Daily Bible Readings – Wednesday, December 25, 2013 – Christmas Day

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 3:31-36

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? Using the following background as a guide.

Background. The speaker in today’s reading is John the Baptist, the prophet who was sent by God to prepare his people for Jesus’ coming. John is the “one who is from the earth” and he is comparing himself to Jesus, the “one who come from above (heaven)” and “testifies to what he has seen and heard.”

Pay special attention to …

  • How John compares himself to Jesus, the one from above.
  • Jesus’ (the Son’s) relationship with the Father (God the Father). Look specifically for who leads, who follows and what the Father has given to the Son.
  • What is true of those who believe the Son’s testimony and how many will accept it.

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.

1 John 4:7-16

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

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

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? You can use the following background to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. John understands Jesus and in particular his life, death and resurrection to be the ultimate expression of God’s love. This act of love can not be understood apart from what it means for Jesus to be an atoning sacrifice. An atoning sacrifice is one that turns aside the wrath of God. God’s anger burned hot against us for our failure to love him and our neighbor, but through Christ and for those who belong to him by faith, that anger is gone.

Pay close attention to …

  • The connection between loving others and knowing God and in particular knowing that God the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.
  • The connection of Jesus’ sacrifice and the love we are to show others.
  • Whose love came first, God’s love or our love.

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.

Micah 4:1-5, 5:2-4

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 help you understand the main points of this passage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The “last days” Micah speaks of will be the time of the return of Jesus who will restore the earth to a state better than it was before Eden.

The opening verses discuss that the LORD’s temple will be established. Why will many nations go to the house of the God of Jacob (i.e., the LORD’s temple)? (“He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” (Micah 4:2b NIV))

From where do the law and the word of the LORD go out? (“The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem [Zion].” (Micah 4:2b NIV))

What, exactly, will the LORD be doing in Jerusalem? (“He will judge between many people and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.” (Micah 4:3a NIV))

Micah and Isaiah happen to be prophesying during the same time (Isaiah from 739-681 B.C. and Micah from 733-701 B.C.). Allow me to quote from Isaiah Chapter two: “In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’ The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:3-4 NIV)

Now notice Micah 4:3b: “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” What two reasons may account for the verbatim-like nature of Isaiah Chapter two and Micah Chapter four? (The first reason I can think of is that either Isaiah had heard Micah speak using these words or that Micah had once heard Isaiah using these words in his prophesying. I think it is likely that one had heard the other and then adopted the phraseology as his own. I doubt that it matters in the end. Remember that Micah never identifies himself as a prophet whereas Isaiah may actually have been on the government payroll. [Official prophets were, in fact, paid by the king. — j.t.] It seems uncanny that both men would employ exactly the same words. The second reason I can think of is that since the scripture is the result of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that he brought these identical thoughts to two different men — during the same period — as a means of driving home the message. These verses do refer to the time of Jesus’ return and the millennium.)

How do Isaiah Chapter 2:2-3 and Micah 4:3 differ from Joel 3:10? (Very near the same words are used in reverse order: Joel 3:10 “Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears.” Oddly enough, Joel is also speaking of the time of, or just before, Jesus returns. This is also the time when God will pour out his Spirit on all flesh. All three prophets are, I believe, speaking of the same time and perhaps the same event. — j.t.)

How does Micah describe this time of peace? (“Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken.” (Micah 4:4 NIV))

Let us forge ahead and attack something all of my study bibles would rather eschew, namely Micah 4:5 “All the nations may walk in the name of their gods; we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.” As good evangelicals we shy away from such thoughts as “All the nations may walk in the name of their gods…” During the millennium (i.e., before the White Throne Judgment) it may be allowed for non-believers not to believe. I just think it is impossible to ignore the truth once it (or in this case He) becomes self-evident. Jesus would never prevent someone from believing a lie — everyone is allowed to be stupid. It would be stupid because it could not be ignorance which literally means lacking knowledge or intelligence. These people would have at their disposal all of the knowledge and intelligence they require in order to believe. After all, seeing is believing and Jesus will be here. This choice to be an unbeliever will, in time, have major and serious consequences.

