Daily Bible Readings – Friday, June 7, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 51

Prayer Point.  Doubt that God can forgive even the worst sins, then you need to read this psalm. David, the author, has just committed adultery and then murdered the husband to cover his crime and yet there is hope for him. How do we come clean when we sin? Use this psalm as your guide.

Luke 18:9-14

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? You can use the following “Background” and “Pay close attention to …”  sections to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. Pharisees were highly regarded in Jesus’ day for their commitment to God and his Law. Tax-collectors were despised because they profited from the misery of their countrymen by serving the hated Roman occupiers and defrauding them in order to line their pockets.

Pay close attention to …
Why the Pharisee’s prayer is rejected and the tax collector’s prayer accepted?
What the tax collector’s prayer can teach us about repentance.

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Repent. How have I failed to obey and share what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

2 Corinthians 8:16-24

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? You can use the following “Background” and “Pay close attention to …”  sections to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. With the church in Jerusalem facing starvation, Paul is laboring to collect donations from the church in Corinth to aid their suffering brothers and sisters. Paul is sending a delegation of co-workers to encourage the church in Corinth and to handle the monies they will donate.

Pay close attention to …

  • The motivation behind the offering (collection of money) in verse 19.
  • How Paul works hard to do what is right in the eyes of God and of men with regards to the monies he is collecting for the church in Jerusalem.

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Repent. How have I failed to obey and share what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:14

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? Use the “Background” below to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. What is the fate of the young man who is told to be happy while he is young? (“ … but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment.” (Eccl. 11:9b NIV))

Why give up anxiety and the troubles of the body? (“…for youth and vigor are meaningless.” (Eccl. 11:10b NIV))

Verse 1 admonishes us to “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth…” Why? (I think it is that the older we get the more we try to find meaning in our lives. Solomon will spend much time reminding us how “meaningless” everything is, but there is something built in us which seeks hope.)

What is being described in verses 6 and 7? (How fragile life is. The silver cord is severed; the golden bowl is broken; the pitcher is shattered; the well-wheel be broken.)

Can you see the frustration in verse 8? (Meaningless! Meaningless! Meaningless… This is the culmination of the book.)

Find the bright note in the conclusion of this book! (“Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (Eccl. 12:13-14 NIV))

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Repent. How have I failed to obey and share what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

Sirach 45:6-16 *Sirach is not considered to be Scripture, but is still worthwhile reading.

Aaron, to begin with, was Moses’ older brother. While he had his failings, Aaron managed to rise above them to become the anchor of the Levitical priesthood which was conferred on him by God through Moses. It was an unfortunate day while Moses was busy atop Mount Sinai that Aaron was also busy down below making for the people of God a golden idol: the famous golden calf. This particular image will return hundreds of years later to haunt and lead the Israelites (Northern Kingdom) astray. Jeroboam (I) will set up two golden calves in the Northern Kingdom (Samaria) in order to keep the people from going to Jerusalem to worship the LORD.

Aaron had four sons. Two were good and two were evil. The evil sons got drunk one day and offered “strange fire” before the LORD and paid for it with their lives. It is believed that because of this incident the prohibition against drinking and serving the Lord was instituted. (That seems obvious to me. — j.t.) So poor Aaron was unable to impress upon his first born sons (they were in fact the older of the four) of the importance of all that Moses had done and said.

Aaron is regarded respectfully, as we will see in this section, throughout all of Israel’s history.

