Enduring trials and trusting God to take care of you doesn’t mean you have to pretend to enjoy the trial. Trials are hard. They’re not fun. God wants us to be honest with him about our pain and difficulties and then to trust him with the outcome. Jeremiah shows us a good example of this in our reading today. He willingly accepts persecution but is not excited about it. Faithfulness does not equal fake-ful-ness (yes, I made that up myself).
- 1-13 – Jeremiah proclaims the coming destruction of Judah because they have worshipped false gods.
- 1-6 – God told Jeremiah he would be persecuted but that God would ultimately protect him and destroy his enemies. Passhur the priest is the first example of this.
- 7-18 – Jeremiah is confident in God’s protection of him, but is still not excited about the suffering he will endure.
- 2-14 – Jeremiah does not have good news for King Zedekiah and his crew.
1 Thessalonians 5:4-28:
- 9-11 – God created us for a purpose and that purpose is to know and follow him, not to walk towards destruction.
- 12-19 – God calls us to gentleness and humility and Paul gives us good specifics on how to accomplish this.
- Asaph calls for God to take care of his enemies.
Hastiness comes up again as a bad thing. Wisdom definitely falls in line with patience and thinking through things.
Death is fascinating and terrifying all at the same time for a lot of us. “Who done its” are all over television and yet, when faced with death, many of us experience crippling fear. This is nothing new. Paul, in today’s 1 Thessalonians reading, addresses the Thessalonians’ fear of and/or questions about death.
- 19-4 – Jeremiah continues to harp on how ridiculous and wrong it is for people to worship idols that people can make.
- 5-13 – Jeremiah contrasts the idiocy of trusting in a person with the wisdom of trusting in God. He also lists the consequences.
- 14-18 – This portion is very reminiscent of a psalm asking for protection and also for destruction of his enemies.
- 19-27 – Jerusalem had a choice to be faithful and flourish or to be unfaithful and face destruction.
- 18 – Like God told Jeremiah, he started facing persecution from his own people.
- 19-23 – Jeremiah hopes for the destruction of his enemies. Unlike Jesus who wanted God to forgive his enemies, Jeremiah wants them to be punished for what they’ve done.
1 Thessalonians 4:1-5:3:
- 2-8 – A theme throughout Paul’s letters is a call to holy living. Sexual morality and giving oneself to substances, and anger/self control are standard topics addressed.
- 13-18 – Those who “are asleep” are people who have died. The Thessalonians must have been concerned about what happened when people died and what could be expected after death.
- 6-10 – God asks Israel to remember the good things he has done for them so they will follow him.
- 11-16 – The people did not obey and God lets them know what they’re missing out on.
- Jesus gives similar advice on choosing where to sit at a banquet. Choose humbly and be pleasantly surprised if you’re honored.
Prove it! This is yelled across many a junior high lunch table as one testosterone-rich adolescent boy claims he can do something that he most likely cannot. This is also basically what Paul says to the Philippians. Prove your salvation in front of others by living righteously and faithfully. This should be true of our lives too. If we are saved, it show in our words, actions, and decisions.
- 1-22 – God explains in great detail all the ways Israel will be restored to glory. When they went into exile God and the Israelites became a laughing stock. That would soon change.
- 1-2 – Jesus quotes this passage exactly in Luke 4:18-19 in his first public sermon.
- 1-11 – God declares his year of favor. Debts are forgiven. Those who suffer and mourn will be comforted…and a lot of other great stuff.
- 1-5 – God continues to proclaim wonderful restorative acts for Israel.
- 27-30 – Paul calls the Philippians to live with integrity in their faithfulness so that others who are watching would be convinced of their salvation.
- 1-11 – Paul calls the Philippians to humble themselves and serve in a similar fashion as Jesus did.
- Note that this psalm is written by David’s son, Solomon, the third king of Israel.
- Solomon asks for blessings for the king. This is presumably when he is starting out as king because it says that David’s prayers have now ended.
- We cannot claim ignorance and pretend not to know that people are moving towards death and destruction. If we ignore them, it says God will do the same to us.
Do you know that person who always offers to help after the work is done or always “wishes” they could help? Those sentiments are pretty meaningless – about as productive as a dog chasing his tail. That is how God feels about sacrifices to Him when people go on sinning and worshipping other gods. The sacrifices don’t mean anything. They’re empty. It sure makes you think, are our offerings of worship and service, at times, pretty meaningless?
