• 1 John 1:1-2:2, Psalm 146
    “We write this to you to make our joy complete”. (1 John 1:4) There are joys that must be shared. We could think of many experiences that are better enjoyed with others: a stunning lunar eclipse, unique ice formations, the breaching of a humpback whale, fourth of July fireworks, or our favorite rock concerts. A feast, also is just too much food when it is only for one person. But when others are gathered around the table, a party ensues and your best […]
  • 2 Peter 3, Psalm 144
    Many critical New Testament scholars last century argued that the first Christians believed Jesus would return in their lifetimes. Part of their theory requires believing that Peter could not have written 2 Peter, for embedded in this letter is the acknowledgement that while scoffers question the return of Jesus, believers should understand “the Lord is not slow in keeping His promise.” (2 Peter 3:9) Immediately before this statement, Peter makes the […]
  • 2 Peter 2, Psalm 143
    It would be difficult to find a group of people that that the New Testament epistles oppose more than false teachers, especially those instructing under Christian guise. I guess the devil would be the closest competitor. Peter, like Paul does not mince words about the fate that awaits those who act as messengers of Christ yet in some way “deny the Sovereign Lord who bought them.” Yet my anecdotal impression of how contemporary CHristians relate to […]
  • 2 Peter 1, Psalm 142
    My seminary education culminated when at a graduation ceremony I walked on a stage to receive a diploma certifying receipt of a “Masters of Divinity”. While working towards this diploma I would regularly tell people I was “mastering the divinie.” If I were not being transparently ridiculous, it would have been sacrilegious. God is alone divine, and there is no mastering the Master of all things. Peter says something peculiar and hotly contested about […]
  • 1 Peter 4.12-5.14, Psalm 141
    By Kesny St Louis Peter wants us to prepare to suffer so we won’t be “surprised” by it (1 Peter 4:12). Suffering exists, but our salvation is more real. Two realities, yet one is greater than the other. Pain is real, but it’s nothing compared to our glorification. Peter goes on to do the same thing (1 Peter 5:10). Scripture not only gives us the reality of suffering in hardship in this present world, but it also provides us with some guidance on how […]
  • 1 Peter 3:8-4:11, Psalm 140
    The Westminster Shorter Catechism states that the chief end of man is to “glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever” (Westminster Assembly, 1986). It is easy to think of Christianity as a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” such as those listed in 1 Peter 4:3: Don’t live in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.” But what we are called to is so much greater than that. Christians aren’t told in this passage to be […]
  • 1 Peter 2:11-3:7, Psalm 139
    In repetitious fashion Peter informs that the Christian life is a life of submission. We are all to submit to governing authorities (1 Peter 2:13-14) and those placed in authority over us while we work (1 Peter 2:18-21). Wives are challenged by Peter to submit to their own husbands (1 Peter 3:1-6). Though husbands are not challenged to submit, elsewhere the apostle Paul calls for mutual submission for both husbands and wives (Ephesians 5:22). […]
  • 1 Peter 1:13-2:10, Psalm 138
    By Mollie Hassett Holiness in the highest sense belongs to God. Several passages in scripture call us to be Holy. (Leviticus 20:7, 26; Rom 12:1, 1 Peter 2:9) “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” The desire to be holy is a response to this call of God on our life as we enter into the daily process of sanctification. Through His grace alone we have our blessed salvation. Peter encourages us to fix our hope on the truth of His imperishable Word. To […]
  • 1 Peter 1:1-12, Psalm 137
    By Kesny St. Louis Many of us may not experience persecution like Peter’s original audience, but we all are suffering in some way. 1 Peter is written in the context of suffering to offer hope to the persecuted Christian of his time. This world is broken, and we need hope to live in it. 1 Peter gives us a tangible hope for living in times of suffering in 1 Peter 1:3. Just after Peter greeted his audience he breaks into praise. “Praise be to the […]
  • James 4:13-5:20, Psalm 136
    By John Bruggers James covers a lot of ground in this section. He starts with a clear message for believers to understand the insignificance of our lives and how little control we have over it (4:14-15). Why? So we can flip the behavior we’re so prone to: me first then God. We must reject that and adopt a God first perspective “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (4:15) While James follows this with an admonition of the rich […]
  • James 3:1 – 4:12
    By Brandon Ash With the same mouth we pray to God and praise His mighty works yet curse the work of His hands and the people He has created. The tongue is said to be a world of evil among the parts of the body and we are encouraged to be wise in the words we speak. How often does our tongue get away from us? Too regularly I’m sure. Instead of cursing our brothers and speaking evil we are to exhibit wisdom in how we speak and are encouraged to be a […]
  • James 1:19 -2:26
    Brandon Ash Do we half-heartedly listen to the Lord or are we actively seeking to put into action all that we have heard? We are bombarded by messages daily telling us to buy, consume, and hoard; yet Scripture tells us to listen to the message that gives freedom and life. We are regularly told to love our neighbors as ourselves but what does that look like in our lives? Do we ignore the unkempt individual on the train yet fall all over ourselves to […]
  • James 1:1-18 & Psalm 133
    By Scott Arnold James begins his letter by talking about difficult truths. Consider it joy when things are difficult and painful! The man with much should embrace humiliation, and the man with nothing should boast in exaltation. If you think back on your life, remembering your highs and lows, you should realize the beautiful truth in this passage. The time I grew the most was one of the most difficult times in my life. I went from a place of having […]
  • Hebrews 13, Psalm 131
    By Dennis Hong To obey is better than sacrifice I don’t need your money I want your life And I hear you say that I’m coming back soon But you act like I’ll never return -Keith Green It is interesting to note that the subtitle in my Bible for Hebrews 13 is “Sacrifices Pleasing to God”. This chapter mainly focuses on how we are to conduct our behavior in different spheres of life. Verses 1-3 lay out how we should treat those we […]
  • Hebrews 12, Psalm 130
    By Laura Herrick Hebrews 12 is filled with beautiful imagery of how we are to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (1) here on earth and keep in mind the “kingdom that cannot be shaken” (28). As there is more talk about how parts of the US, especially large cities, are becoming more secular, it is encouraging to look to scripture to see reminders that we are not alone in our faith. In this chapter we are encouraged to “run with […]
  • Hebrews 11, Psalm 129
    By John Bruggers Chapter 11 has a clear starting premise that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (11:1 ESV). This then leads into a buildup where the author goes on to flesh this idea out more by illustrating notable people in Jewish history that lived by answering God’s call to faith. There are so many examples that the writer remarks that “time would fail me to tell of Gideon, […]
  • Hebrews 10: 19-39, Psalm 128
    By Mollie Hassett It seems impossible that after all we have done that there should be any hope. I imagine countless believers have felt this way. We get distracted, we don’t measure up, just stuck and overwhelmed. The world we live in is difficult. We forget that Jesus has done it all as our redeemer and priest. We are part of a grand and beautiful narrative. It’s a compelling reality! The author of Hebrews calls us to remember. This epistle is […]
  • Hebrews 9:1 – 10:18, Psalm 127
    By Scott Arnold I could never imagine what it was like to be a priest. Daily, one would offer sacrifices for themselves and the people. Not only did they have to sacrifice for the sins you knew, but the sins you’d have no clue about! It would feel like an endless struggle, with no victory. Yet it was symbolic, pointing toward the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus. The author of Hebrews shows us how the old tabernacle (which the recipients would have been […]
  • Hebrews 8, Psalm 126
    God is perfect and always remains the same. It seems odd, then, to suggest that some of God’s works in space and time have been improved upon. The covenants given to Israel through Abraham and David, not to mention the law given to Moses were good. Yet those good gifts are inferior to the new covenant given through Christ. The law distinguished Israel from surrounding nations, but the Lord recognized their distinction as a people did not lead them to […]
  • Hebrews 7, Psalm 124
    By Scot Martin So many questions! Why so many animal sacrifices for sins for so many centuries? If we’re familiar with the New Testament, we may take it for granted that because Jesus bore our sins as a sacrifice on the cross, animal sacrifices are now useless. But Jews in Old Testament times were immersed in a God-established system of animal sacrifices that stretched for generation after generation, with no clear end in sight. Would this go on […]
  • Hebrews 3:1-4:13, Psalm 122
    Do you want to rest? The author of Hebrews wants to help. Entering and remaining in God’s rest is the writer of Hebrews shorthand for God’s eternal salvation through Jesus the Messiah. How do we enter and remain in this rest? We simply remain true to the Son of God who is superior to Moses. The book of Hebrews assumes the reader has a working knowledge of Israel’s major history. By comparing the original audience’s temptation to lose faith in Jesus […]
  • Hebrews 4:14-6:20, Psalm 123
    By Scot Martin Does Jesus know what it’s like? “Jesus, how can You possibly understand what I’m going through?” Ever felt like that? Hebrews 4:15 says Jesus is able “to empathize with our weaknesses” because He “has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” Every way? Really? How can that be? Jesus clearly didn’t face every exact temptation, test, or trial (The word translated “temptation” can mean all of these.) that anyone has […]
  • Hebrews 2, Psalm 122
    By John Bruggers Why is it that God should make the founder of our “salvation perfect through suffering” (2:10)? The author answers this by pointing out that “He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest” (2:17). I want to draw attention to the words “in every respect”, because this is key to both the theme of priesthood and suffering. The high priest’s relationship with […]
  • Hebrews 1, Psalm 121
    “Jesus is the foundation and ground for all true knowledge.” That is a strong claim, but hardly bolder than when the author of Hebrews states, like the apostle Paul, that Jesus is the one “through whom also he (God) made the universe (Hebrews 1:2) and is now “sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3). Certainly this tells us that Jesus is the foundation for all we know, for without Him, nothing would exist or persist, including our […]
  • Philemon, Psalm 121
    Reflection from Laura Herrick Paul calls Philemon in this passage to not only free Onesimus because he “ought to” v 8 but out of love for both Philemon and Onesimus. He chose to help Philemon have the chance to get to know Onesimus as a brother and someone made in the image of Christ. Part of my job is to teach elementary school students the concept of empathy through helping the children to share more about themselves with their classmates and learn […]
  • Titus 3, Psalm 119
    Paul isn’t prone to flattery. In our age of “positive thinking” and incessant reminders to work on our self-esteem, Paul takes a different approach. When reminiscing about the work of the Gospel in his and Titus’ life, Paul reminds his disciple (i.e. student) “ At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” (Titus 3:3) I […]
  • Titus 1-2, Psalm 118
    Paul commands Titus to straighten out what is “left unfinished” by appointing elders for the churches on the small Greek island of Crete. As Paul describes the qualities he expects of elders, after reading 1 Timothy, we might anticipate his description of godly leaders as “self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined” (Titus 1:8). Perhaps we don’t expect the portrayal of an elder as one guarding the Gospel by “refuting those who oppose it.” (Titus […]
  • 2 Timothy 3:10-4:22, Psalm 116
    Every pastor needs to hear from the apostle Paul, especially Paul’s pastoral letters. Almost 2,000 years removed from Paul’s life it is easy for us to attach a mystique to Paul that doesn’t take seriously his self-representation. In the letters to Corinthians, he presents himself as weak and mistreated, and write to the Galatians about his many opponents. I marvel at how resolute Paul is as he exhorts Timothy to similar courage, even while describing […]
  • 2 Timothy 2:14-3:9, Psalm 115
    Paul is adamant that Timothy neither indulge nor tolerate quarrels and silly arguments. If you choose to watch CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC you will view plenty of quarrelling over political matters. If you watch ESPN, there are constant silly arguments over sports. In fact there are entire TV programs dedicated to questions like “Who would win in battle?: Samurai or Viking?” Much of our TV, radio, and by extension print entertainment involves perpetual […]
  • 2 Timothy 1-2:13, Psalm 114
    Paul commands Timothy” to fan into flame the gift of God.” (2 Timothy 1:6) What could this gift be besides fire, if it is to grow into a conflagration? Fire, like air and water is a great gift of God, but what Paul has in mind is the “Spirit of God” that “gives us power” ( 2 Timothy 1:7). Though God’s Spirit is a gift, it can be unleashed in our lives to various degrees. Besides power, we would expect to see this Spirit grow our love while destroying […]
  • 1 Timothy 6:2c-21, Psalm 113
    Most of us have heard about how “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10) We nod with intellectual agreement with any preacher that quotes this verse, all the while hoping we can become like the “rich in this present world” Paul insists that Timothy teach “not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth” (1 Timothy 6:17). Most of us acknowledge that loving money is at the heart of many vices, but still believe we would […]
  • 1 Timothy 5:1-6:2b, Psalm 112
    You have probably heard someone say something like, “All sins are equal.” Paul takes exception with that statement. For anyone who doesn’t provide for their household (i.e. nuclear family), Paul declares that person “worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). To have the means, yet refuse to provide for one’s immediate family, not to mention if possible widowed mothers, fathers or even extended family members in need shows one to be especially […]
  • 1 Timothy 3:14-4:16, Psalm 111
    If someone told you to beware liars whose teachings are informed by demons and that have “seared consciences”, you might imagine a prototypical person with a list of vile traits. This list of characteristics might include: abusive, sexually immoral, and cruel. How does Paul, however, describe the actions of people with a consciences out of whack? They are those that, “forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods”. (1 Timothy […]
  • 1 Timothy 2, Psalm 109
    If you the believe scripture is the living word of God, chances are you have examined 1 Timothy 2 to understand a controversial topic. If you have ever been taught to pray for a political leader you dislike, someone certainly appealed to 1 Timothy 2:1-2. For those that have disputes over how God’s sovereign election and predestination relates to our Lord’s love, then the fact that “God wants all people to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4) is necessary for […]
  • 1 Timothy 1, Psalm 108
    Since Christianity’s beginning, there have been many disputes concerning the proper role of the law in the believer’s life. Complicating this discussion is the lack of consensus on how one uses the word “law”. For some use that word as shorthand for the laws found in the Torah (i.e. Genesis-Numbers), while others use it for any command meant to obeyed by Christians today. One verse seems to demonstrate the law has a vital place for Christians is […]
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:18, Psalm 106
    The fourth of the famous ten commandments tells us to work six days and rest on the seventh day of the week (Exodus 20:8-11). If U.S. Christians play fast and loose with the importance of any of those famous commands today, I believe we do with this Sabbath command. Note this command, which is better called a “word”, is actually two commands: work and rest. Some of our difficulties with work and rest comes from trying to comprehend the Sabbath’s […]
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, Psalm 68
    The Thessalonian Christians are confused yet again about Jesus’ return. This time, it seems they are wondering if the famed “day of the Lord” has already occured and they somehow missed this important event. Besides correcting their obvious Old Testament illiteracy teaching about the cataclysmic nature of the day of the Lord, Paul informs this church about “the man of lawlessness” (1 Thessalonians 2:3) that will be revealed by doing heinous deeds in […]
  • 2 Thessalonians 1, Psalm 67
    Many people have rejected any notions that God’s justice is punitive, believing that punishment is beneath God’s good nature. Justice is a more readily accepted category for many modern westerners. Though justice is more apparent in the Bible as the rationale for God’s final assize, punishment is also included in this judgement. Twice in 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 the word punishment is used to describe what our Lord will do to those who know not God nor […]
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28, Psalm 66
    Everyone wants to know God’s will for their lives. I don’t know why we just don’t read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 which says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Actually, I do know why people would prefer to gloss over these verses when addressing the “God’s will” question. The answer to this question is both simple and impossible. God’s will for our life is simple, that […]
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11, Psalm 102
    Paul’s most detailed explanation of our future, save in 1 Corinthians 15, occurs at the end of 1 Thessalonians. It seems the Thessalonians have been confused about those “in Christ” who have already died. Paul assures them that anyone who has died believing in CHrist, will return like their Lord when Jesus shouts with a loud voice for the already deceased saints to enjoy Christ’s reign with the righteous that remain. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) Paul […]
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12, Psalm 101
    As mentioned in yesterday’s devotional, Paul treats these Thessalonians as mature believers. In fact he knows that they have been taught by God “to love each other” (1 Thessalonians 4:10) and they are also walking in obedience. Still Paul wants them to do more. What could be more than loving the family of God? The answer is: “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life” (1 Thessalonians 4:11) That doesn’t seem too ambitious until we understand that […]
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13, Psalm 100
    One feature of Paul’s epistle to the Thessalonians that I find shocking is that it reads like a typical letter. I do not intend to call the seven Pauline epistles we have already read something besides letters. However, beside the greetings and salutations in those books. they don’t read like many letters I have read outside the Bible. But Paul’s ongoing talk to the Thessalonians about shared friends, “pleasant memories” (1 Thessalonians 3:6) and […]
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:1-16, Psalm 99
    Note how many times the word “Gospel” is used in our short reading today. There are four uses of this word not to mention frequent referral to the “word of God” which is about “Christ”. Then consider how Paul clarifies how this Gospel is presented. Paul says he was like “young children” which I take to mean to humble and also like a “nursing mother” which conveys a nurturing attitude. Paul adds he how much he loves these believers (1 Thessalonians […]
  • 1 Thessalonians 1, Psalm 98
    How does the apostle Paul know that the Thessalonians are “loved” and “chosen” by God (1 Thessalonians 1:4)? Simply, when the Gospel was presented to them it was attended by the Holy Spirit, not to mention power and conviction. (1 Thessalonians 1:5) God has given us a great message (the Gospel) and a Helper beyond compare (the Spirit). For the Gospel to be the power of God (Romans 1:16), the Spirit must be at work through the presentation of that […]
  • Colossians 3:12-4:18
    Let’s end our reflections on Colossians by paying close attention the words found in 3:16-17. Vs. 16 reads: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” First we must ask, what is the message “of” Christ? That could mean either the message about Christ, or the message from Christ. If it is the […]
  • Colossians 1:1-2:5, Psalm 94
    Jehovah’s witnesses are one modern group that claims they believe the authority of scriptures, but yet deny that Jesus is God. If you have ever come across resources teaching you how to engage these folks standing in front of our bus stops, you have almost definitely been told to point them to Colossians 1:15-20. Jesus is the one that Paul says this about, “in him all things were created.” (Colossians 1:16) The choice of the word all implies nothing […]
  • Philippians 4:4-23, Psalm 92
    Rejoicing in the Lord isn’t an option for the believer. For emphasis, Paul tells the Philippian church to “rejoice” twice (Philippians 4:4). If you think joy is an option in following Jesus, then you are quite mistaken. But how can we have joy when life is awful? We learn in another Biblical book that joy drove Jesus in the worst of circumstances. For our Lord could endure even for the cross with willingness because of the joy set before Him (Hebrews […]
  • Philippians 3:1-4:3, Psalm 91
    Could you imagine Michael Jordan declaring his basketball skills and athletic performance “garbage?” Or how about Bill Gates declaring his riches “loss”? The apostle Paul would say all those “gains” and many more would be insignificant in comparison to the value of possessing Jesus as Lord. We have heard this truth that we should “consider all things loss for the sake of Christ” (Philippians 3:7), and perhaps have grown numb to this fundamental […]
  • Philippians 1:27-2:30, Psalm 90
    Many action movies contain scenes where the hero is held hostage by a villian who must be stopped before causing catastrophic trouble. In those scenes, the protagonist often evinces great self-assurance in spite of all odds. Of course, it is easy for actors, not to mention a full set of make-up artists and lighting specialists to convey this incredible confidence. The apostle Paul suggests that people in real life, believers in Christ, can show bona […]
  • Philippians 1:1-26, Psalm 88
    It is astounding that some of the most important work in human history was done in a prison. As Paul writes to the church in Philippi, though he is “in chains” (Philippians 1:7), he sees this situation as an opportunity to “advance the Gospel”. Truly, Paul had no idea just how right he was. For Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon were all written from behind bars, and the global church, not to mention the world has never been the same. […]
  • Ephesians 6:10-24, Psalm 87
    Paul ends Ephesians with the clearest call for Christians to go to war in all scripture. Our war, lest anyone should mistake, isn’t against people, also known as “flesh and blood”, but against “spiritual forces” (Ephesians 6:12). How do we fight against an unseen enemy? The extended spiritual armor metaphor tells us that our battle is won precisely in putting on the protection God gives us. In fact, every piece of armor to fight is a gift of God […]
  • Ephesians 4:17-6:9
    Paul addresses a gamut of the typical idolatries and sin symptoms not worthy of those who have “put on the new self” (Ephesians 4:24): dishonesty (Ephesians 4:25), unwholesome talk (Ephesians 4:29), rage (Ephesians 5:31), and sexual sin (Ephesians 5:3). Also this passage contains what is likely the most used scripture for weddings in Bible-believing Protestant churches (Ephesians 5:22-23). Today, I note Paul’s emphasis that we should be led by the […]
  • Ephesians 3:1-4:16, Psalm 85
    Our little church that sings out of tune and often finds itself on Sunday morning with unfulfilled volunteer needs is but one church in our Lord’s global church through whom “the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 3:10). How exactly God is displaying His wisdom to spiritual beings in the heavenly realms is probably not perfectly answered in this passage, but I think Paul gives […]
  • Ephesians 2, Psalm 84
    “But” can be a beautiful word. Paul details how the Ephesians, and by implication everyone is completely powerless to overcome sin’s power and are thus subject to God’s righteous wrath against wickedness. This is very bad news. Then Paul uses that word, “but” (Ephesians 2:4). This conjunction is followed by an even better explanation “because of God’s great love for us.” Every other good declaration that Paul makes in Ephesians 1 gets reiterated as […]
  • Ephesians 1, Psalm 83
    Maybe you have heard the joke about how the right answer to any question in church is “Jesus”. Whether or not you find that humorous, we must agree it would be almost impossible to ask a question about Ephesians 1 where Jesus isn’t the answer. Jesus is the chosen one in whom we are also chosen (Ephesians 1:4) not simply that we might enjoy forgiveness, adoption, and holiness; for whatever spiritual blessing we enjoy it is, “in Christ”. Those two […]
  • Galatians 5:13-6:18, Psalm 81
    Our scriptures are filled with many great promises. For a person wearied by sin’s ongoing power in their lives, and longing to freely walk in ways that honor our God, there is hardly a better promise than what Paul makes in Galatians 5:16. There Paul guarantees, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” This is a 100% guarantee and there is no fine print. If you really want to quit your “sexual […]
  • Galatians 4:21-5:12, Psalm 80
    Paul’s comparisons between Hagar and Sarah, as well as Mt. Sinai and the heaven above make up one of the most controversial claims from all of his letters (see Galatians 4:21-31). This argument isn’t hard to understand if one recognizes Paul’s major subjects like Sarah, Hagar, the Mosaic covenant, and living by faith should be placed in two separate and opposing categories: “by promise” or “by flesh”. Just like Hagar gave birth through natural means […]
  • Galatians 3:1-4:20
    For the first few hundred years after the apostolic age, Christians constantly grappled with the doctrines about Jesus’ incarnation and the Holy Trinity. Generations of believers were simply following the example of the first Christian leaders in seeing the practical importance of these teachings. The incarnation is the ground of our salvation, and the Trinity provides the logic of our redemption. This is made clear in Galatians 4:4-6 where Paul […]
  • Galatians 1-2, Psalm 78
    To the church in Corinth, Paul addressed pride, sexual licentiousness and cliquish behavior. The Galatians have a different problem. This church is being tempted to believe “another Gospel” (Galatians 1:8-9). As this letter unfolds, it becomes clear Paul’s warning against a different religion isn’t because the Galatians have rejected the story of Jesus’ perfect life, atoning death, and victorious life. Rather, the Galatians are being tempted to […]
  • 2 Corinthians 12-13, Psalm 76
    As we finish 2 Corinthians, I want to stress Paul’s unique use of words throughout both letters to this church. The key to Paul’s meaning is his paradoxical idea that in Christ, weakness is strength. This colors our comprehension for common words he uses often like “boast” and “wisdom”. For Paul, boasting is only reserved for what someone else, specifically God has done. Wisdom is foolishness and if we want to be wise, we must behold the cross which […]
  • 2 Corinthians 10-11, Psalm 75
    When Paul writes about his great sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11:16-33, it would be easy to read this list as if Paul were touting his personal resilience. Though Paul notes his endurance in hardship, at the same time it would be beside the point to call such strength his. Paul’s entire discussion is aimed at discrediting the mindset that celebrates physical strength and individual greatness. The reason Paul tells us about all of his troubles isn’t to […]
  • 2 Corinthians 8-9, Psalm 74
    Requesting financial offerings often requires explanation. Though the Corinthians have already made a large pledge to help the suffering church in Jerusalem, Paul understands the need to offer sufficient explanation on not just the need to give, but also the motivation and attitude attending what he calls “service” (2 Corinthians 9:1). Not only should the Corinthians give, but Paul desires they do so willingly (2 Corinthians 8:10-11), which is the […]
  • 2 Corinthians 7:5-16, Psalm 73
    Paul spends not a few words addressing the difference between “godly sorrow” and “worldly sorrow.” Besides the assertion that one type of sorrow leads to life and the other death, how can we know the difference between these two types of sorrow? Simply, “godly sorrow” leads to repentance spurred by indignation at one’s own evil; while worldly sorrow is self-protecting. As some have suggested, worldly sorrow is concerned with consequences, while godly […]
  • 2 Corinthians 5:11-7:4, Psalm 72
    To be in Christ means that we are completely new creatures. We are not greatly improved versions of ourselves, but something better and different altogether. In the grace of Christ, we are not building our lives around an old foundation that is deteriorating and falling to pieces. Rather, Jesus is our new foundation ensuring the old has passed away and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). Upon becoming new we are also reconciled with God. Our […]
  • Corinthians 4:7-5:10, Psalm 71
    Paul describes himself and others as “wasting away” due to their intense suffering (2 Corinthians 4:16). How does he change his tune and say such afflictions are “light” (2 Corinthians 4:17)? Part of the answer lies in the fact that even though he is wasting away on the outside, his more crucial inward person is being strengthened daily. Paul can have confidence that in spite of a decaying earthly body, he will have a new heavenly “tent” that has a […]
  • 2 Corinthians 2:14-4:6, Psalm 70
    Martin Luther noted that many Christians preferred a theology of glory to a theology of the cross. That is, they prefered to focus on the victory, resolution, and hope of the Christian life while neglecting the suffering, rejection, and injustice. I can relate, and I am sure Luther would find our days of lower mortality rates and growing prosperity to be characterized by increasing disdain for a theology of the cross. Christians tend towards wanting […]
  • 2 Corinthians 1:1-2:13, Psalm 69
    Don’t waste your pain. These directions from a counselor of mine suggests there is something from all of our sufferings, whether they are self-inflicted or results of living in a twisted world, that can be gained. In all of our hardships, the God of comfort desires to be our refuge. When we find God as our rock and redeemer, the comfort our Lord brings is a comfort we can then pass along to other sufferers. In fact, as believers we are to willingly […]
  • 1 Corinthians 16, Psalm 67
    Paul’s letter to the Corinthians addresses a number of their problems including: pride, tolerance of sexual immorality, and a lack of confidence in the resurrection. One issue Paul confronts from the onset is the presence of factions aligning themselves with their favorite preacher, which for many of them was either Paul or Apollos (1 Corinthians 3:8-9). As Paul ends the letter we can be certain that Paul held no ill-will against Apollos, for not […]
  • 1 Corinthians 12-14, Psalm 65
    Spiritual gifts are not just strengths individuals use to bless one another (1 Corinthians 12:26), but are also given by God (1 Corinthians 12:4-6) with the specific purpose of the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7). We are to desire spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1), while also pursuing something more essential (1 Corinthians 12:31). Of all the gifts from God, the greatest gift of all is love (1 Corinthians 13:13) This gift orders all of God’s […]
  • 1 Corinthians 11:2-24, Psalm 64
    Paul’s teaching on head coverings, not to mention gender expectations in the first extended section of 1 Corinthians 11 requires so much comment, I will just encourage the reader to read that section several to grasp Paul’s ideas there (1 Corinthians 11:2-15). Since I passed on the first section, I want to comment on the rest of the chapter. Much of this teaching is read all over the world on SUndays as the global church prepare to take communion. […]
  • 1 Corinthians 10:1-11:1, Psalm 63
    “The chief end of humanity is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” This summary statement about the meaning of life finds great justification in 1 Corinthians 10:31. We are told that “whatever we do” we are to do that for “the glory of God.” If you haven’t heard in our church that this is why you exist, to make your every breath about honoring end enjoying your creator, then let me remedy that today. Our work, our relationships, our interactions, […]
  • 1 Corinthians 8-9, Psalm 62
    Paul’s willingness to become foolish in the world’s eyes and so reflecting the folly of the cross is demonstrated in Paul refusing the right to eat meat and receive pay as a minister of the Gospel. Out of love, our Lord gave His body up to death that we might receive life. For Paul, this crucial event shapes our every practice. Even though idols are nothing (1 Corinthians 8:4), a mature Christian should be willing to refuse to eat meat sacrificed to […]
  • 1 Corinthians 7, Psalm 61
    Paul continues to address sex, marriage, and divorce. The discussion that open 1 Corinthians chapter 7 about whether ““It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman” reminds us of the apostle’s response to Jesus’ teaching about divorce and remarriage in Matthew 19:1-12. There Jesus taught that no one should divorce except in cases of sexual immorality. To this teaching the first apostles responded, “it is better not to marry” […]
  • 1 Corinthians 5-6, Psalm 59
    We likely find it very strange that Paul had to tell a church not to be proud as one of their members engaged in ongoing sexual relations with his mother-in-law (1 Corinthians 5:1-4). I hate arrive at too many conclusions, but the sheer fact this problem was, as the some have begun to say, “a thing”, suggests that the church in Corinth had major cultural baggage preventing them from grasping basic Christian teachings. As we know from Acts 15, the […]
  • 1 Corinthians 3:5-4:21, Psalm 58
    Like the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18), so we are to live foolishly according to the world’s standards (1 Corinthians 3:18). What does such foolishness mean? It means to stop putting our trust, allegiance, and confidence in human leaders (1 Corinthians 3:20-21). Jesus is the one who ensures we have everything we need, so that even Paul and Apollos, not to mention eternal life are gifts to us from Christ. Thus it […]
  • 1 Corinthians 1:1-3:4, Psalm 57
    The wisdom and power of this world is rendered foolish and weak by the cross (1 Corinthians 1:18-23). Any serious reflections on Paul’s insistence that the cross demonstrates God’s strength and wisdom will acknowledge how improbable, not to mention revolutionary, this teaching would sound to Paul’s hearers. For the Gentile peoples, the cross was meant for complete extermination of a person. Of course a crucified person is executed, but a crucifixion […]
  • Romans 16, Psalm 55
    When Paul wrote this letter to the Romans, he had still yet to make his fateful voyage to Rome written about at the end of Acts. As Paul leaves final salutations to the Roman church by way of commanding greetings and encouragement for other saints, we understand those names represent many who brought the Gospel to Rome before Paul. Though not as famous as the apostle writing this letter, at least today, these individuals are each commended for a […]
  • Romans 14-15, Psalm 54
    Paul counsels in Romans 13 that Christians be considerate towards the convictions of others regarding the eating of meat and celebration of holidays. The point he is making is that some (the weak) still have convictions to avoid certain practices, likely to avoid transgressing to the dietary and ceremonial laws of God. Paul doesn’t want the freedom given to us by Jesus to be a reason for belittling those who don’t feel as comfortable walking in that […]
  • Romans 12-13, Psalm 53
    Since God has shown us such great mercy we are to be “living sacrifices” that do not conform to the world’s pattern and are constantly being transformed through having our minds renewed (Romans 12:1-2). This transformation means that we are committed to using our gifts to build up the family of God (Romans 12:3-14), and are to be steadfast in showing love to enemies in absence of revenge (Romans 12:15-21). This transformation also shapes us to […]
  • Romans 11, Psalm 52
    One of my delights in pastoral ministry is to be in the midst of writing a sermon, or even one of these very devotionals, and be so thrilled at what God is teaching me that I have a desire to fill my writings with exclamation marks, preach immediately, and sing for joy! God’s goodness is so transparent that I just want people to join along in the thrill of declaring God’s praises. I imagine Paul is experiencing something like this as he ends Romans […]
  • Romans 9:30-10:21, Psalm 51
    Paul occasionally weaves together many ideas from his letters in a few words. Romans 10:4 offers such a summary when it says, “Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” A person is the culmination, the end, the goal, the pinnacle, the all-encompassing direction for the laws of God; and that person is Jesus. The purpose of the law is to prepare us for our complete need of Jesus and Jesus […]
  • Romans 9:1-29, Psalm 50
    Though Romans 9 is famous for its defense of God’s right as Sovereign of all the universe to “have mercy on whom I will have mercy” (Romans 9:14), Paul is not primarily defending God’s justice in predestining some for mercy and others for wrath. Rather, the main argument Paul takes up in this chapter is that we should not be surprised that God chooses to, give salvation to many Gentiles. Romans 9 begins with Paul telling us that he wishes he could be […]
  • Romans 7:8-8:39, Psalm 50
    Today will be the first and only time I make this complaint: I do not understand why our Bible reading plan broke down today’s Romans reading like this. Many have suggested Romans 8, at the heart of Romans, also best conveys the heart of Christian theology. Why then, would an important discussion on doing “what I do not want to do” in Romans 7 be included in the reading for Romans 8? Romans 8 alone could be broken into two rich readings. So, let me […]
  • Romans 6:1-7:7, Psalm 49
    Repetitious referral to sin reveals Paul’s desire to explain sin and our new relationship as believers in Christ to this power that infects all humanity. To comprehend Paul’s message about being dead to sin, we must understand what Paul means by that “s” word. To Paul sin has the power to enslave us (Romans 6:7), reign over our desires (Romans 6:12), and kill us (Romans 6:23). Additionally, what Paul calls “the realm of the flesh” is a specific state […]
  • Romans 5:12-21, Psalm 48
    Paul compares the results of Adam’s transgression and Jesus’ sacrifice to show the superiority of our salvation to the fall of humanity. These comparisons, however can be difficult to comprehend. In vs. 15 where we are told that “many died by the trespass of one man”, Paul immediately follows with this statement “how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” (Romans 5:15) On the […]
  • Romans 4:1-5:11, Psalm 47
    Paul has already clarified that he is not anti-obedience, anti-works, or even anti-law. The laws of God, given to Israel are affirmed as vitally important by Jesus (Matthew 5:17-20), are loved by David (Psalm 119:16), and will be called “holy” by Paul later in this letter (Romans 7:12). However, Paul will teach in Romans 4, and many other places, that the promise given to Abraham is superior to the law given to Moses. Yes God gives both the promises […]
  • Romans 3, Psalm 46
    As noted in the last two days of reading Romans, Paul highlights the evils of disobedience, especially Jewish disobedience to the laws given by God to Israel. Thus pleasing God is straightforward. Lets just obey God, trusting that our Lord wants us to thrive and would command only that which is best for us. If life were only so simple! For we are told today that “There is no one righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3:10) When Paul quotes the Psalms, he […]
