Bitterness, when allowed to fester and build, will slowly destroy us. Bitterness forms when anger and resentment are not dealt with. Today’s Hebrews reading warns us of this. We must process and deal with these feelings because it ultimately harms us more than anyone we’re angry with.
- 1-18 – Egypt once grew to great prominence, particularly when Joseph was there and stored and sold grain during a 7-year famine. Because of its prominence, Egypt became prideful and turned from God. Because of this, Pharaoh was doomed to death.
- 1-15 – The lament over Egypt in yesterday’s reading had a similar conclusion, “then they will know that I am the Lord.”
- 15 – “Roots of bitterness” are formed when we allow anger and resentment to build up in our hearts. These are often formed when we feel someone else is getting away with sin and when we are punished for our own sins.
- 25-29 – Hebrews is warning us of the importance of listening for, obeying, and accepting God. God is described here as a consuming fire.
- Our God is worthy of praise and there are none beside him. Nothing else we could worship or revere compares to the greatness of God.
- 18 – The one who works at something, gains the reward.
The last couple of verses of today’s 2 Timothy reading are pretty major. We all pick and choose what we want to emphasize in the Bible. There are parts we don’t like so we tend to discount them. There are parts we don’t want to follow so we conveniently forget about them. There are parts we want others to follow so we highlight and bold them. But this passage reminds us that all Scripture is from God and is intended for us to follow.
- 1-5 – God grants Baruch the promise of his life.
- 1-2 – The issue with Babylon destroying Egypt was the remnant of Judah, including Jeremiah, was in Egypt.
- 14-24 – God declares that powerful Egypt will soon fall to what has been a lesser power.
- 6-7 – Though they want God’s destruction to end, they know it won’t until he completes his purposes.
2 Timothy 2:22-3:17:
- 22-26 – Paul continues to teach godliness and gives the caveat that God does forgive wrongdoing while leading his followers back into holiness.
- 1-9 – Paul warns that there will be immoral opposition to the gospel.
- 16-17 – This is convicting when we think deeply about it.
- 1-11 – The Lord created us and knows what we’re up to – good or bad.
- Teaching wisdom to those determined to be foolish is a waste.
Growing up, whenever a crazy driver would speed by us, my mom would annoyedly say, “Teenagers.” Teenagers get a bad rap. They smell weird, their hormones make them say and do weird things, and they’re often mean to their parents. But! Teenagers, young adults, kids, and anyone else who doesn’t feel like they get the respect they deserve, should read 1 Timothy 4. Paul explains how you can earn that respect and leadership despite your age.
- 1-13 – God promises to restore peace to Jerusalem.
- 14-26 – Other nations had mocked Israel because it seemed that God had forgotten them and had broken his covenant with them. God promises to restore his covenant with them by placing David’s line back on the throne. We know that this eventually happens permanently through Jesus.
- 8-22 – God explains his punishment on all those who did not stick with their covenant. One portion of the covenant was to release slaves at a proper time. Many failed to do so.
1 Timothy 4:1-16:
- 1-5 – Paul consistently taught against certain foods being unclean or certain practices and rituals being necessary for salvation. He believed salvation was through faith in Jesus alone.
- 6-10 – There were some people in that time that believed holiness came through physical training. While taking care of one’s body is important, it is not a path towards salvation.
- 12 – The quintessential youth group verse – this verse is advice from Paul to Timothy of how to conduct himself even though it would be initially hard to gain respect because of his youth.
- 13-16 – Great advice on how to lead faithfully.
- 5-13 – One thing we seem to be missing, in general, in our culture, is awe and reverence of the Lord’s majesty. This psalm seems to indicate awe and reverence.
- 10 – References to “Rahab” are often indicating Egypt.
- 24 – Choose your spouse wisely.
How many times this year has Scripture revisited God rescuing the Israelites from Egypt? It is their constant pillar reminding and assuring them of God’s faithfulness. What is yours? What event or circumstance do you look back on when you struggle to trust? A particular time God provided for you in a specific way? A time when you were rescued from a bad situation? A miracle that can’t be explained in any way but God? Think about that today, particularly if you’re facing a trial.
- 31-34 – God declares a new covenant with the Israelites since the last one was broken and forgotten.
- 1-5 – Zedekiah was the king of Judah appointed by the king of Babylon.
- 6-15 – Jeremiah’s opportunity to buy the field was proof sent from God that he would fulfill his promises of restoration.
- 16-23 – Note how many times God’s rescuing Israel from Egypt is revisited in order to offer hope of God’s faithfulness in the future.
- 26-35 – Judah’s sin had greatly grieved God. They worshipped idols offered sacrifices to other gods just like the foreign nations.
- 36-41 – God’s anger morphs into abiding love as he describes drawing his people back to himself and making them his own again.
1 Timothy 3:1-16:
- 1-7 – Overseers (or leaders in the faith) have higher standards they must live up to.
- 8-13 – Deacons, a different level in church leadership, also had a higher standard to live by. Their wives were also held to an elevated standard.
