Isaiah becomes one of the most bold, confident mouthpieces for God in his years as a prophet, but in his calling, which we’ll read today, he’s timid. He, like so many others in Scripture, feels unworthy of what God is calling him to do. When God calls us, he also gives us the ability to fulfill that calling.
- 1-4 – This sets the scene for Isaiah’s calling to be God’s prophet. God is described as vast and powerful.
- 5 – It is very common for folks in the Bible to be hesitant to accept their callings. They often have excuses.
- 6-7 – God always has a solution for people’s excuses.
- 8 – Yet another example of a person in Scripture who answers, “Here I am”.
- 9-13 – God is fed up with the Israelites unfaithfulness. He sends Isaiah to speak a message of repentance but knows the people won’t listen.
- 1-9 – Syria and Israel are in cahoots to attack Jerusalem, which is part of Judah. Isaiah is to assure Judah that Syria and Israel will not prevail.
- 14 – This is a clear prophecy of Jesus’ birth, which wouldn’t happen for over 400 years, but is also specifically talking about Isaiah’s son, Immanuel.
2 Corinthians 11:16-33:
- 19-21 – Apparently the Corinthians were very patient with those who wronged them. Paul admits he did not have that kind of strength.
- 22-29 – These are Paul’s credentials. This is what he’s been willing to endure for the sake of Christ.
- David writes this Psalm after being ratted out. He has been betrayed but his hope is still in the Lord because he knows God has taken care of him before and will continue to do so.
Though Esther is a unique book, it’s understandable why it was included in Scripture. The Jews narrowly escaped total extinction by an evil man and a weasel king. Purim is still celebrated by Jews today as they remember God’s incredible provision and creativity in assuring that they were not wiped out.
- 10 – The Jews choosing not to plunder their enemies is supposed to be a sign that this was a holy war.
- 23-28 – Purim is a Jewish holiday still observed to this day. It is one of their most joyous occasions as they celebrate avoiding extermination at the hands of Haman.
1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13:
- 1-13 – Known as “the love chapter”, 1 Corinthians 13 is popular at weddings. It is actually helpful in all walks of life when thinking about what it means to love. If you want to know if you’re being loving or if someone is showing you love, place it up against these requirements.
- 1 – We do tend to envy wrongdoers because it often seems they get good things easily and are able to take shortcuts. We want their ease of success and don’t always recognize that that success is often short-lived and always dishonoring to God.
- David continually encourages the hearer of this psalm not to worry about those who are unfaithful and to focus on waiting on the Lord.
- 23 – Our mouths tend to get us into trouble. It is wise to watch our words and think through them carefully.
Sin causes separation from God. That is a terrible consequence and should be enough to deter us, but often times, it’s not. Today’s psalm also reminds us that sin has additional consequences. Sin also hurts us and causes us pain and misery. Sounds like we should do our best to avoid it.
- 15-32 – This is a continuation of all the people who help repair the walls of Jerusalem. It is powerful to listen to how they all worked one after another to fix section after section of the wall and gates.
- 7-9 – The strength of a city wall was very important during foreign attacks. The enemies of the Israelites did not like that their walls were getting stronger and thus their city was more protected.
- 1-13 – The wealthy and powerful were taxing those who had less. Nehemiah made them stop because this was weakening them when they were trying to rebuild their city.
1 Corinthians 7:25-40:
- 25-35 – Paul had a mindset that Jesus might be coming back tomorrow. He lived his life in a way to be prepared for that. His advice to the unmarried folks of his day was that it would be better and easier for them to stay unmarried instead of being distracted by a marriage relationship.
- 36-40 – Paul isn’t saying that marriage is bad. He’s just saying people can focus on God better if they stay unmarried.
- 1-5 – David gives thanks to God for forgiving his sins and in so doing gives instructions on how to seek forgiveness.
- 10 – Sin is evil against God, but it also makes life more difficult for the sinner.
- 5 – The Proverbs encourage us over and over again to think through our actions and decisions and not act hastily.
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.
Leaders are leaders for a reason. They have influence and people choose to follow them whether they recognize their choice or not. The Bible is full of good and bad leaders and their quality tends to define the quality of their constituents – particularly in the arena of faithfulness. In today’s 2 Chronicles reading, we see examples of both, but note that King Jehoshaphat takes it further than most. He not only leads his people towards faithfulness, but extends his reach to those surrounding him. I wonder your reach could extend?
2 Chronicles 17:1-18:34:
- 6 – Taking down the high places, where false god worship often occurred, seemed to be the final act of faithfulness that even most of the faithful kings failed to complete.
- 7-10 – Throughout 1&2 Kings we see the faithfulness of the people closely follow the faithfulness of the king. Hear King Jehoshaphat takes it a step further and has his officials teach those in the surrounding lands about God.
- 1-3 – It was unusual for Israel and Judah to work together during their split. There were reasons they split.
- 16 – This phrase “sheep without a shepherd” is used often when people don’t have anyone to follow. Jesus called the Jews that when he started his ministry. The Israelites were often called this when they were not following God.
- 11-22 – Ahab’s prophets guaranteed he would have victory at Ramoth-gilead, but Micaiah explains that they all have a lying spirit and that, due to Ahab’s unfaithfulness, God intends for Ahab to fail. Ahab didn’t really believe Micaiah because he hadn’t liked previous prophesies he’d given.
- 29-34 – Ahab did everything he could to avoid his fate, but what God speaks is true.
- 25-26 – Hosea is a prophet and a book of the Bible. Hosea was called to marry a promiscuous woman so his life could serve as a microcosm of God’s faithfulness to an unfaithful Israel.