What is the LORD’s plan in Micah 4:6-8? (Micah is speaking here of the millennium: “The LORD will rule over them in Mount Zion from that day and forever. … the former dominion will be restored to you; kingship will come to the Daughter of Jerusalem.” (Micah 4:7, 8 NIV))

Flashback from the millennium to the time of Micah and Isaiah (prior to the Babylonian Captivity). What is the message Micah is endeavoring to bring to the people? (Micah is telling the people of Judea that the time is coming when they will be brought to Babylon. “Writhe in agony, O Daughter of Zion, like a woman in labor, for now you must leave the city to camp in the open field. You will go to Babylon; there you will be rescued. There the LORD will redeem you out of the hand of your enemies.” (Micah 4:10 NIV) At this point, to suggest that the Judeans would be defeated must have been akin to treason. Remember the prophesies of the false prophets: the LORD would not do this to us [or words to that effect]. — j.t.))

Micah tells the people something they already know which is that “many nations are gathered against you.” (Micah 4:11 NIV) Once the LORD gives the Jews the upper hand over their enemies, what are they to do with their enemies’ ill-gotten gain? (“You will devote their ill-gotten gains to the LORD, their wealth to the LORD of all the earth.” (Micah 4:13b NIV))

What does “devote” mean in verse 4:13? (When the LORD wants things “devoted” to him, it means he wants them completely destroyed. King Saul learned a hard lesson regarding the “devoted things” in 1 Kings 15. Every time I hear the phrase “devoted to the LORD ” I immediately think of Samuel and his encounter with Saul. Samuel’s first words to Saul are: “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?” (1 Samuel 15:14 NIV) Read 1 Kings 15 for the thrilling encounter between the king and the prophet.)

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 – Saturday, November 30, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 104

Prayer Point. Why is God worthy of our praise? He created our world; the valley, the mountains and the seas.  He has given rhythm to our world with days, nights, weeks, seasons and years. He is our provider and he is our Savior. Think about the world God has made, meditate on Jesus’ death and resurrection and offer God your own psalm of praise.

Matthew 20:29-34

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? Using the following background as a guide.

Background. The Son of David was a title for the Messiah. The Jews believed that a descendant of King David would come and restore Israel’s kingdom and reign forever. What do the two blind men see in Jesus? What do they believe he can do for them? What do these two men do when they receive their sight?

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.

1 Peter 4:7-19

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 help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. There are many people, including some Christians, who obsess about the end of the world. Since we know that the end is near, but don’t know when, what are we to do as the end approaches?  What is the purpose of this lifestyle?

Why should Christians NOT be surprised when they suffer? Many people in Peter’s day, and even our own, consider hardship as a sign of God’s displeasure. How does Peter interpret suffering that comes from doing what is right? How do we handle suffering according to verse 19? Compare this to Jesus’ experience in 1 Peter 2:21-23?

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.

Micah 7:11-20

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 help you understand the main points of this passage.

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.

 

Daily Bible Readings – Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 115

Prayer Point. An idol is anything we trust for our security and significance outside of God. We all have them and without God’s intervention, we will become like the lifeless gods we serve. What idols have a hold on your heart? Confess them to God today and pray for the faith to believe that God will keep his promises and satisfy our souls.

John 15:1-11

Background. There are numerous passages in the Bible where God’s people are compared to a vine. Isaiah 5:1-7 is one such example. Jesus will offer us a new twist on a familiar theme using a vine to demonstrate his relationship with the Father and with us.

Pay close attention to …

  • The identity of the vine and the vine’s branches and what is says about our relationship with Jesus.
  • The identity of the gardener and what he does with the fruitful and unfruitful branches and why.
  • The tool God used to clean (prune) the disciples.
  • What makes a branch fruitful.
  • What one needs to remain in Jesus’ love.
  • How remaining in Jesus and his love mirrors the way Jesus remained in his Father’s love.
  • The benefit of remaining in the vine.

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 3:1-10

Introduction to Acts 2-4

Background. It was thought that birth defects such as blindness and crippling were signs of divine judgment.  As we have seen with Jesus (see John 9) and now with Jesus’ disciples, physical ailments provide the backdrop to display God’s power and glory.

