Daily Bible Readings – Monday October 8, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 106

Prayer Point:  I can’t read this psalm without thinking of the thief on the cross’ plea to Jesus: ‘remember me when you come into your kingdom’. The man is a failure and suffering the just due for his sins and yet he cries out to God and Jesus declares, “today you will be with me in paradise.” This is thief’s story and if you read the psalm you discover it is Israel’s story, and if we are honest, it is our story. Put yourself in the shoes of the thief and pray this psalm of repentance to God.

Luke 6:39-49

What will a disciple (student) of Jesus become like when he or she is fully trained according to verse 40?

What does Jesus ask us to do before we confront sin in a fellow Christian (brother)?

What does it mean that ‘no good tree bears bad fruit’ or ‘out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks’? What must change before our behaviors change?

What is the secret of building our life on a solid foundation?

Acts 22:30-23:11

The Sanhedrin was the Jewish ruling council made up of the chief priests, teachers of the Jewish law and other religious leaders. This council was split between two parties: the Sadducees and the Pharisees.

The Sadducees denied the supernatural elements of the Jewish faith dismissing heaven, resurrection and spiritual beings such as angels and demons. They had witnessed the deaths of their countrymen in futile attempts to overthrow the Romans and seeking to prevent future uprisings, they downplayed the “other worldly elements of their faith.” The Romans recognized this shrewdly placed the Sadducees in positions of power within Israel.

The Pharisees, by contrast, still held to heaven and the resurrection. Their hope was that if enough of the Israelites walked in obedience to Jewish Law, God would reward them by sending the Messiah and liberate them from Roman rule.

How does Paul cleverly throw the Sanhedrin into confusion?

What is God’s purpose for Paul at this stage of his life? Look for this mission to play itself out in the final chapters of the book of Acts.

Hosea 14:1-9 – Repentance to bring blessing

s we open Chapter 14 what is Hosea’s exhortation to the people? (Like so many prophets before him, Hosea is trying to encourage the people to return to the LORD indicating to them that their sins have been at the root of all their problems: “Your sins have been your downfall!) (Hosea 14:1b NIV).)

What does Hosea want the people to say to the LORD? (“Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips.” (Hosea 14:2b NIV))

What do the people finally admit? (“Assyria cannot save us, we will not mount war-horses. We will never again say ‘Our gods’ to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion.” (Hosea 14:3 NIV))

After this admission, what does the LORD promise? (“I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. … His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon. … He will blossom like a vine, and his fame will be like the wine from Lebanon.” (Hosea 14:4, 6, 7 NIV))

What is the rhetorical question the LORD puts to the people? (“O Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols?” (Hosea 14:8a NIV) [How could it ever be? – j.t.])

From where does the “faithfulness” of the people derive? ([The LORD speaking] “I am like a green pine tree; your faithfulness comes from me.” (Hosea 14:8b NIV) This reminds me of any covenant the LORD makes – he’s the one who fulfills both parts of the covenant. – j.t.)

What does Hosea say about the “wise” and “discerning” in the closing verses of this book? (“Who is the wise? He will realize these things. Who is the discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.” (Hosea 14:9-10 NIV) The “stumbling” of the rebellious reminds me of the gospel of John Chapter 1: “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it.” (verse 1:4-5 ) Jesus expanded that thought later in John Chapter 11: “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light” (John 11:9-10 NIV))

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Daily Bible Readings – Sunday, October 7, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 145

Prayer Point:  Psalm 145 proclaims that one generation will proclaim the works of God to the next.  This will not happen until our hearts grow hot in love for God.  This psalm gives many reasons to worship and treasure God.  Meditate on two or three examples that resonate with you and offer God a prayer of thanksgiving in response.

Matthew 14:1-12

Word of Jesus’ miracles get back to King Herod, the man who executed John the Baptist. How does he interpret Jesus’ actions in verse 1? Why?

Why had Herod been afraid to kill John the Baptist, despite John’s public condemnation of his marriage to his brother’s wife? Why does Herod change his mind? Herod projected himself as a powerful and ruthless tyrant. What really motivates this man?

1 Corinthians 2:6-16

Paul has just argued that Jesus and his message is the wisdom of God. How does the wisdom of God square with the “wisdom of this age” (human wisdom or even the conventional wisdom of the Roman Empire)? How did the rulers of this age (Roman government) demonstrate that they had not understood the wisdom of God in verse 8?

