John 3:30 is John the Baptist speaking. He says, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” What if that was our goal for the way we lived our lives? What if everything we did and every decision we made was with the goal of becoming more like Christ? What if we were more concerned with God being glorified than with our own recognition and success? Let’s take a verse from John the Baptist on this one.
- 1 – Stories continue to be started with the phrase, “when there was no king in Israel”. This should not be read as a negative. God did not intend for Israel to have a human king, but to be their king himself.
- 22-26 – This is almost identical to the story in Genesis 19 about Sodom and Gomorrah and the townsmen trying to have sex with the visiting angels. Clearly sexually assaulting a woman was seen as a far lesser crime than sexually assaulting a man.
- 27-30 – Obviously a very disturbing story, the Levite dismembers his dead concubine and sends pieces to every tribe. It seems his intention is to remind them of their sin and encourage them to speak out against one another when they commit such egregious sins.
- 23 – The first time in the whole ordeal when someone calls on God for direction.
- 43 – “Nohah” has a superscript 2 attached. When you look at the footnote it mentions the “Septuagint.” The Septuagint was a translation of the Old Testament, which was originally written in Hebrew, into Koine Greek, which is what the majority of the New Testament was originally written in.
- 25-30 – While John’s disciples viewed Jesus as competition, John recognized that he had simply paved the way for Jesus. His explanation in verse 30 of his relationship with Jesus is one that we should all model after.
- 34 – When God sends people they have his words because he fills them with the Spirit. Often we worry about “what to say”, but we need not worry because if we’re sent by God he will give us the words.
- The works and control of God are amazing. This Psalm chronicles some of the specifics.
- 22- 23 – The book of James tells us not simply to hear the word but also to do what it says. These verses are similar. We are not simply to talk, but also to do.
Welcome to John! He starts his gospel off with a bang. Clearly referring to the beginning of Genesis, he starts off with, “In the beginning…”. John’s gospel, from the beginning, and throughout the entire book, is very different from the other three gospels. While each gospel has a specific purpose, John’s is stated at the end. He explains that this gospel was written so that we would believe that Jesus was the Messiah. So…read carefully.
- 1 – Being the son of a prostitute was shameful in their culture, but it’s clear that God is willing to use him anyway since he was a mighty warrior. You may also notice that people’s tribes are mentioned quite a bit in this book. Because the Israelites had mixed with other people groups so heavily, it was important to differentiate who were actual Israelites by mentioning their tribe.
- 24 – Ancient cultures believed that the side with the mightier god would win a battle. This is why Jephthah calls out the Amorites god, Chemosh.
- 30-40 – Note that God does not ask for this sacrifice from Jephthah, he foolishly offers it up and it costs him the life of his daughter. This is why we are to give and do what God asks of us, not decide for ourselves what God wants.
- John’s gospel is different from the other 3, which are known as the Synoptic Gospels. They all draw from each other, while John’s gospel does not as much. John’s gospel is where we find the “I am” statements. These are statements where Jesus says, “I am…” and reveals something about himself.
- 1 – “The Word” is Christ. This explains to us that Christ has been present from the beginning. He did not enter into existence at birth, but always been just as God the Father has always been.
- 6-8 – This refers to John the Baptist. Many wondered if he was the one they had waited for, but he was not, he simply came to prepare the way for Christ.
- 9-13 – Christ came first to save the Jews, his own people, but many did not recognize him or believe that he was the Messiah. All who did were made children of God.
- 14 – “The Word became flesh” explains the coming of Christ as a human. Instead of the birth narrative we read in Matthew and Luke, this explains the coming of Christ.
- 17 – Moses gave the law. Grace and truth came through Jesus. The law did not make room for grace, but God offered that through Christ.
- 20-23 – John does not claim to be anything he’s not, but quotes Isaiah, a verse the religious leaders would have certainly known, and explains that he’s preparing the way for the Messiah to come.
- This Psalm of David would be an excellent one to read or recite when faced with temptation or to start your day with the intent of living righteously. “I will ponder the way that is blameless.” “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.”
- 14 – There are a number of references in the New Testament to bad sources only producing bad fruit and good sources only producing good fruit. We cannot expect to produce great things if our hearts are not great as well.
In today’s Deuteronomy reading we find the passage our children’s ministry is based on: Deuteronomy 6:4-9. It encourages us to be so immersed in the Bible that it is natural to teach it to our children as we spend time with them daily. I’d say reading the Bible every day for a year is a pretty great way to start the immersion.
- Moses reminds the Israelites of the 10 Commandments the Lord gave them. This is a bit of an extended version of the commandments.
- 4-9 – This is the passage our children’s ministry uses as a guide. It encourages parents to pass down to the faith to their children and encourages families to keep God’s Word at the forefront.