Pay close attention to …

  • What the beggar asks for and what Peter gives him instead.
  • How the miracle calls attention to Jesus.
  • The crowds’ reaction to the miracle.

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)

Micah 7:7-15

Background. At this point in Isaiah, Jerusalem is being menaced by the Assyrians and out of fear of them, the Israelites have sought refuge from (of all people) the Egyptians.  That, to the contrary notwithstanding, the LORD would have taken umbrage anyway simply because the Israelites did not seek him for the help they needed.  Think in terms of Our LORD’s resurrection and the benefits accrued to us because of it.  One of those is the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Pay close attention to …

  • The first word of verse 18
  • The word “gracious” in vv. 18, 19
  • The “voice behind you” (v. 21 )
  • What will be done to the idols without, as it were, prompting from God (v. 22 )

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 – Monday October 15, 2012

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.

Luke 8:26-39

Jesus has just embarked on an important rescue mission by sailing across the Sea of Galilee. You get the sense that both Christ and the forces that oppose Jesus recognize the importance of this mission because the sea, regarded in the ancient world as the domain of evil, threw everything it had at Jesus to prevent his safe arrival. See Luke 8:22-25 for details on this storm.

How many people has Jesus come to save on this trip? Is he a Jew or a Gentile? Look at the details that Luke gives us about the village. Notice the type of animals the residents are raising and remember that pigs were considered unclean animals by the Jews.

The name Legion means ‘many’ but also calls to mind the brutal Roman Legions which occupied Israel at the time. The abyss is a place where the wicked are held awaiting God’s judgment.

The healed man wants to follow Jesus. Why does Jesus refuse his request? What is he asked to do instead? How much do you need to know in order to serve as a witness of Jesus?

Acts 26:1-23

The apostle Paul has been charged by the Jewish authorities as a disturber of the peace, someone who was hellbent on destroying Jewish customs and had defiled the temple by smuggling a Gentile into it (see Acts 24:5-7). The Romans weren’t concerned about Jewish tradition so much, but they did care about peace and stability. Their empire depended on “peace” even if it was imposed by the sword.

Paul has been in prison for several years now, not because the Romans considered him to be a criminal, but because they feared that the Jews would riot. Finally, Paul has his day in court before King Agrippa.

Why does Paul consider himself fortunate to be in Agrippa’s court? What story does Paul chose to tell considering that Agrippa is sympathetic to the Jewish faith?

Paul’s opponents were trying to say that he was out to destroy the Jewish faith. How does Paul demonstrate that Jesus is not the end of the Jewish faith, but the fulfillment of its hopes and dreams (see verse 6-8)? How does Paul explain his sudden conversion? How does he account for his enemies’ hatred? What did the prophets and Moses (the Old Testament) say about Jesus’ life in verses 22-23.

Micah 7:1-7

Micah Chapter 7 describes a world no one wants to live in. Who is the one “who gathers summer fruit at the gleaning of the vineyard”? (It is the poor and the alien who gathered the gleanings of the harvest. See the book of Ruth for an application of “gleaning” in the fields.)

What is the explanation in verse 7:2 which sheds light on the dismal scenario of verse 7:1? (“The godly have been swept from the land; not one upright man remains.” (NIV))

What are the attributes described in verses 7:2b-4a of these “ungodly” ones? (“All men lie in wait to shed blood; both hands are skilled in doing evil; the judge accepts bribes; the powerful dictate…they all conspire together.”)

Who is the “watchman” mentioned in verse 7:4b? (“The day of your watchman has come…” (NIV) The watchman is the prophet whose job it is to keep everyone on the “straight and narrow”. Remember that Micah had never identified himself as a prophet which, I think, gives his message “gravitas” (weight).)

What is the unfortunate theme of verses of 7:5-8? (The overriding theme of those verses is a lack of trust even in one’s own home. No one can be trusted.)

What is Micah’s plan? (“But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.” (Micah 7:7 NIV))

Daily Bible Readings – Sunday, October 14, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 113

Prayer Point:  This psalm offers us some reasons to praise the name of the Lord.  Meditate on the ones that resonate with you and offer God your own prayer of thanksgiving.

