True confessions: I kind of picture everyone in the Bible as being basically the same person. When I picture biblical scenes in my head the people look like the oil painting of Abraham and Sarah from my childhood Sunday School classroom. But the truth is, not only were there all types of people, there were complex structures and deep dividing lines between various people groups. For instance, in our story in Acts, the Romans didn’t have to obey the Jewish authorities and weren’t technically under their law. There was quite a power struggle between the two parties. Knowing the complexities behind the story make the stories themselves so much more powerful.
1 Chronicles 4:5-5:17:
9-10 – This story seems out of place in a long list of genealogy, but it was common to place some small, historical story in these lists. It may have been to add legitimacy and context to the list.
39-43 – This is one of the many examples of the hostility between the Israelites and Amalekites.
1 – Reuben slept with his father Jacob’s concubine.
7-12 – Like with Jesus, the Romans technically did not have to answer to Jewish law, but the Jewish leaders put a great deal of pressure on them to convict people for breaking their laws.
22 – Agrippa was actually King Herod Agrippa, the last of the Herods.
David asks God to hear his prayers and then becomes extremely raw about how he wants the Lord to punish a variety of his enemies. We truly can take anything to the Lord in prayer.
There are two Sauls in Scripture. The first was the first king in Israel. The second is better known as Paul, which he was called after his conversion. The second Saul was a persecutor of Christians, a devout and learned Jew, and was at least partially responsible for having the first Christian martyr killed. Soon we’ll read about his commitment to and leadership in spreading the gospel. Isn’t it incredible how God can redeem anyone?
1 Kings 8:1-66:
1-11 – The temple is finally built and the priests move the Ark of the Covenant into the Holy Place of the temple, representing God’s presence. This must have been such a exciting, emotional time for all the Israelites.
20-21 – The Israelites were promised particular land when they left Egypt. Since then, they had wandered for years, and then fought over the land and other things for years. Now they were finally at peace and where they belonged. This ceremony solidified God’s promises being fulfilled.
25 – Clearly David sinned, so God was obviously not setting the bar at perfection. He was simply asking kings to follow him. Many chose not to.
27-53 – A beautiful prayer from Solomon asking God for favor, mercy, forgiveness, and protection. He clearly loves God and loves his people.
57-58 – God does not force us to choose or follow him. When we allow it, he can draw us to him or incline our hearts toward him, which makes it easier to follow him.
51-53 – Stephen is addressing a Jewish audience, which is why he speaks of their fathers not listening to the prophets. Saying they have uncircumcised hearts and ears would directly accuse them of not being God’s people. Circumcision was part of their culture and identity as Jews.
58 – This is the same Saul who becomes Paul. The Jews laying their garments at Saul’s feet shows that he was heavily involved in Stephen’s death.
60 – Stephen was the first martyr for Christ.
1 – The early Christians were scattered around 70 A.D. when the temple was destroyed.
3 – Saul was a terrifying persecutor of Christians. He was a devout Jew.
This psalm denounces anyone who is against Israel and specifically Jerusalem.
Though many of us seek wealth for our families, peace is a far greater blessing.
Amnon commits an egregious sin against his half-sister and though David is hurt and angered by Amnon’s actions, he doesn’t punish him. The most likely cause? Because David had sexual sin in his past as well and felt as if he couldn’t judge Amnon. Do you see how our sins affect us far beyond the initial act? And they don’t just affect us, but many around us as well. Though are sins are forgiven, consequences are real.
2 Samuel 13:1-39:
2 – Amnon and Tamar were half brother and sister. They shared David as their father.
3-14 – Jonadab’s plan is successful and Amnon rapes Tamar. In verse 13, Tamar even pleads with Amnon to ask David if they can marry one another so this won’t be a violation. Amnon still overpowers her.
15 – Not only does he violate her, but then he kicks her out of bed and hates her fiercely. Amnon’s sexual sin begins to cause a downward spiral of destruction.
20 – Once a woman was no longer a virgin, whether by choice or not, she was cast aside. Absalom’s kindness towards Tamar was far better treatment than most women received.
21 – David is angry but does nothing to Amnon. He may have felt unworthy to judge or enact justice upon Amnon because he had committed his own sexual sin.
26-33 – Absalom takes matters into his own hands and kills Amnon. Though Amnon’s sin was egregious, Absalom’s actions are also sinful.
6-20 – Jesus’ final prayer for his followers.
