Daily Bible Readings – Sunday, January 5, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 2

Prayer Point. It is easy to forget about the power of God when we watch news or read the papers. Psalm 2 reminds us that Jesus, the Anointed One, is on the throne.  He is in control. Pray that these words might become real to us, that we might live in our world with bold, fearless love.

John 11:17-27, 38-44

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 to guide you.

Background. Jesus arrives in Bethany four days after the death of his friend Lazarus. By all appearances He has come too late to save his friend.

What does Martha already believe about the resurrection of the dead and about Jesus even before Lazarus is brought back to life?

What does Jesus say is his purpose in raising Lazarus from the dead (see verse 42)?

Compare this to John chapter 9 and the man born blind. The blind man’s healing revealed Christ to be the “light of the world”. The raising of Lazarus from the dead reveals Jesus to be the ________________________ and the ______________.

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey 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?

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

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

Ephesians 6:10-20

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 to guide you.

Background. Ephesians is a letter from the Apostle Paul to the church in Ephesus which he founded. His purpose is to encourage these young Christians to stand firm in their faith in Jesus Christ. In today’s reading Paul uses the image of the armor worn by Roman soldiers to describe the spiritual protection that God makes available to us so that we might stand against the attacks of the evil one.

When Paul speaks of powers, rulers, and authorities, he does not mean the men who ruled the Roman Empire, but the spiritual powers that made their domination possible.

Pay close to attention to …

  • The identity of our real enemies.
  • The defensive armor and weapon that God makes available to us.
  • The role of prayer in our war against the devil’s schemes and the spiritual powers of this world.

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey 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?

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

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

Jonah 2:2-9

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 to guide you.

Background. [From the ESV Study Bible Notes p. 1683]

“The title of the book is the name of the main character, Jonah. The book is anonymous, and there are no indicators elsewhere in Scripture to identify the author. The foundational source for the book was likely Jonah’s own telling of the story after his return from Nineveh.

“The primary purpose of the book of Jonah is to engage readers in theological reflection on the compassionate character of God, and in self-reflection on the degree to which their own character reflects this compassion, to the end that they become vehicles of this compassion in the world that God has made and so deeply cares about.

“The genre of Jonah is debated. The book has been read as an allegory, using fictional figures to symbolize some other reality. According to this interpretation, Jonah is a symbol of Israel in its refusal to carry out God’s mission to the nations. The primary argument against this view is that Jonah is clearly presented as a historical and not a fictional figure . Another proposal is that the book is a parable to teach believers not to be like Jonah. Like allegories, parables are also based on fictional and not historical characters. Parables, however, are typically simple tales that make a single point, whereas the book of Jonah is quite complex and teaches a multiplicity of themes. The book of Jonah has all the marks of a prophetic narrative, like those about Elijah and Elisha found in 1 Kings, which set out to report actual historical events. The phrase that opens the book (‘the word of the LORD came to’) is also at the beginning of the first two stories told about Elijah (1 Kings 17:2, 8) and is used in other prophetic narratives as well (e.g., 1 Sam. 15:10; 2 Sam. 7:4). Just as the Elijah and Elisha narratives contain extraordinary events, like ravens providing bread and meat for the prophet (1 Kings 17:6), so does the book of Jonah, as when the fish ‘provides transportation’ for the prophet. In fact, the story of Jonah is so much like the stories about Elijah and Elisha that one would hardly think it odd if the story of Jonah were embedded in 2 Kings right after Jonah’s prophetic words about the expansion of the kingdom. The story of Jonah is thus presented as historical, like the other prophetic narratives….

“… Jesus, moreover, treated the story as historical when he used elements of the story as analogies for other historical events (see Matt. 12:40-41) This is especially clear when Jesus declared the ‘the men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah.’ (Matt. 12:41 ESV)”]

So …
What is going on here? Where is Jonah when he prays? [Symbolically speaking Jonah is in the grave. This is precisely the image Jesus refers to in Matthew 12:38-42.] What is the first thing Jonah says in his prayer? [He cries out in his distress and the LORD hears him.] What does verse four say about Jonah’s spirit of perseverance? [His hope to look again toward the holy temple.] Verse five talks about drowning; what does verse six tell us? [The Lord brought up his life from the pit.] What is the symbolism of this whole adventure? [As Jesus used it – to show the hope of the resurrection.] How does verse eight speak to us today? [That we actually forfeit grace that could be ours.] Can you see how verse nine foretells of the crucifixion? [The sacrifice with thanksgiving. The Eucharist is a remembrance of the Lord’s death until he comes again.] What is Jonah’s final cry in this section? [“Salvation belongs to the LORD!”]

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey 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?

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

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

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Daily Bible Readings – Monday, April 1, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 66

Prayer Point. Psalm 66 invites us to “shout to joy to God!”  and then proceeds to tell us the reasons why. “Come and see what God has done …” and what follows is the story of God’s rescue of Israel from slavery in Egypt. How has God saved you from a difficult place in your life? Remember what God has done and offer him your own prayer of thanksgiving.

John 1:1-18

Background. John begins his gospel or biography of Jesus by retelling the story of creation which is recorded in Genesis chapter 1. From Genesis we learn that God spoke the universe into existence. We understand through John that the Word God spoke was an actual person, “the Word,” whom we know as Jesus. Jesus will be compared to light (verses 6-9). There are two groups of people mentioned in verses 10 and 11. The world refers to humanity in general, while “his own” refers to Israel, God’s chosen people.

John introduces us to another John, John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus and not the author of this book.

Pay close attention to …

  • The Word’s (Jesus’) role in the creation of the world.
  • How Jesus the light is received by a world that is plunged in darkness. How Jesus is received by his own people.
  • What is promised to all those who receive Jesus.
  • What the Word does in verse 14 and how it changes the way we know God.
  • John the Baptist’s relationship with Jesus the Word. How he understands himself, how he understands Jesus.

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)

Acts 2:14, 22-32

Introduction to Acts 2-4

Background. Although Jesus was returning to his Father, he promised that not abandon them alone. Ten days after his ascension he sends them the Holy Spirit as recorded in Acts 2:1-13. The Holy Spirit’s mission is to make Jesus known to the world by empowering the church to proclaim him through word and action.

The Spirit descends on Jesus’ followers and empowers them to testify about him in languages they hadn’t learned.  Utterly amazed, the crowds ask what this means.  Peter, representing the apostles, stands up and explains to the crowds what they have just witnessed.

