We often think of sins as unrelated, individual decisions. I needed to lie in that situation so I did. Now it’s over. Today’s Proverb reminds us that that simply isn’t true. Sin becomes habit and we get comfortable doing it. It then leads us onto shaky ground, normally looking over our shoulder and wondering when we’ll get caught. Choosing faithfulness, however, brings us strength and stability as we stand on solid ground.
- 1-16 – This is the continuation of the prophecy against Gog. Gog had not appeared in Scripture until the last chapter. Gog is an individual who has opposed Israel and will be punished because of it.
- 21-29 – God explains that though Israel was disobedient and he punished them, he will soon restore them back to prominence and proliferation.
- 1-17 – This is a vision Ezekiel is given regarding what the new temple should look like. The new temple ends up being built in the same place as the old temple and it stood until 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed it.
- 18-26 – Our faith is not helpful if it is inactive. True faith cannot actually remain inactive. If we have faith in Christ, it is transformative and causes us to begin to live more like Christ. Works are inevitable.
- 2-12 – James spends time discussing how difficult it is to tame the tongue, but that if we do, it controls our whole selves. We all know how difficult it is to keep our speech pure, uplifting, and beneficial to others.
- 5-7 – The psalmist has such confidence in God’s ability to take care of him despite the circumstances because he had experienced God’s protection before. Instead of forgetting God’s faithfulness, he used that memory to build his faith for the future.
- Disobedience and sin lead to instability, but faithfulness leads to strength.
Don’t miss today’s reading! There is a ton of great stuff in here! It’s even hard to decide what to entice you with here, but I’ll go with this: if you think you’re beyond restoration or repair, read today’s Ezekiel passage. God raises dry bones back to life! No one is beyond forgiveness! No one can stray so far that God can’t redeem them! That means you too!!
- 1-14 – Ezekiel’s prophecies over the dry bones give hope that God can restore Israel even though their situation seems hopeless and their nation seems lifeless.
- 15-23 – God promises to reunite Israel and Judah and to, once again, be their God.
- 14-23 – Though Gog had seen success against Israel, God makes it clear that Israel will rise again and it will not bode well for Gog.
- 22-25 – Reading Scripture alone is not enough. We must also live what it tells us to do. Otherwise we are like a foolish person.
- 27 – If we truly want to follow God we must care for the most vulnerable in his name.
- 1-9 – We tend to want to associate with those who are powerful and can lift us up, but God does the opposite. He lifts up the lowly. God is calling us to share in his work.
- 10-13 – We tend to want to make our sins seems less egregious, but once we have sinned, we are sinners.
- 14-17 – This can be confusing because we know that faith in Christ is what saves us. We can’t save ourselves through works. This does not mean we’re not supposed to do the works though. Our salvation is intended to make us more like Christ, how worked diligently to care for those in need and bring others into God’s family.
- Why do we praise the Lord? Because he loves us.
- When we’re entrapped in sin, we constantly have to watch our backs and wait for the other shoe to drop. When we are living faithfully, there is freedom from this fear.
In today’s Ezekiel reading Egypt is promised a punishment partially because they put themselves in place of God. It seems silly. They took credit for creating the Nile. But don’t we put ourselves in the place of God all the time? We try to control things that we should hand over to God. We make decisions without consulting God. We assume that our finances are our own instead of a blessing from God. Let’s read today’s Ezekiel passage closely today.
- 1-21 – This is a prophecy against Egypt. Notice that in verses 9 and 10, it is explained that Egypt’s punishment is partially because the people tried to put themselves in the place of God by saying they created the Nile.
- 1-26 – The explanation of Egypt’s punishment continues and the hearer is assured that by the end of what Egypt will face, they will have no doubt who God is.
- 32-38 – All these folks who lived by faith faced very difficult challenges and hardships. Following God does not make life easy or simple. It is the opposite. Life is often more difficult when we follow God, but the reward in the end is well worth it.
- 1-2 – The “cloud of witnesses” is all the people who have gone before us and shown us what faithful living looks like. Our ultimate example is Christ who was willing to sacrifice himself in order to obtain the joy of the Lord and a place next to God.
- 7-11 – Discipline is a form of love because it protects us and guides us to the version of us God intended.
- This psalm highlights many reasons why it is good and beneficial to fear and obey God. Too often we see it as a burden that squashes us.
- As believers, we are called to help hold one another accountable and to spur each other on towards faithfulness.
Acting on faith, by definition, means we take the step without knowing the result. Today’s section on Hebrews lists a number of people who acted on faith. They couldn’t be certain of the outcome but lived righteously, trusting God to take care of the rest. What are times when you’ve been asked to live righteously when you couldn’t know the outcome?
- 15-24 – God uses Ezekiel’s life, yet again, to serve as a mirror for the Israelites to see what is about to happen to them. Ezekiel’s wife dies and he is not allowed to mourn. The Israelites will also soon lose what is most valuable to them, the temple.
- 1-7 – This is a prophecy against the Ammonites. This, and the condemning prophecies to follow are reminiscent of Jeremiah’s oracles against the nations in chapters 46-51.
