Why was Jesus important? Was it solely for him to come and die for our sins?
Obviously, that act of self-sacrifice was crucial. Jesus died, as the sinless Son of God, so that we could live eternally. This week’s readings will serve as a game show host or infomercial announcer saying, “But wait, there’s more!”
Jesus’ life mattered too! In Luke 4, Jesus gives his first sermon, which spells out his purpose for coming to the earth. He maps out his ministry basing it on a passage from Isaiah saying he was here to set captives free, give sight to the blind, etc. Then, in the rest of our Luke readings he shows us how we’re supposed to live, which, by no coincidence, is perfectly in line with his purpose for his own ministry.
This week we will also transition from Numbers to Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy is a type of farewell speech for Moses. He has led the Israelites for 40 years through a variety of highs and lows and now will be handing over the reigns. As we transition away from Moses, be prepared for the Israelites to begin to flounder through judges, good and bad kings, and a variety of successes and failures.
It seems that we’re starting a new book almost every week these days. I hope that is great encouragement for you to continue plugging away day by day. We’re doing great!! Keep it up!
Do you ever long for something you used to complain about? Like naps as little kids, now we would die for one in the middle of a long afternoon! In this week’s Numbers readings, the Israelites continue to long for what they begged to get out of. Their wanderings in the desert prove difficult and they think they’d rather be back in Egypt. You’ll also hear a talking donkey, learn the purpose of the Levites, and much more!
This week we also start a new gospel! Luke begins his gospel by explaining that he will provide an orderly, organized account of Jesus’ life and ministry. You’ll recognize his birth narrative from every Christmas Eve service you’ve ever been to. But you may never have noticed that there’s something different from the birth narrative in Matthew. Matthew focuses more on Joseph’s perspective while Luke focuses more on Mary’s.
Some other cool fun facts about Luke:
- Luke also wrote Acts, which we’ll read after John.
- Luke is known for its wide array of Jesus’ parables. Parables are found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but Luke has the most.
- In Luke, women play a larger role than in any other gospel.
- Luke contains both Mary’s Magnificat and Zechariah’s song – both beautiful praise pieces.
Enjoy this week! We’re making great progress! This is the 9th book we’ve started, so we’re doing great!!
I’m not going to lie to you, this week’s Numbers readings are filled with God giving the Israelites a chance, the Israelites complaining about what they’ve been given or what they think they should have been given, and the Israelites longing to return to their slavery in Egypt. Two mistakes we make when reading about the Israelites are to:
- Judge them too harshly – What idiots these folks are! They have access to the living God and yet they fail, complain, and lack trust. Get it together, Israel. Now that I have that out there…don’t we do the exact same thing? Don’t we also make the same mistakes over and over? Don’t we fall into the same sin traps?
- Assume God is mean – God gives the Israelites laws and covenants to protect them from the things that might harm them. The Israelites break the laws and forget their covenants and thus opening themselves up for consequences and attack. God does not desire for them to have these consequences. He set them up to never have to face them.
This week, the first full week of Lent, we also read another account of Jesus’ last week of life. It is a familiar story and yet should never become old hat. Let yourself imagine what he felt, what you would have thought and felt if you were a believer at that time, and how the sequence of events would have effected your faith.
One of our psalms this week is also particularly appropriate for this season. On Wednesday, note that Psalm 51 was written when David had been confronted by Nathan with his sin. It is filled with heartfelt repentance and can help us repent of our sins.
Happy reading! Let God’s Word bless your week!
There’s a lot to look forward to this week! Finishing Leviticus and starting Numbers, getting into some of Marks parables, and some beautiful psalms that are relatable and noteworthy, and, of course, more wisdom and folly.
There are still a few significant laws to read through in Leviticus, but don’t be deterred! Think of God’s law like bumpers on a bowling lane. The laws keep you in the area that’s good for you and benefits the overall goal. For instance, this week, there’s a law teaching a certain way to reap your harvest. It may seem irrelevant to us, or could be construed as bossy or restrictive, but it actually was designed as an ancient way of feeding the poor. You just got bumped back in the lane.
