In today’s reading, Ezekiel continues to describe his vision of the second temple. Though the details may seem tedious and like you’ve heard it all before, note that he talks about the separation between the holy and common in the temple. Isn’t it incredible that, when Jesus was crucified, the temple curtain was torn and anything that separated us from God was removed!?! Praise God for making a way to connect with us!
- 13-20 – The separation between the holy space and the common space was torn when Jesus died for our sins.
- 43:6-9 – The temple cannot hold the fullness of God, but simply his footstool.
- 1-6 – Those who are rich and cruel on earth have already experienced their blessings.
- 12 – We shouldn’t need anything or anyone else’s trustworthiness to assure our own. Instead, we should simply be trustworthy so people will trust us.
- 16-18 – Righteous prayers can seek forgiveness and healing and receive them. Prayers are powerful. This passage gives evidence of that
- 1-8 – The psalmist seems so eager to follow God’s commands and understands that blessings come from obedience.
- 6 – Though this sentiment is unpopular in our society, wealth is far less important than integrity.
Hebrews has a steady message throughout it (as does this throwback song from my early youth group days) – Jesus is the answer. Before Jesus, God offered a variety of ways for people to be connected to him. The temple, the commandments, the law, covenants, sacrifices, and the list goes on…but then Jesus came. Jesus fulfilled the law. Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice. Jesus tore the temple curtain that created separation. Jesus is now all we need to be fully connected with God.
- 8-13 – This section mentions “profaning the Sabbath” as a way of dishonoring God. This is what the religious leaders in Jesus’ day thought he was doing when he healed on the Sabbath. But there’s a big difference. Jesus’ “work” on the Sabbath was to love and care for God’s people. “Profaning the Sabbath” is for one’s own gain.
- 15-17 – God did punish the Israelites by not allowing them into the Promised Land, but he could have, with justification, wiped them out right then. Instead, he simply made them wait to enter the Promised Land. The next generation was allowed in.
- 30-31 – The reason God says he won’t answer the Israelites’ inquiries is because they have spent their time crying out to every other god at every opportunity.
- 40-44 – The Israelites will have to endure punishment but the Lord promises to bring them back to himself and restore them.
- 11-14 – The Holy of Holies, which was once separated and humans couldn’t enter except the high priest once a year, was now permanently available through Christ. His blood was far more sufficient than animals’.
- 23-28 – It’s interesting that the word “copies” is used. This is helpful when we think that the law and the temple and sacrifices weren’t bad things. They were very helpful, but they were merely copies of the real deal – Jesus. Now we have the real deal and don’t have to rely on the copies anymore.
- 33-42 – It is a theme throughout the Bible that God brings the proud to humility and lifts the humble up. It is common for things that are commonly understood to be flipped on their head. This is clear through this passage and made most clear through Jesus’ ministry.
We’ve talked about this before. I hate negative consequences!! Don’t you? If I have the opportunity, I like to shift the blame anywhere other myself. It’s easier that way. Unfortunately, we often blame God for the negative consequences of our sins. “Why would God let me lose my job!?!” we cry. When really the question should be, “Why did I break company policy hoping to get ahead?”
1 Chronicles 11:1-12:18:
- 4-9 – Jerusalem became the central city for the Israelites and remains so to this day, but it was not so until this conquest of David.
- 15-19 – Though David’s actions seem a bit ungrateful, he pours the water out as a drink offering because he considers himself not worthy of their extreme devotion. The reason David wanted the water in the first place is because he was originally from Bethlehem.
- Though you may not recognize or remember many of the names in the lists from today’s reading, recognize that the chronicler is reminding us that there were a great deal of capable, dedicated fighting men, particularly those dedicated to David’s service.
- 8 – Because of the snake incident, the people already thought Paul was a god. His ability to heal Publius’ father as well as the other ill people probably only solidified this thought.
- 16 – Remember that Paul is still technically imprisoned and awaiting trial in front of Caesar by his own request.
- 20 – He’s referring to Jesus as “the hope of Israel.”
