Tag Archives: Old Testament

Through the Bible, June 30

Reading: Psalm 69, 135

Summary: Despite the attribution of Psalm 69 to David, some have concluded this Psalm is from the time following the Babylonian captivity.  It is believed vv. 35-36 date the Psalm to this time period. Remember, the inscriptions at the heading of the Psalms (not all contain these inscriptions) though quite old, are not a part of the inspired text.

Psalm 135 is thought, by some, to be dated later than David due to the similarity of language between this Psalm and portions of Jeremiah. Following the exile, it was clear that the prophet had been exactly right about the fate that he said would befall God’s people.  So, his words were borrowed (so the theory goes) as this Psalm reflects on God’s great acts.

Devotional Thought:

Where Did That Come From?

Psalm 69 may have a familiar sound to it for New Testament readers.  That’s with good reason.  No less than six different texts from this Psalm are quoted in various places in the New Testament: verse 9a in John 2:17; verse 9b in Romans 15:3; verse 21 in John 19:28-29 (and parallels in Matthew 27:34; Mark 15:36; Luke 23:36); verses 23-24 in Rom. 11:9-10; and verse 25 in Acts 1:20.

These verses are used in reference to Jesus’ emotion when cleansing the temple, the hatred His followers would experience, His thirst on the cross, the death of Judas Iscariot, people’s acceptance or rejection of the gospel, and the fact that a Christian’s priority ought to be pleasing others rather than self–all from this one Psalm.

Here’s an important point—a single passage of Scripture may very well have more than one application.  We’ve probably all experienced this on a practical level.  A Scripture which has had meaning to us previously, then, due to some new or different circumstance in our lives suddenly it takes on significance in a whole new way.

This is not to say that the Bible’s meaning changes from situation to situation.  Instead, its application in our lives very well may change.

This is all part of the fact that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

God’s word doesn’t change, but we do.  No matter how we may change or what may come into our life, we will never become anything for which God’s word does not apply.  And, as we change—which we all inevitably do—the Bible remains ever new.  Consequently, the I’ve-read-that-before excuse never applies to Scripture.

Never stop reading your Bible!

Through the Bible, June 29

Reading: Psalm 137, 74

Summary: Psalm 137 contains the only certain historical reference to place it during the time of the exile.  Psalm 74, if not written during this time, certainly expresses the attitude of God’s people in their captivity.

Devotional Thought:

Do You Remember?

Memory is a powerful feature of the human psyche.  What a blessing to be able to recall the past with clarity; and what a curse.

Memories may soothe and comfort and make us smile.  They may also irritate and agitate and stir up remorse or regret or anger, they may make us cry.

From captivity in Babylon, Israel recalled Zion and wept.  Those were, no doubt, tears of remorse.  Unfaithfulness to God had led to her fall.  Why had they not listened to the prophets’ repeated warnings?

Those were tears of sorrow.  The temple had been such an integral part of national life and no doubt for many, held precious personal memories as well.

Those were tears of angst for a people displaced from their home.  “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (v. 4).

Tomorrow will carry memories of today. Not all of what happens today is in your control, but much of it is.  You are making your memories.  Shall you rejoice or weep?

June Supplemental Reading

Week 5: Supplemental Reading

June 29-30

            June’s two supplemental reading days will focus on Psalms apparently written during the time of exile or after.  The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple and the seventy years of exile had greatly affected the Jews’ understanding of themselves and their relationship with God.  Aside from the explicit historical reference of Psalm 137, this shift in perspective seems to appear in several of the Psalms and has led many to believe they were penned during the time of restoration, though this is far from certain.

Through the Bible, June 28

June 28: No scheduled reading

Thoughts and Reflections: This is the scheduled day for you to be able to catch up if you have fallen behind in your reading. Though no Bible reading is scheduled for today, you may wish to consider the following thoughts drawn from this past week’s reading.

