Daily Bible Readings – Thursday July 26, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 50

Prayer Point:  This psalm envisions God as a righteous judge who calls out the sin in of  the righteous (verses 7-15) AND the unrighteous (verses 16-23). In what ways have you, like the righteous, served God with the wrong motives? In what ways have you sinned against God like the wicked. Confess those things to God and ask for the faith to believe that God needs nothing from us, not our work, not our money, but only our trust.

Matthew 26:69-75

Earlier in the chapter Jesus predicted that all of his disciples would desert him (Matthew 26:31-35). Peter, being the brash one in the group, boasts that even if everyone else fell away, he would not. Jesus declares that Peter will deny him three times that very night. And now the stage is set.

What causes Peter’s courage to give out? How far is Peter willing to go with the lie (see verse 74)? How has everything gone according to the way Jesus had prophesied? What does this do to Peter? Here is something to think about: Jesus had predicted that Peter would fail him. Peter responded by promising that he wouldn’t. That clearly was the wrong thing to do, but what could he have done instead?

Romans 15:1-13

The final chapters of the Paul’s letter to the Romans deals with the question of how the church is to live in response to what Christ has done for us, which he detailes in the first eight chapters.
How are the morally and spiritually strong to relate to the morally and spiritually weak in the church?

The Roman church was an eclectic mix of people. Some had been raised as pious Jews well versed in Jewish Law and Tradition and familiar with the Old Testament. Others were Gentiles and lived the immoral lifestyle of a Roman pagan. Needless to say there was a culture clash in this church.

How were the Jewish and Gentile Christians called to relate to each other? How is Jesus’ treatment of us the pattern for how we are to treat others?

This would have been especially difficult for the Jewish Christians at Rome. They viewed the Gentile Christians as their spiritual inferiors. Gentiles knew less of the Bible. They did not follow the Jewish law and consequently were viewed as morally loose. How would the Jewish believers’ love for their Gentile brothers and sisters fulfill God’s purposes?

In verses 9-12 Paul quotes the Jewish Scriptures (the Psalms and the prophet Isaiah). What was God’s purpose all along for the Gentiles? One thing that may be helpful to know is that the “Root of Jesse” in verse 12 is a reference to Jesus.

The miracle of the early church was that through the gospel of Jesus Christ, the dividing wall that had existed between Jew and Gentile was destroyed. In the church there was one people of God made of up Jew and Gentile and that demonstrated to the world the reconciling power of the gospel.

Joshua 9:3-21 – The Gibeonite Deception

The LORD’s original intent for the people of Israel was that they purge the Promised Land of all its inhabitants because the land had become polluted by their wickedness and idolatry. The LORD also wanted the people to depend on him for everything – their daily bread as it were. This incident with the Gibeonites should serve to demonstrate (harshly) why it is important to rely on God. What was the ruse the Gibeonites employed against the Israelites? (The Gibeonites had grown fearful of the Israelites because of their growing reputation as warriors. They decided to trick the Hebrews into an alliance by means of a ruse. A delegation came to Joshua; they had worn out clothes, moldy bread, old wine skins and worn out sacks. They deceived Joshua; they told him that they had traveled from a far land and had heard much of the Jews’ exploits beginning in Egypt. They knew that Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og the king of Bashan both had been defeated by the Hebrews. Joshua had compassion on these people but he did not seek the LORD’s counsel. He then made a treaty of peace by oath with these “travelers” which will have repercussions later.)

Joshua made a treaty of peace by oath with these Gibeonites. Why is that significant? (The treaty by oath would mean that they would have sworn by the LORD to honor the peace between them. When the commandment says not to take the name of the LORD in vain, I believe it has everything to do with the taking of an oath. In taking an oath one is asking the LORD to witness the agreement; that it would be honored as though the promise were made to the LORD himself. Many of the oaths of that day began with: “May the LORD do so to me and more if ….” So this is serious business.)

How long did it take for the Israelites to discover they had been duped? (“Three days after they made the treaty with the Gibeonites, the Israelites heard that they were neighbors, living near them.” (Joshua 9:16 NIV) Now the Israelites were duty bound (or honor bound) to respect the treaty they had made with the Gibeonites. This may be the basis of the trouble the Hebrews will continue to face throughout their future in the land.)

The people were angry with the leadership. Naturally when politicians blunder it is the people who must pay. Their excuse to the people was that they had made a treaty by oath with the Gibeonites though they did not know that they were near neighbors.

