Daily Bible Readings – Saturday, March 30, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 88

Prayer Point. Psalm 88 is a prayer of someone drowning in darkness and grief. Do you know someone in this place? Pray this psalm on their behalf.

John 19:38-42

Background. Two secret disciples of Jesus step out of the shadows to bury Jesus’ crucified body.  We met Nicodemus in John 3 who visited Jesus under the cloak of darkness and Joseph of Arimathea who is introduced in John 19.

It is Friday night, the beginning of  one of holiest Sabbaths on the Jewish calendar because it is also the Passover.  This special Sabbath was called the Day of Preparation. To have dead bodies hanging unburied would defile the Passover which is why Jesus is buried before sundown in a nearby tomb.

Pay close attention to …

  • The courage it must have taken Joseph and Nicodemus to claim the body of Jesus.
  • What did they risk with Pilate?
  • What did they risk from their fellow religious leaders?

Listen. Believe. Obey. Share.

What is the passage saying? About God? About ourselves? (Listen)
What is God asking us to believe? (Believe)
What is God asking us to do? (Obey)
Who can we share this with? (Share)

Hebrews 4:1-16

Background. The ancestors of the recipients of the book of Hebrews, the Israelites, made a tragic choice that cost them an opportunity to enter God’s Promised Land also referred to as God’s rest . Over a thousand years earlier, the Israelites looked out over the land that God had promised them, but they refuse to go in. Why? Because they feared the people of Canaan more than they believed in God’s power to keep his promises.

These Christians are tempted by the same fear and unbelief.  They have begun to follow Christ, but they, like their ancestors, are considering giving up the journey.  The opposition is too stiff and their faith is growing weaker by the day. The author writes to convince them not to succumb to fear and unbelief.

Pay close attention to …

  • Why the Israelites missed out on God’s rest (the Promised Land). (See Numbers 13-14 for this tragic story). What were they missing?
  • How they are to enter God’s rest and whose example they are to avoid.
  • The Sabbath rest in our future that is greater than the Promised Land that Joshua led Israel into a thousand years earlier.
  • How Jesus, their high priest, gives them the ability to persevere.

Listen. Believe. Obey. Share.

What is the passage saying? About God? About ourselves? (Listen)
What is God asking us to believe? (Believe)
What is God asking us to do? (Obey)
Who can we share this with? (Share)

Job 19:21-27

Background. This is the first time the word “redeemer” shows up in the Scripture and the last time “redeemer” is used is in Jeremiah.  So the expression “I know that my Redeemer lives…” is found only in the Old Testament.

Very briefly, the story of Job is that he is caught in the crossfire between God and Satan.  God makes a bet with Satan that Job is the most righteous man on earth.  “Sure, why not,” says Satan, “you protect him on every side, but let me have my way with him and he will curse you to your face.”  The LORD then gave Satan permission to assault Job but he could not touch his person.  Job proves God right, though he had no knowledge that this wager existed — he remains ignorant of it throughout the entire book.

Satan, tasting of sour grapes, gripes: “Skin for skin! … a man will give all he has for his own life.  But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.” (Job 2:4-5)  Job was struck with boils from head to toe and who knows what else.  He does a good deal of cursing but he never curses the LORD.

Along come three of his “friends” who do something very strange upon seeing him.  They sit with him (as though at a wake) for, get this, one week without saying a word!  One week without speaking!

Pay close attention to …

  • How Job feels about his friends’ judgment of him (v. 22 )
  • What Job wants “written in stone” (usually we think of the Ten Commandments as the origin of this expression, but here it is rendered as “engraved on a rock forever!”) (v. 24-25)
  • The first reference to resurrection in the Bible (meaning that Job is thought to have been the first book of the Bible that was written down) (v. 26 -27)

Listen. Believe. Obey. Share.

What is the passage saying? About God? About ourselves? (Listen)
What is God asking us to believe? (Believe)
What is God asking us to do? (Obey)
Who can we share this with? (Share)


Daily Bible Readings – Thursday, September 20, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 74

Prayer Point:  Asaph stood in shock as he gazed upon the smoldering ruins of the temple and city of Jerusalem.  How could God abandon his people, when he was the one who parted the Red Sea and made them free?  How long would God allow his enemies to mock him and his people?  There are Christians all over the world who are tormented by their enemies.  Pray Psalm 74 today on their behalf.

John 12:27-36

In verse 27 we begin to see the inner turmoil Jesus experienced as the time of his crucifixion drew near. What does Jesus wish for? Why does he reject that path? Whose glory is Jesus working for?

How does God the Father express his approval of Jesus, his obedient Son? For whose benefit is this message given?

