Isaiah is one of the most recognizable prophets. It is the most quoted Old Testament book and is one of the longest books in the Bible. Despite all that, it can be a challenge to follow. Isaiah sometimes uses confusing language and he repeats things a lot. So, here’s a little synopsis to keep you on track: in the first half, look for prophecies of destruction against the Israelites; in the second half, look for prophecies of restoration; sprinkled throughout, look for prophecies that foretell a coming Messiah.
The book of Isaiah is told from the perspective of Isaiah the prophet about a vision he has had. Sometimes he will quote God, but he will identify it when he is. It is set before the Babylonian exile.
2-17 – This is a vision God has given Isaiah explaining that the Israelites are sinful and that God is tired of receiving meaningless sacrifices from people who go on sinning. They are no longer pleasing to him.
18 – There seems to be a plan in place for how God will restore the Israelites to himself.
1-4 – This is a vision for future peace and perfection.
5-22 – Though the majority of Isaiah addresses Judah, this vision calls upon the house of Jacob, which is most likely the Northern Kingdom of Israel, to repent.
2 Corinthians 10:1-18:
2-6 – Paul is hoping he doesn’t have a major spiritual battle to fight when he is with the Corinthians. He is not shy to do so, but he’s hoping there’s not a need there.
11 – Paul doesn’t just ask others to live faithfully, he does so himself.
17-18 – Our only boasts should be in what the Lord has done in the world and in us.
This Psalm is from David’s perspective and contrasts his faithfulness and connection to God with someone else who delights in evil.
This advises against making promises you can’t keep.
Ok all you lovebirds, get ready. Song of Solomon is written as a conversation between two people in love. If you need a pickup line, some sweet nothings to write in your spouse’s anniversary card, or just a reminder of how much you love your significant other, this is the biblical place to land. Try these out, “you are a sachet of myrrh” or “you are like a gazel or a young stag” or “your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes”. You can’t go wrong.
Song of Solomon 1:10-4:16:
The identifications of who is speaking are different in different translations based on what is thought to be happening. Translators agree that it is a conversation. Many believe it is between a bride and a groom, but from the conversation it is clear they’re in love.
1-17 – The man and woman flirt and plan to meet up. They are not shy about expressing how attracted they are to one another.
1-7 – I mean…what girl doesn’t want to be described like this? “Thank you for saying my teeth look like shorn ewes…”. But truly, this entire passage, particularly the beginning and end are such loving descriptions.
2 Corinthians 8:16-24:
Titus was one of Paul’s co-laborers. He was a trusted friend of Paul’s. Paul is letting the Corinthians know that Titus and two others will soon come to Corinth to raise money and spread the gospel.
24 – Paul gives the Corinthians encouragement to live up to all the great things he’s been saying about them.
7-15 – The psalmist quotes God as saying that he does not need our sacrifices. He has all he needs because he made all things. He does, however, accept our sacrifices as offerings of thanksgiving.
The poor and powerless are easy to steal from and oppress but this proverb reminds us that God has their back and will right the wrongs done to them.
How do you know if you’re saved? You must become a new creation. In other words, you can’t live the same way and be the same as you were before and be saved. Salvation transforms us into the new creation God originally intended. Just think of it as baking eggs into a cake. You can’t get those eggs back, but they’ve now become something so much better!
1-14 – God seems angry that Job would not respond to him. Job had had so many questions for God in his previous speeches but is unwilling to speak in God’s presence.
40:15-41-34 – God describes both the Behemoth and the Leviathan. The original words are related to something like a hippopotamus and a crocodile, but also could have been mythical type creatures. They are both very strong and powerful and cannot be contained. The point is how much bigger and stronger they were than Job but that God was still the master of them.
1-6 – Job finally speaks and it is with utter humility.
7-9 – Ultimately Job is justified from his friends’ accusations and is able to pray for their forgiveness.
10-17 – Though Job went through a lot, God blesses him for his faithfulness even in the midst of terrible difficulty.
2 Corinthians 5:11-21:
11-13 – Paul had been accused of boasting in himself and even of not being in his right mind. He says that if any of these accusations are at all true, it is solely for the sake of winning these people for Christ.
17 – We cannot be saved and remain the same as we were before. That old self is no longer, but we are made into new creations in Christ.
