It’s ok to feel sorrow. It’s ok to ask questions. It’s ok to wonder where God is when you suffer. Lamentations proves it.
Context is key in Scripture. This is why it’s so important to read the whole Bible and not just pick out words and phrases that we like or agree with. In 1 Timothy, Paul addresses women, but it’s important to know that there was a significant group of women in the church he’s addressing who were teaching bad doctrine.
- 1-11 – God promises to restore Israel and Judah but also makes it clear that they will still be punished for their sins. He assures them that it will be a lighter punishment.
- 3 – God’s faithfulness to Israel had nothing to do with their ability to reciprocate but simply because of his great love for them. Humanity can never fully reciprocate God’s love for us.
- 10-14 – What beautiful, comforting promises! God promises to turn mourning into joy, give comfort, and turn sorrow into gladness.
1 Timothy 2:1-15:
- 1-4 – We should be in prayer for all people to come to salvation.
- 5-7 – Paul assures his readers of his calling. His words assuring them he’s not lying about his calling are comically conversational.
- 8-11 – Remember that Paul was addressing problems occurring in the church. Here, he was teaching women, who presumably had entered worship with flashy, distracting clothes and jewelry, to dress modestly. He also addresses the men that have become quarrelsome over theological debates.
- 12-15 – This passage, particularly verse 12, can be problematic, particularly in our context where we affirm women in pastoral leadership. Are we practicing the faith unfaithfully or is the Bible wrong? Neither of these have to be true for us to resolve this issue. The main question we need to ask is whether or not we believe this passage was meant for its particular context. In the United Methodist church we have concluded that it was for the particular context Paul was addressing.
- 4 – This verse lists off several surrounding areas of Jerusalem (Zion). Jerusalem, and what would ultimately happen there (Jesus’ death and resurrection), were intended to be a blessing to all people. The writers of this psalm could not have known exactly how yet, but they believed that it would be true.
- 19 – When needed, these things will all ultimately fail you.
Today’s proverb is awesome and convicting all at the same time. We tend to gloss over things and avoid calling out sin because we don’t want to judge, but sin is sin. It may not feel good to call it that, but avoiding the truth only hurts us and those who need to be called out.
- 19-31 – Judah had become desolate, which was shameful. The people cried out in anguish over the sorrow of this.
- 1-19 – Jeremiah tells God the people are not repenting. God declares his intent to punish them for their sins and even alludes to exile.
- 20-31 – God reflects on the Israelites’ unwillingness to repent, how it has shaped them and declares that it’s absolutely necessary for him to punish them.
- 1-14 – This is God’s warning to Jerusalem to repent or face certain consequences.
- 24-29 – Paul considers his struggles and persecution worth it when people come to full faith in God.
- 6 – You have the knowledge of who Christ is, now live in a way that shows it.
- 1-9 – The psalmist wonders where God’s help is.
- 10-15 – The psalmist, though feeling in need of God, is able to fall back on his experiences of God from the past to sustain him.
- 24-25 – Call a spade a spade. If someone is sinning, don’t compliment them for it or tell them it’s ok. Call out the sin.
Sin tells us it’s not a big deal. Sin tells us it won’t hurt us. Sin often even tells us it’s good for us and will ultimately make us better. Sin lies. If it was always obvious how harmful sin is, we would probably avoid it more. But it hides in the bushes and lurks around waiting to attack. Today’s 2 Corinthians reading reminds us of just how deceptive sin can be.
- 1-15 – Now the judgment switches over to the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
- 16-26 – This judgment is directed towards “the daughters of Zion” – aka – Jerusalem.
- 2-6 – This is the plan for the future of Jerusalem after all the sinful folks are wiped out.
- 1-7 – This section describes Judah and Israel as a vineyard that has yielded wild grapes instead of the good, winemaking grapes that were intended. The vintner allows the vineyard to be destroyed.
- 6-23 – This is a series of laments of various ways people sin.
2 Corinthians 11:1-15:
- 3-6 – Paul fears that though the Corinthians are currently devoted to Christ and his gospel, they could easily be swayed.
- 12-15 – This is why it’s difficult to recognize sin. The devil, and those who follow him, make it difficult to decipher good from evil. They make them both look the same.
- 2-3 – This is not difficult to believe since both with Noah and Job, they seem to be the only faithful ones remaining. People corrupt one another and it grows exponentially.