Peter will quote from Psalm 16:8-11 which is a psalm by David, the great king of Israel.  Even though the Psalm was hundreds of years old, Peter claims that David was not speaking of himself, but Jesus.

Pay close attention to …

  • How Peter connects the miracle to the death and resurrection of Jesus.
  • How man’s wicked actions fit into God’s plan (see Acts 2:23).
  • Why Jesus, not King David, is the fulfillment of the prophecy in Acts 2:25-28.
  • How Peter and the Apostles see themselves in relation to the risen Jesus (see Acts 2:32).

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)

Jonah 2:1-9

Background. Some time ago we looked at Jonah.  I referred to him then, as the “reluctant” prophet or the “failed” prophet because (1) he did not want to go to Nineveh at the LORD’s request because he deeply hated the Assyrians to whom he was sent to minister; and (2) because what he prophesied did not happen (because these people actually listened to what Jonah preached and repented and reformed).

What we are focusing on today is the time Jonah spent in reflecting on his choices after “running” from the LORD.  When commissioned by the LORD to go to Nineveh, our reluctant prophet took the shortest route out of town and fled to the sea to go to Tarshish (probably Spain).  Undaunted, the LORD followed him across the sea and made life difficult not only for Jonah, but also for his shipmates.  Their ultimate solution was to heed Jonah’s advice and to throw him overboard in order to save the ship and the people left on it .  This worked, for once Jonah hit the sea a great calm came over the waters.  Happily, (or not) Jonah was swallowed by a “great fish” which provided Jonah this badly needed “time out” to rethink his options.  Notice that Jonah spent three days and three nights in this “period of reflection”.  This, of course, parallels Jesus’ journey into the land of the dead; Jesus himself making reference to Jonah’s experience to emphasize what will happen to him (see Matthew 12:38-41)

Pay close attention to …

  • Jonah’s description of his surroundings as he prays to the LORD (v. 2 )
  • Jonah’s acknowledgment regarding his predicament (v. 4 )
  • From where Jonah was “brought up” (v. 6 )
  • When Jonah “found religion” [sorta]  (v. 7 )
  • Jonah’s great insight about “worthless idols” (v. 8 )
  • As is typical when people are faced with life and death situations — promises (or vows) are made to God in exchange for “redemption” (delivery) from the current crisis.  (v. 9 )

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 – Wednesday, February 13, 2013 – Ash Wednesday

Prayer Psalm: 130

Prayer Point. We have created the oceans of pain and misery in this world. So how can we expect God to hear us when cry out for mercy? Because with God there is forgiveness. Follow Psalm 130 in prayer today by lifting up to God the pain of your life and brokenness of our world. Thank him for his forgiveness. Make space in your life to wait quietly for his answer.

Luke 18:9-14

Background. Pharisees were highly regarded in Jesus’ day for their commitment to following law of Moses. Tax-collectors were rightly despised because they profited from the misery of their countrymen by serving the hated Roman government and defrauding their neighbors.

Pay close attention to …

  • Whose prayer is accepted and why.
  • What these prayers teach us about true repentance.

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 12:1-14

Background. The book of Hebrews was written to a group of Jewish followers of Jesus who were experiencing persecution. It was severe enough for them to consider abandoning their faith in Jesus and returning to the safety of Judaism. This book was written to encourage them to cling to Jesus and to persevere in their new faith.

In chapter 11, the writer provided several examples of persevering faith from their Jewish history and now in chapter 12 the writer starts to point them to Jesus.

Pay close attention to …

  • How Jesus can inspire us to persevere when we are persecuted.
  • How Christians should interpret suffering, especially what it tells us about our relationship with God.
  • How we should treat others despite our suffering.

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)

Jonah 3:1-4:11

Background. Jonah is one of my favorite prophets probably because we have so much in common. He was, what I like to call, a “reluctant prophet”. The Lord had called Jonah to go to Nineveh to warn the people there to repent “or else”. The “or else” was that the Lord would rain fire and brimstone on the city. Jonah, astute enough in the scriptures, realized that the Lord would show compassion on Nineveh if they turned from their wicked ways. As a result Jonah’s course of action was to leave town by way of a ship headed for Tarshish (probably modern day Spain). Not to be outdone, the Lord caused a great tempest to batter the ship on its journey. All the hands on deck were desperate to save ship, cargo and crew. As non-believers, each prayed to his god for mercy with no result. They needed to know who was responsible for their plight. They determined who the culprit was the old fashioned way: they drew lots. Meanwhile Jonah was below deck sound asleep (Jesus faced a similar situation during his ministry). So the men came to Jonah and presented to him their findings. He acknowledged that he was, in fact, running away from his God. Jonah told the chief of the crew to throw him into the sea and the tempest would then pass. Reluctantly the men threw Jonah overboard and immediately the sea became calm. That is not all. A great fish came along and swallowed up Jonah. Jonah was then left to “cool his heels” for three days to meditate on obeying the command of the Lord. After the three days and some serious repentance, the great fish vomited Jonah onto dry land. Here we pick up the story.

Pay close attention to …

  • What the Lord told Jonah to do (v. 3:2 )
  • What Jonah did (this time) (v.3:3 )
  • How many days it would take to walk through the city (v. 3:3 )
  • What Jonah said (v.3:4 )
  • How far Jonah got (v. 3:4 )
  • What the Ninevites did (v.3:5 )
  • What the king of Nineveh (Assyria) does (vv. 3:7-9 )
  • What God did (v. 3:10 )
  • What was Jonah doing (vv. 4:1-3 )
  • The question the Lord asks Jonah (4:4 )
  • To what Jonah then does (v. 4:5 )
  • What does the Lord do for Jonah (v. 4:6-7 )
  • Jonah’s attitude once the vine is gone (v. 8 )
  • What concern the Lord had (v. 11 )

Jonah knew that the Lord was compassionate and forgiving (unlike himself). He was reluctant because he did not want to go in the first place and I assure you that when he went preaching throughout the city there was no sense of urgency in his message nor any passion. Just a short monotone delivery of what, in English, is an 8 word sermon. His obedience was what might be termed as perfunctory. Jonah is thought to have delivered his message in the middle of the eighth century (750 B.C.) Perhaps Hosea was aware of Jonah’s prophecy and may have learned from it for he says: “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rater than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6) Jonah had been shown great mercy in that his disobedience did not cost him his life. Few are the prophets who experience a “second chance”: “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time…” (Jonah 3:1) Compassion was not Jonah’s long suit (and unfortunately nor is it mine — j.t.). Can we see why this reading is quite appropriate for Ash Wednesday — the first day of Lent?

