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.
Salvation is a free gift. We can’t earn it. That is so freeing…but…it should free us to do more good, live more like Christ, and serve more. It should not, in our minds, give us free license to sin more because, hey, what’s the harm? Be grateful for your free gift and act accordingly.
- 18-25 – These festivals and others are spelled out in Numbers 23.
- 1-18 – The prince had special instructions on how to handle offerings and other rituals in the temple.
1 Peter 1:13-2:10:
- 14-21 – Our call is to live like Christ. Because he lived a holy life, we are to do so as well. We know this is a worthy call because he died and rose again.
- 1-3 – We are to turn away from our sin and long for God’s goodness and guidance.
- 9-10 – We should take it seriously and act upon it that we were saved.
- 36-37 – A difficult prayer to pray because it might mean we actually have to turn from our selfish ways and live for God.
- 11 – Wealth does not equal wisdom.
In today’s reading, Ezekiel continues to describe his vision of the second temple. Though the details may seem tedious and like you’ve heard it all before, note that he talks about the separation between the holy and common in the temple. Isn’t it incredible that, when Jesus was crucified, the temple curtain was torn and anything that separated us from God was removed!?! Praise God for making a way to connect with us!
- 13-20 – The separation between the holy space and the common space was torn when Jesus died for our sins.
- 43:6-9 – The temple cannot hold the fullness of God, but simply his footstool.
- 1-6 – Those who are rich and cruel on earth have already experienced their blessings.
- 12 – We shouldn’t need anything or anyone else’s trustworthiness to assure our own. Instead, we should simply be trustworthy so people will trust us.
- 16-18 – Righteous prayers can seek forgiveness and healing and receive them. Prayers are powerful. This passage gives evidence of that
- 1-8 – The psalmist seems so eager to follow God’s commands and understands that blessings come from obedience.
- 6 – Though this sentiment is unpopular in our society, wealth is far less important than integrity.
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.
Have you ever been betrayed by a friend? Or worse, have you ever betrayed a friend? In today’s psalm, David feels the pain of betrayal at the hands of a friend. Though this is always the risk, we know that God designed us to be in relationship and that, though betrayal is excruciating, the benefits of relationship are worth the risk.
- 11-15 – The Lord becomes a safe place to those who follow him but becomes a stumbling block for those who oppose him.
- 1-7 – A prophecy describing the Messiah that is to come. Enjoy this musical interpretation of this powerful prophecy.
- 8-21 – This foretells the coming demise of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Though God’s hand is still available, the people continue to walk towards evil and destruction.
2 Corinthians 12:1-10:
- 7-9 – Most theologians believe that Paul did have some sort of infirmity that he wanted to get rid of but could not. This kept him humble and may have also been a hindrance from moving quickly and traveling easily.
- 10 – It is often our difficulties that cause us to better relate to others with difficult conditions. They also allow us to be more thankful. Paul also realized that these are often the places where we are actually strongest.
- 12-15 – David was betrayed by a friend, which, as we all know, hurts much more than when we’re hurt by an enemy or stranger.
- 16-19 – David has great trust in the Lord to take care of him despite the ill intentions of his enemies.
- Though wealth seems to bring earthly status, it is fleeting and not worth spinning our wheels over.
Have you ever been on a seesaw when the weight distribution on either end is way off? One person ends up doing all the work. It’s not the other person’s fault. They just physically can’t get down to the ground. This is a crude analogy of what Paul’s talking about when he encourages believers not to marry nonbelievers. They are simply not equally matched when it comes to their spiritual lives.
- 9-12 – These verses are key in helping us understand the importance of friendship and being in relationship in general. We are designed to lean on others and have them lean on us as well.
- 13 – The things that we value, wealth and power, are not always the things that benefit us most.
- 1-3 – These verses encourage us to enter God’s presence with reverence and awe. We are to listen for God first instead of assuming we know what he wants and how we should act.
- 4-7 – It is better not to tell God we’re going to do something and not do it than to never promise anything at all. This is similar to the parable Jesus tells in Matthew 21.
- 1-6 – Possessions truly don’t matter. Most of the time, when we have lots of things, we’re worried about maintaining possession of those things and often don’t enjoy them. This is a waste of life.
2 Corinthians 6:14-7:7:
- 14-18 – These verses are often used when explaining why believers should not marry nonbelievers. Similar arguments could be made for going into business with nonbelievers. Believers cannot expect nonbelievers to have the same priorities, beliefs, and understandings as them. As believers we are called to be transformed and to put Christ first. This effects every aspect of life.
- 5-7 – Paul’s unquenchable joy is so apparent here. He explains to the Corinthians the difficulties he has faced, but continues to rejoice in hearing of other believers joining in the battle with him.
- Our God is worthy of our praise. We should sing to him and honor him with song.
- God does not take kindly to the powerful oppressing the weak in any circumstance. He calls us to care for the poor, the widow, the orphan, the child, and the one who is new to the faith.
Today we start a new book, Ecclesiastes. Have you ever felt like you’re spinning your wheels? Not getting anywhere? Making futile efforts? You’re not alone. Solomon felt that way too at times. But through all his searchings and efforts, he ultimately found truth. Ecclesiastes is worth your time.
- 9 – “There is nothing new under the sun” is repeated throughout Ecclesiastes. This is used to remind us that the triumphs, tragedies, as well as daily successes and annoyances, are not new to us. Others have experienced them before us and others will after us.
