Monthly Archives: July 2014

A Week in the Word, July 27 – August 2

 

Theme: Biographical – Great Prophets 

Jesus greatly admired the prophets. Their suffering as God’s servants was great and exemplary (Matt. 5:12; 23:37). Paul equated their mistreatment to that suffered by Jesus (1 Thess. 2:15). They are mentioned honorably, though not by name, among those exhibiting genuine faith (Heb. 11:32ff).

This week’s reading returns to the category of “Biography,” and, like last time when we read of “Notable Kings,” this week will focus on a number of people rather than a single individual. All of the prophets are worthy of our attention, but we will limit ourselves to four; Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, and Jeremiah. Isaiah would have been another very likely candidate, but when we read about Hezekiah as one of the notable kings, we read about Isaiah’s role in interceding along with the king for the people because of Assyria’s threat. You may recall that one king we did not read about at that time was Ahab due to his close connection with Elijah, about whom we will read this week.

It is interesting that we know more biographical information about the non-writing prophets (Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, etc.) but less of their message, while the opposite is true of the writing prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc.). Also interesting is that the three previous subjects of reading in this biographical category are also all identified as prophets: Abraham (Gen. 20:7), Moses (Deut. 18:15), and David (Acts 2:30).

Readings and Introductory Comments:

1 Samuel 3:1-21; 7:3-17; 12:1-25; 15:10-35; 16:1-13

Though Samuel most certainly functioned as a prophet, he also served as a judge (Israel’s final judge) and also carried out priestly duties. The time of his service was most critical. The nation was transitioning from the time of the judges to that of the monarchy. Instability and opposition threatened the nation. Saul’s reign as the first king ended horribly, but David would redeem the nation.

Samuel is recalled by name in later generations as a truly great man of God (Psa. 99:6; Jer. 15:1; Heb. 11:32). Our readings are selected from many covering the events of his life.

1 Kings 17:1-24; 18:1-46; 19:1-21; 2 Kings 2:1-14

Elijah the Tishbite is such an imposing figure during the monarchy of the Northern Kingdom. It is no mere coincidence that this great man’s life corresponds to the rule of Israel’s most wicked king, Ahab.

When the New Testament searches for an example of earnest and effective prayer, it turns to Elijah (James 5:17-18). Two incidents from his career which we will not be reading are that of Naboth’s vineyard (1 Kings 21:1-24) and his encounter with King Ahaziah (2 Kings 1:1-17).

2 Kings 2:15-25; 4:1-44; 5:1-15

Elisha, given a unique opportunity, requested a double portion of the spirit of his mentor and friend, Elijah (2 Kings 2:9). His ministry as prophet truly matched that of Elijah’s. Worthy of note is that the greatest concentration of miraculous events in the Old Testament (apart from the time of the Exodus) surrounds the life and prophetic career of Elisha.

Jeremiah 1:1-10; 13:1-11; 20:1-6; 25:1-14; 36:1-32

The longest book of the Bible, after Psalms, is Jeremiah. We know more biographical information about this prophet than any other and more than most other Old Testament figures. Our readings must be especially selective.

Jeremiah had quite a lengthy career as a prophet and served during the terrible time of Judah’s downfall, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the beginning of the Babylonian captivity. Our readings will sample some of the biographical information about the man, one of the “acted out” prophecies in which God called him to participate, and a couple of incidents among many of the persecutions he endured.

Study/Thought Questions:

1 Samuel 3:1-21

  • How did young Samuel respond to God’s call to him in the night? (v. 10)
  • What did all Israel know about Samuel? (v. 20)

1 Samuel 7:3-17

  • What monument did Samuel erect and what did he call it? (v. 12)

1 Samuel 12:1-25

  • What was Samuel’s charge to the people? (v. 24)

1 Samuel 15:10-35

  • In what does God delight? (v. 22)
  • How did Samuel refer to God in v. 29?