  • Romans 1:18-2:29, Psalm 45
    Like I mentioned yesterday, obedience to God plays a prominent role in Romans. Paul claims the main reason we disobey God is idolatry, and idolatry is simply a choice to worship creation above the creator (Romans 1:21-31). The consequences for “following evil” is the wrath of God (Romans 2:8), while those who persist in doing good will inherit eternal life (Romans 2:7). Paul insists that obedience, even to the common law given to everyone via the […]
  • Romans 1:1-17, Psalm 44
    The book of Acts ends with Paul in Rome, and today we begin our meditations on Paul’s famous letter to the church in Rome, likely written from Corinth, on his second missionary journey. The contents of this letter are regularly credited for Augustine and Martin Luther believing the Gospel unto salvation. Speaking of “the Gospel”, note the importance in our reading of that one word, which reveals the power of God and provides salvation to all. The […]
  • Acts 28:17-31, Psalm 41
    When Jesus told the first apostles that they would be his witnesses in “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8), Paul wasn’t present. Without a doubt, some of those apostle would go to places far beyond where Jesus traveled during his 33 or so years on earth. No place, however, would represent power more than the city where Paul is staying as the book of Acts ends. Rome was where Caesar, the ruler of what many argue is still […]
  • Acts 27:1-28:16 Psalm 40
    You might have noticed before today’s reading how, when narrating the journeys of Paul, the author has often spoken of “we” to inform that Paul’s traveling friends included the writer. Even before Paul set sail for Italy, we see that Paul had Luke as a witness to much of what has been written in the back half of the book of Acts. Today, Luke drives home the point that all of the journey from Jerusalem to Italy included Luke as an eyewitness to Paul’s […]
  • Acts 25&26, Psalm 39
    Paul “could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar” (Acts 26:32). These final words from our reading sound like an unfortunate “what if” scenario for Paul. If Paul had just been patient, maybe he could have been released from prison. From the perspective of Paul’s audience his imprisonment was a hindrance. To the writer of Acts, though, Paul’s circumstances bring great opportunity to preach the Gospel to governors and Kings. Since Paul […]
  • Acts 22:30-24:27, Psalm 38
    You have at this juncture seen the words “Pharisees” and “Sadducees” quite often in our New Testament readings. Today’s scripture features both of these groups accusing Paul of various misdeeds. Though Paul initially appeals to the shared belief in resurrection between he and the Pharisees, such goodwill is short lived as the Pharisees in particular grow in hostility towards Paul to the point of having many in their midst vow to take Paul’s life. […]
  • Acts 21:1-22:29, Psalm 37
    Luke is meticulous in demonstrating the parallels between the ministry of Jesus and that of the early apostles. One common experience shared by Jesus and all the apostles is mistreatment. In particular, both Paul and Jesus were slandered in similar ways. If you recall Jesus was accused of threatening to destroy the temple, when in fact Jesus simply claimed that if the temple was destroyed He could rebuild it. Even then Jesus was primarily referring […]
  • Acts 19:21-20:38, Psalm 36
    Paul prepares the Ephesian elders for his departure by reminding them to imitate his leadership and warns them to beware of dangerous infiltrators that will seek to undermine the work of the Holy Spirit. In Paul’s moving address, there is one line that I think all leaders in the church, especially elders, do well to memorize and embrace. Paul tells the overseers there, “Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” (Acts […]
  • Acts 18:1-19:20, Psalm 35
    One thing I neglected to mention from the onset of our devotionals is that though the book of Acts is typically designated, “Acts of the Apostles”; others have said it would be better called, “Acts of the Holy Spirit.” Certainly wherever we see the apostles succeed, it is because of the Holy Spirit. One question that we didn’t ask in Acts 2 was, before the Holy Spirit was given to the apostles in power on the day of Pentecost, were those same […]
  • Acts 16:6-17:34, Psalm 34
    Two days ago I promised to compare Paul’s message to a predominantly Gentile audience with how he preached before a mix of Jewish and Gentile listeners. When Paul preached at the Areopagus in Athens, most of the audience would have been non-Jewish polytheists who still showed by their reverence of “An Unknown God” (Acts 17:23) concern about whether their pantheon actually appeased all possible gods. They didn’t want to take a chance and omit […]
  • Acts 14:1-16:5, Psalm 33
    I occasionally realize while writing these devotionals that in the past I have misunderstood and even taught passages of scripture incorrectly due to overlooking important details. For example, let me speak to how I have misunderstood the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 and its great ramifications for churches at all times.Those who believe Christianity is a system of rules propped up by belief in a great deity should find the contents of Acts 15 […]
  • Acts 12:25-13:52, Psalm 32
    Acts gives us access to what are, very likely, brief summaries of sermons by the early apostles. It would be hard to imagine in an oral culture that these preachers would be so brief. So we generally accept that what we read in these Biblical passages are just the highlights. Today is our first encounter with one of Paul’s sermons. Soon enough we will compare Paul’s sermons before a majority Gentile audience with his other sermons to primarily Jewish […]
  • Acts 11:1-12:24, Psalm 31
    There are two important truths found in Acts 11:25-26. First, we see Barnabas went to Antioch to look for Saul. I emphasize the fact it is Saul that Barnabas seeks and not Paul. What is my point, for aren’t they just different names for the same man? Certainly, it is the same man. However, it is commonly taught that Saul changed his name to Paul upon conversion, but that is just not the case. Rather, Saul is the name this man would use when doing […]
  • Acts 9:32-10:48, Psalm 30
    Soon, Acts will focus on Saul of Tarsus (aka Paul), but there is still more of Peter’s story to tell. In our reading Peter performs two additional miracles that resemble miracles of Jesus (see John 5:1-8, Luke 7:11-17); by telling paralyzed Aeneas to arise and well as bringing a widow from death to life. One crucial difference between Jesus at the pool of Bethesda and the healing of Aeneas lies in the fact Jesus just made a command for a paralytic to […]
  • Acts 8:1-9:31, Psalm 29
    Remember that Jesus told the first apostles they would be His “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8).Though the early church has witnessed and performed many great deeds by the power of the Holy Spirit, before Stephen was executed they had yet to inch their way past Jerusalem and Judea. The outbreak of an early widespread persecution, led by among other, Saul of Tarsus, forced the early […]
  • Acts 6:8-7:60, Psalm 28
    A common instruction to preachers and teachers goes something like this: “Tell people what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them.” The idea is that clear teaching often regularly clarifies the main point(s) being conveyed. Stephen’s message before the Sanhedrin, at least what we have of it in Acts, seems to have rejected this insight. As Stephen tells the story of Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, and Solomon, […]
  • Acts 5:1-6:7, Psalm 27
    Many times our Old Testament readings showcased the relentless grace of God towards Israel in spite of her many rebellions. Often I would emphasize God’s grace in the Old Testament to reject the centuries old habit of pretending the Old Testament and its description of God necessarily conveys a different God than what we see in the New Testament. Many have said things like, God in the Old Testament is angry and blood-thirsty, while in the New […]
  • Acts 3-4, Psalm 26
    Like their Master before them, Peter and John stood and answered antagonizing questions about their source of authority to perform a merciful healing. The insinuation is that God is not the authority behind the healing the lame man, but rather some evil spiritual power. The Sanhedrin, struck by the clear, courageous refutation by these two lead apostles, and desiring to minimize damages, commanded them to cease preaching about Jesus. Peter and John […]
  • Acts 2, Psalm 25
    Acts 2 describes events fifty days after Jesus’ crucifixion. When Jesus died, His followers were mostly scattered and afraid. Fifty days later, the man who denied our Lord three times preached a sermon that led to the dramatic conversion of over 3,000 people. Not only were those listeners cut to the heart by Peter’s sermon, they were deeply converted as evidenced by a radical reorientation of their lives. Acts 2:42-47 sounds almost unbelievable to […]
  • Acts 1, Psalm 24
    The book of Acts is written by the same author as Luke’s Gospel (Luke), and picks up after the empty tomb. The risen Jesus is preparing to ascend into the heavenly realm. Jesus’ disciples wonder when the Kingdom of Israel will be restored. In response, our Lord tells them, in effect, to leave the timing of this restoration to God. Then Jesus gives them the priorities that sets the course for all that will unfold in this book, “Acts of the Apostles”. […]
  • John 21st, Psalm 21st
    Jesus reinstates Peter at the end of John’s Gospel by thrice asking Peter if he loved our Lord. Peter affirmed love for the risen Messiah each time, and in response Jesus commands Peter to “feed my sheep.” (John 21:17) This reinstatement recalls when Jesus promised to use Peter mightily to build the church, but also echoes the three times Peter denied Jesus on the night before the crucifixion. We see the Lord’s incredible love and grace towards Peter […]
  • John 20th, Psalm 20
    Why is the Gospel of John written? It is written, “that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31) One could say the rest of the New Testament, and even the Bible has the same purpose. The goal of all scriptures is to help us believe in Jesus that we might live blissfully forever with the Lord of Heaven. There is a special blessing for us, 2000 years removed from the […]
  • John 19th, Psalm 19
    Pilate proves he suffers from self-delusion by asking Jesus, “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you? (John 19:10) With one word Jesus could have wiped the memory of Pilate off the earth. Though Jesus’ power is well established, His response to Pilate’s question is puzzling. Our Lord says, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a […]
  • John 18th, Psalm 18
    John wrote of the Pharisees and soldiers falling down at Jesus’ words “I am he” (John 18:5). The reason for relaying those details isn’t to convey the raw power of Jesus. John has already told us that Word, who is Jesus, made everything that was created (John 1:3). Our Lord’s power is indisputable. What John wants the reader to know from this dramatic moment is that the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus happen only because the King of Kings […]
  • John 17th, Psalm 17
    We know from the other Gospels that Jesus prayed the night before His crucifixion in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus prayed in agony that the “cup” might pass from Him, but still resolved to do the Father’s will. John 17 conveys, as we learn from John 18:1, a prayer that occurred immediately before Gethsemane. That means Jesus’ prayer in this chapter is still the night before Jesus’ death. In the prayer from today’s reading, Jesus asks that God would […]
  • John 16, Psalm 16
    By God’s grace, lot of attention is being paid to the one Jesus calls in John’s Gospel “The Helper” (aka Paraklete). This word paints a clear picture of how the Spirit works to help Jesus, the Father, and us. The Spirit, as we read in Luke enabled Jesus’ ministry. The Spirit takes Jesus’ message and gives it to the disciples (John 16:13). Jesus is even glorified, meaning made to look wonderful in the eyes of many, with the Spirit’s help (John 1614). […]
  • John 14-15, Psalm 15
    What good thing can from Nazareth? In John 14 & 15 Jesus’ teachings reiterates much the central teachings in John’s Gospel. Jesus’ self-referential teachings make our Lord very distinct from the likes Mohammed, Buddha, Confucius, and every other religious leader the world still respects. They taught us virtues, Jesus said He alone is virtuous. Certainly there have been less popular cult leaders who made incredible claims about themselves. Even […]
  • John 13, Psalm 14
    Gnosticism is a form of heretical Christianity with many faces and teachings, but defined by emphasizing special “”secret” knowledge supposedly given by God to elites. Some have accused John of writing an early Gnostic Gospel for a few reasons, including emphasis on Jesus going to secret places that cannot be found, or the introduction that utilized Greek philosophical categories (i.e. focusing on Jesus as the Word, in greek Logos). Some also […]
  • John 12:37-50, Psalm 13
    John reiterates Jesus’ purpose is not to condemn the world but to save the world. In fact, Jesus claims that Judgement ultimately belongs to the Father. That doesn’t mean Jesus and His teachings can be taken lightly. In fact, the Father’s judgement really will boil down to whether or not we receive Jesus and His teachings (John 12:48). Jesus also doubles down on the teaching that to witness Jesus is to see the Father “who sent me”. What could that […]
  • John 12:1-36, Psalm 12
    July 24th: John 12:1-36, Psalm 12 Before a seed can give birth to life, it must go away. Jesus wasn’t giving a scientific description of what happens to wheat seed, for in fact the seed does not technically die, but rather gives way to a grand plant that will birth many more seeds. Jesus’ image first refers to Himself, for He is the seed that will die and give life to millions and billions more seeds. Jesus then pivots to call all disciples to learn […]
  • John 11, Psalm 11
    When Jesus said those three little words, “Lazarus, come out”, the Lord of Life forever transformed our world. Do I claim this because Lazarus was raised from the dead? No, Jesus along with even Elijah and Elisha performed similar miracles before. Is it because Jesus showed the great authority he had over death in speaking to a dead man as if living? Certainly it would be hard to argue any of Jesus’ signs demonstrated greater than this, but Jesus’ […]
  • John 10:22-42, Psalm 10
    Jesus makes some interesting comments about gods while justifying His own claim to be God. This happens, after the Pharisees recognize, again, Jesus is claiming to be equal with God. In turn, they wish to stone our Lord to death. In response Jesus reminds them of Psalm 82, where human rulers are ironically called “god”. Or at least Psalm 82 describes humans as “gods’ in similar sense to how we use the word lords, with the lower-case. Jesus’ point […]
  • John 9:1-10:21, Psalm 9
    Jesus heals a man born blind. In response the local Pharisees interrogate this man with recently acquired sight, not to mention his parents. As the Pharisees accuse formerly blind man of dishonestly, we witness a great difference between those already hostile to Jesus and those lacking prior biases. What interests me most today, however, is the earlier question Jesus’ disciples ask about the origin of the man’s blindness. They ask, “Rabbi, who […]
  • John 8, Psalm 8
    John 8:1-8 will likely be italicized or in parentheses in your Bibles. What is the meaning of all this? Simply put, the earliest and best manuscripts we have of John’s Gospel don’t contain this passage. In fact, no manuscript reliably dated before 400 AD has this famous event where Jesus cleverly protects a woman caught in adultery from being stoned to death. So, what then are our options for how to treat this story? One option is to believe those […]
  • John 7, Psalm 7
    John declares and illustrates Jesus’ credibility as God, messiah, and the Bread of Life in spite of questions and concerns about Him being a regular Jewish man from Nazareth. Jesus’ opponents make a novel argument in John 7 for why Jesus cannot be Messiah. Since they actually know where Jesus is from, He cannot be the Messiah. For the Messiah must come from some unknown place (John 7:25-27). You might have a hard time wrapping your mind around what […]
  • John 6, Psalm 6
    Jesus sure knew how to gain a following. After performing a miracle of feeding many thousands of people with five loaves and two fish, we gain extended insight into Jesus’ self-understanding. Like God delivered daily food for Israel in their wilderness wanderings, Jesus gives food miraculously as well. However, Jesus doesn’t intend to perform such miracles daily, but instead intends these disciples would learn to see Jesus Himself as the daily […]
  • John 6, Psalm 6
    Jesus sure knew how to gain a following. After performing a miracle of feeding many thousands of people with five loaves and two fish, we gain extended insight into Jesus’ self-understanding. Like God delivered daily food for Israel in their wilderness wanderings, Jesus gives food miraculously as well. However, Jesus doesn’t intend to perform such miracles daily, but instead intends these disciples would learn to see Jesus Himself as the daily […]
  • John 5, Psalm 5
    Is there anything of significance that can come out of Nazareth? If Jesus is to be believed, and of course He is, the One all Jewish scriptures are about comes from this small town (John 5:39). The fact that Jesus of Nazareth can heal the blind is not of great significance when compared with claims of being God’s Son, doing the same work as God. What’s so special about this, for aren’t we all God’s children? Jesus’ claims, according to John, were […]
  • John 4, Psalm 4
    What good thing can come out of Nazareth? We know the messiah comes from Nazareth (John 4:25-26). This messiah is not only going to do great works for the Jewish people, but for all people that will worship in Spirit and in truth (John 4:21-24). When Jesus meets this woman, the regional conflicts between Samaritans and Jewish people to to the south make it strange Jesus and the disciples actually passed through Samaria en route to Galilee. Typically […]
  • John 2:13-3:36, Proverbs 3
    What good thing can come out of Nazareth? John 3:16 answers that question definitively: God’s Son and the Savior of the world did come from that small town. For one to be saved, they must be born again as Jesus tells Nicodemus (John 3:3). To be born again and avoid the condemnation of God, one must believe in the Son (John 3:17-18). John 3 needs to be in every Christians strategy for sharing the Gospel. I would argue no one chapter in the Bible […]
  • John 1:19-2:12, Psalm 2
    One little question causes literary tension that will be resolved over the course of John’s Gospel: ““Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46) The reason for this question is that there was a world of difference between residents in the tiny town of Nazareth, and the powerful that resided in larger metropolises, even like Jerusalem. That question about Nazareth shows bias against a rural area, and really is just but one question that […]
  • John 1:1-18, Psalm 1
    John 1 intentionally recalls two events spelled out in the Old Testament, the creation in Genesis 1, and God speaking to Moses in Exodus 33 & 34. By beginning this Gospel with, “In the beginning” we are reminded of the first words of the Bible. John doesn’t focus first, however, on what God does by creating the world like Genesis. Instead the focus on who God is and was. God is the one with the Word, who is the Word, who together with the Word […]
  • Luke 24, Proverbs 30
    When the risen Jesus appears to two unnamed disciples, we learn a great deal about the mindset of Jesus’ closest followers in the days immediately following the crucifixion. We learn that Jesus has been demoted in their minds, as we see them call Jesus a “a prophet” (Luke 24:19), while acknowledging Jesus’ seeming failure of meeting the messiah’s job description to “redeem Israel.” (Luke 24:21). Also, either Jesus looked very different in His […]
  • Luke 23, Proverbs 29
    Jesus promised to bring division (Luke 12:49-53), and the crucifixion is the ultimate divider. We see in this one event just how those that encounter Jesus, the real Jesus, always choose worship or hatred.  That is the only option for those that meet the crucified King. Indifference is only possible when we have no knowledge of this God-Man, crucified like a criminal. In Luke 23, the Jewish leaders finally get their wishes, to see the true […]
  • Luke 22, Proverbs 28
    Critics of Christian theology, especially Protestant theology, will ridicule the notion of giving the Bible such great authority, given the existence of a variety of competing Biblical interpretations. In response, we always insist that individual passages can be reasonably interpreted differently, but the main themes and doctrines of scripture should bring unity amongst believers. Today’s reading presents an obvious scripture that has conflicting […]
  • Luke 19:45-21:38, Proverbs 27
    If Jesus was a writer instead of the world’s Savior, He undoubtedly would be the best. I don’t say this simply because of our Lord’s many parables, such as the one about tenants and a vineyard (Luke 20:9-19). What I have in mind is Jesus’ ability to respond to friends and opponents in ways that force them to lean into Jesus words to understand His multilayered meanings, and dwell on what they have just heard for the rest of their lives. Jesus’ answer […]
  • Luke 18:31-19:44, Proverbs 26
    Zaccheus demonstrates the life-changing power of Jesus. Famous for his short stature, Zacchaeus climbs a tree just to see the One one others are calling Messiah. Jesus always has an eye out for those like Zacchaeus  that others exclude, for besides being small, he is also a hated-tax collector. Tax-collectors have never been popular, but I assure you they were particularly reviled in Israel during Jesus’ day. Collectors were seen as traitors, […]
  • Luke 17:11-18:30, Proverbs 25
    Every single time I read Jesus’ parable about the widow demanding justice (Luke 18:1-10), our Lord challenges my faith. This woman will not stop pestering a lazy and indifferent judge who eventually relents because of his desire to be a left alone. Jesus ends this story with a brief challenge when He asks, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8) That is the point of the entire story. This question works like […]
  • Luke 16:1-17:10, Proverbs 24:23-34
    As we celebrate the 4th of July, I want to briefly discuss one of Jesus’ most puzzling teachings. When Jesus tells the parable (Luke 16:1-8)  of a soon to be fired financial steward who goes and decreases the debts owed to his soon to be former boss, one expects punishment for this manager. However, we are told the master praised this steward for his shrewdness. We need to be clear, it is obvious that that the manager was “dishonest” and thus he […]
  • Luke 14-15, Proverbs 24:1-22
    The three parables that make up Luke 15 are some of our favorites, as they should be. The picture of a Father running to embrace the Son who demanded his inheritance early, thus implicitly suggesting it wouldn’t matter to this prodigal if his father were dead, affects our hearts deeply. For this is love that we cannot imagine having for someone. It moves us because Jesus is claiming that this love, like that of a woman for a lost coin, or a shepherd […]
  • Luke 13:10-35, Proverbs 23
    Since Jesus is the most interesting person in history, there have been many portrayals of the “real Jesus.”. One common depiction of this singular Man is that of Him being rebel against the status quo, especially of the religious elite and the laws of Israel. The truth is, this picture is both wrong and right. Jesus certainly opposed the Pharisees, Sadducees, and other teachers of the law. Jesus, however, did not oppose them as they were faithful to […]
  • Luke 12:1-13:9, Proverbs 22:17-29
    Someone, I have forgotten who, suggested the hardest of Jesus’ commands to obey is the one that goes: “do not be afraid of those who can kill the body and after that do no more.” (Luke 12:4) It is kind of funny that we fear people, even when they are not trying to do anywhere near the harm Jesus mentions. We fear bosses will fire us, friends will ostracize us, or that neighbors will make our lives difficult. Certainly, if we thought someone wanted to […]
  • Luke 11:14-54, Proverbs 22:1-16
    We do well to use our imaginations to make mental pictures of events described in scripture. This is true of past events, but today I invite readers to imagine Jesus’ promised future judgement. When Jesus promises no sign but the sign of Jonah, he alerts his audience that both Jonah’s Ninevite audience and the Queen of Sheba, who traveled great distance to see Solomon, will rise up to declare the wickedness of the Jesus’ contemporaries for rejecting […]
  • Luke 9:51-11:13, Proverbs 21
    Jesus teaches the early disciples often how to be ready for opposition and difficulty. Our Lord anticipates that following Him as a disciple will make us like “lambs among wolves.” (Luke 10:3) One of Jesus’ central preparations for followers is that we aren’t to retaliate to evil with similar evil. When going up to Jerusalem, the apostles saw their messiah ridiculed and they asked Jesus if they should call fire from the sky, Jesus forbids such […]
  • Luke 9:1-50, Proverbs 20
    So far, Jesus has done a great deal in fulfilling promises to set captives free and declare the year of the Lord’s favor. As Luke 9 begins, Jesus commissions the apostles to do similar works (Luke 9:1-2). Like with their Master, these disciples will learn that many will receive their good news and good-ness with gladness, even while others will remain opposed. Unlike their master, their ability to grasp, teach about, and walk according to the […]
  • Luke 8, Proverbs 19
    Since a great deal of the material in Luke 8 is covered in other Gospels, I want to point out the interesting fact women were major financial supporters of Jesus’ ministry with the apostles (Luke 8:3). Long before modern desires for occupational equality, Christianity affirmed the value of women and their personal vocations to God’s world-saving plans. No this isn’t a pandering sort of blog post, but one that recognizes the importance of Luke’s […]
  • Luke 7, Proverbs 18
    Jesus’ interaction with a sinful woman and the Pharisee at a dinner party teaches us something profound about Jesus’ mission. The woman, we are told, lived a sinful life, and many have inferred she was therefore a prostitute. Her wiping Jesus’ feet with her hair at a dinner, which was likely an open air event with some people coming and going, was an incredibly intimate gesture. For a Middle Eastern culture, the head was the most honorable part of […]
  • Luke 6:12-49, Proverbs 17
    Christians adore Jesus for more reasons than could be stated in thousands of pages. Jesus’ life was unique in all of its perfections. He was good to the outcast, healed the hurting, and offers life to all that will believe. Certainly Jesus is more than an example, but certainly He is the model for all humanity. Consider then how important time with God the Father was for Jesus, and thus ought to be for those who follow Jesus’ path. Luke 4 tells of […]
  • Luke 5:1-6:11, Proverbs 16
    Jesus calls both Levi and Peter out of their occupations in Luke 5, respectively as a tax-collector and a fisherman into a life of Jesus’ foundational apostles. Jesus’ call of Peter is most interesting, of course, because Jesus calls a fisherman to become a fisher-of-men. Jesus demonstrates from the first moment with Peter His intention to reorient Peter to God’s true purposes for this blue collar fella. As Peter learns, Jesus reveals not only God’s […]
  • Luke 4:14-44, Proverbs 15:30-33
    After Jesus is strengthened by the Spirit in the wilderness, He is empowered by the same Spirit to inaugurate a great ministry in Galilee (Luke 4:14). Jesus, quoting Isaiah declares, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me  to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” This year […]
  • Luke 3-4:13, Proversbs 15:1-29
    June 22nd: Luke 3:1-4:13, Proverbs 15:1-29 When Jesus goes up into the wilderness to fast and pray, the Holy Spirit is the one leading (Luke 4:1). Since we are told Jesus is full of the Spirit, that suffices to strengthen One empty of food. When Jesus is first tempted to make the stone into bread, Jesus refuses to indulge his physical hunger and prove His powers. Satan tempts Jesus in two more ways according to the scriptures, but many have suggested […]
  • Luke 2, Proverbs 14
    Three times, in three verses, we are told Simeon, full of God’s Spirit has been tasked with proclaiming God’s salvation through the baby born in Bethlehem. This continues the theme mentioned yesterday about the Spirit’s preparation for Jesus’ ministry. Today, however, I focus attention on a detail in our passage reflecting a pattern that, as we have read the Bible, maybe we overlooked. Consider how often angels, when they visit, necessarily tell […]
  • Luke 1, Proverbs 13
    When Luke promises Theophilus to lay out an “orderly account” that gives certainty to what has been taught about Jesus, Luke immediately demonstrates a very different focus than Matthew and Mark. Mark doesn’t address Jesus’ childhood, and Matthew’s treatment of Jesus’ birth is briefer, focused on Joseph and Jesus’ birth and flight to Egypt. Luke focuses on the miraculous births of both John the Baptist and Jesus, while also going into detail about […]
  • Mark 16, Proverbs 10
    Every Easter churches declare “He is Risen” with great joy, reflecting hope found in Jesus’ victory over the grave. I love Mark’s bare-bones description of the empty tomb. The “young man” dressed in white who greeted the women at Jesus’ tomb told these women not to be afraid. This didn’t do the trick, as the ending of Mark leaves us clear about only the fact these women were frightened to the core. This leaves us asking the question, why were they so […]
  • Mark 15, Proverbs 9
    Mark is the shortest and least detailed of all the Gospels, and this second crucifixion narrative is similarly short. The most horrific day in human history, that is before the resurrection would days later transform the crucifixion’s meaning, is told in the space of what would be about 3-4 of these blog posts. Mark had no desire to do anything but give bare facts that demonstrate the shame of this day: that Pilate and the Jewish officials would be […]
  • Mark 14, Proverbs 8
    The pinnacle of discipleship failure occurs in Mark as Judas betrays Jesus, and Peter denies the Lord of nations. Judas would kill himself, while Peter would become a foundational apostle for God’s church. Instead of discussing their unbelief, I want to highlight the fidelity of the woman anointing Jesus’ head in Bethany. We are told that this jar of nard is very expensive and that she is questioned about the price tag. Of all the people surrounding […]
  • Mark 12:41-13:37, Proverbs 7
    There is tension in Jesus’ prediction about the end of days, stating there are obvious signs when Jesus will return (e.g. the Gospel preached in all nations, famines, wars, etc.), juxtaposed with recognition that even, in some way “not even the angels, nor the Son” know the date of the second coming (not enough time for that discussion here). The Bible elsewhere points towards events that forecast the end of days, but also tells us to be […]
  • Mark 11:27-12:40, Proverbs 6:20-35
    Jesus’ parable of the tenants helps us to understand how Jesus sees the role of the Old Testament prophets. They are the ones, in this parable, that the vineyard owner (representing God) sends as emissaries of the Lord’s rightful interest. They are mistreated and even killed. These prophets had been mistreated throughout much of Israel’s history to the shame of God’s chosen people and Israel’s leaders. But the worst deed will come when Jesus’ […]
  • Mark 10:46-11:26, Proverbs 5:1-6:19
    If we take seriously the task of meeting Jesus and His words in faith before the potential buffers of Christian books, commentaries, reflections, and even pastor’s blogs we will face periodic discomfort. Consider Jesus’ bald words, “Have faith in God,…Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them” (Mark […]
  • Mark 9:30-10:45, Proverbs 4
       When Jesus teaches against divorce (Mark 10:1-11), He does so on the basis of the creation order given by God when making male and female. Intentionally, Jesus doesn’t argue the law of Moses, for he says the law allowing a certificate of divorce was given because of hard-heartedness, as a concession for sin. Jesus looks past the law, chronologically speaking, and notes a deeper truth written by God into the fabric of our created […]
  • Mark 8:22-9:29, Proverbs 3
    The theme of discipleship failure in Mark is more complicated than simply showing a bunch of incidents where the disciples fail. For example, Peter is the first to declare Jesus as “messiah” (Mark 8:29) proving Peter’s clarity on Jesus’ person. But when Jesus foretells the crucifixion, Peter attempts to rebuke Jesus for having such foolish notions of how to behave as messiah. Jesus declares such behavior Satanic. Still Peter would soon be given […]
  • Mark 6:6b-8:21, Proverbs 2
    Mark’’s Gospel emphasizes a number of themes, one of them being “discipleship failure.” Today’s reading plainly highlights this theme. Jesus multiplies bread to show kindness to the crowds but incidentally challenges His’ disciples lack of faith in the process for desiring to send the crowds away (Mark 6:37-44). These future apostles show their lack of understanding in more transparent ways. When Jesus performs a near identical miracle after the […]
  • Mark 4:35-6:6a, Proverbs 1:8-33
    Psalm 139:12 tells us that dark is like light to God. In Mark 5:39, Jesus shows us that death is like sleep to Him. In fact when Jesus has been told the girl is already dead and declares she is merely asleep everyone around ridicules the Lord confident that she has flat-lined and been dead some time. They are not laughing long, for when Jesus goes into this dead girls room and says, “Little girl, I say to you, get up.” this corpse wipes off the […]
  • Mark 3:7-4:34, Proverbs 1:1-7
    Jesus warns people that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, unlike with other sins, will be guilty of unpardonable, eternal sin. (Mark 3:28-29) Given the gravity of this one sin, theories abound about Jesus’ meaning. It really is quite simple. Jesus has been doing great works, and by the power of God’s Holy Spirit. Instead of worship, nay, instead of even run of the mill doubt or questions, some of Jesus’ contemporaries are accusing Jesus of […]
  • Mark 2:1-3:6, Psalm 150
    As Jesus performs signs and miracles, eats with sinners, and teaches His audience, everyone learns a new era for Israel is being inaugurated. When Jesus heals the paralytic he claims the ability to forgive sins, something God alone could do. When Jesus eats with tax-collectors and sinners, he embodies a new way of relating to moral outsiders and traitors. As Jesus permits His closest disciples to pluck grain on the Sabbath, then heals with a withered […]
  • Mark 1, Psalm 149
    Reading familiar passages with unfamiliar translation choices can force us to pay attention to the details. Mark 1:41 tells us about Jesus’ emotional state before performing one of many miracles revealing His character and purpose. The only problem is, our translations disagree on exactly what Jesus feels. Typically the versions (e.g. ESV, HCSB, NASB) translate Jesus’ emotional response to the leper’s request for healing as, “moved with pity” or some […]
  • Matthew 28, Psalm 146
    Matthew 28 demonstrates quite the contrast between true and false authority, as well as the difference between those with reason to fear with ones having confidence from true authority. When the angel of the Lord rolls back the stone, the soldiers have reason to be afraid, yet the women who follow Jesus are comforted with words not to fear. In fear the Jewish authorities devise a lie for their authority to stop Jesus’ work has run dry, while soon […]
  • Matthew 27, Psalm 145
    The folly of human wisdom, leadership, and judgement is most transparent at Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. Note how the priests and elders refuse Judas’ money initially because it is blood money, but have no scruples about putting this same money used to betray God’s eternal Son towards purchasing a field.  Those same conscience-driven people are willing to have Jesus’ blood on their hands, while Pilate, the person who is given power to free […]
  • Matthew 26; Psalm 144
    Substituting for Pastor Jeremiah today is guest writer Ralph M. One of the lines from the most recent Star Wars anthology film Solo that resonated with me today was delivered by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson): “Assume everyone will betray you, and you will never be disappointed.” Indeed, in the final hours of Jesus’ life, it was one sort of betrayal after another from His closest friends and apostles to the Jews who had the […]
  • Matthew 25; Psalm 143
    Substituting for Pastor Jeremiah today is guest writer Ralph M. As Christians, we probably all know by now that like any other relationship, the initial honeymoon phase turns into the gritty reality of maintaining that relationship. The initial spell of appreciating all that God has blessed us with opens up to the ups and downs of a relationship, each of which can either make or break the relationship. Being a Christian does not shield us from the […]
  • Matthew 23-24, Psalm 142
    Substituting for Pastor Jeremiah today is Jon R. As Christians, how we live out our lives in front of those who reject our beliefs is farmore powerful than the words we speak. Of course, the gospel is the very power of God and isspoken by God’s servants, but how we live our lives and treat others is proof that we believe it. In Matthew 23:1-36, Jesus pronounces seven woes over the Pharisees. This group ofreligious folks made it a practice to tie […]
  • Matthew 21-22 & Psalm 141
    Substituting for Pastor Jeremiah today is guest blogger Audrey E. Mt. 21:1-11 is known as “The Triumphal Entry.” Fulfilling prophecy, Jesus enters into Jerusalem, officially offering Himself to the nation as King (Zech. 9:9). The leaders reject Him but it appears the people of the city respond in worship; waving garlands, shouting Hosanna. But looking closer and we see it is superficial worship for they don’t acknowledge Who He […]
  • Matthew 19-20
    Substituting for Pastor Jeremiah is guest writer Mollie H. We find Jesus and his disciples beginning their final journey together to Jerusalem. They are followed by ever-increasing crowds, eager to hear, to be healed as so many have been throughout the Galilean region. Jesus continues to teach the values of God’s kingdom and his desire for us. He describes what a life committed to a faith community looks like. He begins by reminding us of the value […]
  • Matthew 16-17
    Substituting for Pastor Jeremiah today is guest blogger Audrey E. Matthew 16 and 17 are rich with theological significance but none as great and profound as Peter’s confession, “You are the Christ; the Son of the Living God.” (Matt. 16:16). This truth is the foundation of all Christianity and the foundation of the Church of Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 3:15). Peter is not the rock upon which Christ builds His church. The Church is […]
  • Matthew 13:53-15:39, Psalm 137
    Substituting for Pastor Jeremiah today is guest writer Josh L. Jesus was rejected in his hometown because the people did not believe that someone they had grown up with could speak and do miraculous things (Matthew 13:53-59). Jesus left the area he was in, but because of the miraculous things Jesus was doing, Herod heard about him. Herod believed that John the baptist had raised from the dead because Herod had John arrested and beheaded due to a […]
  • Matthew 13:1-52, Psalm 136
    Substituting for Pastor Jeremiah today is guest blogger Jon R. Pastors frequently use stories and illustrations in their sermons to enable us to visualize an important point from the passage being taught. Illustrations and stories enable us to attach mental pictures to situations and help us to make biblical truth applicable to our everyday lives. During His earthly ministry, Jesus taught using parables, or earthly examples to convey spiritual truth. […]
  • Matthew 11-12, Psalm 135
    Substituting for Pastor Jeremiah today is guest blogger Jonathan S. Have you ever come across a child or adult who thinks he is entitled to everything? Perhaps youwere irritated by this behavior or you even found it to be your own. We all have run into thosepeople at customer service, all bent out of shape about being ripped off or mistreated.Even though Jesus did not have the stereotypical “entitlement attitude” the Pharisees had it outfor him. […]
  • Matthew 10
    Substituting for Pastor Jeremiah today is guest blogger Josh L. In Matthew 10, Jesus tells his twelve disciples to do the things he has done. After the explanation of who each disciple was (v. 2-4), Jesus gives his disciples clear instructions to “…go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons (v. 6-8).” Next, Jesus […]
  • Matthew 8-9, Psalm 133