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, October 18, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 18

Prayer Point: For years David, the anointed king, lived as a fugitive until God finally placed him on the throne.  When David’s enemies were finally defeated, he wrote his psalm in thanksgiving to God. But this psalm takes on greater meaning when you read it in light of the story of the greatest king, Jesus.  I believe this psalm speaks prophetically of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Meditate on what Jesus’ resurrection means for our future.  Offer God praise for the hope that he has given us in Jesus Christ.

Luke 9:18-27

Jesus asks the question in verse 18, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” The disciples reply saying that some think he is John the Baptist, Elijah, or some other prophet. Jesus presses the question further in verse 20, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter replies, “The Christ of God.”

That was the right answer, but the disciples do not yet understand what it means for Jesus to be the Christ (Messiah in Hebrew, the Jewish language). Like most Jews of their time they were expecting a military Messiah who would deliver them from Roman occupation. Jesus has a different vision and in verse 22 he lays out the road he must take to be the true Messiah. How do you think the disciples felt about the vision Jesus laid out?

Jesus then teaches the disciples about the cost of discipleship. What must one do to be a disciple of Jesus in light of this passage (verse 24)? Why is Jesus’ path preferable to “gaining [or conquering] the whole world”?

Acts 27:27-44

Paul understands that he is God’s servant, destined to be a witness of Jesus Christ in the capitol of the Roman Empire, Rome. Knowing this, Paul does not waver despite the powers that are arrayed against him, first the Roman Empire and second the power of the stormy sea which threatens to take down his ship and all that are with him.

Who ironically appears to be in control of the ship when the sailors attempt to flee? What do you think it took for the 276 men on board the ship to eat some food and throw the rest of the grain into the sea? Remember they had been lost at sea for 14 days! What do you think they saw in Paul that caused them to put their faith in a prisoner?

How did God use Paul to ensure the safety of all 276 men on board including the prisoners?

Jonah 3:1-4:11 – Jonah is obedient but then becomes sullen.

To whom is Micah directing his diatribe at the beginning of Chapter three? (“Listen, you leaders of Jacob, you rulers of the house of Israel.”(Micah 3:1 NIV))

What is Micah’s more specific complaint against the leaders? (While using rather graphic terms, Micah is indicting the leaders of oppressing the poor (the widows and orphans is what that generally means). “… you who hate good and love evil; who tear the skin from my people and the flesh from their bones; who eat my people’s flesh, strip off their skin and break their bones in pieces; who chop them up like meat for the pan, like flesh for the pot”. (Micah 3:2, 3 NIV))

When people are oppressed, they tend to cry out for help. The oppressors, on the other hand, tend to ignore the pleas for help from the oppressed. So what is in store for the oppressors who then apply to the LORD for help? (“Then they will cry out to the LORD, but he will not answer them. At that time he will hide his face from them because of the evil they have done.” (Micah 3:4 NIV))

Who is Micah’s next target? (Micah now trains his guns on the prophets. You may remember from the reading on Tuesday that Micah never identifies himself as a prophet nor does he indicate he had received any “call” to prophesy. I guess he does not want to be associated with that bunch. However, Micah does speak (in this case, writes) with great power.)

What is Micah’s indictment against the prophets? (Micah contends that if they are bribed (“…if one feeds them, they proclaim ‘peace’; if he does not, they prepare to wage war against him.” (Micah 3:5 NIV))

What is the fate of these “seers”? (Darkness! “Therefore night will come over you, without visions, and darkness, without divination. The sun will set for the prophets, and the day will go dark for them. … They will all cover their faces because there is no answer from God.” (Micah 3:6, 7 NIV) Note here that while the prophets “will all cover their faces” because the LORD does not “hear”, that it is the LORD who will hide his face from the (political) leaders for their oppression of the people (v. 4b).)

What does Micah say about himself (“But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the LORD, and with justice and might…” (Micah 3:8 NIV))

What then is Micah’s mission? (Micah’s job is “to declare to Jacob his transgression, to Israel his sin.” (Micah 3:8b NIV))

Again, what is the sin of Israel’s leaders and rulers? (The sin of Israel’s leaders and rulers is that they “despise justice and distort all that is right” (v. 9b NIV); they “build Zion on bloodshed, and Jerusalem on wickedness.” (v. 10 NIV) Bribery is the norm for judges, priests, and fortunetellers.)

What is the refrain we hear from these prophets and fortune tellers? (“Is not the LORD among us? No disaster will come upon us.” (Micah 3:11 NIV))

What is Jerusalem’s fate because of all of this false prophesy? (“Therefore because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets” (Micah 3:12 NIV))

What is curious about the opening of Chapter 3? (Probably nothing, but I think it is significant the “the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time” (Jonah 3:1 NIV) Generally speaking when the LORD calls someone to deliver a message he is not met with refusal. While Jonah didn’t “refuse” his actions left no doubt in anyone’s mind his intention: I’m not going to Nineveh.)

What does Jonah do with this second opportunity to go to Nineveh? (“Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh.” (Jonah 3:3 NIV))

What is Jonah’s eight-word sermon? (“Forty more days and Nineveh will be destroyed.” (Jonah 3:4b NIV) I still don’t think that Jonah’s heart was really in this evangelizing. I envision him speaking in a monotone just above a whisper trying not to excite the people to turn from their sins.)

Why, do you suppose Jonah only went a third of the way through the city? (I can think of two reasons why Jonah only went one day’s journey. The city, the bible tells us, was three-day’s journey wide. Jonah, as I have said, probably did not preach with any passion. Here the Spirit of the LORD (whom we call Holy Spirit) acted upon the words Jonah spoke and burned into the hearts of the people of Nineveh. That Jonah could not have seen coming. The second is that people took it upon themselves to bring the word of the LORD to their neighbors — spreading the word as it were. Jonah would not have seen that coming either. So the word of God spread in spite of Jonah not so much because of him. I can see Jonah sitting in his booth rubbing his hands together thinking of what wonderful fireworks will be displayed in forty days. Jonah does not yet have a heart for the people.)