- 1 – Here, and then again in verse 13, the psalmist declares that he is faithful in prayer despite feeling left and forsaken by God. That kind of commitment can only stem from knowing that God will eventually come through.
- 20 – Know your audience. A heavy heart needs you to mourn with it. Don’t make it worse.
- 21-22 – Kill them with kindness.
When we get married many of us are thrown off by the way our spouses do things: squeezing toothpaste from the middle of the tube, loading the dishwasher differently, opening present on Christmas Eve, etc. Jews had become Christians and gentiles who had become Christians entered into a similar marriage. They had to decide on how certain things needed to be done. Addressing these discrepancies is a major purpose of Paul’s letter to the Galatians.
- 1-15 – This is the prophecy against Egypt, who was the nation that enslaved Israel.
- 16-25 – These sections elaborate on what’s going to happen and let them know that they will be turned to the Lord.
- 1-6 – Yes, you read that right. Isaiah walked around naked and barefoot. This was to represent the humiliation Israel’s enemies would feel upon defeat.
- 1-17 – These are prophecies against Babylon, Dumah, and Tema. Though Dumah and Tema are fairly unknown, Babylon would soon overthrow the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
- 7-8 – Peter’s mission was to share Christ with the Jews while Paul’s was to share Christ with the gentiles. They were equally important missions.
- 11-14 – The “circumcision party” was a group of people who believed that salvation still required the outward symbol of circumcision. These were folks who were Jewish but became believers. Paul did not believe circumcision was necessary.
- 15-16 – Paul lumped circumcision in with any other work someone said was required for salvation.
- David clearly trusts God in the midst of enemies who are hunting him to kill him. David does hope for his enemies to be punished for what they’ve done to him.
- Though we may not agree with the method, it is clear that the Proverbs believe in disciplining and teaching children the right way.
Verse 5 of today’s Psalm is powerful. “There they are, in great terror where there is no terror!” We fear so many things that have absolutely no power over us. We fear that people will not accept us, or that our children will not get into the right kindergarten, or that we won’t be able to maintain the standard of living we hope for. We create terror where there is no terror. God is good and is in control. Fear not.
- 1-4 – When things get scary, we often revert to whatever was comfortable even if it was bad for us. For the Israelites it was Egypt.
- 18 – As Moses appeals to the Lord to forgive the Israelites for their continued unfaithfulness, he uses a phrase that people will repeat throughout the Bible, “the Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love…”.
- The Israelites’ unfaithfulness results in them not getting to enter the Promised Land. Caleb and Joshua get to and later generations get to, but those who have continually been unfaithful despite God’s provision, are punished.
- 61-63 – This is the first time Jesus openly calls himself the Son of God. He normally followed people’s questions about his identity with a question. The chief priests believed this gave them grounds to charge him with blasphemy.
- 66-72 – Peter was convinced he would never deny Jesus. His denial and the fulfillment of what Jesus said gives Peter great grief.
- We allow ourselves to fear so much in the world that truly can’t harm us. God is in control and takes care of us.
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?
Genesis 50:1-Exodus 2:10:
- 15-21 – Our sinfulness has long-lasting consequences. We often face them long after the actual situation is over. Joseph’s brothers still have guilt and shame on them and assume their brother will now pay back evil for evil. Instead, Joseph recognizes his place in the situation and recognizes that God redeemed to good what his brother meant for evil.
- 26 – Unlike his father, Joseph had made Egypt his home and was fine with being buried there.
- 7-14 – With a new king and the death of Joseph, the Egyptians quickly forget the good Joseph did for them. As the Israelites grow in size and strength while they live in Egypt, the Egyptians grow fearful of them and eventually enslave them to keep them under control.
- 15-16 – Pharaoh is trying to control the Israelite population and their ability to join enemies in war.
- 17-21 – Sometimes faithfulness seems impossible. The midwives chose faithfulness even though it was in direct disobedience to the king.
- 1-10 – Moses’ mother finds a way to give him a chance at life. Moses’ sister’s quick thinking allows his mother to nurse and care for him.
- 13-20 – Peter is the first of the disciples to identify Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus blesses him because this was clearly revealed to Peter by the Father. Peter becomes the rock of the church and is given great authority going forward.
- 21-23 – This is a quick transition between Peter being told he would lead the church to being called Satan. In this section, Peter puts his own plans for Jesus ahead of God’s.
- 24-25 – Note that no one knew Jesus would take up an actual cross at his death. He is calling them to be willing to make the same kind of sacrifice he will soon make.
- 28 – Though somewhat confusing, this is not intended to mean that some of the people standing there would still be alive when Jesus returned a second time. Though there are many interpretations, one feasible one is that Jesus is saying that some people would live to see Christ reign in the world. Many were alive as Pentecost and then the spread of the church began. Some even led it.
- 5 – This is the same phrase recorded from Jesus’ baptism.
- Note that many psalms filled with violence and seeking revenge still end with praise and exultation of God. Clearly praise was a fallback whether times were good or bad.
- This section gives a great description of just how seductive temptation can be. We would much more easily avoid temptation if it wasn’t attractive and sneaky. Before we know it, we have followed temptation into destruction.