What was the ultimate determination regarding the Gibeonites? (“‘This is what we will do to them: We will let them live, so that wrath will not fall on us or breaking the oath we swore to them.’ They continued, ‘Let them live, but let them be woodcutters and water carriers for the entire community.’ So the leaders’ promise to them was kept.” (Joshua 9:20-21 NIV))

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Daily Bible Readings – Wednesday July 25, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 119:49-72

Prayer Point:  There are many things that prevent us from following Christ and living out his law. I believe that our greatest obstacle is affluence, but for many Christians in the world it is suffering as it is in this portion of Psalm 119. Pray today for Christians, such as Iranian church planter Youcef Nadarkhani, who have been imprisoned by their faith. Pray that they will have the strength to persevere even when the “wicked bind [them] with ropes.”

Matthew 26:57-68

Jesus has been arrested, not by the Romans, but by the Jewish authorities who controlled the temple and therefore he was taken for questioning to the home of Caiaphas the high priest. What are they looking for? What does Jesus boldly claim that causes the high priest to tear his robes and call for his death? To get the full effect of what Jesus is saying, see Daniel 7:13-14. Is Jesus doing anything to avoid his death?

What does Jesus NOT do when he is humiliated and unjustly struck by his enemies (look back at Matthew 26:53-54)?

Romans 14:13-23

There are extraordinary freedoms that come with the gospel. Paul believed that a Christian had the freedom to eat meat that was sacrificed to idols and to no longer celebrate the Jewish holidays. While these were freedoms, he often chose not to exercise thems. For what reasons should we surrender our freedoms?  What does Paul value over his personal freedoms and rights? 

Joshua 8:30-35 – The Altar on Mount Ebal

Joshua gathers all the people at Mount Ebal and builds and altar. The bible says “… as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded…” (Joshua 8:30 NIV). What was the distinguishing feature of this altar? (The altar was to be built of uncut stones on which no iron tool had been used. “If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it.” (Exodus 20:25 NIV))

Why do you think the stones of the altar had to be “uncut”? (Of course, this is purely speculation on my part, but I think that since the stones are “natural” they are as God had made them. If one chisels the stones they then are no longer just the work of God but also of man. Offering a sacrifice on such an altar would be seen as blasphemous because the altar then would consist of something less than of God. – j.t.)

So they (Joshua and all the people) worshiped God by offering sacrifices. What was next on the agenda? (“Joshua copied on stones the law of Moses [the Ten Commandments], which he had written.” (Joshua 8:32 NIV))

What does Joshua do after having chiseled the law into stone? (He had gathered all of the people together along with the ark of the covenant – a good time to read the law to the people. Naturally the reading included the blessings and curses (Deuteronomy 27& 28))

Daily Bible Readings – Tuesday July 24, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 45

Prayer Point:  Read this psalm keeping in mind that Jesus is the king and we the church are his bride. Read in this light, Psalm 45 becomes an example of what it means to pray, “your kingdom come, your will be done as it is in heaven.” Meditate on what this psalm says about how Christ feels us about us. Notice the dreams that are expressed and pray that God’s dreams for the world will be realized.

Matthew 26:47-56

Judas, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, has betrayed him into the hands of the Jewish leaders. What strikes you about the way Jesus addresses his betrayer?

We know from the gospel of Mark that it was Peter who struck off the ear of the high priest’s servant. He is striking the first blow to defend Jesus. Why does Jesus call Peter to put his sword away? Why doesn’t he need Peter to defend him? What does Jesus do to his enemies instead? How does Jesus’ example instruct us in confronting evil in our time?

What does Jesus know that allows him to express love to Judas, kindness to the wounded servant and courage in the face of his attackers (see verses 54 and 56)?

Romans 14:1-12

Every church is going to have  some people with stronger faith and others with weaker faith. For Paul, those with strong faith have a better grasp of Jesus, his gospel, and how it is lived out. In this chapter, those with stronger faith understood that there is no problem with eating meat or that the special holidays from Judaism no longer needed to be honored, but those of weaker faith had not yet come to that level of wisdom. So what do you do if there is a difference of opinion? How are those of strong faith to treat those of weak faith? Why?