- Chapter 11 is often know as the “Hall of Faith”. It is a helpful list of many people in Scripture who acted faithfully because of their faith. We are often asked to take steps/leaps of faith. It is for our good and God’s glory that we are asked to take these steps. They’re scary, but worth it.
- 1 – This helps us define what faith is and what it isn’t. We often want proof in order to have faith, but proof is not required for faith. Faith must come before proof.
- 6 – It is interesting to think that faith is the root of pleasing God. We must have faith in order to please God.
- 13-16 – The folks mentioned in this chapter all died still living faithfully. Each was seeking God’s best for them, a heavenly home, realizing that this life wasn’t all God had in store.
- 4 – Melchizedek was mentioned heavily at the beginning of Hebrews comparing Jesus to Melchizedek.
- Everyone has had a noisy neighbor before. I think we can all agree it’s not a blessing.
This is Paul’s final letter. You can feel his pain and impending doom. He needs Timothy to step up and take over. Check out his plea here:
What do you currently do for someone who can’t repay you? I normally invite friends over for dinner who will eventually invite me over in return. I hangout with people who bring me joy. But today’s Proverb reminds us that we are to care for and serve those who have no means by which to repay us. When we do this, we know a far greater reward awaits us in heaven.
1 Chronicles 26:12-27:34:
- 29-31 – Some of the Levites were given jobs outside of the temple.
- 31 – David’s 40th year of reigning was his last.
- 23-24 – David was not asked to run this census of the people and God was not pleased that he did. These verses seem to attempt to absolve him of his wrongdoing because the census was never completed.
- 33 – It is funny that right in the middle of all the official positions and responsibilities is listed Hushai, the king’s friend, as if that is an official position too.
- 18-22 – It must have been difficult for Abraham to have faith that God would provide a child for he and his wife so late in life. His faith that God would fulfill his promises was considered his righteousness. We too can have faith that God has and will do the impossible for us too.
- 3-5 – It is not easy to rejoice in our sufferings, but it becomes easier when we realize what it results in.
- 7 – The good news is salvation does end up coming out of Zion. Jesus’ death and resurrection occur in Jerusalem.
- This is reminiscent of the separation of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25. Those who served the poor and needy actually served Jesus. Though the poor person is not able to repay the generous person, the Lord is able.
In today’s Acts reading we meet Timothy, Paul’s protégé. Paul mentors and trains Timothy to also be able to minister to early churches and spread the gospel. Paul prepares Timothy for pitfalls, allows him to watch his ministry and travel with him, and encourages him in his gifts. What if we each had a faith protégé?
2 Kings 6:1-7:20:
- Here’s that chart of the kings again, just in case:
- 1-7 – This was not just a party trick or Elisha showing off. The man’s accident with the axe head was done while attempting to be more faithful. Elisha used God’s power to bless his faith.
- 15-19 – Elisha’s servant is given special sight to see what’s going on. The Syrian army is not struck completely blind, but just blind to Elisha’s true identity.
- 20-23 – Though a rare occasion in the Old Testament, the Syrians and Israelites are able to resolve the situation peacefully.
- 25 – People are buying donkey heads and dove poop. Clearly the famine was really bad. They were so desperate they were eating the least desirable part of an unclean animal and paying high dollar for dove poop – which they were probably burning or using for other household tasks – not eating it.
- 26-31 – While this story is absolutely horrifying – here is some background: Joram was the king of Israel. His sins as well as the sins of the people had gotten so out of control that some of the curses associated with breaking their covenant with God had started to occur. Though Joram’s response in verse 31 suggests that the famine and reactions by the people are God or Elisha’s fault, it was actually caused by the ongoing sin of the people.
- 3-20 – The four lepers were Israelites, this is why they tell the king when the Syrians’ camp is empty. The Israelites, like Elisha prophesied, had abundant, affordable food.
- 39-40 – Church disputes happen because we’re human. Like this one, God works good through our failures. Now there are two teams ministering instead of the one they had before.
- 1-5 – Timothy became Paul’s protégé. Paul circumcised Timothy, even though it was no longer truly necessary, to give him credibility with those he would minister to.
- 10 – Note that the narrator goes from being simply a narrator to a participant by starting to use “we”. This is to indicate that Luke, the writer of Acts, has joined the mission team.
- This psalm said it was written when David is in the cave. This is most likely talking about when he was hiding in the cave with some of his men and Saul came in to use the restroom. David had an opportunity to kill Saul, but only cut off a piece of his robe instead.
- At this time David has been anointed as king but is on the run because Saul is still in power and is pursuing him to kill him.
- 24 – We often look to everything else to satisfy us, but wisdom will guide us faithfully where we are supposed to go.
It is far easier to hold onto what we know and never let go, even if it’s not the best thing for us. Change is hard and scary and requires trust. Many of the Jews who became believers were excited about Jesus, but didn’t trust in grace for salvation completely. They wanted to dabble in faith and in trusting the law for holiness. Peter works to make it clear you have to choose one or the other.
2 Kings 4:18-5:27:
- 18-25 – In yesterday’s reading, this child was promised to the woman as a gift from God, and now he dies. The woman’s faith is greatly tested. She puts him on his bed and shuts the door so no one else will know he died. She seeks Elisha to explain what’s going on with her son since Elisha was the one who told her she would have this child.