Sirach
Chapter 45
Verses 6-16

6 He exalted Aaron, a holy man like Moses
who was his brother, of the tribe of Levi.
7 He made and everlasting covenant with him,
and gave him the priesthood of the people.
He blessed him with stateliness,
and put a glorious robe on him.
8 He clothed him in perfect splendor,
and strengthened him with the symbols of authority,
the linen undergarments, the long robe, and the ephod.
9 And he encircled him with pomegranates,
with many golden bells all around,
to send forth a sound as he walked
to make their ringing heard in the temple
as a reminder to his people;
10 with the sacred vestment, of gold and violet
and purple, the work of an embroiderer;
with the oracle of judgment, Urim and Thummim;
11 with twisted crimson, the work of an artisan;
with precious stones engraved like seals,
in a setting of gold, the work of a jeweler,
to commemorate in engraved letters
each of the tribes of Israel;
12 with a gold crown upon his turban,
inscribed like a seal with “Holiness,”
a distinction to be prized, the work of an expert,
a delight to the eyes, richly adorned,
13 Before him such beautiful things did not exist.
No outsider ever put them on,
but only his sons
and his descendants in perpetuity.
14 His sacrifices shall be wholly burned
twice every day continually,
15 Moses ordained him,
an anointed him with holy oil;
it was an everlasting covenant for him
and for his descendants as long as the heavens endure,
to minister to the LORD and serve as priest
and bless his people in his name.
16 He chose him out of all the living
to offer sacrifice to the LORD,
incense and a pleasing odor as a memorial portion,
to make atonement for the people.

Pay close attention to …

  • Read the passage and consider just how important the roll of the priest (high priest) was to the Israelite community.
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Daily Bible Readings – Thursday, June 6, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 60

Prayer Point.  How do you pray when you feel defeated? Psalm 60 points the way. The enemies David speaks of are foreign nations, but in our walk with Christ, the enemy is most likely ourselves and the evil one who tempts us. Pray Psalm 60 either for yourself or someone you know who is discouraged.

Luke 18:1-8

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? You can use the following “Background” and “Pay close attention to …”  sections to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. Jesus will use a parable (story) to urge us to pray with urgency and persistence.

Pay close attention to …

  • What Jesus is telling us about our approach to prayer in the parable of the widow and the unjust judge. Compare this to Luke 11:5-12.

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Repent. How have I failed to obey and share what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

2 Corinthians 8:1-16

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? You can use the following “Background” and “Pay close attention to …”  sections to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. Grace normally is used to refer to the unmerited favor we receive from God but Paul, in today’s reading, uses it to refer to the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Each person who becomes a follower of Christ receives the Holy Spirit and with the Spirit comes spiritual gifts or “grace empowerments” that are to used for building up the church. The Spirit’s power enables us to do things that we could never do on our own.

The grace given by the Holy Spirit in today’s reading is needed to address a crisis. There is a famine in Judah and the “mother-church” in Jerusalem is on the brink of starvation. In a stroke of genius, God has turned the tables. Missionaries from the church in Jerusalem helped establish churches, such as the church in Corinth. Now it is the young churches who are called to rescue the church that had first given them the gospel.

Pay close attention to …

  • What grace enabled the church in Macedonia to do (verses 1-6).
  • What the church of Corinth excelled in and what they lack (verse 7).
  • How grace, not the demands of the law, motivates us to be generous (verses 8-9).
  • Paul’s view of Christian love and equality. What is the purpose of our plenty and why (verses 13-15).

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Repent. How have I failed to obey and share what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

Ecclesiastes 11:1-8

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? Use the “Background” below to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. “Cast your bread upon the waters…” In keeping with the tenor of the Book of Ecclesiastes the ESV Study Bible writes on p. 1208: “11:1 To cast … bread up on the waters is a metaphor without any contemporary parallels [see what I mean?], so interpreters are uncertain about its meaning. Three suggestions are most common: (1) It refers to maritime commerce. (2) It refers to taking steps to spread out one’s financial resources in multiple directions [in today’s parlance: do put all your eggs in one basket]. (3) In older Jewish and Christian interpretation, it was taken to refer to giving to the poor, in which case finding it again represents others being kind in return [or in today’s parlance: what goes around comes around].”

Not satisfied with that I explored The Life Application Bible on page 1155 “11:1-5 In these verses Solomon summarizes that life involves both risk and opportunity. Because life has not guarantees, we must be prepared. “Cast your bread upon the waters” means that life has opportunities and we must seize them, not merely play it safe. Solomon does not support a despairing attitude. Just because life is uncertain does not mean we should do nothing. We need a spirit of trust and adventure, facing life’s risks and opportunities with God-directed enthusiasm and faith.”