- 6 – Though Jesus wasn’t from Jerusalem, that is where he died and thus salvation did occur in Jerusalem.
As modern day Americans, we can fulfill most of our needs on our own. Though this may sound like a great thing, it actually has great potential to cripple us spiritually. Read today’s Psalm. Note that the psalmists need for the Lord is so great, it manifests as a physical need. It’s scary to have that much reliance on someone else, but God will never let us down.
Job 28:1-30:31 –
- 1-28 – This section of poetry elaborates on the extent of God’s wisdom. It seems like an odd insertion and is stuck between two sections where “Job takes up his discourse” so it seems odd that this too would be him speaking.
- 1-31 – Job is lamenting as he remembers how great his life was. He used to be a respected member of his community and now is forgotten and despised.
2 Corinthians 2:12-17:
- 14-17 – Thinking about being the fragrance of Christ suggests that our responsibility of sharing Christ with others goes far beyond simply saying the words. We are to exude the nature of Christ to the world.
- 1-3 – These verses depict a desire for God so great that it becomes an actual, physical need.
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.
Yesterday we talked about how God can use any gift he’s given us, using Esther’s beauty as an example. Today, in 1 Corinthians, we look at gifts of the Spirit. These are gifts specifically designed to build up the body of Christ. If you haven’t done a Spiritual Gifts Inventory to figure out your specific gifts, here’s one. Take a few minutes to explore the gifts God has given you.
- 1-3 – Sackcloth and ashes were signs of mourning.
- 4-9 – Esther was distressed by Mordecai’s actions and the fact that he was mourning. She still did not know about the decree to destroy the Jews. Mordecai sent the news through Hathach, the eunuch.
- 11-17 – In order to talk to the king about the decree, Esther had to break the law and risk her life. The king would be well within his rights to have her killed when she approached him.
- 14 – A powerful statement from Mordecai that Esther may have been put in her unique position for this specific purpose.
- 10-11 – Haman must have been fuming as he had to honor the man that he was hoping to have killed.
1 Corinthians 12:1-26:
- 3 – This is to say that the Spirit of God cannot speak against Jesus so if we truly have the Spirit within us, we cannot speak against Jesus.
- 4-11 – We are all given different gifts from the Spirit and these gifts are intended for the building up of the body of Christ.
- 12-20 – All our gifts are meant to work together for the good of the group. We shouldn’t feel bad or be jealous that we don’t have certain gifts. Instead we should use our gift to our best ability in order to benefit the whole.
- 5-9 – These verses explain what all the Lord offers to us. There are vast benefits to loving and serving God. The verses before this, however, profile those who do not honor and love God.
Are you a terrible singer? Can’t carry a tune in a bucket? That’s ok! You can’t tell me you don’t belt it out in the shower or when alone in your car. Praising God is the perfect time to stretch out those vocal chords. Today’s psalm reminds us that we’re all called to give God praise through song. He deserves it and loves it…even if you sound awful.
2 Kings 18:13-19:37:
- 16 – Gold that was, at one time, given as an offering to the Lord to build his home amongst the Israelites, was now stripped off and given to a foreign king. The change in the state of affairs is drastic.
- 19-25 – A message is sent from the king of Assyria to Hezekiah, the king of Judah, taunting him and saying that God will not be able to save Judah.
- 28-35 – Hezekiah was a king faithful to the Lord. Clearly the king of Assyria is trying to do everything he can to get the people of Judah to turn against Hezekiah and God.
- 36-1 – Hezekiah’s men all tore their clothes as a sign of deep sorrow and disgrace. They were afraid that the king of Assyria might be right.
- 6-7 – Isaiah, the next great prophet, assures Hezekiah and his men that God will rescue them and the king of Assyria will actually die in his own land.
- 10-13 – The king of Assyria’s bullying tactics are convincing. All the other kings Assyria had gone up against had fallen. Granted, their gods weren’t God.
- 29-31 – God gives Judah a sign that he actually is speaking and they can trust him.
- 10-14 – Though Christian persecution was rampant in Jerusalem, Paul knew he had to go there. All his companions tried to convince him not to, but he was well prepared to face persecution for the sake of the gospel.
- 3 – We are to praise the Lord with song…even if we’re not that talented. Just make a joyful noise.