In verses 30-32, Jesus makes an allusion to Numbers 21:4-9. In this story Israel accuses God of bringing them out of slavery only to kill them with starvation in the desert. As punishment, God sends poisonous serpents into the camp of Israel and the people began to die. In desperation they cried out to God and God had Moses put a bronze snake on a pole. Anyone who looked at the snake was healed. How does Jesus connect this story to his own crucifixion?

Who is the light that Jesus says will be with them only a little longer?

Acts 16:25-40

Paul and Silas were stripped, beaten and thrown into prison for healing a girl who, through her demon possession, made a sizable profit for her masters. How did Paul and Silas respond to their suffering? Who notices their unusual reaction? How did God demonstrate his power over the Roman authorities?

The Philippian jailer cries out in fear as the prison has collapsed around him. The Holy Spirit has orchestrated it all bringing this man to the ultimate question, “What must I do to be saved?” How do Paul and Silas answer him? To whom is salvation offered? Where does the jailer take them? What happens to his household?

Notice that the apostles continue to follow the pattern Jesus gave them in Matthew 10:11-13. The Philippian jailer is the man of peace who opens to the door to his household, his network of family and friends. The apostles enter the house, preach the gospel and the entire household comes to faith in Jesus Christ together.

The magistrates, who were quite fearful at this point because of the earthquake, are eager to get rid of Paul and Silas but there is a problem. Paul, as a Roman citizen, could not be legally imprisoned or beaten without a trial. If Rome found out about their handling of Paul’s case, these officials would have been in serious trouble. Why do you think Paul asserted his rights as a Roman citizen here? What opening did Paul’s citizenship give for spreading the gospel in Philippi?

Job 28:1-28  – Job’s Monologue (Ahem) I Mean Response to Bildad

In the first place, I am at a loss to explain why the “powers that be” [The Book of Common Prayer] decided that this chapter should be looked at after the last chapter of Job.

What are the first eleven verses of Chapter 28 describing? (A mine.)

What is the subject of this chapter? (“But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell.” (Job 28:12 NIV))

What does Job say about wisdom? (“Man does not comprehend its worth.” (v. 13); “… it cannot be found in the land of the living…”; it is not in the deep nor in the sea (v. 14); it cannot be bought (v. 15); nor can it be compared with gold not crystal [probably diamond – j. t.]; “the price of wisdom is beyond rubies” (v. 18b).)

So, where can wisdom be found? (“God understands the way to it and he alone knows where it dwells, for he views the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens.” (Job 28:23-24 NIV))

So what is wisdom according to Job? (“And he [God] said to man, ‘The fear of the LORD – that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.” (Job 28;28 NIV))

As we leave our study of Job still the question remains: Why?

Daily Bible Readings – Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 119:73-96

Prayer Point:   If God is the one who formed us, why shouldn’t his laws be the path to becoming fully human?  Pray that God will fill you with the same love for his law that filled the writer of Psalm 119. Pray that God will give you endurance as you struggle today to follow Jesus, who kept the law perfectly for us.

John 12:20-26

Pilgrims from all over the world jammed the streets of Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover including Gentiles (Greeks) who respected the Jewish faith. Some of these Greeks were also intrigued by Jesus and they ask to see him. They are right to be excited because it is the time for the Son of Man (a title that Jesus used to declare his divinity) to be glorified. There is a catch however. His path to the throne is an unusual one.

In what way will Jesus’ road to the throne be like a kernel of wheat? What is the harvest that Jesus speaks of? What is expected of Jesus’ followers? What is the reward for following Jesus?

Acts 16:16-24

When Paul and his companions first entered Philippi they were welcomed into Lydia’s home. But this welcome was not to last.  What did Paul and Silas do that turned the local merchants and government authorities against them? 

Job 42:1-17  – Job’ righteous repentance

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))

Daily Bible Readings – Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 68

Prayer Point: Psalm 68 reminds us that our God is a conquering king and that while evil still exists in our world, it has been defeated.  David could look back on the great military victories that God secured for Israel.  We have the cross in view, for Jesus, through his life, death and resurrection has conquered death and hell forever.  Thank God for his victory through Jesus, and pray for the faith to believe this while we continue to live in a broken world.

John 12:9-19

The Feast of Passover drew Jewish pilgrims from all over the world to worship God at the temple of Jerusalem. Who are the crowds eager to see? Why are chief priests planning to kill Jesus and Lazarus?

