I’ve heard a number of people say they wish God would just give them specific instructions. Do this. Don’t do this. Then it would be far easier to follow them. We see in today’s Zechariah reading, and we’ve seen it so many times before in Scripture, that there are some specific instructions. With these, you can’t go wrong. Be kind. Show mercy. Help the poor. Hopefully that helps.
- 1-8 – The horses and chariots seem to represent God’s power returning to Judah and Israel.
- 9-14 – Zerubbabel and Joshua were to work together to rebuild the temple.
- 8-10 – God tells the Israelites, through Zechariah, exactly how he wants them to live. He is looking for kindness, mercy, and help for the poor.
- 11-14 – The Israelites didn’t listen but hardened their hearts.
- 1 – Though “plague” is never an enjoyable thing, it is good that the wrath of God will soon be over.
- 1-4 – David admits his past sins and repents. He knows that no one can stand before God’s righteousness.
- 9-12 – David not only looks to God for forgiveness, but also for protection from enemies.
- These are fascinating examples of creatures who have been given little but make the most of it. Presumably, we could learn a lot from them.
Forgiveness is real and available to us. In today’s Revelation reading we see those who have previously sinned now welcomed in to praise God. They’re welcomed because they’ve repented and been forgiven. Our sins don’t have to define us or define our outcome. Our job is to repent. God is faithful to forgive.
- 1-5 – This establishes that the Messiah will come from Bethlehem and will bring peace.
- 6-8 – Here God makes it clear what he’s asking of his people. He’s asking them to seek justice and offer love and kindness. He is not interested in empty sacrifices.
- 9-16 – Here God explains the punishment that is to come for those who have not obeyed him.
- 1-8 – The angels assure that the faithful people of the earth are protected before the destruction begins.
- 13-17 – Here a series of people who have sinned, repented, and been forgiven are welcomed in to praise God.
- 1-12 – These verses recount a number of examples of God’s power, greatness, and faithfulness. Like in most of these accounts, the parting of the Red Sea is mentioned.
- 15-18 – Once again, the worship of idols is proven to be worthless.
- 5-6 – God’s words are good, true, and helpful. We tend to want to change them up to better suit us, but this is wrong.
Apparently apathy is more offensive to God than even abject defiance. This is what today’s Revelation reading explains. Those who ride the fence and choose not to choose whether or not they will follow God are an affront to God. Unfortunately, this defines the majority of our culture. Let’s not be part of that group.
- 7-9 – A plumb line is used in building to keep things straight. Israel, against the plumb line, is clearly proving to be off the mark.
- 14-16 – It is not clear if Amos is saying he’s still not a prophet or if he’s simply trying to distance himself from all the false prophets. “Prophet” is not always a good thing in Scripture.
- 1-14 – Amos condemns anyone who is unfair towards others in business and those who take advantage of the poor. He explains that there will be an unusual punishment for their behavior. It will be a famine, but not one of physical provisions, but of God’s voice.
- 1-6 – God’s power is established and the fact that it is impossible to hide from his will.
- 13-15 – Once again, the book ends with hope that God will restore and renew.
- 7-13 – The letter to the church at Philadelphia is a positive one because they have remained faithful.
- 14-22 – This may be the harshest indictment on any of the churches addressed. Laodicea’s church is lukewarm, which is viewed more negatively than even being cold towards God. They basically are choosing not to choose. This does not please God.
- We are to humble ourselves and allow God to lift us up when appropriate.
Though we’re fine singing along with thousands of others to our school song or favorite band’s number one hit, we often feel weird singing praise to God. Today’s psalm gives us a good reason to though – simply because we are saved. God looked on us and offered salvation and that is reason enough to sing praises to him – even if it feels a little uncomfortable at first.
- 23-33 – A prophecy against Damascus.
- 1-20 – This prophecy declares that Judah, though unlikely, will eventually overthrow Babylon and Babylon will become a laughing stock.
- 5-9 – These are characteristics required for certain kinds of Christian leadership.
- Psalm 97 paints an incredible picture of God’s power. As you read, try to picture what it’s describing in your mind.
- 1-2 – Regardless of our circumstances, we have reason to praise God with a great new song simply because we have received salvation.
- This sluggard guy sounds awful! It does not sound like someone I want to be.
As we wrap up Isaiah, it is incredible to think back on the month or so it has taken us to get through this powerful book. Isaiah rejects and then accepts his call, preaches destruction and exile for the Israelites, preaches eventual restoration for the Israelites, and sprinkles little hints of what to look for in a Messiah throughout. And while it is, at times, a difficult book to trudge through, A) you did it! and B) it offers both immediate and eternal hope.