Joshua 8:1-23         Ai’s Fate

In the conquest of Ai the LORD will be the general of the Israelite army. He plans the strategy. What is the LORD’s strategy? (“Set an ambush behind the city.” (Joshua 8:2 NIV) Joshua sent his men out at night with these orders: “Listen carefully. You are to set an ambush behind the city. Don’t go very far from it. All of you be on the alert. I and all those with me will advance on the city, and when the men come out against us, as they did before, we will flee from them. They will pursue us until we have lured them away from the city, for they will say, ‘They are running away from us as they did before.’” (Joshua 8:4-6 NIV))

The first time around Ai had the victory – though it was not their own. Remember, they had killed thirty-six Israelites; not something anyone would consider a trouncing. Now Ai must feel a sense of superiority over Israel. They are unfazed by the appearance of the Israeli army. What they don’t know is, of course, that the greater force of the Israelis is actually behind them. What was the end result? (The men of Ai pursue Joshua and his forces and while they are chasing after them, the ambushers took the city and set it on fire. The men of Ai turned and saw their city on fire and realized that the trap had been sprung. Joshua and his forces then turn and run toward the king of Ai and his men while the ambushers pursue the men of Ai from the other direction. All were killed except the king of Ai who was then brought to Joshua. (verse 8:23))

Daily Bible Readings – Monday July 23, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 52

Prayer Point:  This prayer is rooted in life. David, an innocent man on the run from king Saul, has been betrayed by Doeg the Edomite. David does not seek vengeance himself, but leaves justice to God. By faith, he sees himself not as a desperate fugitive, but as God sees him, “an olive tree flourishing in the house of God” (see verses 8-9). Meditate on that for a while and pray that you will be able to trust God and praise him from the midst of your fear.

Matthew 26:36-46

We forget that Jesus was in every way a human being as well as being God. Where do you see Christ’s humanity on the night before his death? Jesus taught us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “your will be done.” How does Jesus demonstrate this prayer as he pours out his heart to his Father?

The cup that Jesus refers to is the “cup of God’s wrath”, an expression that appears in Isaiah 51:17-22. In what way do Jesus’ disciples fail him? Does the disciples’ failure diminish in any way his willingness to die for them and for us?

Romans 13:1-11

What is the ‘continuing debt’ that Christians never finish paying in this lifetime?
What does Paul say is the one command that summarizes the second half of the Ten Commandments (see Romans 13:9-10 and Exodus 20:13-17)?
What are we to do as we wait for the return of Jesus (this is what Paul means by ‘the night is almost over the day is almost here’)? Should we spend time speculating about when Jesus is coming or is God calling us to do something else?

Joshua 7:1-13         Achan and the Devoted Things

Just a quick review of what “devoted” means: Let me explain this word “devoted”. According to the footnotes in the NIV, “The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the LORD, often by totally destroying them.” When I think of “devoted” ‘to destruction’ is not the image I have in mind. What it means, of course, is that there would be no booty – no spoils of war – to be garnered by the people. If something is “devoted to God” the violation of it will prove to be fatal. In other words: hands off the gold (or anything of material value).

What happened to make the LORD’s anger burn against Israel? (“But the Israelites acted unfaithfully in regard to the devoted thing; Achan, … of the tribe of Judah, took some of them.” (Joshua 7:1 NIV))

This next question we looked at two weeks ago. I bring this up now only to underscore the Israelites’ lack of resolve.

What is the promise of the people to Joshua? (Unfortunately the answer to this is the same as their lapse of memory: “Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you.” This promise they will keep – they were not obedient to Moses nor will they be obedient to Joshua. These errant people also promise that “Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey your words, whatever you may command them, will be put to death.” (Joshua 1:18 NIV))

I don’t know how much time had elapsed since the people made this promise, but they had just witnessed the miraculous collapse of Jericho which should have served as a reminder of the LORD’s faithfulness.

Flush with victory, Joshua is emboldened to continue the conquest of the land. He turns next to the city of Ai. The favorable report of the spies encourages Joshua to send a diminished force of about 3,000 men of valor to conquer the city. What actually happens? (The men of Ai routed the Hebrews killing about thirty-six of them.)

What becomes of the courage and spirit of the people? (“The hearts of the people melted and became like water.” (Joshua 7:5 NIV))

So Joshua complained to the LORD about the most recent devastating event and wondered why he just didn’t allow the people to remain on the eastern side of the Jordan. Why was it necessary that the Israelites conquer the territory west of the Jordan? (The answer to this question can be found in the Book of Genesis Chapter 17. The people have no commitment nor resolve and presume there would be no cost in their conquest of the Promised Land. The LORD would do all the work and they would just sit back and watch the show. But that is not the reason why the Israelites had suffered this recent defeat.)