1 Samuel 16:1-13

  • What’s the difference between how men look at men and how God does? (v. 7)

1 Kings 17:1-24

  • How did Elijah describe his relationship to God? (v. 1)
  • How was the widow’s obedience rewarded? (v. 16)

1 Kings 18:1-46

  • What was Elijah’s challenge to the people? (v. 21)

1 Kings 19:1-21

  • In what form did Elijah hear God? (v. 12) Where did Elijah not hear God? (v. 11)

2 Kings 2:1-14

  • How did Elijah and Elisha cross the Jordan? (v. 8)
  • By what means did Elijah go to heaven? (v. 11)

2 Kings 2:15-25

  • For how long did the search for Elijah continue (v. 17)

2 Kings 4:1-44

  • How as the widow of the prophet able to pay off her debt? (v. 7)
  • What reward was given the woman of Shunem for her hospitality? (v. 16)

2 Kings 5:1-15

  • Who informed Naaman of the prophet in Israel who could heal leprosy? (vv. 2-3)

Jeremiah 1:1-10

  • From when did God say He’d know Jeremiah? (v. 5)
  • What had God put in Jeremiah’s mouth? (v. 9)

Jeremiah 13:1-11

  • What did God instruct Jeremiah to hide? Where? For how long? (vv. 4, 6)

Jeremiah 20:1-6

  • Who had Jeremiah beaten and put into stocks? (v. 2) Who was he?

Jeremiah 25:1-14

  • Into whose hands did Jeremiah prophesy that Judah would fall? (v. 9)
  • For how long did Jeremiah say they would serve Babylon? (v. 11)

Jeremiah 36:1-32

  • What did king Jehoiakim do with the scroll written by Jeremiah? (v. 23)
  • What did God tell Jeremiah to do in response? (v. 28)

Meditation Thoughts:

  • Did God protect his prophets from mistreatment? Should we expect to be so protected?
  • What traits exhibited by these prophets do you most admire?
  • Do God’s people (in this case the prophets) always have the upper hand in the affairs of men? Should we anticipate such to be true today?
  • What can we learn about overcoming discouragement from Elijah’s experience? (see 1 Kings 19)

Memory Verse:

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt. 5:11-12)

 

A Week in the Word, July 20-26

 

Theme: Bible Themes – God’s Kingdom

God is ruler of heaven and earth. He is so by virtue that He is creator. “The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!” (Psa. 97:1). As such He is also creator of mankind and therefore He is ruler of all people and groups of people. “For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations” (Psa. 22:28).

Even so, there is also a special sense in which God desires and intends to rule. He wishes to rule over His people; those who will submit to Him and do His will. This was played out with the descendants of Abraham who became the nation of Israel. Remember, when they decided they wanted to have a king like all the nations, God told Samuel the people had “rejected me from being king over them” (1 Sam. 8:7).

Still, God had something more in mind. That something was a kingdom over which His own Son would reign. This kingdom was prophesied to come, and come it did. It is the kingdom over which Christ now reigns and bears also the title, “church.”

Readings and Introductory Comments:

2 Samuel 7:12-17; Isaiah 2:1-4; Micah 4:1-5; Daniel 2:36-45

Many prophecies are directed toward that kingdom for which God planned and prepared. The above are but a few. Many were given at the time of the Babylonian captivity and looked not only to the restoration of the Jewish nation to Jerusalem and their homeland, but also to the coming kingdom which would be initiated by the anticipated Messiah.

These prophecies include the covenant with David that his throne would be established forever (we’ll read of this fulfillment below), the timing for the arrival of this kingdom (Daniel), and the twin prophecies of Micah and Isaiah of the mountain of the house of the Lord.

Matthew 3:1-3; 4:17, 23-25; 9:35-38

Jesus’ preaching focused on the coming kingdom. John, who preceded Him, pointed people’s minds in the same direction. Jesus’ message is well summarized in calling people to repentance in light of the coming kingdom.

Matthew 7:21-23; Mark 10:13-16; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 15:50-56; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:5

As Jesus had called men to repent because of the coming kingdom, it’s only natural that New Testament teaching often focuses on conduct within the kingdom. Some behaviors will not be permitted in God’s kingdom, some attitudes and actions are requisite for entrance into it.

In a sense the entire Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is a discussion of life in the Lord’s kingdom. In both the Galatians and Ephesians readings, these verses are set in a larger context of conduct of those in the Lord’s kingdom (Galatians 5:16-24; Ephesians 5:3-14).

Matthew 16:13-20; Mark 9:1; 11:7-10; Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:6-11; 2:29-35; Colossians 1:13

Many of Jesus’ parables begin with “The kingdom of heaven is like…” or something similar (Matthew 13:24, 31, 33, 44, 45, 47). The truth is that people would be greatly challenged to understand the nature of the Lord’s kingdom. It would not be an earthly, physical kingdom (John 18:36; Lk. 17:21). The Lord’s kingdom is about the dominion (rule) of Jesus in the lives and hearts of men.

