Do you remember learning, in elementary school, that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile? It is kind of surprising that we have to make special effort to frown. This is kind of like when we think about what Hebrews tells us today – it is easier to stray from God’s path than to remain faithful. Shouldn’t it be easier to remain faithful? Unfortunately, there are a lot of outside forces pulling us away from faithfulness. This is why we need to surround ourselves with other faithful folks to help bounce us back on the righteous path.
- 1-3 – This gives the context of Ezekiel’s visions from God, which he is now prophesying.
- 4-28 – This sets the scene of what Ezekiel sees as he receives his visions. The creatures, wheels, and dome, all play a part in showing God’s majesty as he speaks to Ezekiel.
- 2 – Ezekiel, more than any other prophet, makes the Spirit an emphasis.
- 2:8-3:3 – Ezekiel is twice instructed to eat a scroll. This is, in effect, asking him to fill himself with the word of God.
- 12-15 – God’s wind takes Ezekiel from the sweetness of ingesting God’s scrolls back to the stark contrast of the harsh reality of the exiles. Ezekiel becomes bitter.
- 1-6 – Moses, like David and Elijah, was highly revered for his acts of faithfulness by Jewish people. The author, here, is explaining that as great Moses was, Jesus is higher.
- 12-15 – It is harder to live faithfully than it is to fall away because temptation and complacency are constantly pulling us away from faithfulness. This encourages us to help each other stay faithful.
- 16-19 – The author encourages the believers to learn from the Israelites wandering in the desert’s mistakes.
- This psalm offers a series of the many ways God provides for his creation. Each is so thoughtful and intricate.
- 24-26 – Hate in our heart can be masked by kind sounding words, but will eventually shine through.
I have posted today’s proverb on my husband’s mirror. I feel it’s just a good reminder.
1 Chronicles 7:1-8:40:
- Many of the tribes, after naming their genealogies, describe their men as “mighty warriors”. Israelite men over the age of 20 were expected to fight in wars. Still to this day, all Israeli men, now at the age of 18, are required to spend 4 years in the army. Women are now required to serve 2 years.
- 27 – This is the Joshua who was mentored by Moses.
- 9 – Ancient Jews timed their sailing seasons around the various festivals because of the weather that accompanied those times of years. Sailing after the Fast, which was the Day of Atonement, which was around September, was treacherous.
- 3-9 – Clearly David is confident that he is on God’s side and obeying God’s will in the situation he’s referring to. He even asks God to judge him according to his own righteousness, which I don’t feel like any of us would be willing to do.
Jesus’ ministry was all about turning common understandings on their heads. One place we see this in a concentrated area is the Beatitudes found in the Sermon on the Mount. Today’s Psalm has a similar feel. This helps us understand that Jesus’ ministry wasn’t made up out of thin air. His ministry was a continuation of God’s work in the world and was reminded us of the areas we had missed the mark.
1 Kings 7:1-51:
- 1 – Note, it took Solomon 7 years to build God’s house and 13 to build his own.
- 2-51 – These are details on what Solomon’s palace looked like as well as some final descriptions of the temple.
- 30-38 – Stephen continues to recount Moses’ journey and experience.
- 39-50 – Stephen continues to describe times when the Israelites’ ancestors interacted with God. He highlights their unfaithfulness at times.
- 1-2 – Reminiscent of the Beatitudes when blessings are given to those who we wouldn’t normally think of as being blessed.
- 31-32 – With age normally comes wisdom and experience – and often, a more level head.
- 32 – “Ruling your spirit” versus “taking a city”. One sounds much more glamorous, but the other is far more advantageous overall.
You know when a little kids tells you he’s Batman? It’s cute, but you know he’s actually not and you just play along with it. Well…this is pretty much exactly the opposite thing that happens with Jesus in today’s John reading. He calls himself “I am” and says he came before Abraham, the original, and highly lauded patriarch. The religious leaders did NOT think it was cute and did not go along with it…but it was true. He truly was “I am”.
1 Samuel 18:5-19:24:
- 7-9 – David’s success pleased Saul until it threatened his own.
- 10-11 – The first, but not last, time Saul tries to injure or kill David.
- 16 – David “went out and came in before them” meaning he led them in battle. He did not hide behind, but led them with courage. This built trust and affection for him.
- 20-29 – Saul thought that he could set David up for failure and possibly death by sending him to battle Philistines in order to win his daughter as a wife. Instead, David succeeded in the mission and received Saul’s daughter as a wife.
- 1-7 – Jonathan took a large risk in speaking favorably about David to Saul, his father. Saul had tried to injure and kill David previously.
- 8-10 – David’s favor with Saul was short-lived and he was forced to flee again when Saul tried to injure him again.
- 34-36 – Being a slave to sin means that it has power over you and controls you. Sin is that powerful. When we allow it into our lives and takes power over us. Jesus is the only one who can free us from this slavery.
- 42-43 – Jesus is much more open in the gospel of John about his relationship to God – specifically, father/son.
- 52-53 – The Jews held Abraham in such high esteem that it was impossible for them to view this man from Nazareth as greater than Abraham.
