Forgiveness is real and available to us. In today’s Revelation reading we see those who have previously sinned now welcomed in to praise God. They’re welcomed because they’ve repented and been forgiven. Our sins don’t have to define us or define our outcome. Our job is to repent. God is faithful to forgive.
- 1-5 – This establishes that the Messiah will come from Bethlehem and will bring peace.
- 6-8 – Here God makes it clear what he’s asking of his people. He’s asking them to seek justice and offer love and kindness. He is not interested in empty sacrifices.
- 9-16 – Here God explains the punishment that is to come for those who have not obeyed him.
- 1-8 – The angels assure that the faithful people of the earth are protected before the destruction begins.
- 13-17 – Here a series of people who have sinned, repented, and been forgiven are welcomed in to praise God.
- 1-12 – These verses recount a number of examples of God’s power, greatness, and faithfulness. Like in most of these accounts, the parting of the Red Sea is mentioned.
- 15-18 – Once again, the worship of idols is proven to be worthless.
- 5-6 – God’s words are good, true, and helpful. We tend to want to change them up to better suit us, but this is wrong.
In today’s Ezekiel reading Egypt is promised a punishment partially because they put themselves in place of God. It seems silly. They took credit for creating the Nile. But don’t we put ourselves in the place of God all the time? We try to control things that we should hand over to God. We make decisions without consulting God. We assume that our finances are our own instead of a blessing from God. Let’s read today’s Ezekiel passage closely today.
- 1-21 – This is a prophecy against Egypt. Notice that in verses 9 and 10, it is explained that Egypt’s punishment is partially because the people tried to put themselves in the place of God by saying they created the Nile.
- 1-26 – The explanation of Egypt’s punishment continues and the hearer is assured that by the end of what Egypt will face, they will have no doubt who God is.
- 32-38 – All these folks who lived by faith faced very difficult challenges and hardships. Following God does not make life easy or simple. It is the opposite. Life is often more difficult when we follow God, but the reward in the end is well worth it.
- 1-2 – The “cloud of witnesses” is all the people who have gone before us and shown us what faithful living looks like. Our ultimate example is Christ who was willing to sacrifice himself in order to obtain the joy of the Lord and a place next to God.
- 7-11 – Discipline is a form of love because it protects us and guides us to the version of us God intended.
- This psalm highlights many reasons why it is good and beneficial to fear and obey God. Too often we see it as a burden that squashes us.
- As believers, we are called to help hold one another accountable and to spur each other on towards faithfulness.
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 have the ability and propensity to turn good things bad. In other words, things that God has given us for good, we tend to corrupt and pervert or make them into idols. In today’s Jeremiah reading, we find that the Israelites have begun to rely on the temple instead of using at as a tool that connects them to God, as God intended it. What are the temples in your life? Service? Family? Work?
- 15-30 – Jerusalem will soon face disaster.
- 1 – Jeremiah’s sermon in the temple begins.
- 4 – Though this phrasing may not sound like a problem, the reason they are deceptive words is because the people of Jerusalem felt that having God’s temple was their ticket to salvation. Like meaningless sacrifices, having the temple meant nothing if you weren’t following God.
- 8-15 – God planned to destroy the temple in order to destroy the peoples’ false sense of security. They were relying on it for an automatic connection to God but living unfaithfully.
- 13-15 – Whatever it is that we were trusting in before Christ is taken away.
- 16-23 – No one else gets to tell us that Christ has not accepted us or that we are unacceptable to him. Of course, we are called to lovingly call out one another’s sins, but ultimately it is Christ who justifies us.
- 5-8 – The testimony in Jacob was designed to teach younger generations about God. God does great things in our lives in order to bless us and then calls us to tell others about it.
- 9-20 – The Israelites continually had reason to trust in God and yet continued to question his faithfulness.
- Honesty is a blessing and is as pleasant as a kiss.
Do you know that person who always offers to help after the work is done or always “wishes” they could help? Those sentiments are pretty meaningless – about as productive as a dog chasing his tail. That is how God feels about sacrifices to Him when people go on sinning and worshipping other gods. The sacrifices don’t mean anything. They’re empty. It sure makes you think, are our offerings of worship and service, at times, pretty meaningless?
- 1-8 – This is a prophecy promising to return Jerusalem to what it was intended to be.
- 9-11 – A call to arms to prepare to bring the Israelites back from exile.
- 17-2 – Jerusalem is being urged to wake up and prepare for restoration.
- 6 – So often, including the prophet Isaiah, biblical characters have responded with “here I am”. Here God explains that he will answer in this same way when it’s time for Israel to be restored.
- 7-12 – The “good news” this passage refers to is the salvation of Jerusalem. This beautiful, poetic explanation is a great reflection of the beauty of salvation.
- 1-12 – Now read this again recognizing that it is foretelling Jesus’ sacrifice for us.
- 1-5 – Following Christ is an act of allowing ourselves to be transformed to look more and more like him. We cannot continue on sinning and say that we are being transformed.
- 6-14 – There are lots of folks who will try to steer us off our pursuit of following Christ. This is easiest when our sins are hidden. When we bring them to the light they are far easier to deal with.
- 22-33 – This passage is often disliked and/or ignored in modern society. But if both spouses choose to love and respect one another as Scripture calls us to, both parties get a really good deal.
- 19-28 – David asks God to punish his enemies.
- 30-36 – Several times in Scripture God asks for humility or obedience instead of a bunch of meaningless sacrifices. David promises to do just that.
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.