Daily Bible Readings – Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 119:25-48

Prayer Point: The author Psalm 119 desires to follow the law of God but faces a number of obstacles: his own ignorance, sin and persecution of others. We desire to follow Jesus  but we face the same obstacles. Pick one or two from this reading that resonate with your experience and ask God to give you the strength to overcome them.

John 7:53-8:11

The Feast of Tabernacles has come to a close and the pilgrims who traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast now have returned home. The crowds are gone, but the Pharisees continue to see Jesus as a threat and seek to destroy him. With the woman caught in the act of adultery, they believe they have found their opportunity.

The idea is to put Jesus in a position where he must side either with Old Testament Law or the Roman authorities. The penalty for adultery in the Law of Moses was indeed death, although it is curious as to why only the woman was brought before Jesus, because the Law demanded the lives of both the woman and the man. Already the Pharisees are in violation of the Law.

Here’s the problem. If Jesus says, “yes, stone her,” then he would have been in trouble with the Roman authorities, because they reserved the right to impose capital punishment. If Jesus says “no” the Pharisees could accuse him of being unfaithful to Jewish Law and Tradition.

How does Jesus stop these men in their tracks and rescue this woman? Who else in this story deserves judgment under the Law of Moses? How is this woman called to respond to Jesus’ gracious act of forgiveness? How are we called to respond?

2 Thessalonians 1:1-12

Paul, Silas, and Timothy traveled through what is now Syria, Turkey, Macedonia, and Greece preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and establishing new churches from among those who believed. They trained leaders and once the church could stand on its own, (sometimes it took only months) they traveled on to the next city, but the support continued in the form of letters such as 2 Thessalonians.

Why is Paul thankful for the church in Thessalonica?
How does Paul inspire them to persevere in their faith despite the persecution they faced? Who will take care of matters of justice? What reward can they expect?

It was a belief in a God of justice which freed these Christians to love their enemies. It was not their job to exact revenge. Their task was to stand firm and leave all thoughts of retaliation to God. In some cases, it was the faithful courage of early Christians that caused their oppressors to become Christians themselves.

Isaiah 6:1-13 (Wednesday) Flashback to Isaiah’s Commission (as a Prophet)

The seraphim are an angelic class whose sole office is to attend the LORD. What are these angels saying? (“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” These words “holy, holy, holy” are echoed in the Revelation Chapter 4 by four strange looking creatures, who, interestingly enough, each have six wings and eyes all about.)

What is the first thing that Isaiah himself says in this chapter? (“And I said, ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!'” (Isaiah 6:5 ESV))

What is the first thing to happen to Isaiah? (“Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips your guilt is taken away and you sin is atoned for.'” (Isaiah 6:6-7 ESV) This is, I think, the first presentation of the gospel which Jesus will later proclaim. — j.t.)

What does the Lord ask and how does Isaiah respond? (“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.'” (Isaiah 6:8 ESV) Here notice that only three verses above (and who knows how much time) Isaiah was saying “Woe is me…” Now he says “Send me.”)

What is to be Isaiah’s message to the people? (“And he said, ‘Go, and say to this people: “Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive. Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” (Isaiah 6:9-10 ESV) The turning mentioned here is one of repentance. Jesus cites this very passage in the gospel of Matthew Chapter 13: “The disciples came to him and asked, ‘Why do you speak to the people in parables?’ … ‘This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.”‘

‘In them is fulfilled the prophesy of Isaiah: “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.”‘” (Matthew 13:11, 13-15 NIV))
So while Isaiah is moved to repentance and is sent on a mission of bringing God’s message to his people, he is warned that it is actually through this message that the people will be hardened against the LORD. What an irony! Today we live in a world that really is dull of hearing and does not want to hear the gospel: “Your sins are forgiven!”

“But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.” (Isaiah 6:13 NIV) First of all, I don’t know what a “terebinth” is, but let me go out on a limb and guess that it is either a tree or a bush (because of its proximity to “oak” in the text). But, apart from that, what is the message here? (It appears that all but a remnant will ultimately remain of the people because of their refusal to seek the Lord and to listen to him. From The ESV Study Bible Notes p. 1252:
“6:11-13 God’s discipline will leave only a remnant of his people — the holy seed — like a single stump left after a forest has been burned over. The remaining believers are set apart for God by the same grace that saved Isaiah. They are the heirs of God’s promises to Abraham, and thus the only hope for the whole world (see 10:20-23; 11-10)”)


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