If humans cannot understand the wisdom of God on their own, how do we come to know Jesus, the wisdom of God (see verses 9 and 10)? What role does the Holy Spirit play in our coming to know God? Why is it impossible for someone without the Holy Spirit to believe in God?

If you are praying for someone to believe the gospel and become a follower of Jesus how does what you have just read guide you in how to pray for them?

Hosea 13:4-14 – Why can’t Israel hear?

What does verse 13:4 remind us of? (This is a re-phrasing of the first of the Ten Commandments: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:2-3 NIV))

This next section (verses 13:4-8) reminds us of how the LORD had met the daily needs of the people while they wandered in the desert for forty years. What two things happen when we become satisfied according to verse 13:6? (We become proud and we forget God.)

Israel continues to commit the same sin time and again. This can only be because they do not take the word of God to heart. Isaiah who was a contemporary of Hosea, though he was assigned to prophesy to Judah, summed it up this way: “The LORD says: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.’” (Isaiah 29:13 NIV) So this obstinacy is not confined just to the Northern Kingdom.

Why is the LORD willing to destroy Israel (13:9)? (“I will destroy you, O Israel, because you are against me, against your helper.” (NIV))

What does the Lord say about the “guilt of Ephraim” (13:12)? (“The guilt of Ephraim is stored up, his sins are kept on record.” (NIV))

I find verse 13:14 confusing. In verse 13:9 the Lord is willing to destroy Israel. In verse 13:12 the Lord is keeping records of Ephraim’s (Israel’s) guilt (sin). So I had to ask myself why is verse 13:14 phrased in this way: “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death.”? (NIV) I then looked at a couple of other translations to see if some light could be shed on this question. And “question” happens to be the operative word. The NASB (New American Standard Bible) translates the verse thusly: “Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death?” The ESV renders the verse in precisely the same way except that “death” in the ESV is capitalized as “Death”. This verse is translated as a question. That changes the whole slant of the meaning. The ESV Study Bible Notes p. 1641 add this insight: “13:14 Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? In the OT, “Sheol” is a proper name and can be a poetic personification of the grave (e.g., 1 Kings 2:6 [“Act therefore according to your wisdom, but do not let his gray head go down to Sheol in peace.”]; Ps. 141:7 [“As when one plows and breaks up the earth, so shall our bones be scattered at the mouth of Sheol.”]). But it can also designate the grim destination of the wicked after death (e.g., Ps. 49:14-15 [“Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol; death shall be their shepherd, and the upright shall rule over them in the morning. Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell. But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me.”]) The parallel wording with Ps. 49:15 suggests that Hosea sees Ephraim’s ‘death’ as leading to Sheol in the second sense, i.e., as damnation. Thus God asks himself whether he should rescue Ephraim from such consequences. O Death, where are your plagues? If the Lord is their strong deliverer, then not even death will be able to terrify them or harm them. In 1 Cor. 15:55 [“O death, where is your victory, O death, where is your sting?”] Paul cites part of Hos. 13:14. In that context, he is viewing the general resurrection as God’s triumph over not only bodily death but also eternal judgment, for the faithful. Sadly, in Hosea’s time Israel is rejecting the only power that can save her. Thus compassion is hidden from God’s eyes, and Israel will perish miserably (vv. 15-16)”

Daily Bible Readings – Saturday, October 6, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 33

Prayer Point:  God is not only our Creator, he is actively involved in our world. Pray today that we will not fear men or terrorists or armies or politicians. Pray that will fear God instead and that we will make him our source of security, not the power of our armies nor the size of our bank accounts.

Luke 6:27-38

The Jews of Jesus’ day certainly knew what it meant to have enemies. They lived under the cruel Roman occupation and they despised them for it. What does Jesus teach us about how to respond to enemies?

Love,for Jesus, is not an emotional feeling of affection, but an act of the will, a decision to act in the best interests of the other. What does it mean to love those who are against us? What do we do with people who ask us for things or worse take things from us? What do you think we would have to believe about God in order to follow these teachings? Why is it not good enough for followers of Jesus to love those who love them back or give only to those who repay us?

What Jesus means by “sons of the Most High” is that when we love our enemies and give without expecting anything back we take on the family resemblance of our Father in heaven. Like Father, like son and daughter.

Acts 22:17-29

Paul has been speaking in his own defense to a crowd that had just tried to kill him, for they had mistakenly believed that he had slipped a Gentile into the Temple in defiance of Jewish Law. He tells them his story of becoming a follower of Jesus and so far they have listened quietly. That is now about to change.