Matthew 15:21-28

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

How does Jesus test the woman’s faith and critique the racist attitudes towards Gentiles that were common in Israel? What does Jesus see in this woman that moves him to heal her daughter? How was her great faith expressed?

1 Corinthians 4:8-16

Read this portion of Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church keeping in mind that this church was among the wealthiest of its time.

How did the Corinthians self-perception of being wealthy affect the way they viewed Paul and the other apostles? How did the apostles’ way of life challenge the Corinthian way of life? How does it challenge you? You might want to compare the apostle’s experience with the way of life Jesus laid out in Matthew 5:1-11.

What would it look like for the Corinthian church to make Paul their spiritual father (see especially verse 16)? How would this new father-son relationship change the way they lived? What present sins would be overcome?

Micah 6:1-8 – The Indictment of the LORD

What is Micah doing as this chapter opens? (Micah is addressing himself to mountains, hills and “foundations” i.e., all of creation, that they should hear what the LORD has to say. I suppose that if one has been preaching (read prophesying) long enough without any kind of response, it should not be surprising that the preacher might then address nature which is not expected to make a response. Just kidding! The prophet’s job is to present God’s message regardless of the response: he does not need to know how the people respond. Here Micah is inviting the LORD to make his case against Israel (or what’s left of it).)

What is the charge that God is making against Israel? (It appears that Israel has (again!) forgotten God and his laws. The LORD then (very briefly) reminds the people just a few of the things he has done for them. The LORD wants Israel to remember.)

Yes, lack of memory of what God had done is usually what happens to complacent people (like us). Our attitude is: “That’s fine, but what are you going to do for me today!” We can’t remember so far yesterday. What is the other complaint of the LORD against his people? (The people presume to know what they should be “doing” for the LORD, i.e., sacrifices and burnt offerings and such. “With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? … Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” (Micah 6:6, 7b) The LORD will make exactly this kind of sacrifice in time to come.)

Okay, we know that God does not eat the flesh of bulls nor drink the blood of goats. So what does he want? (“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8 NIV) “Forgive us trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” (Matt. 6:12 NIV))

Daily Bible Readings – Saturday, October 13, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 104

Prayer Point:  Why is God worthy of our praise? He is our Maker, creating our environment; the valleys, the mountains and the seas. He has given our world rhythm with days, nights, weeks, seasons and years. He is our provider and he is our Savior.  Think about the world God has made, meditate on the Jesus’ death and resurrection and offer God your own psalm of praise.

Luke 8:1-15

Contact with women who were not related to you was shocking in the Jewish society of Jesus’ day. How is Jesus’ community of disciples different? What role did women play in Jesus’ circle?

Jesus often used organic images to explain how the kingdom of God grows. To whom did Jesus tell the story of the sower? Who received an explanation of the story? Why do you think he didn’t explain the story to everyone?

What is the difference between the good soil and the path, the rocky soil and the soil with thorns? What does this story tell us about how the gospel is planted in the hearts of people? What kinds of things will kill someone’s faith? What is the result of a faith that grows to maturity?

Acts 25:13-27

Jesus prophesied to his disciples before his death what life would be like for them when he returned to heaven:

Luke 21:12-15 … They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. This will result in your being witnesses to them. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.

How are these words fulfilled in Paul’s life as he is brought before kings and governors?

Micah 5:1-4, 10-15 – The Promise from Bethlehem

What is happening to Israel’s (Judah’s) ruler in 5:1? (Israel’s ruler will be struck. I suspect this is referring to the ultimate defeat of the Judeans against the Babylonians.)