  1. The time of the Jews return from captivity is often referred to as the “restoration of the Jews.” That is a fitting description.  They were able to be restored to their homeland, the temple was rebuilt, the city walls were reconstructed, and the religion as spelled out in Moses’ law was reinstated.   One of the important keys for successful restoration was the teaching and explanation of God’s word.  Of Ezra, it is said he “set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel” (Ezra 7:10).  In addition, Ezra and Nehemiah arranged for God’s word to be read and taught.  “They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (Neh. 8:8).

Any effort at restoration to God apart from understanding and following His word is futile.

  1. An interesting emphasis on family is found in the closing pages of Old Testament history. Both Ezra and Nehemiah deal with the issue of marriages to foreign spouses whose influence would be away from God, not toward Him (Ezra 10; Nehemiah 13).  Malachi looks toward the return of “Elijah the prophet” who will, among other things, “turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers” (Mal. 4:6).

Families are critical to a right relationship with God.

Devotional Thought:

You Did Wrong; Now What?

Punishment itself doesn’t necessarily cure wrongdoing.

Think about God’s people coming out of Babylonian captivity. The captivity was a punishment from God for their sinfulness.  God made that very clear.

So, upon leaving their exile, was Israel cured of its sinful ways?  Hardly.   Both Ezra and Nehemiah had to lead the returned people out of sinful practices (Ezra 9, 10; Nehemiah 13).  To the people’s credit, they did respond positively to these efforts, which is unlike the response of the people to similar efforts of the prophets before the exile.

The punishment didn’t cure them of wrong doing, but it did seem to get their attention.

People can sometimes be critical of others (or of themselves) because they have done wrong.  Not to justify the wrong at all, but everyone does sometimes.  The real issue is not whether or not one has done wrong, but what do they do about it?  That’s the kicker.  David wasn’t a man after God’s own heart because he never did wrong.  It was his response to his own sin that landed him that designation.

Be wary of the man does wrong flippantly, but even more so of the one who judges others simply on the basis of their having sinned.

Through the Bible, June 27

Reading: Malachi 2:17-4:6

Summary: One of the primary themes of Malachi is the discrepancy between what God has said and done and how His people perceive it.  A literary formula is repeated throughout the book, “…says the Lord, but you say…” (1:2, 6, 7; 2:14, 17, 3:7,8, 13).  Half of those are found in yesterday’s reading and half in today’s.

The parting words of the prophet look to a coming age when Elijah the prophet returns.  In the pages of the gospel, we see an anticipation of the Jewish people of the return of Elijah (Matt. 16:4; 17:10-11; 27:47; Mark 6:15; Luke 9:8; John 1:21, 25).

Devotional Thought:

Family is a Big Deal

The Old Testament ends in a striking way.

A person gets a sense of what’s going on at this time, the status of God’s people, the prevailing attitudes and concerns—both of God and the people, the events of historical significance all by reading the historical books of Ezra and Nehemiah as well as the prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

The time of the return from captivity—including all three returns led by Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah—were a time of restoration.  It’s not only a physical restoration of Jerusalem with its temple and walls, but also a restoration of spiritual life as led by Ezra.  The word of God’s messengers was not only about that present time, but also looking forward to the future of the great, coming Messianic kingdom.  God was still at work!

It’s in the midst of all these grand and glorious themes that the final words of the Old Testament speak to the relationship between fathers and children.  Granted, this may have as it’s primary application the forefathers (fathers) and their descendants (children) all being on the same page with the will and plan of God.  Still, the mention of the family relationship is striking.

Fundamental to God’s plan for faith among His people is the role of fathers.  Back in the days of the Judges the unfaithfulness is traced to the fact that a generation arose that was ignorant of God and His good works (Judges 2:10).  Whose responsibility was it to communicate this vital information?  Fathers! (Deut. 6:6-9; 11:18-20; Psa. 78:4-5).  This same principle applies in the New Covenant–fathers teach their children (Eph. 6:4).

Among the magnificent and monumental works and plans of God for the salvation of humanity stands the common yet critical place of the family.

Through the Bible, June 26

Reading: Malachi 1:1-2:16

Summary: Malachi is not only the last book of the Old Testament (in the arrangement of books in our English Bibles), he is the last of the prophets of the Old Testament era.  His is the final voice from God before the time between the Old and New Testaments, roughly 400 years.