So we know that the Ninevites believed God. What was the first thing they did? (The king proclaimed a fast “and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.” (Jonah 3:5 NIV) The interesting thing is that once the king heard this word of God, he increased the magnitude of the fast to include all animals. This king must have believed the danger great enough that every living thing should show some form of repentance. j.t.)
What does the king’s proclamation urge? (“Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence…” (Jonah 3:7-8 NIV))
Here is where Jonah is both a great prophet and a miserably poor one. Jonah was successful (for all his passion) in bringing the word of God to the people in such a way that they took it upon themselves to spread the news. He was a miserable failure because, since the people actually repented, the Lord actually relented of the harm he had planned for Nineveh. Why or how could such a thing happen? (The why is simply because God is incapable of not loving and forgiving. The how is simply because God is incapable of not loving and forgiving. — j.t.)
What is Jonah’s reaction to all of these sheep returning to the fold? (“Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully put it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” I tell you that in the same way there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine persons who do not need to repent.'” (Luke 15:3-7 NIV) Back to Jonah. Jonah’s reaction was anything but Christian-like — well, he wasn’t a Christian was he. “Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.” (Jonah 4:1 NIV) God, on the other hand, was rejoicing greatly.)
Jonah recognized early on that God was both compassionate and gracious. But to the enemy? Even to the enemy. This is why Jonah tried to flee to Tarshish. What does Jonah ask for in his self-pitying indulgence? (“Now O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:3 NIV) Jonah only wants to sit it out and sulk and pout. He seems to be having a tantrum.)

The LORD then asks Jonah the question of the day: “Have you any right to be angry?” At this time Jonah had picked out a place outside the city and made a tent for shelter. He was going to wait it out here to see what would happen in Nineveh. What does the LORD do for Jonah as he waits? (“Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it to grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine.” (Jonah 4:6 NIV) It is an unhappy truth that God needs to make himself clear be means of object lessons. This vine is, as you may guess, an object lesson. So, right now, Jonah is as happy as a cynic can be.)

What happens to disrupt Jonah’s happiness? (Easy come, easy go! “But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. [Evidently a very hungry worm. — j.t.] When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, ‘It would be better for me to die than to live.'”(Jonah 4:7-8 NIV))

Back in verse 4:4 the LORD asked: “Have you any right to be angry?” Notice in verse 4:9 the question comes up again. The nature of that question clearly marks a distinction between God and the person being addressed. The use of the word “right” in the verse is accusatory — meaning one does not have the right to be angry. How does Jonah interpret the question? (“‘I do’, he [Jonah] said. ‘I am angry enough to die.'” (Jonah 4:9 NIV))

This chapter closes similarly to the Book of Job. The LORD poses the questions to Jonah, questions which preclude any response (rhetorical). The LORD reminds Jonah that he was happy about the vine which sprung up and provided him with shade in the heat of the day, but that he had done nothing to make the plant to grow. The plant sprang up over night and died and withered away also over night. The LORD’s question at the close should remind us all of God’s overwhelming love for us: “Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4:11 NIV) This is the same compassion that was shown to Sodom and Gomorrah but with very different results. Evidently Nineveh had more than “ten righteous souls” in it. Besides, we know of no attempt on the part of the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah to repent of their evil ways.

Daily Bible Readings – Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 119:1-24

Prayer Point:  Walking in obedience to God is the path to blessing and a full life.  The trouble is that we don’t (see verse 5) because following Jesus is not easy. We need help. This section of Psalm 119 asks for God’s assistance in a number of ways.  Pick one that speaks to you and make it your prayer today.

Luke 9:1-17

This chapter represents a milestone in Jesus’ training of his disciples. Jewish religious education followed a simple pattern:

  • Watch the rabbi (teacher).
  • Work alongside the rabbi.
  • Go out on your own and practice what the rabbi taught.
  • You graduate by becoming a rabbi with your own disciples.

What stage in their training are the disciples entering? What are they sent to do? Notice that the disciples are going to do the very things that Jesus had been doing. How were the disciples to be provided for? How would they decide where to minister? Notice the shape of their training. Jesus is setting up his disciples to replace him.

Why was Herod the Tetrarch frightened by the disciple’s mission?

Why does Jesus ask his disciples to feed the crowd of five thousand? How does it fit into his teaching style? What do the disciples contribute to the miracle? What does Jesus do with their contribution? What can this example teach us about how we are to work alongside God?

Acts 27:9-26

It is getting on into September and October, a season of rough weather in the Mediterranean Sea. The Centurion is anxious to move on, but Paul urges them to stay in the port of Fair Havens, for he sees nothing but trouble ahead.

Whose advice is heeded? What happens when they put out to sea? Who alone on board is not afraid? Why? What does this person know? Compare Acts 27:23-24 to Acts 23:11.

Paul’s life mirrors the life of Christ in many ways. Both understood their final destiny. Jesus’ path led him to the cross outside Jerusalem, Paul’s road would end in Rome. Both knew God’s plan for their lives, both were committed to serving God and both lived their lives fearlessly. You might compare Paul’s experience in the storm to that of his Savior. See Luke 8:22-25.

Jonah 1:17-2:10 – Jonah’s Prayer of Repentance

How does Chapter two begin? (Chapter two beings with what might be described as one of a prophets favorite words (Hint: Jesus used it a great deal himself) — “Woe”.)

Let’s face it, the bible is pretty much opposed to sin and iniquity so it cannot be a big surprise that prophets are on a continuous campaign against it. What sin is Micah talking about here which is of special offense to God? (Micah is talking of defrauding someone of his land (fields or vineyards) meaning a man’s inheritance. According to Micah iniquity is often plotted (by the evil) on “their” beds. That would be, generally speaking, at night (i.e., in darkness so that their deeds will not be seen). The LORD often refers to the Jews (both of the northern kingdom [Israel] and the southern kingdom [Judah]) as his inheritance. I think it is because of this that the LORD takes particular exception when this type of theft is carried on at a smaller scale. There is a stunning example of this sin in 1 Kings 21. Here Ahab (a very baaad king with an even worse queen: Jezebel) covets (actually lusts over) a vineyard belonging to his neighbor Naboth. Ahab whines to his wife about it and she then arranges to have Naboth arrested and convicted on some trumped up charge of having cursed both God and the king — the punishment of which is, of course, death. First we have a serious case of coveting someone else’s property (a violation of the tenth commandment); next we have a plot to accuse someone falsely (a violation of the ninth commandment); which ultimately [if things go right for Jezebel] leads to the death of Naboth (i.e., murder — a violation of the sixth commandment). While it is true that Jezebel was the brains of this unholy duo, Ahab just happened to be on his bed when all of this evil plotting was going on. Read 1 Kings Chapter 21 for all of the delicious details including how the LORD made his own sentiments known on the subject. Elijah was the prophet in Israel at this time. He was perhaps the most formidable prophet in all of the Old Testament: he confronts Ahab regarding this sin. The upshot: the LORD frowns on this type of behavior. — j.t.)

