would have been in bad shape. Widows relied on male relatives to take care of them after their husbands died and this was her only son who had just died.
18-19 – John believed that Jesus was the Messiah but needed confirmation.
22-23 – Jesus quotes the same part of Isaiah that he did in the synagogue in chapter 4. But he leaves one significant line out: that the prisoners would be set free. John was in prison at the time and would most likely understand that Jesus was saying he would not be released, but that Jesus was the Messiah.
26-27 – Jesus confirms that John was the messenger the prophets foretold and he is the Messiah for whom the messenger was to prepare the way.
In today’s psalm, David sounds like a man who would not let anything stand in the way of his pursuit of God. He hungered and thirsted for God. This relentless pursuit leaves me feeling both convicted, “I don’t think I have that kind of passion.” and inspired, “I want to pursue God with that kind of fire.” What about you?
Killing the women and male children seems extremely harsh, but the Israelites were always tempted to mix with other nations when they weren’t completely wiped out. Moses reminds them of their indiscretions in Peor caused by their unwillingness to follow God’s commands completely.
During Jesus’ temptation he is physically weak but is filled with the Holy Spirit. This can teach us a lot about what we truly need.
Both Jesus and the devil use Scripture. Jesus uses it to remain faithful to God. The devil twists it to try to cause Jesus to sin.
18-19 – Jesus establishes his purpose throughout his ministry.
24-30 – Jesus’ words are offensive to those in the synagogue because he is suggesting that they will not be healed. They try to kill him but clearly his purpose wouldn’t be fulfilled through that death so he is able to escape from them.
The fervor with which David seeks and longs for God is both convicting and inspiring.
The Year of Jubilee sounds a little like the Oprah when she gave everyone in her audience cars. People get to return home. Debts are forgiven. You don’t have to work in the field. It sounds great! God created it for rest, restoration, and hope, and you can see where it would offer just that.
10-16 – If the blasphemer had been fully Egyptian or from any other nation, he would not have been held to the same standard but because he was an Israelite, he was subject to their law.
8-9 – The number 7 in the Bible represents completion.
13-17 – The year of jubilee resulted in restoration of the way things should be, joy, and rest.
Israelites were intended to care for one another, not profit off of one another.
15 – How do you think a child would receive the kingdom of God?
17-22 – Though this young man is often seen in a negative light, note that Jesus looks on him and loves him. The young man simply had his priorities out of order. He loved his things more than he wanted to follow Jesus.
29-30 – What we sacrifice for God, he repays 100x.
31 – Much of Jesus’ ministry was combatting cultural norms and flipping them upside down.
17 – Are we still faithful when we feel separated and/or forgotten by God?
Leviticus 13-16 seems obsessed with how leprosy, blood, and semen make people ceremonially unclean. To modern readers, all the details about what to do if you happen to touch blood, or be menstruating, or have an emission of semen, etc., seem crazy. But to the Israelites, this was actually helpful information.
Leviticus 15:31 explains why. The Lord tells Moses:
“Thus you shall keep the people of Israel separate from their uncleanness, lest they die in their uncleanness by wdefiling my tabernacle that is in their midst.”
It was a matter of life and death that the Israelites not enter the presence of God in an unclean state, so the purity laws in Leviticus are meant to help the Israelites know when they are unclean, and to know how to become clean again. Note that “clean” and “unclean” are not moral categories–good people would become ritually unclean all the time.
When Jesus came along, he explained (see today’s reading in Mark 7:1-23–great timing!) that though the ancient people thought that external circumstances could make a person unclean, in fact it is what comes out of a person’s heart-internal circumstances–that make a person unclean. So, we no longer concern ourselves with ritual uncleanness, because Jesus’s death (the ultimate sacrifice) makes all who trust in him clean before God.