    Substituting for Pastor Jeremiah today is guest blogger Jon R. Today, in our pragmatic culture, the supernatural is often cast to the side in place of modern medicine and psychology. While these have a place in balance, it is easy to lose sight of the sovereignty Jesus demonstrated over the things that afflict the world in these chapters. These two chapters demonstrate two great pillars of the Christian walk: the power and authority of Jesus over all […]
  • Matthew 6:19-7:29
    Substituting for Pastor Jeremiah today is guest blogger Mollie H. Jesus is bringing His stunning discourse on kingdom living to a conclusion. He has instructed us how to live in truth and power. The kingdom changes everything about our everyday world. He illustrates an alluring idea; that of a treasure at once set aside as a promise and as a reality living within us. It is precious and of great worth. Think about what you treasure.  We make […]
  • Matthew 4:12-6:18
    Substituting for Pastor Jeremiah today is guest blogger Audrey E. Violently rejected and kicked out of Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30, Matt. 4:12-16), Jesus then begins ministry in Capernaum (Matt. 4:15-17) and settles there (Mt. 4:13). Along the Sea of Galilee, Jesus encounters Peter and Andrew, then James and John; all successful fishermen with businesses of their own.  He calls, they follow.          The Beatitudes […]
  • Matthew 4:1-11
    Substituting for Pastor Jeremiah today is guest blogger Scot M. Who’s your worst enemy (besides yourself, of course), and how would you like to be armed when you face him (Satan, or his demons) in battle? In Matthew 4:1-11, Jesus is reenacting Israel’s wilderness wanderings (40 years for them, filled with rebellion against God; 40 days for Him, filled with faithful obedience), so He repulses each of Satan’s temptations with verses which Israel knew, […]
  • Matthew 1-2
    Substituting for Pastor Jeremiah today is guest blogger Scot M. Have you ever read a phone book for fun? Me neither. (If you don’t know what a phone book is, ask someone your parents’ age.) Matthew 1:1-17 is a long list of largely unfamiliar names (skipping some generations, which was common). Is there a way to read this passage that can actually get us excited? Those named here are real people, playing their part in God’s unfolding plan to redeem […]
  • Malachi 3:6-4:5, Psalm 126
    Today as we end Malachi and the Old Testament, we do so in a week when a famous pastor made derogatory comments about the Old Testament, suggesting that it carries a contrary message to the New Testament, especially to the radical hope found in the resurrection of Jesus. I hope you see find this a terrible mistake, as such a belief pays little attention to the contours and development of the story of God’s people. Malachi ends his prophecies on a […]
  • Malachi 1:1-3:5, Psalm 125
    Malachi warns against some of the Israel’s familiar problems like spiritual adultery, injustice and priests dishonoring the name of Levi. Malachi presents two unique problems in Israel, at least unique among the Old Testament prophets. I first mention Malachi’s denunciation of divorce. Though other prophets certainly would have been against this practice, it isn’t mentioned in those books. Notably in Malachi, God’s anger at divorce is leveled while […]
  • Zechariah 12-14, Psalm 124
    Since the Day of the Lord has been mentioned often in the prophets and the end of Zechariah prepares us for that day, I want to note two important aspects of this event. This day is both cataclysmic and uniting.  We are told about the cataclysmic nature of the day when Zechariah says, “On that day there will be neither sunlight nor cold, frosty darkness. 7 It will be a unique day—a day known only to the Lord—with no distinction between day and […]
  • Zechariah 9-11, Psalm 123
    Riding on a donkey doesn’t seem cool to us, but when Jesus fulfilled Zechariah 9:9 on the first Palm Sunday, not only were there many Old Testament resonances in view (see 1 Kings 1:33-44), Jesus is showing that he is in charge. You wouldn’t expect a president to roll into town on a tank, but rather a limousine. In the same way, Jesus, the true King of nations, rolls into town as Zechariah promises on a donkey, like Solomon before him. Jesus is […]
  • Zechariah 7-8, Psalm 122
    In the fall of 2005, John Perkins, civil-rights activist and community development expert, visited Trinity’s campus in Deerfield. I can still remember a few of the highlights of his message on Zechariah 8:4, where God promises to bring the exiles back to a Jerusalem where children would play in streets in the presence of the elderly. I can recall his painful stories of urban blight, but he was most troubled describing the absence in our inner cities […]
  • Zechariah 3-6, Psalm 121
    Before there were the four horsemen of the apocalypse, Zechariah had four chariots with multi-colored horses. Their presence in both Zechariah and Revelation reveals God’s designs to judge the world, especially in this situation, wicked Babylon. Consider, at the time Israel is in exile and God is bringing comfort to a people that need to see beyond what their eyes show them. God’s visions given through Zechariah bring comfort through promises to […]
  • Zechariah 1-2, Psalm 120
    Zechariah, like Haggai, writes during the life of Darius king of Persia. The Lord communicates through Zechariah the will to bring Israel out of Babylonian exile. Zechariah hears from the Lord through a vision (perhaps a dream since it was at night), where an angel presents God’s comforting words that the nations have overstepped in their treatment of the Jewish people. So Israel will be brought out of those nations and rebuild the house of the Lord. […]
  • Haggai 1-2, Psalm 118
    Haggai’s prophetic ministry takes place as God is preparing to restore Israel towards the end of Babylonian captivity in the year 520. We have exact dating because of the clear relationship between Haggai’s ministry and Darius’ reign over Persia (Haggai 1:1). So, Haggai’s ministry is much later than the prophets  we have read before, save Daniel, who likely died a few years before Haggai’s prophecies. Today I want to note that one of the most […]
  • Zephaniah 2-3, Psalm 117
    Yesterday I reflected on the difficulty of reconciling Zephaniah’s warnings that God would destroy all the inhabitants off the earth with other scriptural promises of a remnant God would spare. Today, Zephaniah resolves this question himself. First Zephaniah describes how God will judge Cush, Philistia, and Assyria with great devastation. Then the Lord promises to do the same to Israel. So far, so bad, at least for the nations God will destroy. […]
  • Zephaniah 1, Psalm 116
    Of all the harsh judgements found in the prophetic writings, those warnings found in Zephaniah 1 are some of the most dire. One respected study BIble hardly comments on verse 2, when God promises to sweep away everything from the earth, or on vs. 18 when God promises to make a sudden end of all the inhabitants of the earth. Even many other writings that do reflect on these verses ignore questions about how this squares with the book Revelations […]
  • Habakkuk, Psalm 115
    Habakkuk twice questions God on the justice of letting the righteous struggle, while the prosperous prevail. Babylon is Habakkuk’s main concern as they conquer Judah. God has different priorities in answering the question. God affirms that Babylon will be held to account, just like every other people that does evil (Habakkuk 2:6-12). But the Lord wants Habakkuk to see that what’s most important isn’t what God does with the folly of human evil, […]
  • Nahum, Psalm 114
    Nineveh plays a major role in the message of the books by Jonah and Nahum. The difference in tone between these two books towards this city, the capital of Assyria, could be not more stark. While Jonah prophesied in the mid-8th century B.C. (700’s), Nahum is widely considered at the mid to late 7th century B.C. (600’s). In Jonah, Nineveh represents a soft-hearted people that hear God’s warning of judgement and repent. In Nahum, Nineveh will be […]
  • Micah 6-7, Psalm 112
    We find one of the Bible’s most famous affirmations of how to live in Micah 6:8. Before we are told what pleases God, we read what is incapable of satisfying God’s righteous demands. It will not be animal sacrifices, or even the sacrifice of a first-born child, of course. For God doesn’t celebrate the mere giving up of valuable possessions. Rather, we are to, “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) God doesn’t […]
  • Micah 4-5, Psalm 111
    Though I am not a farmer, one of my favorite promises in the Bible is that the nations “will beat their swords into plowshares” (Micah 4:3). Planting, watering, and tending vegetables isn’t my favorite pastime, but the thought of all the spilt blood on battlefields and city streets being replaced with a better food supply gets me excited. What’s more, this promise doesn’t come with stipulations or contractual obligations, but is simply describing […]
  • Micah 1-3, Psalm 110
    You might have heard someone make a statement like, “I don’t believe in a God that judges harshly”. Surprisingly, during the days of Micah, while there were other prophets declaring God’s judgement for Israel’s sin, people were making similar claims. Micah’s contemporaries were asking, “Does the Lord do become impatient?” and “Does He do such things?” (Micah 2:7) in response to warnings of prophesied disgrace. Did Israel forget how God judged Egypt, […]
  • Jonah, Psalm 109
    Jonah’s story is a microcosm of Israel’s history. God chooses Jonah for a vocation that, as the story unfolds, is clearly meant to benefit a people ignorant about YHWH. Instead of choosing to accept this call from God, Jonah runs and tries to ignore God’s voice. No matter, God chases Jonah, just as God pursues Israel. Though Jonah halfheartedly proclaims Nineveh’s need to turn to God, Nineveh benefits from this less than joyfully delivered message […]
  • Obadiah 1, Psalm 108
    Since Obadiah is the shortest of all Old Testament books, I have to briefly comment. It is good to remember that Edom is the land inhabited by the descendants of Esau, older brother to and perpetual rival to Jacob, aka Israel. It seems that Edom, or Esau, gloats at the demise of Judah at the hands of Babylon. Obadiah is a contemporary of Jeremiah writing after the fall of Jerusalem (587) before the fall of Edom (553), so he is well positioned to […]
  • Amos 8-9, Psalm 106
    Like other prophets, Amos mostly writes about Israel’s evil, and God’s requisite wrath. Amos, also spends a few words writing about Israel’s hope of returning to their land after exile. The truth is, though Amos ends his book with promises from God for Israel’s restoration, the majority of the book isn’t so gladenning. Such was the world before Jesus. There were hundreds of reasons to be dour and few reasons to be optimistic for the future. God’s […]
  • Amos 7, Psalm 105
    Amos’ words, “I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet” (Amos 7:14) have become famous words used by many claiming authority comes not from birth nor station in life, but our calling by and knowledge about God. Amos, after speaking about God’s plumb line of judgement is denounced by Israel’s wicked king Jeroboam as being a nobody. Amos doesn’t deny it. Instead, he claims his authority has nothing to do with the fact he isn’t a prophet and was […]
  • Amos 5-6, Psalm 104
    Rampant evil in Israel is described this way: “There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.” (Amos 5:12) Those in power are dangerous, and the righteous are vulnerable. In this situation we are given a description about how to live in such days. The scripture says, “Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times, for the times are evil.” (Amos 5:12) In one sense, this is absolutely true, […]
  • Amos 3-4, Psalm 102
    If rap battles existed in the days of Amos, he would have easily had a “drop the mic” moment in Amos 4:1. Calling wealthy Samaritan women by the name of the local well-fed cattle communicated God’s disdain for their indulgence. We assume God also had wrath for their complicit husbands, for they grew fat and filled their pockets at the expense of their poor Hebrew brothers and sisters, whose best interests were protected by God’s law. As noted before, […]
  • Amos 1-2, Psalm 103
    Amos, though a minor prophet like Joel, is unlike Joel in that he is clear about the era when he writes, sometime between 790 B.C. and 739 B.C.. The biggest event in Israel’s history in that century is the Assyrian captivity that happens right around 722 B.C. While warning about Assyria’s imminent victories over and humiliation of the northern kingdom are in view, Amos wants to clarify to Israel that it is in fact God judging this people. In fact, […]
  • Joel 3, Psalm 100
    The general experience for a person in the United States is to have moderate levels of abundance, at least when we consider human history and our entire globe. Most of us don’t worry whether we can buy groceries this week, albeit for various reasons. Thus it is hard for us to get as excited about promises for mountains to drip with wine, and having hills flow with milk (Joel 3:18). After all, our grocery stores flow with these things. The message of […]
  • Joel 1&2, Psalm 99
    Joel 1&2, Psalm 99 Joel, out of the prophets, is very difficult to date accurately, for he doesn’t obviously refer to particular events. However, many see negative references to Edom as evidence that this work was written some time in the mid-500’s B.C. reflecting the Edomite mistreatment to Judeans during the Babylonian captivity. In today’s reading, Joel refers to God’s judgement over Israel. This is not a novel topic in our recent readings. […]
  • Hosea 14, Psalm 96
    Twice in the first two verses, Israel is told to return to the Lord. This returning is the same as what we call repentance, that is turning away from idolatry and evil, while moving back towards God. As one writer has pointed out, faith and repentance are flip sides of the same coin. To turn towards God, we must turn away from what the Lord says is evil. Just as someone traveling to downtown Chicago called to visit their friend in Evanston must turn […]
  • Hosea 11:12-13:16, Psalm 95
    God will bring disaster on Ephraim (a tribe in the Northern Kingdom) and Judah. That much is certain. Hosea, like other prophets, has thrown in an outlier of hope or two so far in his book. None of them are as surprising as what he states in the midst of promised judgement, ““I will deliver this people from the power of the grave;  I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues?  Where, O grave, is your destruction?” (Hosea […]
  • Hosea 11:1-11, Psalm 94
    God declares love for Israel expressed in founding her as a nation and calling her out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1). We know that God called Israel as a people through Isaac and Abraham to fulfill a vocation to make God known and thus be a blessing to the nations. Yet Israel failed in this calling just like Adam and Eve before the fall of creation. Hosea 11:2-11 highlights Israel’s many evils, intentionally contrasting their deeds to God having called them […]
  • Hosea 9:10-10:15, Psalm 93
    Hosea 10:1 tells of that Israel was fruitful and prosperous, which led to them using their prosperity for idolatry and wickedness. In a few words we are presented with a revelation that has been proved over and over in human history. We don’t handle prosperity very well. Though many of us assume while we are in our struggles, like financial hardships, or difficult workplaces that if God would just put us in a better spot, we would do more to honor […]
  • Hosea 8:1-9:9, Psalm 92
    The Biblical statement you reap what you sow is made more terrifying with the words, “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.” (Hosea 8:7) God is making plain that Israel has sown idolatry and wickedness, thus evil and destruction is imminent for them. This reaping and sowing principle is absolutely true. If you spend your life smoking cigarettes, lung cancer is likely. If you neglect your children, chances are they will neglect you or disrespect […]
  • Hosea 5:8-7:16, Psalm 91
    If you stopped midway through Hosea 6:1 you would read, “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces.” Not the best argument. However, we know that there is more to be said as Hosea continues, “but he will heal us; he has injured us, but he will bind up our wounds.” Though hope is embedded in this plea, lets notice that Hosea doesn’t have a simplistic view of God that states, “God would never do us harm.” Hosea recognizes that the […]
  • Hosea 3:1-5:7, Psalm 90
    Infidelity is the theme of our reading today. Rather, infidelity in light of painstaking fidelity is the main focus. Hosea’s call from God to take Gomer back at cost to himself from out of prostitution sets the stage for God’s descriptions of Israel’s infidelity and the patience the Lord will show. Many are offended at the depiction of disloyalty and comparing it to prostitution, but the Old Testament writers do not hesitate to draw this parrallel. […]
  • Hosea 1-2, Psalm 89
    God has asked prophets in past reading to take dramatic action to demonstrate the Lord’s work and character before the eyes of Israel. Jeremiah carried his yoke, and Ezekiel laid in the same area for an extended period of time. God hasn’t asked anyone to do what YHWH asks Hosea to do. God calls Hosea to marry a promiscuous woman, someone who is unreliable and unfaithful. So Hosea married Gomer, and together they had children. Then God calls Hosea to […]
  • Daniel 12:5-13, Psalm 86
    Daniel wonders after seeing many visions, “How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled.” (Daniel 12:6) The man clothed in linen responded with a message Daniel didn’t understand about “a time, times and a half time” which prompted one last question about the outcome of these visions. This conversation concludes with directions to Daniel to go about his business, for these events will certainly transpire, even if he can’t […]
  • Daniel 10-12:4, Psalm 85
    From Daniel’s vantage point, all that was prophesied in chapters 10-11 would happen in the future. Many writers will have lengthy disagreements in identifying the particular kingdoms of those chapters. No matter those disagreements, everyone believes Daniel 12:1-4 looks towards what still lies in our future today, towards the final resurrection. What Ezekiel 37 spelled out through describing dry bones taking on flesh, so Daniel here describes a day […]
  • Daniel 7-9, Psalm 84
    Daniel’s visions in chapters 7-9 are the stuff of end times conferences, eschatological musings, and prophecy study Bibles. Parsing the details of all the particulars in Daniel is worth the effort, but all conclusions about what particular kingdoms Daniel’s visions refer to must remain tentative, unless we are specifically told in the text (like with the Media-Persian empire). However, what is certain from our reading is that identity of the figure […]
  • Daniel 6, Psalm 83
    When Daniel is in the den of lions, God sends his angel to protect Daniel. Now if you will recall, when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into a furnace, there was a fourth person in the fire with them. It serves to reason that Daniel’s angel would have been the same person, and very likely the “angel of the Lord”. Of course, if that is the identity of the one in the fire, then that seems to exclude the possibility that a pre-incarnate […]
  • Daniel 5, Psalm 82
    If you have ever wondered about the origin of the phrase “The writing is on the wall”, then look no further than today’s reading from Daniel. Of course this phrase now refers to any ominous signs that misfortune awaits someone. In Daniel 5, the writing on the wall was present before there was any writing on the wall. We see that Nebuchadnezzar’s son is drinking wine at a large party from the goblets God allowed Babylon to ransack from Israel’s […]
  • Daniel 4, Psalm 81
    God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. Sometimes, the proud benefit greatly from such opposition. That is the case with Nebuchadnezzar. Though he had a dream, interpreted properly by Daniel to predict his humiliation, Nebuchadnezzar did not heed Daniel’s warning to repent and show kindness to the oppressed. Thus Nebuchadnezzar, in arrogance, declares the work of his own hands wonderful and the kingdom under his stewardship evidence of […]
  • Daniel 3, Psalm 80
    Yesterday, I pointed out that Israel’s difficult days in exile demonstrates hard times can be a great time of strengthening for God’s people. Today’s reading also shows us that persecution with great opportunities. This story of Jewish exiles threatened with a fiery furnace if they refuse to bow down to the Babylonian KIng’s idol demonstrates the opportunity to reflect God’s light in dark times. When threatened one last time with execution, these […]
  • Daniel 2, Psalm 79
    The organization of the Old Testament can throw off our chronology. Remember, for example, that Daniel’s early years in Babylon precede the events of Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah. If we keep this in mind, we can start to note a pattern after the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon. In many ways, the Jewish people become more faithful after the fall of their kings than before. Instead of relying on military strength or roaring success, these exiles learn to […]
  • Daniel 1, Psalm 78
    In seminary and academic circles, there is a fancy word for locating the meaning of the Biblical texts and that word is “exegesis”. This word derives from the Greek word for interpretation, and the main job of exegesis is to do the hard work of determining an author’s meaning and intentions. Daniel 1 has a history of being interpreted in ways that fail in this fundamental task. For example, many people have made a big deal out of the diet of Daniel […]
  • Ezekiel 47-48, Psalm 75
    Ezekiel 47 begins with a description of a river flowing from the promised future temple, which gives water to vegetation capable of healing disease. This imagery at the end of Ezekiel is also present at the end of our Bible, in Revelation 22. There, a river flows from the throne of God and nourishes the tree of life growing on all sides of the river, which gives healing to the nations. The point is clear in both Ezekiel and Revelation. Where God […]
  • Ezekiel 45-46, Psalm 74
    The word apocalypse is the greek word for revelation. Though the Old Testament is written in Hebrew, many scholars argue by the time of the exilic prophets and throughout the time of second Temple Judaism, many Jewish writers and teachers were steeped in what has been called an apocalyptic mindset. That is, many believed God’s revelation about the future and God’s hidden work in the present moment revealed in various ways absolutely transforms our […]
  • Ezekiel 43-44, Psalm 73
    As we approach the end of Ezekiel, let’s recall how God’s glorious presence left Judah’s temple in the early chapters of the book. God’s Holiness wasn’t respected, and the temple had become a place characterized by idolatry. The Lord would not tolerate this evil, so God abandons the temple built by Solomon. As Ezekiel sees a vision of a temple where only the prince (the Davidic messiah of Ezekiel 34:23-24 and Ezekiel 37:24-25) can enter through its […]
  • Ezekiel 41-42, Psalm 72
    Interpreters almost universally agree that Ezekiel’s visions of God’s restored temple points towards our future. What is questioned is how Ezekiel’s descriptions fit into the Bible’s depiction of the millennial reign and the new heaven and new earth. In particular, some of the details Ezekiel foresees would seem to be obsolete, especially the sacrificial system and the priesthood at the end of days. The writer of Hebrews, for example, goes to great […]
  • Ezekiel 40, Psalm 71
    Just as Ezekiel’s prophecy about Gog and Magog looks toward the future, so today’s vision of a temple restored looks forward to God’s better future. If you will recall, at the beginning of this book, G0d transported Ezekiel to see a vision of God departing the temple in judgement against Judah and her wicked leaders. Now Ezekiel will begin to detail at the end of his book what the restored Temple will mean for God’s people one day. Over our next few […]
  • Ezekiel 38-39, Psalm 70
    Interpreting Ezekiel 38-39 has always been contentious because the identity of Gog and Magog is widely debated. Usually, when reading prophecies, we can understand what eras are meant when the writers speak of “latter years” (Ezekiel 38:8) because we know what nations are being described. Since we don’t have this information and these two chapters speak to a definitive return of Israel to their land and blessings for all the remnant (Ezekiel […]
  • Ezekiel 36:16-37:28, Psalm 69
    We have been reading the Bible together now for almost 15 months. Up until now we haven’t seen anything like Ezekiel 37:1-14. This scriptures offers more than the promise of Israel’s restoration after the Babylonian captivity. In fact, this prophecy looks beyond Israel’s years and for the first time in scripture speaks concretely to life after death. Up until now, many of scripture’s writers have been mostly unsure of what happens to us after we die. […]
  • Ezekiel 35-36:15, Psalm 68
    In ancient cosmology mountains were a region’s holy place and considered representative of a people’s power. So when the Bible speaks of Mt. Zion, it is often seen as a place where Judah draws special strength from God. So when God commands Ezekiel to speak against Mt. Seir and promises blessing for the mounts of Israel, God will reverse the fortunes of both nations represented by these mountains God will strengthen the people of Israel whose entire […]
  • Ezekiel 34, Psalm 67
    When God indignantly speaks of Israel’s lack of good shepherds, the Lord is referring to Israel’s kings, priests, and prophets. All of the people that should lead Israel in justice and righteousness were simply selfish. Because of the wickedness of Israel’s leaders, God makes two promises of great consequence. The Lord promises, “I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord” and “I will place over them one shepherd, […]
  • Ezekiel 33, Psalm 66
    Our world is in need of so much security of various kinds that we don’t relate  to the idea of one or two watchmen keeping eyes on the horizon for invading armies. We have, border control, radar, cyber-security and a million different fail safes in place. Still, think about how horrible it would be for someone working in air traffic control to say nothing after noticing two planes are on a collision course because of miscommunication.  Even […]
  • Ezekiel 31-32, Ezekiel 65
    Ezekiel’s words to Pharaoh tells of foreign Assyria’s greatness by describing them as a towering cedar. However, this cedar will be felled by “the ruler of the nations” (Ezekiel 31:11).  Ezekiel then makes clear that Egypt will fall like Assyria. This “ruler of the nations” is Babylon as we know from context and other similar biblical statements about Babylon’s identity in this era. Jeremiah and Ezekiel spend a lot of time prophesying the […]
  • Ezekiel 29-30, Psalm 64
    When we list the powerful nations in the last few hundred, a few countries usually are mentioned: Russia, China, Japan, Germany, England, France, and of course the United States. No one would mention Egypt. Of course, this did not used to be the case. Egypt was one of the world’s first superpowers and an empire that struck fear in the hearts of surrounding nations for about a thousand years. God promises to destroy Egypt at the hands of Babylon […]
  • Ezekiel 28, Psalm 83
    The King of Tyre, like many ancient rulers, has been deified by himself and his people. That of course doesn’t mean he is actually a god, just that he claims divinity. This is the height of presumption, though we see many other nations do this sort of thing in history, like the ancient Egyptians and Romans. That leaves one to wonder how any nation’s propaganda machine could spin the defeat of a king’s armies in battle, or worse, a King’s humiliating […]
  • Ezekiel 26-27, Psalm 62
    Tyre is a port city that juts out into the Mediterranean in modern day Lebanon, which is north of Israel. God promises to bring nations against this city, “like the sea casting up its waves.” (Ezekiel 26:3) This imagery would be readily accessible to a people used to fearing strong winds and waves along with the repetitious beating of the sea against the shore. Tyre would be hit again and again by God’s waves of destruction and judgement. But God […]
  • Ezekiel 25, Psalm 61
    God always levels the playing field. Judah, and to a lesser extent Israel, have been the focus of God’s warnings of gloom and doom. These children of Abraham have rejected their responsibility as God’s people and God will not suffer such rampant rebellion. As the Lord judges the people chosen as a blessing to the nations, the surrounding peoples scoff. Though God is judging Judah and Israel, this doesn’t mean those nations are off the hook. In fact, […]
  • Ezekiel 23-24, Psalm 60
    How do we reckon with the Bible’s graphic imagery? Often related to this question, are discussions on whether the Bible’s sometimes graphic nature justifies consuming most entertainment. In today’s reading we have both graphic sexuality and violence (see Ezekiel 23:3,20, and 25). If I were to do a sound expository sermon on Ezekiel 23, I would have to give parental warning in advance. So why do Christians get so concerned about graphic entertainment […]
  • Ezekiel 21-22, Psalm 59
    I fear for any generation that believes justice is possible without worship of the true God. Typically I don’t take up this blog with social or philosophical discussion because I have such small space to make or defend controversial arguments. My argument isn’t that an atheist has to care little about justice, but rather that whenever we see idolatry in scripture, injustice is always there as well. Ezekiel 22 is made up of God listing many of […]
  • Ezekiel 20, Psalm 58
    We have all heard the timeless wisdom, “To kill them with kindness.”  God intends to, in a sense, do this very thing to Israel. Ezekiel 20 is a message from God to Israel’s elders largely reviewing Israel’s history through the lens of God’s fidelity juxtaposed with Israel’s spiritual adultery. The end of this chapter promises God’s deliverance of the exiles from foreign nations to vindicate the Lord’s name. However, there is a dual purpose in […]
  • Ezekiel 19, Psalm 57
    Ezekiel 19 is a lament, we are told (Ezekiel 19:14). What is the writer lamenting? In a few words, the inadequacy of the leaders of Israel in the days of Ezekiel. We have been following Israel’s history, and so the illustration of two cubs becoming strong lions that are taken to Egypt and Babylon respectively, is easy to understand. But the vineyard illustration, where Israel, the mother, has vines whose strength are taken away drives at the main […]
  • Ezekiel 17-18, Psalm 56
    When Jesus told his disciples that a blind man was born without sight not because of this man’s sins or the sins of his parents, this challenged the disciples understanding of generational sin and punishment (see John 9:1-3). Hundreds of years before Jesus, God taught Ezekiel a similar truth. Ezekiel 18, in repetitious fashion makes clear that a person is ultimately accountable for their sins, and their sins alone. This does not diminish God’s […]
  • Ezekiel 15-16, Psalm 55
    Ezekiel 16 would be an obvious example of the Bible using extensive metaphor. In fact it is intentionally so. God does not intend to convey that he both adopted a biological baby girl then married her. Rather, the point of the extended imagery is to emphasize Israel’s mistreatment and abandonment by the nations on the one hand, and God’s lovingkindness on the other. The multiple metaphors allow God to drive home the depths of Israel’s lechery. […]
  • Ezekiel 14, Psalm 54
    We see more repetitions in Ezekiel with a phrase used often in Ezekiel 14. When God speaks of the wickedness of idolatry God describes idolatry with this phrase: “set up idols in their hearts”. When I read this I questioned if God is implying that the idols these elders and other Israelites worshipped were merely spiritual and not physical. No scholar I read commented on that phrase, so I am left to guess a bit, but I think that the answer is beside […]
  • Ezekiel 12:21-13:23, Psalm 53
    Repetition tells us a lot about the main intent of a particular book of the Bible. One repetition that has already been mentioned in Ezekiel are the many variations on the statement, “Then they will know that I am the Lord.” I see this variation three times in today’s reading (Ezekiel 13:9,14 , 23) What if I told you God’s wrath could bring knowledge similar to the insight gained from God’s love? Both can lead us to know that God is Lord. In fact, […]
  • Ezekiel 11:1-12:20, Psalm 52
    No matter how bleak the prophets become, they always offer hope. Ezekiel sees evil men doing evil things and is told by God to prophesy judgement and doom. Ezekiel obeys and the cycle continues. But God also brings words of comfort through Ezekiel to those in exile. The Lord promises to bring the exiles back to the land. But this wouldn’t be a good enough promise on its own, because Judah could return to the same idolatry and subsequent punishment […]
  • Ezekiel 9-10, Psalm 51
    2 Chronicles 2-7 is essential  to understand the significance of Ezekiel 9-10. In 2 Chronicles Solomon begins building God’s temple according to patterns established by the previous tabernacle. God’s glory descends upon the temple in a cloud such that this presence prevents the priests from accomplishing their duties. In this moment God’s special sovereign presence has come so that heaven collides with earth when the people of God have a unique […]
  • Ezekiel 8, Psalm 50
    Ezekiel 8 would make great film. While in captivity in the land of Babylon, Ezekiel is visited by what has been translated as “a fiery figure”. This figure transports this prophet in “visions of God” to see Jerusalem (Ezekiel 8:3). In this vision Ezekiel sees what is actually taking place in Jerusalem, hundreds of miles from Ezekiel’s actual location. What Ezekiel sees is very straightforward, for Jerusalem is full of rampant idolatry. This […]
  • Ezekiel 6-7, Psalm 49
    Both Ezekiel 6 and 7 end with this line, “Then they will know that I am the Lord.” Both of these chapters describe God’s promises to move in wrath against Judah including descriptions of this judgement. God’s blessings for Israel wasn’t enough over the centuries for them to pursue knowledge and fidelity with their Maker. So they will find out about God’s character the hard way. I always tell people, “There are children that learn fire is hot by […]
  • Ezekiel 4-5, Psalm 48
    Ezekiel’s theological theater is not the first time one of the prophets act out God’s messages. We remember Jeremiah’s ox yoke, for example. But it is hard to remember a more extreme picture than that what is painted in Ezekiel 4. First Ezekiel draws on stone a picture God’s impending judgment on Judah. Though the disaster Ezekiel draws is graphic, what Ezekiel does next is just gross. It is not that the food God commands Ezekiel to eat that is […]
  • Ezekiel 2-3, Psalm 47
    All of the major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel) have a “call from the Lord. Jeremiah began his book describing his call, whereas Isaiah prophesies for five chapters before being called while seeing God unveiled in glory. Ezekiel sees a vision of God’s glory in chapter 1, then his call is in chapters 2-3. One unique aspect of Ezekiel’s call is the strong warning against not delivering God’s warnings. In fact, if Ezekiel fails to deliver the […]
  • Ezekiel 1, Psalm 46
    We are told that Ezekiel receives his introductory vision in the fifth year of the exile of Jehoiachin. Remember, the book of Jeremiah ended with Jehoiachin being released from prison. Though roughly a contemporary of Jeremiah’s, Ezekiel’s location, and thus his messages will be directed at a very different group of people. The year of this vision is 593 B.C. and we know that since Ezekiel was near the Chebar Canal. Though he already in Exile […]
  • Lamentations 5, Psalm 43
    That last chapter of Lamentations begins with a list of humiliating experiences God’s people endure in their captivity and exile. This shows the multitude of problems that God has brought on Israel. This list crescendos into one insult, “for Mount Zion, which lies desolate, with jackals prowling over it.” (Lamentations 5:18) We can easily miss the point. Mount Zion is God’s holy mountain, the place where King David was to dwell, and God’s rule made […]
  • Lamentations 4, Psalm 42
    Life is rough when you believe your people would have been better off if fire from the sky had obliterated your city. To suggest that God’s punishment on Judah is greater than that of Sodom is to suggest this very thing (Lamentation 4:6). Images of gentle women boiling their children alive and children not having water to drink certainly lend credence to this claim. There is a greater suffering in a slow, humiliating suffering, than a quick and […]
  • Lamentations 3, Psalm 41
    How could the person who says about God, “Like a bear lying in wait, like a lion in hiding, he dragged me from the path and mangled me and left me without help” (Lamentations 3:10-11) claim just a few sentences later, ““The Lord is my portion;  therefore I will wait for him.” (Lamentations 3:24) Waiting doesn’t seem like such a good idea if God is going to mangle you like a bear! Occasionally the Psalms will hold both the heavy hand and the […]
  • Lamentations 2, Psalm 40
    Though Lamentations 2 describes the Babylonian invasion and exile, you will not find Babylon mentioned. Why is this? The entire perspective of this lament is that God is the active agent bringing the grief and desolation of Judah. The Lord even gives the altar into Babylon’s hands that these enemies might celebrate in the house of the Lord (Lamentations 2:7). If one takes times to read this lament, and consider from the eyes that view children […]
  • Lamentations 1, Psalm 39
    Though the author of Lamentations is believed by many to be Jeremiah, we cannot be 100% certain who wrote this book. Whoever wrote it, their first chapter is often written from the perspective of Judah, personified as an individual. Judah laments what has been lost. The city of Jerusalem’s desolation is compared to the experience of a widow, and going from being a queen to a slave (Lamentation 1:1). Biblical lamentation doesn’t just lament what has […]
  • Jeremiah 52, Psalm 36
    The Old Testament is full of high and low points. The lowest point of not only Jeremiah’s book, but perhaps the entire Old Testament is found in Jeremiah’s last chapter. After many years where kings in David’s line reject God’s call upon their lives, Zedekiah ends that reign in humiliation. His sons are cut down before his very eyes, before his eyes are cut out as well. Solomon’s Temple, the glory of Israel, that years earlier had been built of the […]
  • Jeremiah 51, Psalm 35
     Before the book of Jeremiah ends with Babylon defeating Jerusalem, God promises Babylon’s destruction. This will take place less than 100 years after Babylon is victorious over Jerusalem. Why will God punish Babylon, the destroyer who has been used by God to render justice to Judah? We are told God will do this for “vengeance for his temple” (Jeremiah 51:11). Though Babylon has been God’s instrument, we find that they have been evil in how they […]
  • Jeremiah 50, Psalm 34
    Babylon is God’s instrument of  judgement on Judah. Now God promises Babylon will be defeated by armies from the north. When this happens the people of Judah will make their way back to Jerusalem. If nations rise up, only to fall, why do we invest so much in civilizations, governments, and ordering our lives in societies? God is not against nations or civilizations because they are inherently evil, but because civilizations and nations show a […]
  • Jeremiah 49, Psalm 33
    God’s cup, especially when mentioned by the prophets, represents God’s wrath against wickedness. The imagery conveys God has been holding back deserved action against sin, like a cup holds wine, until God refuses to relent any longer. So at appointed times, God’s wrath overflows and is poured out on transgressors. It seems God, when addressing Edom, acknowledges some imperfection in the justice of this cup when the Lord says, ““If those who do not […]
  • Jeremiah 47-48, Psalm 32
    Perhaps you are weary of reading about God’s judgement on Israel and the nations. Even our author seems to relate when he says, ““‘Alas, sword of the Lord, how long till you rest? Return to your sheath; cease and be still.’ (Jeremiah 47:6) Now why is Jeremiah so concerned that God relent? After all, these are former or current enemies of Israel God is judging. Jeremiah realizes that God’s judgement on all the earth doesn’t exclude Israel simply […]
  • Jeremiah 46, Psalm 31
    Occasionally when God speaks judgement against nations, it sound like taunting. This is especially the effect of Jeremiah 46:3-12. At first, this section seems to be encouraging Egypt to prepare for battle (Jeremiah 46:3-4) only to show how rising up for war will merely spell defeat. Egypt is ridiculed for her pride and told to charge into a battle that they will lose at the hands of God, the Lord Almighty (Jeremiah 46:9-10). This rhetoric is […]
  • Jeremiah 44-45, Psalm 30
    Who is the “Queen of Heaven?” Most scholars believe she is “Ishtar” the goddess of fertility. This fertility goddess seems to have had great appeal for women judging by how they were first and loudest to dismiss Jeremiah. However, fertility doesn’t just refer to human reproduction, but also fertility from the earth, that is agriculture. So the men in Jeremiah’s day also bowed before this goddess, even if in smaller numbers. The argument Jeremiah’s […]
