In VBS we make Jonah a great guy, but he wasn’t. He was grumpy and disobedient pretty much from beginning to end, but God uses him anyway. Here’s how:
You most likely heard the story of Jonah as a child. It’s a neat story of making a poor decision, getting swallowed by a whale, and then making the right decision. Well, that’s not all of it. Pay close attention to the end. Jonah has decided for himself who should and shouldn’t receive God’s mercy and grace. Have you done the same? Are their people you feel are not deserving of God’s grace? Be honest.
- 1-3 – This is a crucial mistake by Jonah. God calls him to do one thing; instead, he chooses to do another. We cannot hide from God.
- 17 – One of the most famous verses in Scripture, but note, it was a fish, not a whale.
- 1-10 – Jonah prays for mercy and believes God will rescue him. God does.
- 4-5 – This is what God wants! When we are called out for our sins, we repent and turn back to him.
- 1-3 – Jonah was angry that God extended salvation to the Ninevites because they were gentiles. Jonah was a Jew and didn’t want God’s grace to extend to gentiles. He hates that the Ninevites are saved.
- 5-11 – Jonah chooses to pout. God’s little object lesson with the plant shows Jonah that Jonah wants God to play by his rules, but that God has better plans.
- 1-5 – Jesus is the fulfillment of so many things people were waiting on. He is the only one who is the Messiah they had waited on and he was the only one able to break the seals on the scroll.
- 6-14 – The creatures, angels, and elders all confirm and celebrate the recognition of the Messiah.
- 1-3 – We should continually seek unity among believers because it is a blessing to all and leads to eternal life.
- 27 – This is an interesting thing to think about. The lifestyle of a righteous man is equally as detestable to a wicked man as the opposite.
Just kidding! Do you ever tease someone with something a little bit mean and then cover it up by saying “just kidding”? The thing you said was still mean. And let’s be honest, you at least kind of meant it. Ellen Degeneres says, “if you’re joking, we should both be laughing.” Check out what Proverbs says about it today.
- 54-58 – The Lord declares the total destruction of Babylon.
- 1-11 – This account of Jerusalem’s destruction is actually a recap of the destruction before the exile. This is not another destruction.
- 12-23 – This recounts the destruction of the temple just before exile. This was the most devastating act.
- 24-30 – This is a recap of the people being taken into exile.
- 31-34 – This ending is the same way 2 Kings ended when we see a slight glimmer that there’s hope even in the face of devastating exile.
- 3-7 – A powerful testimony of the transformation brought on by God’s powerful grace.
- 8-11 – Clearly there were people struggling with all these things Titus is being warned against. Genealogies may have been bad because people were relying on their heritage for salvation instead of relying on Christ.
- A beautiful, easy to memorize psalm. This psalm is encouraging and reminds us how much God cares for us and that he is worthy of praise.
- A word of warning to all those who use the guise of joking to say hateful things to others.
You know when you watch someone succeed from dishonest gain and it seems so unfair? Babylon was a lot like that. They were committed to idolatry, took on a lot of unfortunate practices, and still seemed to win a lot of battles and gain a lot of ground. But in today’s Jeremiah reading, God offers great imagery explaining how their success will be short-lived.
- 2 – Winnowing was part of harvesting wheat. Winnowers would throw the wheat and chaff (trash) in the air. The wheat would settle into the container while the chaff would blow away. This reference is to say that Babylon is about to be blown away like chaff.
- 7-10 – Though Babylon had seen a lot of success, it’s end was coming. God proclaimed destruction on them.
- 17-19 – The comparison between worshipping God and worshipping manmade idols continues. It is laughable to worship something you can make yourself.
- 34-44 – Babylon’s glory would soon fade. What was once revered would now be a desolate laughing stock.
- 1-8 – Paul’s rules of how various people should act and live were not simply to have rules, but in order to assure no one could have anything to say against the believers.
