A good portion of 1 Corinthians, including today’s reading, are about how to handle things internally, amongst the believers, versus externally, between believers and non-believers. Not that it’s done to be secretive or deceitful, but simply to bless the non-believer and not to cause them to stumble. In a modern context this might mean avoiding language like “the blood of the lamb” that doesn’t make much sense and might sound off-putting to a non-believer when around one. This is not about separation but instead because of the hopes of eventual inclusion.
- 1-5 – The Israelites realized their sin and turned away from it.
- 9-14 – The sin was so rampant amongst the Israelites that they were going to have to be cleansed in shifts.
1 Corinthians 6:1-20:
- 1-8 – Paul is telling the believers not to defame each other, even if justified, in front of nonbelievers because it lessens the chances that they would want to come to faith. He urges them, instead, to accept and forgive a few wrongdoings for the good of the whole.
- 12 – Though all things that God created are permissible for us to use, but not all are beneficial to us and thus should probably be avoided.
- 16-17 – Paul states that when we affiliate ourselves with anything else, we are connected to that thing instead of to the Lord.
- 19-20 – Life is not just about what we want or what we enjoy. We, through our bodies, have been entrusted with the temple of the Lord and should handle it properly.
It’s finally time for the Israelites to return home from Babylonian exile. They’re city and everything they’d worked to establish is destroyed. They’re still under the watchful eye of their captors, and well, what will their relationship with God be like? Check out these powerful books that you may have overlooked in the past.
It’s interesting how our reading lines up today. We’re reading about Ezra trying to reestablish the function of the second temple and reading a psalm helping dedicate the original temple. But this kind of thing can be confusing at times because the Bible is not chronological. Which temple are we talking about when? Who were contemporaries? Etc. Here is a timeline of some of the major biblical events this will hopefully be helpful.
- 1-6 – When Ezra showed up, it had been 58 years since the dedication of the temple.
- 11-20 – The king gives all the priests permission to go back to Jerusalem with Ezra and to equip the temple with everything it needs.
- 25-20 – Ezra is appointed to begin to rebuild the structure of authority within Jerusalem as people head back to settle there.
1 Corinthians 4:1-21:
- 6-7 – We are not to boast in our gifts or good fortunes because all of it was given to us by God.
- 9-13 – Though Paul’s description of what it’s like to be an apostle of Christ doesn’t sound incredibly appealing, it is well worth it when we get to share Christ with others and bring them to him.
- 16 – This is the goal! We want to be so active in our faith that we can encourage others to live like we do knowing that will help them live more like Christ.
- This would have been written for the first temple dedication, not the one we just read about in Ezra. It very well may have been read at the second dedication too though.
- 5 – A reminder that there is always joy to come.
- 11-12 – These verses, as well as the majority of the psalm, are clearly transitioning out of a time of pain into a time of great celebration. The dedication of the temple would have been such a time of hope for the Israelites.
Obedience is a tricky thing. We often want to obey partially, but that is actually not obedience. The good news is, as our proverb tells us today, we have the Holy Spirit to act a little like bumpers on a bowling lane when our obedience starts to slip. Thank goodness for all the checks and balances God has put in place for us.
- 6-17 – King Cyrus had approved the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, but King Artaxerxes, his predecessor had halted the progress. Now the leaders trying to get it built again were appealing to Darius to allow them to search for the gold and silver vessels used in worship in the original temple.
- 6-12 – King Darius makes a decree putting all the building plans back in progress.
- 16-22 – It would have been a huge celebration for the Israelites to return to their land, dedicate the temple, and celebrate Passover again. It is hard for us to relate to how significant that would have been for them.
1 Corinthians 3:5-23:
- 5-9 – This is great encouragement for people investing in the faith growth of the next generation or anyone really. We are called to be faithful in giving them the information they need. God is responsible for growing it and making it flourish.
- 16-17 – It matters how we treat the dwelling place of the Lord. This is both true of our physical bodies as well as our holistic health.
- We are quick to minimize the power and majesty of God. We look to other things in our lives, or even ourselves, to do the work of God. This psalm reminds us of the power of God and how he should be praised for it.
- 27 – It is the Spirit’s job to test our hearts and help convict us in the places where we are not obeying God.
Do you ever thank God for something before it happens? This takes a great deal of trust to do it genuinely. It means that you truly believe that God will fulfill your need. This is how today’s psalm is written. A requested is made and, presumably, before the prayer is answered, David thanks God for answering it.
- 2 – Zerubbabel and Shealtiel were both in Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew.
- 8 – The Levite men were in charge of overseeing the construction of the temple, but considering how long they had been in captivity, some of them would have never seen the original temple.
- 11 – We see this sentence used in praise over and over, particularly in the Psalms.