- 10-15 – We often take pride in the things we have even when we did not earn or work for them. This often leads to relying on entities other than God.
- 16 – Jesus quotes this when he is tempted by the devil in the desert.
- 25 – When we put our faith into action, it is counted to us as righteousness.
- 11-17 – This woman would have been in bad shape. Widows relied on male relatives to take care of them after their husbands died and this was her only son who had just died.
- 18-19 – John believed that Jesus was the Messiah but needed confirmation.
- 22-23 – Jesus quotes the same part of Isaiah that he did in the synagogue in chapter 4. But he leaves one significant line out: that the prisoners would be set free. John was in prison at the time and would most likely understand that Jesus was saying he would not be released, but that Jesus was the Messiah.
- 26-27 – Jesus confirms that John was the messenger the prophets foretold and he is the Messiah for whom the messenger was to prepare the way.
Sheep and shepherds are a big deal in Scripture. Like in other passages, today’s Numbers reading refers to the Israelites as “sheep without a shepherd.” Sheep without a shepherd are pretty hopeless. They can’t protect themselves or take care of themselves. The shepherd is crucial. When we get to John, Jesus refers to himself as “the good shepherd.” I wonder if there’s any correlation?
- 1-11 – All inheritance was passed down through male offspring until this story. This was probably shocking to the Israelites because women were seen as property, not landowners.
- 17 – In Matthew, Jesus looks at the people of Israel and has compassion on them describing them then too as “sheep without a shepherd.”
- Joshua becomes Moses successor. He also becomes the first official judge of Israel.
- John the Baptist was a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy that there would be one to prepare the way for the Lord.
- 7-9 – John is speaking to Jews who relied on their heritage as their means to righteousness and connection with God. John is explaining that their lives should reflect repentance and living for God.
- 10-14 – John’s teaching sounds a lot like things Jesus would say. He is teaching how to be honorable, generous, and humble.
- 22 – God’s confirmation of Christ’s identity.
- Beautiful imagery of God’s protection. David describes him as a “rock higher than I”, “refuge”, “strong tower”, “shelter of your wings”.
- This verse is problematic in that the Proverbs usually teach that unrighteous behavior leads to our downfall, but here it follows that suit except when speaking of violent men.
Today’s Proverb reminds us that flapping our gums is hurtful and unwise. It is too easy to break trust, tell secrets, and speak ill of others for our own gain. Unfortunately, these things have been problems for humanity for centuries, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to stop these tempting habits.
- 22 – It is confusing why God gets angry about Balaam going with the princes of Balak because God gave him permission. God’s permission, however, was to only do what God told him to do. Balaam may have acted in a way at some point that was not pleasing to God.
- 23-35 – Did you know this was in the Bible? Yep, a talking donkey. God truly can do all things! Note that God gave special sight to the donkey to see the angel and protect Balaam.
- Balak continues to push Balaam to bend to his will instead of God’s. Balaam’s response is continually, “All that the Lord says, that I must do.”
- 68-79 – Zechariah’s song serves as both a praise song to God and a blessing for John.
- It seems that we still have the same problems that ancient Jews did. They struggled with slander and trustworthiness and we do as well. The Proverbs are helpful for us even today.
Did you know that the same person who wrote Luke also wrote Acts, the first book after the gospels? There are all kinds of fun tidbits to learn about Scripture that are great conversation starters at cocktail parties…well…maybe. Anyway, enjoy the beginning of Luke! It’s a great one!!
- 1-19 – Here we see something sacrificed being used later to cleanse and restore an unclean tent.
- 3 – The Israelites always seem to recall events that they once complained about as better than their current circumstances. It most commonly is tied to lack of provisions or fear of danger.
- 6-13 – The older Israelite generation had already been forbidden from the Promised Land. Now, because he did not obey the Lord completely, Moses and Aaron are also forbidden. Moses was told to strike the rock once but he struck it twice. He also tried to take credit for what the Lord would do by providing water. He said, “Shall we bring water” when it was only the Lord’s work.
- 28-29 – Even though the Israelites complained and rebelled a lot, clearly they loved Aaron.
- 1-4 – The writer of Luke is an intelligent, orderly person intent to write a logical, organized version of the story of Christ’s life. He also addresses his letter to Theophilus.
- 9 – Only one priest entered the holy of holies at a time. An extensive cleansing ritual occurred before the priest entered.
- 17 – John the Baptist was often considered the second coming of Elijah.
Verses 16-24 of our Leviticus reading today are pretty disturbing. We have to remember that many of the laws, like how to divorce, and this one about not letting people with physical deformities be priests, were to put parameters around things people were already doing. In the ancient Israelite culture, great importance was put on physical appearance (we can probably relate whether we like to or not) and God was trying to get people out of their own way.