- 11-14 – God’s grace is given to us for a purpose. It is to cause us to get rid of sinful acts and in order to redeem us and set us up for good works that will bless others.
- 9 – These kinds of verses remind us that we aren’t worshipping just to check a box or because God needs us. God’s holiness is so incredible that it causes us to need to worship.
- When we step into minor quibbles that are not our business it is ultimately harmful and unnecessary.
Humility in a leader is a great quality. Paul, in today’s 1 Timothy reading, offers up genuine humility explaining his own need for grace. Paul describes himself as the worst sinner so others can admit their own faults and then receive God’s grace.
- 1-4 – Hananiah, a prophet, prophesied that God would break Babylon. Because of their military dominance, Babylon was seen as fairly unbreakable.
- 5-17 – Hananiah was a false prophet and though Jeremiah hoped God would do what Hananiah prophesied, Hananiah was speaking out of turn and not honoring God and would die for it.
- 1-9 – Jeremiah offered a true prophesy letting the people know they should return to Jerusalem and flourish.
- 10-14 – Jeremiah 29:11 is one of the most beloved and quoted verses in Scripture. We often forget that it is written to the Israelites as a promise to bring them out of exile, a painful experience of feeling lost and forgotten. God offers us promises of restoration in our most painful times.
- 15-23 – God did not take kindly to false prophets.
1 Timothy 1:1-20:
- 1-2 – This is a letter from Paul to Timothy, one of his most prominent protégés. Timothy was a young man who Paul would often send to churches in his place.
- 3-7 – Paul writes Timothy addressing some folks who seemingly had good intentions but have gotten off track.
- 12-17 – Paul admits his own need for grace, claiming to have been the worst sinner of all. He can understand the sins of others because of his own experiences.
- David bookends a series of praises to God with requests of God to hear him and to care for him.
- Don’t wear out your welcome.
Grace is a funny thing. Some churches emphasize it more than others, but for many of us it’s hard to comprehend, hard to accept, and hard to offer to others. Grace is intended as a free gift, one that cannot be earned. God offers grace to us through the death and resurrection of Christ. We can’t earn our sins away. We can only accept God’s free gift. Ephesians explains it nicely. Check it out.
- 17-24 – God promises to take care of those in need and also challenges other gods to try to do the same. He taunts other gods asking them to do something good or bad if they’re capable.
- 1-9 – Some believe this is referring to the call of servants and general and what God would have each of us do. Others focus this on a particular servant and most often associate the passage with Christ. In Jesus’ first public address found in Luke 4, he quotes verses 6 and 7.
- 18-25 – Israel, who God originally called to be his servants, failed to hear and see God’s messages.
- 1-13 – Such comforting words God speaks to his people reminding them that he will restore them and that he calls them by name. God is always faithful in his promises.
- 1-2 – The price for sin is death. When we sin but have not accepted God’s grace and forgiveness through Christ, we are dead in our sin.
- 4-10 – God offers us grace, which is a free gift, so no one can consider themselves higher or greater than anyone else. We are all in need of the good gifts of God through salvation.
- 18-22 – Though grace should humble us, it also exalts us to equality with all the saints. We are heirs to God’s kingdom with Jesus and all the saints.
- 1-2 – It is interesting that the psalmist asks that Gods’ face to “shine upon them”. People did not see God but when Moses was in God’s presence, his face shone afterwards. We also know that, when Jesus spent time with God on the Mount of Transfiguration, his clothes shone after being with him.
- Warnings against indulging in alcohol in excess. We lose our ability to control ourselves and thus cannot give God control.
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.
Today we begin Ezra, which begins telling the story of the Israelites returning from exile. It’s not the smoothest transition and God handles it in some surprising ways, but the Israelites finally get to return to their given land and restoration with God.
- Ezra begins the same way 2 Chronicles ends. It explains that God calls a non-Israelite king, Cyrus, the King of Persia, to return the Israelites from exile and build a new temple since the old one was destroyed when the Israelites were exiled.
