Remember the Garden of Eden way back in Genesis in January? That was something perfect and wonderful God gave Adam and Eve. As we know, they found a way to use what was good for evil. They ate the forbidden fruit, bringing sin into the world, and ultimately got kicked out of the garden. Twice in today’s readings we’ll learn about people using good things in ways they weren’t intended by God. First, the golden vessels from the temple in Daniel, and then money in Proverbs. How can you relate in your own life?
- 1 – King Belshazzar followed King Nebuchadnezzar.
- 2-4 – Clearly, this was not the original intent for the gold vessels. They were dedicated to God and now King Belshazzar is defiling them by throwing parties with them.
- 5-31 – Through a freaky happening, King Belshazzar gets bad news. Daniel is the only one who can explain the message from God. He is raised to a high rank in the kingdom.
2 Peter 2:1-22:
- 4-11 – We often think those who do evil get away with a lot, but this reminds us that God offers good things to the righteous and those who do evil receive punishment. It may not always be obvious.
- 17-22 – It is really bad to begin a life of righteousness and commit to Christ but then turn and act as if you never did.
- 114-120 – The psalmist contrasts his love for the law and the ability of those around him to draw him and others away from God.
- 19-20 – Like with many things, being rich is not bad and God doesn’t hate us for it. God looks at our intent and focus. He looks at what we put before him. If pursuit of money is before him, that’s a problem.
Acting on faith, by definition, means we take the step without knowing the result. Today’s section on Hebrews lists a number of people who acted on faith. They couldn’t be certain of the outcome but lived righteously, trusting God to take care of the rest. What are times when you’ve been asked to live righteously when you couldn’t know the outcome?
- 15-24 – God uses Ezekiel’s life, yet again, to serve as a mirror for the Israelites to see what is about to happen to them. Ezekiel’s wife dies and he is not allowed to mourn. The Israelites will also soon lose what is most valuable to them, the temple.
- 1-7 – This is a prophecy against the Ammonites. This, and the condemning prophecies to follow are reminiscent of Jeremiah’s oracles against the nations in chapters 46-51.
- Chapter 11 is often know as the “Hall of Faith”. It is a helpful list of many people in Scripture who acted faithfully because of their faith. We are often asked to take steps/leaps of faith. It is for our good and God’s glory that we are asked to take these steps. They’re scary, but worth it.
- 1 – This helps us define what faith is and what it isn’t. We often want proof in order to have faith, but proof is not required for faith. Faith must come before proof.
- 6 – It is interesting to think that faith is the root of pleasing God. We must have faith in order to please God.
- 13-16 – The folks mentioned in this chapter all died still living faithfully. Each was seeking God’s best for them, a heavenly home, realizing that this life wasn’t all God had in store.
- 4 – Melchizedek was mentioned heavily at the beginning of Hebrews comparing Jesus to Melchizedek.
- Everyone has had a noisy neighbor before. I think we can all agree it’s not a blessing.
We spend more time in Ezekiel and Hebrews this week.
Note that Ezekiel doles out a handful of warnings to various people groups, including the Israelites, of what is about to happen to them. Each of the punishments coming is due to that group’s sin, but regardless, it’s not going to be pretty.
Make a special note of a few things in Hebrews as well. In chapter 11, we encounter the “Hall of Faith” and then in chapter 12 we hear about a “cloud of witnesses”. Pay special attention to both of these. In the “Hall of Faith”, acts of faithfulness and trust are counted to people as righteousness. This isn’t a means of earning salvation, but is an opportunity to trust and know God more fully.
The cloud of witnesses is also something we should think about. Our cloud has not changed, only expanded. We can run faithfully towards Christ because so many have before us and because more and more people are living faithfully each day. Who is someone in your cloud?
The grace we receive through Jesus’ sacrifice is a free gift we cannot earn. Hebrews tells us, however, we do have a role to play. Our job, after we’ve received salvation is to pursue sanctification – the process of becoming more like Christ by turning away from our sins. But once you’ve received such a wonderful gift, wouldn’t you want to become more like the giver?
- 1-17 – God has Ezekiel prophesy against Jerusalem letting them know that God has drawn his sword and will soon slay the wicked. This has to be terrifying to hear.
- 18-32 – God will use the Babylonians and Ammonites to wield his sword against Jerusalem.
- 6-12 – God reminds the leaders of Israel of their sins. It is known that the Babylonians and Ammonites, who God would use to destroy Jerusalem, also had great sins against God’s law, but since they were not God’s chosen people, they were not subject to God’s law.