18-19 – We can have complete reconciliation to God through Christ. Our sins are no longer counted against us.
Some translations say this song was intended for a royal wedding.
What does it look like for us to give of ourselves or sacrifice something? I believe, in order for it to be a sacrifice, we actually have to feel it. It has to be something we care about or worked hard for. This is why a Lenten fast from cookies for someone who doesn’t really like cookies, is not that helpful. In today’s 1 Chronicles reading, David seems to understand this when Ornan tries to sacrifice for David’s sins.
1 Chronicles 19:1-21:30:
16-19 – The Syrians and Ammonites were both known as strong armies. The Syrians did not like having been defeated by Israel, but David defeats them again when they come back for more.
1 – Presumably, this is the same time when David sleeps with Bathsheba. That story begins in the same way explaining that spring time was when nations fought and David did not go with them as he should have.
1 – Though there were times God asked the Israelites to number themselves, he had not asked David to do so. David is most likely doing this out of a lack of trust and wanting to be able to gauge who he could defeat in war and who he could not.
11-17 – David has a choice of consequences and his choice caused his people to suffer. Once it became reality, he tried to make it stop.
22-27 – If Ornan had given his property for David’s sacrifice, David would actually be sacrificing nothing. This is why he won’t accept Ornan’s gift.
25-29 – We might compare the way they were counting their circumcision as holiness to when people simply come to church these days and count that as holiness or salvation. What we look like or appear to be is not the same as having Christ as our salvation.
1-4 – Being a Jew/Israelite, was special to God. They were chosen and set apart. This passage explains that just because there were some Jews that were unfaithful to their covenant with God does not make God unfaithful or mean that the covenant was not meaningful.
5-8 – Paul asks this rhetorically. If our sin gives God more chance to be holy, shouldn’t we sin more. No! We’re still called to avoid sin.
David chooses to take refuge in the Lord instead of following the advice of others to flee from his enemies because they are clearly ready to attack.
4-7 – David contrasts the righteousness of God with the sinfulness of the wicked.
David insists on paying Araunah for his property though Araunah offers it up freely. David knew he needed to actually make a personal sacrifice in order to feel the weight of his sin. If he simply sacrificed Araunah’s property, he wouldn’t feel it. We often do not feel the weight of our sin unless we actually feel the consequences. This is why consequences are often ultimately beneficial.
2 Samuel 23:24-24:25:
1-9 – Though it seems that God instructs David to number the people, he must have done it differently than the Lord instructed him because ultimately the act is sinful.
14-17 – David offers the people up for his sin until he sees the destruction and then he tries to turn it back towards him.
21-25 – Though Araunah kindly offered to give David all he needed for the sacrifice. David knew he needed to have some skin in the game for his sacrifice to count.
1-10 – Note that when Jesus was alive, the disciples often had trouble healing people because of their lack of faith. Here, the disciples’ faith is strong enough to heal because their faith has been strengthened by the fulfillment of Jesus’ words and the presence of the Holy Spirit.
16 – It wasn’t necessarily the faith of the lame man that caused him to be healed. It isn’t made clear if he had faith, but the disciples had faith enough for him.
2 – A servant would look to a master to instruct and provide for them. God mercifully instructs us and gives us what we need.
22 – Good sense is life giving because it assures we make decisions that will prosper us. Folly, on the other hand, comes when we listen to unwise counsel.
There are a lot of different types of sacrifices and offerings mentioned throughout the Old Testament. Take a few minutes to learn the differences and various purposes of each. It should clear up some questions.
Have you ever heard someone say, “money can’t buy happiness” and then someone responds, “but it can buy me a lot of stuff that makes me happy”? It’s a fair point…kind of. And honestly the story of the rich young ruler in Luke isn’t really about money. It’s about where God ranks in the things we love. As we cling desperately to God, everything else should be held with a loose grip.
This is somewhat difficult to understand because we’re not familiar with the landscape of ancient Israel. Check out the Joshua 15 map to give you a better idea of where all these landmarks are and what land belonged to what tribe.
Though this passage may have seemed a little dry, it is a reminder of what excellent records the Israelites kept of their history, inheritance, possessions, and families.
