There are certain things in life that you simply cannot do halfway. You can’t get kind of married. You can’t come to work sometimes (and expect to keep working there). And you can’t love God most of the time. This is what Jehoshaphat tried to do. For the most part, he’s a good guy…but he was only faithful to a point. God is not looking for partial followers or sometimes believers. He is looking for our whole hearts and whole commitment.
1 Kings 22:1-53:
- 5 – Jehoshaphat was willing to go into an alliance with Ahab, but only if the Lord approved it.
- 6-8 – The 400 prophets who gave Ahab the go-ahead were not prophets of the Lord. Micaiah was and he spoke truth from the Lord. Ahab preferred good news to truth.
- 40 – Micaiah was right. Ahab trying to conquer Ramoth-gilead was a bad idea. He dies in battle and Ahaziah takes over.
- 42-44 – It seems that Jehoshaphat intended to honor and worship God, but he failed in certain areas – leaving up certain allegiances to other gods and making an alliance with someone who did not honor God.
- Today’s reading is pretty much the best sermon ever preached.
- 16-25 – Paul sums up the grace of God and the failures of the Israelites from Jacob to John the Baptist.
- 26-41 – Paul explains how Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies the Jews read so frequently and longed to have fulfilled. He also warns them not to be the ones who fulfilled the prophecy that many people would not see and understand.
- So many of David’s psalms show his steadfastness in praising God despite his surroundings or circumstances.
- 17 – True, godly relationships are able to withstand difficulty and trials.
The Holy Spirit is often referred to as a burning fire or rushing wind. In Acts, the Holy Spirit is given to the early believers, so you can imagine that this book gets pretty rowdy. Just imagine a big group of new believers who are eager to spread the message of Christ as quickly as possible because they think he’s coming back soon. How eager would we be to share Christ if we had a similar mindset?
2 Samuel 20:14-22:20:
- 14-22 – Though Sheba’s fate is a little unsettling, the wise woman assures that her city is not attacked.
- 1-9 – It was not unusual for people to have to pay for the sins of their parents or grandparents. Saul’s offspring pay the ultimate price.
- 10-14 – Restoring Saul and Jonathan’s bones to their family to be buried where they belonged was an act to honor Saul.
- 2-20 – David’s song here is almost identical to Psalm 18. David gives glory to God for his victories and recalls his relationship with God over time.
- 1 – Acts is considered a second section of the gospel of Luke, most likely written by the same author.
- 11 – Jesus doesn’t die again after his resurrection. He simply ascends to heaven on a cloud and the disciples are told that this is how he will return as well. This is what we are to watch for.
- 12-14 – The disciples continued to pray and meet together after Jesus left.
- 21-26 – Matthias is chosen as the new 12th disciple to fill Judas’ place.
- Our pride often tells us we deserve or are capable of more than we’re called to. Humility allows us to wisely and graciously take what God gives us.
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.
My mom heard me call my sister a “butthead” once. She told me never to say it again so I literally never did until I retold the story when I was in my 20’s. It was still difficult to say. Just because we sin once doesn’t mean we should continue on with that sin. It’s not as if that has to be your “thing”. Today’s 1 Samuel reading reminds us of why this is an important concept to understand.
1 Samuel 12:1-13:22:
- 1-5 – Some Bible scholars say that Samuel is the most boring character in Scripture. Basically, he never turns from God or is involved in a scandal of any sort. He is just steady. Not even his constituents can find fault with him.
- 8-14 – The Lord was continuously faithful in protecting and providing for the Israelites, but people are fickle, and when things got scary, they lost trust. They convinced themselves that a human king could protect them from other nations best.
- 20-22 – A good reminder that just because we’ve been sinful doesn’t mean we should keep on sinning and assume God is no longer for us. God redeems and restores over and over.
- 2 – There were many places called Gibeah in the area, that’s why Gibeah has been mentioned multiple times recently. Each Gibeah is qualified, for instance, this is Gibeah of Benjamin.
- 8-14 – Saul was not supposed to offer burnt offerings. That was the job of the priest. Saul was afraid of the Philistines and afraid that his supporters and army were abandoning him so he took matters into his own hands. Because of his lack of faith, his family line would not continue to be king.
- 14 – The description, “A man after God’s own heart” is only used about one person throughout Scripture, the next king: David.
- 19-22 – This sounds like a pretty difficult way to fight a battle.
- 2 – The Feast of Booths, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles or the Feast of the Ingathering, is the last of the 7 festivals Jews were to observe. During it, Jews put together a small, quickly built hut to eat their meals in. It is a time of remembering when their ancestors lived in small, quickly built huts for 40 years in the desert. It was later used to celebrate the harvest.
- 10-13 – Jesus’ ministry caused a huge ruckus amongst the religious authorities. He was starting a movement that didn’t fit in their constraints and they felt threatened.