- This is an account of all the Israelites left who needed to move back to their own land.
1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5:
- 18-25 – Humility, self-sacrifice, and relying on grace as opposed to our own abilities seems crazy to those who haven’t received salvation through Christ. We see it as freeing and life-giving, but that is not the case for those who seek other things for value.
- 26-31 – We see this throughout Jesus’ ministry and his disciples’ after him. He flips all cultural norms on their heads. Just look at the Beatitudes or the parables.
- 1-5 – Paul did not seek to impress or argue people into faith, but simply to share his experience with salvation.
- 8 – David commits to following God’s command to seek him no matter what else is going on.
- 10 – David knew what it was to be forsaken by a parent. Of his 8 brothers, he was the only one not presented as the possible next king when Samuel was looking for one of Jesse’s sons to anoint.
- 13 – This is a clear sign of hope and a promise we can hold onto.
- 22 – Interesting that our Psalm reading ended with “wait for the Lord” and the Proverb reading began with it. God must be speaking to us.
Who do you admire? Is there someone who can always sway you? Maybe a personal hero or someone you simply see as an authority figure? In today’s Romans reading, Paul is smart to call upon the experiences of Abraham and David, who his Jewish audience would have considered heroes, to convince them to live faithfully. Who would someone need to reference in order to convince you?
1 Chronicles 24:1-26:11:
- 1-19 – This is a way of organizing the priests so their duties can be split up. “Sons of Aaron” is always referring to priests.
- 1-31 – Like the priests, David divided the musicians to all have a certain role.
- 2-3 – Paul had to point out that Abraham, a Jewish hero, was not under the law and never earned righteousness. His belief in God was what was counted to him as righteousness.
- 4-8 – Paul tries to make the difference between what we’ve earned and what is freely given to us. Paul is smart to use heroes of the faith like Abraham and David to prove his points. They were held in very high esteem.
- 9-12 – Circumcision was not in and of itself capable of giving us salvation. It is faith that confirms salvation.
- This seems like a last ditch effort of David. He cries out hoping the Lord will hear before he is overtaken. He finishes up with praise and remembering God’s faithfulness.
It is often after we get ourselves into a great mess that we think to cry out to God. Today’s psalm talks about facing the snares of death and then calling out to the Lord to rescue. Our lives would be a whole lot easier if we would stay in communication with God in order to keep ourselves out of the trouble in the first place.
1 Samuel 24:1-25:44:
- 2-7 – David had such respect for the authority God had given Saul that he felt guilty for even cutting his robe. He also refused to kill Saul even though Saul was trying his best to kill him.
- 8-22 – David’s kindness and grace turn Saul’s heart. He stops chasing David and confirms that he will one day be king.
- 1-17 – Even though David and his men had been very kind to Nabal’s men, Nabal is hateful and inhospitable to David, which was unusual for their culture. Unless you were enemies, hospitality was understood.
- 18-35 – Abigail, with quick thinking and great hospitality, saves her household from the consequences of her husband’s hatefulness. She also saved David from making a hasty decision and killing Nabal’s household.
- 40-44 – David was married to Michal and now has taken both Abigail and Ahinoam as wives. Saul, though, dissolves David’s marriage to Michal, in his absence, so David now has two wives. This was culturally acceptable.
- 24-30 – The Jews wanting Jesus to explain his identity plainly is ironic since this gospel, far more than any other, has clearly revealed Jesus’ identity.
- 26-27 – Jesus’ sheep were those who believed in and followed him.
- 31-42 – Once again the religious authorities attempt to stone Jesus because they think he is blaspheming while others continue to believe in and follow him.
- 3-4 – Notice that the psalmist experienced great pain and torment and then cries out for God to deliver him. Why is it that it often takes so long for us to finally cry out to God?
- 12-14 – It’s impossible to repay the Lord for all the great things he does for us. The psalmist chooses to thank God for his salvation and to acknowledge God’s work in his life in front of others.