- 12-16 – The traditional understanding is Solomon wrote this book. He is identified as a king, in the line of David, and having greater wisdom than anyone else. Some modern theologians argue that the language suggests that it had to have been written after the exile and thus was someone else. It has not been proven that Solomon didn’t write it. (We will refer to the writer as Solomon throughout the notes for simplicity sake.)
- 17 – “Chasing/striving after wind” is a repeated phrase in Ecclesiastes too. This simply means that it is a futile effort.
- 1-11 – First, Solomon sought out pleasure in wild living and material things. He found out, as many of us could tell him from our own experiences, that wasn’t going to work.
- 12-26 – Solomon then pursues wisdom and working hard to gain wealth. Both also prove to be pointless because it puts you in no better position when you die.
- 1-8 – These verses will sound familiar because of the popular song by The Byrds. These verses explain that God made everything to run in its course in its allotted time. We will face the good and the bad, but nothing should overwhelm or overtake us because it is passing.
2 Corinthians 6:1-13:
- 3-10 – Paul lists the merits of his ministry. Their boasting is not in their own accomplishments, but their ministry is legitimized by all God has brought them through and done through them.
- It is not the fault of the child that he is foolish. It is his nature. It is the job of the parent to discipline him and lead him to wisdom.
In today’s Acts reading, Paul has been imprisoned, which obviously sounds terrible. How would you handle it? I know I’d probably whine and get down and defeated. Paul acts differently. He takes the time to explain why he does what he does. He had been a faithful Jew who strictly obeyed the law, but Christ’s love and grace were powerful enough to convert him and then to cause him to share that good news with others. What opportunities do you have to share your faith story?
2 Kings 22:3-23:30:
- 3-7 – The temple, due to sinful leadership and neglect, had fallen into disrepair so Josiah used his position as king to restore it.
- 14-17 – The prophetess Huldah lets Judah know it too will be destroyed because of its sin.
- 18-20 – Because King Josiah had been faithful and repentant, he would die before the destruction occurred.
- 1-24 – Josiah took the law he found in the temple very seriously and methodically destroyed any remnants of anything dedicated to any other God.
- 4-16 – Paul addresses his captors by sharing his conversion experience and why he switched from devout Jew who persecuted Christians to tireless Christian from a Jewish background.
- This Psalm contrasts a person who’s delight is in the law of the Lord versus someone who is wicked.
- 11 – Solomon makes it clear that wealth is a false sense of security.
Have you ever been scared to share your faith? You didn’t want to offend someone or thought they might not be open to it? In today’s Acts reading, Stephen gives us a great example of how evangelism should go. The Holy Spirit gives us an opportunity – we’re put in the right position or feel an urge to say something – and then we should just go for it. When we think about it as good news, which it is, it gets a whole lot easier.
1 Kings 9:1-10:29:
- 1-9 – God makes it clear what he requires of Solomon and his line and the consequences if they disobey.
- This section is intended to show the vast wealth and resources that Solomon had. Clearly this was a time of plenty for Israel. Solomon and his relationship with God were responsible for it.
- 14-17 – It seems odd that the Samaritans received Christ and chose to be baptized but weren’t able to have the Holy Spirit until the apostles came.
- 26-38 – Philip was led into a clear evangelism opportunity by listening to the Spirit. We often wonder if we are supposed to share our faith or not in certain situations, but if we trust the Spirit to guide us, it will become clear.
- 3-4 – Our sins make us unworthy of connection with God, but he does not count them against us because of his grace.
- Throughout Scripture there is a theme of birthright and status not guaranteeing that you receive that is due to you. God does not judge as we judge, he looks at the heart.
There are two Sauls in Scripture. The first was the first king in Israel. The second is better known as Paul, which he was called after his conversion. The second Saul was a persecutor of Christians, a devout and learned Jew, and was at least partially responsible for having the first Christian martyr killed. Soon we’ll read about his commitment to and leadership in spreading the gospel. Isn’t it incredible how God can redeem anyone?
1 Kings 8:1-66:
- 1-11 – The temple is finally built and the priests move the Ark of the Covenant into the Holy Place of the temple, representing God’s presence. This must have been such a exciting, emotional time for all the Israelites.
- 20-21 – The Israelites were promised particular land when they left Egypt. Since then, they had wandered for years, and then fought over the land and other things for years. Now they were finally at peace and where they belonged. This ceremony solidified God’s promises being fulfilled.
- 25 – Clearly David sinned, so God was obviously not setting the bar at perfection. He was simply asking kings to follow him. Many chose not to.
- 27-53 – A beautiful prayer from Solomon asking God for favor, mercy, forgiveness, and protection. He clearly loves God and loves his people.
- 57-58 – God does not force us to choose or follow him. When we allow it, he can draw us to him or incline our hearts toward him, which makes it easier to follow him.
- 51-53 – Stephen is addressing a Jewish audience, which is why he speaks of their fathers not listening to the prophets. Saying they have uncircumcised hearts and ears would directly accuse them of not being God’s people. Circumcision was part of their culture and identity as Jews.
- 58 – This is the same Saul who becomes Paul. The Jews laying their garments at Saul’s feet shows that he was heavily involved in Stephen’s death.
- 60 – Stephen was the first martyr for Christ.
- 1 – The early Christians were scattered around 70 A.D. when the temple was destroyed.
- 3 – Saul was a terrifying persecutor of Christians. He was a devout Jew.
- This psalm denounces anyone who is against Israel and specifically Jerusalem.
- Though many of us seek wealth for our families, peace is a far greater blessing.