- 16-18 – A good way to check ourselves. Are we seeking glory for God or for ourselves – a good way to know whether or not you should continue what you’re doing.
- 26-28 – The people of Jerusalem who begin to question if Jesus really was the Christ or not raise the point that they know where Jesus came from, which means he can’t be the Christ. They think they know where he came from as in Mary’s womb and Nazareth his hometown. But truly, Jesus comes from God.
- 4 – This beautiful description of God’s great love and faithfulness inspired a Third Day song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEF7IoQ3eUk
- This psalm is a mixture of David’s praise to God and remembering the reasons he deserves praise and a plea for help in war. Often we ask for the help without offering the praise or thanksgiving.
- We often think perverse words or thoughts are all in fun or can be stopped at any time. Instead, these words and thoughts are the fruit of what we are putting into ourselves. From a good tree comes good fruit. From a bad tree comes bad fruit.
Do you find yourself saying the same thing over and over in prayer? It’s fine if there’s a specific, ongoing prayer request, but what about the fairly meaningless fillers? Do you tend to drone on and on without a whole lot of meaning or thought behind it? Why not try to pray like Psalm 98:1 encourages us to? Try to offer God a new praise for each new blessing you receive. You will end up feeling much more connected to him through prayer.
- 2-8 – The Midianites were a powerful fighting nation, but God only sent Gideon with 300 men to fight them because he did not want them to be able to say that they defeated Midian by their own power. This sounds extreme, but it is extremely easy to believe we succeed on our own power.
- 20-25 – The trumpets and jars were used to scare the Midianite army into fleeing and God blessed the Israelites’ swords as they pursued the Midianites.
- 4-9 – The men of Succoth and Penuel did not believe that Gideon would defeat the kings of Midian so they refused to help the Israelite army. Because of this Gideon explains that he will repay them once he overtakes the Midianite kings.
- 18-25 – It was custom for Pilate to release one prisoner at Passover. The crowds chose a murderer and asked that Jesus still be killed even though no fault was found in him.
- 27 – Not everyone had turned against Jesus. He still had a faithful following who were distraught over his impending death.
- 28-31 – Jesus is saying that if these people will reject and crucify Jesus when he’s on earth, how much less will they honor him when he’s not present. In a way he’s saying, it would be better to not even have children than to have to watch them dishonor Christ so greatly.
- 34 – Even when he’s about to be crucified, he’s still offering forgiveness.
- 43 – An unlikely candidate, this is the only person, other than the disciples, Jesus explicitly tells that they will be in heaven with him.
- 1 – Though God loves to hear our prayers, it seemingly would honor him more if we offer new praise with each blessing instead of a generic blanket prayer for all our blessings.
- 4-9 – We can all find a joyful song to sing in praise to God. Even the oceans and rivers have their way of praising. No matter what ours sounds like, we should make a joyful noise to God.
- 8 – Our wisdom is not simply for good looks or just convenient. Our wisdom should be used to discern where God is calling us and where we should go.
Today, in our reading from Luke, we encounter Herod…but in fact, it’s just one of several Herods involved in Jesus’ life at various times. Check out this resource, which will shed a little more light into the Herods.
- 8-10 – God reminds them of the good things he’s done for them and that they still disobeyed him. The Israelites seem to have a short memory when it comes to who is worthy of their worship.
- 13-14 – Gideon was young enough that he had not seen God’s power and miracles. Because of the Israelites’ unfaithfulness he had only seen Israel forsaken by God. He, understandably, struggled to trust that God could overtake the Midianites who oppressed them at the time.
- 24 – Many times in Scripture, when someone would experience God’s power or goodness, they would name that space after what they had experienced. Gideon names this “The Lord is Peace” or “Jehovah Shalom”.
- 28-31 – Gideon’s dad Joash makes a great argument. If Jerubbaal is truly a god, he shouldn’t need you to defend him. Certainly, this argument saved his son’s life.
- 36-40 – This may sound like Gideon was testing God, which we are not supposed to do. Gideon asks humbly for God to confirm that his plan is to save Israel through Gideon.
- 54-62 – Jesus predicted that Peter would deny him three times and though Peter was certain he wouldn’t, he did. Though Peter gets a bad wrap for this, note that he was the only disciple who followed Jesus to his trial.
- 66-71 – The church leaders were doing all they could to assure Jesus could be charged with blasphemy. Though he never called himself the Son of God in this passage, he says enough for them to jump on.
- 1 – Pilate was a low-level Roman leader. He was basically like the mayor of Longview, TX.
- 7 – This is not the same Herod that wanted to kill him when he was born.
- 6 – If you can’t think of a reason to praise God, simply praise him for creating you.
- 8 – The Israelites’ sins at Meribah and Massah both happened as they wandered in the desert. Most of the Israelites’ history and testaments tended to refer back to their 40 years of wandering.