Malachi, like other prophets, is calling God’s people to faithfulness to God, His word, and His people.

Devotional Thought:

Arguing with God

I’m not a very good arguer.  Whenever I get into a discussion infused with some intensity and higher than normal emotion my mind tends to shut down.  My goal becomes getting out of the conflict at virtually any cost rather than sensible resolution.  That personality trait does not serve me well.  I’m trying to learn better.

Sometimes, though, we argue without realizing it.  I suppose in its simplest form it is to counter one statement with another.  The form of that counter may be verbal, it may be written, it may be by action.  What we say or do is in disagreement.

That being said, we often argue with God.  That’s what Malachi said.  Several times, he employs the formula “…says the Lord.  But you say…” (1:2, 6, 7; 2:14, 17; 3:7, 8 , 13).  God’s own people were saying and doing things in disagreement with what God said.  They were arguing with Him.

Take the first instance; “’I have loved you,’ says the Lord.  But you say, ‘How have you loved us?’” (Mal. 1:2).  That still happens doesn’t it?  God’s says “I love you”—primarily through Jesus (John 3:16; 1 John 3:16).  Then we hit some rough spots in life and think God should fix them or even prevent them, and when He doesn’t we think, “If God loved me He would…”  God says; we say.

God says…

our top priority should be His kingdom and righteousness (Matt. 6:33)

we should put others’ concerns and interests ahead of our own (Php. 2:3)

life is not found in the abundance of one’s possessions (Luke 12:15).

blessedness is found in poverty of spirit, mourning, meekness, peacemaking, etc. (Matt. 5:3-12).

and so on.

But what do we say/do?

By the way, in case you did not know or had forgotten, arguing with God is a losing proposition.

Through the Bible, June 25

Reading: Nehemiah 8, 9, 13

Summary: Nehemiah and Ezra join forces to help the people to learn and understand God’s Law.  They obeyed certain portions of the Law that had been neglected for many generations.   Also, the people learned of violations of God’s Law that needed to be corrected.

Devotional Thought:

Understand and Rejoice

The goal of communication is understanding, isn’t it?  We speak and we wish to be understood.  We read and we want to understand.

Though communication can fail in so many ways—understanding is not achieved—in many instances, it carries an expectation for understanding. When I read a road sign that says “45” I need to know if that’s a speed limit, highway number, a mile marker, or an exit number.  If the sign says “Stop” or “Yield” I need to understand what that means and be sure my corresponding actions are appropriate.  Not only do I need to understand, I’m expected to.

The Bible also carries an expectation for understanding. Remember the Ethiopian nobleman who had a question about the Scripture he was reading.  “Do you understand what you are reading?” the preacher asked.  “How can I unless someone guides me?” was his reply (Acts 8:30-31).  Philip did guide him and he did understand.

So also in the days following captivity and the restoration of Israel.  Ezra stood before the assembled people and read God’s word.  But not only was His word read, Levites were present to help the people understand what they heard.  Initially, the people responded with grief and tears (v. 9). This wasn’t right.  The Levites calmed the people, who finally “went their way…rejoicing because they had understood the words that were declared to them” (v. 12).

Back to that Ethiopian in Acts 8. He understood what Philip taught him, obeyed the word of God and “went on his way rejoicing” (v. 39).

Understanding begets rejoicing, especially when we understand God.

Through the Bible, June 24

Reading: Nehemiah 4-6

Summary: Rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls, as great a task as it was, was only the beginning of Nehemiah’s good work.  He also set out to right the wrongs of the powerful and wealthy taking advantage of the poor.  For his efforts he was moved from an “unofficial” position of leadership to an official one, serving as the governor of Judah.  From there he acted generously and justly.

Devotional Thought:

Distracted

I don’t know of anyone who gets as much done as they would like.   There’s always more that could and/or should be done.

Why? Why are we so lousy at getting things done?  That’s a loaded question and the answers are many, very many.  Lazy, disorganized, unmotivated, busy-ness, overload, forgetfulness, etc., etc.