- Being separate or set apart was important. God’s holiness sets him apart from humanity. God set the Israelites apart from other nations as his people. Some foods and other items were set apart to be holy enough or worthy enough for his people.
- 1-9 – Priests had extra rules applied to them since they offered the sacrifices and had a special position.
- 16-24 – Definitely a confusing passage in our current context. Like it said in 1 Samuel when David was chosen king, God doesn’t look at outward appearances but people do. This law was established so that people wouldn’t be distracted by their own judgment during worship.
- Moses and Elijah were two heroes of the Jewish faith. The disciples would have been awestruck by seeing these distinguished men.
- 13 – John the Baptist was often compared to Elijah.
- 24 – Often our problem is unbelief. We may believe in God’s power and ability in certain areas of life, but in others we think we need to handle it.
- Note that in the story when the disciples don’t have enough faith to heal, Jesus does. Jesus often fills the gap when our ability ends.
- 29 – This is true of many of our earthly problems.
- 4 – Too often we ask for things of God and then fail to praise him for what he’s done.
Obviously not every minute of Jesus’ life could be recorded. Mark takes that to the extreme…as in, he doesn’t even record the birth of Christ. If you ever want to give someone a version of Jesus’ ministry they can read in a week, Mark’s your guy.
- The passage says, “as the Lord had commanded Moses” several times. It is significant that the Israelites obeyed God’s instructions exactly. We also saw this from Noah when he built the ark. He followed God’s plan, “just as he instructed.”
- 20-21 – The ark of the testimony or Ark of the Covenant represented the presence of God. It was, for obvious reasons, very valuable to the Israelites.
- 34-38 – God’s presence, in the form of a cloud, allowed the Israelites to know when to travel and when to stay put.
- 35 – Moses could not enter the tent while God’s presence was there because of his sins.
- Mark’s gospel moves much more quickly than any of the others. It is believed that it was the first gospel written around 70 AD. It was most likely written quickly because Christians were being badly persecuted during this time and the writer was just needing to get an account down.
- 2-4 – John the Baptist fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy about a precursor to Jesus who would prepare the way for him beginning some of his messages, particularly baptism and forgiveness of sins.
- 8 – Before John, there is not a lot of mention of the Holy Spirit.
- 9 – Note that Jesus appears in Mark as an adult. He tells nothing of his birth, childhood, or preparation for ministry.
- 11 – A powerful message from God to think about when people are baptized.
- 24 – Interesting that an unclean spirit is the first to recognize Jesus for who he is.
- David seeks revenge and God seems to grant it.
In today’s reading, Moses asks for God’s name. He responds, “I AM WHO I AM”. To ears in our culture, this may sound like a sarcastic or defensive response. Instead, God is sharing his eternal nature and the consistency of his character. I am who I was. I am who I am. I am who I will always be. Let God’s response be a comfort to you.
- 11-15 – Moses acted out in anger and though he thought he got away with it, people saw. Though he had grown up in Pharaoh’s house, he was still a Hebrew who had now killed an Egyptian.
- 23-25 – God heard the Israelites’ cries and acted accordingly. This gives us hope that God hears our cries for help as well.
- 1 – Jethro and Reuel are the same person.
- 2 – One of the many ways God goes beyond the laws that confine us.
- 4 – One of the many characters who answers God’s call with, “Here I am.” This is a statement of readiness and openness.
- 9-12 – It is pretty incredible that Moses, when the God of the universe makes a request of him, gives a simple excuse of not having authority. Clearly God is his authority.
- 14 – “I AM WHO I AM” has great meaning. Mainly it means that God is the same God he was yesterday, is today, and will be forever. There is no other word that can define him fully.
- 19-20 – It’s not that God wanted to send down plagues on the Egyptians, but he knew it would be necessary in order to get Pharaoh to cooperate.
- 12 – John the Baptist was seen as the second coming of Elijah, but he too was rejected.
- 14-21 – Once again, the disciples’ faith fails to be effective. Jesus, however, is able to step into the gap the disciples’ faith leaves and heals the boy. This is similar to when Peter’s faith is not strong enough for him to walk on the water. Jesus fills the gap.
- 24-27 – Jews struggled with Roman taxation. Jesus instructs Peter to pay the tax, but shows God’s ultimate power and sovereignty by providing the payment in a fish’s mouth.
- 1 – Jesus quotes this verse when on the cross and about to die.
- 8 – This too is reminiscent of the Roman soldiers mocking Jesus that he should be able to take himself down from the cross.
- 16-18 – Though written by David centuries before Jesus walked the earth, this psalm lists several events of Jesus’ crucifixion – here: pierced hands and feet and casting lots for his clothing.
- This is the continuation of yesterday’s urges to avoid temptation. This portion explains the aftermath of when temptation is not avoided.