The Thessalonians’ issues have only gotten worse since Paul’s first letter to them. Take a second to find out how Paul encourages the believers to continue in faithfulness despite persecution.
As many of you have thanked me for these notes or mentioned something you noticed about them, I am continually thankful for your faithfulness. This, of course, makes me feel very biblical because, Paul, in many of his letters, including today’s 2 Thessalonians reading, thanks God for various believers’ faithfulness. Know that your faithfulness in reading studying Scripture is blessing me immensely! Thank you!!
- 1-10 – God, once again, gives the house of David (the king of Judah) the opportunity to repent.
- 30 – This verse is problematic because it seems to have God break his promise that the line of David would always be in power. But wait…
- 1-2 – Judah’s rulers were supposed to care for the people but they led them into destruction instead.
- 5-6 – Who does this sound like God is describing? JESUS!! This is a messianic prophecy, which fulfills God’s covenant that David’s line would always reigns and solves the problem of corrupt leadership for Judah.
2 Thessalonians 1:1-12:
- 1-4 – Paul and his companions continue to be thankful for the faithfulness of the Thessalonians.
- 5-10 – The Thessalonians faced great persecution because of their faith. Paul encourages them that their suffering would be justified and rectified by Jesus.
- 1-8 – Asaph calls upon God to aid God’s people against their enemies.
- 9-18 – Asaph knew he could ask this because he had seen God squash enemies for the sake of his people before.
- These verses give clear, simple ways to bless and harm others.
It’s hard for most of us to understand persecution for our faith. The worst we normally have to face is someone ridiculing us for our beliefs. In today’s 1 Thessalonians reading, Paul praises the Thessalonians for enduring persecution for the gospel. As you read it, take a second to pray for those around the world who daily face persecution for the gospel.
- 13-22 – There were many false prophets who were opposing what God was saying through Jeremiah and they were leading the Israelites astray. God tells Jeremiah what to say in response to the false prophets.
- 1-9 – God is not backing down in coming after the false prophets and everyone who follows them.
- 10-21 – Jeremiah is afraid of the people and God confirms his commitment to and protection of Jeremiah. God’s response in verses 19-21 are very powerful.
- 1-15 – The first 13 verses are very bad news for the Israelites. They will face a great deal of destruction. The last two verses give hope, though, that they will eventually be returned to God’s intent for them.
1 Thessalonians 2:10-3:13:
- 13-16 – The Thessalonian believers clearly faced a great deal of persecution as they initially pursued Christ. Paul, multiple times, expresses gratitude for their faithfulness in the midst of it.
- 17-5 – Paul explains why he hasn’t visited Thessalonica again, but why Timothy visited instead.
- 1-13 – Asaph, the psalmist, asks God why he would bother bringing the Israelites out of Egypt only to forsake them later.
- 14-19 – Asaph asks that God returns to the people and restores them.
- 2-3 – God’s mind is far greater than that of a king, but a king’s mind is greater than that of a common person.
- 4-5 – Kings, in order to be faithful and successful, should be taken away from bad advisors and influences.
Today’s psalm reading gives us a helpful insight into the culture of the ancient Israelites. It was widely believed among many cultures of that time that if bad things happened to you, you were not cared for by your god or that your god did not have the power to bless you. The psalmist asks for God to take away their punishment so other nations would stop taunting them and recognize the power of God. We now know (whether we like it or not) that our consequences for our sins do not reflect weakness in God.
- 1-4 – Jeremiah, like many other faithful people, complains to God that, at times, unfaithful people prosper.
- 5-13 – God’s response to Jeremiah is not ideal. He lets him know that things will get worse and that Jeremiah will be attacked by some of those closest to him.
- 1-11 – God gives Jeremiah a very tangible sign of his plans for Judah who once clung to him but now has fallen into pride, which would ultimately lead to destruction.
- 15-27 – God threatens to send Judah into exile unless they turn back to God. Particularly in verse 23, he does not seem hopeful for a good outcome.
- 1-10 – This is talking about an actual drought on the land. People felt forsaken when they were not provided for through rain and plentiful crops.
1 Thessalonians 1:1-2:9:
- 1-10 – Paul states how grateful he is for the good things he has heard about the faith of the Thessalonians. Though they received the gospel amidst persecution, Paul had already heard evidence of them spreading the gospel to others.
- 1-9 – Paul confirms that his intentions in sharing the gospel with the Thessalonians were pure. He justifies this with examples.
- This psalm confesses the sins of the people and asks for God’s forgiveness and that he would end the consequences. Other nations are taunting them as if their consequences mean that God is not caring for them.
- It is easy for us to become lazy and to fall into destruction. It usually starts small and builds without us noticing.
This week we have a bit of a dichotomy in our reading. Paul praises the Thessalonians for their faithfulness to Christ. Jeremiah preaches destruction to the Israelites for their lack of faithfulness.
One major point for why the Thessalonians were faithful and the ancient Israelites were unfaithful is attached to their willingness (or lack there of) to endure difficulties for their faith.
Over and over Paul praises the Thessalonians for enduring persecution for their faith and their diligence in sharing the gospel. On the other side, Jeremiah explains that the Israelites continually seek out idols and, when given the opportunity, turn towards the sinful practices of other nations.
What do we tend to fall back on when times are tough? Faithfulness or anything else?