When is all this evil carried out? (“At morning’s light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it.” (Micah 2:1b) Of all the cavalier attitudes displayed by President Clinton during the Monica Lowinsky episode, the most offensive to me was, when asked why he would do such a thing, he said: “I did it because I could.” In other words: it was in his power to do it.)

“They defraud a man of is home, a fellowman of his inheritance.” (Micah 2:2b NIV)

What is the LORD’s plan for these evil people, actually the whole nation? (The LORD plans to show these disobedient people, on a grand scale, just what it means to be deprived of one’s inheritance: “We are utterly ruined; my people’s possession is divided up. He takes it from me! He assigns our fields to traitors.” (Micah 2:4 NIV) The “he” referred to in this verse could be either God or the Assyrian invader (who would be acting as God’s agent).)

What is the ever-unchanging chant of the prophets (that would be false prophets)? (“‘Do not prophesy,’ their prophets say. ‘Do not prophesy about these things; disgrace will not overtake us.’ Should it be said, O house of Jacob: ‘Is the Spirit of the LORD angry? Does he do such things?'” Again, the prophets cannot see that the people are not keeping the covenant; they are sinning. It is the job of the prophet to redirect the people to keep them on the “straight and narrow” as it were.)

What kind of prophet are the people looking for? (“If a liar and deceiver comes and says, ‘I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer,’ he would be just the prophet for this people.” (Micah 2:11 NIV))

So judgment is on its way, and if judgment comes so also will deliverance. Let’s understand this one thing: the people of Israel are going to be judged and they are going to be punished. That is the sad truth. But there is a hope. They will be delivered, but only after the punishment is meted out.

What is the promise of deliverance?(“I [the LORD] will surely gather all of you, O Jacob; I will surely bring together the remnant of Israel. … Their king will pass through before them, the LORD at their head.” (Micah 2:12a, 13b))This chapter is a prayer of repentance for Jonah.  It is clear Jonah thinks he will survive this respite in the belly of the great fish.  This prayer doesn’t sound anything like anything I would say if I have been through what Jonah had been through.  “In my distress I called to the LORD…” — in my distress… this is my distress.  Jonah thinks that this time is equal to death: “From the depths of the grave I called for help and you listened to my cry.”  (Jonah 2:2 NIV)  Jonah expresses his hope of survival.  He then addresses the event itself:  “You hurled me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me.” (Jonah 2:3 NIV)  “I’m a gonner” is what he must have thought.  “I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.”  (Jonah 2:4 NIV)  Jonah must have had some great prayer and reflection time during those three days.  “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD [don’t we all?], and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.”  What does Jonah say which may have brought about his being hurled onto the dry land?  (“But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you.  What I have vowed I will make good.  Salvation come from the LORD.” (Jonah 2:9 NIV)  I believe it is here that Jonah may have wished for two things: (1) to have a heart to bring God’s message to Nineveh and (2) actually to proclaim the word of the LORD.  You will remember that Jonah was what you might say reluctant to go to Nineveh with all those pagans and such.  The end result: “And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited [hurled] Jonah onto the dry land.” (Jonah 2:10 NIV))

Daily Bible Readings – Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 5

Prayer Point: This psalm is meant to be prayed at the beginning of the day. What is bothering you as you begin the day?  Stop, lay them before the LORD, and wait in expectation for him to act. (See verse 3)

Luke 8:40-56

Who has been waiting for Jesus’ return from the Gentile side of the lake? Can you imagine how the man with the sick daughter felt as the crowds delayed Jesus’ arrival?

The woman in the crowd had been bleeding for 12 years. She was considered unclean all that time. Anyone she touched was unclean. Can you imagine being denied human contact for twelve years! Why do you think she is so afraid when Jesus notices that she touched him? Is there anything magical about Jesus’ cloak? Why does Jesus heal her anyway, even when this woman ‘got it wrong’?

During the delay, Jairus’ daughter dies. How does Jesus respond? Who gets to witness the miracle? Peter, James and John were considered to be the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples. What are the parents told to do with what they have just witnessed? Why do you think Jesus gave this command?

Acts 26:24-27:8

Paul has just given his defense before King Agrippa. He is on trial for his life, but you get the sense that there are other things that he cares about more than securing his release. What hope does Paul have that is more important to him than his freedom (see 26:27-29)? Why isn’t Paul released in verse 32?

The right to appeal to Caesar was the right of every Roman citizen. Paul was born into his citizenship (a rare privilege in those days), and it is this right that will carry him to Rome. Why do you think Paul values going to a Rome as a prisoner over his own freedom(see Acts 23:11)?

Paul’s final voyage to Rome now begins, but he is not alone. Who is allowed to accompany Paul? Notice that verse 2 says, “we”. Luke the author of the Gospel of Luke and a companion of Paul wrote the book of Acts. How does God show kindness to Paul even though he is in chains?

Jonah 1:1-17 – Jonah’s Response to the LORD’s call

Who is Jonah? Well, I’ll give you my opinion of who Jonah is. Jonah is my favorite yet most unsuccessful prophet. Let me clarify. Jonah was unsuccessful because his prophecy concerning Nineveh never happened. That can only mean that he was perhaps the most successful prophet with regard delivering his message. His eight word sermon by the power of the Holy Spirit: “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overturned.” managed to turn the hearts of the Ninevites. Now on the what the professionals have to say.

From The ESV Study Bible Notes pp. 1683-1684

“Author and Title”
“The title of the book is the name of the main character, Jonah. The book is anonymous, and there are no indicators elsewhere in Scripture to identify the author. The foundational source for the book was likely Jonah’s own telling of the story after his return from Nineveh.”