- 1-3 – Zerubbabel and Jeshua knew that they were intended to be set apart. We don’t know what the adversaries intended to do, but they aren’t allowed to be a part of the temple build.
- 7-16 – Artaxerxes succeeded Cyrus as king of Persia. Some of his advisors discouraged him from allowing the Israelites to leave exile and return to and rebuild Jerusalem.
- 17-24 – Artaxerxes halts the rebuild of the temple. This must have been a devastating blow to the Israelites who were trying to reestablish their identity.
1 Corinthians 2:6-3:4:
- 11-13 – The Spirit is our advisor on the things of God. The Spirit gives us insight into how God is leading us and what he would have us do.
- 1-4 – Paul is calling out the Corinthians for not having matured spiritually. There are many things he had not taught them because they were not ready for it.
- This Psalm is split into two parts. Verses 1-5 are asking God for help, while 6-9 are thanking God for the help. It is most likely that David is thanking God in advance and simply believing that God will take care of the problem.
- 24 – This is a very intriguing question. It is basically that God guides our paths and leads us to where we need to go. If he is capable of that, who are we to expect to understand why or how he does it?
Today we begin Ezra, which begins telling the story of the Israelites returning from exile. It’s not the smoothest transition and God handles it in some surprising ways, but the Israelites finally get to return to their given land and restoration with God.
- Ezra begins the same way 2 Chronicles ends. It explains that God calls a non-Israelite king, Cyrus, the King of Persia, to return the Israelites from exile and build a new temple since the old one was destroyed when the Israelites were exiled.
- This is an account of all the Israelites left who needed to move back to their own land.
1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5:
- 18-25 – Humility, self-sacrifice, and relying on grace as opposed to our own abilities seems crazy to those who haven’t received salvation through Christ. We see it as freeing and life-giving, but that is not the case for those who seek other things for value.
- 26-31 – We see this throughout Jesus’ ministry and his disciples’ after him. He flips all cultural norms on their heads. Just look at the Beatitudes or the parables.
- 1-5 – Paul did not seek to impress or argue people into faith, but simply to share his experience with salvation.
- 8 – David commits to following God’s command to seek him no matter what else is going on.
- 10 – David knew what it was to be forsaken by a parent. Of his 8 brothers, he was the only one not presented as the possible next king when Samuel was looking for one of Jesse’s sons to anoint.
- 13 – This is a clear sign of hope and a promise we can hold onto.
- 22 – Interesting that our Psalm reading ended with “wait for the Lord” and the Proverb reading began with it. God must be speaking to us.
Have you ever wanted to pray for someone but not known how? It’s easy for that to happen. Often we know someone is struggling but don’t know how. Other times people just pop into our brains and we feel the urge to pray for them. If this happens to you, pray 1 Corinthians 1:4-8 over them. It’s a pretty great prayer for anyone.
2 Chronicles 35:1-36:23:
- 1-19 – There had been significant periods of time, while under bad kings, that the Israelites did not observe Passover. This may seem like tedious information, but it’s showing that the Israelites were doing their best to be faithful here.
- 20-22 – Josiah was faithful for most of his life, but in the end, he tried to oppose the will of God and died trying.
- 9 – Jehoiachin is different than Jehoiakim. It’s easy to read quickly and miss that subtle transition.
- 15 – These “messengers” were the prophets. In the gospels, particularly in parables, there are often people who are trying to bring messages who are ignored or rejected. These characters represent the prophets as well.
- 22-23 – King Cyrus, a king who is not an Israelite, is called to return the exiles to their land and rebuild the temple.
1 Corinthians 1:1-17:
- This is Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Note that letters to different churches tend to have different emphases. He is trying to teach the churches how to live and grow faithfully. Every church has its own hangups in that regard.
- 4-8 – This is a beautiful way to pray for someone you love and want to encourage.
- 10-17 – Paul encourages the Corinthians to stop focusing on divisive issues and to recognize that they are all called to and saved by Christ.
- 1 – Remember this when you have fear of any kind.
- 2-6 – David speaks with words of great confidence that God will protect him in any and every situation.
- God clearly meant the “honor your father and mother” law.
There is a lot of political news these days that is polarizing. We can love it or hate it, but regardless of our feelings, today’s Romans passage lets us know that, as believers, we have an obligation to be faithful. Faithfulness is not always easy, but it is necessary.
2 Chronicles 26:1-28:27:
- 1 – Uzziah and Azariah are the same person. Sometimes kings would have a throne name as well as a personal name.
- 3-15 – This section chronicles the faithful days of Uzziah.
- 16-21 – Like the chronicler tends to do (i.e. Joash) he splits the account of the faithful days of a king from the unfaithful days of a king. This section chronicles Uzziah’s unfaithful days.