Verse 2 suggests spreading the wealth around, to hedge your bets, as it were. Any investor will tell you the same thing, i.e. don’t put all your eggs in one basket [as indicated above].

What does verse 4 seem to be advising against? (Laziness)

What kind of imagery does Solomon use to drive home the point that we cannot understand the work of God? (“As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb…” (Eccl. 11:5a NIV))

What is the Teacher telling us in verse 6? (I think he is telling us that just because you plant, the work does not stop there. The fields will still need attention – they can’t take care of themselves.)

According to verse 8 why should a man remember “the days of darkness”? (Since “meaninglessness” is the running theme in this book, Solomon suggests that the dark days bring appreciation to a meaningless life. When things go well all the time, we begin to take the good times for granted. A rainy day, by contrast, enhances the splendor of a fair day.)

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Repent. How have I failed to obey and share what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

Sirach 44:19-45:5 *Sirach is not considered to be Scripture, but is still worthwhile reading.

Chapter 44
Verses 19-23

19 Abraham was the great father of a multitude of nations,
and no one has been found like him in glory.
20 He kept the law of the Most High,
and entered into a covenant with him;
he certified the covenant in his flesh,
and when he was tested he proved faithful.
21 Therefore the LORD assured him with an oath
that the nations would be blessed through his offspring;
that he would make him as numerous as the dust of the earth,
and exalt is offspring like the stars,
and give them an inheritance from sea to sea
and from the Euphrates to the ends of the earth.

22 To Isaac also he gave the same assurance
for the sake of his father Abraham.
The blessing of all people and the covenant
23 he made to rest on the head of Jacob;
he acknowledged him with his blessings,
and gave him is inheritance;
he divided his portions,
and distributed them among twelve tribes.

From his descendants the LORD brought forth a godly man,
who found favor in the sight of all
Chapter 45
Verses 1-5
1 and was beloved by God and all people,
Moses, whose memory is blessed.
2 He made him equal in glory to the holy ones,
and made him great, to the terror of his enemies.
3 By his words he performed swift miracles;
the LORD glorified him in the presence of kings.
He gave him commandments for his people,
and revealed to him his glory.
4 For his faithfulness and meekness he consecrated him,
choosing him out of all mankind.
5 He allowed him to hear his voice,
and led him into the dark cloud,
and gave him the commandments face to face,
the law of life and knowledge,
so that he might teach Jacob the covenant,
and Israel his decrees.

Pay close attention to …

  • The people of faith in the early part of Israel’s journey
  • Who Abraham was (v. 44:19 )
  • What Abraham did (v. 44:20 )
  • The LORD’s response (v. 44:21 )
  • Where the covenant rests (vv. 44:22-23 )
  • How Moses is described (vv 44:23-45:1 )
  • What the LORD did for Moses and what he gave him (vv. 45:2-3 )
  • The reward for meekness (v. 45:4 )

Daily Bible Readings – Friday June 15, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 73

Prayer Point: It is hard to follow God when we see the wicked prospering and good people suffering. It almost caused Asaph, the author of this psalm, to lose his faith. How do we pray when we are in this place? Asaph asked to see the world from God’s perspective. Pray that we will see the temporary nature of worldly success and for the faith to cry out, “whom have I in heaven but you?”

Matthew 16:21-28

Now that Peter has finally recognized Jesus to be the Christ (that’s Greek for Messiah), Jesus now begins to explain what kind of Messiah he will be? Why is Peter shaken by the Jesus’ answer?

Jesus’ response to Peter is quite severe. Why do you think Jesus attributes the idea, that he can be King without going to the cross, to Satan? Look back at the temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4:1-11.

How are we, the disciples of Jesus, to follow the trail he blazed for us? The sight of a condemned prisoners parading through the streets on their way to their crucifixion was a sight not unfamiliar to the disciples. That is the image Jesus uses to describe our discipleship. Why would we want to do such a thing?