- 18-19 – Dross of metals is the impurities that float to the top when purifying it. When you melt silver, impurities rise to the top and are scraped off to assure the purity of the precious metal. Israel has now become the throw away portion of what was once precious.
- 5-7 – Jesus did not offer sacrifices other than himself. Jesus says that God does not desire sacrifices and offerings because the Israelites were using them incorrectly. They weren’t allowing themselves to be changed by the sacrifices but were simply using them as a chance to continue sinning.
- 11-14 – Jesus’ sacrifice of himself offers us righteousness. It is our job though, to pursue the process of sanctification. This is the process of systematically turning away from sin and becoming more like Christ.
- 1-6 – So many of the psalms are simply talking about how God deserves our praise. Note that there are always reasons listed why he deserves it. This one uses some of the phrases some of the others use, “your steadfast love is great”, “your faithfulness reaches to the clouds”. Try not to allow yourself to read over these quickly because you’ve heard it before. Think about what those things actually mean, it may compel you to offer God a little more praise than normal.
- Humans are designed to walk away from danger, but without wisdom, we tend to ignore our natural urgings. Wisdom keeps us safe.
We often don’t like it when people talk about money in church. We often think they want our money or they’re going to tell us to give away our money. Too often, we hold onto our money so tightly that we can’t grab hold of anything else. But, money is not the root of the problem. The problem comes when we allow money to become more important to us than God. Today’s 1 Timothy reading touches on righteous living versus greed and the place in our lives that money should occupy.
- 11-21 – King Zedekiah didn’t like what Jeremiah said about being taken over so he imprisoned him.
- 1-6 – The officials wanted to kill Jeremiah so they put him in a cistern. This is normally a deep hole, which is used to hold water. This one was empty.
- 7-13 – Ebed-melech, who was a servant, rescued Jeremiah from the cistern so he wouldn’t starve to death in there.
- 14-28 – King Zedekiah asks Jeremiah to tell him the truth. Jeremiah tells Zedekiah he has to surrender to the Babylonians or all his wives and kids will be given over to the Babylonians for them to do what they like.
1 Timothy 6:1-21:
- 6-8 – Godliness and contentment together are a powerful combo. We don’t want anything but what we’ve been given and we act as righteously as possible.
- 9-10 – Greed and covetousness are dangerous because we begin to do things we know are wrong to achieve what we want.
- 17-19 – Being rich isn’t the problem. The problem comes when we rely on and hope in our riches.
- 38-45 – The portion of this psalm we read yesterday speaks of how God was planning to exalt David. This portion is explaining that David’s family has now been forgotten and rejected. We know through Isaiah and Jeremiah that David’s line was given over to exile in Babylon because of their lack of obedience.
- Self-control is what protects us from temptation and sin, just like walls protect a city from attack.
Do you have any Scripture memorized? If not, and even if you have some, I’d encourage you to do your best to memorize Scripture. Today’s Proverb indirectly encourages it. There are probably songs you can start singing at the drop of a hat, or movie lines you can quote…that’s because you have them memorized and they’re on the tip of your tongue. When we treat Scripture like this, we are blessed through the comfort, hope, and joy Scripture brings and we can be a blessing by sharing it with others.
- 1-14 – Though not the most exciting message, this aims our sites at death because, ultimately, that’s where we’re all headed. The section also lets us know that joy is always accompanied by sorrow. God made both and we can’t really have one without the other.
- 19-22 – These verses make it clear that righteousness in humanity is very relative.
- 27-29 – In biblical poetry, women tend to be personified as either tempting seductresses or virginal and pure. This is most likely what’s going on here as Solomon explains the temptation of folly in the face of wisdom.
- 1-7 – Solomon continually retorts that what we achieve on earth is somewhat insignificant because we all die. But be sure to read through to the end to learn his final conclusion.
2 Corinthians 7:8-16:
- 9 – Paul is ok with the Corinthians feeling a little bit of pain because it led to the ultimate good of repentance.
- 13-16 – Though much of the content of Paul’s letters was rebuke and instruction, he delighted when new believers acted in Christ-like ways. This is why both he and Titus rejoiced.
- 1-8 – The psalmist calls on people to give God praise because of the great protection God had offered them in past situations.
- 9-14 – The reflections of who God is and what he has done cause the people to share of his goodness for generations to come.
- When we have words of wisdom on our lips, they are the ones that come out of our mouths first. This is the same reason we want to have Scripture memorized.
One of the great benefits of reading the Bible in its entirety is seeing the prophecies and expectations over centuries fulfilled in Christ’s coming. In today’s 2 Corinthians reading, Paul maps out a number of these fulfillments. What prophecy that Jesus fulfills is most powerful to you?
