Context is key in Scripture. This is why it’s so important to read the whole Bible and not just pick out words and phrases that we like or agree with. In 1 Timothy, Paul addresses women, but it’s important to know that there was a significant group of women in the church he’s addressing who were teaching bad doctrine.
- 1-11 – God promises to restore Israel and Judah but also makes it clear that they will still be punished for their sins. He assures them that it will be a lighter punishment.
- 3 – God’s faithfulness to Israel had nothing to do with their ability to reciprocate but simply because of his great love for them. Humanity can never fully reciprocate God’s love for us.
- 10-14 – What beautiful, comforting promises! God promises to turn mourning into joy, give comfort, and turn sorrow into gladness.
1 Timothy 2:1-15:
- 1-4 – We should be in prayer for all people to come to salvation.
- 5-7 – Paul assures his readers of his calling. His words assuring them he’s not lying about his calling are comically conversational.
- 8-11 – Remember that Paul was addressing problems occurring in the church. Here, he was teaching women, who presumably had entered worship with flashy, distracting clothes and jewelry, to dress modestly. He also addresses the men that have become quarrelsome over theological debates.
- 12-15 – This passage, particularly verse 12, can be problematic, particularly in our context where we affirm women in pastoral leadership. Are we practicing the faith unfaithfully or is the Bible wrong? Neither of these have to be true for us to resolve this issue. The main question we need to ask is whether or not we believe this passage was meant for its particular context. In the United Methodist church we have concluded that it was for the particular context Paul was addressing.
- 4 – This verse lists off several surrounding areas of Jerusalem (Zion). Jerusalem, and what would ultimately happen there (Jesus’ death and resurrection), were intended to be a blessing to all people. The writers of this psalm could not have known exactly how yet, but they believed that it would be true.
- 19 – When needed, these things will all ultimately fail you.
Yep, still in Isaiah. Settle in. We’ll be here for a while.
But, in the New Testament, in case you need a little reprieve from all the prophecies, we’ll look at two of Paul’s epistles (fancy word for letters – use it at parties – it will make you sound smart and holy). This week we read Galatians and Ephesians.
As you begin Ephesians, read it with this in mind: Paul was in prison when he wrote it. Even in the opening verses, as Paul exclaims, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,” (Ephesians 1:3). His joy and faith are evident.
Though I hope to never be imprisoned for my faith, I hope my joy and eagerness to share Christ are comparable to that of Paul.
Have you ever been on a seesaw when the weight distribution on either end is way off? One person ends up doing all the work. It’s not the other person’s fault. They just physically can’t get down to the ground. This is a crude analogy of what Paul’s talking about when he encourages believers not to marry nonbelievers. They are simply not equally matched when it comes to their spiritual lives.
- 9-12 – These verses are key in helping us understand the importance of friendship and being in relationship in general. We are designed to lean on others and have them lean on us as well.
- 13 – The things that we value, wealth and power, are not always the things that benefit us most.
- 1-3 – These verses encourage us to enter God’s presence with reverence and awe. We are to listen for God first instead of assuming we know what he wants and how we should act.
- 4-7 – It is better not to tell God we’re going to do something and not do it than to never promise anything at all. This is similar to the parable Jesus tells in Matthew 21.
- 1-6 – Possessions truly don’t matter. Most of the time, when we have lots of things, we’re worried about maintaining possession of those things and often don’t enjoy them. This is a waste of life.
2 Corinthians 6:14-7:7:
- 14-18 – These verses are often used when explaining why believers should not marry nonbelievers. Similar arguments could be made for going into business with nonbelievers. Believers cannot expect nonbelievers to have the same priorities, beliefs, and understandings as them. As believers we are called to be transformed and to put Christ first. This effects every aspect of life.
- 5-7 – Paul’s unquenchable joy is so apparent here. He explains to the Corinthians the difficulties he has faced, but continues to rejoice in hearing of other believers joining in the battle with him.
- Our God is worthy of our praise. We should sing to him and honor him with song.
- God does not take kindly to the powerful oppressing the weak in any circumstance. He calls us to care for the poor, the widow, the orphan, the child, and the one who is new to the faith.
It’s interesting how our reading lines up today. We’re reading about Ezra trying to reestablish the function of the second temple and reading a psalm helping dedicate the original temple. But this kind of thing can be confusing at times because the Bible is not chronological. Which temple are we talking about when? Who were contemporaries? Etc. Here is a timeline of some of the major biblical events this will hopefully be helpful.