- 25-28 – It would make sense that the Jews should have recognized Jesus as the Messiah since he fulfilled so many of the prophecies they knew. Many, however, were unable to see it. The gentiles didn’t have as many preconceived notions of who the Messiah should be, so they were more open to Jesus being it.
- 29 – Did anyone else notice that there’s no Acts 28:29? One does exist, and it’s pretty inconsequential, but many translations leave it out.
- 9-10 – Confirmation that when we seek God, he will be faithful to meet us. He does not hide from or forsake us.
- 1 – This is in exact contrast to how our society lives and thinks.
- 3 – So true!! How often do we blame God for the consequences we receive for our own poor choices?
As of yesterday, we are officially halfway through the Bible! Woohoo!! Give yourself a pat on the back! Bake yourself a cake! This is a great accomplishment, so take a deep breath and enjoy it. You’ve done a great job!
2 Kings 20:1-22:2:
- 3-7 – The Lord hears Hezekiah’s prayer and answers it. God heals Hezekiah from a life threatening illness using a fig cake, or what is described in other translations as a fig poultice.
- 12-19 – Hezekiah is overly hospitable to the king of Babylon, Merodach-baladan. It’s possible he’s trying to impress him with his riches so they won’t want to attack. Though it won’t happen for a while, Babylon will eventually take his people into exile.
- 19 – Though Hezekiah’s response seems a little arrogant or lackadaisical, commentaries tell us, because he was a faithful king, his response is more likely one of thanks for the peace they have at the moment.
- 7 – This was the tribe of Judah. God claims this tribe forever and it is the tribe that Jesus belonged to.
- 1-9 – Manasseh was pretty much the worst of the worst. He should not be confused with Joseph’s son Manasseh who was the patriarch of one of the 12 tribes.
- 12-15 – Israel had already been conquered and exiled, but Judah remained where they belonged. Manasseh’s leadership puts it over the edge though, and God explains that he’s opening them up for attack too.
- 23-24 – These four men had taken the Nazirite vow. At some time before the vow they must have done something against the vow they were taking, which caused them to need to shave their heads and be purified for 7 days. Paul sponsors them financially.
- 28-29 – It was illegal to bring a non-Jew into the temple and Trophimus was Greek. It seems that Paul did not actually do this and even if he had, according to the law, the people should have attacked Trophimus, not Paul.
- 6 – No excuses. That means you too.
- 9 – Verses in Colossians and Ephesians also encourage us to work to the best of our ability. We are to work like we’re working for God, not man.
David insists on paying Araunah for his property though Araunah offers it up freely. David knew he needed to actually make a personal sacrifice in order to feel the weight of his sin. If he simply sacrificed Araunah’s property, he wouldn’t feel it. We often do not feel the weight of our sin unless we actually feel the consequences. This is why consequences are often ultimately beneficial.
2 Samuel 23:24-24:25:
- 1-9 – Though it seems that God instructs David to number the people, he must have done it differently than the Lord instructed him because ultimately the act is sinful.
- 14-17 – David offers the people up for his sin until he sees the destruction and then he tries to turn it back towards him.
- 21-25 – Though Araunah kindly offered to give David all he needed for the sacrifice. David knew he needed to have some skin in the game for his sacrifice to count.
- 1-10 – Note that when Jesus was alive, the disciples often had trouble healing people because of their lack of faith. Here, the disciples’ faith is strong enough to heal because their faith has been strengthened by the fulfillment of Jesus’ words and the presence of the Holy Spirit.
- 16 – It wasn’t necessarily the faith of the lame man that caused him to be healed. It isn’t made clear if he had faith, but the disciples had faith enough for him.
- 2 – A servant would look to a master to instruct and provide for them. God mercifully instructs us and gives us what we need.
- 22 – Good sense is life giving because it assures we make decisions that will prosper us. Folly, on the other hand, comes when we listen to unwise counsel.