- 2-7 – Job believes if he could get an audience with God, God would agree that he had been far too righteous to receive such a harsh and heavy hand.
- 1-25 – Job explains that often, throughout life, the poor have difficulties and the wicked reap the benefit. He seems to explain that God doesn’t seem to be watching, but in the end he explains that everyone is brought low in the end.
- 1-6 – Bildad quickly retorts that God is simply greater than humans and cannot be compared.
- 1-6 – Here Job resolves not to turn his back on God, but to remain faithful.
- 7-23 – Here Job lays out how he hopes his enemies are treated in the end.
2 Corinthians 1:12-2:11:
- 20 – All the sacrifices, laws, and prophecies given for thousands of years were fulfilled in Christ. We know that everything God promises us becomes a “yes” through Christ and his offer of salvation.
- 1-4 – Paul’s intentions did not go over well with the Corinthian church. His visit seems to have caused them pain when he meant for it to show them his love for them.
- 5-11 – Paul urges the group to forgive those who sin against the group. Amongst believers, this is very important so the devil doesn’t have an easy way in.
- 1-3 – Here David explains how God will repay those who have cared for the poor in life.
- 4-13 – This is encouragement not to listen to what others say of you, but to believe what God says about you.
- 6 – It is difficult to guide and discipline a child. In our society, it is even harder to assure they are raised in the faith. As difficult as it is in the moment, it is the easiest way to assure they will be faithful for a lifetime.
Today’s psalm is perfect if you are facing suffering or some sort of difficult time. Even if you’re not, mark it for the future. It is a reminder that God is our ultimate rescue and that he does not leave us or forsake us in times of trouble. Though it sometimes takes time, he pulls us out of those situations.
- 2-4 – Job lets his friends know they are not helping.
- 16-17 – With good reason, Job does not understand his plight considering he has been pure and upright throughout his life.
- 10-16 – Job strikes back at his friends, to some degree. He tells them he will not lay down and die but will keep crying out to God.
- 1-21 – Bildad continues to remind Job of the horrible fate that awaits all evil doers. Though he’s saying the same thing as the other friends, he is getting more dramatic with the illustrations.
- 1-29 – Job continues to cry out. He also cries out regarding his treatment by his friends asking wasn’t God’s punishment enough.
1 Corinthians 16:1-24:
- 8-9 – Paul was never one to turn down a fight. He vowed to stay in Ephesus for a while because God had opened a door for him despite significant resistance.
- 1-3 – This is a moving testimony that reminds us that God pulls us out of difficult times.
- Being worthy of respect is far more valuable than money.
No one likes to suffer. Job did a lot of it. And though Job’s suffering wasn’t fun either, we can learn a lot from it.
Job is a tough book to read for a number of reasons, but there are a number of takeaways. One major one is in today’s reading. Job reminds us that the Lord gives and thus it is God’s right to take those things away as well. He confirms, though that either way, whether in blessing or wanting, the name of the Lord should be blessed. Here’s a musical version of the same concept:
- 1 – “Blameless and upright” is a description very few people in the Bible receive. Noah, before the flood, was described in a similar way.
- 5 – Job even hedged his bets by sacrificing for his children just in case they were sinful without his knowledge.
- 6-12 – Satan challenged God saying that Job was only faithful because God had, until then, protected him and all his things. God disagrees and allows him to torment Job in order to prove his faithfulness.
- 20-22 – After all the turmoil and trauma Job received back to back to back, he grieved but did not curse God like Satan said he would.
- 3-6 – This time God allows Satan to strike Job with any kind of personal illness as long as he doesn’t kill him.
- 9 – This must be what Proverbs warns against when it talks about basically anything being better than living with a quarrelsome wife.
- 10 – It is obviously much easier to receive the good God gives us, but Job reminds us that we can’t expect the good without being willing to receive bad too.
- 3-26 – Job basically wishes he was never born.
1 Corinthians 14:1-17:
- 5 – Speaking in tongues, unless it is interpreted for the body, is intended to be between that person and God.
- 16-17 – Speaking in ways others can understand is important in the larger body. Paul gives the example that it then allows someone to say “amen” in agreement with what you’ve said. They can only do that if they understood what was said.
- 14-17 – These verses basically explain that wicked people and the Lord are at war over the poor and needy. The wicked try to take them down while the Lord makes sure to lift them up.
- 23-24 – Even though we stumble and struggle at times, if we are faithful, the Lord keeps us from total destruction.
- 26 – What a powerful verse! When we are lazy and sloth-y, we tend to constantly want and need. The righteous, on the other hand, are willing to give and give abundantly.