“Date”
“Since Jonah prophesied during the reign of Jeroboam (II) (782-753 B.C.; see 2 Kings 14:23-28), and since Sirach 49:10 (from the 2nd century B.C.) refers to the ‘twelve prophets’ (namely, the 12 Minor Prophets, of which Jonah is the fifth), the book of Jonah was written sometime between the middle of the eighth and the end of the third centuries. No compelling evidence leads to a more precise date.”

“Theme”
“The LORD is a God of boundless compassion not just for ‘us’ (Jonah and the Israelites) but also for ‘them’ (the pagan sailors and Ninevites).”

“Purpose, Occasion, and Background”
“The primary purpose of the book of Jonah is to engage readers in theological reflection on the compassionate character of God, and in self-reflection on the degree to which their own character reflects this compassion, to the end that they become vehicles of this compassion in the world that God has made and so deeply cares about.

“Jonah prophesied during the reign of Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:23-28), who ruled in Israel (the northern kingdom) from 782 to 753 B.C. Jeroboam was the grandson of Jehoahaz, who ruled in Israel from 814 to 798 B.C. Because of the sins of Jehoahaz, Israel was oppressed by the Arameans (2 Kings 13:3). But because of the LORD’s great compassion (2 Kings 13:4, 23), Israel was spared destruction and delivered from this oppression (2 Kings 15). This deliverance came through a ‘savior’ (2 Kings 13:5), who may have been Adad-nirari III (810-783 B.C.), king of Assyria.

“Jeroboam’s father, Jehosh (798-782 B.C.), capitalized on this freedom from Aramean oppression and began to expand Israel’s boundaries, recapturing towns taken during the reign of Jehoahaz (2 Kings 13:25). Though Jeroboam ‘did what was evil in the sight of the LORD’ (2 Kings 14:24), he nevertheless expanded Israel even farther than his father did, matching the boundaries in the days of David and Solomon (2 Kings 14:25); this was ‘according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet who was from Garth-hepher’ (2 Kings 14:25). Thus Jonah witnessed first-hand the restorative compassion of God extended to his wayward people.

“In God’s providence, the expansion by Jeroboam was made easier because of Assyrian weakness. The Assyrians were engaged in conflicts with the Arameans and the Urartians. There was also widespread famine, and numerous revolts within the Assyrian Empire (where regional governors ruled with a fair degree of autonomy). Then there was an auspicious eclipse of the sun during the reign of Ashur-dan III (771-754 B.C.). This convergence of events supports the plausibility of the Ninevites being so responsive to Jonah’s call to repent.

“It was not until some years later that Tiglath-pileser (745-727 B.C.) would gain control and reestablish Assyrian dominance in the area, and his son Shalmaneser V ( 727-722) was the king responsible for the conquest of Israel and the destruction of Samaria in 722. Thus Jonah prophesied in an era when Assyria was not an immediate threat to Israel and when Israel enjoyed peace and prosperity because of the compassion of God.”

{Actually, much of the shifting of the balance of power looks so much like “my friend is my enemy’s enemy”. That is the only way I can conceive of Israel ever being in alliance with Assyria. Once Assyria regained its prominence, the balance would again change (and not to Israel’s benefit).}

Where is the LORD sending Jonah, son of Amittai? (The LORD wants Jonah to go to Nineveh, Assyria to preach repentance. “Go to that great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” (Jonah 1:2 NIV))

Why does the LORD care about Nineveh? (Actually the answer is in Chapter 4 but for our purposes here it is simply because: “The LORD is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 NIV) While it is true that Peter wrote those words six hundred years later, still the truth of those words is eternal. More obviously, since everyone is an “image-bearer” of God, the value to God is self-evident. It is important to understand that the worth of the image-bearer is incalculable. Whether friend or enemy, all have equal value before God. — j.t.)

What was Jonah’s response to the LORD’s “request” that he go to Nineveh? (Jonah did not actually refuse to go to Nineveh, he just left town so he would not have to deal with the assignment. Unfortunately his response will have serious ramifications on those with whom he comes in contact.)

How did Jonah actually “leave town”? (Jonah got passage on a ship headed for a place called Tarshish (which we believe is what is today known as Spain) “After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD. (Jonah 1:3 NIV))

Since the LORD wanted to grab Jonah’s attention, what did he do? (“Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.” (Jonah 14 NIV))

It is now that Jonah’s response to the Lord begins to effect those around him. What happens aboard ship? (“All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.” (Jonah 1:5 NIV))

What was Jonah doing all this time? (He was sleeping it off. The captain came to him woke him up and told him to call upon his god: “Maybe he will take notice of us, and we will not perish.” (Jonah 1:6 NIV) The significance of this is that a similar thing happened to Jesus while he was aboard ship in the Sea of Galilee. “Then he [Jesus] got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.” (Matthew 8:23-26 NIV) Both men were asleep at the time of the churning sea and both men brought about the calming of the sea.)

How do the sailors determine that Jonah was the source of their trouble? (They did it the old fashioned way: “they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.” (Jonah 1:7b NIV))

What does Jonah say that terrifies the sailors? (“I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” (Jonah 1:9 NIV) I am only guessing here, but the sailors had worshiped many gods: a god of the sea, a god of heaven, a god of the land, a god of rain, a god of sun, etc. So if Jonah worships the God of heaven who made both the sea and the dry land, this must be a greater God than all of theirs. This is what terrified them.)

How was it that the sailors knew Jonah was fleeing the Lord? (Jonah had told his compatriots he was fleeing from God. “(They knew he was running from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)” (Jonah 1:10 NIV))

At this point things look rather bleak. What do the sailors ask Jonah? (“What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?” (Jonah 1:11 NIV))

What is the thing that Jonah does which may be considered quite heroic, quite unselfish, and even Christ-like? (Jonah says: “‘Pick me up and throw me into the sea,’ he replied, ‘and it will become calm. I know it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.'” (Jonah 1:12 NIV))

How do the sailors react to this unconventional solution to the current problem? (“[T]he men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before.” (Jonah 1:13 NIV)

So these men have a measure of morality and compassion, but they realize their efforts are futile. The view themselves as forced to a dramatic and regrettable choice. What must they do and how do they prepare themselves for the task left to them? (The first thing they do is to pray to this God of Jonah, after all, he is greater than their own gods. They plead with him not to hold them accountable for what they are about to do. “O LORD, please do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, O LORD, have done as you pleased.” (Jonah 1:14 NIV) Similar words of the sailors were uttered several hundred years before by David: “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.” (Psalm 115:3 NIV) Clearly, these men were not quoting David, but it is interesting that one can come to the same conclusion via a different route.– j.t.)

