Today’s psalm reading gives us a helpful insight into the culture of the ancient Israelites. It was widely believed among many cultures of that time that if bad things happened to you, you were not cared for by your god or that your god did not have the power to bless you. The psalmist asks for God to take away their punishment so other nations would stop taunting them and recognize the power of God. We now know (whether we like it or not) that our consequences for our sins do not reflect weakness in God.
- 1-4 – Jeremiah, like many other faithful people, complains to God that, at times, unfaithful people prosper.
- 5-13 – God’s response to Jeremiah is not ideal. He lets him know that things will get worse and that Jeremiah will be attacked by some of those closest to him.
- 1-11 – God gives Jeremiah a very tangible sign of his plans for Judah who once clung to him but now has fallen into pride, which would ultimately lead to destruction.
- 15-27 – God threatens to send Judah into exile unless they turn back to God. Particularly in verse 23, he does not seem hopeful for a good outcome.
- 1-10 – This is talking about an actual drought on the land. People felt forsaken when they were not provided for through rain and plentiful crops.
1 Thessalonians 1:1-2:9:
- 1-10 – Paul states how grateful he is for the good things he has heard about the faith of the Thessalonians. Though they received the gospel amidst persecution, Paul had already heard evidence of them spreading the gospel to others.
- 1-9 – Paul confirms that his intentions in sharing the gospel with the Thessalonians were pure. He justifies this with examples.
- This psalm confesses the sins of the people and asks for God’s forgiveness and that he would end the consequences. Other nations are taunting them as if their consequences mean that God is not caring for them.
- It is easy for us to become lazy and to fall into destruction. It usually starts small and builds without us noticing.
You know when you have an older sibling and they get in trouble a lot? That’s supposed to deter you from falling into their same traps. This should have been the case for Judah as they watched Israel continually sin against God and eventually get defeated by Assyria. This should have changed Judah’s ways…but it didn’t. They fell into the same trap. Jeremiah reminds them they had every opportunity to turn it around.
- 1-10 – The wife’s “whoredom” is describing Israel’s tendencies to worship other gods. Judah saw Israel’s unfaithfulness and instead of learning from it, emulated it.
- 11-18 – God speaks of how he will forgive Israel and allow them to return to him.
- 19-25 – God calls Israel to repent.
- 1-8 – Judah is called to repentance but there is question if the Lord will actually forgive them.
- 3-4 – Paul often tells the churches that he thanks God for their faithfulness. It seems to be a true boost for him to have others also pursuing righteousness and sharing the gospel.
- 11-14 – Paul encourages the Colossians to draw on the strength and knowledge that God has removed them from darkness and given them the light of Christ. This allows them to spread the good news and care for others.
- The psalmist speaks of God’s great power and encourages people to trust in that.
- Kings were chosen and anointed by God. If you weren’t on the side of the king, you weren’t on God’s side and would most certainly face destruction. Just think back on how David handled people who mistreated Saul even after Saul was unfaithful and rejected by God.
Though today’s Proverb isn’t to the point of McCarthyism, it does try to establish that the company we keep does influence who we are. If greed is a great temptation for us, we should not associate with those who get rich unscrupulously. If we struggle with lust, we shouldn’t hangout with people who frequent strip clubs. It makes good sense when you think about it.
Song of Solomon 5:1-8:14:
- 2-8 – Her lover comes to visit her but her teasing jokes accidentally send him away and she is unable to find him.
- 1-9 – His loving descriptions of her get a little racy.
- 6-7 – The woman declares that she and the man are inseparable. She also explains that the force of love cannot be resisted.
2 Corinthians 9:1-15:
- 6-8 – Sowing sparingly or bountifully doesn’t have to do with amount. Rather, it is about our willingness to give of what we have and trust God with what we’ve been given. We should not do so begrudgingly but cheerfully.
- 10-12 – Paul makes it clear that everything we have is from God and that God gives to us so that we can bless others.
- 1-6 – David is confronted with his sin and is in anguish.
- 7-12 – David asks God to forgive and cleanse him from his sins.
- 13-17 – David explains how he will act in response to God’s forgiveness.
- We have to be careful with the company we keep. They can tend to influence us into their own sin if we have any weakness in that particular area.
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.
One of the great benefits of reading the Bible in its entirety is seeing the prophecies and expectations over centuries fulfilled in Christ’s coming. In today’s 2 Corinthians reading, Paul maps out a number of these fulfillments. What prophecy that Jesus fulfills is most powerful to you?
- 2-7 – Job believes if he could get an audience with God, God would agree that he had been far too righteous to receive such a harsh and heavy hand.