What part of Paul’s story sends the crowds into a frenzy? The Roman soldiers drag Paul back into the barracks and prepare to beat him for inciting a riot. How does Paul stop the soldiers in their tracks? How has God orchestrated all of this? The Commander had purchased his Roman’s citizenship which afforded him the protection of Roman Law and the right to due process. Paul on the other hand was born a Roman citizen, and that was a greater honor still. Do you see how God used every detail of Paul’s life, even those before Paul knew Jesus, to serve his purposes?

Hosea 11:1-9 – “When Israel was a Child”

What is going on in the opening verses (11:1-4) of Chapter 11? (It appears that Israel never realized how much the LORD had been present among them. He had even delivered them from slavery in Egypt. Every step of the way was the LORD by their side. Israel’s complaint had always been that they could not “see” their God as the nations around them could see theirs. So Israel strayed and followed (continually) other gods. They never appreciated all that the LORD had done for them.)

In verses 11:5-7 why will Assyria (aka Egypt) rule over Israel? (Because Israel refuses to repent (i.e. “return to Egypt”) will Assyria rule over them. “My people are determined to turn from me.” (Hosea 11:7 NIV))

“How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim?” (Hosea 11:8b NIV) To what does this refer? (Admah and Zeboiim were two cities which the Lord had completely destroyed shortly before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (and for pretty much the same reasons). The reason: “My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.” (Hosea 11:8b NIV))

Why will God not completely destroy Israel? (Many centuries before the Lord had made a covenant with, oh let’s see, nearly everyone, that he would make Israel like the stars in the heavens or like the sand on the seashore for multitude. While it is justice to punish Israel for its sins, God is also merciful: “For I am God, and not man – the Holy one among you. I will not come in wrath.” (Hosea 11:9b NIV))

Daily Bible Readings – Friday, October 5, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 107

Prayer Point:  “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Psalm 107 gives us numerous examples of the love and faithfulness of God. Meditate on one of the examples that resonates with you and offer God a prayer of thanks.

Luke 6:12-26

What does Jesus do before he selects his disciples? What can Jesus’ actions teach us about how we are to approach important decisions?

The number 12 is an important number as there were 12 tribes of Israel. This is important if we want to understand what Jesus is doing. The nation of Israel was born when Moses brought down the 10 Commandments to the twelve tribes gathered at the base. See Exodus 20.

Israel had been chosen by God to be a light to the nations. It was to be nation of such beautiful character that the nations of the world would be attracted to the light. By the time Jesus stepped upon the earth, the dream that was Israel was nearly dead. The kings of Israel had failed them. They abandoned the God who made them a people and worshiped the gods of the neighboring nations.

While Judea and Jerusalem were part of Israel, the cities of Tyre and Sidon were Gentile cities. They are prominent cities in what we call Lebanon today. Who is attracted to Jesus when he comes down from the mountain? Why is the crowd’s origins important to Luke? Remember that God’s purpose for Israel is that they would be a light to the nations. (See Luke 2:32)

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, he brought with him the 10 Commandments which served as the blueprint for the society God wished to build in Israel. Jesus, who is the second and greater Moses, also brings a blueprint for his new kingdom.

To be blessed is to enjoy God’s favor. Woe was given to those who were under God’s judgment.
Who is considered ‘blessed’ in God’s kingdom? Who is under God’s judgment? What does Jesus’ kingdom have to say about poverty and wealth, suffering and happiness, and popularity and rejection? How would our lives change if we adopted the values of Jesus’ kingdom?

Acts 21:37-22:16

Tensions are running high after Paul’s narrow escape from the rioting crowds in the temple. The Roman commander initially is suspicious of Paul, thinking him to be a rebel leader and terrorist. Rome feared unrest more than anything else in their vast Empire. But hearing that Paul is a Roman Citizen; being born in Tarsus in Cilicia, “no ordinary city”, made Paul a Roman citizen by birth. This is another example of God’s sovereignty over Paul’s life. His Roman citizenship will provide him with numerous opportunities to share the message of Christ and will allow him to accomplish God’s purposes in his life. Watch for Paul’s citizenship to play a prominent role as the book of Acts comes to a close.

Being a Roman citizen, Paul is afforded the opportunity to speak in his own defense to the angry mobs. How does Paul get the crowds to listen to him quietly (see Acts 22:2)? Greek was the language of the eastern half of the Roman Empire, but Aramaic was the heart language of the people of Jerusalem. Paul’s knowledge of Aramaic bolsters his credentials as a “true Israelite.” How does Paul prove in verses 3-5 that he is just like the people he is addressing? How does Paul explain his sudden decision to become a follower of Christ? Why do you think Paul goes to great lengths to point out that Ananias, the man who healed his blindness, was both a follower of Christ AND “a devout observer of the Law”?