- 1-8 – This is a prophecy promising to return Jerusalem to what it was intended to be.
- 9-11 – A call to arms to prepare to bring the Israelites back from exile.
- 17-2 – Jerusalem is being urged to wake up and prepare for restoration.
- 6 – So often, including the prophet Isaiah, biblical characters have responded with “here I am”. Here God explains that he will answer in this same way when it’s time for Israel to be restored.
- 7-12 – The “good news” this passage refers to is the salvation of Jerusalem. This beautiful, poetic explanation is a great reflection of the beauty of salvation.
- 1-12 – Now read this again recognizing that it is foretelling Jesus’ sacrifice for us.
- 1-5 – Following Christ is an act of allowing ourselves to be transformed to look more and more like him. We cannot continue on sinning and say that we are being transformed.
- 6-14 – There are lots of folks who will try to steer us off our pursuit of following Christ. This is easiest when our sins are hidden. When we bring them to the light they are far easier to deal with.
- 22-33 – This passage is often disliked and/or ignored in modern society. But if both spouses choose to love and respect one another as Scripture calls us to, both parties get a really good deal.
- 19-28 – David asks God to punish his enemies.
- 30-36 – Several times in Scripture God asks for humility or obedience instead of a bunch of meaningless sacrifices. David promises to do just that.
Have you ever been betrayed by a friend? Or worse, have you ever betrayed a friend? In today’s psalm, David feels the pain of betrayal at the hands of a friend. Though this is always the risk, we know that God designed us to be in relationship and that, though betrayal is excruciating, the benefits of relationship are worth the risk.
- 11-15 – The Lord becomes a safe place to those who follow him but becomes a stumbling block for those who oppose him.
- 1-7 – A prophecy describing the Messiah that is to come. Enjoy this musical interpretation of this powerful prophecy.
- 8-21 – This foretells the coming demise of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Though God’s hand is still available, the people continue to walk towards evil and destruction.
2 Corinthians 12:1-10:
- 7-9 – Most theologians believe that Paul did have some sort of infirmity that he wanted to get rid of but could not. This kept him humble and may have also been a hindrance from moving quickly and traveling easily.
- 10 – It is often our difficulties that cause us to better relate to others with difficult conditions. They also allow us to be more thankful. Paul also realized that these are often the places where we are actually strongest.
- 12-15 – David was betrayed by a friend, which, as we all know, hurts much more than when we’re hurt by an enemy or stranger.
- 16-19 – David has great trust in the Lord to take care of him despite the ill intentions of his enemies.
- Though wealth seems to bring earthly status, it is fleeting and not worth spinning our wheels over.
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.
There are a number of passages, like the one in today’s 1 Corinthians reading, which have been misinterpreted as condoning practices we don’t generally think God would condone. Here it is marrying a non-believer. In other areas of Scripture it’s divorce or owning slaves. These passages should not be read as God condoning the behavior, rather as guidelines for people who are already engaging in these practices. I.e. If you’ve already married a non-believer, don’t divorce them. Instead, act like this for a chance to bless them.
- Nehemiah was originally combined with Ezra as one book.
- 3 – The walls of Jerusalem were broken down from when the temple was destroyed and the Israelites were taken into exile.
- 8-11 – Nehemiah reminds God of his promise that he would always allow people to return to him even if they had strayed. This is a good reminder for many of us.
- 11 – The cupbearer was a very important position. This person made sure the king’s drink was not poisoned or tampered with in any way. This person had to be very trustworthy. In Genesis, Joseph makes friends with the kings cupbearer who is imprisoned because the king thought he was trying to harm him.
- 1-8 – These were big asks. Even being sad in a king’s presence could get you in major trouble, but then also asking to be gone and for him to write special letters for you. The king, here, is being kinder than he had to be, but it says that’s because the hand of the Lord was on Nehemiah.
1 Corinthians 7:1-24:
- 1-5 – This may seem like an odd section of Scripture, but it is encouraging us to have regular sex with our spouses. Withholding sex can lead to all kinds of sins and temptations for both partners.
- 12-16 – This is not encouragement to marry an unbeliever, but instruction that if you are already married to an unbeliever to stick with them because you could be the conduit through which they come to faith.