In Mark, this week, we get to start delving into parables – Jesus’ somewhat cryptic stories that, when understood, help explain the nature and kingdom of God. We also continue through a number of miracle stories. One, in particular, depicts the disciples not being able to heal because of their lack of faith. Jesus steps in and completes the healing. Isn’t it comforting that in this story, as well as others like Peter walking on the water, when our faith falls short, Jesus steps in and fills the gap? I wonder what faith gaps of mine he’s filling?
Finally, be encouraged! After this week, we will have completed 4 books of the Bible. That may sound small considering there are 66 total, but a lot of them are very short and you’ve already learned a huge chunk of the history of how we got where we are today. You’re doing great!!
Leviticus and Revelation are probably the two most feared books of the Bible. Leviticus is full of scary sounding practices and pages and pages of laborious details.
The practices and details were carefully spelled out in order to protect God’s people. Just like we’re willing to go to 8 hours of school for 12 years because we know it’s for our good, the ancient Israelites understood the importance of ritual cleansings and animal sacrifices. True, we no longer need to offer a grain offering for this and a sin offering for that, but we do need to know the specificity with which God will go to ensure he can be in relationship with us.
Also in our reading this week, you’ll go from the super specific to the super cryptic. This week, in Mark, Jesus will dive into a number of parables. Parables are stories that relate something of God to something familiar. Most of the parables were agricultural in nature, which isn’t very familiar to us but was to the ancient Jews. What if, instead of a mustard seed, Jesus described the kingdom of God like compounding interest or an artificial intelligence robot? It’s something that starts small but grows quickly. It’s something we can relate to and it’s an opportunity to see God’s truths in a new light.
So whether super specific or cryptic, this week’s reading will guide you closer to the truths of who God is and how much he wants to be in relationship with us.
No, a different Mark.
I’m not sure this is where the phrase originates, but it seems that “the devil is in the details” is appropriate when reading the explicit instructions for creating the tabernacle. Often we want to follow God, but we prefer to cut corners and take the easier route or the convenient option. But God values our obedience – even in the smallest of details.
Another major happening this week is we’re beginning a new gospel – Mark!! Woohoo!! Bring it! Mark is the shortest of the four gospels and is believed to have been the first one written. You’ll notice that Mark leaves out a lot of details and descriptors the others include. Mark was most likely writing this hurriedly around 70 A.D. when Jerusalem, and specifically the temple, were being destroyed by the Romans. Mark had to quickly get an account of Jesus’ life out there so his words and actions would not be forgotten.
Here are a couple of things to watch for in Mark:
- There is no birth narrative – Jesus comes on the scene as an adult. Case and point: some major details are omitted.
- There is a heavy emphasis on miracles – look for series’ of miracles one right after another. Mark believed this aspect of Jesus would be significant to his hearers.
- There is also a heavy emphasis on Jesus’ interactions with the demonic. Mark puts a heavier emphasis here than other gospels.
- Mark, like Matthew, puts a heavy emphasis on Jesus’ struggles with religious leaders.
- Mark emphasizes how dense the disciples are in picking up what Jesus is putting down. They continually “don’t get it”.
This week, it all comes full circle. Last week, in Exodus, we read about God releasing the Israelites from slavery and saving their first-born children through the Passover. This week, we’ll read about the Last Supper, which Jesus offered to his closest companions, the disciples, just before his arrest and death.
Do you see the connection? Is it starting to become clear just how carefully the story of God’s love and redemption for humanity has been in the works over time?
In Exodus the Israelites experience the first Passover and make unleavened bread so they can leave quickly if needed. In Matthew, Jesus eats the Passover meal with his disciples. In Exodus a flawless lamb’s blood could save you from the death of your first-born. In Matthew, Jesus offers up his own blood to save us all. In Exodus God makes a way for his people to receive freedom. In Matthew, he does the same.
The first Passover directly connects to the Last Supper and Jesus’ death, which directly connects to our experiencing Holy Communion on Sundays. This is not just a series of unrelated stories, but one centuries long story of God continually working to achieve our redemption.