So far Paul has managed not to enrage the crowd. That will quickly change in tomorrow’s reading.

Hosea 10:1-15 – Hosea’s Lament for Israel

What is the opening lament in Chapter 10:1-2? (Prosperity has brought corruption. “Their heart is deceitful, and now they must bear their guilt. The LORD will demolish their altars and destroy their sacred stones.” (Hosea 10:2 NIV))

What seems to be at the root of many of Israel’s problems (Chapter 10:4-5)? (They are dishonest. “They make many promises, take false oaths and make agreements; therefore lawsuits spring up like poisonous weeds in a plowed field.” (Hosea 10:4 NIV) [When I see the word “oath” I immediately think of taking an oath – that would be to call God to witness what is about to be said. If these people are making false oaths as I understand it, this suddenly becomes a very serious offense. Saying something like “I swear to God” may come easily to our tongues, but words are quite weighty – especially those words. This is an act of lip service too. – j.t.])

What is the glaring offense described in verses 10:5-8? (Idolatry – the age-old issue in Israel. The golden calf will be carried off to fill the treasury of the king of Assyria. “The high places of wickedness will be destroyed – it is the sin of Israel.” (Hosea 10:8a NIV) “Then they will say to the mountains, ‘Cover us!’ and to the hills, ‘Fall on us!’” (Hosea 10:8b NIV) These words struck me because these are the same words Jesus quotes to the women of Jerusalem while he was on his way to his crucifixion in Luke 23:30.)

The Lord charges Israel of sinning and continuing to do so. He plans punishment for Israel (Ephraim) because of it. What does this sound like? (Reference is made to “the days of Gibeah”. This event is recorded in Judges 19:22-26 which also mirrors a similar event in the life of Lot when he was visited by two “strangers” [read angels] whom the townsmen wanted to “know”. This sounds like “…you may be sure that your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23b NIV) [This particular reference is alluding to a pledge by the “trans-Jordan” tribes to commit themselves to the conquering of Canaan which is west of the Jordan. – j.t] “When I please, I will punish them; nations will be gathered against them to put them in bonds for their double sin.” (Hosea 10:10 NIV) So there is a day of reckoning!)

What is in store for Ephraim and Judah according to verse 10:11? (It looks like what we call “hard labor” with “yokes” and “plowing”.)

What is the point of this “hard labor”? (The point of “hard labor” is to bring Israel and Judah to repentance: “…for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.” (Hosea 10:12b NIV))

Israel proves dull of hearing and remains unrepentant. What is the key to Israel and Judah’s obstinacy in verse 10:13? (“Because you have depended on your own strength and on your many warriors, the roar of battle will rise against your people, so that all your fortresses will be devastated – as Shalman devastated Beth Arbel on the day of battle, when mothers were dashed to the ground with their children.” (Hosea 10:13b-14 NIV))

Verse 10:15 portends the end of the kingdom: “Thus will it happen to you, O Bethel, because your wickedness is great. When that day dawns, the king of Israel will be completely destroyed.” Things don’t look all that promising.

Daily Bible Readings – Thursday, October 4, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 105

Prayer Point:  Thanksgiving is central to the Christian life, but it is hard to be thankful when you forget what God has done. Psalm 105 recalls what God has done for the people of Israel. What has God done for you?  Remember them and offer them to God as a prayer of thanks.

Luke 6:1-11

According to Jewish tradition there were 39 categories of activities forbidden on the Sabbath – harvesting being one of them The teachers of the law even went so far as to describe different methods of harvesting. One method was to rub heads of grain between the hands as the disciples did here. God’s law said farmers were to leave the edges of the their field unharvested so travelers and the poor could eat from this bounty (Deuteronomy 23:25), so the disciples were not guilty of stealing grain. Neither had they broken the Sabbath by doing their daily work on it. In fact though they may have been violating the Pharisee’s rules, they were not breaking any divine law. (NIV Life Application Study Bible).

How does Jesus prove from the Old Testament that the Pharisee’s interpretation of the law was incorrect? Who has the right to interpret the Sabbath Law? ‘Son of Man’ is a title that Jesus uses to refer to himself. It is a title implying power and divinity (see Daniel 7:13-14).

Consider this. The heart of God’s Law boils down to two commandments. Love God with all your heart, mind, and soul. Love your neighbor as yourself. All of God’s Law (including the Ten Commandments) is an explanation of what it means to love God and love your neighbor.