What was the LORD’s retort to Joshua? (“The LORD said to Joshua, ‘Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction.” (Joshua 7:10-12a NIV))

What demand does the LORD make of Joshua? (“I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.” (Joshua 7:12b NIV))

The LORD tells Joshua to issue a command to the people: “Go consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: That which is devoted is among you [i.e., the devoted things are do not belong to you!], O Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove it.” (Joshua 7:13 NIV)

Oh, by the way, Achan was discovered to have taken some of the booty. So Joshua had Achan and his entire family stoned to death for bringing the displeasure of the LORD upon all the people. This incident was also to serve as an object lesson to the people.

Daily Bible Readings – Sunday July 22, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 98

Prayer Point:  New songs were sung in the Old Testament when God performed an act of salvation such as parting the Red Sea. We sing because God has made his salvation known through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Join with all creation today in thanking God for his forgiveness and his promised return to restore peace and justice to this world.

Mark 2:1-12

Word of Jesus’ healing miracles has spread throughout the countryside and crowds mob the home where he is staying. Desperate to get their friend to Jesus, a hole is torn in the roof of the house and a paralyzed man is lowered before Jesus. What did Jesus see that caused him to declare to the paralyzed man, “your sins are forgiven”?

To declare the power to forgive sin was to claim to be God for only God himself reserved that right. The Jewish leaders considered Jesus’ words to be blasphemy because they did not believe that he was God.

Why does Jesus go ahead and heal the paralytic? What does the healing demonstrate?

Acts 22:30-23:11

The Sanhedrin were 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, downplayed the “other worldly elements of their faith.” The Romans in gratitude placed the Sadducees in positions of power within Israel.

The Pharisees still held to the hopes of heaven and the resurrection. They believed that if the people of Israel walked in obedience to the Jewish Law that 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.

Joshua 6:15-27         “And the walls came a’tumblin’ down”

What is Joshua’s battle cry at the “seventh trump”?  (“Shout!  For the LORD has given you the city!” (Joshua 6:16b NIV))

Joshua tells the people that, “The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the LORD.”  Let me explain this word “devoted”.  According to the footnotes in the NIV, “The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the LORD, often by totally destroying them.”  When I think of “devoted” ‘to destruction’ is not the image I have in mind.  What it means, of course, is that there would be no booty – no spoils of war – to be garnered by the people.  If something is “devoted to God” the violation of it will prove to be fatal.  In other words: hands off the gold (or anything of material value).

What of our friend Rahab and her family? (“Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent.”  (Joshua 6:17b NIV)

What is Joshua’s warning concerning the “devoted” things?  (“But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them.  Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring disaster on it.”  (Joshua 6:18 NIV))

What is to become of the “devoted things” then if the people can’t have them?  (“All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the LORD and must go into his treasury.” (Joshua 6:19 NIV))

It is clear that the LORD does not need silver and gold (and all that other stuff).  Why, do you suppose then, that the Lord does not want the people to have it?  (Greed! We will learn later from St. Paul that “the love of money (gold, wealth) is the root of all evil.”  The Israelites didn’t make that calf (idol) in the wilderness of mud but of gold.)

Just how total was the destruction of Jericho?  (“They devoted the city to the LORD and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it – men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys. …  Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the LORD’s house.” (Joshua 6:21 NIV)  Rahab and all who were with her were spared.)
What is Joshua’s curse regarding Jericho?  (“Cursed before the LORD is the man who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho: At the cost of his firstborn son will he lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest will he set up its gates.” (Joshua 6:26 NIV))

“So the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land.” (Joshua 6:27 NIV)

Daily Bible Readings – Saturday July 21, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 32

Prayer Point: Secret sin is burden that saps our strength. Why suffer, if through Christ, our sins are forgiven and our sins are covered? Confess your sins to God today. Rejoice in his forgiveness. Submit yourself to him and allow him to teach you the way you should go.

Matthew 26:26-35

The setting of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples before his crucifixion was the Jewish feast of Passover. The parallels are striking. The first Passover was celebrated the night before God liberated his people from Egypt by striking down the first born of Egypt. This Passover is celebrated the night before God liberated us from slavery to sin and death by striking down his own Son.

In the first Passover, unleavened bread was eaten and cups of wine were drunk. Who is the bread and the wine in the Passover meal Jesus celebrates with his disciples?