In verse 28 Jesus says that there are some there who would see the Son of Man (Jesus) coming in his kingdom. While many disagree, I believe that Jesus is speaking of his ascension into heaven which is described in Daniel 7:13-14 from heaven’s perspective.

Daniel 7:13-14 In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man approached the Ancient of Days [God the Father] and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

Galatians 5:25-6:10

Galatians is a contrast between two gospels and two approaches to being right with God. The gospel that Paul taught was one where by faith in Jesus Christ we are made right with God and adopted as full heirs. Paul’s opponents taught that faith in Christ was insufficient. To be right with God required circumcision and the practice of Jewish laws and customs. The concern was that if the Gentiles believed they were right with God by faith in Christ in alone, they would lose their incentive to be obedient to God.

The irony is that their attempts to keep God’s laws led to anger and division in their church. Paul instead called them to live by the Spirit. What does life look like if you are not guided by the Holy Spirit (5:26)? How do we relate to others if we are led by the spirit? How do we handle their sin and their suffering? How do we see ourselves? How do we handle our own responsibilities?

Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:14      Remember Your Creator in the Days of Your Youth

What is the fate of the young man who is told to be happy while he is young? (“ … but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment.” (Eccl. 11:9b NIV))

Why give up anxiety and the troubles of the body?  (“…for youth and vigor are meaningless.” (Eccl. 11:10b NIV))

Verse 1 admonishes us to “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth…”  Why?  (I think it is that the older we get the more we try to find meaning in our lives.  Solomon will spend much time reminding us how “meaningless” everything is, but there is something built in us which seeks hope.)

What is being described in verses 6 and 7?  (How fragile life is.  The silver cord is severed; the golden bowl is broken; the pitcher is shattered; the well-wheel be broken.)

Can you see the frustration in verse 8?  (Meaningless! Meaningless! Meaningless…  This is the culmination of the book.)

Find the bright note in the conclusion of this book!  (“Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (Eccl. 12:13-14 NIV))

Daily Bible Readings – Thursday June 14, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 74

Prayer Point: Some prayers are laments. This psalm is a desperate cry to God from the ashes of Israel’s capital city, Jerusalem. Foreign armies had overrun it and the people wonder if God has rejected them forever. You might not be in this place, but you probably know someone that is. Pray this psalm on their behalf.

Matthew 16:13-20

Who do the crowds believe the Son of Man (Jesus) to be?

Once again Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man which is a reference to Daniel 7:13-14: “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”

Jesus presses the question further, “But who do you say that I am?” How does Simon Peter reply who Jesus is? According to Jesus, who revealed this to Peter?

Why does Jesus give Simon the name ‘Peter’? What is the rock upon which Jesus will build his church?

This has been a hotly debated topic for centuries. The answer from our tradition is that the “rock” is Peter’s confession, “you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” and not the Apostle himself.

Galatians 5:16-24

There is a certain freedom in the gospel if we understand it correctly. Once we were alienated from God and under the curse of death because of our sin. But when we could not save ourselves, Jesus stepped out of heaven, lived the righteous life we did not live and died a death of judgment that we should have died. Jesus died to set us free. We do not have to pay for our sins. Our sins are forgiven. It is a free gift from God.

This is  a beautiful, but dangerous truth. It has been feared by Christian leaders for centuries. If you tell people they are free, won’t they just go crazy and do whatever they want? We have a choice now that Christ has set us free. We can live according to our sinful nature and satisfy its cravings or we can live by the Spirit. How does these acts of the sinful nature contrast to the “fruit of the Spirit”?

Sometimes the struggle in being a Christian is to believe in who you are and what you already have through Jesus. What has already happened to every Christian according in verse 24? How would our lives be different if we actually believed this?