- 22-24 – Here David makes an interesting point. He explains that in a panicked situation he assumed God was not with him, but recognized that God did, in fact, hear his cries. With this he encourages others to wait on the Lord.
- We always have reason to be humble because we are not God.
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.
Sin and temptation are tough. There are so many that are flashy and draw us in. They promise to satisfy but leave us feeling empty. At the same time, as believers, we desire to follow God and obey his commands. We know his ways are better than the alternative, but those flashing lights are awfully enticing. It can feel like we’re in a bit of a tug-of-war. Paul felt the same way.
2 Chronicles 6:12-8:10:
- 18-21 – Solomon’s humility and awe of God’s willingness to dwell among people is eye opening. It truly is incredible that God has offered to dwell in this house made by humans among them.
- 22-42 – Solomon pleas with God to hear his people’s various prayers. This seems to be a type of dedicating prayer for the temple.
- 32-33 – These verses aren’t familiar to our cultural point of view. We have always been taught to welcome the outsider into church because we want more people to know Jesus. God’s people, the Israelites, had a much more exclusive mind set. The temple was built by them for them to connect with and worship their God.
- 11-22 – God confirms his pleasure in the temple and Solomon’s having built it. He assures Solomon of his loyalty to him, but also explains the consequences if Solomon is not faithful.
- 8-9 – This is an interesting delineation. Solomon is ok with having slaves from other people groups but refuses to have Israelite slaves. They, instead, become soldiers.
- 14-20 – An extremely convicting passage that could have been written by any one of us. We don’t want to sin, but that is our nature because we are human. Our flesh is weak and easily swayed.
- 21-25 – Most of us can probably relate to this kind of turmoil. We love God and want to serve him but also want to sin and are drawn to it.
- 1-8 – When people talk about their pasts being too much to overcome or wondering if the church will get struck by lightning if they walk in, you can point them to these verses. Salvation through Jesus is about life, not condemnation.
- David must have felt such relief. He had run from Saul so long and was constantly at war. You can almost hear the deep exhale in his words.
- David’s words explain the great power with which God works.
- 24 – This verse is basically repeated in Proverbs 26:15. Clearly Solomon was not pleased with laziness and did not believe it displayed godliness or wisdom.
Everyone has a “bad idea friend”. They’re the friend who is always talking you into things that get you in trouble, cause you to make bad investments, and ultimately make life more difficult. Unfortunately, Rehoboam chose to listen to his “bad idea friends” instead of wise counsel. He had an opportunity to be a great king, but bad ideas get the best of him. It’ll make you think twice about who you take advice from.
1 Kings 11:1-12:19:
- 1-3 – Solomon knew the law and knew the reasoning for the law, but he was unable to withstand his desires and ultimately, it led to his downfall.
- 4-8 – David sinned, but never worshipped or offered any sort of allegiance to other gods. Solomon divided his heart between many gods, this breaks the first and most important commandment.
- 11-13 – God promised that David’s line would be on the throne as long as they were faithful to him. Solomon has already failed there. God had such love for David, though, that he allows his line to stay partially in leadership.
- 36 – It was important for David’s line to stay on the throne because Jesus eventually comes from David’s line.
- 40 – Clearly Solomon had strayed far from God if he was willing to oppose God’s will even to the point of killing God’s chosen future king.
- 6-8 – Rehoboam had a chance to be a beloved king. He only needed to listen to the wise counsel of the older men and lighten the load of the people.
- 8-15 – Rehoboam, instead, listens to his bonehead friends and chooses to increase the difficulty of the people. Rehoboam’s sin ultimately causes the split of the kingdom, which, over time, causes all kinds of problems and makes them so vulnerable that both parts of the kingdom are conquered.
- 2 – “The Way” is what early Christians were called.
- 3-16 – Certainly there were many people who persecuted the early Christians. God had a specific purpose for Saul – to minister to the gentiles – so he converted him dramatically.
- 20-22 – Saul’s conversion was so dramatic because he was well known for persecuting Christians. We know him as Paul, a faithful disciple, so it’s easy for us to believe what he says about practicing our faith, but those who had heard of him previously would have had a difficult time.
- This Psalm indicates humility and reliance, like a young child, on God.
- This proverb seems to describe the actions of a bully and how they will not prosper.