- 19 – Having leprosy meant that King Uzziah was unclean and would need to be separated from the rest of the Israelites.
- 23 – He was buried in a field owned by kings instead of in the burial tombs where the rest of the kings were buried.
- 2 – The chronicler here is commending Jotham for not entering the temple. That was the sin Uzziah committed. He entered the parts he was not allowed.
- 1-4 – Ahaz is basically the worst of the worst.
- 1-7 – This passage applies whether you agree with the authorities over us or not. Regardless, we are called to do the faithful thing.
- 11-14 – Darkness and light are often symbols for the things we hide versus what we do when we know people are around and watching. Once again, the analogy of being awake or asleep is used to represent being ready for Jesus’ coming or not.
- This psalm is so comforting because it reminds us of all the things God does to support, surround, and provide for us.
Is your faithfulness circumstantial? It’s not uncommon for people to be faithful when they need something and then, as things get easier for them, they don’t “need” anything anymore and feel no need to be faithful. Obviously other circumstances effect our faithfulness as well. In today’s 2 Chronicles story, Joash’s faithfulness seems to be dependent on his mentor. We should be faithful because of our love for and reverence to God. This doesn’t change with circumstances, but remains because God remains.
2 Chronicles 24:1-25:28:
- 5 – The temple had fallen into disrepair after a number of unfaithful kings. Joash wanted to raise money to repair the temple.
- 7 – Just like the Israelites were set apart for God, the temple and all its contents were set apart for worshipping God. It must have grieved God greatly when these items were used for worshipping other gods.
- 10 – People don’t normally rejoice when paying taxes, but this tax was to restore them with their God. This seems worthy of celebration.
- 15-22 – Jehoiada’s death is a major turning point for Joash. He switches from being faithful to totally abandoning faithfulness. He listens to the wicked princes of Judah and kills Jehoiada’s son Zechariah.
- 14 – The Israelites were often temped into worshipping other gods, but normally not as quickly and blatantly as Amaziah. God had just blessed Amaziah with a war victory, which to the people of that time, was a sign that the God of the victorious army was more powerful. It seems odd that he would immediately turn to a lesser god.
- 1 – This is one of the main reasons it matters how we take care of our bodies. Our bodies should be one of our offerings to God.
- 3-8 – As the Body of Christ, we come together with a variety of talents, skills, and opportunities to serve. None are more important than the other, they just present differently. This is why we are all necessary.
- 12 – My personal favorite verse of the Bible. Feel free to claim it as your own too.
- 14-21 – Powerful verses on how we should treat one another.
- 25-31 – These sound like what it will be like when the Kingdom of God is fully realized.
- None of us can claim to have made our own hearts pure. Jesus is the only one who can do that for us.
Sin and temptation are tough. There are so many that are flashy and draw us in. They promise to satisfy but leave us feeling empty. At the same time, as believers, we desire to follow God and obey his commands. We know his ways are better than the alternative, but those flashing lights are awfully enticing. It can feel like we’re in a bit of a tug-of-war. Paul felt the same way.
2 Chronicles 6:12-8:10:
- 18-21 – Solomon’s humility and awe of God’s willingness to dwell among people is eye opening. It truly is incredible that God has offered to dwell in this house made by humans among them.
- 22-42 – Solomon pleas with God to hear his people’s various prayers. This seems to be a type of dedicating prayer for the temple.
- 32-33 – These verses aren’t familiar to our cultural point of view. We have always been taught to welcome the outsider into church because we want more people to know Jesus. God’s people, the Israelites, had a much more exclusive mind set. The temple was built by them for them to connect with and worship their God.
- 11-22 – God confirms his pleasure in the temple and Solomon’s having built it. He assures Solomon of his loyalty to him, but also explains the consequences if Solomon is not faithful.
- 8-9 – This is an interesting delineation. Solomon is ok with having slaves from other people groups but refuses to have Israelite slaves. They, instead, become soldiers.
- 14-20 – An extremely convicting passage that could have been written by any one of us. We don’t want to sin, but that is our nature because we are human. Our flesh is weak and easily swayed.
- 21-25 – Most of us can probably relate to this kind of turmoil. We love God and want to serve him but also want to sin and are drawn to it.
- 1-8 – When people talk about their pasts being too much to overcome or wondering if the church will get struck by lightning if they walk in, you can point them to these verses. Salvation through Jesus is about life, not condemnation.
- David must have felt such relief. He had run from Saul so long and was constantly at war. You can almost hear the deep exhale in his words.
- David’s words explain the great power with which God works.
- 24 – This verse is basically repeated in Proverbs 26:15. Clearly Solomon was not pleased with laziness and did not believe it displayed godliness or wisdom.