  • Jeremiah 41:16-43:13, Psalm 29
    Just the name of Egypt and the humiliation of going back to the place where God’s people were enslaved 400 years would make many a proud person prefer death over such a fate. Instead, our story tells us that God’s people were too proud to trust God and more than willing to enter the land of their former slavery. The Bible isn’t bashful about declaring our willingness to endure slavery, not to mention pestilence and sword rather than enjoy the […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Jeremiah 39:1-41:15, Psalm 28
    God metes out His wrath against Zedekiah and Judah through the Babylonians, who capture Zedekiah and kill his sons. It is easy to overlook, but justice also comes for those in Judah who were mistreated under Zedekiah’s reign. For example, Nebuzaradan not only left the poor in Jerusalem, but also gave them vineyards and fields to tend (Jeremiah 39:10). Jeremiah and Ebed-Melek (the king’s Cushite servant) are also protected and treated with better […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Jeremiah 37-38, Psalm 27
    Jeremiah is thrown into a cistern while King Zedekiah refuses to stop the attackers. To the king’s shame, his servant Ebed-Melek, whose name means “king’s servant” in Hebrew, proves to be much more faithful to God’s messenger than Judah’s leader is. Add to this, we are told that this servant is a Cushite, someone from the region that corresponds to modern-day Ethiopia. This Cushite’s righteous protection of God’s spokesperson, while a king in the […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Jeremiah 36, Psalm 26
    Kings, especially kings in David’s line, should protect as they lead. As the scribe Baruch delivers Jeremiah’s words of warning by way of the Lord, many of Judah’s officials are shaken by the message. Jehoiakim, King of Judah does not share their concern. As Jehoiakim listens to the words of the scroll, he symbolically clips them into the fire, acting as if those words had never been spoken. This king seals not only his fate, but also the fate of the […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Jeremiah 34-45, Psalm 25
    When God gives the law to Moses in Exodus, God first gives the so-called ten commandments (better named “ten words”). Secondly God instructs about idolatry and alters, then follows that with strict rules against indefinite slavery for fellow Hebrews. When Jeremiah calls upon Judah to repent, King Zedekiah calls upon Judah’s people to release fellow Jewish slaves who had been kept in bondage for some time. Obviously, God’s people had been ignoring the […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Jeremiah 32-33, Psalm 24
    Symbolic gestures have been commonplace in Jeremiah’s ministry. Consider the yoke he carried representing the rule of Babylon, the potter’s clay, or the linen belt that was ruined. God communicates through word but also communicates to the eyes the message we should hear. So what should Jeremiah’s audience hear when he purchases the field from his cousin Hanamel? It would seem foolish to buy a field under Jewish law when the Babylonians would soon […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Jeremiah 30-31, Psalm 23
    God promises to restore Israel and make a new covenant. This covenant will differ from the first. Instead of a law written on tablets, God will make this covenant with a people whose hearts have been inscribed with God’s statutes. Also, this new covenant will mean more widespread knowledge of God’s character. God promises that this new covenant will secure the fate of “the offspring of Israel” (Jeremiah 31:36). In the book of Hebrews, these new […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Jeremiah 29, Psalm 22
    Jeremiah 29:11 is one of the most oft-quoted scriptures today, especially to encourage people that God has purpose for their lives. In response, some Bible nerds will point out that these words were written to people in exile from their home country, and thus we should be careful not to make a universal application today. The truth is, however, this verse does apply to us today; yet those who suggest we will misapply this verse if we ignore the […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Jeremiah 27-28, Psalm 21
    Prophetic ministry is a word-based ministry; prophets speak the words of God to an intended audience. Occasionally signs accompany those words, like when Jeremiah carries a yoke to demonstrate the rule and authority which Babylon will wield over Judah, along with other nations. After such powerful demonstration, I have thought it strange that Jeremiah so quickly and willingly ceded ground to Hananiah’s prophecy that Babylon will not prove victorious, […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Jeremiah 26, Psalm
    In our first blog post on Jeremiah, where I contrasted the ministries of Jeremiah and Isaiah, I made the point that Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry is closely connected with his sufferings. Unlike Isaiah, much of Jeremiah’s word from God has proximate and negative consequences not just for Judah, but also for the so-named “weeping prophet.” Jeremiah suffers for the message and is very much part of God’s people as he warns of judgement that will ruin […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Jeremiah 25, Psalm 19
    70 years is how long God’s people would be in exile. That is a lifetime. Actually, in that day, this would probably be longer than the average life expectancy. Though God promises to punish Babylon and bring the Jewish people back to the land, this exile in Babylon is humiliating in every sense of the word. There is no king to reign on David’s throne, and even the throne will be desecrated and leveled. Oddly enough from our perspective, God chooses […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Jeremiah 23-24, Psalm 18
    How different YHWH is than the gods of the nations. It would be strange for a god unique to a particular people group or region to fight against her own worshippers in favor of other nations, right? Jeremiah, however, tells us that the God of Israel will, in a unique situation, punish Israel through the people of Babylon. YHWH cannot be ruled or even co-opted by those called by the Lord’s name when they are rampant in practicing evil and injustice. […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Jeremiah 21-22, Psalm 17
    Speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, God has this to say about the deceased king Josiah: “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” (Jeremiah 22:16) On a few other occasions in scripture such tight associations are made between caring for the poor and knowing God. Two proverbs make these connections in similar plain terms. We read, “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Jeremiah 20, Psalm 16
    Have you ever felt conflicted about God’s role in your circumstances? We see that Jeremiah is disappointed in constantly bearing terrible news of judgement (Jeremiah 20:8). Still, Jeremiah cannot help but proclaim God’s words; in fact, he cannot hold them in (Jeremiah 20:9). Jeremiah recognizes that neighbors are against him, while God is for him. This leads Jeremiah to praise God, but only for one verse of song. Jeremiah ends our reading cursing the […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Jeremiah 18-19, Psalm 15
    God is the potter and Israel the clay. What God has created from nothing, a large nation from a man and woman beyond the years of child-bearing age, God can still refashion. At the time of Jeremiah’s writing, Israel had proven faithless time and again. God intends to judge them, but this judgment, if we are to follow the logic of God, isn’t primarily for destructive purposes, but for reformation. When God makes this illustration, Jeremiah has been so […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Jeremiah 16-17, Psalm 14
    In paradoxical fashion, we learn that it is possible to make gods that “are not gods” (Jeremiah 16:20). Jeremiah introduces in simple language something the apostle Paul will explain in depth to the church in Corinth hundreds of years later. Jeremiah and Paul agree that idols, to use the language of Christopher Wright, are “nothing, but we making them something.” First, they are nothing, for the gods which humans invent or craft are unable to fulfill […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Jeremiah 14-15, Psalm 13
    Many have noted that God’s imposition against Jeremiah praying indicates just how far gone Judah has become and how determined God is to bring justice for their sins (Jeremiah 14:11). Very few have noted how Jeremiah prays anyway, interceding for God’s people by appealing to God’s name and jealousy for His glory (see Jeremiah 14:13, 15:16). In hope of procuring mercy, Jeremiah speaks to the fact that false prophets have deceived the people. In […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Jeremiah 13, Psalm 12
    Psalm 12 gives us a glimpse of what Judah was probably like in Jeremiah’s time. “The faithful have vanished,” “Everyone utters lies to his neighbor,” “the poor are plundered, the needy groan.” Take a minute to reflect on just how strong the images in this passage are. Filthy underwear, left to rot and decay after being worn. A drunken brawl that tears Jerusalem apart, sparing not a family. The Israelites’ sleaze, filth, and evil utterly exposed […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Jeremiah 11-12, Psalm 11
    God has determined that the time for judgment is near! His covenant with His people has been shattered. Their worship and allegiance to Baal is beyond shameful. Jeremiah’s message of repentance and obedience is met with a conspiracy to kill him. They want him silenced. The Lord’s message, ”Obey My Voice,” was stubbornly ignored as Jeremiah faithfully called out to God’s people. They had no ears to hear or hearts to respond; they would have none of […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Jeremiah 8:18-10:25, Psalm 10
    Whenever we read a portion of Scripture, we should first ask, “What does this passage tell me about God?” In today’s reading we see the following characteristics of God: ·         God is just (9:24) ·         God is powerful (10:12) ·         God is righteous (9:24) ·         […]
  • Untwisting Idolatry — Jeremiah 7:1-8:17
    I have a worship disorder. So did the Jews of Jeremiah’s time. So do we all. In Jeremiah 7, God calls the Jews’ idols “deceptive” and “worthless” (v. 8) and warns them that they pursue these idols to their “own harm” (v. 6). An idol needn’t be a statue. It’s anything that competes with God for room in our hearts. In our twistedness we run after substitutes for God, wanting to satisfy our desires or numb our pain, on our terms and timetable as […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Jeremiah 6, Psalm 8
    By now, you know why Jeremiah was predicting God’s judgement on Israel. This chapter is probably one of the most vivid pictures of the destruction that is awaiting Israel: the destruction of her fortresses. God has warned Israel endlessly that if they did not repent from their sin, He would punish them. They did not listen, and God finally sent other nations to destroy them. In this particular chapter, the nation God chose to punished is already in […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Jeremiah 4:5-5:31, Psalm 7
    Apocalyptic literature reveals through cataclysmic imagery. Film communicates the weight of traumatic events by showing someone’s vision of their outer world going out of focus, while sounds become dulled and life is experienced in slow motion. Similarly, apocalyptic literature conveys the indescribable judgement of God through hyperbolic descriptions. For example, when Jeremiah envisions God’s judgment on Jerusalem and describes the earth as […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Jeremiah 3:6-4:4, Psalm 6
    Eschatology is the study of scriptural teaching about the end of human history. Apocalyptic literature in the Bible unveils or reveals God’s surprising plans to judge, to heal, and to restore all things. From the standpoint of Jeremiah and his original audience, Jeremiah 3:14-18 would serve as an “apocalypse” that would inform their eschatology. As Jeremiah reveals, God intends to issue a day where the two kingdoms of Israel would be reunited, other […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Jeremiah 2-3:5, Psalm 5
    God makes accusations against Israel using two powerful images: They have returned to slavery, and they live as harlots. Both these metaphors convey rejection and poverty. Prostitution is a historically well-known last alternative for women who are broke and only see one way to survive. It is more fathomable to many of us, however, that a woman could choose alternatives to prostitution, even in dire poverty. What is less obvious is how anyone could […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Jeremiah 1, Psalm 4
    Notice how differently Jeremiah responds “to the word of Lord” than Isaiah responded when seeing God surrounded by angels’ praise (see Isaiah 6:1-10). God tells Jeremiah that the Lord foreknew Jeremiah’s prophetic purposes before he was conceived (Jeremiah 1:5). Unlike Isaiah, who experienced God’s majesty and responded to God’s call for a mouthpiece with a willing heart, Jeremiah is unsure how God could use a prophet with speaking problems and […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 65:17-66:24, Psalm 1
    Isaiah is the first person in scripture to reveal God’s intent to make a new heaven and new earth. We have already noticed that much of what is revealed in Revelation 21-22 has already been disclosed in snippets throughout Isaiah 56-66. However, there are different emphases from time to time in those two sections of scripture which best inform our imaginations concerning our future home. For example the peace between animals found Isaiah 65:25 […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 65:1-16, Proverbs 31:10-31
    On occasion scripture presents us with expressions unfamiliar to us. When God warns of judgement for wickedness, the Lord uses an unfamiliar saying about grapes: “’As when juice is still found in a cluster of grapes and people say, “‘Don’t destroy it, there is still a blessing in it,” so will I do in behalf of my servants; I will not destroy them all’” (Isaiah 65:8). Though we have never spoken about blessings being found in […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 63:7-64:12, Proverbs 31:1-9
    Christians have long debated the doctrine of God’s impassibility. Discussions around this topic are made more difficult because of how this doctrine has been differently defined and redefined. For our purposes, the doctrine of God’s impassibility is the belief that God isn’t affected by human circumstances, nor does he experience emotions like humans. Like I have already suggested, this definition isn’t going to satisfy everyone. Whatever one’s […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 62:1-63:6, Proverbs 30
    Twice in the first two verses of Isaiah 62, Isaiah speaks of Zion’s “vindication”. What does Isaiah mean by choosing this word? The nations have ridiculed both Israel and God during their times of exile under the Assyrians and the Babylonians. When Isaiah speaks of Zion’s vindication, of course he means that Zion will one day prove to be God’s bride (Isaiah 62:5). At the same time, God will also vindicate both the Lord’s power and love in rescuing […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 60-61, Proverbs 29
    Isaiah 60 portrays God’s future kindness to Israel by promising to fill the earth with true light and drawing the nations and many kings of earth into the Lord’s kingdom. We know that a few of the promises of Isaiah 60 haven’t yet come to pass (see Isaiah 60:11,18-19 and Revelation 21:22-27). Though we await the day when, as God’s people, we will live in our world where our “sun will never set again” (Isaiah 60:20), some of Isaiah’s prophecy has […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 58-59, Proverbs 28
    Imagine this: you go to a worship service, and most of the congregation are lifting their hands in praise. But you notice something strange: everyone singing has blood on their hands, and these aren’t farmers. This unlikely scene would strike fear into anyone’s heart. In Isaiah 59:3 tells us that Israel as a nation of worshiping people has blood on their hands while they make offerings and sacrifices. This blood is not from the sacrifices. Rather, […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 56-57, Proverbs 27
    Hundreds of years after the book of Isaiah was written, an Ethiopian eunuch reads about Isaiah’s suffering servant who, “was led like a sheep to the slaughter” (see Acts 8:32-33 and Isaiah 53:7-8). This prompted the eunuch to ask Phillip, one of Jesus’ apostles, to explain the identity of this servant. Why is this eunuch so interested in the identity of the servant? He had at least two very good reasons. First, without this servant, Isaiah 56:3-8 […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 54-55, Proverbs 26
    Because of God’s servant the “barren woman” can “shout for joy,” for “more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband” (Isaiah 54:1). God will give children to those who have no children because the servant of Isaiah has borne our iniquities and took our punishment. Now, barren women will have spiritual children of their own as they lead others to the true Servant for atonement who will “see his offspring and prolong his […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Proverbs 25
    Imagine you are faithful worshiper of YHWH living in the 5th century B.C., reading Isaiah’s various descriptions of God’s servant. You are encouraged by powerful lines like, “and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand” (Isaiah 52:15). God is going to bring truth and light into the world through this servant. But as you read, some problems confuse your […]
  • In Case You Missed It —  Isaiah 51:1-52:12, Proverbs 24:23-24
    Do you feel poor, rejected, overlooked, or mistreated? If so, then “Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn” (Isaiah 51:1). Isaiah tells Israel, his readers, to look to Abraham in their times of desolation and frustration to remember how Abraham had nothing in terms of possessions, riches, or notoriety when God made him into a special nation. What is the point? Simply this: if God was able to give Abraham […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 49-50, Proverbs 24:1-22
    God promises vindication, fruitfulness, and exaltation to His servant. We have already mentioned that though Isaiah had Israel in view when discussing God’s servant, God intends this servant to refer ultimately to Jesus Christ. However, there are some interpretative questions to answer if this servant is Jesus. For example, this passage speaks of numerous descendants who will have kings and queens bow down before them (Isaiah 49:23). When it comes to […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 48, Proverbs 23
    “There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked” (Isaiah 48:22). God’s bald statement does not include caveats or exceptions. The wicked will have no peace. On the face of it, God has just been describing His complete opposition to those practicing evil, so He could simply mean that there is no peace for the wicked with Him. This is certainly true and the most important part of what God means. One could also say that there is no internal peace […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 46-47, Proverbs 23
    Isaiah 46:1-7 succinctly presents the problems with placing our hopes in anyone or anything but God. Of course, this passage speaks directly about the making of wooden or stone images that would be worshipped. Making them, carrying them, and sacrificing to them would cost energy, time, and resources. Unfortunately, the work involved in this idolatry would not be met with reciprocal compensation. These gods could not save in times of trouble. The […]
  • In Case You Missed It —
    December 26th: Isaiah 44:24-45:25, Proverbs 22 Two days ago, while linking Isaiah’s servant to Jesus’ servanthood, I cited Philippians 2:5-7, where we are told that Jesus, while being God, still lived as servant. Today Isaiah continues to speak about this servant of God whom he calls “Jacob,” that is, Israel. Interwoven with God’s promises for this servant is God’s guarantee of His own vindication: “Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 44:1-23, Proverbs 21
    Today we celebrate a birth. This birth is the dawning of a new age. Isaiah 44:1-3 spells out that, in this new age, God will give life in the midst of death and will multiply the descendants of Israel to fill the earth like grass fills a meadow. In fact, people will just claim the name of God’s people and it will be so, irrespective of their lineage. The birth of Christ gives birth to the age where God pours His spirit out upon His people, and […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 42-43, Proverbs 20
    When Isaiah speaks of God’s “servant” in whom God will delight and place His Spirit (Isaiah 42:1), remember that Isaiah’s original audience would have understood this servant to refer to Israel. Isaiah 42:6-7 makes plain who God is addressing immediately when it says: “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, 7 to open […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 40:12-41:29, Proverbs 19
    God is not like other gods, and He is certainly superior to humans. We are told that unlike us, God “will not grow tired or weary” (Isaiah 40:28). Even when we are in full bloom of youth, we become exhausted (Isaiah 40:30). Note, however, that there is an exception to this rule: “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 40:1-11, Proverbs 18
    Isaiah 40 brings words of hope amidst the Babylonian exile. God has punished Jerusalem for her rebellion, and God’s recompense has been paid. When Isaiah speaks of “A voice of one calling” to “prepare the way for the Lord” that “the glory of the Lord may be revealed,” Isaiah is seemingly that voice (see Isaiah 40:3,5). Hundreds of years later, John the Baptist claims to be the voice which Isaiah promised would will bring great hope to Jerusalem in […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 38-39, Proverbs 17
    Does God change His mind? No, the Lord doesn’t change. Does God know the future perfectly? Absolutely, our Father knows everything, both real and possible, through infinite knowledge and wisdom. Does God lie? God will not be untrue to His righteous character. If all of this is true, then why does God respond to Hezekiah’s prayer by seemingly changing His mind, or appearing to have been less than forthright with Hezekiah in warning his impending […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 36-37, Proverbs 16
    You have heard this story before. Hezekiah faces off versus Sennacherib and the Rabshakeh. This account appears twice, albeit in different forms, in the historical books (see 2 Kings 18-19, 2 Chronicles 32). Why such Biblical repetition of these particular events? For one, Isaiah is directly involved in prophesying protection for Jerusalem against Assyria, so it makes sense for Isaiah to repeat this story in the book he authors. This encounter with […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 34-35, Proverbs 15:30-33
    Isaiah 34 & 35 present a vision of the end of the world. God will defeat His enemies (Isaiah 34:4); all nations will be summoned to judgement (Isaiah 34:1-2), and many will face grave consequences (Isaiah 34:3). On the other hand, those who have been overlooked, the weak and the oppressed, will find strength in the judgments of God (Isaiah 35:3). Jesus alludes to this passage when questioned by John the Baptist’s disciples about His identity as […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 32-33, Proverbs 15
    Isaiah often weaves messages of hope and promise very closely with warnings of destruction for wickedness. Consider the beginning of Isaiah 32, which promises rulers who will bring safety to their land and where even those with personal weakness will find strength (Isaiah 32:1-4). Immediately after such a hopeful message Isaiah reflects on the nature of the wicked and ruthless. Isaiah immediately warns women who have become complacent in trusting the […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 30-31, Proverbs 14
    The irony of Israel seeking help from Egypt is obvious to us by now. Years before Isaiah’s generation, YHWH delivered Israel from Egypt’s yoke through mighty wonders. Now God’s people intend to turn to Egypt for strength and protection against Babylon. Isaiah will not be the only prophet to warn Israel of the folly of placing their hope in Egypt, for Jeremiah and Ezekiel will also warn against such misplaced trust. The problem isn’t simply Egypt’s […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 28-29, Proverbs 13
    God’s promised judgment on the people of Israel in Isaiah 28-29 is sweeping and fierce. God will rally foreign nations against Israel, confound the teachers and prophets, and act in justice against all oppressors. Let me pause and reflect today on the reality that the book of Isaiah made it into the Hebrew scriptures, which we Christians call the Old Testament. It is well attested in ancient history that other nations would predominantly publish […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 26-27, Proverbs 12
    In yesterday’s reading, Isaiah celebrated God’s future reign, where death’s stain would be removed and God would fill the bellies and hearts of all who love Him. Isaiah 26 begins with a song that will be sung in those glorious days. One stanza works as a promise for us today. We are told God keeps, “him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3). Perfect peace sounds really nice. Can one really experience […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 24-25, Proverbs 11
    After delivering oracles concerning God’s judgments against various peoples, Isaiah delivers a message about equality from God. This is not the kind of equality we like. God promises to judge equally all the nations of the world: man and woman, rich and poor, high and low. This judgment will mean a loss of mirth and gladness in the land. Oddly enough, Isaiah calls such judgement “wonderful” (Isaiah 25:1), reasoning that such judgment means “cities of […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 21-23, Proverbs 10
    Isaiah delivers an oracle against Babylon, Tyre, and Sidon, but let me note one section of Isaiah’s oracle against Jerusalem. In Isaiah 22:8-14 we see how horizontally focused the people of God had become. During the days of Hezekiah, when foreigners invaded, the people of God evacuated homes, diverted reservoirs, and sought protection from the armory of Israel. Still they failed to acknowledge God, who had given them strength and provision. Rather, […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 18-20, Proverbs 9
    God defeated Egypt during the days of Moses, and He promises future judgement through foreign oppressors. These warnings are similar to the warnings from other oracles by Isaiah. What strikes me is the hopeful imagery of Assyria, Egypt, and Israel united in worship of the true God (Isaiah 19:16-25). This will not come until after Egypt faces hardship due their trust in false gods (see Isaiah 20). God’s beautiful promise offers good news to Egypt; the […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 14:28-17:14, Proverbs 8
    Though the oracles about Moab and Damascus demonstrate God’s compassion even on those who receive wrathful judgment, I want to focus on the oracle against Philistia. This oracle occurs when Ahaz dies (710 B.C.), after the Assyrian invasion. Philistia mock their former rivals, for Philistia were Israel’s great enemies during the time of Joshua, Judges, and the reign of David. Israel defeated Philistia during David’s reign, so when Isaiah warns against […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 13:1-14:27, Proverbs 7
    Isaiah speaks with authority about Babylon’s fate at the hands of the Medes (Isaiah 13:17-20). If you recall, Isaiah began his book speaking about events that transpire in 740 B.C. Some modern scholars have argued that Isaiah could not have written all of this book because the destruction of the Babylonians foretold in today’s reading happened two centuries later, around 539 B.C. This of course assumes that Isaiah did not actually prophesy events […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 11-12, Proverbs 6:20-6:35
    Isaiah continues to prophesy the coming messiah in terms that gladden the hearts of those who hope God will put an end to their misery. This messiah will comfort the meek and the afflicted, while judging the evildoer. God’s messiah will also draw the nations that have formerly rejected God and His ways into obedient relationship. Consider the constancy of God’s global mission from the days of Abraham, when God called his servant to be a blessing to […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 9-10 Proverbs 5:1-6:19
    Advent means “arrival” or “coming” and is the name of the four-week season leading up to Christmas when the church focuses on the benefits of the Incarnation and looks forward to Jesus’ return. Our readings this week in Isaiah fit this season very well. As Isaiah prophesies much doom and gloom, we find occasional interruptions of hope. While Isaiah tells us of increasing destruction for Israel, we also read about a child to be born who will be called […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 7-8, Proverbs 4
    The New Testament quotes Isaiah more than any other Old Testament prophet. Jesus applies Isaiah’s prophecies to Himself (e.g. 4:17-19), and Jesus’s Jewish disciples learned to share how Jesus accomplished all Isaiah foretold. One verse the apostle Peter applies to Jesus is found in Isaiah 8:14 (see 1 Peter 2:8). In Isaiah God is properly the object of fearful reverence, worthy of obedience. Those who make God their Lord will find YHWH to be a […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 6, Proverbs 3
    Isaiah 6 paints a beautiful picture of God’s majesty. After King Uzziah died in 740 B.C., about 18 years before the Assyrians would conquer the northern kingdom of Israel, Isaiah saw the true King magnificently surrounded by angels. Isaiah is stunned at God’s Holiness and his own sinfulness. In response Isaiah confesses his own sins and the sins of the people. Isaiah receives the comfort of atonement and responds to God’s invitation for someone to go […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 4:2-5:30, Proverbs 2
    Isaiah begins chapter 5 with a song about God as the “beloved” who owns a vineyard. This vineyard’s fruitlessness represents the waywardness of Israel. When a vineyard produced little fruit in Isaiah’s day, there was little one could do but tear down the vineyard and use the land differently. In the same way, God intends to bring judgement to Israel for rejecting God’s great grace. God promises to judge those “who call evil good and good evil” […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 2:6-4:1, Proverbs 1:8-1:33
    God is going to judge Judah and Jerusalem. The social problems of this judgement are spelled out in Isaiah 3. One particular aspect of this judgment is worth considering. God promises, “I will make mere youths their officials, children will rule over them” (Isaiah 3:1). The Bible makes it abundantly clear that youth often have greater moral integrity than their forebears. So why is it a problem for young people to lead if they are better suited? […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Isaiah 1:1-2:5, Proverbs 1:1-7
    God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, informs the people of Judah that their sacrifices and offerings are abominable (Isaiah 1:10-15). This is difficult to understand, knowing the importance God placed in Leviticus on the sacrificial systems, calendar, and liturgies. Why does God make strong statements against obeying the Lord’s laws? To gain insight, see that God prefers that His people, “Learn to do right, seek justice, defend the oppressed, […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Song of Solomon 6:4-8:14, Psalm 148
    The woman and her beloved continue to speak in evocative images about their love for one another. Two sections of our reading stand out as in need of explanation. First, the chorus of friends briefly speak about their sisters whose “breasts are not yet grown” (Song of Songs 8:8-9). The chorus is responding to the oft-repeated admonition from earlier not to awaken love before it desires (see 8:4). This response conveys that the daughters of Jerusalem […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Song of Solomon 5:2-6:3, Psalm 147
    Today ends the Shulammite woman’s dream. How do we know she is still dreaming? Well, she tells us again that she “slept” but that her “heart was awake” (Song of Songs 5:2). In this dream, she again imagines having her beloved approach her at home, only to find him missing when trying to let him in. This time, as she goes seeking her beloved, she is beaten during the search (Song of Songs 5:7). After this strange event, which reflects her inner fears […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Song of Solomon 4:1-5:1, Psalm 146
    As the woman continues to dream, her dreams are about the beloved delighting in her and her body. Simple allegorical interpretations of the meaning of this passage break down. This woman is specific in describing her dream of being the apple of her beloved’s eye. We are left to wonder about the purpose of such sexual imagery in the Bible. We can say the writers of Song of Songs intend to portray the intensity and excitement surrounding romance and […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Song of Solomon 2:8-3:11, Psalm 145
    The metaphors continue in Song of Songs, picturing the love of the betrothed couple. There is a change, however, as the ideas of “foxes” in a vineyard and the beloved “leaping over hills” indicate that there are obstacles to their enjoyment of love. These hindrances might be family and friends that disprove of the marriage, or maybe distance. We cannot be certain of the reasons for their trouble. It does seem like this trouble gives the woman a […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Song of Solomon 1:1-2:7, Psalm 144
    Interpreters struggle to piece together the parts of Ecclesiastes into one coherent whole. For most of church history, Song of Solomon has proven even more difficult to interpret. Some unifying interpretative frameworks for this book seek historical support, with an allegorical interpretation portraying love between Israel and God. Other methods tout academic support; the anthology interpretation colors this book as a collection of love songs, and […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Ecclesiastes 12:9-14, Psalm 141
    It is hard to piece together the various contrasting parts in Ecclesiastes, so it is very nice that the author ends with something akin to a moral for the entire book. This main idea, “To fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13), is familiar because it really is the point of all the wisdom literature. But how does the seeming vanity of much of life point us to the importance of obeying God? Since everything in life apart from God’s […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:8, Psalm 140
    In our youth we are more prone to be charmed by the vanities of life, often chasing after the wind. As we grow older, our appreciation of the simply gifts in life grows as well. Solomon appeals to the young to focus on God in their youth. This is because everything that we find pleasure in without proper regard and love for our creator is meaningless. To Solomon, our youth isn’t the time to “sow our wild oats” and then return to our God when life is […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Ecclesiastes 11:1-8, Psalm 139
    “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.” This famous wisdom is very much like that which Solomon offers us to begin today’s reading. If you are a farmer, don’t put all of your hope in a good corn crop, but diversify. If you invest money, don’t put all your hopes in one company or one type of company, but diversify. Solomon begins our reading with an admonition to invest in seven to eight ventures, and ends with a call to work hard in many areas, […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Ecclesiastes 9:13-10:20, Psalm 138
    Ecclesiastes 10 sounds a lot like the Proverbs, much of which Solomon also wrote. Before Solomon makes his familiar contrasts between wisdom and folly, he tells an interesting story. In a veiled fashion, he recalls a wise man who somehow prevented his tiny city from being destroyed by a great king on a rampage. Though we would love more details about how this wise man did such a thing, the point of Solomon’s story isn’t merely to tell it but to use […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Ecclesiastes 9:1-12, Psalm 137
    Do you remember Job’s friends and their repetitious insistence that Job’s sufferings were the result of some sin, whether obvious or secret? Solomon begins today’s reading by eviscerating this notion in telling us that our fates, good or bad, have almost nothing to do with our moral integrity; we all die no matter how good we have been (Ecclesiastes 9:1-3). Surprisingly, however, Solomon seems to change his tune about the superiority of death to life […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Ecclesiastes 8, Psalm 136
    Today I begin with the ending of our reading, “No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it” (Ecclesiastes 8:17). In college I read the book Pilgrim on Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. This book is essentially the author journaling while watching nature by a creek side. Dillard noted how one could see […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Ecclesiastes 7, Psalm 135
    How do we make sense of the wisdom found in Ecclesiastes 7? For those of you who have been at the hospital for a birth and at the funeral of a loved one, the comparison, “the day of death better than the day of birth” (Ecclesiastes 7:2) seems obviously untrue. Solomon persists, telling us, “Frustration is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:3). To me, this differs from James’ pointed wisdom years later when […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Ecclesiastes 5:8-6:12, Psalm 134
    Is there a more powerful renunciation in literature of our endless pursuit of wealth or possessions than in today’s reading? I will let the more well-read answer that question, but I find two sentences particularly insightful. Solomon states, “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income” (Ecclesiastes 5:10). Later, he echoes the theme with a focus on appetites saying, “Everyone’s toil is for their […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Ecclesiastes 5:1-7, Psalm 133
    Solomon’s focus on being sparse in speech when entering God’s temple seems like an abrupt change. The entire book has been a lengthy reflection on the nature of human existence, followed by brief admonitions to focus on what is truly important and reject vain pursuits. Now Solomon tells us that those who would enter God’s temple, which Solomon helped build, with a rash desire to speak will prove to be fools. God’s greatness should cause worshippers […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Ecclesiastes 4, Psalm 132
    We all know that people worldwide face a great deal of sadness and injustice. The recent round of sexual harassment scandals is a severe reminder that women have historically faced the threat of violation at the hands of men. These events have reaffirmed Solomon’s words that “on the side of their oppressors was power” (Ecclesiastes 4:1). Men, especially the rich and powerful, often get away with their abuses. So once again, Ecclesiastes paints a […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Ecclesiastes 3, Psalm 131
    The first two chapters of Ecclesiastes paint a mostly bleak picture of human existence, but Ecclesiastes 3 is mostly hopeful. Solomon tells us that even those seemingly pointless things like “war” and “hate” have their purpose. Additionally, the admonition to eat, drink, and enjoy one’s toil is repeated in this chapter (Ecclesiastes 3:13), and this enjoyment is hopefully characterized as a gift of God. That expression is not new. What is new is […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Ecclesiastes 1:12-2:25, Psalm 130
    “Ignorance is bliss” finds counterpart wisdom in Ecclesiastes. Gaining wisdom, to wise Solomon, is like a “chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:17). Why is this? Because the one gaining wisdom and knowledge also receives “vexation” as well as “sorrow” (Ecclesiastes 1:18). To be sure, Solomon claims wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness (Ecclesiastes 2:13). This still brings Solomon little comfort, for the fate of the […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Ecclesiastes 1:1-11, Psalm 129
    A few years back, I went to a pastor’s event to study the book of Ecclesiastes with other pastors in case any of us desired to preach this book. One question that helped us put together the main themes found in the book was: “Is Ecclesiastes pessimistic or optimistic?” If one were to stop reading the book at chapter 1, we would decidedly choose to call the book pessimistic. We are told that everything is “meaningless” (also translated as futile or […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Job 42:7-14, Psalm 125