I gather most of us have heard the next verse on virtually every Christmas: “But you Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” We always understand this to refer to Jesus and his birth in Bethlehem, and it does. But what is a secondary meaning of this reference? (Moses said that a prophet like himself would arise and that the people should listen to him. Jesus’ life was a mirror, in many respects, to that of Moses. Jesus had to be of royal blood — the descendant of a king — in order for him to become king. The plan was laid many years before that the royal family would arise out of the tribe of Judah: “Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of our enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you. You are a lion’s cub, O Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness — who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.” (Genesis 49:8-10 NIV) Interestingly enough, David, of the tribe of Judah, too, was born in Bethlehem and he was the youngest of eight brothers. Clearly this prophesy cannot refer to David simply because, by this time David had lived and died. So it must be someone else. Jesus, in time, will be regarded as the Son of David. That alone gives Jesus his royal credentials. David had to fight against a king and people to establish his kingdom, so too, does Jesus. At Jesus’ birth the Magi pointedly referred to him as the “king of the Jews” which, of course, put him on the current king’s hit list. And like Moses, he was saved from the bloodbath which resulted when King Herod sought to kill the usurper (new king). King Herod ordered the death of all the boys in Bethlehem who were under two years of age. When Moses was born the local king (Pharaoh) put out a death notice to all newborn Hebrew males. Moses was saved by the water — his mother sent him “up the river [Nile]” where he was rescued from death by the princess of Egypt (Pharaoh’s daughter). I could go on but time and space do not permit.)

Micah 5:3 tells us: “Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.” (NIV) At this point in time there is a king in what is left of the children of Israel (Judah — the southern kingdom) and the people of the southern kingdom had not as yet been taken into exile. So Micah must be speaking of some later time. Once the exiles return (after the seventy year banishment) they will no longer have their own king but will be subjects of foreign kings. This state of affairs only served to heighten the expectation of a “new” David or a “prophet” like Moses spoken of so many years before:

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, ‘Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.’ The LORD said to me: ‘What they say is good I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.” (Deuteronomy 18:15-19 NIV)

Hear what the Apostle John wrote in his gospel: [Jesus speaking] “If I testify about myself my testimony is not valid. There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid. You have sent to John [the Baptist] and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:31-40 NIV)

What is the subject of Micah 5:4? (This prophet spoken of from ancient times will shepherd his people. Isaiah, who is also prophesying at the same time uses the same imagery (again!): “He tends his flock like a shepherd: he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” (Isaiah 40:11 NIV) Jesus also uses this same imagery to describe his own mission: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. … I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me — just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:11, 14-15 NIV))

Verses 5:5-9 talk of a resurgence in Israel — at a time when Israel will experience victory over her enemies by virtue of her own strength. This lack of reliance on the LORD will result in another round of discipline from the him.

What is Micah telling the people in verses 5:10-15? (Micah wants the people to understand that they continue to make the same mistake as their forefathers had made: self-reliance. While a measure of self-reliance is a good thing, it become a bad thing when it excludes any dependence on God. This lack of dependence on God ultimately leads to various forms of idol worship. I believe that today we harbor the attitude that the LORD can throw at us his worst and we would recover. This type of arrogance can only lead to disaster; all of Jewish history has borne this out.)

Daily Bible Readings – Friday, October 12, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 143

Prayer Point:  Does God hear the prayers of sinful people? This psalm reminds us that we would have no hope if he didn’t, for all people are unrighteous in the eyes of God, and yet he answers all those who call on him in faith. How are you empty today? What are you afraid of? Where do you need wisdom in your life?  Take these all today to our gracious God.

Luke 8:1-15

Contact with women who were not related to you was shocking in the Jewish society of Jesus’ day. How is Jesus’ community of disciples different? What role did women play in Jesus’ circle?

Jesus often used organic images to explain how the kingdom of God grows. To whom did Jesus tell the story of the sower? Who received an explanation of the story? Why do you think he didn’t explain the story to everyone?

What is the difference between the good soil and the path, the rocky soil and the soil with thorns? What does this story tell us about how the gospel is planted in the hearts of people? What kinds of things will kill someone’s faith? What is the result of a faith that grows to maturity?

Acts 22:24-25:12

Notice how long Paul remains in prison. Can you imagine the effect that would have had on a man of action like Paul?

How is a second attempt on Paul’s life thwarted? Who is God working through (notice the sweet irony again)?

Here is Paul’s final mission:

Acts 23:11 “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”

The question is,how will Paul get there if he is in prison in Caesarea. How does God use Paul’s Roman citizenship to make this happen?

Micah 4:1-13 – In the Last Days …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The “last days” Micah speaks of will be the time of the return of Jesus who will restore the earth to a state better than it was before Eden.