This week we start a new book: 1 Kings. In this book, we’ll learn a lot of “what not to do’s”. Unfortunately, Solomon starts a line of numerous bad kings. But don’t lose hope! There are a few good guys sprinkled in here and there. Throughout 1 & 2 Kings, be sure to note the attributes that make a good king and those that make a bad one.
We also just started another new book: Acts. Acts directly follows the gospels and is the story of what Jesus’ disciples did just after his death, resurrection, and ascension.
In today’s reading, we find out what the earliest church looked like. When you look at the way they served and interacted with the church, how similarly does it look to your church participation? How could you better emulate the way they lived out their faith?
It’s also amazing how active and effective their faith was. People are coming to faith left and right. Healings are happening where previously the disciples’ faith wasn’t strong enough. Overall, it’s a faith extravaganza!
Use this week to be inspired and moved by the faith and action of the disciples. What’s one thing you could do this week to connect your faith to that of a first century believer?
Like in today’s reading from John, Jesus and the religious authorities were in a continual battle and a great deal of it revolved around priorities. The Pharisees and Sadducees knew God’s word and it said you could not work on the Sabbath. Jesus, on the other hand, believed the law’s importance and authority had limits, particularly in light of the suffering of another human. Today, Jesus prioritized a crippled man’s healing over the law. The religious authorities did not approve.
1 Samuel 1:1-2:21:
- 5 – It was not unusual for a man to abandon a barren wife.
- 1-8 – Note the similarities between these two women and Rachel and Leah. The less loved wife is able to bear children. Rivalry ensues. But notice how differently Hannah deals with her situation than Rachel.
- 8 – Elkanah sounds like a wonderful, loving man.
- 11 – Hannah is offering the son she hopes for up as a Nazirite, dedicated to the Lord’s service, like Samson.
- 19-20 – Obviously a huge answer to prayer! Note that in ancient Israelite culture, name’s had deep meaning. We’ve seen this a lot. Name’s were not given frivolously, but with great purpose and thought.
- 24-28 – What an incredibly difficult follow through! Hannah desperately wanted a son, but promised him to God’s service. She follows through with her promise and gives Samuel to the Lord. I’m not sure that I could do the same.
- 1-10 – The deep faith and commitment to God expressed in her prayer makes it a little more clear how she was able to keep her promise.
- 12-17 – The sons of Eli would have been priests as well and were not following the laws of how to sacrifice, but instead, taking the parts of the sacrifice that were meant for God.
- 2-9 – We often read these stories and think they’re neat or nice but fail to feel the weight of it. The man beside the pool had been an invalid for 38 years! 38 years is a long time to be sick or disabled! And then suddenly, with just a word, he is able to walk. That’s incredible!
- 9-17 – The religious leaders were very intent on keeping the law. Note that they did not rejoice that the crippled man was healed, they noticed his infraction of picking up his mat. We can tend to be pretty bad about that too. “Sin no more” is also an interesting statement because you wonder what sin of this man Jesus is referring to. He says the same thing to the woman at the well, but he was addressing a specific sin.
- The continuation of this Psalm tells more of the story of God’s faithfulness to the Israelites through their escape from Egypt and his provision for them in the desert. If you were an Israelite reading or hearing this, it would be a great reminder of the lengths to which God was willing to go to save you.
- Quick reactions, decisions, and emotions continue to be associated with folly.
Like the argument of the chicken and the egg, one of the biggest points of conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees was whether Sabbath laws trumped human need or vice versa. Today, in our Luke section, Jesus heals on the Sabbath. He clearly chooses human need over Sabbath Law.
- Moses offers blessings to each of Israel’s tribes based on the role they tended to play. Some were larger, some had great warriors, some were set aside for teaching God’s law to the rest of the people.
- 29 – He rounds out his blessing with a reminder of how adeptly God cares for them and that they are truly set apart.
- 10-17 – The synagogue’s authorities yet again become enraged by Jesus’ actions because he “does work” by healing on the Sabbath. Jesus reminds them that they do too do work on the Sabbath, but have found a way to justify it, while he does work on the Sabbath to bless and love people.