Don’t get bogged down in the details of how to build the tabernacle – they can get tedious. Think of the tabernacle as a traveling temple. The Israelites wanted a home for God that they could pack up and move as they wandered. The tabernacle was the solution. Practical, eh?
Why did God choose the Israelites as his people and not the Egyptians or the Ammonites or the Philistines or any of the other people groups we’ve read about? I ask this question because this week, in our Exodus readings, we will see the stark contrast between the Israelites and the Egyptians. God continually makes it clear who his people are and who his people are not.
In general, this seems to be the way we ask questions about Scripture: why did God do it this way? Why didn’t God do it that why? Why does the Bible say this?
What if we spun our thoughts on Scripture to see a good, loving, and all-powerful God who actually knows more than we do? Instead of asking, “why did God send down the plagues on the Egyptians”, could we say, “wow, it’s incredible the lengths to which God went to save the Israelites from the Egyptians.”
Yes, some stories are more complicated than that, but what if our questions and comments sought to find the ways God redeemed, blessed, and protected his people? It would greatly alter our readings.
And make a note of this Biblical theme:
In Matthew’s parable on January 30th, a theme of righteous, purposeful inequality will continue. It’s one to think about and check ourselves on. Frequently, when those who have remained righteous see grace offered to someone who has failed or fallen short, they’re outraged. It’s not fair! I’ve been faithful and they haven’t! If we were truly righteous, wouldn’t we be rejoicing with God over the repentant sinner?
Generally speaking, here are some things to expect this week:
- The highs and lows of Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph (and get ready because they are extreme)
- Parables from Jesus and his run-ins with the religious authorities (spoiler alert: they still don’t like him)
- Psalms of David – he doesn’t write all the psalms, but he’s got some great ones!
- The Parables continue to try to separate wisdom from folly.
One theme you might want to pay attention to that runs throughout all of our readings this week– some more subtly than others – is what it looks like to trust God in the face of adversity or opposition.
In the Psalms, you’ll hear David beautifully and poetically describe God as a shelter and refuge. David was constantly facing actual deadly attacks and yet he trusted in the Lord for his protection throughout it all.
Joseph is sold into slavery, falsely accused of attempted sexual assault, and has his kindness forgotten. In the midst of all that, he recognizes God’s presence with him and continues to give God the glory and credit for all his blessings. On Thursday you’ll even read a quote from him that says, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”
And Jesus, in Matthew, as he addresses his disciples regarding the persecution they will surely face because of him, reminds them that the persecutors are not to be feared. He assures them by reminding them how greatly the Father cares for a simple sparrow so how much more will he watch over them?
So take comfort in that today as you prepare for a long workweek, face a tough decision, or dread an interaction with a difficult person. Your trust in God will lead you to more faithfulness, more blessings, and more reminders that nothing can separate you from the love of God.
Congratulations good and faithful servant! You’ve made it to week 2!! You’ve already covered hundreds and hundreds of years of Biblical history in Genesis and the first 30 years of Jesus’ life – I consider that good progress.
This week you will continue to learn about the Israelites, the family known as “God’s people.” Specifically, you’ll read about The Patriarchs. These were the original fathers of the Israelites: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
One thing to be wary of as you read: do not read these characters like they are moral compasses. They are not! They are simply imperfect people who God chose to use for big things.
Does that frustrate you? It does me sometimes. Confession: I can’t stand Jacob. I think he’s a total weasel. But, God chose to use him. And honestly, it should actually be a comfort because if he can use Jacob, he can probably use me too. That’s good news.
Switching gears to the New Testament, we pick up in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ most famous sermon. Then we head into the thick of his ministry with his disciples.
One important thing to pay attention to this week is noticing just how counter-cultural Jesus was. He completely flips what faithfulness looks like on its head. While the religious leaders were calling for strict adherence to the letter of the law, Jesus was encouraging people to go beyond the law to grace, mercy, and love. The religious leaders were not fans – drama ensues.
The Psalms continue to feel. The Proverbs continue to teach.
Happy reading to all!