- 1-6 – When Ezra showed up, it had been 58 years since the dedication of the temple.
- 11-20 – The king gives all the priests permission to go back to Jerusalem with Ezra and to equip the temple with everything it needs.
- 25-20 – Ezra is appointed to begin to rebuild the structure of authority within Jerusalem as people head back to settle there.
1 Corinthians 4:1-21:
- 6-7 – We are not to boast in our gifts or good fortunes because all of it was given to us by God.
- 9-13 – Though Paul’s description of what it’s like to be an apostle of Christ doesn’t sound incredibly appealing, it is well worth it when we get to share Christ with others and bring them to him.
- 16 – This is the goal! We want to be so active in our faith that we can encourage others to live like we do knowing that will help them live more like Christ.
- This would have been written for the first temple dedication, not the one we just read about in Ezra. It very well may have been read at the second dedication too though.
- 5 – A reminder that there is always joy to come.
- 11-12 – These verses, as well as the majority of the psalm, are clearly transitioning out of a time of pain into a time of great celebration. The dedication of the temple would have been such a time of hope for the Israelites.
Are you a terrible singer? Can’t carry a tune in a bucket? That’s ok! You can’t tell me you don’t belt it out in the shower or when alone in your car. Praising God is the perfect time to stretch out those vocal chords. Today’s psalm reminds us that we’re all called to give God praise through song. He deserves it and loves it…even if you sound awful.
2 Kings 18:13-19:37:
- 16 – Gold that was, at one time, given as an offering to the Lord to build his home amongst the Israelites, was now stripped off and given to a foreign king. The change in the state of affairs is drastic.
- 19-25 – A message is sent from the king of Assyria to Hezekiah, the king of Judah, taunting him and saying that God will not be able to save Judah.
- 28-35 – Hezekiah was a king faithful to the Lord. Clearly the king of Assyria is trying to do everything he can to get the people of Judah to turn against Hezekiah and God.
- 36-1 – Hezekiah’s men all tore their clothes as a sign of deep sorrow and disgrace. They were afraid that the king of Assyria might be right.
- 6-7 – Isaiah, the next great prophet, assures Hezekiah and his men that God will rescue them and the king of Assyria will actually die in his own land.
- 10-13 – The king of Assyria’s bullying tactics are convincing. All the other kings Assyria had gone up against had fallen. Granted, their gods weren’t God.
- 29-31 – God gives Judah a sign that he actually is speaking and they can trust him.
- 10-14 – Though Christian persecution was rampant in Jerusalem, Paul knew he had to go there. All his companions tried to convince him not to, but he was well prepared to face persecution for the sake of the gospel.
- 3 – We are to praise the Lord with song…even if we’re not that talented. Just make a joyful noise.
It’s important to read the Bible carefully. If only skimming, stories like the one of the King of Moab sacrificing his son, in today’s Acts reading, could be mistaken for something God wanted or chose. God did not want the king to sacrifice his son. God did not ask him to do that. That was the king’s own evil choice. We tend to read the Bible as if everything is telling us to “go and do likewise”. This is simply not the case.
2 Kings 3:1-4:17:
- 9 – The kingdoms of Israel and Judah had not been united on anything since just after Solomon’s reign.
- 13 – Elisha learned his sass from Elijah. The king of Israel’s parents worshipped Baal. Elisha is pointing out that the king wants the Lord’s help even though he hasn’t been faithful to the Lord.
- 17-19 – It is often the simplest things that prove God’s favor or lack there of. Like when wandering in the desert, the Israelites lack water and God provides it.
- 27 – The King of Moab who sacrificed his son did not do this to honor God. God did not ask this of him.
- 1-7 – The Lord provided for the woman when it seemed impossible. He multiplied the oil to make it profitable for her so she could take care of herself and her son.
- 8-10 – Above and beyond hospitality
- 11-17 – Elisha was blessed and then asked the Lord to bless the woman in return.
- 8-10 – Healings often happened because of faith. This one is simply because Paul saw faith in the crippled man.
- 11-18 – The people assumed that Paul and Barnabas were their gods in human form. This, for obvious reasons, greatly distressed the men of God.
- 19-23 – When Paul later writes about suffering for the sake of Christ, he is not speaking figuratively. He truly had suffered greatly to share the gospel.
- It is pretty incredible that, with so many aggressive enemies, David is still able to focus on and remain faithful to God. At the same time, it is pretty incredible how well God protected David from his enemies.
- Joy, a fruit of the spirit, is more than just enjoyable, it’s life giving.