It’s for this reason that this long-promised and anticipated kingdom and the church are one and the same. The church is often spoken of as the body of which Christ is the head. The Bible also speaks of the kingdom over which Christ rules as king. These two are describing precisely the same thing. To think of the church independently from the kingdom is to understand neither.

In the above readings we see the kingdom’s coming associated with the giving of power (Mark 9), Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem exclaimed as the entrance of the king (Mark 11), Jesus’ instruction to the apostles—following His resurrection—to wait for the coming power, and that power coming and therefore the kingdom/church being born on Pentecost. That fact is further demonstrated in Peter’s sermon (Acts 2) when he describes Jesus’ ascension onto the throne. So, when Christians’ conversion is described by Paul (Colossians 1), it is in terms of entrance into the kingdom.

Study/Thought Questions:

2 Samuel 7:12-17

  • Whose kingdom did God promise to establish? (v. 12) For how long? (v. 16)

Isaiah 2:1-4; Micah 4:1-5

  • When would the mountain of the house of the Lord be established? (Isa. 2:2)
  • Who will come to it? (Isa. 2:2)

Daniel 2:36-45

  • At what time will God set up His kingdom? (v. 44)

Matthew 3:1-3; 4:17

  • Why did John and Jesus say men should repent? (3:2; 4:17)

Matthew 4:23-25; 9:35-38

  • What message did Jesus proclaim? (4:23; 9:35)

Matthew 7:21-23

  • Who will enter the kingdom of heaven? (v. 21)

Mark 10:13-16

  • To whom does the kingdom belong? (v. 14)

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

  • Who will not inherit God’s kingdom? (v. 9)

1 Corinthians 15:50-56

  • What cannot inherit God’s kingdom? (v. 50)

Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:5

  • Who will not inherit the kingdom of God? (Gal. 5:21)
  • Who has no inheritance in God’s kingdom? (Eph. 5:5)

Matthew 16:13-20

  • What did Jesus give to Peter? (v. 19)

Mark 9:1

  • What does this passage indicate about the timing of the kingdom’s arrival?
  • What will accompany its arrival?

Mark 11:7-10

  • Upon whom and what did the crowd pronounce blessing? (vv. 9-10)

Luke 24:44-49

  • For how long did Jesus instruct the apostles to remain in Jerusalem? (v. 49)

Acts 1:6-11

  • What was the power the apostles would receive, for which they were instructed to wait, and that would signify the coming of the kingdom? (v. 8)

Acts 2:29-35

  • To what event from David’s life did Peter appeal to give meaning to what had happened in regard to Jesus? (v. 30)
  • Where, at that time, did Peter say Jesus was? (v. 33)

Colossians 1:13

  • From where have Christians been delivered?
  • To where have we been transferred?

Meditation Thoughts:

  • In way has God’s kingdom always been, and how was it also anticipated to be established at a given time?
  • How is Christ’s kingdom not of this world? (John 18:36)
  • Given the events of the “Triumphal Entry” (Mk. 11:7-10; see also John 12:12-15)) and Jesus resurrection (as discussed by Peter in Acts 2:33), how might we think of all of this as Jesus’ coronation?
  • For how long will the kingdom last? (1 Cor. 15:24-25)

Memory Verse: 

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21)

 

A Week in the Word, July 13-19

Theme: Psalms & Proverbs – Psalms of Restoration

One of the challenges to reading and studying the Psalms is the sheer size of the book.  That’s a lot of text to cover.  Even if one takes it one Psalm at a time, that’s 150 units; that’s still a bunch.

One framework that has been suggested to help get our minds wrapped around this book is to think of Psalms that fit into one of three categories: orientation (serene confidence of faith), disorientation (something is amiss in my life and my faith is challenged) , then  new orientation (God restores order, strength, and faith grows) (W. Brueggemann, The Message of the Psalms).

Our last reading from the Psalms was Psalms of lament—this is disorientation.  These give expression to life’s inequities, its unfairness, the struggles of serving a powerful God who could, if He would, keep us from all such trouble.

But God does deliver.  He helps.  He restores.  And this week we’ll read those Psalms of restoration. What joy and what comfort comes from being helped when we had been helpless.  Of course, many of these Psalms are praising God.  Our very first week of reading from Psalms this year was reading Psalms of praise.  Many of the ones we read previously would also fit here.  I’ve tried to limit the repetition of Psalms read then and now.