Ecclesiastes 11:1-8   “Cast Your Bread upon the Waters”

“Cast your bread upon the waters…”  In keeping with the tenor of the Book of Ecclesiastes the ESV Study Bible writes on p. 1208: “11:1  To cast … bread up on the waters is a metaphor without any contemporary parallels [see what I mean?], so interpreters are uncertain about its meaning.  Three suggestions are most common: (1) It refers to maritime commerce.  (2) It refers to taking steps to spread out one’s financial resources in multiple directions [in today’s parlance: do put all your eggs in one basket]. (3) In older Jewish and Christian interpretation, it was taken to refer to giving to the poor, in which case finding it again represents others being kind in return [or in today’s parlance: what goes around comes around].”

Not satisfied with that I explored The Life Application Bible on page 1155 “11:1-5 In these verses Solomon summarizes that life involves both risk and opportunity.  Because life has not guarantees, we must be prepared.  “Cast your bread upon the waters” means that life has opportunities and we must seize them, not merely play it safe.  Solomon does not support a despairing attitude.  Just because life is uncertain does not mean we should do nothing.  We need a spirit of trust and adventure, facing life’s risks and opportunities with God-directed enthusiasm and faith.”

Verse 2 suggests spreading the wealth around, to hedge your bets, as it were.  Any investor will tell you the same thing, i.e. don’t put all your eggs in one basket [as indicated above].

What does verse 4 seem to be advising against?  (Laziness)

What kind of imagery does Solomon use to drive home the point that we cannot understand the work of God?  (“As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb…” (Eccl. 11:5a NIV))

What is the Teacher telling us in verse 6?  (I think he is telling us that just because you plant, the work does not stop there.  The fields will still need attention – they can’t take care of themselves.)

According to verse 8 why should a man remember “the days of darkness”?  (Since “meaninglessness” is the running theme in this book, Solomon suggests that the dark days bring appreciation to a meaningless life.  When things go well all the time, we begin to take the good times for granted.  A rainy day, by contrast, enhances the splendor of a fair day.)

Daily Bible Readings – Wednesday June 13, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 119:73-96

Prayer Point: Psalm 119, the longest of all the psalms, is a tribute to one man’s devotion to God and his laws, his way of life. This section is a plea to God to help him overcome the barriers we face in following God. There is our limited minds. There are enemies in this world. There is suffering that discourages us. Pray that God will overcome them all in our lives.

Matthew 16:1-12

Jesus never performed a miracle to prove who he was. He only performed miracles as an expression of compassion or to confirm a faith that was already present. What motivated the Pharisees and Sadducees to ask Jesus to ask for a miraculous sign? What is the only sign that Jesus is willing to give them?

The sign of Jonah worked for Jesus on two levels. First, Jonah was an Old Testament prophet who in a sense came back from the dead. He was swallowed by a great fish, yet three days later he was vomited onto a beach. Jesus will soon die, but will emerge from the tomb on the third day.

The story of Jonah is also a critique of the pride and arrogance of the Jewish religious authorities. Jonah was sent to the Assyrians, a mortal enemy of Israel, to warn them of God’s coming wrath. Jonah runs away because he is afraid of what might happen. They will believe the message, repent and God will forgive them.  God caught up with Jonah as his ship sailed to Tarshish, and caused him to be thrown overboard and swallowed by a fish. The great irony of the story is that the Assyrians repent while Jonah is angry that they have received the same grace he received. By the end of the story the Assyrians are embraced by God while Jonah, the prophet of God is on the outside looking in. So it was with the Pharisees and Sadducees. They spurned Jesus and the grace he offered, but it was the tax-collectors, prostitutes and even the Gentiles who flocked to Jesus.

With this in mind, what do you think Jesus means by “watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees? Yeast or leaven was symbolic of sin in Jewish culture. What did they get wrong concerning Jesus?

Galatians 5:1-15

Why does Paul equate submitting to circumcision to a return to slavery?

The term ‘justification’ is a legal term meaning to ‘declare someone to be innocent or righteous.’
What will happen to the Galatians’ relationship with Christ if they attempt to justify themselves by keeping Jewish Law and submitting to circumcision? What does God value more than circumcision (verse 6)?