- 6-12 – God continues to paint the picture of Jerusalem’s coming salvation. He speaks of preparations for that day and makes promises that the Israelites will no longer be defeated.
- 1-6 – God speaks of how he took vengeance on his enemies.
- 7-19 – The speaker changes to someone who is remembering how merciful God has been and then asking for more of that mercy.
- 1-12 – They continue to ask to see God’s power in saving them and bringing them out of trouble.
- 1-16 – God juxtaposes the treatment of his servants with that of those who choose not to serve him. God’s servants will receive great blessing while the others will receive great pain.
- 19-24 – Timothy was a young man Paul had taken under his wing. Paul commissioned him to spread the gospel as well.
- 2-4 – Once again Paul explains that living by the Spirit is far more necessary than circumcision. He reminds his readers that he, as a Jew, is circumcised so he can say this out of truth and not jealousy.
- The entire psalm, but with a crescendo in verses 25-26, are attesting to the confidence the psalmist has in God as his hope, salvation, and protection.
- This portion makes a very tangible comparison of how wisdom benefits us.
Who is in your mission field? This may sound like a strange question, but you may not be called to the poorest, lowliest, most remote tribe. But that shouldn’t stop you from ministering to the people in your realm. Your mission field may be the stock brokers in your office, the middle-class teenagers in your classroom, or the Starbucks barista who serves you coffee everyday. Today, in Ephesians, we see that Peter and Paul ministered to different groups, but both did God’s work faithfully.
- 18-20 – God was not trying to redeem the people in the same way they’d grown accustomed to, but he was going to provide for them in a new way.
- 1-8 – God is always actively working in taking what is dead and giving it life. We see dry ground but he is able to pour out his Spirit on it and give it new life.
- 9-20 – God makes it clear how silly it is to worship idols that you create with your own hands. The same elements that make the idol could have also been used to make food or to burn and give warmth, but we don’t worship those things.
- 8-10 – It is just as useless and out of place for us to question God’s work as it is for a pot to question the work of the potter.
- 6-7 – Paul’s specific mission was to share the gospel of redemption with gentiles. Some others, including Peter, felt called to share the gospel with Jews.
- 14-19 – It’s funny that we now often fear offending people by sharing the gospel. The gospel is meant for our good. Knowing Christ means knowing the vastness of God’s love, which is a blessing.
- 20-21 – The power of God is impossible for us to fully imagine. He can do all things.
- 1-10 – There are certain benefits and blessings God’s people receive that are not available to those who do not follow him.
- A sinful life often looks glamorous, but it leads to trouble and should not be envied.
Today we start a new book, Ecclesiastes. Have you ever felt like you’re spinning your wheels? Not getting anywhere? Making futile efforts? You’re not alone. Solomon felt that way too at times. But through all his searchings and efforts, he ultimately found truth. Ecclesiastes is worth your time.
- 9 – “There is nothing new under the sun” is repeated throughout Ecclesiastes. This is used to remind us that the triumphs, tragedies, as well as daily successes and annoyances, are not new to us. Others have experienced them before us and others will after us.
- 12-16 – The traditional understanding is Solomon wrote this book. He is identified as a king, in the line of David, and having greater wisdom than anyone else. Some modern theologians argue that the language suggests that it had to have been written after the exile and thus was someone else. It has not been proven that Solomon didn’t write it. (We will refer to the writer as Solomon throughout the notes for simplicity sake.)
- 17 – “Chasing/striving after wind” is a repeated phrase in Ecclesiastes too. This simply means that it is a futile effort.
- 1-11 – First, Solomon sought out pleasure in wild living and material things. He found out, as many of us could tell him from our own experiences, that wasn’t going to work.
- 12-26 – Solomon then pursues wisdom and working hard to gain wealth. Both also prove to be pointless because it puts you in no better position when you die.
- 1-8 – These verses will sound familiar because of the popular song by The Byrds. These verses explain that God made everything to run in its course in its allotted time. We will face the good and the bad, but nothing should overwhelm or overtake us because it is passing.
2 Corinthians 6:1-13:
- 3-10 – Paul lists the merits of his ministry. Their boasting is not in their own accomplishments, but their ministry is legitimized by all God has brought them through and done through them.
- It is not the fault of the child that he is foolish. It is his nature. It is the job of the parent to discipline him and lead him to wisdom.