    The book of Job has a happy ending. Job is rebuked but vindicated; God’s righteousness is maintained. Job’s three friends, with the notable absence of Elihu, are chastened by God and ordered to make sacrifices. Finally, Job has riches and family restored to him. At the risk of constantly rehashing an important theme, let us remember as we finish this book that Job never receives a rationale from God for Job’s great suffering. If you are looking to […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Job 40-42:6, Psalm 125
    Many like to guess at the identities of the Behemoth with a tail that “sways like a cedar” or the species of Leviathan that has “flames stream from its mouth.” Though questions pertaining to these creatures are interesting, ultimately the most important question arising from this passage is when God asks Job, “Would you discredit my justice?” (Job 40:8) This question gets at the real conflict in the book of Job. Was God just in allowing Satan to […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Job 38-39, Psalm 124
    Job finally gets his trial before God. Job is on the stand as God begins with a number of questions. It is important at the outset to note that God mentions absolutely nothing about the behind-the-scenes wager between God and the accuser. Of course, God doesn’t even begin to explain to Job how the Lord is both good and allows evil. Instead of accusations, God’s questions cause Job to marvel at the One who creates and upholds the universe. […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Job 36-37, Psalm 123
    Elihu reverts to some basic health-and-wealth concepts about God’s justice in today’s discourse (Job 36:6-9). This should cause the reader to wonder, one last time, why Elihu isn’t rebuked by God in the end. I argue that Elihu demonstrates mistaken ideas about God in some particulars, but he is enchanted with God’s total splendor. Elihu, as opposed to Job’s three other friends, talks not as a detached speculator about God’s majesty and power, but […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Job 34-35, Psalm 122
    When God appears to Job later in our book, the Lord rebukes all of Job’s friends except Elihu. Biblical students have argued over God’s silence towards Elihu for many years. Simply, I believe Elihu does improve upon the counsel of the other friends, even if still imperfect in many ways. Elihu makes a point of great strength, which was basically absent from the other’s thoughts, in Job 35:10-11: “But no one says, ‘Where is God my Maker, who gives […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Job 32-33, Psalm 121
    The reason Job’s old friends no longer respond to his defense is “because he was righteous in his own eyes” (Job 32:1). Being called right in one’s own eyes is not complimentary in scripture (Proverbs 21:2, Proverbs 31:12). We are left to guess whether the author of Job intends this statement as negative. We can be certain, however, that Elihu doesn’t realize the irony of his statement, “For I am full of words” (Job 32:18). As readers, we already are […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Job 31, Psalm 120
    Job’s final speech ends with a defense of his righteousness in a number of areas. There would be no “#metoo” campaign if more men related to women like Job, a man who refused to lust (Job 31:1). Job ensures his servants receive their rights (Job 31:13) while his poor neighbors receive mercy in the form of bread and clothing (Job 31:16-20). Job trusts in God and refuses to hope in possessions (Job 31:24), or to make special petitions for blessings […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Job 29-30, Psalm 119
    It is sad to read while Job recollects his better days; especially difficult are the details of his righteous deeds before his great suffering. Job remembers how he “rescued the poor who cried for help” and that he “made the widow’s heart sing” (Job 29:12,13). For Job and other Biblical writers, living by faith isn’t simply about avoiding bad things, but about pursuing justice and showing mercy to others. Many believe that obeying God is all about […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Job 28, Psalm 118
    Job poetically questions how to find wisdom. Since people go digging inside of the earth for precious jewels, Job wonders how we can gain wisdom, something more valuable than rubies (Job 1:18). Though Solomon is much more famous for similar reflections on wisdom, one might wonder whether Job influenced Solomon’s thoughts. One thing is for certain: they both agree on the definition of wisdom, “To fear the Lord” (Job 28:28, see also Proverbs 9:10). We […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Job 27, Psalm 117
    Job expends a great deal of words describing the fate of the wicked. Job shows he understands well the folly of even becoming rich through wicked means. Before he describes the ironies that befall the wicked, such as, “However many his children, their fate is the sword” (Job 27:14), Job makes one simple point about his own goodness. In our translation Job states, “I will never admit you are in the right” (Job 27:5). However, I like the way the ESV […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Job 25-26, Psalm 116
    * Pastor Jeremiah is taking a break for this week in writing the daily blog to accompany your reading. Ralph M. is our guest writer for today’s blog post. One of the big narratives that we have been told about the story of Job is that his friends wanted to blame Job for all of the suffering that have happened to him. Job, on the other hand, wanted to get an answer from God as he continued to claim his innocence. As people removed from the […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Job 22; Psalm 114
    * Pastor Jeremiah is taking a break for this week in writing the daily blog to accompany your reading. Kesny S. is our guest writer for yesterday’s blog post. Because of some technical difficulties, his blog is being retroactively posted today. Have you ever been misunderstood and been judged for things you never did? I assure you God is on your side and will prove you are innocent in due time. Maybe you are judging God for not helping your […]
    * Pastor Jeremiah is taking a break for this week in writing the daily blog to accompany your reading. Scot M. is our guest writer for today’s blog post. God “does whatever he pleases” (Job 23:13). Does that frighten you? It “terrified” Job (23:15), understandably so, for he was in agony because of God’s choices, though he didn’t know why. Yet he had no intention of running from God, like the frightened Israelites in Ex 20:20. Instead, he […]
  • In Case You Missed It – Job 20-21, Psalm 113
    * Pastor Jeremiah is taking a break for this week in writing the daily blog to accompany your reading. Scott A. is our guest writer for today’s blog post. Why do good people suffer, and why do evil people succeed? Zophar provides a simple answer in Job 20. To him, Job’s destruction is from Job’s sin. Earlier, he implored Job to repent of it, yet he just won’t! Eloquently and viscerally, Zophar describes how God punishes the godless person with […]
  • In Case You Missed It – Job 19, Psalm 112
    * Pastor Jeremiah is taking a break for this week in writing the daily blog to accompany your reading. Audrey E. is our guest writer for today’s blog post. The “you” in Job 19:2 is plural. Job’s plea is to all his friends, not just Bildad. “Ten times” in verse 3 figuratively represents ten speeches by friends so far. Verse 6: God is the hunter with Job in the net. Verse 7: God is an unsympathetic passerby ignoring […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Job 16-17; Psalm 110
    * Pastor Jeremiah is taking a break for this week in writing the daily blog to accompany your reading. Mollie H. is our guest writer for today’s blog post. Job has had enough of his exasperating friends! He is turning away from their perspective and towards the God who holds his life. His lament to God is agonizing; he spares no details as he describes to God the effects of what He has done to him. His assertion of innocence is unwavering. Job […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Job 15, Psalm 109
    It would be wrong to say we should never confront someone the way Eliphaz does when he rebukes Job in our reading today, but if you ever do, you’d better be right, and the one you correct had better be very wrong. Eliphaz accuses Job of being unwise (Job 15:1), a foolish talker (Job 15:2), deceitful (Job 15:4), and led astray by sin (Job 15:5). Oh, and Eliphaz also suggests Job is unwilling to listen to the wise, while implicitly suggesting Job is a […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Job 12-14, Psalm 108
    Job succinctly describes the problem with his friends’ counsel when he claims, “You, however, smear me with lies; you are worthless physicians, all of you!” (Job 13:4) Those lies have been about both Job and God. After saying this, Job makes plain what he ultimately longs for, namely an opportunity to make his case before the throne of God. In confidence, Job declares his innocence and his confidence in God’s justice. “Though he slay me, yet […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Job 11, Psalm 107
    If you have ever triggered someone with your words, then you can relate to Zophar’s response to Job. Something Job said so aggravated Zophar that he didn’t even hear Job clearly. Zophar claims Job has said something like, “My beliefs are flawless, and I am pure in your sight.” (Job 11:4). Of course, Job said nothing of the sort in yesterday’s reading. Job insisted God alone is righteous. Thus, Zophar is a great example of failing to fully understand […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Job 9-10, Psalm 106
    Job becomes feistier with his friends today and more accusatory towards God. Job’s basic line of argument today is that God should, “Turn away from me so I can have a moment’s joy.” Why should God do this? Job’s argument works like this: God is more righteous than Job, so Job cannot hope to claim complete innocence before God. God is also wiser than Job and would win any argument. God is stronger than Job, thus he cannot defend himself physically […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Job 8, Psalm 105
    Eliphaz proved pastorally insensitive when addressing Job. Today, Bildad lies about God. Besides the harsh insinuation that Job’s children’s sin was the reason they died, Bildad says something theologically troubling: “If you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your prosperous state. Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be” (Job 8:6-7). This is what we call today “health […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Job 6-7, Psalm 104
    Job says a lot today. He confirms that his frustrations are justified by wondering out loud if a donkey will “bray when it has grass” (Job 6:5). Of course, it doesn’t, and in the same way Job doesn’t question God for no reason. Job also wishes to have God strike him down so he can perish as one confident he has been true to God. After this Job speaks of how horribly his friends are treating him. However, the most dramatic part of Job’s speech comes […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Job 4-5, Psalm 103
    In the first of many responses from Job’s friends, Eliphaz demonstrates what will become an unfortunate habit of Job’s friends. Eliphaz says true things about God which miss the point, for Job doesn’t deny their truth. For example, Eliphaz speaking of evil people’s claims, “At the breath of God they perish.” Job never suggested anyone died except by God’s choice. Eliphaz asks the rhetorical question, “Can a mortal be more righteous than God?” (Job […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Job 3, Psalm 102
    “I wish I had never been born.” “I wish I could just go ahead and die.” These are the sort of phrases we hear when helping the extremely depressed loved ones in our lives. However, when we read about Job asking, “Why did I not perish at birth” (Job 3:11) or suggest he is like, “those who long for death that does not come” (Job 3:21), it is easy to be caught off guard. Many of us, accustomed to happy endings, are uncomfortable with the Bible […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Job 1-2, Psalm 101
    An adequate reflection on Job 1-2 would take pages. I want to simply note today that though “The Accuser” (Satan) is the instigator of Job’s troubles, we must deal with the uncomfortable fact that all Job’s hardships are due God’s choice and actions. Why do I say this? First, this Accuser must ask God’s permission to afflict Job (Job 1:8-12, Job 2:4-7). Secondly, even as he afflicts Job, the accuser recognizes that ultimately it is God’s hand still […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Esther 9-10, Psalm 98
    Yesterday I argued that the Jews, in exile, often showed God’s greatness to the nations better than they did under the Davidic monarchy. The end of Esther reiterates the extent to which one Jewish man showcased God’s work in his life while serving a foreign king. Mordecai is the focus of Esther 10. We are told that his story is written in the chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia. This is a big deal. Many of Israel’s leaders have their names in […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Esther 8, Psalm 97
    A sentence can make us pause and reread a few times to reflect on its meaning; Esther 8:16 made me pause and reread. It says, “The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor.” This is a fairly straightforward sentence except for the usage of the word “light”. Light can mean, in this context, that the Jews had knowledge, for light is often symbolic of knowledge, but I don’t know whether that fits this passage best. Light could refer to how the […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Esther 6-7, Psalm 96
    Esther lived in the days between the beginning of Ezra and the end of Nehemiah. In those two books, a common phrase for God’s favor is “the hand of the Lord”. Today we see God’s hand at work for Esther, Mordecai, and the Jews. King Ahasuerus chooses to read the chronicles which recall Mordecai protecting the king from his treacherous eunuchs. To others, this might have seemed like coincidence, but we should recognize the Lord’s hand in it. When Haman […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Esther 4-5, Psalm 95
    It is strange to think that a king would know so little about the queen he loves that he would issue a decree to exterminate her entire ethnic group, yet this is the situation in which Esther finds herself. When Esther asks her cousin and adoptive father Mordecai about the problem he faces, he tells her the entire story. Note how Mordecai sees the hand of God and communicates this to Esther. First, Mordecai confidently asserts that God will deliver […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Esther 2:19-3:15, Psalm 94
    Every one of us grew up learning about the horrors of the Holocaust and the Nazis’ desire to exterminate the Jewish population in Europe. Sadly, human history is filled with mistreatment of the Jews, even by Christians. Long before the time of Jewish ghettos in large European cities and the persecutions of the mid-1900’s, another tyrant desired to exterminate the Jewish people. Haman’s hatred for Mordecai in our reading leads to the king making an […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Esther 1-2:18, Psalm 93
    I hate to begin a blog post with a caveat, but I really must say something. I have never watched “The Bachelor”. Still, as I was thinking about the process for replacing Queen Vashti, my mind reflected that this show could have looked to Ahasuerus and his officials for a script. It is shocking to me that we live in a culture where the process of replacing Vashti would be deplorable to many of us, yet we endure entertainment built on the same […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Nehemiah 13, Psalm 90
    Very often, even after the hard work is done, there is still work left to do. Nehemiah has led his people to rebuild the walls which protect the holy city. They have found a measure of safety and order. Still, after Nehemiah goes back to Artaxerxes for a time, not a few of Judah’s leaders begin to do dishonorable things in Jerusalem with God’s tithes. Nehemiah has faced incredibly hard work leading a people in the midst of external opposition; upon […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Nehemiah 11-12, Psalm 89
    After rebuilding the walls, the leaders, in addition to ten percent of returned exiles began to live in Jerusalem (Nehemiah 11:1). Why are only ten percent of the people asked to live in Jerusalem? For one, the walls had just been rebuilt, and the city was still very vulnerable; those who stayed in their towns were thankful for those ten percent who moved to Jerusalem. Secondly, it is likely that Jerusalem would require a few more years to establish […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Nehemiah 10, Psalm 88
    Nehemiah, the Levites, and other leaders seal a covenant with their signatures to begin Nehemiah 10. This covenant commits to the stipulations found in the Mosaic law. For today, consider that these leaders “assume responsibility for bringing to the house of the Lord each year the firstfruits of our crops and of every fruit tree” (Nehemiah 10:3). This idea of “firstfruits” plays a prominent role in scripture, representing the gift of their best to […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Nehemiah 9, Psalm 87
    For the second time in the book of Nehemiah, confession of sins plays a predominant role for an entire chapter. What does this tell us about the importance of confession? There are some obvious truths we all understand about confession. For example, we can’t change if we don’t know what we have done wrong. Also, confession acknowledges to the offended party we understand our responsibility. Most importantly, Biblical confession starts from a […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Nehemiah 8, Psalm 86
    Ezra makes his first appearance in the book of Nehemiah while Israel celebrates the Feast of Booths (or Tabernacles). The regulations for this 8-day festival are spelled out in Leviticus 23:33-44. Nehemiah and Ezra call Israel to follow those stipulations, and Israel goes above and beyond in their obedience. Those following Nehemiah’s leadership listen to the law and the scriptures being read for hours and hours. In our day, where many people […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Nehemiah 7, Psalm 85
    Before Nehemiah registers the families that have returned from exile, he places someone in charge of Jerusalem and the shutting of that city’s gates. This person, Hanani, is placed in charge because “because he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most people do.” Character mattered to Nehemiah. He could not imagine charging someone with great responsibility unless they had great integrity and feared God. In the New Testament, when we read […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Nehemiah 5-6, Psalm 84
    When the exiles return to rebuild, some of the wealthier Jews are charging their neighbors interest on loans taken to purchase food. Charging interest to a fellow child of Israel is forbidden in Exodus 22:25, Leviticus 25:36-38, and Deuteronomy 23:20-21. For a devout Jew, charging interest should be a black and white issue. Instead, Nehemiah has to call these wealthier individuals to repent of their greed and understand the price everyone has paid to […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Nehemiah 3-4, Psalm 83
    Those little phrases “next to him” and “after him” repeated so often in Nehemiah 3 paint a picture not simply of walls being rebuilt, but of a human wall doing the work. Nehemiah 3 vividly describes how many different hands are involved in the task of rebuilding. God isn’t just using these people to rebuild a great structure; as they labor, God is also making them strong together. God delights in using our collaboration and teamwork to build what He […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Nehemiah 1-2, Psalm 82
    Ezra ends with the people fasting and turning to God in confession; Nehemiah begins with the main character, Nehemiah, fasting and confessing Israel’s sin, which led to their exile. If you want to know when God is on the move and at work in His people, look for confession of sin and genuine repentance. The truth is, whenever sinful people encounter a Holy God, the fitting response is confession that leads to repentance. Confession alone is not […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Ezra 9-10, Psalm 79
    In early high school, I heard a sermon on Ezra 9 that moved me deeply. One of the preacher’s main points was that Ezra so identified himself with Israel that he couldn’t help confessing sins in anguish which he did not personally commit. Ezra didn’t intermarry with women from foreign nations, but that does not prevent Ezra from speaking of “our sins” and “our guilt” (Ezra 9:6). Why does Ezra confess sins not his own? We cannot easily escape the fact […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Ezra 7-8, Psalm 78
    “The hand of God” is upon Ezra and his companions who returned from exile (Ezra 7:28, 8:31).  God’s favor is stressed twice in today’s reading by the imagery of God’s guiding hand. Since God’s provision, however, is often a major theme in our readings, today I simply note and appreciate some of the cultural distance we experience from many of the Biblical writers by looking at Ezra’s genealogy. Consider how many prior generations are mentioned […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Ezra 5-6, Psalm 77
    God, working through King Cyrus of Persia, brings many Jews back to Jerusalem to build the temple, but that doesn’t mean finishing the work is a foregone conclusion. Yesterday and today we read of ongoing opposition by Persian leaders that slander Judah’s returned exiles. These opponents deceive Artaxerxes, the new king, by persuading him that the continual rebuilding of the temple means God’s people will then refuse to pay taxes. Of course, this is […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Ezra 3-4, Psalm 76
    Explaining someone else’s emotional response is difficult enough. Trying to venture a guess at why someone in the Bible wept thousands of years ago is a fool’s errand. Even so, many have guessed at why these elders and spiritual leaders of Judah weep upon seeing the foundations of the new temple (Ezra 3:10). It could be because the new temple’s foundation seemed small in comparison to the old one, or perhaps there is sorrow for what has been lost. I […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Ezra 1-2, Psalm 75
    2 Chronicles ends with a description of Babylon ransacking Jerusalem, and we know that they destroyed Solomon’s temple in 570 BC. Not too many years later, in 539 BC, the Persians would defeat the Babylonians, and the very Cyrus we read about today is the victorious Persian king. When we begin with Cyrus’ desire to build a new temple in Jerusalem, we can historically locate Ezra’s narrative very easily: in 538 BC Cyrus freed many Hebrews to return to […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Chronicles 35-26, Psalm 72
    Jeremiah writes lamentations over Josiah’s death (2 Chronicles 35:25). These are not the lamentations that make up an entire book of the Bible; those lamentations, which we will read in the future, are written in response to the events described in 2 Chronicles 36. After Josiah passes, Judah’s kings grow evil again and lose their power until they are eventually exiled by Babylon. Judah has seemingly lost the throne that God promised to David and his […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Chronicles 33-34, Psalm 71
    Josiah embraces the law as the unique commands and covenants from the God of the universe. Upon hearing the law read and tearing his robes, Josiah feared the consequences due to generations rejecting God’s laws. Josiah enquires of God’s prophets about Judah’s fate. Unfortunately, Judah, like Israel, has sealed their fate long before Josiah’s time. Josiah will be spared the destruction due Judah, but ultimately, they will face the promised curses for […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Chronicles 31-32, Psalm 70
    I have been redundant in underlining how the Chronicles emphasize their main theme. These books intend to convey through Israel’s history the principle that obedience to God leads to national blessings and that disobedience leads to curses. 2 Chronicles 31 effectively illustrates the positive side of this principle. Consider the words of the priest about the great blessings Israel enjoys and thus offers: “Since the people began to bring their […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Chronicles 29-30, Psalm 69
    If you have any Jewish friends, chances are that they celebrate their holidays. Passover is still a big deal to even non-religious Jews. Today as we read about Hezekiah’s many reforms, he majorly emphasizes Israel’s call to celebrate Passover as one people. They have gone years without observing one of their central celebrations due to lack of emphasis, and one can infer from the passage that a lack of priestly leadership played a role (see rationale […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Chronicles 27-28, Psalm 68
    Sometimes it is good when others say little about us. 2 Chronicles 27 has few words to offer on the life of Jotham, King of Judah. 2 Chronicles 27:6 gives a fit summary of his life: “Jotham grew powerful because he walked steadfastly before the Lord his God.” After these words, we are not told about his moral failures, rejecting God’s prophets, or worshiping gods of the foreign nations. May we live such simple and God-honoring lives that very […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Chronicles 25-26, Psalm 67
    At Agapé Chicago we often talk about how idolatry is not simply about worshiping figures made of sticks and stones. No, idolatry means replacing worship of God with ultimate love or allegiance for anything else. Take note then of these words from a prophet to Amaziah, “Why do you consult this people’s gods, which could not save their own people from your hand?” (2 Chronicles 26:15). To translate this question, we might say something like, “Why do you […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Chronicles 23-24, Psalm 66
    Yesterday’s reading made a big deal out of Ahaziah and Joash surviving enemies from both outside of Judah and inside of the royal family. Today we see some of the resolution of those narratives. God has providentially preserved David’s lineage. In sparing David’s line and giving the throne to Joash, God raises up through Joash’s leadership short-term spiritual vitality in Israel. Unfortunately, after Joash returns Judah to proper worship in his […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Chronicles 21-22, Psalm 65
    No one wants to hear the words, “I wish you were dead”, but these words likely reflect Judah’s thoughts towards Jehoram during much of his reign. We know that no one was sad to see Jehoram die, and he was not honored like the kings of Judah’s past (2 Chronicles 21:19-20). In fact, it seems when Jehoram passed, people were happy. This shows that in addition to Jehoram’s idolatry, injustice characterized his rule. Idolatry and injustice always go […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Chronicles 19-20, Psalm 64
    When the Moabites and Ammonites come to attack Jehoshaphat and Judah, the king calls his people to fast and seek God’s face. Israel, at its best, knew that fasting from food as recognition of their dependence upon God was their wisest course in hard times. Do we have such wisdom? Jesus taught His disciples both then and now how to avoid hypocrisy while fasting (Matthew 6:16-17) and that we ought fast between His ascension and return (Mark 2:19-20). […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Chronicles 17-18, Psalm 63
    I used to read statements like, “Some Philistines brought Jehoshaphat gifts and silver as tribute, and the Arabs brought him flocks” (2 Chronicles 17:11) as incidental to the Biblical story. However, through careful attention to the promises of God, lines like this prove instrumental in grasping the implications of Israel’s moral progression or regression. Ideally, Israel’s obedience and faithfulness would reflect God’s worth to the surrounding […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Chronicles 14-16, Psalm 62
    For many of us, finishing strong will be the most important part of the legacy we leave behind. Asa’s faithfulness to God in his youth gave way to distrust in God’s power at the end of his life. After calling Judah and even some of Israel back to God (see 2 Chronicles 15:9), Asa in fear of defeat makes an unholy alliance with the King of Aram. God is displeased because Asa witnessed God’s ability to defeat great enemies in the past (2 Chronicles […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Chronicles 13, Psalm 61
    The scope of 500,000 casualties is hard for us to fathom, but that is how many Israelites died in a war against their fellow Hebrews from Judah. Now, it is important to remember that ancient Near Easterners rounded their numbers and that no one in the original audience would have read this as a dishonest reporting of casualties if, say, 498,532 people actually had died. It is important to remember our doctrine of inerrancy claims that scripture is […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Chronicles 10-12, Psalm 60
    Solomon’s death isn’t even described in 2 Chronicles. In fact, we aren’t even told how Israel came into the leadership mess of Rehoboam and Jeroboam. The reason is the Chronicles are telling a story not of characters but of the importance of character. Both Rehoboam and Jeroboam are lacking in this regard. Rehoboam is introduced to us as ignoring the wisdom of his elders and former confidantes of wise king Solomon, joining the folly of his fathers by […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Chronicles 9, Psalm 59
    Today’s reading continues to paint the picture of Solomon’s vast wealth and power at the height of his reign. Additionally, foreign leaders seek to understand Solomon’s secrets to greatness. Besides the queen of Sheba (from modern-day Ethiopia), “all the kings of the earth sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God put in his heart” (2 Chronicles 9:23). Not only is God fulfilling HIs promises to bless Israel when they walk in obedience, God […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Chronicles 8, Psalm 58
    Do you remember when Solomon prayed for wisdom instead of great riches or might? Today we see that God, in addition to wisdom, has entrusted Solomon with the wealth and strength he did not pray for. 2 Chronicles 8 relates that Solomon conscripted servants of other nations (8:7) and that Israel had enough people to rebuild fortified cities that could house horses and chariots (8:5-6). Solomon has enough wealth to build a home for his wife, Pharaoh’s […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Chronicles 7, Psalm 57
    In the 19th & 20th centuries, non-believing academics, or even those with secular, miracle-denying worldviews, rejected God’s authorship of the scriptures. Accordingly, they hypothesized various possible sources from which we might have derived the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible) and the theology of later Old Testament scriptures. One famous theory suggested that much of the Pentateuch had four different sources of authorship. To […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Chronicles 5:2-6:42, Psalm 56
    In a few words, Solomon captures helpful insight into God’s omnipresence when he marvels, “But will God really dwell on earth with humans? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” (2 Chronicles 6:18) God is present everywhere, and no place can contain God, but God manifests His presence in unique ways in space and time. Solomon recognizes the unique manifestation of God in the cloud which […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Chronicles 3:1-5:1, Psalm 55
    There are many similarities between the temple Solomon builds and the tabernacle built by Moses. Let’s consider the presence of the golden cherubim (see Exodus 25:18-20, 2 Chronicles 3:10). These creatures represent the angelic beings that circle God’s throne. Their presence in both tabernacle and temple communicates that heaven and earth meet in this place as God dwells in the midst of His people. This is but one example when the particulars […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Chronicles 1-2, Psalm 54
    Solomon makes a great offering before YHWH in the tent of meeting, and God commands Solomon, “Ask me for whatever you want me to give you” (2 Chronicles 1:7). Solomon chooses to ask for wisdom rather than riches or military might, and God commends this choice. Even for us, wisdom is something God is pleased to offer freely to those who ask (James 1:5). Have you considered asking God for wisdom in light of the promises of God? Today I encourage you to […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Chronicles 29, Psalm 51
    David’s famous prayer of contrition for his treachery against Uriah contains this line: “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings” (Psalm 51:16). In the last chapter of 1 Chronicles, however, David delights to make very expensive offerings to help when Solomon builds God’s temple. If God doesn’t delight in offerings, why does David make these incredible offerings? In that same psalm, David […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Chronicles 27-28, Psalm 50
    God forbids that David build His house because David has “shed blood” (1 Chronicles 28:3). What is the significance of this statement, and how does Solomon get a pass for some of the sins he will later commit? Recall that the book of Leviticus draws a great deal of attention to blood. Blood is the life of the body (Leviticus 17:14), a woman’s bloody menstrual discharge makes a woman ceremonially unclean (Leviticus 15:19), and by blood alone is […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Chronicles 25-26, Psalm 49
    What is the importance of naming the musicians, gatekeepers, and treasurers in 1 Chronicles 25-26? Most of our names will never line the history books, which will focus on the likes of Obama and Trump, or Gates and Zuckerberg. Certainly, David and Solomon are the famous names at the end of 1 Chronicles. But God’s call to Israel to be a nation of worshippers that invites the nations to worship YHWH demands hundreds of thousands of people to do the […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Chronicles 23-24, Psalm 48
    Sinatra represented me when he sang, “Chicago is my kind of town.” I love our city. But I have less reason for such enthusiasm about my city than the sons of Korah did for theirs when writing Psalm 48. David’s military successes and the subsequent material glory of Solomon’s reign in Jerusalem form the backdrop for this psalm. More importantly, God’s love for and power on behalf of David enables one to sing that Jerusalem is the “joy of the whole […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Chronicles 22:2-22:19, Psalm 47
    To help you appreciate reading the Chronicles, I have been returning often to what I consider the major theme from these books. David’s words to his son Solomon encapsulate this theme well: “Then you will have success if you are careful to observe the decrees and laws that the Lord gave Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged.” (1 Chronicles 22:13) This is the very message the writer is hoping a Jew living […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Chronicles 20-22:1, Psalm 46
    David foolishly calls for a census, and many Israelites pay the price with their lives (1 Chronicles 21:14). After David witnesses the destruction of the sheep of Israel and beholds this angel of death, he recognizes his guilt. In fact, David questions why the sheep should die when the shepherd is responsible for protecting them (1 Chronicles 21:17). When David asks to die to bear the punishment of his sins and thus abate God’s anger, God […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Chronicles 18. Psalm 45
    In light of yesterday’s reading on God’s promise to David to fill his throne forever, it is fitting that today we turn to Psalm 45, which memorializes a wedding. Many suppose the occasion is Solomon’s wedding to the daughter of Pharaoh, though we cannot be certain. We do know without a doubt the king is in David’s line, for the Sons of Korah were devoted to the southern kingdom, Judah. Whatever the case, this particular psalm has quite the history of […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Chronicles 17, Psalm 44
    1 Chronicles 17 repeats much of the content in 2 Samuel 7. God’s promises to David, given through Nathan, form the foundation for Israel’s future prayers. When Israel, and especially Judah, cry out in prayer years later during their subsequent tragedies, they appeal to God’s promises to David, which remind Israel that God’s reputation is still at stake in delivering, purifying, and strengthening Israel to fulfill them. Moreover, 1 Chronicles 17 […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Chronicles 15-16, Psalm 43
    God’s chosen people certainly had music of their own before David arrived. However, David established music as a central feature in the worship of YHWH. Even in the New Testament when the apostle Paul encourages the church in Colossae to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with grace in their hearts, Paul does so as a Jew formed by the songs of Israel written by David. When he commissions Asaph and his associates to make music, David’s charge […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Chronicles 13-14, Psalm 42
    God strikes down Uzzah for touching the ark, seemingly just to keep it from falling. This might seem an excessive punishment for seeking to protect the ark, but we must understand that Uzzah is breaking at least two commandments related to its proper care. First, Israel should have been carrying the ark with the poles that were part of the entire apparatus (Exodus 25:14-15) instead of pulling it behind the oxen (1 Chronicles 15:15 attests that David […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Chronicles 11-12, Psalm 41
    Every word of scripture is beneficial to our growth, sustenance, and worship (2 Timothy 3:16), but we don’t enjoy reading all scriptures the same way. I discipline myself to reflect on the genealogies of 1 Chronicles because it helps me understand God’s story, and thus my story, better. In contrast, I have a blast reading the stories of David and his mighty men. These individuals are larger than life and reflect God’s providential hand upon David’s […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Chronicles 10, Psalm 40
    The writer of Chronicles tells us, “Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord” (1 Chronicles 10:13). Does that imply that if Saul had been faithful, he would have lived forever? No, the point is that Saul could have enjoyed the victory and blessings due an honorable king of Israel and thus he would have died in peace. Instead, the idolatrous Philistines kill his sons, and Saul commits suicide rather than being taken and executed. All of this […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Chronicles 9, Psalm 39
    2 Kings ended with the leaders of Judah exiled in Babylon along with but a few from the southern kingdom. 1 Chronicles 9 details in brief what the book of Nehemiah will explain in detail. Israelites, Levites, and others charged with caring for temple worship return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. As 1 Chronicles has not been chronicling Israel’s story in chronological order just yet, everything written in this book until today gives a preview of […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Chronicles 7-8, Psalm 38
    David prays in anguish and credits (blames?) God for the suffering he faces in our psalm reading. David declares that God’s “hand has come down on me,” and “because of your wrath, there is no health in my body.” God isn’t the only one David recognizes for his suffering, as he confesses, “My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly.” There is no contradiction when David sings both of God’s judgement and discipline upon him as well as […]
  • In Case You Missed It – 1 Chronicles 5-6, Psalm 37
    Israel (Jacob) had twelve sons, and those sons were the biological pillars for Israel’s twelve tribes. As 1 Chronicles recounts the genealogies for the twelve sons, I have always found it helpful to remember that each tribe had specific places attached to their names in the promised land. (Note: the Levites lived amongst all the tribes, and Manasseh and Ephraim, the sons of Joseph, had elevated status.) These tribes represent not only family names […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Chronicles 3-4, Psalm 36
    In the year 2000, The Prayer of Jabez, based on the brief prayer found in 1 Chronicles 4:10, was published. This book sold millions and made millions simply by dissecting four aspects of this prayer and teaching people to recite Jabez’s words daily. We know that this book found commercial success, but was it successful in showing fidelity to God? God answered Jabez positively in 1 Chronicles 4:10, so isn’t it obvious that something about the […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Chronicles 1-2, Psalm 35