Under Paul’s teaching, the Galatian church had flourished with a spirit of joy and freedom. What has happened to this church now that they were following Jewish Law as a means of making them “real Christians”? How have they changed? How are they ironically violating the spirit of the Old Testament Law which was “love your neighbor as yourself”?

Ecclesiastes 9:11-18         Chance

What is the next pearl of optimism from the Teacher?  (Well, there isn’t one, but he does say this: “The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” (Eccl. 9:11 NIV))

What does Solomon say about when a man’s hour will come?  (“Moreover no one knows when his hour will come: … so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.” (Eccl. 9:12 NIV))

What example does Solomon talk about which greatly impressed him (in verses 13-16)?  (“There was once a small city with only a few people in it.  And a powerful king came against it, surrounded it and built huge siege works against it.  Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom.  But nobody remembered that poor man.  So I said, “Wisdom is better than strength.”  But the poor man’s wisdom is despised and his words are no longer heeded.” )

Verses 17 and 18 appear to be something like a re-telling of verses 13-16 except for that part of the one sinner destroying much good.

Daily Bible Readings – Tuesday June 12, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 68

Prayer Point:  What makes God the Father unique among the gods of this world is that he identifies himself with the weak rather than the powerful. “He is a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows.” Think about the most vulnerable among us and pray that God will act on their behalf. Pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Matthew 15:29-39

What attracted these massive crowds to come to Jesus? How does Jesus feel about the needy people who came to him? Why does Jesus’ concern for the crowds unnerve the disciples? Have you ever felt this way when you were confronted by the needs of the world?

What does Jesus ask of his disciples? What does Jesus provide himself? Is there enough? What does this tell you about our resources, God, and the needs of the world?

Galatians 4:21-31

The false teachers had divided the followers of Christ into two camps. The “real” Christians  who followed Jewish Law and practiced circumcision and the Gentiles who were outside of God’s grace unless they became practicing Jews. Paul turns this division on its head reinterpreting the story of Abraham.

Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel, had two sons. Ishmael, the son born in the ordinary way, that is when Abraham’s wife Sarah was unable to have children, Sarah’s servant bore a son in the place of Sarah. Isaac was the other son whom Sarah miraculously conceived in her nineties. Ishmael had persecuted Isaac seeing him as a threat to his inheritance. In the end, Abraham sent Ishmael away leaving Isaac as the sole heir. The Jews had assumed that because they were physically descended from Isaac they were the “children of the promise.” Here is where Paul turns the story on the opponents.

Hagar, the slave woman, represents the Old Testament Law. Sarah represents the children of the promise.  Who does Paul say can rightly claim that Sarah (‘the Jerusalem that is above’) as his mother and Isaac as his brother? Who are the true children of promise, those biologically descended from Isaac or those who are born by the power of the Spirit? Who are considered to be children of the slave woman? Do the Galatians need to become circumcised to be considered children of promise?

Ecclesiastes 8:14-9:10    A Common Destiny for All

What is the thing called “meaningless” by the in verse 14?   (“Righteous men who get what the wicked deserve, and wicked men who get what the righteous deserve.”(Eccl. 8:14 NIV))

Why does the Teacher “commend the enjoyment of life? (“…because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad.  Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun.” (Eccl. 8:15 NIV))
What is it that “no one can comprehend” under the sun according to verse 17?  (“Then I saw all that God has done. … Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning.  Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it.” (Eccl. 8:17 NIV)  There are people (philosophers) who firmly believe that ultimately one cannot “know” anything; it is all speculation and conjecture.)

What is the common destiny described in verses 1-2 in Chapter 9 of Ecclesiastes?  (Death)  It is my considered opinion that no one really wants to talk of death.