- 58 – Jesus refers to himself here as “I am” which is what God referred to himself as when Moses asked who, should I tell the Pharaoh, sent me. This makes the Jews mad and further solidifies that he is the Son of God.
- This psalm describes someone who is living a righteous, upright life. The key component to all the greatness is fearing God and following his commands. This is reiterated throughout Scripture.
- When we are already steeped in sin, we often avoid those who are wise or righteous because we don’t want to be called out and have to abandon our sin. This behavior becomes a deeper and deeper hole we dig for ourselves.
Today’s reading from 1 Samuel says, “the word of the Lord was rare in those days.” We see with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and others, God has conversations and advice for these people throughout their lives. But for a time, whether by God’s choice or because the Israelites had strayed so far from him, God was silent. God’s voice was so absent that Samuel didn’t recognize it when he called. Is it possible that we too have strayed far from God and don’t recognize his voice when he calls?
1 Samuel 2:22-4:22:
- 25 – Eli’s sons had sinned continually against God, choosing to sin directly against his laws, against the women who served God, and against the offerings given to God. Their hearts were hardened through their vast sins and then God chooses to harden them completely.
- 27-36 – God cuts off Eli’s family from the priesthood because of his son’s great sins. Though Eli didn’t sin to the extent of his sons, he also didn’t make a great effort to stop them.
- 1 – This means God was not speaking directly to people much at this time. This could be a choice by God or it could be because of Israel’s distance from God.
- 4 – Yet another biblical character who responds to God’s call with the faithful response, “Here I am.”
- 7 – Samuel was still young and hadn’t had a direct encounter with God so he was unable to recognize his voice. In John’s gospel Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd and because of that, the sheep know his voice.
- 9-10 – A beautiful, willing response.
- 11-15 – Eli raised Samuel so hearing such a negative report about Eli from God would be quite troubling to the young man. It is not surprising that he was scared to tell Eli.
- 19 – Samuel was eager to learn all he could from the Lord.
- 3-11 – The Ark of the Covenant, which contained the Ten Commandments, represented the presence of God. God could have caused the Israelites to defeat the Philistines but decided not to because of the sins of Hophni and Phinehas.
- 22 – The Ark of the Covenant being captured would be like Washington D.C. being taken over by our enemies. But it was even worse than that because it represented God no longer being in their presence.
- 25-29 – This passage tells us that there will be a resurrection for the dead and both believers and non-believers will be judged by Christ.
- 45-47 – The Jews based their holiness and worthiness on Moses’ law. When Jesus says it is Moses that will accuse them before God and not him, he is expressing that none of them have succeeded in meeting Moses’ standards and thus none can be justified before God.
- 4-5 – God was extremely gracious to his people, the Israelites and the psalmist is asking for inclusion on this treatment.
- 7-12 – Of all the great works God did for the Israelites, clearly the most significant to them was being rescued from Egypt. It is, far and away, the most referenced act of God throughout the Old Testament.
- This portion of the proverb contrasts peace and dissatisfaction. The former gives us life, while the other sucks it out of us.
Just like us, the Israelites struggled to retain memories of the good things God had done for them. They needed to be continually reminded of specific instances of God’s faithfulness. In today’s psalm, the psalmist recounts a series of time where God proved himself faithful and that faithfulness in the past gave hope to the original readers and can give hope to us as well. We serve a faithful God.
- 1-2 – The Israelites were commanded to not go through their fields and pick up the leftovers but to leave them for widows and travelers. This is exactly what Ruth is taking advantage of.
- 8-10 – Boaz essentially guarantees Ruth’s safety and provision.
- 6-18 – Though the language is somewhat suggestive that Ruth and Boaz had a sexual encounter, the language is just uncertain enough that you can’t say either way with any confidence. Maybe she did simply sleep at his feet all night after a kind, generous conversation. Either way, it was scandalous in their culture that she stayed the night with a man who was not her husband.
- 1-6 – Women, like land, were considered property. Ruth came along with the land since she had no male relative to marry.
- 7 – The phrase, “now this was custom in former times,” makes it clear that this story was told to people years later when customs had changed.
- 11-12 – Rachel, Ruth and Boaz, Perez, Tamar, and Judah are all part of Jesus’ lineage listed in the first chapter of Matthew.
- 17 – This lineage is listed to show Ruth’s connection to David and eventually to Jesus. It is significant that Ruth was not an Israelite so we know that gentiles were part of Jesus’ background.
- 47-54 – Jesus frequently rewards people who believe without having seen a miracle or been told specifically who he is.
- 54 – Though John’s gospel doesn’t enumerate all of Jesus’ miracles, clearly the writer wanted the readers to recognize that this was Jesus’ second miracle in a particular place.
- “The fear of the Lord” is an interesting concept. Fear can be replaced with the word “awe”. When we stand in awe or reverence of something, we hold great respect for it. This fear or awe should lead us to obedience. Because of that, when we fear the Lord and it leads to obedience, we are fully protected by the Lord and can have confidence in that.
Have you ever had to fill enormous shoes? Joshua, throughout the book, is presented as the next Moses – he even parts the Jordan River. But unlike Moses, he is able to bring people into the land they’ve longed for for 40 years. This video will explain all that and more.