The opening verses discuss that the LORD’s temple will be established. Why will many nations go to the house of the God of Jacob (i.e., the LORD’s temple)? (“He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” (Micah 4:2b NIV))

From where do the law and the word of the LORD go out? (“The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem [Zion].” (Micah 4:2b NIV))

What, exactly, will the LORD be doing in Jerusalem? (“He will judge between many people and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.” (Micah 4:3a NIV))

Micah and Isaiah happen to be prophesying during the same time (Isaiah from 739-681 B.C. and Micah from 733-701 B.C.). Allow me to quote from Isaiah Chapter two: “In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’ The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:3-4 NIV)

Now notice Micah 4:3b: “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” What two reasons may account for the verbatim-like nature of Isaiah Chapter two and Micah Chapter four? (The first reason I can think of is that either Isaiah had heard Micah speak using these words or that Micah had once heard Isaiah using these words in his prophesying. I think it is likely that one had heard the other and then adopted the phraseology as his own. I doubt that it matters in the end. Remember that Micah never identifies himself as a prophet whereas Isaiah may actually have been on the government payroll. [Official prophets were, in fact, paid by the king. — j.t.] It seems uncanny that both men would employ exactly the same words. The second reason I can think of is that since the scripture is the result of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that he brought these identical thoughts to two different men — during the same period — as a means of driving home the message. These verses do refer to the time of Jesus’ return and the millennium.)

How do Isaiah Chapter 2:2-3 and Micah 4:3 differ from Joel 3:10? (Very near the same words are used in reverse order: Joel 3:10 “Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears.” Oddly enough, Joel is also speaking of the time of, or just before, Jesus returns. This is also the time when God will pour out his Spirit on all flesh. All three prophets are, I believe, speaking of the same time and perhaps the same event. — j.t.)

How does Micah describe this time of peace? (“Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken.” (Micah 4:4 NIV))

Let us forge ahead and attack something all of my study bibles would rather eschew, namely Micah 4:5 “All the nations may walk in the name of their gods; we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.” As good evangelicals we shy away from such thoughts as “All the nations may walk in the name of their gods…” During the millennium (i.e., before the White Throne Judgment) it may be allowed for non-believers not to believe. I just think it is impossible to ignore the truth once it (or in this case He) becomes self-evident. Jesus would never prevent someone from believing a lie — everyone is allowed to be stupid. It would be stupid because it could not be ignorance which literally means lacking knowledge or intelligence. These people would have at their disposal all of the knowledge and intelligence they require in order to believe. After all, seeing is believing and Jesus will be here. This choice to be an unbeliever will, in time, have major and serious consequences.

What is the LORD’s plan in Micah 4:6-8? (Micah is speaking here of the millennium: “The LORD will rule over them in Mount Zion from that day and forever. … the former dominion will be restored to you; kingship will come to the Daughter of Jerusalem.” (Micah 4:7, 8 NIV))

Flashback from the millennium to the time of Micah and Isaiah (prior to the Babylonian Captivity). What is the message Micah is endeavoring to bring to the people? (Micah is telling the people of Judea that the time is coming when they will be brought to Babylon. “Writhe in agony, O Daughter of Zion, like a woman in labor, for now you must leave the city to camp in the open field. You will go to Babylon; there you will be rescued. There the LORD will redeem you out of the hand of your enemies.” (Micah 4:10 NIV) At this point, to suggest that the Judeans would be defeated must have been akin to treason. Remember the prophesies of the false prophets: the LORD would not do this to us [or words to that effect]. — j.t.))

Micah tells the people something they already know which is that “many nations are gathered against you.” (Micah 4:11 NIV) Once the LORD gives the Jews the upper hand over their enemies, what are they to do with their enemies’ ill-gotten gain? (“You will devote their ill-gotten gains to the LORD, their wealth to the LORD of all the earth.” (Micah 4:13b NIV))

What does “devote” mean in verse 4:13? (When the LORD wants things “devoted” to him, it means he wants them completely destroyed. King Saul learned a hard lesson regarding the “devoted things” in 1 Kings 15. Every time I hear the phrase “devoted to the LORD ” I immediately think of Samuel and his encounter with Saul. Samuel’s first words to Saul are: “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?” (1 Samuel 15:14 NIV) Read 1 Kings 15 for the thrilling encounter between the king and the prophet.)