I hope I haven’t tipped my hand much, but what do the sailors do and what is the result? (“Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.” Bear in mind that Jonah gave his life willingly just as Jesus will do in years to come. He was not forced: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13 NIV) Here we have yet another similarity between Jonah and Jesus. — j.t.)

I believe that for the sailors the story ends there. What, however, happens to Jonah? (“But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.” (Jonah 1:17 NIV) This is precisely the event in Jonah’s life that Jesus refers to: “As the crowds increased, Jesus said, ‘This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.'” (Luke 11:29-32 NIV))

Old Testament Reading Guide – January 2-8, 2012

How do I use this reading guide?

1 Kings 18:41-19:8 A Woman Scorned?

Elijah then tells Ahab to eat and drink before the rains come. Ahab eats and drinks and Elijah ascends to the top of Mount Carmel to wait. Elijah tells his servant to scout out the sky toward the sea and report what he finds. The servant reports, “There is nothing.” (1 Kings 18:43 ESV). Elijah sends him on this errand a total of seven (!) times. “And at the seventh time he said, ‘Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea.’ And he [Elijah] said, ‘Go up, say to Ahab, “Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you.” (1 Kings 18:44 ESV) Ahab mounts his chariot and rushes to Jezreel (where he had a palace about 20 miles north of the capital city Samaria). Oddly, “the hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and he gathered up his garment and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.” (1 Kings 18:46 ESV) I have no idea why Elijah would want to go into the “lion’s den” and the scripture is no help here, but what it does suggest is there was something to what Obadiah said in 18:12 (“And as soon as I have gone from you, the Spirit of the Lord will carry you I know not where.” – ESV)

Elijah was unfazed by the supposed threats of Ahab. But when it came to a woman, he “ran for the hills” as it were. Wasn’t it William Congreve who said, “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned”? Anyway, Jezebel [which means ‘unmarried’, but she was) may not have been scorned, but she was mmm ‘miffed’ shall we say. “Then Jezebel sent a message to Elijah, saying, ‘So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them [the 450 false prophets] by this time tomorrow.’” (1 Kings 19:2 ESV) Elijah made haste to the land of Judah (probably safer there – no extradition treaty) to escape Jezebel. He came to Beersheba and left his servant there while he went off into the wilderness. As the scripture puts it, “Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life…” (1 Kings 19:3 ESV)

Elijah, whom I regard as a giant among the people of God, suffered a crisis of faith. He became fearful. He had brought a dead boy back to life, he called down fire from heaven, he opened heaven’s skies, and he rode to Jezreel on foot faster than Ahab who was in a chariot. He was drenched in the power of God and yet now he was afraid. In some respects this may demonstrate his humility – he doesn’t take the LORD or his power for granted. “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” (1 Kings 19:4 ESV) He then lies down and sleeps under a broom tree (“a bush with many branches and twigs, small leaves, and clusters of flowers” ESV Study Bible Notes p. 636). The angel of the Lord came and touched him and instructed him to eat (for he had prepared “cake baked on hot stones and water” v. 19:6 ESV) for the journey was too great for him. “He arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb [Mt. Sinai], the mount of God.” (1 Kings 19:8 ESV) This is, of course, the same place where the LORD delivered the Ten Commandments to Moses, after he had fasted for forty days and forty nights.

[ESV Study Bible Notes p. 636
“19:5 an angel touched him. Elijah has been responding so far only to Jezebel’s ‘messenger’ (v. 2). Now it is God’s turn to take the initiative with an ‘angel’ or messenger of his own. It is God’s first move in leading Elijah back onto the path of faith from which he has strayed.”]

1 Kings 19:9-21 “What are you doing here Elijah?”

“What are you doing here Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9 ESV) The LORD asks Elijah this question clearly because the LORD is not yet finished with him. Remember that this would be considered a holy place of refuge – the place where Moses trod and where the Ten Commandments were handed down. This section of scripture is, perhaps, among the most riveting in all the Old Testament.

Elijah is very discouraged and is, quite frankly, afraid of Jezebel – of what she may do to him. She was far more formidable than Ahab. She was, after all, a king’s daughter (2 Samuel 9:34). When the Lord asks Elijah this question his response is: “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” (1 Kings 19:10 ESV) With all that has transpired, Elijah may have forgotten what Obadiah had told him concerning the 100 prophets he had hidden away from Jezebel. The Lord tells Elijah, “‘Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.’ And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper (“still small voice” KJV). (1 Kings 19:11-12 ESV)

In any event, the LORD asks the question again, I suppose looking for a different answer, but Elijah repeats the same answer. Here the LORD commissions Elijah to go to Damascus to anoint Hazael king of Syria. Next he is to anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And finally Elijah is to anoint Elisha the son of Shaphat as prophet in his own place. These three men will carry out the sentence which the LORD has pronounced over Israel: “And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. Yet I will leave seven [!] thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:17-18 ESV) Keeping Elijah and Elisha straight will prove a monumental task as you may judge for yourself; they had parallel lives.

Joshua 3:14-4:7 The People of Israel Cross the Jordan

What occurs at the Jordan that has a ring of familiarity? (See Exodus 13:17-14:22) What does the LORD tell Joshua to do once the people have crossed the Jordan? Why twelve stones? What is the point of the exercise?

From history to the prophets…

Jonah 2:2-9 Jonah’s Prayer

Background
[From the ESV Study Bible Notes p. 1683

“The title of the book is the name of the main character, Jonah. The book is anonymous, and there are no indicators elsewhere in Scripture to identify the author. The foundational source for the book was likely Jonah’s own telling of the story after his return from Nineveh.

“The primary purpose of the book of Jonah is to engage readers in theological reflection on the compassionate character of God, and in self-reflection on the degree to which their own character reflects this compassion, to the end that they become vehicles of this compassion in the world that God has made and so deeply cares about.