Today’s Luke, Psalm, and Proverbs reading all have a similar theme. There is wise instruction, which would offer protection, but the hearer refuses to listen. In the Prodigal Son parable, the young man squanders his inheritance and leaves his father’s home. In the psalm, the Israelites are finally allowed to feel the consequences of their wayward ways, and the proverb reminds us that when we are wise we listen to the faithful instruction of those who love us. Seems like God might be trying to tell some of us something…
- 1 – Clearly other nations had heard of the power of the God of Israel. Though they worshipped other gods, they knew of the wonders God had performed.
- 10-12 – A powerful illustration that God provides for us in different ways, but he always provides.
- 15 – The parallels between Joshua and Moses continue. When God called Moses from the burning bush, he also told Moses to take off his shoes because he was on holy ground.
- 1-25 – Joshua toppling the walls of Jericho is a fairly familiar story, but often we don’t know why or when it happened. Now we see that Jericho was part of the Promised Land that Israel was to take it over.
- 25 – Phrases like, “to this day” in Scripture remind us that the stories of the Bible were told by actual people about actual events. This culture had an oral tradition meaning they passed down their history and faith through telling stories to one another. These stories were repeated again and again. Clearly, when the book of Joshua was written down, Rahab was still living under Israelite protection.
- The three parables in this section all have to do with God’s willingness to pursue anyone who is sinning and straying. It also describes the joy that occurs when anyone repents from their sins and chooses to follow Christ.
- 12 – This is the younger son basically telling his father he wishes he was dead because inheritances were not normally distributed until the father was dead.
- 15-16 – This would have been detestable to the Jews listening to Jesus because Jews viewed pigs as unclean animals.
- 22 – The ring the story speaks of is a family ring designating that the son is fully embraced back into the family.
- 11-32 – This familiar parable, often called, “The Prodigal Son,” is easy to relate to. A wayward child sins and then returns and is welcomed back by a gracious, loving father. The older, faithful brother is angry because the younger son’s shortcomings are seemingly being celebrated simply because he’s returned home. It is easy for us to relate to the father or the younger son. It is hard for us to relate to the older son, though most likely, that’s the role that many of us play.
- 12 – It is explained that God finally gave the Israelites what they wanted. They didn’t want to obey God’s commands, but they didn’t think about how that meant God could no longer protect them. This is like when a parent finally allows their disobedient child to experience the consequences of their actions.
- This Proverb relates perfectly to the parable of the Prodigal Son as well as the Psalm. Both the father to the son and God to the Israelites gave wise counsel on how to live. They had the choice to listen or to choose their own way. When we choose our own way, we suffer the consequences.
The Israelites were the chosen people of God. They were protected by him in war and provided for by him for all their needs. But then their sins led them to exile where they were rejected and alone. Today’s psalm recounts the Israelites’ experience in exile.
Deuteronomy 34:1-Joshua 2:24:
- 8-12 – As easily spooked as the Israelites were, you can imagine that Moses’ death would have had the potential to send them into hysterics wondering if God would still show up for them. In God’s great wisdom, he had already begun to raise a new leader, Joshua, into power so the Israelites could have someone to follow.
- After four books worth of wandering in the desert, the Israelites are finally about to enter the Promised Land.
- 5-9 – God’s initial instructions to Joshua tell him how to lead the people of Israel. He must follow all the commands Moses relayed to him from God. He must also be strong and courageous. This command is repeated 3 times in rapid succession. Any time something is repeated 3 times, it means it’s something you need to pay particular attention to.
- 1-24 – Rahab is unlikely heroine in the Bible. She is a prostitute and is not an Israelite. However, she cares for the Israelite and asks only for safety in return. Because of her kindness and protection of the Israelite spies, she is rewarded. She is even mentioned in Matthew’s lineage of Jesus. She is the mother of Boaz who marries Ruth, who has a book of the Bible written about her.
- 22 – As early as chapter 9, the gospel writer describes Jesus as heading towards Jerusalem. Here we see it again. This does not mean it is a ridiculously long journey that takes all this time. It is simply that Jesus, starting then, was on his mission towards the cross.
- 24-30 – Many religious folks wanted to rely on their devotion to the rules to buy their ticket to God’s kingdom. Jesus is letting them know that following the rules would not be enough and soon he would be gone and they would have missed their chance to have a place in the kingdom.
- 34 – Jesus was sent first to the Jews and Jerusalem was their hub. Unfortunately the Jews rejected Jesus over and over again and would not allow him to protect them.
- This Psalm refers to the Israelites’ experiences during exile. The Babylonians conquered them and all the nations assumed the Israelites’ God who normally protected them had disappeared.
- 13 – So often throughout the Bible the Israelites are referred to as the sheep of God’s pasture. They were God’s original chosen people and the original ones that Jesus came to save. Thankfully Jesus expanded his ministry to gentiles as well.
- Humans are, by nature, selfish beings. We often fail to think about how our actions will effect others. This Proverb reminds us that our actions can lead people into righteousness or lead them astray.
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.