One of the cool thing about reading the Bible this way is sometimes you can see direct connections between the Old and New Testament or between the New Testament and the Psalm, etc. Today, our psalm is very similar to the message of Job. Like Job, the Israelites in the psalm are wondering what they could have possibly done to feel so rejected by God. You may have felt this at some point. Hopefully you can reflect on your readings and realize, God is never too far away and always meets us when we are most in need.
- 1-24 – Elihu speaks of the majesty of God based on his workings in nature.
- Chapters 38 and 39 are a series of God proving his omnipotence, power, and control over the universe. He does this to remind Job that he is in no position to question God, his actions, or his motives.
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:10:
- 15 – The more people know God and receive his grace, the more people will offer him praise and thanksgiving. It’s a beautiful cycle.
- 17-2 – These verses remind us that we shouldn’t focus on the fleeting things that are earthly because we have far greater eternal things waiting for us.
- This section is similar to Job. The Israelites can’t think of how they may have brought affliction upon themselves and yet they feel rejected by God. This is most likely not referring to the exile when God did reject Israel for a while because then Israel’s sins had been explained to them over and over before God acted.
Obedience is a tricky thing. We often want to obey partially, but that is actually not obedience. The good news is, as our proverb tells us today, we have the Holy Spirit to act a little like bumpers on a bowling lane when our obedience starts to slip. Thank goodness for all the checks and balances God has put in place for us.
- 6-17 – King Cyrus had approved the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, but King Artaxerxes, his predecessor had halted the progress. Now the leaders trying to get it built again were appealing to Darius to allow them to search for the gold and silver vessels used in worship in the original temple.
- 6-12 – King Darius makes a decree putting all the building plans back in progress.
- 16-22 – It would have been a huge celebration for the Israelites to return to their land, dedicate the temple, and celebrate Passover again. It is hard for us to relate to how significant that would have been for them.
1 Corinthians 3:5-23:
- 5-9 – This is great encouragement for people investing in the faith growth of the next generation or anyone really. We are called to be faithful in giving them the information they need. God is responsible for growing it and making it flourish.
- 16-17 – It matters how we treat the dwelling place of the Lord. This is both true of our physical bodies as well as our holistic health.
- We are quick to minimize the power and majesty of God. We look to other things in our lives, or even ourselves, to do the work of God. This psalm reminds us of the power of God and how he should be praised for it.
- 27 – It is the Spirit’s job to test our hearts and help convict us in the places where we are not obeying God.
God does not give us everything we want. That is not said anywhere in the Bible. It does say that God gives us good gifts. It does say that we need to ask and seek God. It does say that he has great plans for us. Today’s Romans reading has a verse that is often misconstrued as, “God will give you anything you ask for.” Be sure to read the whole verse…and the ones surrounding it for that matter.
2 Chronicles 11:1-13:22:
- 1-12 – Like we learned in 2 Kings, Rehoboam, Solomon’s son split off and took only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. This is the portion of Israel that the line of David still possessed.
- 1-5 – Once Rehoboam allowed the Lord to bless and establish him, he abandoned God and his law. Though this sometimes works for a while, ultimately it leads to failure. God made it clear that Rehoboam would fall to Shishak as punishment.
- 4-12 – Abijah, the new king of Judah, from the line of David, is at war with Jeroboam. At this time, Abijah makes it clear that he and the people of Judah are actually following God’s commands while the people still known as Israel are not.
- 24-25 – If we can already see the fruition or completion of something, we do not have to hope it will happen. We already know it will. We can only have hope when we can’t see the end result.
- 26-27 – This is encouragement for us when we say we don’t know how or what to pray. We can trust that the Spirit will give us the words to pray.
- 28 – This is a verse that gets misquoted and misinterpreted often. Note that there are some important caveats. The person has to love the Lord and they have to be called according to his purpose. We cannot simply decide we want something to happen and God grants it. He is not a genie. We have to be working for his purpose out of our love for him. In those cases, God works all things together for good.
- 29-30 – The word “predestined” tends to trip people up. This passage is explaining that God, in his sovereignty, knows us before we can know him and he calls us to become more like his son who is the ultimate model for us.
- 31 – Something to remember when it seems like evil is winning.
- 35-39 – Powerful encouragement that nothing is stronger than the grip with which God holds onto us. He will not allow anything to separate us.
- This is still the Psalm where David is released from his enemies and the pursuit of Saul.
- David continues to give God praise for rescuing him and allowing him to overcome his enemies. This is an excellent Psalm for those who feel that evil is winning in some part of their lives.
- Sometimes circumstances allow or force us to discontinue faithfully listening to wise counsel. Just look at Rehoboam’s story from yesterday’s reading. He ceased to hear instruction to be kind to his constituents.