    While reading the selective genealogies found at the beginning of 1 Chronicles, take some time to reflect on how much scriptural ground you have covered. Many of these names should be familiar to you because you have invested the time to attend to God’s story. Also, use this reading to brush up on what you might have forgotten (e.g., “Oh right, Canaan is a son of Ham”). The names and people groups are important in order to remember what […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Kings 23:26-25:30, Psalm 32
    Babylon takes Judah captive, and the line of Judah’s kings comes to an end. 1 & 2 Kings end with one former king of Judah, Jehoiachin, enjoying Babylon’s kindness after he spends significant time in prison. This happens after Jehoiachin’s successor and the Babylonian-appointed final king in Judah, Zedekiah, is brutally murdered along with his sons for insurrection. Judah’s temple has been destroyed, and Israel’s great riches completely […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Kings 22:1-23:25, Psalm 31
    Oh, that more people would respond to God’s word like Josiah! When Josiah has the words of the law read to him, he knows exactly what to do. God’s laws have been disobeyed, the covenant dishonored, and Judah faces judgement at the hands of God. Josiah responds with conviction and destroys all of Judah’s idols and all remnants of their spiritual adultery. Really, this is how any rational person should respond to the words of God, the One who delivered […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Kings 21, Psalm 30
    Manasseh rules Judah in detestable ways, in stark contrast to how his father, Hezekiah, ruled. However, based on Hezekiah’s actions towards the end of his life, we might have suspected this would happen. In yesterday’s reading, after Isaiah warned Hezekiah that Babylon would take all the temple valuables, Hezekiah foolishly revealed his relief that this would not happen in his lifetime: “‘The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Kings 19-20, Psalm 29
    When God denounces Assyria through the prophet Isaiah, He identifies intimately with Judah. God begins by saying “Virgin Daughter Zion despises you and mocks you” (2 Kings 19:20). This is a poetic way to say that Jerusalem, the home of Zion, wants nothing to do with Assyria. Why is this? God says to Assyria, “By your messengers you have ridiculed the Lord” (2 Kings 19:23). In threatening Judah, Assyria has ridiculed God and His power; God will […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Kings 18, Psalm 28
    After the northern kingdom, Israel, has fallen to Assyria, Sennacherib, the Assyrian king, wishes to defeat Judah in the south. The leadership of Hezekiah, the king of Judah, pleases God, but this does not prevent Hezekiah from having to face the insults of Assyria’s chief prince, the Rabshakeh. Hezekiah’s initial actions to bargain with Assyria are disappointing, but Assyria will not accept anything short of complete surrender anyway. The […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Kings 17, Psalm 27
    You have heard the famous line, “You are what you eat.” Long before this became a popular phrase, the Israelites learned, as G.K. Beale says, “we become like what we worship.” When Israel (the northern kingdom) loses its last king, along with any vestiges of its former power, we are told in succinct fashion what has gone wrong: “They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless” (2 Kings 17:15). Israel became like what they worshiped. If […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Kings 15-16, Psalm 26
    The Assyrians begin their captivity of Israel (the northern kingdom), and the king of Judah, Ahaz (over the southern kingdom), wishes to receive protection as a loyal vassal territory under Assyria. Long gone are the days of David and Solomon, along with Israel’s great power and strength. Though the Assyrian captivity is only described in brief detail in our passage, the tragedies of this time will shape Israelite identity in ways similar to Egyptian […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Kings 13-14, Psalm 25
    Some people are known for their kindness or goodness. Names that come to my mind are Harriet Tubman, William Wilberforce, and Corrie ten Boom. More often it seems, people like Hitler, Stalin, and bin Laden are remembered for their evil. Jeroboam, son of Nebat is remembered throughout Israel’s history as the pattern for kings who do evil. In our reading today, Jereboam is referenced four times as a comparison to a new king who maintains Israel’s […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Kings 11-12, Psalm 24
    It is hard to imagine a grandmother being much worse than Athaliah, willing to kill her grandchildren and gain power for herself. Israel’s sovereigns and royal families were genuinely messed up. To me, it is fascinating to see the Israelites record in such detail their shameful history instead of only the events of which they can be proud. For one, we don’t have access to as much ancient history as we would like, so it is amazing to get this much […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Kings 9-10, Psalm 23
    Why do people fall into sin after God uses them to do great things? Consider Jehu, a man whom God uses as an instrument of judgement against the house of Ahab. After God works clearly on Jehu’s behalf, we read these unfortunate words, “Yet Jehu was not careful to keep the law of the Lord” (2 Kings 10:31). Time after time this happens to leaders in Israel. God does mighty deeds for them, through them, and before them, then they fail to obey God’s […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Kings 7-8, Psalm 22
    Imagine yourself in Elisha’s shoes, answering the future madman Hazael. Elisha knows Hazael will murder the present king Ben-Hadad along with many others. In the past, Elisha has used great power to stop evil and evildoers, but God is not commissioning Elisha to stop Hazael in this instance. I think many of us in Elisha’s place would be tempted to take matters into our own hands with violence. Hazael will lead with evil and his reign will produce […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Kings 5-6, Psalm 21
    Naaman, the man Elisha healed of leprosy, seems to his peers to be self-made. His successes on the battlefield have earned him great honor and the favor of the king (2 Kings 5:1). In spite of all Naaman’s successes, he still has leprosy. Like everything else in his life, he believes that if he is going to enjoy a cure, he must make it happen himself. That is why Naaman feels it necessary to pay Elisha for his miraculous work and is so disappointed […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Kings 3-4, Psalm 20
    Before Elijah departs to heaven, Elisha asks to receive a double-portion of Elijah’s spirit (2 Kings 2:9). In addition to receiving a double-portion of Elijah’s spirit, Elisha receives much of Elijah’s ministry. Elisha opposes Joram like Elijah before him opposed Joram’s parents, Ahab and Jezebel. Elisha blesses a woman afflicted by grave sorrows as Elijah did before him. Even though we are in the second of two books named “Kings,” it really is this […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Kings 1-2, Psalm 19
    God takes Elijah to heaven as one of two people who never died (Enoch is the other). Most religious Jews still believe Elijah will return as a precursor to the messiah. Jewish teachers have always had solid reasons to do so; Malachi 4:5-6 claims this very thing. That passage states, “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Kings 22, Psalm 16
    What makes a prophet false? I would argue it is more than just lying or an incorrect prophecy. Fundamentally, prophets are false when they speak without God’s commission. That is, a prophet could be false if, in speaking God’s true words, they do so without God’s sanction. This reflection comes in response to seeing four hundred so-called prophets tell Ahab to go into battle only to have Jehoshaphat retort, “Is there no longer a prophet of the Lord […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Kings 20-21, Psalm 15
    Why does God use a wicked king like Ahab to defeat foreign enemies? Today’s reading gives one answer. God speaks through a prophet these words: “Because the Arameans think the Lord is a god of the hills and not a god of the valleys, I will deliver this vast army into your hands, and you will know that I am the Lord” (1 Kings 20:28). God uses Ahab so that both Ahab and the nations will know the identity of the true God. It really is that simple. God’s […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Kings 18-19, Psalm 14
    Immediately after Elijah embarrasses Ahab and the prophets of Baal by calling fire to consume a water-drenched altar, Elijah despairs. Discouraged, he laments, “I am no better than my ancestors” in a moment where he feels so defeated he wishes to die. This, on first blush, seems incredibly strange considering Elijah’s recent tremendous feat. Even though God is ultimately responsible for this miracle, Elijah has been God’s chosen instrument for many […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Kings 16:21-17:24, Psalm 13
    Elijah performs the first reanimation in scripture for the son of the widow from Zarephath. Reanimation and resurrection are distinct, as will be explained in later readings. Instead of focusing on this great miracle, I want to note God’s surprising choice of Zarephath as the location for the extraordinary signs we read about today. Zarephath was located in Sidon, a place characterized by Baal worship. This widow would not have been Jewish. While […]
  • In Case You Missed It – 1 Kings 15:1-16:20, Psalm 12
    In chapter 15, we pick up the story with the ascension of Rehoboam’s son to the throne of Judah. Tragically, we learn that Abijam followed in his father’s footsteps, walking “in all the sins that his father did before him” (15:3). Despite this family legacy, however, Abijam’s son Asa “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (15:11) and began an aggressive campaign of reform. Asa banished cultic prostitutes and abolished idolatry, even removing […]
  • In Case You Missed It – 1 Kings 14, Psalm 11
    My father and I look very similar. So similar that on two separate occasions I have been in public and people have walked up to me and said, “You are Bill’s son.” Indeed, I am. You can imagine my surprise of being identified in a moment that I was not expecting. Now put yourself in Jeroboam’s wife’s shoes. She has traveled far from home and disguised her appearance. She arrives to her destination and a blind man, who has never met her, calls out her […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Kings 12-13, Psalm 10
    Since the time of the Judges, there was tension between the northern and southern tribes. So, Rehoboam chooses an historically sacred city, Shechem (Joshua 24), for his inauguration ceremony to appease those in the north. When Jeroboam and the assembly of Israel request their heavy yoke be lightened, Rehoboam tells them to return in 3 days. Rehoboam rejects the counsel of the elder statesmen who served his father, Solomon (1 Kings 4:1-6) and […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Kings 10-11, Psalm 9
    In our time in Proverbs, we saw that wisdom comes from the fear of the Lord, from dwelling in the Lord’s words and statues. I find the progression from 1 Kings 10 to 11 ironic and deeply humbling. In chapter 10, the Queen of Sheba is so utterly astonished by Solomon’s wisdom that she delivers gifts upon gifts to him and Israel. Solomon has been richly blessed with knowledge, fortune, and fame beyond imagination. Surely, he of all people would […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Kings 8-9, Psalm 8
    One of the major theological motifs that we find in this portion of scripture is Covenant. This divine–human covenant is seen clearly in 1 Kings 8-9 as the ark of the covenant returns to its prescribed home, met with an atmosphere of gratitude, hope, worship and celebration! This reality of divine–human relationship is a concept we find throughout the biblical record. It never ceases to amaze and humble me. When I read Solomon’s prayer of […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Kings 7, Psalm 7
    Solomon has built his temple, and in 1 Kings 7:13-51 the author describes all the items that will furnish it. Just as the temple was meant to be an earthly representation of God’s heavenly dwelling, so everything in it was designed to illustrate God’s holiness, glory, and supremacy. It is interesting, though, that the author divides the descriptions of the building of the temple in chapter 6 and its furnishing in the latter half of chapter 7. Between […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Kings 5-6, Psalm 6
    The hearts where Yahweh lives are beautiful. David had wanted to build a temple for God for many years, a sacred place where Israel could worship God. He desired for his people to intimately experience Yahweh. God promised David that his son would build the temple. David died leaving the nation in peace for his son’s reign, and Yahweh marked this new era with Solomon building the temple. Solomon built the temple to display God’s glory. He wanted the […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Kings 3-4, Psalm 5
    I was curious about the Bible as a child, but one of its first stories that made me uneasy was the dispute involving two women and maternal rights to a living child. Solomon resolves this problem by offering to cut the child up so both women could have equal parts. Of course, we know how the story ends. As a youth, I couldn’t believe that some woman would be willing to see a child chopped to pieces just for simple mathematical justice. As I grew […]
  • In Case You Missed It – 1 Kings 1-2, Psalm 4
    Israel reached the height of her power during the reigns of David and Solomon, though the transition between these two kings was not seamless. On top of having a rebellious son try to usurp his authority again, David has to deal with prior injustices once and for all. David commissions Solomon to deal wisely with Joab and Shimei and to ensure they experience just retribution for their crimes before they die. In all these events surrounding the sad […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Samuel 24, Psalm 1
    Since the details of David’s census will be revisited in 1 Chronicles 21, I want to focus today on some of the last words in 2 Samuel. When David comes to build an altar and make sacrifices at Araunah’s threshing floor, David refuses Araunah’s gift of animals for the sacrifice with these words: “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24). After seeing the ups and […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Samuel 23:8-39, Proverbs 31:10-31
    Proverbs focuses on wisdom and often personifies wisdom as feminine. Thus, it is fitting this book ends by discussing feminine wisdom in the “wife of a noble character.” Proverbs 31 has always been a favorite of women in the church. Paying attention to the message therein challenges our inattention to and cluelessness about what it means to be feminine. Though not all women are wives, all women can be nobly wise in working unto God. This particular […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Samuel 22:1-23:7, Proverbs 31:1-9
    Have you ever heard someone say the Bible is mostly metaphorical? I hope none of us would say something that does such injustice to the scriptures we have been reading. David does, however, write an extended metaphor to describe God’s actions on behalf of Israel. Note what a metaphor actually looks like. We read lines like, “Out of the brightness of his presence bolts of lightning blazed forth.” David is using this imagery to describe God’s powerful […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Samuel 21, Proverbs 30
    How many of us would ever pray like Agur does about wealth? I cannot fathom ever saying to God, “give me neither poverty nor riches” (Proverbs 30:8). Of course, I would pray against poverty, but my assumption is that I would do just fine with riches, thank you very much. The truth is, however, in acquiring wealth or through having wealth, God is relegated to an inferior priority in the vast majority of cases. While gaining wealth, many work longer […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Samuel 19-20, Proverbs 29
    If we thought all would be well for David and Israel after Absalom’s death, it is obvious we were mistaken. Joab has gone out of control. Since Absalom’s rebellion, others like Sheba rebel, and Israel’s internal friction escalates again. David’s authority has deteriorated from the days Israel enjoyed great internal peace and power over their enemies. Many still disrespect David and his throne. As we read the proverbs of Solomon (David’s son), one can […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Samuel 17-28, Proverbs 28
    Proverbs 28 begins with this puzzling proverb: “The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” Why would someone flee when there is no danger? Simply put, wicked people often assume everyone else is like them. Someone who covets others’ possessions and even steals believes that their neighbor also wants their stuff, so they live in fear of what others might do to them. Wickedness breeds distrust. On the other hand, […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Samuel 15-16, Proverbs 27
    Absalom chases David out of Jerusalem, and as David flees he has a few interesting encounters. Today I will focus on David’s interaction with Ittai the Gittite. A Gittite is someone from Gath, the very home of Goliath himself. As David is forced out of town by his son Absalom, you would think that the Gittites would revel in David’s shame. Yet these foreigners show a loyalty to David that reminds us of the loyalty which Ruth, a Moabite, showed to […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Samuel 13-14, Proverbs 26
    As David witnesses the beginnings of Nathan’s prophecy about his own household bringing calamity upon him, I want to focus on an interesting coupling of proverbs. First, Proverbs 26:4 reads, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.” This idea is simple: if you try to correct a fool or get into a disagreement with a fool over their foolish actions, you might just prove to be a fool yourself. Getting into a […]
  • In Case You Missed It – 2 Samuel 12, Proverbs 25
    Nathan’s prophecy against David exemplifies a kind of wise confrontation that I believe is similar in many ways to Jesus’ parables. Consider the artfulness of Nathan’s rebuke of David’s behavior. Nathan tells a story that outrages David. In David’s incensed state he learns from Nathan that the story is actually about his own behavior against Uriah. David has lost all wiggle room to be defensive and justify his actions. David exclaims that this […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Samuel 10-11, Proverbs 24:23-34
    Over the years, I have heard many sermons which focus on all of David’s sins in 2 Samuel 11 leading up to his treachery against Uriah. Many note David sending Joab to battle for Israel instead of doing his duty as king. Others focus on how lust gets the better of David, and he transgresses against the commandment against adultery. The list continues, of course. Today I want to suggest that we have known for some time that these events would been […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Samuel 8-9, Proverbs 24:1-22
    The writer tells us twice that Mephibosheth is lame in both feet. Why is this important? Before the story of Mephibosheth, in 2 Samuel 8, David conquers his strong enemies and their great armies. Still, David’s greatest enemy thus far proved to be the former king, Saul, who sought to kill David, but David refused to kill him because of Saul’s position. If David wanted to finally get revenge against Saul’s family, nothing could signal Mephibosheth’s […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Samuel 5-7, Proverbs 23
    God makes an unconditional covenant with David reminiscent of the ones made to Abraham on a few occasions in Genesis. When David desires to build a house for the ark of God, God’s prophet Nathan warns against such an action. Speaking the words of YHWH to David, Nathan explains that God has never asked for a house to be built for Him. Rather, God intends to build a house for David instead, one that will last forever; David’s house will not be a […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Samuel 3-4, Proverbs 22:17-19
    David will not tolerate vigilante justice against his foes. When David is brought Ish-Bosheth’s head by Rekab and Baanah, he has them executed for murder. Upholding justice is a key part of being a righteous king over Israel. In the face of much antagonism, David has been unwavering in his devotion to the crown and to Saul’s family. Now David will take over as one who has shown commitment to upholding justice towards all fellow Israelites. There are […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 2 Samuel 1-2, Proverbs 22:1-16
    As Israel continues to have an authority crisis at the beginning of 2 Samuel, I would like to focus elsewhere for a belated Father’s Day post based on a famous proverb. Proverbs 22:6 states, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” For years I have heard people question their past parenting because they have witnessed their own children abandon faith in God and deviate from virtue. One of […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Samuel 30-31, Proverbs 19
    Our world has been at war for some time now. The end of 1 Samuel is about the first two kings of Israel waging war on two different fronts. 1 Samuel 30 tells of David and his followers going back to Ziklag to find their property and their families, which were raided by the Amalekites. David eventually overtakes the Amalekites and recovers all property for his people. 1 Samuel 31 briefs us on Saul and his sons being defeated by the Philistines. The […]
  • In Case You Missed — 1 Samuel 28-29, Proverbs 18
    The witch of Endor conjuring Samuel on behalf of Saul has always been interesting to me. How does a witch, whom God opposes, conjure Samuel, who is dead? What does this tell us about the afterlife? Before the events of our reading there is little said in the Old Testament about what happens to people when they die. This story suggests that people continue in some fashion after death. Jesus later confirms this truth while arguing for the resurrection […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Samuel 26-27, Proverbs 17
    David is a war hero made to feel unsafe in his own homeland. Saul continues to pursue David even after being spared. In 1 Samuel 26, David refuses to kill Saul again, out of principle, for he does not believe in killing God’s anointed. It is no wonder God delights so much in David. God loves great character, and today I want to call us as a church to reflect on how it takes similar character to fulfill Proverbs 17:9. This verse reads, “Whoever would […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Samuel 24-25, Proverbs 16
    I have had several disagreements about whether the Bible clearly denounces polygamy. Today, I will keep my response to such arguments by simply focusing on David and the fact that God loved him so much in spite of his polygamous ways. Long before David was born, God spelled out expectations for a king in Deuteronomy 17:14-17. These included “He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray” (Deuteronomy 17:17). Though our passage does not […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Samuel 22-23, Proverbs 15:30-33
    Saul’s unwillingness to kill Ahimelek as well as the guards’ refusal should have been enough to give Saul pause before killing God’s priest. Yet Saul’s blind rage has led him to join forces with a man named Doeg, an Edomite. An Edomite is someone from the region south of what is now Israel. Doeg would have known nothing of YHWH and shows little respect for God’s priest and the town of Nob, even killing women and children. Again, a leader of Israel […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Samuel 20-21, Proverbs 15:1-29
    Perhaps David coined the phrase, “You’re driving me crazy.” Well, probably not, but he certainly would have been right to speak the Hebrew version of that phrase to Saul. Saul, on the other hand, has much to be thankful for in David. David has played music to cure Saul of wicked spirits and has defeated many Philistines in battle, including Saul’s great enemy Goliath. David is husband to Saul’s daughter Michal and best friend to Saul’s son Jonathan. […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Samuel 18-19, Proverbs 14
    Today I want to step away from Israel’s history and the starkly different first two kings of Israel, Saul and David. Though we have been reading the Proverbs for some time, one set of proverbs allows me to show in part how to read this book. Proverbs are sayings of wisdom that will reflect how the wise understand the world to generally work. These proverbs are meant to help us live with care. Proverbs 14:20-21 tells us, “The poor are […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Samuel 16-17, Proverbs 13
    Like in a typical sermon, I want to make three points from our Samuel reading today. First, God prioritizes the heart. I will just let God’s words to Samuel teach us about priorities: “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). As a pastor, I can never emphasize enough the fact only God’s opinion truly matters. It is good news that God values something […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Samuel 14:49-15:35, Proverbs 12
    As Saul contends for his good intentions in today’s reading, Samuel’s reply leads with the question, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord?” (1 Samuel 15:22) As Samuel answers his own question, we learn something essential about relating to God. Obedience to God is valuable in and of itself, but sacrifice isn’t. The only reason animal sacrifices were valuable to God is because He commanded them for […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Samuel 13:1-14:48, Proverbs 11
    If it were possible, Saul would have done well to reflect on the Psalms of his successor David. One line in particular stands out as a great caution against Saul’s behaviors: “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Saul just could not be patient. We first encounter Saul’s impatience in his disobedient sacrifices following Samuel’s delay (1 Samuel 13:8-14). In response God tells Saul that he loses out on an incredible […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Samuel 10-12, Proverbs 10
    A funny thing happens as Samuel chooses by lot Israel’s new king. Samuel picked the tribe of Benjamin by lot, then the clan of the Matrites by lot, until finally Saul son of Kish was selected to be the new king. There is only a small problem: Saul has decided to hide. In fact, we are told in 1 Samuel 10:22 he is hiding in the “supplies” (also translated baggage or equipment). Saul so fears being king that he hopes to escape his new role by playing […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Samuel 8-9, Proverbs 9
    When Israel demands that Samuel find them a king, they have a mixture of good and bad intentions. Samuel’s sons are not worthy to rule, so Israel rightly expects Samuel to refuse passing leadership to his children. Yet in diagnosing this leadership problem, Israel chooses a faulty remedy by demanding a king immediately. If God had not spoken to Samuel against Israel’s longing for a king, the astute student of scripture might see little problem with […]
  • In Case You Missed It — 1 Samuel 6-7, Proverbs 8
    When the Philistines decide to return the ark to Israel, they consult their priests and prophets. These Philistine spiritual guides plan to discern whether YHWH’s judgement has caused all their problems with tumors and deaths. They tie the ark plus their offerings onto a cart pulled by inexperienced and directionless calves to see if YHWH will guide these calves back to the people of Beth Shemesh and Israel. How did the Philistine priests come up […]
  • June 7th: 1 Samuel 4:1(b)- 5:12 Proverbs 7
    Two nations learn hard lessons about the power of God’s presence. God chose to manifest His glory and holiness to Israel through the ark. Yet Israel and her leaders assume the ark is theirs to wield for whatever purposes they have in mind. Also we already know that Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas openly desecrate God’s tabernacle, and thus disregard God on a regular basis. Those two sons demonstrate incredible gall in believing just taking God’s […]
  • (no title) Post 659
    June 6th: 1 Samuel 2:12-4:1(a), Proverbs 6:20-35 Aaron’s chief priestly descendants have become deeply wicked. The sons of Eli disregard laws about proper sacrifices to God, intimidate objectors to their dishonorable practices, and have illicit sexual liaisons right outside the tent of meeting. God’s priesthood and his tabernacle are being actively desecrated by these “scoundrels” (1 Samuel 2:12-25). It is no surprise that God intends to put these […]
  • (no title) Post 658
    June 5th: 1 Samuel, 1-2:11, Proverbs 5:1-6:19 A number of clues in our 1 Samuel reading signify something special in Israel’s history is about to take place. First, we encounter Hannah, a barren woman who longs for a child, hearkening back to Sarah before giving birth to Isaac. Secondly, we see that Hannah is a favored wife like Rachel was with Jacob, likewise unable to have the child see longs to see. Lastly, God grants Hannah’s prayer and gives her […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Ruth 4, Proverbs 2
    Whoever wrote Ruth undoubtedly had the ending of the story in mind as they begun penning this brief book. It demonstrates themes like lovingkindness and the benefits of obeying God’s laws. Still, the great Biblical significance of Ruth and Boaz has to do with their great-grandson, King David. Yes, God provides for destitute Naomi and Ruth, and yes, Ruth shows hesed to Naomi. Of course, Boaz fulfills the obligations of a goel in a time where many […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Ruth 3, Proverbs 1:8-33
    God does not have a speaking part in the story of Ruth. I use this as an excuse for my past under-appreciation for the character and wisdom of Boaz. God does not speak about Boaz’s positive traits the way He does in the scriptures about Abraham, Moses, David, and Job. Our reading today, along with Boaz’s role in the big story of the Bible, are enough to see God’s favor toward this man. In today’s reading, Boaz wakes up to find Ruth at his feet, […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Ruth 2, Proverbs 1:1-7
    Since our Ruth reading is fairly straightforward, I want to focus on the significance of a rare word that reveals the significance of Boaz’s actions. That word, goel, translated “kinsman redeemer” is found in Ruth 2:20. A goel has legal expectations to care for their kinsmen who have fallen on hard times. Since Boaz was part of Elimelek’s (Ruth’s deceased father-in-law) clan, he knew his obligations as kinsman-redeemer. When Boaz treats Ruth with […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Ruth 1, Psalm 150
    During the time of the Judges, a family went from Bethlehem (meaning “house of bread)” to the land of Moab. Elimelech (meaning “God is my King”) and Naomi (meaning “pleasant’) left the land of promise because of a famine. Bethlehem did not live up to its name. In the story of Ruth, misery immediately attacks this family in Moab. Elimelech and his two sons die, leaving three women without husbands, and thus incredibly vulnerable. Naomi indicates the […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Judges 20-21, Psalm 147
    Consider just how differently we feel about our Revolutionary War against Britain and our Civil War. We celebrate our independence yearly on the fourth of July with ice cream, watermelon, and fireworks. At the same time, our Civil War and the reasons for that division still contribute to our great shame. At the beginning of Judges, Israel enjoyed a clear purpose: to gain land and freedom for themselves. Israel ends Judges by waging a massive civil […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Judges 19, Psalm 146
    A few years ago, as we prepared to focus our preaching on Judges, I thought about calling the series “Breaking Bad: Israel in the Time of Judges”. Like in the famous TV show about a chemist gone bad, Israel grows increasingly evil from beginning to end. So many failures found in Judges are repeated in what we read today. Yesterday we read about a Levite abdicating responsibility as God’s priest, and today we encounter another evil Levite. Today a […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Judges 17-18, Psalm 145
    Micah and his mother have a very strange interaction. We would think it odd for a mother to be pleased with her son simply for returning silver he had stolen, but that is exactly how she responds. She even takes more than a tithe of that silver to construct an idol for Micah to worship. The following line concerning Micah’s idolatry fittingly captures one of Judges’s themes: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit” (Judges […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Judges 15-16, Psalm 144
    Judges 15:20 tells how Samson led Israel for 20 years during the times of the Philistines. Unlike past judges, who galvanized Israelite armies and invoked the name of YHWH on their behalf, Samson engages in minor skirmishes. These include tying foxes’ tails together with torches for revenge. These fights have less to do with military strategy and more to do with Samson’s playboy ways. Samson has greater physical strength than any person in Israel’s […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Judges 13-14, Psalm 143
    Samson is born to lead Israel’s deliverance from the rule of the Philistines (Judges 12:5). The sheer strength Samson demonstrates in killing 30 men by himself (not to mention many more to come) at the end of our reading shows the sort of leader he could have been. Instead the character issues that plague Samson’s life will end up preventing him from winning anything more than a few minor skirmishes. The first sign something is amiss is Samson’s […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Judges 10:6-12:15, Psalm 142
    Two tragic events occur while Jephthah is judge. The second tragic event chronologically occurs as Gilead and the Ephraimites go to battle, Israelite against Israelite, and 42,000 Ephraimites are killed. This number tells us that a large portion of Ephraim’s tribe was destroyed. Yet the first tragic event portrays the decay of Israel’s understanding of YHWH just as profoundly. This is of course the vow Jephthah made about sacrificing the first […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Judges 9-10:5, Psalm 141
    Israel’s treachery swells during the time of Abimelek, son of Gideon. After Abimelek kills all but one of his brothers, the surviving brother, Jotham, recites a fable predicting Abimelek’s destruction. This fable then warns that the people of Shechem and Beth Millo will face destruction also because they have anointed a poisonous leader. Don’t let this aspect of the fable go unnoticed: “the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves” (Judges […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Judges 8, Psalm 140
    After Gideon defeats Zebah and Zalmunna, Israel is bent on folly, calling upon Gideon to be their king without seeking guidance from YHWH. Thankfully Gideon refuses this uncalled-for coronation; unfortunately, however, he forms other plans which exploit his newfound status. Gideon already has possession of camel’s jewelry belonging to Zebah and Zalmunna, but desiring more jewelry, he asks the victorious soldiers for one earring per person. […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Judges 6-7, Psalm 139
    By the days of Gideon, Israel had not only become comfortable with idolatry, they had forgotten true worship altogether. The presence of idols is obvious because Gideon has to destroy the idols belonging to his city and family. Perhaps more distressing, Gideon’s interaction with the angel of the Lord and God indicates that he knows little about God’s ways at all. Gideon, unsure what to do, brings a food offering to the angel of the Lord, suspecting […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Judges 3:6-5:31, Psalm 138
    We must understand that the book of Judges is not written with a perfectly linear timeline. Some of the wars and reigns of Judges overlap in time because different tribes of Israel were simultaneously at war with unique Canaanite peoples. That will help you make sense of the many years that seem to pass. In fact, if we do the math from our reading today, we would believe that our events cover 188 years, but this is not the case. With that noted, I […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Judges 2:6-3:5, Psalm 137
    The writer of Judges plainly spells out God’s purposes for the generation after Joshua and also tells us why this new generation failed. Joshua’s generation did not completely drive out the Canaanites, for God had two purposes in allowing a Canaanite remnant. God intended to train a new Israelite generation in warfare and to test this generation’s faithfulness to God (Judges 3:2 and 3:5). Israel would have their fill of war, but they would also fail […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Judges 1-2:5, Psalm 134
    Agapé Chicago’s main preaching diet in September 2015-February 2016 came from the book of Judges. The main idea for that sermon series was: God’s rule leads to freedom, but our will leads to bondage. This is an adequate summary of the message found in Judges. The book of Joshua, just before Judges, speaks of how much Israel did to accomplish God’s command to dispossess the Canaanites; however, the beginning of Judges tells how Israel stops short of […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Joshua 24, Psalm 133
    Even though we are just finishing the sixth book of the Bible, we have already read a few brief summaries of Israel’s history like the one found in Joshua 24. This consistent recounting of Israel’s history is important for community formation and also staying true to God. Israel’s history has been a few hundred years long, so it is impressive to find a few words that summarize Israel’s situation so well as Joshua 24:13. God says, “ So I gave you a […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Joshua 22-23, Psalm 132
    In Joshua 23 Israel almost experiences a civil war between tribes living on different sides of the Jordan River. This event shows us two practices of Israel which please God. First, they do not tolerate idolatry. The tribes living on the east side of the river have grave concerns over the building of an altar to rival the altar to YHWH already built. These concerned tribes do not wish to repeat of the sins of Achan and others, so they are willing to […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Joshua 20-21, Psalm 131
    Israel obeys God and establishes the locations for the cities of refuge while ensuring that the Levites have lands among the tribes. Considering Israel’s recent history and future actions, Israel by and large seems to be realizing the blessings of obeying God as promised in Deuteronomy. This leads one to ask, “Why was the generation of Joshua and Caleb so different from other generations of Israel?” Joshua does not seem to have experienced anything […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Joshua 18-19, Psalm 130
    Joshua helps the remaining Israelite tribes acquire and divvy up last of the lands. As Joshua wraps up this work, let me summarize my extended argument about God’s justice in Joshua and His purposes in using Israel to drive out and dispossess the Canaanites living in the land of promise. God wills to bless the world through Israel, as Israel is blessed by God to become holy. God intends to use Israel not because Israel is great, but because God loves […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Joshua 16-17, Psalm 129
    Israel continues to divide up the land of Canaan, and we continue to know God’s ways in delivering Canaan into Israel’s hands. Today, I will offer one last truth before tomorrow’s summary of our discussion on God’s justice in the book of Joshua. God’s intrinsic and infinite goodness necessitates that God’s judgements and actions are always good. This is of course a statement of faith based on scripture’s testimony about God’s character. Though I end […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Joshua 14-15, Psalm 128
    As today’s reading shows, Israel has a great number of families by time they arrive in the land of promise. As we continue through Israel’s conquest of Canaan, let me add yet another layer of truth to help us understand God’s work in this book: God’s right to use Israel to remove, judge, and punish the Canaanites is equivalent to God’s right to do the same through other means. YHWH”s rights as creator, sustainer, and judge accord with Him sending a […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Joshua 13, Psalm 127
    In Joshua’s later years, we are told that God still has more land for Israel to settle. As you read today, let me take a step back from the details of the story and insist on one truth about God’s purposes as Israel dispossesses the Canaanites: God is protecting Israel from Canaanite corruption, and thus protecting the world from Canaanite corruption. The Canaanites deserve punishment, but God does not direct Israel to destroy them for this reason […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Joshua 11-12, Psalm 126