20-26 – Now Jesus prays for all those who will come to believe as the disciples continue to share the gospel after Jesus’ death. Isn’t it cool to know that Jesus prayed for us?
81-88 – The first section is crying out to God for help because the psalmist is being persecuted by those who don’t follow God’s commands.
89-96 – The psalmist has a deep reliance on God’s word and laws. The psalmist also seems to remind God of his own faithfulness while asking God to return the favor.
6 – We often wonder how we can quit a certain sin or be more faithful. This proverb gives good insight – fear the Lord and you can turn away from evil.
Some of the stories in this week’s reading from 2 Samuel can be a little confusing. There are a lot of names and many of them are somewhat similar. To help the story move along so you can understand the meaning a little bit better, here’s a bit of a cheat sheet:
Abiathar – high priest and the last of Eli’s line
Abishai – one of David’s most fearsome warriors
Absalom – David’s son
Ahithophel – a well respected, though not particularly loyal, counselor to David and others
Amnon – David’s first son, Tamar’s half-brother
Hushai – one of David’s workers pretending to work for Absalom
Ittai – a leader of the Gittite people; fairly inconsequential over all
Joab – an official close to David; he is hasty and violent
Jonadab – Amnon’s friend and advisor, a sneaky guy; David’s nephew
Mephibosheth – Saul’s grandson
Shimei – a member of Saul’s house who originally curses David but eventually returns to him
Tamar – David’s daughter; Amnon’s half-sister
Zadok – a priest who assisted David in Absalom’s revolt
Ziba – originally a servant of Mephibosheth but moves to David’s side and is handsomely rewarded
As we closeout John and begin Acts, note the differences of what John includes. For instance, John includes Jesus’ powerful prayers for his disciples and even future believers. Pilate’s character has a different feel in John’s account. He seems much more pained and tormented to convict Jesus. And an additional disciple attends the trial with Peter unlike in any other gospel. What do you think John is trying to emphasize with the way he shares his account?
Why is God so mean?! Well…is he actually mean? Or does he simply expect us to follow his commands? A story in today’s 2 Samuel reading where Uzzah touches the ark to steady it from falling is a tough one to swallow. However, Uzzah knew the rules and chose not to follow them. Does that make God mean? Or Uzzah disobedient?
2 Samuel 4:1-6:23:
2 – Benjamin keeps getting mentioned because that was the tribe Saul came from.
5-12 – David’s wish was not to blot out all of Saul’s family from the earth. Others were simply misguided in thinking this. David had great honor for Saul and was best friends and had made a covenant of friendship and family loyalty with Jonathan.
3-5 – Due to Abner’s efforts when he was on Team Saul, David did not start ruling over all of Israel until after he ruled in Judah for 7 years.
6-10 – The Jebusites were so confident in their fortress’ strength that they taunted David’s army saying even the blind and lame could ward off attacks on the city. David ends up successfully taking the city.
11-12 – David recognized where his power and blessings derived. This caused him to seek God’s guidance and follow his commands.
1-4 – The ark of God (also known as the ark of the covenant) had been captured by the Philistines in a previous battle. David’s ability to return it to its rightful owners, the Israelites, was a huge accomplishment.
6-7 – Though Uzzah was simply trying to steady the ark, it was well known that the penalty, even for Levites, for touching the ark, was death. Uzzah could have avoided this by carrying the ark on his shoulder with the rest of the Levites like he was supposed to and/or knowing the law of the ark better.
14-15 – David’s attire is mentioned because his wild dancing most likely meant that he unintentionally exposed himself while dancing. He worshipped with such passion that he didn’t care about the consequences. Here’s an oldie but a goody based on this passage.
34-35 – Often people don’t recognize our faith. The main culprit is that we do not love one another.
36-38 – Peter truly believes in his commitment to following Christ, but Jesus already knows Peter’s limits.
6-7 – Another “I am” statement declaring that Jesus is the only way to the Father. Because they know and believe in Jesus, they also know the father.
10-11 – This is clear proof of God as Trinity. The father and son are inseparable in substance and are fully connected. Knowing the Son means knowing the Father as well.
13-14 – This passage begs the question, “well, what about when our prayers aren’t answered.” Many would argue that the prayer wasn’t in alignment with God’s will and this may be true. The great comfort in all this is that all earnest prayers come to fruition in eternity where there is no suffering or pain or hardship.