- 18-19 – There are many interpretations of why the mustard seed is a good comparison for the Kingdom of God. Some say that it’s because a mustard seed is tiny and grows quickly into something great. Others say it is because a mustard seed grows in a wild, uncontrollable fashion. Others say it is because the birds make nests in the mustard tree just like we can make a home and be welcomed into the kingdom of God.
- 20-21 – Leaven activates ingredients do to what they’re supposed to do. Leaven also makes dough rise.
- There are several times in Scripture where it describes God as silent. Before he calls Samuel and when there were no prophets for 400 years before John the Baptist arrived are some examples.
- 68 – Judah was the tribe that both David and Jesus came from.
- Anxiety is normally equated with worry. The Bible often equates worry with a lack of trust. God continually gives us reason to trust as he continually proves himself faithful.
As has been a continual theme throughout the first 5 books of the Bible, known as the Torah, God asks the Israelites to go to any and every length to avoid temptations that would draw them towards other gods. We think some of them sound extreme, but we could probably stand to cut a few things out of our lives that tempt us away from God.
- 1-3 – We often wonder if God puts us through tests. Though our theology would lean towards “no”, this is an example of the Israelites’ faith being tested through false prophets.
- 6-11 – The Israelites were instructed to go to any length to not be led away from God. We could probably cut certain things out of our lives in order to avoid being tempted by other gods.
- The rules Moses is telling the Israelites are not new ones. He is reiterating ones that were given in Leviticus.
- 28-29 – Their tithe was used to take care of those who could not take care of themselves.
- 1 – The 7th year was known as the Jubilee when all debts were forgiven and possessions were returned to their rightful owner.
- 6 – It was important for the Israelites not to borrow from anyone else so that no one else could boast that they had contributed to Israel’s wealth or prosperity. God alone was the giver of their blessings.
- 13 – This continual reminder should keep Israel from ever having pride in their own accomplishments but in God’s alone.
- 48 – Here Jesus attributes the woman’s healing to her own faith. Sometimes he would attribute the miracle to the person and sometimes to God. What makes this difference?
- Jesus tells Jairus and his wife not to tell of the miracle he performed but he did not tell the bleeding woman not to tell anyone.
- 20-21 – Often we feel alone and desperate when we are at our lowest, but this reminds us that God raises up again in time.
A theme you may have noticed, which will be prevalent this week, is that God did not want the Israelites to associate with other people groups in any significant way. To us this may seem exclusive and even hateful towards those people. Entire people groups were wiped out in order to avoid these associations. But these people groups weren’t victims of McCarthyism. God wasn’t accusing or attacking these people without substantial evidence. We see, over and over, the Israelites engaging with other nations and beginning to take on their customs and even worship their gods. God knew the Israelites would be easily swayed and would lose their loyalty to him. Setting the Israelites apart was a way of protecting them.
This week’s Luke readings will definitely keep you engaged with parables, healings, and tons more! Two cool things to look for and think about for a while are:
1) Peter’s recognition and admission of Jesus as the Messiah – Peter’s admission is the first of any of Jesus’ followers. People were still saying he might be Elijah or some other prophet, and obviously many people were thinking he was a heretic. Peter, as he tended to do, steps out in faith and declares Jesus’ identity.
2) Jesus telling a woman that her faith has healed her – Throughout Scripture there are different explanations of why people are healed. Some just seem to be miracles from God without any other explanation. Some are based on the faith of someone else asking for a friend or loved one and others, like the healing we’ll read about on Thursday, are attributed to the faith of the person healed. What do you notice as the difference between the healings? Is there any? If so, why?
Finally, some of our Psalms this week are very raw. They are filled with rage and malice and can be jarring to us. Try to remember that these Psalms are not God talking, but a human, like you and me. This is not necessarily something to model ourselves after, but to remind us that God knows us at our best and worst, and we are sinful.
Keep up the good reading! You’re doing great!!