Jesus deliberately mounts a young donkey, the mount used by royalty in peace time, as opposed to a horse, which was ridden during times of war. Jesus also does this to fulfill an Old Testament prophecy. See Zechariah 9:9. What are Jesus’ actions telling us about himself according to Zechariah 9:9? When did the disciples finally understand this fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9? Jesus’ glorification (verse 16) refers to his death and resurrection. Who is spreading word of Jesus’ arrival? Why does this concern the Pharisees?

Acts 16:6-15

Why do Paul, Silas, and Timothy travel to Phrygia and Galatia instead of Asia? Who is leading to them? What is one way that the Holy Spirit communicated with Paul? Notice how he directs Paul to go to Philippi.

If you are a careful reader, which I am not, you may have noticed that the pronouns in this chapter have changed from “they” to “we.” Luke, the author of Acts, has now joined Paul’s missionary team for this portion of the story.

Paul and his companions went to the river intending to pray. What did the Holy Spirit have planned for them instead? What causes Lydia to believe Paul’s gospel message? What does this tell us about our role and God’s role in sharing the good news of Jesus? What happens to Lydia’s household (network of family and friends)? How is Paul’s team following the instructions of Jesus in Matthew 10:11-13?

Job 41:1-11  – The enigma known as leviathan

There is a general consensus that the “leviathan” spoken of here is a crocodile. The fact is that the scholars don’t really know for sure. [I can tell you that the seventeenth century political philosopher Thomas Hobbes used the term leviathan to describe government. – j.t.]

What advice does the LORD give Job regarding leviathan? (v. 41:8) (The LORD is doing exactly the same thing as any parent would do: “If you lay a hand on him, you will remember the struggle and never do it again! (NIV))

What rhetorical question does the LORD offer Job? (speaking of leviathan: “No one is fierce enough to rouse him. Who then is able to stand against me? (Job 41:10 NIV) Do we see where these questions are leading?)

What is the important thing to remember in verse 41:11? (Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.” (NIV))

Job must be sinking into depression [and who can blame him?]. Re-read Job 1:20-22. (“At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and named I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised’” (NIV))

Daily Bible Readings – Monday September 17, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 65

Prayer Point:  Gratitude is our motive for following Jesus and worshiping God with our lives.  Psalm 65 gives us a number of reasons to be thankful for God.  Pick two or three that resonate with you and offer God your own prayer of thanks..

John 11:55-12:8

John begins today’s reading with the comment: “When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover,” to signal us that the time has now come for Jesus to die. The feast of the Passover commemorated Israel’s liberation from slavery in Egypt. On the night before their salvation, the Jews took a lamb, killed it, ate it, and put the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of the house. That night the angel of death came through Egypt and struck down the first born of all the sons of Egypt, but “passed over” the homes with the blood of the lamb. See Exodus 11-12.

The Exodus is about to happen again, only this time God is going to save his people from slavery to sin and death with a new Passover lamb, Jesus.

Who is the only person that recognizes what is about to happen to Jesus? What does she do to prepare Jesus for his death? Who objects to her act of love and why?

Acts 15:36-16:5

Why is Paul eager to take Barnabas on another missionary journey? What prevents them from working together? What do we learn about the personalities of Paul and Barnabas?

You might remember that it was Barnabas who trusted Paul when the Jerusalem church doubted his conversion, and then brought him to Antioch when the rest of the church had written him off (see Acts 9:26-27; 11:25-26). Paul gets top billing because he was the great missionary, but we would never had heard of him had not God used encouragers like Barnabas.

How does God use Paul and Barnabas’ argument to serve his purposes? How many missionary teams are there now? What new missionary is recruited? Why do you think Paul has Timothy circumcised after he had fought so forcefully in the previous chapters that the Gentiles did not need to be circumcised to be true followers of Jesus?

Job 40:1-24  – Job and the Lord have a dialogue

This chapter opens with an irrefutable question from God “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?” (Job 40:1 NIV). What is Job’s all too wise response to this? (The best that Job can do is to put his hand over his mouth.)

How does the LORD challenge (sarcastically) Job? (God plays something like a game of “Let’s Pretend”. Well let’s pretend that you (Job) are God. What would you do? The LORD makes it seems absurd even to question God and what he does. Take care of the evil in the world and then we can talk: “Then I myself [the LORD] will admit to you that your own right hand can save you.” (Job 40:14 NIV))

Which of God’s creation does the LORD speak of? What do you think the LORD’s point is? (The LORD looks at the “behemoth” which the NIV footnote suggests is a hippopotamus or elephant. This behemoth has virtually free reign throughout the whole world. “He ranks first among the works of God, yet his Maker can approach him with his sword.” (Job 40:19 NIV) I think that God is telling Job that if I can do what I like to the hippopotamus or elephant, surely I can do as much to you…)

Daily Bible Readings – Sunday, September 16, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 84

Prayer Point:   Without pain, we would lose our hunger for heaven. Pray that God will use the pain in our lives to increase our longing for heaven, our true home, and God, our true Father.  Pray for God’s strength to persevere while we wait.

