It is pretty typical of people in my generation, who have a transformative faith experience as adults to point a finger at the church they grew up in saying, “We never talked about Jesus” or “I never really heard the gospel”, etc. I think this is false. I think it would be better stated from most of these people to say, “I never listened.” Today’s Hebrews reading explains to us that many of us hear the gospel but fail to listen so it has to be repeated over and over until we finally decide to let it sink in.
- 1-13 – God declares a day of wrath and reckoning.
- 14-22 – This section describes the shame and consequences that will fall upon the people during the wrath.
- 1-18 – The Lord, in a vision, takes Ezekiel on a tour of the sinful, idolatrous acts the Israelites were committing in the temple.
- 1-11 – This section is reminiscent of the Passover where you needed a certain sign to be saved. God said that the folks who did not approve of the abominations happening in the temple would receive a mark on their head and be saved while all others would be struck down.
- 7-10 – This may sound like Jesus was, at one point, not perfect. This is not the case. Instead, these verses suggest that Jesus did not have an easy path but still had to live and experience the challenges of human life and gain knowledge and experience.
- 11-14 – This is so true of all of us. We hear and should be moved and changed by the gospel. Often we just hear it and do not allow it to change us. This causes us to need to hear the same soft message over and over.
- This psalm, like several others, implores others to praise God and then reminds them of reasons why they should.
- Empty flattery does no good for anyone.
Accountability is a big theme in today’s reading. Ezekiel is given a message from God and was held accountable for sharing it with the Israelites – as in, he would be held responsible for those who didn’t repent if he didn’t tell them too. Our reading in Hebrews also explains that once we know the gospel, we will be held accountable regarding whether we follow it or not. So what are you accountable for?
- 16-18 – God puts a lot of pressure on Ezekiel here. He either gives the people God’s message or their destruction will be, at least partially, on his hands.
- 27 – It was still on the people to make the decision whether or not to be faithful, but it was on Ezekiel to share the message of righteousness and repentance.
- 1-17 – Ezekiel was to take on the punishment of Judah. They would see, through him, the ruin that was to come for them.
- 10 – Yes, this sounds weird, but was a practice of some of the other pagan groups. God is basically telling his people they’re on their own for now and he knows that they will take on the practices of other people groups.
- 1-10 – We have a greater advantage towards faithfulness than those following Moses and Joshua did. Yet it is still possible for us to hear the good news and still fall short of all God intended for us. Many people hear the good news and still turn away from it.
- 12-13 – Scripture is wonderful because it gives us opportunities to know God more, but once we know it, we are held accountable for what it teaches us.
- 14-16 – Jesus faced the same things we face and came out of it without sin. We are not being asked to do anything he has not already done.
- 24-30 – This is a continuation of how God powerfully and intricately cares for creation.
- If we create opportunities to harm others, it will ultimately come back on us.
Do you ever feel like the critics know more about our faith and the Bible than we do? I remember being confronted by an atheist when I was in college. He talked to me about biblical contradictions and I realized he knew more about the Bible than I did. Paul encourages Timothy, in today’s 2 Timothy reading, to always be prepared to defend the gospel because others will always be ready to attack it. I’d encourage all of us to do the same.
- The next two chapters are a pronouncement of judgments on various lands including Moab and Ammon.
2 Timothy 4:1-22:
- 1-5 – Timothy needed to always be ready to share and defend the gospel because the opposition always was.
- 9-18 – Paul deals with practical matters but asserts his certainty that God would protect him no matter what opposed him.
- 6-11 – God’s faithfulness to the Israelites despite their wanderings is reiterated.
- A list of foolish people and how foolish it is to entrust foolish people with anything.
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.
Today’s proverb warns us not to follow the habits and actions of fools. This seems obvious, but sometimes it’s far too easy. Fools get attention. Fools sometimes find short-term success. Fools seem to skate through life. But foolishness doesn’t honor God and honoring God should be our ultimate desire.
- 1-6 – Jeremiah agrees to seek God for the leaders who seem desperate to know his will.
- 7-22 – Jeremiah instructs the leaders not to go to Egypt or they will die, but he feels certain that they will still go because they haven’t obeyed anything else he’s said.
- 1-7 – Johanan and the other commanders did not believe Jeremiah and took the remnant of Judah, including Jeremiah, to Egypt.
- 1-23 – Jeremiah explains that Judah’s destruction was because they worshipped other gods. They argue with him, but he confirms that this was the reason.
2 Timothy 2:1-21:
- 1-7 – Just like every pursuit has its difficulties, following Christ has its own. Paul encourages Timothy to accept these struggles.
- 15 – We will all be held to account one day regarding what we did on earth. Paul encourages Timothy to be able to stand with confidence before the Lord because of what he has done.
- 17-18 – Paul warns Timothy of all those intent on preaching a false gospel. Paul had, and Timothy would, face much opposition.
- 20-21 – Just because you started out dishonorable doesn’t mean you have to stay that way. God can cleanse any of us.
- 1-9 – The psalmist recounts all the ways that the Lord is great and worthy of praise.
- 1-5 – Many of us could stand to revere God more like the psalmists did.
- 3-4 – We are not to mimic the fool or we will have the same fate.
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:
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.
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.
Today we start Philippians. Like Ephesians and Galatians, this is a letter Paul wrote to a church he had interest in. If you ever talk to someone who wants to grow deeper in their faith and isn’t sure where to start in the Bible, Philippians is a great place to send them. It is short, simple, and to the point.
- 1-14 – The Lord makes it clear what kinds of worship he prefers. True worship is never routine and meaningless. He asks for us to care for those in need as an act of worship.
- 1-19 – God will not tolerate injustice and he is clear that he will punish those who oppress others.
- 17 – Note the similarity to the Armor of God from Ephesians.
- 21 – God makes a new covenant with the new Israel. Though this is not the covenant of Christ yet, it is a new way for God to connect with his people.
- 1-6 – Paul begins most of his letters with a warm greeting and encouragement on how thankful he is that the recipients of the letter are partnering with him in living out and spreading the gospel of Christ.
- 12-14 – Though other believers may have been concerned about facing similar persecution as Paul, he assures them that it has been worth it because of how it has advanced the gospel.
- 21 – Paul offers several poetic yet slightly cryptic sayings like this throughout his letters. Paul basically means that if he’s alive, he’s going to be serving Christ. When he dies, he’ll get to be with Christ.
- 1-16 – The psalmist is confident in the Lord’s ability to save him from his enemies because he is able to reflect on other times God has taken care of him.
- 17-24 – The psalmist praises God in advance for taking care of him and even promises to tell others of God’s great deeds.
- 10 – This verse calls out all those who feel strong in their faith or otherwise who then topple over when difficulties come. The strength of our faith is determined when tested.
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.