25-32 – This is a perfect prayer for us as we attempt to read and understand God’s word. If our true prayer is to gain insight and to be strengthened by God’s word, he will surely give us these things.
We often know the wise choice, whether it’s been told to us or it’s just obvious. It’s our choice to follow wisdom or choose another way.
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.
In today’s Judges reading, we see a song from Deborah and Barak praising God for their success and blessings. What if, every time we received a major blessing from the Lord, we wrote and sang a praise song for him? That would be such a cool testimony that people could know for generations. Think about it next time God blesses you in a major way.
4 – Deborah was the only recorded female judge.
8-10 – Barak would not go without Deborah. Whether it was God or Deborah he did not trust, his lack of trust resulted in not him, but a woman, receiving the glory of a war victory.
1-31 – It was common for people who experienced the greatness and favor of God to write and sing a song praising him for his blessings. In the Old Testament a few are: Moses, Deborah and Barak, Hannah, and in the New Testament we see Mary and Zechariah.
41-42 – We often don’t know how to pray when we’re not sure of God’s will. This is a great example of how to pray. God wants to know your heart, but ultimately wants us to submit to his will.
44-46 – Clearly the disciples did not understand the magnitude of the situation or the agony through which Jesus was going.
52-53 – Jesus calls the chief priests out explaining that they obviously didn’t view him as a dangerous criminal because they had had many other easier opportunities to arrest him.
6-11 – Those who seek to disprove God often attempt to outsmart him or disprove him by our own standards and understanding. The Psalmist makes it clear that the one who formed the eye can see as much and more than we see.
Do you ever wonder if God answers prayers? In today’s Luke reading there is a parable that reminds us that God does hear us. Don’t make the make mistake of equating God with the judge. But if even the unrighteous judge hears persistent requests, how much more will God?
13 – It is unclear why the Geshurites and Maacathites were allowed to stay on Israel’s land while all others are driven out. It could be that they didn’t pose a threat of causing the Israelites to be unfaithful to God.
8-12 – Caleb and Joshua were the only two who trusted the Lord to give them the land like he promised even though it looked impossible. Because Caleb “wholly followed the Lord” he was blessed with an inheritance and good health.
12 – The Anakim were legendary people and are believed to have been giants.
1-8 – As is explained in verse 1, this parable encourages the hearers to pray and not lose heart, but it should not be mistaken that the judge represents God. The judge is meant to be an unrighteous man, but the comparison is made that if even he can be persuaded to do the right thing with persistence, how much more will God hear our prayers?
9-14 – This is a warning against self-righteousness, which is an easy trap for those of us who do our best to faithfully follow Christ. It is far easier to see ourselves as the justified tax collector than the Pharisee.
Based on the first 3 verses, this is most likely written about the beginning of the Israelites’ return from exile. They can begin to see God’s goodness being restored to them, but they have still have not fully returned to the prosperity they once knew. They’re still asking if God is angry, but they’re aware of his faithfulness.
This is similar to a comparison made in Proverbs 12:9. Because of the honor/shame society the Israelites lived in, they would much rather be seen as honorable or as having wealth, whether it was true or not, so they would not receive shame.
Busyness has become a sort of badge of honor for us these days. If, for some reason, you actually take the time to rest and relax, you get several underhanded “compliments” about how great it must be to not be busy. We fill our time with a bunch of “good things”, but often separates us from the best thing – spending time with God. Take a little inspiration today from Mary and Martha’s story in Luke.
5-11 – Moses commands the Israelites to give of their first fruits and acknowledge God’s faithfulness when they have success.
18-19 – All nations were not required to give back to God and acknowledge him. Only Israel, his chosen people, were, but that also meant that they received greater blessings.
16-26 – The word, “amen’s” meaning is significant as the Israelites’ response because it means “so be it”. In other words, they are accepting the consequences of being cursed if they fail in these areas.
38-42 – This is a crucial lesson for those of us who allow busyness to become an excuse for why we don’t spend time with God. We can choose to be consumed with a lot of good things or we can choose what’s best.
2-4 – The Lord’s Prayer. Can be used as a guide for our prayers.
5-13 – Jesus encourages his disciples to be persistent in prayer, seek what God wants, and expect great things from God.
15 – Though advice from others should never trump what God calls us to do, we are to seek wise counsel from those around us who can be trusted.
16 – This is a helpful thought for those of us who are easily angered.