- 30-33 – Most human sin points back to our desire to rely on ourselves instead of relying on God.
- 9-13 – This is a quick summary of salvation.
- Most of David’s Psalms are focused on his own troubles, needs, and praises. This one is clearly meant for the whole group.
- 7 – A powerful declaration. Might be something nice to hang above your door frame.
- 3 – Avoiding unnecessary conflict is wise. Fools tend to rush into it.
Apparently there are certain concepts that escape us if not repeated at least a thousand times. Proverbs seems to think so. Yet again, in today’s reading, we are reminded that wisdom is shown when we are patient and slow to act or speak. Foolishness is rash and fast moving and fails to think things through. I know I could stand to hear this message on repeat. How about you?
2 Samuel 1:1-2:11:
- 11-16 – It seems very harsh to us that David kills the young Amalekite who, seemingly, was merciful to a dying Saul. David had deep regard for Saul as the anointed one of God and did not see it as the Amalekite’s job to kill him.
- 1 – David was faithful in seeking God’s guidance before he would make moves.
- 4 – David is now officially king over Judah. He needed for Saul and his sons to die and to be anointed. Now both have happened.
- 4-7 – The men of Jabesh-gilead were the ones who took Saul’s body back from the Philistines after the Philistines tortured and dishonored it. David greatly appreciated this because it was honoring to God’s anointed, Saul.
- 8-11 – One son of Saul was still alive, Ish-bosheth. A portion of the Israelites follow Ish-bosheth as their king, but the majority follow David.
- 23-24 – Jesus knew that in order to conquer sin and for his mission to multiply, he had to die.
- 29 – This is the second recording of God speaking audibly directly to or about Jesus. The first is during his baptism.
- 34-36 – The people could not understand how he could be the Christ and die since their law said the Christ would live forever. They couldn’t reconcile the two. Jesus simply encourages them to follow him while he’s still there.
- 42-43 – A very convicting passage. Too often we care more about what others think than what pleases God.
- 22 – This verse is later applied to Jesus. He was rejected, but ultimately our faith was built on him.
- 24 – A popular, very quotable verse reminding us that each day is a gift from God and should be given back to him with praise.
- 28 – The continual theme in Proverbs of wisdom being slow and thoughtful is repeated here.
How do you know when God’s talking to you? How can you understand if what you think you’re supposed to do is God’s will or just your own desires? In today’s reading from John, Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd. He says sheep follow shepherds because they know his voice. We can know God’s voice based on whether or not it lines up with God’s character and if it aligns with what we know of God through Scripture and prayer.
1 Samuel 22:1-23:29:
- 2 – David clearly had many of the same characteristics as Jesus. The low and broken were attracted to him.
- 11-19 – We are not guaranteed that doing the right thing will have positive consequences. The priests protected David, but were ultimately killed by Saul.
- 2 – David consults God to see what God’s will is before he acts.
- 3-5 – The fear of the people causes David to hesitate, but the Lord confirms his desires and David obeys.
- 6-14 – David and his men could have easily been trapped and ambushed in Keilah, but the Lord watched over him. Notice David’s extremely open and close relationship with God. He asked God for specific information and God does not hesitate to share with him.
- 24-29 – Note that God makes the impossible possible. Saul is closing in on David and something urgent arises right at the right time.
- 3-4 – Sheep know their shepherds voice so they follow his instructions. Note that we just read an example of this with David. He was close with God and knew his voice so he had open conversations with him and knew where God was sending him and what he was calling him to do.
- 7-9 – Another I am statement. Basically, Jesus is the passageway to God. He is also that which closes us off from things we do not need to participate in.
- 10 – A very clear comparison between the thief and Jesus. One steals, kills, and destroys, the other brings abundant life. Seems like an easy choice.
- 11 – Another I am statement. Jesus, as the good shepherd, will and does lay down his life for our good.
- 16 – This explains that not only Jews will be saved, but gentiles as well. They are from different flocks, but both will be saved.
- 1 – Psalms lend themselves to songs because many were used as songs in worship. This psalm inspired this early 2000s gem.
- 4-8 – A perfect explanation of why graven images and various idols are worthless. They seem to have so much to offer (we’re obviously talking about our own “idols” here too), but fall short and leave us empty.
- 18 – Yet another example of prudence and wisdom being associated with rational thought out responses.
Transitions of power are often difficult. No one wants to lose power. Saul was no exception. He was God’s first chosen king to lead His people. He was anointed and appointed and blessed to do the job. He was also given specific instructions…and then disobeyed them. As we know, when God gives specific instructions, he expects people to follow them, specifically. For the rest of the week in 1 Samuel, we will read about the slow, painful, violent transition of power from Saul to David. Don’t worry though, the transition will take much longer than a week’s worth of reading – it’s that good and that intricate.
As you read, make notes of the contrasts between Saul and David. Saul looked much more royal on paper, but, as we’ll read, God doesn’t look at outward appearances. He looks at the heart.
This week, in John, we’ll read a few more of Jesus’ “I am” statements that we wanted to watch out for in John. A couple of them come in a description of Jesus and people compared to sheep and a shepherd. He makes so many comparisons and pulls out so many details, that you might get lost, but I encourage you to focus in on at least one. I suggest thinking a lot about how sheep follow the shepherd because they know his voice. Do you know God’s voice? If not, how can you get to know it? If so, are you listening?
The Psalms and Proverbs continue to run us through a range of emotions and opportunities to gain wisdom. You won’t want to miss them. Don’t worry, the ever-popular theme of Proverbs to take your time on actions and decisions pops up again. I think God means it.
So, happy reading! Take time to learn God’s voice through Scripture. You’re doing great! Keep it up!!
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.