18-25 – The deepest issue is not that of wealth, but of how wealth tends to have control over us. The rich young ruler loved God but loved his stuff more and was sad to have to let it go. When we allow our wealth to take hold of us, it is impossible to serve God first.
27 – We sometimes interpret this to mean that because of God, we are able to do anything, but we forget that is actually God’s power and strength at work. He can do all things.
28-30 – An encouragement to all those who have sacrificed for the gospel.
31 – The journey to Jerusalem first mentioned in chapter 9 is still in progress.
42-43 – Like the blind man, when we act in faith, God works, and others are drawn to God through his work. Acting in faith brings great results.
11-12 – This is a lovely image of God teaching us his ways for our benefit so that we might in return follow those ways. God doesn’t give us unreasonable requests, he gives us what we need to do what he asks us to do.
9 – A reminder that evil does not win out. It can be frustrating when evil seems to get the upper hand, but in the end, Jesus wins.
Families are a funny thing. In today’s Luke reading we find a different lineage for Jesus. Don’t worry though! This is Mary’s lineage even though it ends with Joseph. It was common for people to call themselves the “father” of a son-in-law. Now, go on and go take a family picture you’ll regret in 5-10 years.
Most of us tend to read through the explanations of offerings simply to get through that section. Today, try reading it as if you were an Israelite who actually needed to know the details in order to follow God’s law.
Burnt offerings are often followed with a description that it has a “pleasing aroma to the Lord.” Since we no longer offer burnt offerings, what do you think we offer that presents God with a pleasing aroma?
Considering the quantities of the feast that starts in vs. 12, the Israelites must have had massive herds.
Note that in Matthew we already read a lineage for Joseph and it was different than this list. Most theologians believe that this is actually Mary’s lineage since most of the birth narrative and beginning of the book focus on her.
Interesting that David, multiple times, says my soul waits for “God alone”. Too often, when under pressure, we’re not willing to wait for God but put our trust in anything and everything else.
Note that it may not be much comfort to us that good wins out in this verse. Though the wicked’s wages are deceptive, they still earn wages.
Did you know that the same person who wrote Luke also wrote Acts, the first book after the gospels? There are all kinds of fun tidbits to learn about Scripture that are great conversation starters at cocktail parties…well…maybe. Anyway, enjoy the beginning of Luke! It’s a great one!!
1-19 – Here we see something sacrificed being used later to cleanse and restore an unclean tent.
3 – The Israelites always seem to recall events that they once complained about as better than their current circumstances. It most commonly is tied to lack of provisions or fear of danger.
6-13 – The older Israelite generation had already been forbidden from the Promised Land. Now, because he did not obey the Lord completely, Moses and Aaron are also forbidden. Moses was told to strike the rock once but he struck it twice. He also tried to take credit for what the Lord would do by providing water. He said, “Shall we bring water” when it was only the Lord’s work.
28-29 – Even though the Israelites complained and rebelled a lot, clearly they loved Aaron.
1-4 – The writer of Luke is an intelligent, orderly person intent to write a logical, organized version of the story of Christ’s life. He also addresses his letter to Theophilus.
9 – Only one priest entered the holy of holies at a time. An extensive cleansing ritual occurred before the priest entered.
17 – John the Baptist was often considered the second coming of Elijah.
We all fall short and choose sin at times. David did too. In today’s psalm, David has been confronted with his sin by Nathan. David is truly and fully repentant and cries out to God for forgiveness. Star this psalm for the times when you need to repent and ask for forgiveness. We’ll all need it at some point.
1-3 – You can imagine that God would grow tired and frustrated of hearing complaints from the people he was continually caring for and protecting.
The Israelites continue to think they have better ideas than the Lord. They continue to doubt his provision for them.
3-9 – This story is also found in Matthew. One significant addition to Mark’s version is in Jesus’ response to the naysayers. He says, “whenever you want, you can do good for them.” It seems to suggest that they denounce this woman for not tending to the poor and yet they don’t either.
Note that this is a Psalm written by David in response to Nathan rebuking him when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and then sent her husband to the front lines of battle to cover up his sins.
This is a Psalm to read and pray when you are ready to fully repent of a sin you’ve committed.
Note that David recognizes that God is not looking for a sacrifice or offering, but true brokenness and repentance from the sinner.