[Let me take a break here to recount a personal anecdote.   A couple of years ago as I was waiting for one of our church’s famous pot-luck luncheons to begin, I happened to see a friend of mine sitting at a table by herself.  Olli was eighty-two at the time; this becomes important as the story unfolds.  Since I hadn’t had the opportunity to talk much with Olli for some time I thought this a good time to catch up.  So I asked her how she was.  Well, Olli launched into a litany of aches and pains the like of which I had never experienced from her.   She had never complained about anything before.  When she finished I told her that while I was hardly a doctor it seemed to me that she was experiencing symptoms of Lyme disease.  “That’s what my doctor had suggested to me,” said Olli.  “Well, Olli, if that is the case, I have some good news and some bad news for you.  The good news is that if they catch the disease in time you will only need one treatment.  The bad news is that if they don’t catch it in time you’ll have to have treatments for the rest of your life…… well, in your case, how long can it be?”  What happened next nearly frightened me to death.  Olli was laughing so loudly and so lustily that I thought she was on the verge of hyperventilating or worse a seizure.  “No one has ever talked to me about death quite like that before,” said she.  I am of that school of thought that says the more one talks about something, like fears, the more one disarms them.]

Back to Chapter 9…

So death has a claim on all of us.  If you’re old enough (and you don’t have to be too old either) you will have experienced a close encounter with the enemy.

What is the “evil in everything that happens under the sun?”  (“The same destiny overtakes all.” (Eccl. 9:3 NIV))

What is the quaint expression that the Teacher uses to describe the hope of those who are living in verse 4?  (“… even a live dog is better off than a dead lion.” (NIV)   I actually heard this expression used (ahem: “this scripture quoted”) in a movie (Lady Jane) by someone who was awaiting the axe man.)

“For the living  know ________ _________  _______  _________ (that they will die), but the dead _________  ____________ (know nothing).

In light of the above, what is the Teacher’s advice (verse 7)?  (“Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart…”(NIV))

“Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil.” (Eccl. 9:8  NIV)  What do you think this means?  (Unfair!  The answer is not in the text.  I had to seek the help of the Life Application Bible for this one: The wearing of white and the anointing of oil was indicative of celebrating.  Jesus talked about anointing once but it had more to do with fasting and not celebrating.  Anoint yourself so that no one will know that you are fasting.  See Matthew Chapter 6 verses 16-18.)

How does the Teacher want you to enjoy your “meaningless” life for all of your “meaningless” days?  (“Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love. … For this is your lot in life. …Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” (Eccl. 9:10 NIV))

Daily Bible Readings – Monday June 11, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 64

Prayer Point:  This psalm was most likely written as David was running for his life pursued by King Saul. It is best prayed on behalf of someone who is powerless and oppressed. Pray today on behalf of the civilians caught in the Syrian civil war, the Iranian underground church or another group of people who fear for their lives. Pray that God will protect them, end the evil, and inspire the world to worship Him.

Matthew 15:21-28

Jesus expands his ministry beyond the borders of Israel to the cities of Tyre and Sidon in Phoenecia (Lebanon). Now comes the moment of truth, a Canaanite woman an “accursed” Gentile cries out to Jesus desperate for him to heal her demon-possessed daughter.

How does Jesus test the woman’s faith and critique the racist attitudes towards Gentiles that was common in Israel? What is it about this woman that causes Jesus to heal her daughter? How was her great faith expressed?

Galatians 4:12-20

Galatians is a not a book but a letter written by the Apostle Paul to the largely Gentile church in the province of Galatia. The Galatians had come to believe the gospel through Paul’s preaching, but after he moved on, other teachers came and convinced the Galatians that they needed to be circumcised and follow Jewish law to be real Christians. Paul is greatly distressed by this turn of events because he believes that the gospel is at stake.

How did the Galatians receive Paul’s teachings the first time? What is missing now that the false teachers have convinced them to submit to Jewish Law? What were these false teachers hoping to accomplish? How had they succeeded is misdirecting their zeal? What is Paul’s desire for the Galatians by contrast?