Categorization of the Psalms is imprecise and tricky.  Several Psalms defy any single categorization.  We could read Psalms of praise, of creation, of history, or of God’s kingship and many Psalms would fit into two, three or more categories.  The value of these groupings is to help our minds grasp a larger structure (which helps our comprehension) and at the same time it demonstrates that these divinely inspired texts exceed our capacity to fully comprehend.

Readings and Introductory Comments:

Psalms 30, 40, 65, 124,138

This is probably the most obvious of restoration Psalms—giving thanks to God for His deliverance and having restored His child.  This represents the opposite side of the coin from the lament.  What else would one do but give thanks to God for what He has done?

Psalms 47, 93, 97, 114

These are rather specialized Psalms of restoration, and that for two reasons.  First, they are historical in nature; some specifically (93—creation, 114—the exodus) and the rest generally so (specific historical setting is difficult to pinpoint).  Second, and primarily, they focus on God as king.  The restoration is tied to His rule and dominion.  God has subdued nations (93), created all and hence reigns over all (93), He delivers from the hand of the wicked (97), rivers and seas, rocks and mountains are are no hindrance to His deliverance (114).

Psalms 23, 27, 91

Several of these Psalms give expression to the unbounding confidence and assurance that comes from having experienced God’s deliverance.  One cannot help but praise God and tell to others of the sense of weakness, aloneness, destitution, and fear that is replaced by the working of God in their life.  Unlike that previously read restoration Psalms that give thanks for deliverance from a particular difficulty, these are more general in nature; they give testament to the assurance gained from restoration to face any future obstacle or threat.

Psalms 113, 141

In a sense these Psalms (and others like them which were read during the week of reading Psalms of praise; such as 147-150) are the pinnacle of the book of Psalms. They are hymns of praise to God. They are public (as opposed to individual, personal expressions).  They also are happy expressions of joy over the new ordering of life, having lived through lamentable circumstances.  This, perhaps, is why the entire book concludes with a series of such Psalms.

Study/Thought Questions:

Psalm 30

  • What did he say in his prosperity? (v. 6)
  • What happened when God hid His face? (v. 8)

Psalm 40

  • In what has God not delighted? (v. 6)
  • How does he number his evils and iniquities? (v. 12)

Psalm 65

  • How does God respond to transgression? (v. 3)
  • With what two things shall we be satisfied? (v. 4)

Psalm 124

  • Who is on our side? (vv. 1-2)
  • Where is our help? (v. 8)

Psalm 138

  • For what is God given thanks? (v. 2)
  • Whom does God regard? (v. 6)

Psalm 47

  • What title—besides “Lord, the Most High”—is given to God? (v. 2)
  • What belongs to God? (v. 9)

Psalm  93

  • What is God’s robe? (v. 1)
  • What befits God’s house? (v. 5)

Psalm  97

  • What are the foundations of God’s throne? (v. 2)
  • Who is put to shame? (v. 7)

Psalm 114

  • How are the people of Egypt described? (v. 1)
  • What are Judah and Israel to God? (v. 2)

Psalm 23

  • Where does God lead, and for what purpose? (v. 3)
  • For what two reasons will I not fear evil? (v. 4)

Psalm 27

  • Why will I not fear? (v. 1)
  • What one thing have I asked of God? (v. 4)

Psalm 91

  • Where will you find refuge? (v. 4)
  • Whom will God command to guard you? (v. 11)

Psalm 113

  • For how long shall God be praised? (v. 2)
  • Whom does God raise from the dust and ash heap? (v. 7)

Psalm 141

  • What is counted as an offering of incense and sacrifice? (v. 2)
  • Where do we need a guard to be set? (v. 3)

Meditation Thoughts:

  • Is it a sign of weak faith to acknowledge our own weakness, failing, and struggles?
  • How has God brought restoration to your life?  In what situations have you been discouraged or dismayed and prayed to God and he answered?
  • Does God’s deliverance come in the way that we anticipate?  Does it come in the time we desire?
  • How has God’s deliverance from previous hardships effected the way you view present or future troubles?

Memory Verse:

“He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord” (Psa. 40:3)

A Week in the Word, July 6-12

Theme: Christian Living – Sanctification

Being a Christians is composed of three elements: what one knows and believes, what one does, and what one becomes. We’d call the first of these faith, the second obedience and the third is sanctification. You can’t please God without faith (Heb. 11:6), obedience is the evidence of our love for God (John 14:15), and apart from sanctification we will not see God (Heb. 12:14).