According to the tradition of the religious leaders no healing could be done on the Sabbath. Healing, they argued, was practicing medicine, and a person could not practice his or her profession on the Sabbath. What do you think is wrong with this line of thinking in light of Jesus’ response? What are they concerned about? What have they missed? The Pharisees are unwilling to heal someone on the Sabbath, but they are willing to ________________ (see verse 11).

Acts 21:27-36

Paul enters the temple with four men in an attempt to demonstrate to the Jews in Jerusalem that he is still loyal to the Law of Moses despite allowing Gentiles who followed Christ not to keep it. How does this plan backfire? Who stirs up trouble against Paul and where are they from? The province of Asia (Western Turkey today) and its chief city Ephesus was where he had ministered for the last several years. It appears that his opponents have followed him to Jerusalem.

What crime is Paul charged with? How does this misunderstanding happen? The Law of Moses strictly forbade any uncircumcised person, which all Gentiles were at the time, from entering the inner courts of the Temple. Remember that rumors were flying that Paul was working to destroy Jewish customs. The people were quite willing to believe that he would dare to bring a Greek (Gentile) into the temple area. What do you think the reaction is so severe? Who steps in to save Paul?

This is a theme that will run through the remainder of the book of Acts. By all appearances Rome’s power seems to be undisputed, but in reality, it is God who is calling the shots. Even the Romans will serve God’s purposes.

Hosea 5:8-6:6- Judah is caught in Israel’s sin

Judgment is coming says the prophet. But to whom is it coming? (There was hope that Judah would not follow the sinful ways of Israel but, alas, that was not to be. (“Ephraim (Israel) will be laid waste on the day of reckoning. Among the tribes of Israel I proclaim what is certain. Judah’s leaders are like those who move boundary stones [i.e., land cheats – j.t.]. I will pour out my wrath on them like a flood of water.” (Hosea 5:9-10 NIV)

What do Ephraim and Judah really think about the LORD? Try as we may, we cannot hide our feelings and secrets from the God. (“I [the Lord] am like a moth to Ephraim, like rot to the people of Judah.” (Hosea 5:12 NIV))

What are the special plans God has in store for Ephraim and Judah? We are told in verse 5:13 that Ephraim will turn to Assyria for help in their day of calamity [instead of the LORD] which is foreboding. “But he is not able to cure you, not able to heal your [Ephraim’s / Israel’s] sores. (“For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, like a great lion to Judah. I will tear them to pieces and go away; I will carry them off, with no one to rescue them.” (Hosea 5:14 NIV) “I will carry them off” refers to Israel’s defeat at the Assyrians’ hands. Israel will be carried off by the king of Assyria to parts unknown.)

What will it take for these errant children to turn back to the LORD? (“Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me.” (Hosea 5:15 NIV) They must earnestly seek God. It will take some doing.)

Who is speaking (figuratively) in verse one of Chapter 6? What do they expect? (Hosea is speaking Israel’s words. As a prophet he speaks for the LORD, but here he is employing the lip service which he hears in the land. The people are clearly taking the Lord for granted – “he didn’t mean it” and an attitude that generates no repentance. They think that all they have to do is to “acknowledge” the Lord and everything will be all right. If only it were that simple! “As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” (Hosea 6:3b NIV) These people aren’t listening: “I will pour out my wrath on them like a flood of water.” (Hosea 5:10b) Notice the use of “water” images in both instances. While those words are directed to Judah, I believe they apply also to Israel. Whatever the case, they don’t grasp the depth of their sin. – j.t))

It seems that these people continue to miss the point. All of their intent has nothing to do with a change of heart. The heart is the battleground the LORD is fighting for. He has ever and only wanted our hearts. How does the Lord view the “love” of Israel and Judah? (“Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears. Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets [those speaking for the LORD], I killed you with the words of my mouth [reminds me of: “…and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword.” (Rev. 1:16 NIV)]; my judgments flashed like lightning upon you.” (Hosea 6:5 NIV))

What is at the heart of verse 6:6? (“For I desire mercy, not sacrifices, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” This verse goes to the heart of God’s mission on earth. Mercy, by definition, is unmerited. Clearly God cannot desire anything unmerited – he deserves any and everything. The unmerited thing that God wants is for his people to demonstrate mercy. This goes to the heart of the gospel message: forgive us our sins as we forgive the sins of others. Show mercy. As for acknowledging God, that should lead us to gratitude. Let us not take the LORD for granted. Not one of us would like anything but mercy shown to us by God – God help us if we’re not shown mercy. “Know this: God has even forgotten some of your sin.” (Job 11:6b NIV) The KJV renders that verse with greater eloquence: “Know therefore that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth.”)