For what purpose is the blood of Christ poured out? When will Jesus drink the cup again with his disciples?

What prediction does Jesus make of his disciples? What promise does Jesus give them despite the cowardice that is to come that very night? How does Peter respond to Jesus’ prophecy? How do you think Jesus would have wanted Peter to respond? Give that some thought.

Romans 13:1-7

How are Christians called to relate to the governments they live under?  Why?  Do you think this includes corrupt and oppressive governments?  Remember that the Christians lived under the brutal Roman Empire as you think about how Paul’s teaching could be applied to today.

Joshua 6:1-14             Joshua vs. Jericho

The LORD encourages Joshua onward with the words: “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.” (Joshua 6:1 NIV)  The LORD’s timing may be a little off; he is speaking in the past tense and the battle has yet to happen.  What kind of preparation is Joshua told to make?  (Joshua is told to march his army around the city once each day for six days.  The priests are to accompany them carrying the ark of the covenant.  Also in this retinue were to be seven (!) priests as trumpeters of rams’ horns.)

The Lord loves the seventh day.  What crescendo of events has the Lord planned for Jericho on this seventh day?  (“On the seventh day, march around the city seven times with the priests blowing the trumpets.  When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.” (Joshua 6:4b-5 NIV))

Daily Bible Readings – Friday July 20, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 31

Prayer Point: Jesus commanded us to love our enemies, but we have ignored this command deeming it impossible. We reach for the gun, instead of God. But the voice of Psalm 31 entrapped by his enemies cries out: ‘Into your hands I commit my spirit.’ These words take on special significance when we realize that these are the last words of the crucified Christ as he laid down his life for us, his enemies. Meditate on the amazing love of God and pray for the faith to imitate the love of Christ today.

Matthew 26:17-25

Jesus goes to his death, not as a hapless victim, but as a man who is in firm control of his destiny.

How does Jesus show his authority in the preparations for the Passover? … in his interactions with Judas his betrayer? Is Judas held responsible for his betrayal even though it was always the plan for the Son of Man (Jesus) to lay down his life? Why do you think God holds us responsible for our decisions even though he is in control?

Romans 12:9-21

Jesus’ way of life boils down to two commands:  “Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.” Reduced even further, you are left with one word, ‘love’. Paul fleshes out for us Jesus’ vision of love in today’s reading.  What does love look like within the church (verses 9-13)? How are we to express love to those outside the church (verse 14-21)? Which challenges you more?

Joshua 4:19-5:1-15  The “Sign of the Covenant” (Circumcision) Re-introduced

What month and day did the people go up from the Jordan and camp at Gilgal (on the eastern border of Jericho)?  (“On the tenth day of the first month…” (Joshua 4:19 NIV))

The LORD had commanded that one man from each tribe gather a stone from the Jordan (12 in all) and then build and altar to him.  The purpose of the altar was to serve as a reminder that the LORD had dried up the Jordan so that Israel could cross over.  What was the other purpose of the stones?  (“He did this so that all the people of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.” (Joshua 4:24 NIV))

What effect did the miracle at the Jordan have on the kings of the surrounding area?  (“Now when all the Amorite kings [remember from last week Sihon king of the Amorites – the loser of the battle?] and all the Canaanite kings along the seacoast heard how the Lord had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites until we had crossed over, their hearts sank and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites.” (Joshua 5:1 NIV))

Why did the Lord command Joshua to make flint knives for circumcision?  (“Now this is why he did so: All those who came out of Egypt – all the men of military age – died in the desert on the way after leaving Egypt.  All the people that came out had been circumcised, but all the people born in the desert during the journey from Egypt had not. … So he raised up their sons in their place [of those who had died in the wilderness], and these were the ones Joshua circumcised.  They were still uncircumcised because they had not been circumcised on the way.”  (Joshua 5:4-5, 7 NIV))

Why was it important for the men to be circumcised now?  (This was the first month of the year.  On the fourteenth of the month the Passover was to be celebrated.  No uncircumcised male could partake of the Passover – Hebrew or alien (foreigner))

What happened to the supply of “daily bread” (manna) the day after the Passover?  (“The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain.  The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan.” (Joshua 5:11-12 NIV))

Joshua then has an encounter which is reminiscent of Moses’ first encounter with the LORD.  What was said to bring up that memory?  (“Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, ‘What message does my Lord have for his servant?’  The commander of the LORD’s army replied, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.’” (Joshua 14b-15 NIV))