    Reading the list of kings in Canaan killed leads to the question, “What right does Israel have to destroy these kings and take their land?” This question naturally segues to today’s truth: On top of other evils committed, the Canaanites wrongfully were trespassers on Israel’s land. God promises the land to Abraham (Genesis 12:7, Genesis 17:7-8), then to Isaac (Genesis 26:3-4), and finally to Jacob (Genesis 28:13, Genesis 35:11-12). Abraham and Jacob […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Joshua 9-10, Psalm 125
    In our reading today, the Gibeonites deceive Israel, and the sun stands still. The Gibeonites prove that God will show mercy to those who will recognize YHWH’s lordship, even if they do so with cunning and trickery. Today let me continue to defend God’s righteousness in using Israel to expel the Canaanites. Today’s truth is: God intends for Israel to dispossess the Canaanites and kill those that fight Israel; but God does not intend the complete […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Joshua 8, Psalm 124
    Israel sacks Ai in our reading today, and this compels us to continue to reflect on what God is doing through Israel’s expulsion of the Canaanites. Before I add another truth, I want to acknowledge the work of Matt Flanagan and Paul Copan in their book Did God Really Command Genocide? If you desire more help on this topic, their insight has proven helpful to me. Today’s truth is: Canaan is being dispossessed because they commit atrocious evil. […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Joshua 5:13-7:26, Psalm 123
    Today I begin an extended argument which defends God’s justice in calling Israel to violently dispossess the Canaanites. In the next few days, I will highlight one truth per day in hopes of amassing an adequate defense against the charge that God commands genocide, as well as widespread claims that YHWH is morally corrupt in the book of Joshua. Today’s truth is: Israel is dispossessing the land because the Canaanites are evil, not because Israel is […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Joshua 3-5:12, Psalm 122
    Echoes of Israel’s Exodus abound in today’s reading from Joshua. The parting of the Jordan River recalls God taking Israel through the Red Sea. Joshua and the people of Israel commemorate Passover. Finally, God tells Joshua to call the place of Israel’s circumcision “Gilgal” (this word sounds like “rolled” in Hebrew) because God has “rolled away” Egypt’s reproach (Joshua 5:9). God makes a point effectively; at the Exodus, God takes Israel out of […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Joshua 2, Psalm 121
    Rahab welcomes the Israelite spies into her home, protects them, and declares her belief that their God, YHWH, is the true God. Rahab is clearly a hero—a Canaanite prostitute hero. Considering that, were she an Israelite, Rahab’s vocation would cause her to be stoned according to Leviticus’ laws, one would be rightfully perplexed at her elevation. What does it mean that the book of Joshua treats Rahab as a hero, and one who will become even greater […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Joshua 1, Psalm 120
    The book of Joshua begins according to plan. God promises to grant Israel the land (Joshua 1:2-5) and to be with Israel wherever they go (vv. 5,9). Israel accepts Joshua’s leadership and vows to listen to Joshua as God’s appointed messenger, threatening any opponents with death (vv. 16-18). In ironic fashion Israel vows, “Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so will we obey you” (v. 17). This should be the first hint for us to expect more of the same […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Deuteronomy 34, Psalm 117
    Today our reading includes the last chapter of the Torah (also called the Pentateuch), as well was the shortest chapter in the Bible (Psalm 117). Besides this trivial information, we learn that when the end of Deuteronomy is written, Israel hasn’t seen a prophet who has known God face-to-face like Moses (Deuteronomy 34:10). Whoever wrote this last chapter in Deuteronomy— whether it was Joshua, Ezra, or someone else—we see how important Moses’ work […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Deuteronomy 31:30-33:29, Psalm 116
    The NIV (the version of the Bible we use) gives an interesting translation in Deuteronomy 32:17. It reads, “They sacrificed to false gods, which are not God.” Those two words, “false gods,” are translated from the Hebrew word shedim. This word appears only twice in the Old Testament, and it is certain that this word is best translated “demons”, not “false gods”. Though the surrounding context is about idolatry, Moses’ song reveals that […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Deuteronomy 31:1-29, Psalm 115
    Different variations of an old blessing go something like this: “May God go before you on your journey and be the last one to finish.” Really, this blessing could rephrase God’s promises to Israel in Deuteronomy 31:8. Yet even God’s presence isn’t enough to keep Israel from wandering from Him. In fact, Israel will forsake God, meet with destruction for their idolatry, and then blame their sufferings on God’s palpable absence (Deuteronomy 31:16-17). […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Deuteronomy 29-30, Psalm 114
    Moses speaks to Israel and reminds them that their eyes have seen God’s deliverance out of Egypt (Deuteronomy 29:2). Immediately after saying this, Moses presents a paradox, “But to this day the Lord has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear.” (Deuteronomy 29:4) Isaiah 6:9-10 and Matthew 13:14-15 revisit this idea. Whatever it means to be able to see and not see, hear and not hear, we can certainly say that God has […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Deuteronomy 27-28, Psalm 113
    If you can read the curses of Deuteronomy 28 without grimacing, you can endure gruesome imagery better than most. The idea of fathers and mothers refusing to share meat from the bodies of their deceased children with their surviving children paints a graphic picture of Israel’s potential utter desolation (Deuteronomy 28:52-57). The preponderance of curses leads one to infer that God is warning Israel not simply that they might disobey God’s commands, […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Deuteronomy 26, Psalm 112
    The people of Israel make a visible act of faith by offering to God their firstfruits, whereby they acknowledge God’s past provision and reveal trust for future provision. In our reading today, as the people offer firstfruits to the priest, they are to recite the story of God’s goodness to their ancestor Jacob (who was renamed Israel) and to recount their redemption by God from Egyptian slavery (Deuteronomy 26:1-11) God is giving Israel a story to […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Deuteronomy 24-25, Psalm 111
    God prohibits newly married men from “being sent to war” by Israel; moreover, He exempts a man from “any other duty” during the first year of his marriage (Deuteronomy 24:5). Certainly, Israelite men would have done normal work around the home, shielding their family from ruin during this time. This command doesn’t permit men to become massive couch potatoes but gives space for flourishing in early marriage. Contrary to this practice, we take little […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Deuteronomy 23, Psalm 110
    We could address one of the many interesting laws found in Deuteronomy 23—especially the law prohibiting charging interest on loans to fellow Israelites—but Psalm 110 is too important to pass up. To understand Jesus’ self-perception and revelation about His identity, we need familiarity with this psalm; in the New Testament, Jesus and His early followers refer to Psalm 110 more often than any other. This psalm of David begins with a cryptic […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Deuteronomy 21-22, Psalm 109
    Some of the laws relating to marrying foreign wives (e.g., Deuteronomy 21:10-14) and laws assuming multiple wives (e.g., Deuteronomy 21:15-17) make necessary a reminder about some truths about the law. First, we know that the laws of God are good (Psalm 19:7-8) and that to denigrate the importance of any of God’s commandments diminishes the accomplishments of Jesus (Matthew 5:17-18). At the same time, we also know that God gave certain laws to make […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Deuteronomy 19-20, Psalm 108
    Deuteronomy 19:21 commands what many have called lex talionis, the law of retaliation. Strict retaliation demands that whatever someone steals, they also lose, whether money or body parts. Jesus famously addresses lex talionis in the Sermon on the Mount, instructing his disciples not to return equal punishment on those that harm them (Matthew 5:38-42). Many people misunderstand what Jesus is doing. Jesus is not calling into question the justice of […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Deuteronomy 16:18-18:22, Psalm 107
    God promises kings and a great prophet for Israel in today’s Deuteronomy reading. Without a doubt the early church saw Jesus as the prophet like Moses from Deuteronomy 18:15-19 (see Acts 3:22-24, Acts 7:37). Today I want to focus on the commands for the kings that are to lead Israel when the people are safely in their land. A king “must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray” (Deuteronomy 17:17). This command should alarm anyone […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Deuteronomy 14:3-16:7, Psalm 106
    (Today is Easter, yet our passages do not have much reflection on Jesus’ rising from the dead. ) Today, I want to focus on two interesting statements in Deuteronomy 15. Following the mandate to forgive all debts after 7 years in Israel, the people are encouraged with these words: “However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, He will richly bless you” (v. 4). God will […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Deuteronomy 12-14:2, Psalm 105
    Many modern readers grimace when reading that Deuteronomy 13 commands the death penalty for idolatry. For one reason, it’s because many of us realize how flippantly we treat the worship of God above all other living or created things. We cringe thinking that normal practices  around us and even those normal for us would have led an Israelite to public execution. One might counter, “No, we are just being compassionate.” If you believe you fit […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Deuteronomy 10-11, Psalm 104
    God doesn’t just want Israel to read His words; He desires that Israel be immersed in them. God also wants Israel to immerse their children in all that He has done and in all that He teaches (Deuteronomy 11:18). Many of us imagine that a little bit of scripture-reading will fulfill our Bible-reading duties. The truth is, God wants our thoughts, imaginations, and actions to be shaped through intimate knowledge of His word. We are, like Israel, to keep […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Deuteronomy 8-9, Psalm 103
    Every Sunday our church hears, “Man does not live by bread alone,” and responds, “But man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” These phrases are most famously stated by Jesus when He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness. When Jesus, starving and being encouraged to change stones into bread to satiate His hunger, says this, He is quoting Deuteronomy 8:3. In today’s passage, surrounding this famous line, God provides Israel […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Deuteronomy 6-7, Psalm 102
    Deuteronomy 6:4-5 recounts the famous shema. Shema is the Hebrew word for “hear”. What exactly is Israel meant to hear? First, they are to hear that God is “one”. That means God is unique, and YHWH is above all others. God is also indivisible, for there is no other God, and God has unity in purpose, direction, and love. This understanding of YHWH will set Israel apart. Secondly Israel is to hear they are to obey God with all their hearts, souls, and […]
  • April 11: Deuteronomy 4:44- 5:33, Psalm 101
    Moses tells the story of receiving the 10 words (also known as the 10 commandments) and repeats them in our reading today. God speaks after the people request Moses to approach YHWH again on their behalf and we learn some of what God expects for Israel. First we know that YHWH desires Israel to pay attention to His commands and to obey (Deuteronomy 5:22-23). We also learn that God desires that Israel would have hearts devoted to Him that it might go […]
  • April 10th Deuteronomy 4:1-43, Psalm 100
    Israel is called to teach future generations everything we have read in the first four books of the Bible. God expects multi-generational instruction of Israel’s laws, history, and worship practices.  YHWH commands, “Teach them to your children and to their children after them” (Deuteronomy 4:9).  The mere repetition in this chapter of those concepts relating to children, generations, and instruction make it clear that God has a plan that […]
  • April 9th – Deuteronomy 2-3, Psalm 99
    Psalm 99 captures the truth that our lives reflect the stories we believe. Don’t take my use of the word story negatively, because there are true stories.  This Psalm calls to attention that God is worthy of worship in the heavens by angels, in Israel’s holy city, and by the nations.  We are reminded that God spoke to Israel’s great leaders and that Israel obeyed their God.  We are even told that God could both forgive and punish […]
  • April 8th – Deuteronomy 1, Psalm 98
    It is good to recognize when God fulfills His promises.  In our first reading in Deuteronomy, Moses recognizes God’s faithfulness when recounting Israel’s recent history.  Moses demonstrates he has internalized the fulfillment of one of God’s promises to Abraham and connected that promise to his own life story. When Moses addresses his inability to lead Israel without delegating responsibility, his reason for choosing new leaders is that […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Numbers 36, Psalm 95
    God is great. We often bristle at bringing concerns or frustrations to others, and sometimes to God especially. Though we may not say it, we seem to think God doesn’t care about our little business, so we don’t seek God in our distress. Numbers 36 ends with a simple concern about the possible loss of land for Manasseh’s tribe. The tribe of Manasseh, son of Joseph, has already received provision for some daughters of Zelophehad to preserve their […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Number 34-35, Psalm 94
    “Innocent until proven guilty” — a common phrase that describes our best ideals concerning justice. In many ways, seeds of that concept are embedded in legal provisions found in Numbers 35, thousands of years before the above phrase became popular. The cities of refuge and the laws preventing execution without at least two witnesses prove that God wants to protect Israel from complete vigilante justice. Though an “avenger” could legally take the life […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Numbers 32-33, Psalm 93
    “The Lord reigns,” begins Psalm 93, and the phrase adequately summarizes the details recounted in Numbers 33. God took a massive people —likely over two million of them—delivered them from slavery, protected them in the wilderness, and now intends to give them the promised land. However, He commands them to drive the Canaanites out of the land first. YHWH Himself placed the Canaanites in the land for the allotted period, and now YHWH wishes to give […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Numbers 30-31, Psalm 92
    Numbers 31 gives some backstory for the events that occurred earlier in the book of Numbers. God commands Israel in chapter 31 to attack and defeat the Midianites. In addition to the Midianite kings, one other person is killed by Israel: Balaam, son of Beor (Numbers 31:8). In Numbers 22-24 the Midianite King Balak summoned Balaam to curse Israel, but Balaam refused, knowing that YHWH blessed Israel and would not curse them. So why does Israel put […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Numbers 28-29, Psalm 91
    Today, I would like to focus in on Psalm 91 since the yearly offerings given in Numbers are easy to understand. Psalm 91 makes incredible promises to those that trust in God. These promises include: “No harm will overtake you”, “You will tread on the lion and the cobra”.  How do we read such promises in light of Jesus’ warning to his disciples that they will suffer? Also remember the words of the apostle Paul, “In fact, everyone who wants to […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Numbers 26-27, Psalm 90
    Israel takes a census twice in the book of Numbers: the first, to prepare Israel for battle, and this second, to give fair allotment in Israel’s promised land (Numbers 26:52-56). Interestingly, the population of men above twenty years of age has hardly changed. There were 603,550 before, and now there are 601,730. The names of the leaders of Israel, however, have changed quite a bit. Only Joshua and Caleb still remain as leaders of the tribes. In […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Number 25, Psalm 89
    Place yourself in the shoes of Phinehas, son of Eleazer. Your people, the Israelites, are experiencing a great plague, and thousands are dying. You know why this is happening: your brothers are involved in adultery and idolatry. As you and your people are weeping for the great loss of kin, a fellow Israelite and his mistress walk past fellow mourners, flaunting his disregard for all the pain and suffering. You know that he and other kinsman indulging […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Number 22-24, Psalm 88
    Israel has grown great in number, and foreign nations fear them, so the Moabite King, Balak, pursues a prophet named Balaam to curse Israel. In spite of this, Balaam prophesies after hearing directly from YHWH. Since YHWH will not curse Israel, Balaam has no power to do so, and thus Balak remains frustrated. One of Balaam’s messages clearly distinguishes YHWH from other gods (Numbers 23:18-20): “Arise, Balak, and listen; hear me, son of Zippor. God […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Numbers 20-21, Psalm 87
    Moses has been God’s chosen prophet for Israel to deliver them from Egypt, receive the law, and begin the march towards God’s land of promise. In all of this, Moses has consistently, though not perfectly, walked in faithfulness with God and with love towards Israel. Today’s reading details the event that led God to forbid Moses from entering the promised land. But what exactly is the problem? After another example of Israel complaining about what […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Numbers 18-19, Psalm 86
    After God details all the ways in which He includes a portion for the Levites through Israel’s various offerings, He makes a very interesting command. God tells Aaron that he will have no inheritance in the land of promise because “I am your share and inheritance among the Israelites” (Numbers 18:20). Curiously, much of Numbers 18 describes how God does provide an inheritance for Aaron and the Levites. God is making a straightforward point: He is the […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Numbers 16-17, Psalm 85
    We humans can be irrational creatures, and if the events of Numbers 16 truly indicate humanity’s posture towards God and godly leadership, then “irrational” might be an understatement. As a younger man, I read stories of Israel’s unfaithfulness towards God with an incredulous posture, believing that these Israelites were incredibly thick people. Now I just think they were human. I do not intend to be overly dour towards our race, but I must […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Numbers 15, Psalm 84
    If I had to predict what stuck out to you while reading Numbers 15, I am sure the capital punishment for sabbath-breaking provoked reflection on the importance of the fourth commandment. Also, you might be having difficulty imagining how Israel remembered all the sacrifices they were to offer. Though we could spend more time on those particulars, I want to highlight a recurring theme in Numbers. Three times in today’s chapter, God reiterates that […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Number 13-14, Psalm 83
    Déja vu happens in the Bible, too. Many of the details of this story should remind you of the end of Exodus. God is preparing Israel for a new gift—this time a promised land—but the people of Israel doubt His power to deliver it, believing the messengers’ report that the peoples of the land of Canaan are too great. Instead of building a golden calf before receiving the law, the people rebel against God and His prophet Moses, rejecting the advice of […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Numbers 11-12, Psalm82
    In Numbers 11, Israel grumbles against God for not providing them meat. Their desire for it becomes strong enough that they even wish for the days of Egypt, essentially crying out to return to slavery. Due to their complaining, Moses makes a complaint to God for having him lead Israel all by himself; we may infer that Moses fears they will try to take his life (Numbers 11:15). God decides to empower other leaders through his own Spirit to share in […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Psalm 9:15-10, Psalm 81
    Many of us wish God would lead us like God leads Israel out of Sinai. We would all like a cloud to guide our next steps, especially one that becomes fire at night. It seems these circumstances we motivate us to obey all that God says and provide great clarity in life. However, as we will see, Israel often broke fellowship with God and became disappointed while this cloud directed them. Hundreds of years in the future, in today’s Psalm, an “unknown […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Numbers 8-9:14, Psalm 80
    The annual Passover celebration date given in Numbers is based on a calendar determined by the waxing and waning of the moon, as opposed to our calendar, which is founded upon earth’s revolution around the sun. That is why Passover and therefore Easter fall on different dates in our calendar every year. We celebrate Easter in proximity to Passover because Jesus took a Passover meal on the night He was betrayed by Judas. Passover’s importance to […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Number 7, Psalm 79
    When life is going poorly, it is natural to long for better days in the past. Psalm 79, however, isn’t nostalgic as it addresses the pain of Israel’s loss of their great temple, likely at the hands of Babylon. Instead of looking with fondness backwards, Psalm 79 recognizes Israel’s past sins with regret (Psalm 79:8-10). Very easily the Psalm could have focused on Israel’s better days, like those we read about in Numbers 7. In that chapter, Israel is […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Numbers 5-6, Psalm 78
    For today’s reading, I know the section concerning the test for the unfaithful wife (Numbers 5:11-31) stands out for many of us and begs explanation. This might seem an unfair embarrassment for wives and proof that sexism was not only alive and well in Israel, but codified in their laws. Let me do my best in very short space to help explain why that isn’t so. This “test” ensures a number of things: 1) Jealousy doesn’t destroy unnecessarily. Often […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Numbers 3-4, Psalm 77
    Numbers chapters 3 and 4 are simply about numbering the Levites and prescribing their work for moving the tabernacle and executing ritual worship. Note the rationale for setting aside the Levites for preserving tabernacle worship in Numbers 3:11-13: “The Lord also said to Moses, 12 “I have taken the Levites from among the Israelites in place of the first male offspring of every Israelite woman. The Levites are mine, 13 for all the firstborn are mine. […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Numbers 1-2, Psalm 76
    Since Exodus 19, Israel hasn’t moved from Sinai, but that will change in the book of Numbers. Before God leads Israel away, they need to be prepared to move and know how to move. Numbers 1 tells us Moses and Aaron are commanded to take a census in order to prepare Israel for the protection they will need. When they move as such a large nation, they will be in danger of attack by foreign peoples who feel threatened, just as Egypt felt threatened by […]
  • Catch-up Days — March 15th and 16th
    There are no devotionals scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. Use these days to catch up on our readings in Leviticus and meditate on Psalms 74 and 75. […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Leviticus 27, Psalm 73
    Many describe the last chapter in Leviticus as an appendix to the book. Though this chapter does not fit naturally into the flow of the story, its purpose in Israel’s worship is clear. People could make donations of sacrifices to Israel’s tabernacle worship and even make vows of lifelong service. However, since people may have wanted to purchase back any donated property (redemption) or even buy themselves out of a vow they had made, Leviticus ends […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Leviticus 26-27, Psalm 72
    Leviticus begins with explanations of the different sacrifices which Israel is to bring to the priests. This constitutes a natural literary transition from the description of the construction of the tabernacle and the making of priestly garments at the end of Exodus. Building from sacrifices to descriptions of priestly function to clean and unclean practices, Leviticus finds its thematic focus in Leviticus 16, describing practices for the day of […]
  • In Case You MIssed It — Leviticus 24:10-25:55, Psalm 71
    Modern readers experience great dissonance when reading the end of Leviticus 24 along with Leviticus 25. The stoning in chapter 24 proves that God will not tolerate evil near His tabernacling presence, and the jubilee shows that God expects radical generosity and concern for neighbors where He dwells. Your most conservative friend would never imagine making a law to execute those who blaspheme God; your most progressive friend would never come up […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Leviticus 23-24:9, Psalm 70
    Israel kept a calendar in the days of Moses to commemorate God’s great works; Passover, Yom Kippur, and the Sabbath persist as a regular part of Jewish life together over 3,000 years later. In Leviticus, God gave Israel these holidays as disciplines that would place their focus on God and His salvation both weekly and yearly. The day of atonement would draw attention to the gravity of sin and God granting access to His presence. Passover would recall […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Leviticus 21-22, Psalm 69
    In Leviticus, God gives some laws common in a democratic government, like “Do not steal”. However, the laws foreign to us—for instance, to execute the daughter of a priest if she becomes a prostitute—reflect life under what we would call a “theocracy”, a government under God’s rule. The people believed that God alone could judge right and wrong and that they must obey His commands because they knew His power, rule, and salvation. Hardly anyone today […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Leviticus 19-20, Psalm 68
    Leviticus 19 includes many of what we call the Ten Commandments in its various commands. These commands from Exodus 20 form the foundation of Israel’s legal code. Leviticus 20 reveals the punishments God demands for breaking some of the commands we have already seen. Today, I want to reflect on one law which will aid our understanding of an upcoming book of the Bible (Ruth), as well as God’s unique expectations for Israel. God prohibits anyone from […]
  • Leviticus 15-16, Psalm 66
    Leviticus 16 reminds us of why Nadab and Abihu died. Without seeking God, they determined their own path to God’s presence (Leviticus 16:1). Today we read about the institution of the holiday that is most central to Israel’s calendar year, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. As opposed to Nadab and Abihu’s approach, this day conveys God alone can grant access to His glorious presence. Leviticus 16 shows God’s particular plan for how the priest, a new […]
    When I was young, I would ask Bible teachers why God gave the laws found in Leviticus. Many of my teachers were very practical. My teachers told me how animals not properly cooked could cause sickness if eaten. Some informed me that if someone with a skin disease were not quarantined, this would endanger all of Israel. When it came to mold, they told me it was good to address mold like we do today, by trying to get rid of it. Certainly God is a […]
    Leviticus 11-12, Psalm 64 L. Michael Morales has helped my understanding of Leviticus 11-12, so many of my thoughts  reflect his today. Leviticus helps Israel begin to make two sets of distinctions for their tabernacle worship. The first distinction is between Holy and common, and the second is between clean and unclean. All common objects can be either clean or unclean. The problem with a common, unclean object is not in being necessarily bad, […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Leviticus 10, Psalm 63
    Today in Leviticus God’s anger arises. This is, for most of us, a little uncomfortable. Don’t mistake me—I’m not trying to judge God in my discomfort. Rather, I recognize that taking the Bible seriously means that I must have a healthy fear of God. My discomfort stems from realizing how often I break God’s commands, and thus I wonder how I have avoided the same fate as Nadab and Abihu. Reading about their destruction reminds the reader that what we […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Leviticus 8-9, Psalm 62
    Today’s reading in Leviticus describes a one-time event. Up until this point, Leviticus has described proper procedures for ongoing sacrifices. Today, however, recounts the installation and ordination of Aaron and his children as the priests of Israel. This is an eight-day event. The first day, the Levites receive the appropriate clothing and sacrifice to prepare them their institution. Priestly garments, sacrifices, and even blood smeared on […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Leviticus 6:8-7:38, Psalm 61
    At this point in the book, in my past studies in Leviticus I started to lose track of the offerings. For ease, just remember there are five major offerings: burnt, grain, fellowship, sin, and guilt. Our reading today simply explains how the priests were to execute the reception and offering of the sacrifices on behalf of the people of Israel. Every sacrifice mentioned today has already been discussed; we just learn how the priests are to do their […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Leviticus 5:14-6:7, Psalm 60
    The “guilt offering” called for restitution for what has been lost or harmed in sin, plus twenty percent value in addition to the animal sacrifice (Leviticus 5:16, 6:5). More than with the other sacrifices, it seems that the guilt offering concerned human justice, providing other considerations to injured parties. The extra fifth payment demonstrates God’s recognition that damaged property has value above simple replacement costs. If someone steals […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Leviticus 4:1-5:14, Psalm 59
    At this point. you might be asking, “Why so many sacrifices?” or “Why these sacrifices at all?” My hope is that you will receive clear answers to these questions in later reflections. Today, let’s focus on the “guilt sacrifice”. Note the specific prescriptions for making sacrifices when priests sinned. The most Holy Place’s veil was to be sprinkled by blood (Leviticus 4:6); a priest’s sin defiled the tabernacle where they worked, so even the […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Leviticus 3, Psalm 58
    Sometimes keeping God’s commands allows reciprocal communication between God and His people. That was the case for the sacrifice called the “peace” or “fellowship” offering. Leviticus 3 does not spell this out so clearly, but when God received this offering, the giver could partake of eating the leftovers of the sacrifice. This offering communicated something of God’s posture towards humanity: God desires fellowship with us. He is willing to eat a […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Leviticus 1-2, Psalm 55
    Leviticus begins by explaining how to offer burnt offerings and grain offerings. The process is easy enough to follow, and I hope to help you understand the purpose of these offerings. Although the passage does not inform us why the burnt offerings or grain offerings are given, it does divulge that these offerings are “an aroma pleasing to the Lord”—God accepted these sacrifices with pleasure. The burnt offering would have cost the giver greatly […]
  • Catch Up Days — Friday 2/24 and Saturday 2/25
    This Friday and Saturday will allow you to catch up on readings in Exodus and the Psalms you may have missed over the past few weeks. Devotionals in Leviticus will begin on Sunday the 26th. […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Exodus 40, Psalm 54
    Exodus ends with a sober reminder. After the completion of the tabernacle, obeying all that God commands, Moses cannot enter the tent of meeting any longer. Why is this? Because God’s glorious presence in the cloud has settled upon the tabernacle (Exodus 40:38). Even Moses cannot be present where God dwells in all of HIs glory. So how can God’s people remain in the presence of the Lord? Exodus does not resolve this problem; we must wait for clearer […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Exodus 39, Psalm 53
    While the priests are clothing themselves for the ministry of making offerings to the Lord in Exodus, Psalm 53 teaches that there is something within all of us that clothes cannot cover. Though David begins by calling atheism foolish, mainly he reproves all our hearts. Some would suggest that David’s description of human motives is bleak and that he minimizes our goodness, but the apostle Paul agrees with David (Romans 3:10-12). Jewish and Christian […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Exodus 37-38, Psalm 52
    As the tabernacle is being completed according to God’s command, let’s turn our attention to another of David’s psalms. The majority of this psalm concerns someone David plainly dislikes. The heading informs us that it was written “When Doeg the Edomite had gone to Saul and told him: ‘David has gone to the house of Ahimelek.’” David writes this song looking forward to how “God will bring you down to everlasting ruin” and to a time where “the […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Exodus 35-36, Psalm 51
    Since the rest of Exodus focuses on Israel obeying God and building the tabernacle as commanded in Exodus 24-31, I will focus on Psalm 51 today. However, in Exodus 36:5-7, note that Israel eagerly responds to God’s lovingkindness and brings more offerings than necessary, reflecting a revival in Israel. Israel’s great King David wrote today’s psalm after committing great sin. Since we will read that story later, it is enough to say that you will be […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Exodus 34, Psalm 50
    After Moses goes up on Mt. Sinai with freshly cut tablets to receive God’s law again, he returns literally glowing in the face because, we are told, he had spoken with the Lord (Exodus 34:29-30). We may pause and ask how Moses earlier is said to have spoken with God face to face (Exodus 33:11) even though we are also told that no one may look at God’s face and live. This language simply expresses intimacy. This is not meant to convey that Moses saw […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Exodus 32-33, Psalm 49
    In past readings, we have seen God’s lovingkindness towards His people; He pardons Abraham’s cowardice, does not hold Jacob’s deceptions against him, and uses Moses despite his lack of faith. In today’s reading God intends to inflict upon Israel the punishment due for their infidelity (Exodus 32:9-10). Note how Moses petitions God to spare Israel, consistently citing God’s name and character. Moses suggests that the Egyptians will have grounds for […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Exodus 30-31, Psalm 48
    Three parts of our reading interest me today: First, the half-shekel ransom for lives when taking a census includes an interesting stipulation: a command that the rich and poor pay the same amount (Exodus 30:1-14). For other offerings, by contrast, God expects the wealthier to make larger sacrifices or contributions. However, this offering reminds everyone that when Israel counts men in preparation for battle or in planning some massive project, it […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Exodus 28-29, Psalm 47
    Remember that Moses and Aaron are descendants of Levi, a son of Jacob. These two chapters in Exodus establish the Levites’ role as the priestly family for Israel moving forward. The priests are to offer sacrifices on behalf of Israel for the covering of sins and for participation in fellowship with God. Yet the priests themselves, set apart though they are, still must make preparation to stand before God with appropriate clothing (Exodus 28) and […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Exodus 26-27, Psalm 46
    When reading about the building of the tabernacle and ark, it is easy to get carried away with seeking symbolic meanings. Indeed, we can gain insight into the significance of the objects and their shapes by consulting other scriptural passages and searching through history. Very often, however, we just don’t know the meaning God has attached to particular objects. When God is silent, speculation can often lead us awry. It is better to appreciate the […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Exodus 24:12-25:40, Psalm 45
    I am neither builder nor artist. Like many of you, I would rather read stories than architectural detail and descriptions of decor. Unlike us, the first Old Testament readers would have been clued into the importance of the details of the tabernacle, which form the main focus of Exodus in its final chapters. The tabernacle is the place where God would dwell with Israel, and thus where heaven meets earth. Consequently, Moses and early Israel would […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Exodus 24:1-11, Psalm 44
    Today’s Exodus reading is hard to follow, but the whole of that short passage is important. Let me do my best to help the reader understand. It is easiest to interpret the action if you pair the events of verses 1-2 with those in verses 9-11, while treating 3-8 as necessary preparation for verses 9-11. God tells Moses to bring companions with him further up Mount Sinai, but Moses alone is to approach God (vss. 1-2). When Moses and company […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Exodus 21-23, Psalm 43
    Exodus 21-23 contains further provisions about how God’s people are to live. It’s very easy to breeze through this passage, skimming over the laws to get back to the promised land narrative. However, doing so means missing out on deeper knowledge about the Lord. As we dwell on this passage, a few themes emerge. The first is God’s commitment to justice. When the Israelites wrong one another, God demands that the one who was wronged be restored in […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Exodus 19-20, Psalm 42
    In Exodus 19, God uses three different titles for Israel: “My own possession,” “a kingdom of priests,” and “a holy nation,” provided that they obey. A relationship specific to the covenant, Israel was God’s possession—a special treasure. As a kingdom of priests, the nation is to be an intermediary between foreign peoples and God, and as a holy nation, to be separate from evil unto a holy God. To His people, God gives the Ten Commandments, found […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Exodus 17:8-18:27, Psalm 41
    A banner in ancient times was a standard carried at the front of a military grouping. It was the rallying point, and it showed the line of march. It wasn’t necessarily a flag; it could have been a pole with a bright ornament on top that shone in the sun. When in battle, soldiers would look over in the midst of the confusion and see the king’s banner held high, and they would fight with courage and confidence. In Exodus 17:8-16, Israel is […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Exodus 15:22-17:7, Psalm 40
    Today’s passage focuses on God’s provision. Moses has led the Israelites out of Egypt into the wilderness, and now they must rely completely on what God provides. After they have traveled in the desert for some time, food sources run low and the people begin to question God and Moses’ leadership. The nation of Israel has been freed from slavery, but now they entertain the idea that it would have been better to stay in bondage than to die of hunger […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Exodus 15:1-21, Psalm 39
    In Exodus 15:1-21, Israel respond to their triumph over the Egyptians and crossing the Red Sea. This is a song of victory and praise together. Israel had heard of God, but they had not yet witnessed who Yahweh truly is. Restoring Israel from Egypt through signs and wonders, God has established who He is to Israel—King over Pharaoh and his gods and King over nature. Israel can’t help but burst into praise. In the song, Moses highlights two […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Exodus 12: 31-14:31, Psalm 38
    The Word of God continues to take us on this incredible journey recorded in the book of Exodus! The twin themes of redemption and deliverance from bondage are central to the theology and history of the Old Testament. God will honor His covenantal promises to the Patriarchs as He molds Israel into a holy nation. The Passover experience has exclusively bound these people together. They have received instructions for annual commemoration of The Lord’s […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Exodus 12:1-30, Psalm 37
