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.
This week we finish Job and begin Ecclesiastes – Ecclesiastes is a fascinating book that accompanies Job and Proverbs in the wisdom literature.
We also spend time in 2 Corinthians. It’s important to note that 2 Corinthians is the second letter from Paul to the church he’s already written once (there aren’t two separate churches). Paul’s letters are written to various churches he either established or supports and each is addressing specific struggles that church is facing. Some struggle with unity, others with discerning how to balance their Jewish heritage with Christian beliefs, and others are unclear on the finer points of salvation.
When reading Paul’s letters, we must remember that they were written to a different group of people in a different cultural context, but the truths of faithfulness and connecting with Christ are still applicable today. I.e. Don’t get too hung up on the instruction not to wear your hair in a braid, but do absorb the encouragement not to do anything that would distract others in worship.
Have you ever tried to memorize Scripture? Maybe your favorite verse? Maybe you and a friend memorized a short passage together? I think we should all try it! It’s incredible when you face a situation and a Bible verse pops into your head and it speaks directly to that situation. So let’s all try it. You can start with 2 Chronicles 20:21 from today’s reading. You’ll read it a lot throughout Scripture and it’s a great reminder.
2 Chronicles 19:1-20:37:
1-2 – It was not good that Jehoshaphat made a pact with Ahab, who was not faithful to God.
5-12 – Jehoshaphat, here, is the model for trusting God in a terrifying time. He remembers the faithfulness of God in the past and uses that as assurance that God will be faithful again, and he sought help from the Lord instead of others.
21 – Memorize the sentence beginning “Give thanks to the Lord…”. It is repeated throughout Scripture and should be one you have on the ready when in need.
14-21 – Paul makes it clear that God is more than willing to reveal himself to anyone and everyone. He continues to be faithful even in the midst of peoples’ disobedience.
1-2 – We can’t swing the pendulum too far the other way and assume that God now rejects all Jews because they’re not gentiles. God saves people regardless of their background.
11-12 – This is very interesting! The question is did God put blinders on the Israelites so they wouldn’t believe and salvation would have to be opened up the gentiles? Because if the Israelites had been faithful, God may not have needed to open salvation up to others.
We often assume God is not answering our prayers when we don’t get what we ask for. Often, God has a different, better plan. Maybe you didn’t get the job you were hoping for. Maybe God has something better in store for you and someone else is a better fit for that job you wanted. In today’s 1 Chronicles reading we are reminded that it was not David’s job to build God’s temple even though he wanted to. God had that plan for someone else and a different plan for David.
1 Chronicles 16:37-18:17:
1-15 – Like we learned in 2 Samuel, God did not intend for David to build the temple. That would be Solomon, his son’s, job. God made promises to David, however, about building him up and establishing his kingdom long term.
16-27 – David humbly accepts the blessings God offers he and his family.
1-5 – We often misinterpret “judgement”. We think we’re not allowed to determine if something is good or bad, when in fact, we must decide this to function. When we are told not to judge others it is telling us that we should not and cannot condemn others. We too are sinners and do not have the authority to condemn.
12 – Those without the law are non-Jews. “The law” refers to the laws Moses handed down. Whether we sin against the law or against God himself, we are all sinners and are deserving of death.
13-16 – This passage can be more easily understood if it’s read like: 13(14-15)16. In short, this tells us that those who don’t even know the Mosaic law were able to fulfill parts of it. Doing what the law says and/or intends, whether you know what it says or not, is far more important than simply knowing it.
17-24 – Some Jews held their heritage as a reason why they were closer to God or more holy than gentiles. Paul calls them out recognizing that all, no matter their heritage, are only saved by faith in Jesus.
17 – There are a number of times when Scripture mentions God hearing the cries of the afflicted. Most notably, God hears the cries of the Israelites in Egypt, which starts the process of a mass exodus.
Verses 8 and 9 stand in contrast with one another giving options for success and failure.
When’s the last time you shared the gospel with someone? This is a rare occurrence for modern day Christians. We are afraid that the gospel is offensive and will upset people. Paul, in writing his letter to the Romans, and on every other day of his life (post conversion) realized the gospel was good news. The fact that we have a Savior who lived and died for us is a great thing! Let’s remember that as we approach others who might not know it.
1 Chronicles 12:19-14:17:
19-40 – At the time the chronicler is talking about, David was still not king. He had a great deal of men who chose to defect from Saul to him.