The list is potentially unending.  Efficiency and productivity experts say that one of the biggest culprits is distractions.  Our attention, and therefore our energies, are diverted from the task at hand. It will now take longer to accomplish whatever we’d been previously focused on and consequently robs the time that could have been given to the next important task.

Satan may be the father of lies, but he’s also the master of distraction.  His success does not require our rejecting God’s work and righteous deeds, only that we be distracted.

Nehemiah’s sterling leadership is shown when his opponents invited him to a meeting in the plain of Ono.  He said, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down” (Neh. 6:3).  He refused to be distracted.

Failing God does not require our doing wrong; distraction from doing right will suffice.

Through the Bible, June 23

Reading: Nehemiah 1-3

Summary: Nehemiah has to be regarded as one of the great examples of leadership in all of Scripture.  He moved boldly to answer a dire need even though he was not in any “official” position to do so.  He moved decisively and influenced many others to action despite opposition.

Devotional Thought:

You’re No Leader, So Lead

Nehemiah’s position as cupbearer for the king seems rather inane and trivial. It was a position of some prominence in that he was in direct contact with the king.  No, he was not a policy maker or hold a cabinet-type position.  He served the king his wine.

Remember, Nehemiah was a cupbearer; no great shakes in the scheme of things.

What Nehemiah ended up doing, though, was quite remarkable.  He led the third group of Jews back to Jerusalem from the land of their former captivity.  He set out to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem that still lay in ruins—hence the city was still not a viable entity with hope of a future.

Nehemiah knew well the spiritual implications of Jerusalem’s condition (see 1:6-9) and took it upon himself to pray to God about it.  He was so bold as to ask the king for permission to lead his countrymen back to his homeland and rebuild the city walls.  Eventually, he did precisely that, first motivating, then leading the people—despite cunning opposition—to complete this noble and notable task.

Nehemiah, the cupbearer to the king; Nehemiah, the great leader of God’s people.

The former did not qualify him for the latter; but neither did it disqualify him.

How many of us have disqualified ourselves from leading because we’re not in the right position?  Position does not make you or break you as a leader.  Whether cupbearer, student, homemaker, ditch digger, assembly line worker, teacher, church member, fry cook—it doesn’t matter.  Nehemiah fervently petitioned God regarding the great need He saw.  He took the steps he could from where he was to begin to address it.  No doubt God blessed his initiative and look what happened!

Nehemiah the cupbearer and me the…

Through the Bible, June 22

Reading: Ezra 7; 9:1-10:17

Summary: Ezra was a teacher, specifically of God’s Law.  His contribution to the “restoration of the Jews” following Babylonian captivity was to guide them in knowing and practicing God’s word.  That could, at times, be very challenging when the people had long neglected God’s word.  And it was that very fact that hand landed them in captivity in the first place.

Old habits die hard, but Ezra was a leader strong enough to not allow these returned Jews to fall into those old ways.

Devotional Thought:

Hating God’s Word

How do you feel when you read God’s word?  Encouraged? Built up? Motivated?  Happy?   Comforted?  Hopeful?

Of course, many circumstances go into our emotional response to the Bible.  But surely, one of the reasons we love the Bible is because it can make us feel so good.  It can give us comfort for our grief, hope for our despair, joy for our sorrow, strength for our weakness, and so on.  How marvelous are the “words of eternal life.”

Just as for every day there is a night and for every laughter there is a tear, so also there is another side to what God’s word can, and should, do for us.  Think about the response of Ezra and the people.  They trembled and Ezra tore his clothes, pulled hair from his head and beard and sat appalled (Ezra 9:3).  This was all because the people heard the word of God and Ezra heard of the faithlessness of the people.

Sometimes the Bible makes us feel so good, but it might also make us feel so bad.  Remember Jehoiakim reacted violently (literally cutting up the scroll of Jeremiah with a knife and burning it in the fire) and Felix became alarmed (Jer. 36:23; Acts 24:25).

The real test of our love for God and His word doesn’t come when we’re made to feel better by it, but worse.  It’s not when I love what it says, but when I hate it.  What comes next tells everything about us.