- 1-25 – Job explains that often, throughout life, the poor have difficulties and the wicked reap the benefit. He seems to explain that God doesn’t seem to be watching, but in the end he explains that everyone is brought low in the end.
- 1-6 – Bildad quickly retorts that God is simply greater than humans and cannot be compared.
- 1-6 – Here Job resolves not to turn his back on God, but to remain faithful.
- 7-23 – Here Job lays out how he hopes his enemies are treated in the end.
2 Corinthians 1:12-2:11:
- 20 – All the sacrifices, laws, and prophecies given for thousands of years were fulfilled in Christ. We know that everything God promises us becomes a “yes” through Christ and his offer of salvation.
- 1-4 – Paul’s intentions did not go over well with the Corinthian church. His visit seems to have caused them pain when he meant for it to show them his love for them.
- 5-11 – Paul urges the group to forgive those who sin against the group. Amongst believers, this is very important so the devil doesn’t have an easy way in.
- 1-3 – Here David explains how God will repay those who have cared for the poor in life.
- 4-13 – This is encouragement not to listen to what others say of you, but to believe what God says about you.
- 6 – It is difficult to guide and discipline a child. In our society, it is even harder to assure they are raised in the faith. As difficult as it is in the moment, it is the easiest way to assure they will be faithful for a lifetime.
Sin causes separation from God. That is a terrible consequence and should be enough to deter us, but often times, it’s not. Today’s psalm also reminds us that sin has additional consequences. Sin also hurts us and causes us pain and misery. Sounds like we should do our best to avoid it.
- 15-32 – This is a continuation of all the people who help repair the walls of Jerusalem. It is powerful to listen to how they all worked one after another to fix section after section of the wall and gates.
- 7-9 – The strength of a city wall was very important during foreign attacks. The enemies of the Israelites did not like that their walls were getting stronger and thus their city was more protected.
- 1-13 – The wealthy and powerful were taxing those who had less. Nehemiah made them stop because this was weakening them when they were trying to rebuild their city.
1 Corinthians 7:25-40:
- 25-35 – Paul had a mindset that Jesus might be coming back tomorrow. He lived his life in a way to be prepared for that. His advice to the unmarried folks of his day was that it would be better and easier for them to stay unmarried instead of being distracted by a marriage relationship.
- 36-40 – Paul isn’t saying that marriage is bad. He’s just saying people can focus on God better if they stay unmarried.
- 1-5 – David gives thanks to God for forgiving his sins and in so doing gives instructions on how to seek forgiveness.
- 10 – Sin is evil against God, but it also makes life more difficult for the sinner.
- 5 – The Proverbs encourage us over and over again to think through our actions and decisions and not act hastily.
For us, forgiveness often feels like a given. We have Jesus and our forgiveness is free and something we could never earn. But forgiveness should never feel simple or easy. In today’s 2 Chronicles reading we see God forgive Manasseh, who had led everyone away from him. This helps us see the weight of forgiveness as well as the outcome – Manasseh returning to God. Forgiveness is powerful and something that can bring people back to God.
2 Chronicles 32:1-33:13:
- 6-8 – “Be strong and courageous” is the same encouragement Moses gave Joshua as Joshua took over leadership of the Israelites.
- 9-15 – King Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, is trying to negate Hezekiah’s encouragement to be strong and courageous by attacking God’s ability to protect them.
- 24-26 – Hezekiah has a hiccup in faithfulness, but returns to the Lord quickly avoiding any damage to his people.
- 1-2 – This is not the same Manasseh that the tribe is named for.
- 10-13 – This is an incredible show of forgiveness. Manasseh had made even Judah, the one tribe who tended to remain faithful, turn against God. When in trouble, though, he turned to God for rescue and God answered.
- 23 – Though it was such a cultural hub and despite Paul’s great fondness for Rome, it is only recorded that he went there once.
- 3 – This is the same Priscilla and Aquila from the book of Acts.
- 20-21 – Based on past reading in the Old Testament, it seems the Lord would fulfill the psalmist’s request for protection because the psalmist was upright and relying on God.
- 17 – This is so true of sin in general. The rewards of our sin are often so glamorous and exciting, but only for a short time. Ultimately they are destructive and painful.
People joke that there’s no instruction manual for parenting or for general life. Seemingly, the toughest things we have to do get the least amount of instruction. That’s only partially true. God doesn’t just plop us down in life and tell us to figure it out. Like today’s psalm explains, everything we need to know for salvation and successfully navigating life is available us through Scripture and the Holy Spirit.
2 Chronicles 30:1-31:21:
- 1-9 – It’s comforting that even when we fail to do what we’re supposed to do, when we choose to return to God, he accepts us.