Ecclesiastes 7:1-14     The Destiny of Every Man 

“A good name is better than fine perfume …” (Eccl. 7:1a NIV)  Perfume, while it may be expensive is an adornment to the person (i.e. body) where as “a good name” is an adornment to one’s character.  Shakespeare waxed eloquent regarding the truth of this scripture in Othello:
“Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls;
Who steals my purse steals trash –’tis something, nothing;
’Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.”                                          Iago Act 3 Scene 3

“… and the day of death better than the day of birth.” (Eccl. 7:1b)  The day of death spoken of here is not one’s own, but rather that of another.  Why would the day of death be better than the day of birth?  (I speculate that when someone dies that is more likely to give pause to those left behind.  The survivors can assess not only the decedent’s life but their own.  We, in America, have endeavored to remove death from our vocabulary; it is a reality we really don’t want to face.  We say things like “He passed.” or “He’s gone over.” or even “He bought the farm.” but seldom do we say “He died.”  The euphemisms seek to soften this reality.  “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” (Hebrews 9:27 NIV) That is the stark reality that death brings to mind.  We Christians, of all people, should fear death the least.)

“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart.” (Eccl. 7:2 NIV)  It seems to me that the house of feasting will focus only on the moment and the pleasure at hand.  The house of mourning is one of reflection and perhaps of repentance.  The Christian should mourn and miss the dead while at the same time see Christ’s victory over death.  This verse encourages us to ponder the end of life.

“Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart.”  (Eccl. 7:3 NIV)  The fact is we learn more from God in sadness than in mirth.  Sadness shifts our attention from the trivial to the serious.

“The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.”  (Eccl. 7:4 NIV)  This is just a re-telling of verse two.   This preoccupation with death is meant to help us understand the shortness of life.  There are countless verses in the Psalms which remind us that life is but a vapor.  We are limited in terms of time, it would be wise to use what time we have prudently.  I have often thought that the very preciousness of life lies in the fact that it ends.  It must not be taken for granted.

“It is better to heed a wise man’s rebuke than to listen to the song of fools.” (Eccl. 7:5 NIV)  This verse is only encouraging us to be teachable.  If we can humble ourselves to take rebuke (graciously) the rewards can be great.

Verse six talks about how meaningless is the “laughter of fools”.  The only biblical reference I can make here is the kind of ridicule Noah must have endured in spending his time building an ark on dry land for no apparent reason.  I presume he proclaimed the LORD’s plan but to unbelieving ears.

“Extortion turns a wise man into a fool, and a bribe corrupts the heart.” (Eccl. 7:7 NIV)  Paul in is second letter to Timothy puts it this way: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (2 Tim. 6:10 NIV)  Remember: money is not evil; it is the love of money that is a root of evil.

“The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.”  (Eccl. 7:8 NIV)  This may simply mean to plan a project out before undertaking to start it.  It will also be important to be disciplined enough to see the project to its conclusion.  By this exercise even patience will be learned.  Jesus spoke of this truth this way: “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower.  Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?  For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’”  (Luke 14:28-30 NIV)

“Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools” (Eccl. 7:9 NIV)  How would you re-write this verse?  (Such things as “Count to ten.” and “Hold your tongue lest you have to eat your words.”)

“Do not say ‘Why were the old days better than these?’  For it is not wise to ask such questions.”  (Eccl. 7:10)  Who hasn’t asked that question?  Why is it not wise to ask such questions?  (Is is not wise to ask such questions because one cannot go back nor can the times be changed to seem to go back.)

“Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun.”  (Eccl. 7:11)  Wisdom is a good thing.  The problem is we don’t usually know when we have it; wisdom is something someone else observes in us not something we tend to see in ourselves.  As for “those who see the sun”, I am not sure what that means.

Read verse 12 for it needs no explanation.  “Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor.”  (Eccl. 7:12 NIV)

“Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked?” (Eccl. 7:13 NIV)  Remember what the Lord did for the Israelites while they were in Egypt and once they hit the road.  There was a lot more than the crooked being made straight.

“When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other.  Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future.”  (Eccl. 7:4 NIV)  The book of Job is considered the first of the books of Wisdom in the Old Testament.  Hear what he has to say on the subject: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”  (Job 1:21 NIV)  And, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”  (Job 2:10b NIV)  Actually the most comforting words on this subject came from Paul in his letter to the Romans: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV)