Yep, still in Isaiah. Settle in. We’ll be here for a while.
But, in the New Testament, in case you need a little reprieve from all the prophecies, we’ll look at two of Paul’s epistles (fancy word for letters – use it at parties – it will make you sound smart and holy). This week we read Galatians and Ephesians.
As you begin Ephesians, read it with this in mind: Paul was in prison when he wrote it. Even in the opening verses, as Paul exclaims, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,” (Ephesians 1:3). His joy and faith are evident.
Though I hope to never be imprisoned for my faith, I hope my joy and eagerness to share Christ are comparable to that of Paul.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” These words were some of Jesus’ last on the cross. But they were also spoken by David in today’s psalm many generations before. What kind of pain and struggle would it take for you to say words like this? How abandoned and rejected would you have to feel?
2 Chronicles 21:1-23:21:
- 6 – The “ways of the kings of Israel” were not good. There were next to no faithful kings of Israel after David.
- 15 – This sounds like an unpleasant punishment.
- 9 – Even though Ahaziah was unfaithful and was punished and killed because of it, he was given a proper burial to honor the faithfulness of his grandfather.
- 10-11 – It is extremely significant that Jehoshabeath hides and saves Joash. God had promised to sustain King David’s line. Athaliah nearly destroys this by killing off all of the royal family, but Joash is saved, which saves David’s line.
- 16 – Jehoiada became a mentor figure for Joash since Joash was just a child when he started his reign as king.
- 13-14 – This may seem like a strange technique, but if the Jews saw the new gentile Christian’s closeness to God, maybe they too would want to be saved.
- 17-20 – Olive trees are unique in that new ones grow up alongside old ones and share their roots. So an olive tree being “grafted in” actually meant that it connected itself to the nourishment and life that the established tree already had.
- 30-31 – Though it seemed unfair that the Israelites’ hearts had to be hardened for gentiles to have a chance at salvation, now it was coming full circle and gentiles were causing Jews to come to salvation.
- 33 – We should all memorize this verse for the times when we’re confused at how God is working and wondering why he does things the way he does.
- 1 – Jesus quotes this on the cross. We’re not certain which situation caused David to say it.
- 2-5 – David is able to lean on his experience with God’s faithfulness to sustain him even though he feels that he is currently crying out and getting no response.
- What an encouragement to live faithfully so our children can see it, learn from it, and be blessed.
We’ve talked about the Levites quite a bit previously, but today’s 1 Chronicles reading focuses on them pretty heavily. This passage, in particular, is just another reminder to us that God is faithful in caring for each of us individually. Way back in Joshua when Moses passed out land to each tribe? Remember that the Levites got no land? But, they got special offerings and each tribe was to distribute land from their own inheritance to the Levites. God doesn’t forget us or leave us to fend for ourselves. Everybody gets a piece.
1 Chronicles 5:8-6:81:
- 18-26 – These are two examples of immediate action in opposite directions based on the tribe’s faithfulness or lack there of. When the 3 tribes were seeking God, they were rewarded with victory. When they were unfaithful, they were punished with exile.
- Chapter 6 is a series of lists of the Levitical priests. The tribe of Levi is set apart as sacramental priests and we often hear of them in conjunction with particular kings.
- 31-32 – You can imagine that these men sang some of David’s psalms.
- 54-81 – Remember that when Moses was handing out inheritances of land parcels to each tribe, the Levites did not get one because they received the tithes of the people. Instead, each tribe was to give the Levites portions of their land to live on. This is the explanation of what land the Levites got.
- 4-8 – The Jews longed for a Messiah. This is what Paul is referring to in verse 6 when he talks about a promise they hoped in. Most Jews simply did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah.
- 19-23 – Paul, having been a very devout Jew his whole life, knew all the prophecies and what faithful Jews believed. He is able to appeal to them using the testimonies of Moses and the prophets, whom the Jews greatly revered, to confirm what he was preaching.
- 28-29 – Paul basically drops the mic here. He wants King Agrippa to become a Christian as well as everyone else within earshot.
- 32 – It is not absurd to think that Paul knew he could have gotten out of prison quicker if he hadn’t appealed to Caesar, but did it anyway because his ultimate goal was to evangelize in front of more people, particularly those at the top.
- 5 -–Sheol was where ancient Jews believed all people went after death. It was not a pleasant place. David is asking for his life to be spared because he would not be able to praise God from Sheol.
- While it is many of our tendencies to blame God when we face difficult times, David sought God’s help in difficult times.
- This is very similar to Proverbs 12:14 where it explains that kind, honest words reap a good harvest like a farmer who plants good seed.
Have you ever felt unworthy to ask God for something? Maybe you thought it wasn’t important enough or that you didn’t deserve it. In today’s psalm, David admits that he has sinned but he asks for God’s protection and blessing anyway. God wants to know our hearts and wants us to ask for what we need. A good rule of thumb is to repent (this assumes true repentance) and then ask God for what you need.
2 Kings 8:1-9:13:
- 10 – God made it clear that the king would not die from the illness, but he would die soon.
- 15 – Hazael kills the king by putting a wet, heavy blanket on his face and suffocating him.
- 4-6 – Jehu is made king over Israel after quite a line of evil kings.
- 16-24 – Paul drives the evil spirit out of the young women, but her owners, who profited off that spirit are not pleased. They get others on board and beat and imprison the apostles.
- 25-34 – Paul and Silas are miraculously released from prison, but they stay and end up converting the jailer.
- 1-2 – David asks that the Lord would grant his prayers while admitting his own sinfulness and inability to deserve God’s blessings.
- The entire psalm is an earnest prayer asking God to hear him and protect him.
- Presumably the fine would be unwarranted if it was placed on a righteous man.
Though there’s always a lot to look forward to in a week’s reading, this week there is a special treat on Tuesday! If you want to be converted all over again, read Paul’s sermon in Acts, which he was surprisingly allowed to give in the synagogue. The apostles were under constant scrutiny and persecution at this time, yet Paul decides to lay out the entire story of our hope for salvation.
This sermon is so powerful and convincing, it makes me think, what was it for you that convinced you to accept Christ as your Savior? Was it a lightning strike moment or a slow process where you finally made a decision? Was it a certain phrase? A song? An experience?
Read Tuesday’s Acts reading and remember your decision for Christ all over again.
Have you ever been scared to share your faith? You didn’t want to offend someone or thought they might not be open to it? In today’s Acts reading, Stephen gives us a great example of how evangelism should go. The Holy Spirit gives us an opportunity – we’re put in the right position or feel an urge to say something – and then we should just go for it. When we think about it as good news, which it is, it gets a whole lot easier.
1 Kings 9:1-10:29:
- 1-9 – God makes it clear what he requires of Solomon and his line and the consequences if they disobey.
- This section is intended to show the vast wealth and resources that Solomon had. Clearly this was a time of plenty for Israel. Solomon and his relationship with God were responsible for it.
- 14-17 – It seems odd that the Samaritans received Christ and chose to be baptized but weren’t able to have the Holy Spirit until the apostles came.
- 26-38 – Philip was led into a clear evangelism opportunity by listening to the Spirit. We often wonder if we are supposed to share our faith or not in certain situations, but if we trust the Spirit to guide us, it will become clear.
- 3-4 – Our sins make us unworthy of connection with God, but he does not count them against us because of his grace.
- Throughout Scripture there is a theme of birthright and status not guaranteeing that you receive that is due to you. God does not judge as we judge, he looks at the heart.