- 10-11 – The Israelites sinned while in the desert causing them not to enter the Promised Land until later generations could enter instead.
Covenants are a big deal throughout Scripture. They are promises made between God and the people where both sides have a part to play. Today, we read about the covenant God makes with humanity through Christ and his blood. We are a part of that covenant. Our part is to accept the free gift of grace offered to us and God’s part is to offer us salvation.
- 10 – It was the job of the older generations to teach the younger generations the goodness of God. There are several times in Scripture where monuments are built or parents are instructed to teach their children the Scriptures. Clearly this generation had failed to do so.
- 11-16 – God instructed the Israelite to drive everyone out of the Promised Land when they moved in because intermixing would tempt them to worship other gods. The Israelites did not completely obey and God was right.
- 18-19 – The Israelites didn’t have any sort of all-encompassing leader or king. Instead, God raised up judges to try to help guide them.
- 7-11 – Sometimes we struggle to understand why God would allow bad things to happen to the Israelites, but this makes it clear the Israelites served another king for 8 years and worshipped his gods. But when the Israelites cried out to God, he raised up a leader and returned to them.
- 15-30 – An interesting story where it’s hard not to get distracted by the details. A couple of key points: 1) Ehud being left-handed allowed him to conceal his sword. Guards would have checked the left thigh for weapons. 2) When Israelites worshipped and honored God, he protected them and gave others over into their hands.
- 20 – There were several covenants between God and the Israelites in the Old Testament. This is the first found in the New Testament and is through the blood of Christ and is offered to everyone, not just the Israelites.
- 28-30 – For the first time Jesus offers his disciples a position in eternity.
- 31-34 – Peter is the most zealous disciple. He is committed to following Jesus anywhere, but Jesus knows that he even he has limits and weaknesses and he too will deny Jesus.
- 1-3 – It is crucial for us to give God thanks and praise for all the good things he has done and for how good he is. He deserves it and it reminds us of where our blessings derive.
As special as Buddy the Elf’s song for his dad is…there are some really cool songs people in the Bible sing for God based on a specific experience. Today, we read Mary’s Magnificat, or her song of praise to God for choosing her to be the mother of Jesus. What would you write your song to God about?
- 4-9 – One of the stranger stories in Scripture. Though it does fall in line with the overall themes of the Israelites relationship with God. The Israelites complain, God gets angry and punishes them, they cry out for mercy, and God offers mercy.
- Balaam consistently goes to the Lord for guidance before taking any action. He makes a powerful statement in vs. 18, “Though Balak were to give me his house of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the command of the Lord my God to do less or more.”
- Luke’s birth narrative is more from Mary’s perspective.
- 30 – “Do not be afraid” is a common greeting when people encounter God, God’s presence, or angels.
- 37 – Elizabeth’s pregnancy was used as a testament for Mary that nothing was impossible. Pregnancy in old age. Pregnancy in virginity. God is not bound by our human constraints.
- 38 – A powerful statement of submission to God’s will no matter what.
- 39-45 – Elizabeth and her unborn baby, John, both recognize the identity of Christ even before his birth.
- 46-55 – Like Hannah in the Old Testament and Zechariah, Mary praises God for her pregnancy through a song or poem-like piece. It is often referred to as “Mary’s Magnificat”.
- Though David is constantly up against major enemies, he continually finds ways to praise and rely on God in the midst of it.
Verses 16-24 of our Leviticus reading today are pretty disturbing. We have to remember that many of the laws, like how to divorce, and this one about not letting people with physical deformities be priests, were to put parameters around things people were already doing. In the ancient Israelite culture, great importance was put on physical appearance (we can probably relate whether we like to or not) and God was trying to get people out of their own way.
- Being separate or set apart was important. God’s holiness sets him apart from humanity. God set the Israelites apart from other nations as his people. Some foods and other items were set apart to be holy enough or worthy enough for his people.
- 1-9 – Priests had extra rules applied to them since they offered the sacrifices and had a special position.
- 16-24 – Definitely a confusing passage in our current context. Like it said in 1 Samuel when David was chosen king, God doesn’t look at outward appearances but people do. This law was established so that people wouldn’t be distracted by their own judgment during worship.
- Moses and Elijah were two heroes of the Jewish faith. The disciples would have been awestruck by seeing these distinguished men.
- 13 – John the Baptist was often compared to Elijah.
- 24 – Often our problem is unbelief. We may believe in God’s power and ability in certain areas of life, but in others we think we need to handle it.
- Note that in the story when the disciples don’t have enough faith to heal, Jesus does. Jesus often fills the gap when our ability ends.
- 29 – This is true of many of our earthly problems.
- 4 – Too often we ask for things of God and then fail to praise him for what he’s done.