- 18-20 – God’s extreme kindness shows here as people come and eat Passover without cleansing themselves. This harkens to the way Jesus handled the law. He always rewarded faith and always showed love even if the law had to be bent a little.
- 26-27 – It had been a long time since Solomon. Hezekiah’s commitment to restoring Passover, even though imperfect, was pleasing to God.
- 9-10 – Like when it was time to build the tabernacle in Exodus, the faithful Israelites bring more than enough offering.
- 5-7 – Just as Christ accepted us in our weakness, we are to invite in those whose faith is not as strong as ours. These are the folks we should not make stumble but should bring into the fold.
- 17-22 – Paul takes pride in the work God has done through him to bring those who had never believed in Christ to salvation.
- 8-9 – God does not fling us out into the world to figure everything out on our own. He shows us the way to him. Also, the early Christians were known as “The Way”.
- 13 – Laziness doesn’t pay. We have to work to take care of ourselves.
It is easy to get caught up in what is and isn’t fair in the Bible. Often times we discount the things that aren’t fair and even sometimes wonder if the unfairness of it somehow makes God not good. For instance, in today’s 2 Samuel reading, David shuns some of his concubines that his son slept with. In other words, the concubines are punished for someone else’s poor behavior. It’s not fair. In these situations we have to remember that we’re reading about the actions of sinful people, not God. It’s also important not to place our own cultural understandings on this very different culture.
2 Samuel 19:11-20:13:
- 11-15 – David is letting the Israelites who deserted him and followed Absalom know that he will accept them back.
- 13 – Amasa was Absalom’s military leader. David ousts Joab after he kills Absalom.
- 18-23 – Shimei was the man David encountered while fleeing Jerusalem who shouted and cursed at David.
- 24-30 – During David’s escape Ziba accused Mephibosheth of supporting Absalom so David gave Ziba all their land. Now he is somewhat reconciling.
- 41-43 – As the Israelites welcome back David as king, they begin to fight over who should get to welcome him first.
- 3 – These are the women Absalom had sex with while David was away. Though it wasn’t their choice, David still shuns them as partners, but continues to provide for them.
- 7 – Peter and the unnamed disciple are mentioned together again. Once again, the unnamed disciple makes the discovery and Peter takes extreme action to get to Jesus.
- 15-19 – Some say that Jesus asked Peter if he loved him three times as a sign that he forgave him for the three times he denied Christ during his trial.
- 25 – Sure makes you wonder what else he did.
- Our attempts at peace are not always received, but we should continue to try.
- It is rare that we put much of anything above the pursuit of wealth, but this proverb confirms that wisdom and understanding are far more valuable.
In today’s Deuteronomy reading, God knows the Israelites will be afraid to face their enemies who are bigger and stronger. He needs them to know that he is with them and he will make a way for them. He reminds them of the way he made away for them as they escaped the Egyptians. Our memories of what God has done for us previously can help is tremendously in trusting him with our next steps.
- It is difficult to read that entire people groups were destroyed by God’s command. We wonder where God’s mercy is, but verse 10 reminds us that his punishments were in return for people who hated and mocked him. In fact, God’s love and protection for the Israelites should be seen as an extension of immense mercy since they also often disobeyed God. We can also extend this thought that anything good that comes to us is an act of great love from God since we too disobey and mock him continually.
- 1-5 – Moses explains to the Israelites why they must wipe out the other people groups. God commands this in order to protect them from the temptations they will certainly fall to to worship other gods.
- 17-19 – God knew that the Israelites would be fearful to face those they were to fight, but they are reminded of God’s intervention with the Egyptians so they can have confidence that he will be faithful again.
- 3 – Though the Israelites were so worried about food throughout their time in the desert, God provided miraculously to help the Israelites rely on him, not food. Jesus also quotes this verse when tempted by the devil in the desert.
- 11-20 – A great reminder for us today that God is the giver of all of our gifts and we shouldn’t abandon him once we’re comfortable.
- 36-40 – Jewish custom, at the time, did not allow men to touch or speak to women they weren’t married or related to. It is also presumed that this woman was a prostitute, which added extra scandal to the mind of the Pharisee.
- 41-50 – This is not encouragement to sin more so we can be forgiven, but instead to be aware of our sinful nature and need for forgiveness so we can be grateful for the gift we’ve been given.
- 2-3 – Just like he focused on Mary’s perspective rather than Joseph’s in the birth narrative, Luke tends to include and highlight the participation of women in ministry.
- When David seems to be abandoned by everyone, he still has God to reach out to.