Daily Bible Readings – Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 119:121-144

Prayer Point:  In the Old Testament Israel followed the Law of God. Today we follow Jesus, who kept this law perfectly.  You will discover by reading this psalm that this is not easy.  This section is full of requests for God’s help in walking his path.  Pick two or three that resonate with you and offer them to God as your own prayer.

Luke 5:27-39

Here is some background that might help you read today’s reading in full color:

  • Tax collectors might be unpopular today, but they were synonymous with ‘crook’ in Jesus’ day.
  • The brightest young men with the sharpest minds were the only ones who were afforded the honor of becoming a disciple of a rabbi.

Why is Levi’s selection as a disciple so shocking?

Why do you think Levi immediately left his job to follow Jesus? How does Jesus explain his choice and his willingness to eat with sinners?

John the Baptist, the prophet who prepared the way for Jesus, also had disciples but they had a strict, austere lifestyle. They fasted regularly. Why didn’t Jesus’ disciples fast? What does this lack of fasting say about Jesus’ identity?

Jesus explains the differences between his disciples and John the Baptist’s using an analogy of the wine / wineskins and new / old cloth. The point? Our actions need to fit the situation. John the Baptist’s disciples followed an austere life because Jesus, the bridegroom, had not yet arrived. Now that he has come, the celebrating and the wine has begun to flow. There will be a time of mourning for the disciples of Jesus, but it will come when Jesus returns to his Father and we are once again waiting for his arrival.

Acts 21:15-26

Trouble is waiting for Paul when he arrives in Jerusalem and it all centers on the question of whether followers of Christ need to continue to obey the law of Moses, which included circumcision of men and laws on cleanliness and food. The church had taken the heroic position that the Gentiles that followed Jesus did not need to follow the customs and laws of Moses (see Acts 15:1-35). That’s not the problem.  The issue now is the thousands of Jews who follow Christ and remain loyal to the Jewish laws and customs (see Acts 21:20).

What rumors have been circulating in Jerusalem about Paul? How does the church attempt to dispel these accusations?  We shall see in tomorrow’s reading whether these plans succeed.

Hosea 4:11-19 – The charges continue

What we did not discuss were verses 41:12-34 which outline in majestic detail all of God’s wonderful (and unforgettable) attributes. It is these attributes which drove Job to his knees (which is where I suspect he was) to repentance. How does Job describe his humility in this encounter? (“Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” (Job 42:3 NIV))

How does Job speak of his repentance? (“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6 NIV) Do you feel the same way about your need for repentance as Job does?)

What happens when the Lord turns his attention to Eliphaz and his two friends? [What about Elihu?] (It doesn’t look too good. “After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” (Job 42:7 NIV))

What does the LORD expect Eliphaz to do? (The LORD expects Eliphaz to have Job make a sacrifice to the LORD for him. This may bear the stamp of humiliation for Eliphaz and his two friends because of the tirades they brought upon Job. Eliphaz is to ask Job to sacrifice seven (!) bulls and seven (!) rams for him and his two friends. Job will be acting as a mediator in this matter before the LORD. (verse 42:8))

What promise does the LORD make to Eliphaz? (“My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” (Job 42:8b NIV))

What does the Lord do for Job as a reward for his “patience”? (“…the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.” (Job 42:10b NIV) The bible goes on to tell us that he gave to Job seven sons and three daughters [exactly what he had before this disaster] The interesting thing to note here about Job’s daughters: “…their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers. This would have been most unusual at that time in the Middle East. “And so he died, old and full of years.” (Job 42:17 NIV))

That night the king could not sleep. What does he do to remedy his insomnia? (Oddly, he asks for the recent history of the kingdom to be read to him.)

How revealing are the chronicles – of what do they remind the king? (They remind King Xerxes [aka Ahasuerus] that it was Mordecai who uncovered the plot of Bigthana and Teresh to assassinate him.)

What does the king ask about Mordecai? (“What honor and recognition has Mordecai received for this?” (Esther 6:3 NIV))

Many comedies today (and perhaps always) are based on misunderstandings or miscommunications. A miscommunication is about to happen now which is would cause all mirth to cease. The king has been told that nothing has been done for Mordecai in recognition of his foiling the plot against him. The king then asks who is in the court. It must, by now, be morning because Haman happens to be there. What question does the king pose to Haman and what are Haman’s thoughts regarding it? (Innocently enough, the king asks Haman a question without giving him the details: “What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?” Here the confusion begins.)