Today’s proverb is awesome and convicting all at the same time. We tend to gloss over things and avoid calling out sin because we don’t want to judge, but sin is sin. It may not feel good to call it that, but avoiding the truth only hurts us and those who need to be called out.
- 19-31 – Judah had become desolate, which was shameful. The people cried out in anguish over the sorrow of this.
- 1-19 – Jeremiah tells God the people are not repenting. God declares his intent to punish them for their sins and even alludes to exile.
- 20-31 – God reflects on the Israelites’ unwillingness to repent, how it has shaped them and declares that it’s absolutely necessary for him to punish them.
- 1-14 – This is God’s warning to Jerusalem to repent or face certain consequences.
- 24-29 – Paul considers his struggles and persecution worth it when people come to full faith in God.
- 6 – You have the knowledge of who Christ is, now live in a way that shows it.
- 1-9 – The psalmist wonders where God’s help is.
- 10-15 – The psalmist, though feeling in need of God, is able to fall back on his experiences of God from the past to sustain him.
- 24-25 – Call a spade a spade. If someone is sinning, don’t compliment them for it or tell them it’s ok. Call out the sin.
Today we start Philippians. Like Ephesians and Galatians, this is a letter Paul wrote to a church he had interest in. If you ever talk to someone who wants to grow deeper in their faith and isn’t sure where to start in the Bible, Philippians is a great place to send them. It is short, simple, and to the point.
- 1-14 – The Lord makes it clear what kinds of worship he prefers. True worship is never routine and meaningless. He asks for us to care for those in need as an act of worship.
- 1-19 – God will not tolerate injustice and he is clear that he will punish those who oppress others.
- 17 – Note the similarity to the Armor of God from Ephesians.
- 21 – God makes a new covenant with the new Israel. Though this is not the covenant of Christ yet, it is a new way for God to connect with his people.
- 1-6 – Paul begins most of his letters with a warm greeting and encouragement on how thankful he is that the recipients of the letter are partnering with him in living out and spreading the gospel of Christ.
- 12-14 – Though other believers may have been concerned about facing similar persecution as Paul, he assures them that it has been worth it because of how it has advanced the gospel.
- 21 – Paul offers several poetic yet slightly cryptic sayings like this throughout his letters. Paul basically means that if he’s alive, he’s going to be serving Christ. When he dies, he’ll get to be with Christ.
- 1-16 – The psalmist is confident in the Lord’s ability to save him from his enemies because he is able to reflect on other times God has taken care of him.
- 17-24 – The psalmist praises God in advance for taking care of him and even promises to tell others of God’s great deeds.
- 10 – This verse calls out all those who feel strong in their faith or otherwise who then topple over when difficulties come. The strength of our faith is determined when tested.
Isaiah reminds us that our strength comes in repentance. Though it’s difficult and sometimes feels weak to admit wrong, do it anyway. Plus, Chicago encourages you to as well.
- 15-17 – Judah’s strength, and ours for that matter, is in repentance and humility before the Lord. Our strength is through him.
- 19-22 – Though the Israelites had faced a difficult time of oppression, God promises them that they will be restored to him. Vs. 21 is a powerful explanation of how God leads us through the Holy Spirit.
- 1-9 – The Kingdom of Judah feared the Assyrians, but God reminds them that their fear is misguided. They can trust in the protection of God no matter how scary their opponents are. They have no need to fear.
- 15-20 – Though so much of Isaiah speaks of punishment and difficulties the Israelites and other nations have brought upon themselves, there are glimmers of hope, like this passage, that remind the Israelites that there will be restoration one day.
- 1-12 – Once again, Assyria is in trouble.
- 1 – Christ died for us in order to set us free from the slavery of sin. Yet some of the Israelites were trying to put themselves back under the yolk of the law.
- 5-6 – We are no longer under any covenant other than that of Christ’s death and resurrection. We do not need to conform to those laws or practices, but simply need to rely on the grace of Christ.
- 7-12 – Like at the beginning of the letter, Paul is shocked that the Galatians have so quickly forgotten or turned away from what he taught them.
- 12 – This is obviously a little harsh, but also a play on the fact that those he opposes are teaching circumcision.
- 1-8 – David’s desire for God is unmatched by other followers. He equates his need for God with his need for sustenance.
Who do you work for? Yes, that is a trick question. When asked that question, I answer, “Munger Place Church”. The truth is, no matter how you fill in the blank, the correct answer is “I work for God”. This is how we should view our daily tasks – as done for God. When we feel like slacking off, cheating, or lying, we must remember that we’re not getting back at our jerk of a boss, we’re disrespecting God.
- 15:1-16:14 – This is the prophecy against Moab. The Moabites were continual enemies of Israel and tended to seek out wars. The end of the prophecy is that Moab will end up weak.
- 17:1-18:7 – This prophecy is against Damascus, a city in Syria. The Syrians were tough and were also gifted warriors.
- 6-9 – Jesus warns about this kind of “hearer of the word” in the parable of the 4 seeds. He explains that some hearers shoot up quickly but don’t have roots so they burn up quickly. The Galatians were quick to turn to another option after they had accepted the gospel of Christ.
- 10 – This is difficult, but a challenge we should all pursue: to work to please God instead of man.
- 12-14 – In Paul’s early years, he was a Christian-persecuting Jew. He cannot take credit for what Christ did in him because it was against all odds.
- David speaks out against those who judge wrongly. He knows there is ultimately a reward for those who are righteous, but for now, the unrighteous are able to flourish.
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.