Matthew 5:21-26

Of all the laws in the 10 Commandments one would think that “do not murder” would be the easiest one to keep. How does Jesus redefine our understanding of murder? Are we murderers according to Jesus?

God’s Law was never only about not breaking rules. The heart of God’s Law is to love him and to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is not enough to avoiding murdering our brother or sister in our hearts, we are also called to actively love them. How does Jesus ask us to love those we are in conflict with?

Revelation 18:1-18

The lamb is a personification of Jesus in the book of Revelation. Jesus’ faithful people, true Israel and the church, are described as the bride of the lamb.

These images have their evil counterparts. The beast, Satan, is a distortion of Jesus the lamb. The whore of Babylon, Satan’s world system, mocks the bride of the lamb.

The name Babylon is significant in Israel’s history, as it was the kingdom that destroyed Jerusalem, the temple of God, and carried God’s people into exile. Babylon represents the Satanic system that has historically opposed and oppressed God’s people.

What kind of a relationship did the kings of the earth have with the whore of Babylon? What benefit did the world’s merchants get out of their relationship with her?

What is God’s message to Babylon? What is God’s message to his faithful people? What is about to happen to the whore of Babylon?

This message has its roots in Israel’s history. Remember that God freed his people by sending plagues to bring their Egyptian oppressors to their knees. Just as Israel came out of Egypt, now the church is called to come out of “Babylon” for judgment is coming.

Job 38:18-41 – God’s questions continue …

How does the LORD display his own sense of sarcasm? (“What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside? Can you take them to their places? Do you know the paths to their dwellings?” (Job 38:19-20 NIV) [Here is comes…] “Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived so many years.” (Job 38:21 NIV))

The remainder of the chapter peppers Job with these unanswerable questions just to give him something to think about. These should be the questions we ask ourselves when we fall into a slump, or in depths of despair. Many times we consider others who have a worse lot than we have as a means of finding gratitude. I suppose that that can lead us to a point of superiority. What do these questions lead us to think? (I hope they lead us toward humility. I hope they remind us that God is in control – that he is sovereign. I hope they show us how small we are and at the same time how important we are to him. I think the Lord cares very much for us – he certainly did for Job because he could have as easily struck him dumb, or worse, dead. But instead he takes the time to confront Job, and not with anger. All of these questions remind us of all that God does and continues to do – he does it as much today as then. – j.t.)

Daily Bible Readings – Saturday, September 15, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 139

Prayer Point:   Have you ever stopped and contemplated that the Creator of the universe has searched and knows you?  He was there when you were conceived. He will be there when you close your eyes for the last time in this life.   He has been with you at all times and in places.  How would your life change if you believed this?  Ask God to search you and  expose your unbelief so that you might confess it and receive the faith to overcome it.

John 11:45-54

There are two very different reactions to the resurrection of Lazarus. What are they? Why do the Pharisees decide that they can’t allow Jesus to continue to healing the blind and raising the dead? What does this tell you about the hardness of their hearts? Whom do they fear more, God or the Romans, despite the miracles?

How is Caiaphas, the high priest, an accidental prophet? How does Caiaphas unwittingly serve God’s purposes even though he is fighting Jesus, the Son of God? What does Jesus do in response to the death threats?

This does not betray Jesus’ fear. He will die and he knows this, but he will die at a time and place of his own choosing.

Acts 15:22-35

I don’t think people realize how extraordinary a step it was for Jerusalem church to accept Gentiles without circumcision. This wasn’t a cultural preference, but a command from the Old Testament that they were setting aside. This is amazing considering that Jesus was silent on this issue. He left them to wrestle with this question without him.

As you read the letter from the Jerusalem Council, what insight does it give you into how they came to their courageous decision? Who guided them? What does this decision do for the church and the preaching of the gospel?

Job 38:1-17 – The LORD Speaks

“Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm.” Uh oh! “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” (Job 38:1-2 NIV) That question from the LORD would strike fear in me to my soul. What questions does the LORD ask which should drain anyone who hears them of pride? (“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? (38:4 NIV) Who marked off its dimensions? Who stretched a measuring line across it? (38:5 NIV) On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone? (38:6 NIV)” They continue in this vein. I think we get the message: who are you to question Me?)

Most of these questions from the LORD were meant to intimidate. What question does the LORD ask Job which he will be able to answer in time? (“Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the gates of the shadow of death? (Job 38:17 NIV))