Sanctification and holiness are closely related. That’s an understatement–they’re identical twins. One who is holy is sanctified and one sanctified is holy. The two are inseparable—Ok, they’re conjoined twins. When Scripture calls us to be holy, it is sanctification that is happening. It’s the process by which our character and nature are being transformed. Not that our human nature is being changed into something else, but that we are being changed from fleshly to spiritual. To be sanctified is to be godly. To be sanctified is to walk by the Spirit. To be sanctified is to be conformed to the image of His Son.

Christian living is a sanctifying event, process, and experience. It is ever unfinished. With the Galatian Christians Paul said he was “again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (Gal. 4:19). Paul himself was always pressing on (Php. 3:13-14). After all, our objective is the “measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13); we’ll never get there.

Some would term all of this, “spiritual formation.” That’s not a bad way to think of it. The mistaken notion should not be entertained that by becoming a Christian, the change is automatic and complete. As noted above, Paul saw serious need for greater Christ-likeness in the churches of Galatia. At Corinth he identified many in the church as “still of the flesh” (1 Cor. 3:3). No matter one’s stage of Christian living, all are in need of sanctification.

Readings and Introductory Comments:

John 17:9-19

In Jesus’ great high priestly prayer, much of His petition is focused on His disciples. In i t His request is for their sanctification.

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8; Ephesians 4:17-32; 1 Peter 1:13-25; 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1; Hebrews 12:12-17

As should be expected, many of the epistles devote time to teaching Christians about the way they should live their lives; “how you ought to walk and to please God” (1 Thess. 4:1), “you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do” (Eph. 4:17), “be holy in all your conduct” (1 Pet. 1:15), “let us cleanse ourselves” (2 Cor. 7:1), “make straight paths for your feet” (Heb. 12:13).

These passages all take a “big picture” view of sanctification. That is, the Christian’s lifestyle matters very much. There’s more to being a follower of Christ than believing and initial obedience—repentance, confession, baptism—it engages our entire lives.

Galatians 5:16-26; Colossians 3:1-17; 2 Peter 1:3-11

Several passages get very specific about the kinds of activities, traits, and qualities that cannot characterize God’s child, and then also those that must be a part of who we are. All of this is involved in the very process of sanctification.

2 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 2:21; Hebrews 10:10; 13:12; 1 Peter 1:2

All of these single-verse references are passages that make important statements regarding sanctification; how it happens, the means, the results, and so on.

Study/Thought Questions

John 17:9-19

  • In what are we sanctified? (v. 17)
  • God’s word is __________ (v. 17)

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

  • Whom are we to please? (v. 1)
  • What is God’s will? (v. 3)

Ephesians 4:17-32

  • Why are the Gentiles alienated from the life of God? (v. 18)
  • Instead of bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander, what should be true of Christians? (vv. 31-32)

1 Peter 1:13-25

  • To what must we not be conformed? (v. 14)
  • Why should we be holy? (v. 15)
  • How have our souls been purified? (v. 22) For what purpose?

2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1

  • From what must we cleanse ourselves? (7:1)

Hebrews 12:12-17

  • For what two things must we strive? (v. 14)

Galatians 5:16-26

  • How are we able to not gratify the desires of the flesh? (v. 16)
  • What will those who do “such things” not inherit? (v. 21)

Colossians 3:1-17

  • Where is the Christian’s life hidden? (v. 3)
  • In what way is the new self being renewed? (v. 10)
  • What must one put on “above all”? (v 14)

2 Peter 1:3-11

  • Because of God’s promises, of what are we able to partake? (v. 4)
  • What is true of the one who lacks “these qualities” (v. 9)

2 Thessalonians 2:13

  • To what two things is salvation attributed in this passage?

2 Timothy 2:21

  • What will one become who cleanses himself?

Hebrews 10:10

  • Through what have we been sanctified?

Hebrews 13:12

  • Through what have we been sanctified?

1 Peter 1:2

  • Who also plays a role in our sanctification?

 Meditation Thoughts:

  • What would cleansing yourself “from every defilement of body and spirit” (1 Cor. 7:1) entail?
  • How does a person measure or gauge sanctification in their life?
  • What is the motivation for sanctification?
  • What would have to change immediately in my life in order to become more “useful to the master” (2 Tim. 2:21)?

Memory Verse:

“Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Tim. 2:21)