What is Haman’s take on the question? (With no point of reference, Haman believes that the king wants to honor him.)

What is Haman’s suggestion? (Haman tells the king everything he (Haman) would like done to him to recognize his indispensable counsel. “So he answered the king, ‘For the man the king delights to honor, have them bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head. Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king’s most noble princes. Let them robe the man the king delights to honor, and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor”’” (Esther 6:7-9 NIV) I doubt Haman is a fan of irony but things are about to become quite ironic.)

How does the king “lower the boom” on Haman? (“…do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate.” (Esther 6:10b NIV))

This is truly a busy day for Haman. Haman sets out to complete this humiliating task before him. He clothes Mordecai in the royal robe and conducts him through the city streets proclaiming: “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor.” (Esther 6:11) But what does he do once he gets home? (Haman rushes home with his head hung in grief (shame?) and reports all of the gory details to his family and friends. Zeresh then advises Haman that his days may now be numbered since Mordecai is a Jew. I think she’s telling him to get his house in order. Unfortunately his day is not yet over.)

What is next on Haman’s agenda after the parade honoring Mordecai? (Almost as if Haman had forgotten, “…the king’s eunuchs arrived and hurried Haman away to the banquet Esther had prepared.” (Esther 6:14 NIV))

Where do the people turn once they desert the LORD according to verses 4:10-11? (“…because they have deserted the Lord to give themselves to prostitution, to old wine and new, which take away the understanding of my people.” (NIV) When people choose to live without God they all have the same fallback position: themselves. Since there appear to be no more restrictions then promiscuity and drunkenness become very attractive. Who’s to stop them? We need only look at today’s world to see how far people are from God and how they fill that void.)

What is the significance of the terms: “wooden idol”, “stick of wood”; “sacrifice on the mountaintops”; “burn offerings on the hills”; “under oak, poplar and terebinth” and prostitution and adultery?” (I am guessing here: the wooden idol and stick of wood are probably referencing Asherah poles (dedicated to Asherah the wife of Baal). The references to the mountaintops and the hills may allude to the “high places” which is anyplace except Jerusalem where proper Jewish worship (sacrifice) was to be conducted. The prostitution and adultery mentioned in verse 4:13 is talking about the people’s apostasy from the Lord. – j.t.)

Why, according to Hosea 4:14 does it look like the LORD is not going to punish the daughters and daughters-in-law of “my people”? (“…because the men themselves consort with harlots and sacrifice with temple prostitutes – a people without understanding will come to ruin!” (Hosea 4:14b NIV) Remember just above in verse 4:6 “…my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” (NIV))

What is the LORD’s hope (if you can call it that) as expressed in verse 4:15a? (“Though you commit adultery, O Israel, let not Judah become guilty.” Unfortunately that “hope” will, in reality, be more akin to “wishful thinking”.)

Note the meaning of the word “Beth Aven” in verse 4:15. Why are the people admonished not to go there? Remember: names are very important in Hosea. (Beth Aven was also known as Bethel. Bethel meant “house of God”. It was here where Jeroboam (I) had set up one of the two golden calves for worship. {The other was set up in Dan in the far north of Israel.} Beth Aven means “house of wickedness”. It think this is self-explanatory.)

The Israelites are still suffering from a stubborn attitude. This particular bent they have had for centuries. They refuse to hear or to listen to the prophets. What is the LORD’s lament concerning Israel? (“The Israelites are stubborn, like a stubborn heifer. How then can the Lord pasture them like lambs in a meadow?” (Hosea 4:16 NIV) The question is rhetorical.)

What is the fate slated for Israel as described in the final verses of Chapter 4? (“A whirlwind will sweep them away, and their sacrifices will bring them shame.” (Hoses 4:19 NIV))

Daily Bible Readings – Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 95

Prayer Point: We owe God our lives because he is both our Creator and Provider.  Praise God for the world he has created around you. Thank him for the way he has supplied your daily bread. Confess to God the areas of your life that you have refused to give over to him.

Luke 5:12-26

Leprosy was a disease that attacked the nervous system, killing a person’s ability to feel pain. It destroyed the person’s limbs and ravaged their skin leaving the person horribly disfigured. But leprosy was also a social disease. It was highly contagious with no cure. A victim of leprosy not only lost their limbs, they lost contact with their friends and neighbors. The shame was sometimes greater than the pain.