    Today’s verses from Exodus comprise one of the most significant passages in the entire Bible. You might be surprised to find out that our celebration of communion is connected to the celebration of Passover; in fact, the Last Supper is Jesus celebrating the Passover with his disciples. Or you might have read through this well-known passage in a hurry to get it over with. Slow down and take notice. Take notice that God makes a promise and is faithful […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Exodus 10-11, Psalm 36
    Exodus 10 and 11 chronicle the eighth and ninth plagues and the prophecy of the tenth and final plague, leading into the Passover. As Moses interacts with Pharaoh, notice that the Egyptian king refuses to truly surrender to the Lord, trying to bargain his way to salvation before the plagues arrive. In both cases, Pharaoh is still trying to hold on to power. We often struggle with this desire ourselves; in our surrender, we still try to hang on to […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Exodus 6:28-9:35, Psalm 35
    As Exodus 6 draws to a close, we leave Moses in a great deal of uncertainty. He’s discouraged that God’s intervention in Israel’s slavery only seems to have made things worse, and he is also discouraged by what he perceives as his own ineptitude. “The people of Israel have not listened to me,” he laments; “How then shall Pharaoh listen to me?” Beginning in chapter 7, God gives His response.  Over the next three chapters, we witness God […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Exodus 5-6:27, Psalm 34
    Scripture says, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; like rivers of water, He turns it wherever He wishes” (Proverbs 21:1). It is God who hardens Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 4:21-23) when Moses and Aaron go to him with God’s command: “Let My people go…”  When the Hebrew foremen appeal to and try to reason with Pharaoh (Ex. 5:15-16), it is God who moves Pharaoh to respond negatively towards […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Exodus 3-4, Psalm 33
    The scene has been set, and the story of Exodus continues. Chapters 3 and 4 describe God’s calling on Moses’s life. Moses, now a shepherd serving his new father-in-law, is out watching his flock when he notices a flame within a bush that was not consuming the plant. Through this sign God confronts Moses and reveals His plan for rescuing the Israelites from the Egyptians. However, fear grips Moses when God conveys his role: to confront Pharaoh and […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Exodus 1-2, Psalm 32
    Exodus is the second book written by Moses, and unlike in Genesis, he is a main character in this narrative. Exodus, meaning “departure,” is about Israel’s redemption. Keep this in mind as you begin to read. The children of Israel live well during Joseph’s lifetime, but when Joseph dies, things change for them under the new king (1:8). Pharaoh the Egyptian oppresses Israel, and after a time he begins killing their male children, attempting to […]
  • Catch Up Days — January 30th and 31st
    Dear friends, as we’ve reached the conclusion of Genesis, use today and Tuesday to catch up on the reading plan if you’ve fallen behind. We’ll post devotionals again beginning this Wednesday, February 1st with reflections on Exodus and the Psalms. […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Genesis 49-50, Psalm 29
    As Genesis draws to a close, Jacob draws his sons together and speaks prophetic blessings that will set the stage for the twelve tribes of Israel. While all of the brothers have some role in the Israelite kingdom, Judah and Joseph receive incredibly significant blessings.  Jacob recognizes that Joseph is already very fruitful, having been saved from the hatred of his brothers, and calls many blessings upon him and his descendants. Judah’s […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Genesis 47-48, Psalm 28
    After the dramatic climax of Joseph’s story (the emotional grand reveal and reunion in chapters 45-46), it would be easy to gloss over the next few chapters as little more than a mundane epilogue. In these chapters, however, God transforms what should have been a tragedy into a blessing for His people. God is able to use the brothers’ betrayal of Joseph both to provide for Joseph and to secure a future for the entire nation of Israel. Writing […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Genesis 45-46, Psalm 27
    We arrive today at the climax of the Joseph narrative. Joseph discloses his identity to his brothers, but first he dismisses his Egyptian attendants. After hearing Judah’s speech (ch. 44), Joseph releases his emotions, weeping loudly. Joseph’s first words are not about himself but about his father. He asks, “Is my father still alive?” (After Judah’s speech about their father, why does Joseph ask this question? The word […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Genesis 43-44, Psalm 26
    Genesis 43-44 continues the events surrounding Joseph and his brothers that began in chapter 42. Much of this story describes the internal battle that Joseph was going through. On one hand, he desires to reconcile the relationship with his family. To this end, on two separate occasions Joseph provides their much-needed grain while secretly returning their money, and he also throws a lavish feast in their honor. On the other hand, Joseph seems to be […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Genesis 41-42, Psalm 25
    In Genesis 41-42, after a long time of afflictions and waiting, Joseph’s life is about to take a turn. Pharaoh, the prince of Egypt, is faced with dreams impossible to interpret (Genesis 41:1-8). Driven by fear and troubled, he asks Joseph for the meaning of the dreams (Genesis 41:15). “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer,” says Joseph (Genesis 41:16). Joseph gives us two principles for today: 1) God is all-knowing, and 2) […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Genesis 39-40, Psalm 24
    The events unfolding in the story of Joseph are preparing him for a much greater role in God’s sovereign plan for His chosen people. The scriptures tell us repeatedly that “The Lord was with Joseph; He gave him success in all he did, and He prospered not only Joseph but the household he served.” The treasure Joseph possessed, which no betrayal, false accusation or unjust imprisonment could ever diminish, was the presence of God in his life! Joseph […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Genesis 37:2-38:30, Psalm 23
    “And [Joseph’s brothers] took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it. Then they sat down to eat” (Genesis 37:24-25a). Joseph’s brothers are, to the bone, evil. They took their brother and threw him into a pit—one deep enough that you cannot climb out. Keep in mind that Joseph did not hit water, but solid ground. And his brothers “sat down to eat” food likely brought by Joseph […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Genesis 36:1-37:1, Psalm 22
    Genesis 36 closes the story of Esau. Moving forward, Genesis focuses on Jacob and his family. Before leaving Esau, today’s chapter lists many kings already coming through the line of Abraham, as promised, but just through Esau’s family (Genesis 36:31). Today I focus on the words of a much greater king in Abraham’s line: David. Psalm 22 is famous because its first words are also those that Jesus cried in his dying breaths on the cross (Psalm 22:1, […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Genesis 34-35, Psalm 21
    Certainly Genesis 34 is the sort of thing you would expect to see in a TV drama. Rape, revenge, family honor, and plot twists are all the rage in our Netflix queue, but this story happens to real people. A woman is raped, and a whole group of people pay the ultimate penalty for the sins of their kinsman. This is not easy reading in absence of God’s clear thoughts on these matters. The ancient world, like ours, is characterized by evil and brutality. […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Genesis 32-33, Psalm 20
    Today Jacob continues his trek back to the land of Canaan. Before he arrives, Jacob makes preparations in case his older brother Esau does not receive him warmly. To Jacob’s surprise, God—called the “God of Jacob” in our Psalm reading for today (Psalm 20:1)—has softened Esau over the years. Esau has his own blessings and does not need Jacob’s riches. God shows kindness to both when the formerly murderous brother welcomes his younger brother home in […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Genesis 29-31, Psalm 19
    In case you’re inclined to write a romance novel based on ancient traditions, you could borrow from some of our reading today. We are told, “Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, ‘I will work for seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.” Certainly there is romance in this, even if arranged marriage is foreign to us. Everything else is a romantic disaster. Rachel’s father, Laban, deceives Jacob and gives him his daughter Leah instead. […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Genesis 27 & 28, Psalm 18
    Psalm 18:26 communicates one way in which God deals with humanity: “to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.” God demonstrates shrewdness towards Isaac; through deviousness, Isaac would persuade his wife Rebekah to lie about being his sister, and through shrewdness, God gives Isaac’s blessing to his less preferred son. However, this story of Jacob taking Esau’s blessing is not a “what goes around, comes around” […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Genesis 25:19-26:35, Psalm 17
    Today’s reading shows the sins of a father repeated by his child. Isaac pulls Abraham’s old trick by pretending Rebekah is his sister (Genesis 26:6-11). Like father, like son. Some of Abraham’s vices, especially deception, will be repeated often by his descendants, with serious consequences. These deceptive practices will catch up with Isaac, but first we should focus on Rebekah giving birth to two nations (Genesis 25:23). These twins, Esau and […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Genesis 25:12-18, Psalm 16
    Today let’s focus on the psalm reading. Psalm 16 is full of wonderful statements about God’s goodness and greatness. The truths that there is “no good thing” apart from God and that God alone is “my portion, my cup” succinctly show a heart with proper perspective. However, I want to focus on David’s statement that God “will not abandon me to the realm of the dead” and “you will fill me with joy with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Genesis 24-25:11, Psalm 15
    Today transitions the focus from God blessing the nations through Abraham to how God will bring this blessing through Isaac. For God to give Abraham descendants as numerous as the stars through Isaac, Isaac will need a wife. We see God’s hand directing the choice of Rebekah for Isaac. Today I want to note the importance of the “senior servant” in Genesis 24. We are never told his name; even so, Abraham trusts him, and God uses this anonymous servant […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Genesis 22-23, Psalm 14
    Background information often enhances our appreciation of the stories in the Bible. The story about the planned sacrifice of Isaac showcases Abraham’s faith. The book of Hebrews tells us that Abraham even reasoned God could raise Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:19). Abraham’s faith is primary in this story, but we can better understand the reason God puts Abraham through this entire experience when we know more about Abraham’s world. Abraham was […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Genesis 20-21, Psalm 13
    Genesis 20 presents another case where Abraham, the one that “believed God and was credited with righteousness” (Genesis 15:6) shows little faith in God’s protection. In fear, Abraham lies again about Sarah being his sister, and others suffer because of this lie (Genesis 20:3-4, 20:17-18). We find that Abraham had a history of cowardice as it relates to Sarah (Genesis 20:11-13). This is hardly the robust faith we would expect from the one God is […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Genesis 18:16-19:38, Psalm 12
    Sodom and Gomorrah, the cities destroyed in our reading today, are often remembered as symbolic evidence of God’s powerful judgment against evil. His judgment is obviously present here, but many forget the exchange between Abraham and God before the cities are destroyed. God is willing to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if just ten righteous people can be found in Sodom. However, this is a violent, inhospitable, and sexually immoral city, as demonstrated by […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Genesis 18:1-5, Psalm 11
    Just like Melchizedek in Genesis 14, we meet some characters that cause us to ask, “Who are you?” Of the three men we see, one, at least, seems to be a manifestation of God’s presence with Abraham (in 18:3, “lord” is the word used for God). It is not uncommon to encounter characters in the Old Testament whose identities are shadowy to us. Again, my goal isn’t to situate every character’s identity perfectly. To be honest, the presence of the three men […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Genesis 17, Psalm 10
    God again makes promises to Abram. God restates the promise to give Abram Canaan (Genesis 17:8 , Genesis 12:6-7). God promises again that many nations will come through Abram (meaning “exalted father”) and thus renames him Abraham (likely meaning “father of many peoples”). God adds the promise that kings will come through Abraham’s line. Yet God clarifies that these Kings will come through a child born to Sarai (17:17-18). To this promise Abram […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Genesis 15 & 16, Psalm 9
    The faith that Abram demonstrates and for which he receives righteous accreditation from God (Genesis 15:6) proves frail in Genesis 16. Instead of trusting God to give Abram an heir who will have descendants as numerous as the stars (Genesis 15:4-5), he takes matters into his own hands. At the urging of his wife, Sarai, Abram has sex with her servant named Hagar. This leads to trouble. Sarai, as no surprise, becomes jealous of Hagar. Hagar is […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Genesis 13 & 14, Psalm 8
    Occasionally we meet characters in scripture who we discover to be very important, though we don’t know exactly who or what they are. In Genesis 14:17-20 we meet Melchizedek, and we are not told about his ancestry or how he came to be “priest of God Most High”. Melchizedek appears for only three verses in Genesis but takes on great importance in later scriptures (e.g., Psalm 110, Hebrews 5 & 7). Many have speculated about Melchizedek’s identity. […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Genesis 11:27-12:20; Psalm 7
    In Genesis 12:2-3 I count six promises God makes to Abram. God concludes by expanding on the fourth promise, which declares that Abram will be a blessing; he is told that “all peoples on the earth will be blessed through you.” This promise is central to Abram’s purpose. In Abram’s day, “all peoples of the earth” would have meant Egyptians, Cushites, Canaanites, and so on would be blessed through him. But in the story of scripture, this means Germans, […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Genesis 11:10-26; Psalm 6
    Knowing one name among the descendants of Shem (Noah’s son) prepares us crucially for the rest of Genesis and, actually, for much of human history: “Abram”. Abram, his son Isaac, his grandsons Jacob and Esau, and Abram’s twelve great-grandsons will form the focal point of the remainder of Genesis. The rest of the Bible vitally concerns the descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob and what God is doing through them. Still, the New Testament will turn […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Genesis 10:1-11:9; Psalm 5
    Today’s Genesis reading is probably the first passage where you will be tempted to think “so what?” as you read a bunch of unfamiliar names and places. You might have little interest in the historical details and would prefer to read only the stories in Genesis. Today I want to help you see why these names are important. Genesis doesn’t simply tell us history. Though the book does give appropriate historical summary, more significantly Genesis begins […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Genesis 6:9-9:29; Psalm 4
    God commands Noah to be fruitful and multiply after the flood and to rule over the earth (Genesis 9:1-2, 7). This command is very similar to one made to the first man and woman in Genesis 1:27-31. Unlike in Genesis, God makes allowance for eating animals so long as they are dead (Genesis 9:1-4). In Genesis 1, vegetation alone is given as food to both humans and animals. Genesis 9 also differs in that God focuses on commands against murder. It is safe […]
  • In Case You Missed It — Genesis 5:1-6:8; Psalm 3
    Genesis 5 often repeats a particular phrase: “And then he died”. The story is unfolding, and death has made its certainty known. Thus no matter how long one’s life, death is inevitable. Such is the judgment of God upon evil. Wickedness increases so much on the earth that God declares the whole world full of people deserving death. Yet God finds one man, Noah, that rejects the evil practices of others. As a result, God would later rescue Noah, and […]
  • In Case You Missed It
    January 2nd: Two of life’s most burdensome realities are explained in Genesis 2-4. Death and frustration with work are the results of humanity’s first parents rejecting God’s goodness and His laws. Before this “fall”, we see God create man and woman for life and meaningful work. Adam is created before Eve, and we are told twice that what Adam misses most before Eve is a “suitable helper” (2:19, 20). Adam is called to name trees, plants, and animals, […]
  • In Case You Missed It
    January 1st: Genesis 1-2:3 tells us about God’s work in creating our universe. We can draw much from this beginning (Genesis means “beginning”). Today, notice the connection between God speaking and reality forming. Whenever God speaks desire for something new, we find out “and it was so” (Gen 1:3,6,9,11,14,24). For us, desire, speaking, and action don’t always go hand in hand. For God, whatever He wills and speaks, happens. It is no surprise, then, […]
  • Questions for God: Jesus Answers
    At Agapé Chicago, we emphasize that God is a God of mystery to combat the desire many have that assume God operates like us. We don’t see things the way God sees them and vice versa. That does not mean that God does not tell us a great deal about who He is, the truth about our world or what God’s purposes are for the human race. Nor does that mean that God never has answers to some of our questions. In fact, the series that we are […]
  • Slow And Steady: Trusting God’s Unseen Work
    It was another typical Sunday. Some folks listened intently to my words. Others looked disinterested. One person laughed at serious moments. A few others walked in late. Two of those walking in late were usually late. This husband and wife sat in the back and this Sunday seemed no different than all the rest. Later that day, on the beach, the late-arriving husband approached to remind me this was his last Sunday with Agapé Chicago. He and his […]
  • Slow And Steady: Living Out the New Creation
    2 Corinthians 5:17: If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. The Kingdom of God is growing…and it is growing slowly. We don’t like that word “slow” for it denotes innefficiency, inferiority, or ineptitude for many of us. Yet it is not only Jesus’ testimony that the kingdom of God comes slowly, but experience and the testimony of Christian scripture shows personal growth also comes slowly. Last week I spoke about […]
  • Slow and Steady: Roots
    Jesus often used images of plants, vegetables, and trees to teach His disciples. He did not invent this practice. In fact, the prophets and the psalm writers also liked their fruits and veggies. Jesus and the teachers before Him recognized that, like vegetation, humans have specific needs to thrive, to be healthy, and grow. One common theme in these agricultrual teachings is the importance of roots, that connection to something more firm than […]
  • Praying in Hope
    Psalm 22:25-26 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord will praise him—may your hearts live forever! Last week, I quoted from the 22nd Psalm the words Jesus quoted when He uttered on the cross, “My God, My God have you forsaken me.” In the very same song comes a […]
  • Prayer When God Disappoints?
    Psalm 22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far  from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? Over the last few weeks, my reflections have been on prayer, specifically prayer in times of various sufferings. Perhaps no suffering is more acute to the believer in God than when God disappoints. You eagerly decide to lead a ministry, but that ministry feels fruitless and zaps every ounce of energy you […]
  • Praying When Everything Crumbles
    Psalm 46:1-3: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. It is interesting that this claim about God assumes that life can fall apart. The idea of the earth giving way and mountains falling into the sea tells us that the writer […]
  • Praying When God Opposes You
    Lamentations 3:1-3 “I am the man who has seen affliction  by the rod of the Lord’s wrath. 2 He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light; 3 indeed, he has turned his hand against me  again and again, all day long.” The words of the prophet Jeremiah above are the just beginning of a litany of lines about God’s hand being against him. For the prophet […]
  • Praying without Faith?
    It is the beautiful message of Christianity that all the good we have is by grace. God’s extravagant and overflowing love for us comes irrespective of our merit–in fact, this grace comes in spite of our demerits. All of God’s gifts flow out from His extravagant, giving nature. Certainly this is true of one his great gifts, faith. Faith, after all, is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9).  So it is interesting when we are told that […]
  • Praying When Life is Unbearable
    Psalm 42:3 “My tears  have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long,“Where is your God?” I don’t know whether you can relate to eating tears. Truthfully, I hope if you are reading this that you are not currently experiencing something so difficult. Psalm 42 moves me deeply as I see both how hard life must be for the writer, and thus how deep the trust must be between the writer and […]
  • What if all we Need is to Believe
    Luke 23:42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Those are the famous lines of the so-called thief, so-called because he was worse than just a thief, who died next to Jesus. Jesus, of course promises that this man will has a guaranteed spot in paradise. All this man does after this is die. The man does not give money to the poor, and he does not risk anything for Jesus. This man just dies. And […]
  • Thoughts on Outreach Part 3
    Colossians 4:2-6 2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned […]
  • Thoughts on Outreach Part 2
    Colossians 4:2-6 2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer […]
  • Thoughts on Outreach Part 1
    Colossians 4:2-6 2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer […]
  • Yet I Hold This Against You
    4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. As we, Agapé Chicago pray, we recognize as congregation of different peoples that we all have different struggles. Yet our main problem is the same for each of us: We love Jesus far too […]
  • Blessings for Agapé Chicago?
    Revelation: 1:3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it,  because the time is near. Father, as we read Sunday, we believe that you offer a blessing to whoever hears and holds fast to the revelation about Jesus to the seven churches recorded by John in 95 A.D. Jesus, would you help us to see you clearly, powerfully, and move us to faith […]
  • Staying true to Jesus
    This week we will begin a new series in Revelation 1-3 focusing on our need to stay true to Jesus. Given that, today, lets begin to pray for this as a church: 1) God, use this sermon series to inspire desire for prolonged faithfulness to Jesus. 2) Help us would grasp a refreshing understanding of Jesus’ commitment to us, His people. 3) God convict Agapé Chicago to repent of ways we have been living as if Jesus were not victorious. Help […]
  • Fasting Between Good Friday and Easter
    John 19:39-4239 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.[e] 40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had […]
  • Psalm 67:1-2
    Psalm 67:1-2 May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face shine on us—so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation  among all nations. Three things we ask God! 1st: Show us your unmerited favor, as your people that are loved not because we are lovely, that are your’s not because we have paid our dues, that our heirs and stewards of all your goodnewss not because we are comptetent but because we […]
  • Prayer for the Persecuted
    Revelation 6:9-10 9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” God, it seems that our brothers and sisters world-wide are facing grave danger. With Isis and Boko […]
  • Jeremiah 9:23-24
    This is what the Lord says “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts, boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight, declares the Lord.         God, we tend to boast in […]
  • We Drink Our Tears
    Psalm 42:3 My tears have been my food    day and night,while people say to me all day long,    “Where is your God?” Father, we do not know how to express our deep pain to you. Our hurts go bottled up. Our anger wells up inside. Help us to come to you with honesty, like the Psalm writer when it is said, “My tears have been my food day and night”. It is hard for us to come to you with such […]
  • Habakkuk 2:12-14
    “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by injustice!Has not the Lord Almighty determined that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing? For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” Many of us have learned that we are to pray for the knowledge of the glory of […]
  • Hebrews 13:1-3
    Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. Father, we often focus on our own sufferings, on our own city, and on our own spheres of influence. […]
  • Matt 6:11 “Give us today our daily bread.”
    Father, we are afraid you will not provide. It seems like this is common. We trust that Jesus knew the hearts of his first disciples, whose lives could easily be endangered by lack of rain or a bad year. But we also understand that even in our day this prayer should still  be ours. We might not fear a loss of bread. Yet we do fear paying bills, losing our jobs, or that we will be in debt forever. Thus we hold our possessions dearly, we look out […]
  • Prayer For True Religion
    James 1:27: 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. As we continue to think through how to pray and fast in 2015, let us pray for religion that our Father accepts! God, help us to be a people that are concerned about the oppressed and weak, the neglected and downtrodden. Would you use your […]
  • Psalm 133:1
    Psalm 133:1 How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! Over this year, we can consistently be lifting up our sister Rogers Park churches which include: Rogers Park Baptist: Pastor Roger Bolander Roger Park Community Church: Pastor Tripp Grant New Life Rogers Park: Pastor Dwayne Eslick New Life Covenant: Pastor Robert Rand Park Community Church: Pastor Jason Lalonde Family Empowerment Center: Scott Manke We can pray […]
  • Fasting 2015
    Dear Agapé family, Beginning today, I will be using blog posts to guide you in your prayers if you choose to take an hour to fast each week. Typically other believers in Rogers Park will be fasting on Tuesdays for lunch, but if that does not work, I strongly encourage you to take any meal you can take to fast (forego eating) and pray for an hour. Helping you all in your time of prayer will be a great joy to me. Before I give you some help for […]
  • Thursday Q: Prayer
    The question from this week’s sermon was: I had a question that I was hoping you could explain in more detail on the blog from today’s sermon. Several times you used the phrase “God does all the work” for our prayer. What do you mean by this exactly? I’m curious about the work God does for us to make our prayer possible. The point of this comment in my sermon is that if we take time to consider prayer, it is really […]
  • Requestolutions 2015
    A blog post is as a good a place as any to make up words. The title’s made up word is simply a combination of “requests” and “resolutions”. The point of combining the words is recognizing that this time of the year is typically when this pattern follows: 1) People make resolutions 2) People make fun of the idea of making resolutions because no one keeps them 3) Believers in Christ caution others about the impossibility […]
  • Advent Gift #4: Love
                The last gift we will mention that we receive because of the first Advent (though there are more than we can say!) is love. In our world it seems like your worth is tied into what you can buy or what you can provide for others. In Jesus’ world you are what His birth says you are, regardless of what you can offer Him or can buy others during the holidays.  […]
  • Michael Brown and Eric Garner
                Today is December 18th, 2014 and I am late to comment in-depth on the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. I wish I could tell you that this was because I wanted to be careful and I was busy over the last few weeks doing in-depth fact finding. The truth is I didn’t know what to say. Certainly I have read a lot over the last few weeks and I tried to read from sources that […]
  • Advent Gift #3: Joy
               I have heard many people note that in the Bible we see the word “joy” used to describe the inner life of a Christian with the noteable infrequency of the word “happy”. Now it is dangerous to make too much of words chosen in translation, but typically the point that has been made by many is that joy is deeper than happiness. Happiness is based on circumstances, and joy isn’t bound to […]
  • Advent Gift #2: Peace
                It is very fitting that we celebrate peace as one of the gifts of the first advent since that was something angels wanted to impart at Jesus’ birth. Luke 2:14 tells us what the angels spoke about Jesus’ birth to shepherds working in their fields, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor […]
  • Advent Gift #1: Hope
                During the four Sundays of Advent, that is the four Sundays preceding Christmas, we light one candle per week in keeping with some church traditions. Each candle represents a virtue that Christians believe God the Son’s advent, His coming as the man Jesus of Nazareth, should instill in us.              These […]
  • The Impossibility of Being Disinterested
                 Probably one of the most provocative quotes I have ever read came from Blaise Pascal. I had already encountered Pascal’s triangles and his “Wager.” Yet I never heard someone say so concisely what I read from him in the summer of 2002 when Pascal claims it is impossible for us to be completely disinterested in our own well-being. […]
  • Thursday Q: Acts 20:1-12
    Why do you make such a big deal of distinguishing the word “resurrection” from words like ‘reanimation”?  There are many reasons for this and I would highly recommend people that want to understand more of the implications on this issue to read Surprised by Hope by NT Wright. I will give just one major implication for this distinction. The distinction between “reanimation” and […]
  • The Folly of Not Pursuing Truth
                What is the meaning of life? Maybe this is not the best question to answer for a small blog post—but the question must be asked. We are here, and we will leave. Some will die in our 40’s and 50’s, a few of us will make it to our 90’s. Our lives are all very short, comparatively speaking. Nations, oceans, trees—these are old, but none of us, in comparison, are ever truly old. […]
  • Friendship Is Stopping The Masquerade
    Today I continue with reflections from Blaise Pascal. Pascal will often write what seems like incredible overstatements and then defend them. At first blush some of what Pascal says here will seem like such an overstatement:    “The nature of self-love and of this human Ego is to love self only and consider self only. But what will man do? He cannot prevent this object that he loves from being full of faults and wants…. He […]
  • Thursday Q: Acts 19:11-20
    The sons of Sceva (Acts 19) went around regularly driving out evil spirits. They were apparently known for practicing spiritual power apart from knowledge of Jesus and the true God. Did other people have real spiritual power in the ancient world apart from God? If so, how is that possible, and does this still happen today? If you’re reading this blog, chances are you live somewhere with good access to technology. It’s easy to become so […]
  • Discovery and The Bible
    My recent posts are prompted by “thoughts” by Blaise Pascal. This particular post will connect a brief quote of Pascal’s to the importance of Bible reading. Most pastors after the Gutenberg press and Reformation have hoped that every person in the congregation they pastor would love to find Jesus in the scriptures as they read, listen to, memorize, or study scripture with others. I am no different. But why do we place such an […]
  • Thursday Q: Acts 18:24-19:10
    How could “Apollos” teach about Jesus accurately if he did not know another baptism than the baptism of John? The long answer (requires speculation): There is so little about Apollos in the scriptures that it is impossible to tell exactly what  Apollos taught about Jesus. As an educated Jew, “with a thorough knowledge of the  scriptures” (Acts 18.24), we could say for sure that Apollos knew the Old Testament  […]
  • Disagreeing Well
                One reality in healthy human relationships is disagreement. Why is disagreement healthy? Disagreement reflects that people are truly alive and genuine, and it can be instrumental in understanding perspectives different than our own.             This is especially true in church, the body of Christ, individuals woven together as a family by Jesus’ […]
  • Thursday Q: Acts 18:1-23
    Why were the Berean Jews called more noble than the Thessolonian Jews? Just like Tuesdays moving forward will be a day where we post contributions from various people at Agapé Chicago, so Thursdays will be reserved for answering questions people have about sermons at Agapé Chicago. As a church we are currently reading the book Acts from the New Testament of the Bible.   Question: Why were the Berean Jews called more noble than the […]
  • Happiness and Our Need For Quiet
    For various reasons, I decided to read Blaise Pascal’s Pensees. Blaise Pascal lived in France from 1623-1662. The word Pensees means thoughts in French. Pascal’s ideas continue to have a profound influence on mathematics and philosophy. For the sake of these six blog posts I will focus less on math and philosophy and more on ways he is helpful pastorally, that is, in caring for others and ourselves. Though Pascal died at an early age, his […]
  • Fasting During the Holidays
    Christmas in America is full of so many great opportunities that we don’t otherwise have. During this season, we re-connect with family, enjoy lots of delicious food, and participate in the exchange of presents. Because these opportunities are so enjoyable, each year we face the challenge of making them the center of our celebration. This challenge has not been helped by the increased sanitization of the season in our culture. Rather than talk […]
  • Watching Jesus Eat
    Have you ever watched someone eat? Once you get past some of their individual quirks like chewing too loud or eating while talking, you start to discover that you can learn a lot about a person by observing them in this environment. By looking at the kind of food someone purchases, you might get a glimpse into the financial status or lifestyle preferences. Or by observing who they invite to their table, you might discover the kind of people they […]
  • Why our dream community must die
    We often want to compare a new church to a past experience, and wish it were the same. Our past church life becomes the standard, and we get nostalgic, only remembering the good and hoping that our new church can come somehow match the old. These sorts of thoughts must die if we are to have a healthy church life! Here's why.
  • You are so beautiful!
    by Steve Bishop Recently, I read an article by Lisa Bloom entitled, “How to Talk to Little Girls.” In the article, Bloom recounts an instance when she encountered a friend’s daughter and instinctively wanted to squeal, “You are so cute. Look at you! Turn around and model that pretty ruffled gown, you gorgeous thing.” However, after further thought, she decided to restrain herself from her first impulse and instead speak […]
  • Orchestra In The Heart of Chicago
    Last night, June 13th, a number of people from Agapé Chicago and their friends took time to enjoy the opening of 2012’s  free summer classical concert series at Millenium Park. We heard the music of the Grant Park orchestra. Many of us had yet to attend one of thse events and enjoyed the great weather and relaxing atmosphere.  With the grand architechture of the city surrounding us and the music at the pavillion washing over […]
  • Easter, the ultimate celebration of life
    by Jeremiah Vaught Life. We love to celebrate life. Birthdays, weddings, baby showers are all occasions to say, Life is good. When we gather for meals, we raise a toast to life. Life should be enjoyed. We feel it, deep down; we know life is supposed to be, well, full of life.   But why does life so often feel overwhelming or underwhelming? Why does life feel so heavy, and so hard? The truth is, life ends. No matter how alive we are, no […]
  • Whose problem is it?
    Indifference is the default response to troubles and struggles around us. I have my own burdens to carry, so I can't carry yours. We don’t need to say it because our (lack of) actions show it: not my problem. But this logic breaks down in the context of the church.
  • Beauty, gospel proclamation, and grace
    by Jeremiah Vaught Beauty is good for the soul. I am not talking simply about fleeting, airbrushed beauty, but that which is absolutely, inarguably beautiful. Beauty has the power to move us away from self-focus to focus on that, which is outside of us. Indeed beauty can make us less selfish.  “But beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” one might say. And of course that person would be right, to a certain extent. Most of what we […]
  • Home for the holidays?
    by Jeremiah Vaught Are you going home for the holidays? In Chicago, a city full of people from all over all the country and even the world, this is a fair and common question. For the second year in a row I will not be visiting my hometown in North Carolina for either Thanksgiving or Christmas. I would be lying if I said this did not make me a little sad. I love being here in the big city, but I miss my side of the family (I have the pleasure of […]
  • God and Numbers
    by Jeremiah Vaught To some, the primary metrics for church health are numbers and numerical growth. Those who fit this category look at smaller churches and smaller ministries as less important or valuable. This leads some to even question the faithfulness of leaders over smaller ministries or whether God is truly “blessing” such work. Others look at larger churches and ministries with suspicion. Those who fit this category feel that the […]
  • Chicago Street Festivals
                In Chicagoland there are many events to attend during the summer. Every weekend there are concerts, food fests, and affinity-based celebrations. The most popular of these events are the various street festivals that pop-up around the city. The most famous one is of course “The Taste of Chicago”.             An idea […]
  • Why Feasting?
                In preparation for our first weekend service I did not post on Friday. So today I am going to post, and try to post tomorrow. I briefly wanted to answer the question, “Why do you use the word ‘feasting’ in your mission statement?”             One reader felt the statement sounded strange. To answer that […]
  • Am I a Hater?
                The title of this post should be surprising considering the abundant emphasis about love on our site. The reason I ask the question: “Am I a Hater?” is because I recently celebrated the victory of the Dallas Mavericks over the Miami Heat in the NBA championship series. But I ask the question because I really celebrated the defeat of the talent-laden and self-assured Miami […]
  • Planting, Pastoring, and Blogging In Rogers Park
          Hello all. My name is Jeremiah Vaught and I am the church planter for Agapé Chicago. My wife Maysa and I live in Rogers Park where our church will be based. Rogers Park is one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in the entire United States. It is truly an honor to be a part of this community, and, by the grace of God to be able to pastor a church in the neighborhood.       […]