“The genre of Jonah is debated. The book has been read as an allegory, using fictional figures to symbolize some other reality. According to this interpretation, Jonah is a symbol of Israel in its refusal to carry out God’s mission to the nations. The primary argument against this view is that Jonah is clearly presented as a historical and not a fictional figure . Another proposal is that the book is a parable to teach believers not to be like Jonah. Like allegories, parables are also based on fictional and not historical characters. Parables, however, are typically simple tales that make a single point, whereas the book of Jonah is quite complex and teaches a multiplicity of themes. The book of Jonah has all the marks of a prophetic narrative, like those about Elijah and Elisha found in 1 Kings, which set out to report actual historical events. The phrase that opens the book (‘the word of the LORD came to’) is also at the beginning of the first two stories told about Elijah (1 Kings 17:2, 8) and is used in other prophetic narratives as well (e.g., 1 Sam. 15:10; 2 Sam. 7:4). Just as the Elijah and Elisha narratives contain extraordinary events, like ravens providing bread and meat for the prophet (1 Kings 17:6), so does the book of Jonah, as when the fish ‘provides transportation’ for the prophet. In fact, the story of Jonah is so much like the stories about Elijah and Elisha that one would hardly think it odd if the story of Jonah were embedded in 2 Kings right after Jonah’s prophetic words about the expansion of the kingdom. The story of Jonah is thus presented as historical, like the other prophetic narratives….

“… Jesus, moreover, treated the story as historical when he used elements of the story as analogies for other historical events (see Matt. 12:40-41) This is especially clear when Jesus declared the ‘the men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah.’ (Matt. 12:41 ESV)”]

So …
What is going on here? Where is Jonah when he prays? [Symbolically speaking Jonah is in the grave. This is precisely the image Jesus refers to in Matthew 12:38-42.] What is the first thing Jonah says in his prayer? [He cries out in his distress and the LORD hears him.] What does verse four say about Jonah’s spirit of perseverance? [His hope to look again toward the holy temple.] Verse five talks about drowning; what does verse six tell us? [The Lord brought up his life from the pit.] What is the symbolism of this whole adventure? [As Jesus used it – to show the hope of the resurrection.] How does verse eight speak to us today? [That we actually forfeit grace that could be ours.] Can you see how verse nine foretells of the crucifixion? [The sacrifice with thanksgiving. The Eucharist is a remembrance of the Lord’s death until he comes again.] What is Jonah’s final cry in this section? [“Salvation belongs to the LORD!”]

Isaiah 66:18-23 Final Judgment and Glory of the LORD

[Background on Isaiah from the ESV Study Bible p. 1233

“The opening words of the book explain that this is “the vision if Isaiah the son of Amoz” (1:1). Unlike Jeremiah, who discloses aspects of his inner personal life (e.g., Jer. 20:7-12), Isaiah says little about himself. Isaiah 6 records his call to prophesy, openly revealing his innermost thoughts on that occasion. Chapters 7-8; 20; and 37-39 offer glimpses into his public ministry. The parallel accounts in 2 Kings 19-20 add little. The NT bears witness to his prophetic foresight (John 12:37-41) and boldness (Romans 10:20). Beyond this, the Bible’s sole interest is in Isaiah’s message, which is summed up in the meaning of his name: ‘Yahweh is salvation’.

“Isaiah’s father was Amoz (Isa. 1:1), but the Bible says nothing more of him. Jewish tradition claims that Amoz was a brother of Amaziah, king of Judah, putting Isaiah into the royal family. It is clear that Isaiah was a married man and a father (7:3; 8:3; 18). He appears to have been a resident of Jerusalem (7:3). Hebrews 11:37 (‘they were sawn in two’) may allude to the tradition of Isaiah’s death under persecution by Manasseh, king of Judah [son of Hezekiah – j.t.] (687—642 B.C.; cf. Lives of the Prophets 1.1; Martyrdom of Isaiah 5.1-14).

“Isaiah’s record of the reign of King Uzziah (2 Chron. 26:22) is not to be identified with the biblical book of Isaiah.

“The title presents the book as ‘the vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz’ (Isa. 1:1). Israel’s prophets were indeed seers (2 Kings 6:15-17; 17:13; Isa. 29:10; 30:10). Isaiah himself ‘saw the LORD’ (6:1), but his visionary insights were made shareable by being put into a written message: ‘The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw’ (2:1). Isaiah’s book is a vision in that it reveals, through symbols and reasoned thought, a God-centered way of seeing and living. It offers everyone the true alternative to the false appearances of this world.”]

Why must this passage be about the second coming (or second advent) of Christ? This passage is filled with opposing and contrasting images. Can you identify them? [To see the glory of the LORD; the fame and glory of the LORD will be declared over all the earth (i.e., among the nations); “And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the LORD; the roll of the Levites will be expanded to include gentiles; new heavens and new earth. The opposing image is the final judgment and punishment of “those who rebelled against me.”]

Isaiah 49:1-7 The Servant of the LORD

Who is the subject of this passage? “He made my mouth like a sharpened sword…” (v. 2) Compare this description with that in Revelation 19:15. This helps us to know who is being described here. Verse three: “He said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.’” [NOTE: This is a sticking point among Jews particularly when they read Isaiah Chapter 53. They see Israel as a collective noun here personified into one individual. I see this as Jesus personifying all of Israel in himself (as he does all of us in the crucifixion). Matthew cites Hosea (again!) Chapter 11 verse one “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” Matthew ascribes to Jesus this totality of Israel in his person. – j.t.] How does verse four square with Jesus and his mission on earth? Compare this with Hebrews Chapter 12 verse two. What thoughts cross your mind when you read verse five? How is God’s compassion expressed in verse 6? What promises await the “Redeemer and Holy one of Israel – to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation…” in verse 7?

January 6 is the feast of the Epiphany. Traditionally we celebrate the arrival of the Magi. In the Eastern Church (the Orthodox) the Baptism of Jesus is celebrated on this day. Epiphany means to “show forth” and in both cases Jesus is shown forth; to the Gentiles (Magi) and to Israel at his baptism.

Isaiah 52:7-10 How Beautiful … Are the Feet of Those Who Bring Good News

We don’t generally think of feet in terms of beautiful. Can you think of instances in the Gospels where feet play a roll? [Jesus told disciples who were sent to proclaim the gospel that if they were turned away they were to shake the dust of their feet and move along; many times there were petitioners who fell at Jesus’ feet; then there was the woman who spent a year’s salary on nard to anoint Jesus’ feet; oh, and then Jesus’ feet were nailed to a tree; then there was all that walking (on water, just to mention one)… but nowhere except here do we find feet a thing of “beauty”.] What kind of an attitude is displayed here? What is the LORD doing in this passage?