10 – David was extremely faithful in asking the Lord what to do before doing something.
1-7 – There is a lot of information crammed in these verses.
1) Paul is writing this.
1-2) Paul was set apart to be an apostle of Jesus.
2) We knew the truth of the gospel – aka Jesus’s birth, ministry, death, and resurrection – because it was revealed through the prophets.
3) Jesus was descended from David.
4) Jesus was God in flesh and God’s power raised him from the dead.
5-6) Jesus empowers apostles to bring others to him, including many who would hear this particular message.
7 – This letter was written to the people of Rome.
8-15 – Paul had been eager to go to Rome, where he was a citizen, because he had heard of the faith of many there and wanted to help strengthen that faith.
16-17 – We often see the gospel as offensive and we’re afraid to share it. Paul knew that it was good news and brought life. He was not ashamed.
There are several terms like “Higgaion” and “Selah” whose meanings are not certain. They are presumed to be some sort of musical term since the Psalms often have instructions such as that they are “for the choirmaster”.
4 – Just a few verses earlier, the author tells the reader to choose your friendships carefully and here explains that we often choose our friends for the wrong reasons.
We’ve talked about this before. I hate negative consequences!! Don’t you? If I have the opportunity, I like to shift the blame anywhere other myself. It’s easier that way. Unfortunately, we often blame God for the negative consequences of our sins. “Why would God let me lose my job!?!” we cry. When really the question should be, “Why did I break company policy hoping to get ahead?”
1 Chronicles 11:1-12:18:
4-9 – Jerusalem became the central city for the Israelites and remains so to this day, but it was not so until this conquest of David.
15-19 – Though David’s actions seem a bit ungrateful, he pours the water out as a drink offering because he considers himself not worthy of their extreme devotion. The reason David wanted the water in the first place is because he was originally from Bethlehem.
Though you may not recognize or remember many of the names in the lists from today’s reading, recognize that the chronicler is reminding us that there were a great deal of capable, dedicated fighting men, particularly those dedicated to David’s service.
8 – Because of the snake incident, the people already thought Paul was a god. His ability to heal Publius’ father as well as the other ill people probably only solidified this thought.
16 – Remember that Paul is still technically imprisoned and awaiting trial in front of Caesar by his own request.
20 – He’s referring to Jesus as “the hope of Israel.”
25-28 – It would make sense that the Jews should have recognized Jesus as the Messiah since he fulfilled so many of the prophecies they knew. Many, however, were unable to see it. The gentiles didn’t have as many preconceived notions of who the Messiah should be, so they were more open to Jesus being it.
29 – Did anyone else notice that there’s no Acts 28:29? One does exist, and it’s pretty inconsequential, but many translations leave it out.
9-10 – Confirmation that when we seek God, he will be faithful to meet us. He does not hide from or forsake us.
1 – This is in exact contrast to how our society lives and thinks.
3 – So true!! How often do we blame God for the consequences we receive for our own poor choices?
I hate negative consequences, don’t you? I like to try to skirt around them as much as possible even though I totally deserve them. The sailors in today’s Acts reading are like that. They sailed far later in the season than they should have and have now put themselves and others at risk. They’re trying to figure out any way to not face the music. I can relate.
1 Chronicles 9:1-10:14:
2 – After a long time in exile in Babylon, the Israelites were allowed to slowly return to their land.
17-27 – The position of gatekeeper was one of honor. It was passed down through generations. This position guarded the gates of the temple and the chief gatekeeper manned the gate the king would enter through.
39 – This is Saul, the first king of Israel. We know he was from the tribe of Benjamin so that’s the tribe we’re talking about now.
1-7 – This is the event that finally allows David to become king. We read about this previously in 1 Samuel.
30-32 – The sailors were desperate and wanted to save themselves thinking they would be better off without all the other ship passengers. Paul recognizes their attempt and explains that if they leave the rest of the passengers are doomed.
33-36 – Whether because they were too busy with managing the storm or because they wanted to conservatively ration in case they had to be on the boat a lot longer, the people hadn’t been given food for a while even though they had it.
38 – With a lighter load, the ship could sail closer to shore because it would float higher.
David writes this Psalm seemingly overwhelmed and in awe of the majesty of God’s creation and the goodness he shows to us through it.
This is encouragement to choose friends carefully. You can’t be best friends with everyone and it’s not wise to try.