What moves Jesus to heal the man with leprosy? What do learn about God’s character from this healing?

Why does Jesus heal the paralyzed man and forgive his sins? Read Luke 5:20 carefully. It will surprise you.

Why are the Pharisees upset with Jesus’ pronouncement that the paralyzed man’s sins are forgiven? How does Jesus demonstrate that he is indeed God with the authority to forgive sins? Jesus often uses the term ‘Son of Man’ to refer to himself. It sounds generic, but it is a bold claim of his divinity. See Daniel 7:13-14.

Acts 21:1-14

After an emotional farewell to the elders of the Ephesian church, Paul now continues his journey to Jerusalem. How do the Christians in Tyre and Ptolemais feel about his mission to Jerusalem? Are there fears well founded? Who is telling them that there is trouble ahead?

Why does Paul refuse the advice of his friends even though what they say is guided by the Holy Spirit?
Why do Paul’s friends eventually give in? Compare this to Jesus’ prayer the night before his death in Luke 22:39-44.

Hosea 4:1-10 – Israel does not hear

We will not be looking at Chapter three so I will summarize it for you. Hosea is commanded by the LORD to take his wayward wife back “though she is loved by another and is an adulteress”. (Hosea 3:1 NIV) Hosea, in fact, had to purchase his wife (that is adding insult to injury) and to remain with her “many days”. This was, again, an object lesson for Israel (which was certainly not paying attention) that she, too, will, in time, return to the Lord in the “last days” (v. 3:5 NIV). “Last days” here means “last days”!

All that Hosea says and does (for he acts out in his life what Israel is doing) falls on deaf ears. No one wants to hear it. What is the Lord’s charge against Israel in the early verses of Chapter 4? (“There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.” (Hoses 4:1b-2 NIV))

Where have we seen this type of imagery before “bloodshed follows bloodshed”? (This is the same imagery used by the Lord to describe Canaan when the Israelites invaded (“crossed the Jordan”) it and began to purge the land of its inhabitants. The book of Joshua describes in detail the cleansing of Canaan and the reasons for it. Moses gave this warning just before the Hebrews entered the land: “And the LORD said to Moses: ‘You are going to rest with your fathers, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them. On that day I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed. Many disasters and difficulties will come upon them, and on that day they will ask, “Have not these disasters come upon us because our God is not with us. And I will certainly hide my face on that day because of all their wickedness in turning to other gods.”’” (Deuteronomy 31:15-18 NIV) We have recently looked at the book of Judges which was replete with this type of ungodly behavior. So this propensity to turn from God is not new at all.)

What is the effect of this bloodshed on the land? (The land is contaminated or “unclean”. Hear what Hosea says: “Because of this the land mourns, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying.” (Hosea 4:3 NIV))

What is Hosea’s reason for why the people are destroyed? (“…my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” (Hoses 4:6 NIV))

What is the significance of “I also reject you as my priests…” in verse 4:6? (The important thing to remember is that Hosea is speaking to the Northern Kingdom which had no priesthood. That was the beginning of the “sin of Jeroboam” who was the first king of Israel (Northern Kingdom). Jeroboam was so afraid that he would lose his grip over the people if they returned to Jerusalem in the territory governed by Judah. He thought that once they returned to the Temple (only one of those in the land) they would not return to their tribal lands. His plan was to set up his own priesthood (anyone could join…) and Temple(s) (one in the south of Israel and the other in the north) so that there would be no reason for anyone to return to Judah and Jerusalem.)

Why does the Lord reject the priests? (“Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests.” (Hosea 4:6b NIV))

What seems to be the fatal flaw with these priests? (“The more the priests increased, the more they sinned against me; they exchanged their Glory for something disgraceful. They feed on the sins of my people and relish their wickedness.” (Hosea 4:7-8 NIV) Paul uses similar language to describe an evil world in his letter to the Romans: “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen.” (Romans 1:25 NIV))

What is to be the fate of both the priests and the people? (“And it will be: Like people, like priests. I will punish both of them for their ways and repay them for their deeds.” (Hosea 4:9 NIV))

[The more things change the more they remain the same… j.t.]

Verse 4:10 tells us that the people will not be satisfied (looks something like modern America) “They will eat but not have enough; they will engage in prostitution but not increase.” (Hosea 4:10 NIV) I can make another reference to Romans – it kinda makes me wonder if Hosea (Chapter 4 so far) isn’t the Old Testament version of Romans. Consider what Paul says in Romans Chapter 1: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. (Romans 1:18-23 NIV)