- 32-44 – Note that there are three miracles in a row. A resurrection, providing food where there is none, and providing more food than there actually was. Any time there are three of something in Scripture, we should pay attention. Elisha is clearly connected to and filled with the power of God.
- 9-10 – Though Elisha invites Naaman to his house, he does not let him in. This is strange considering the hospitality culture of ancient Israelites.
- 11 – Naaman wanted a grand, miraculous healing and thought Elisha’s instructions were a farce.
- 15-16 – It was not unusual for faithful Israelites to turn down gifts from other nations. This was to show their commitment to the provision of God and so no other nation or god could take credit for the Israelites’ well-being.
- 20-27 – Gehazi did not trust the Lord for provision and saw an opportunity. He lied to both Naaman and Elisha and his punishment was receiving the leprosy Naaman had.
- 1-11 – Some Jews, who had become believers, still felt the need to cling to the law and the sign that they were set apart. Peter urges them that the law had not worked for salvation and so it is the grace of Jesus alone that saves.
- 19-21 – Peter makes it clear that Jesus didn’t abolish faithfulness and living to please God. There were still standards. It was just important to know that the law wasn’t a means of salvation.
- 3-4 – David gives God permission to help control his mouth and heart so he can be more faithful.
- 5 – David also welcomes correction from faithful people.
Peter was a faithful Jew. He followed Christ and taught others about him but still followed the laws he’d been given. In our reading in Acts yesterday and today, Peter’s world is turned upside down as God reveals to him that some of his laws were now secondary to assuring that people knew Christ.
1 Kings 15:25-17:24:
- 25-26 – What’s worse than sinning yourself is also causing others to sin. Nadab sinned like his father and also drug the Israelites down with him.
- The majority of today’s reading chronicles the parade of kings, their terrible choices, and their demises.
- 29-33 – Ahab was the worst of the worst.
- 1 – This is the same Elijah you’ve heard about. He is a powerful prophet.
- 2-7 – This is Elijah, not Ahab, who is living by the brook and being fed by ravens.
- 8-16 – As a widow, she would have had no source of income. It took a great act of faith to risk the little she had on a promise that she would be taken care of.
- 23-29 – Traditionally, a Jew wouldn’t enter the home of another people group. God made it clear to Peter that this was now ok and he no longer needed to keep these types of divisions.
- 34-35 – Remember, Jesus explained that his first mission was to “the lost sheep of Israel” or Israelites who were not faithful. Peter continued that ministry, but now it is clear that ministry has been opened up to people other than the Israelites.
- 44-48 – The Holy Spirit coming to the gentile believers was even more proof than Peter’s words that salvation was available for all.
- 10 – A wise person responds to rebukes while a foolish person can be told over and over and over.
Other than Penecostal churches, in modern Christianity, we talk very little about the Holy Spirit, mostly because we don’t know much about it. The Holy Spirit is mysterious and powerful and that often scares us. But Jesus describes a Holy Spirit as a gift to be given and calls the Holy Spirit “even greater” than him. In verse 37-39 of today’s John reading, there’s a very cool description of what happens to people when the Holy Spirit comes. What does that description mean to you?
1 Samuel 13:23-14:52:
- 23 – A garrison is a group of troops stationed in a certain area to defend it.
- 6 – Jonathan had faith that God could offer them victory even though only he and his armor-bearer were opposing the group of Philistines.
- 7-15 – Throughout the Bible, many characters have opportunities for God to confirm or deny that something will happen. Here, the Philistines response is Jonathan’s cue for whether or not he will have victory.
- 24-30 – Saul makes a hasty decision to deny his troops food. This is obviously problematic because they were engaged in strenuous activity. Saul also doesn’t assure that Jonathan knows about the oath. Saul’s quick, ill-advised decisions have now caused problems twice.
- 36-37 – Like Jonathan, Saul reaches out to the Lord for guidance in battle. Unlike with Jonathan, God does not give an answer.
- 38-44 – Because of Saul’s hasty oath, Jonathan must die since he unknowingly ate when he wasn’t supposed to. Saul offers to cast lots so that he might take the fall, but the sentence falls on Jonathan.
- 45-46 – The Israelites speak out against the injustice against Jonathan because they believe him to be responsible for the great victory over the Philistines.
- 31 – Meant to be a sarcastic question with the understanding that Jesus was the Christ.
- 37-39 – The Holy Spirit was given to the believers on Pentecost after Jesus ascended to heaven.
- 41-42 – Clearly the crowd did not know where Jesus was born or what his lineage was.
- 45-52 – The Pharisees’ sense of status made them believe that they would be the first to recognize a Messiah and that he would play by the same rules as them.
- 1-20 – David asks for punishment for those who he’s been kind to but have shown hate to him.
- 21-31 – David, once again, puts his trust in God to protect and provide for him in the midst of enemies.
- 5 – Each one of us could probably recall a specific piece of advice from our parents we did not listen to and wish we would have. Wisdom is knowing to listen to that advice.