Daily Bible Readings – Sunday, June 9, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 84

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

Matthew  15:29-39

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” and “Pay close attention to …”  sections to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. Over a thousand years earlier, a group of Israelites, newly freed from slavery in Egypt, faced starvation in the desert. Moses, their prophet, cried out to God on their behalf and God answered with bread from heaven. The miracle was performed through Moses, but Moses pointed forward to one who would look and act like himself. This one would be greater, for he would be God in the flesh. In today’s reading, we discover that the prophet of whom Moses spoke was Jesus.

Pay close attention …

  • Why the crowds are attracted to Jesus and how Jesus feels about them.
  • Why Jesus’ concern for the crowds unnerves the disciples.
  • What Jesus asks of his disciples. What Jesus provides himself. Is there enough? What does this tell you about our resources, God, and the needs of the world?

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

Repent. How have I failed to obey and share 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?

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

Revelation 12:1-12

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” and “Pay close attention to …”  sections to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. Revelation 12 is one of several visions in this book that tell the story of human history from the perspective of heaven. There are three central characters that must be identified: the woman giving birth, the child, and the dragon.

The woman. Compare John’s vision of the woman to Joseph’s dream recorded in Genesis 37:9-11. What images are present in both dreams? How did Joseph’s father, Jacob, interpret the images in his son’s dream? How does that shed light on the identity of the woman in Revelation 12? Based on the parallels between the two dreams and the details of the story that unfolds in chapter 12, we will identify the woman with God’s people. She is Israel before the coming of Jesus and the church after his coming.

The child. In the background of John’s dream is the promise God made to Adam and Eve. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring [the serpent – identified with the dragon in Revelation 12] and hers; he [the child] will crush your heel and you will strike his head.” (Genesis 3:15) Who is this offspring? None other than Jesus Christ, who will destroy the dragon by his crucifixion and resurrection and rule as king forever.

The dragon. The dragon throughout the Bible represents the kingdoms that opposed God’s people, but most importantly the power behind these kingdoms, Satan. John and his readers would have identified the dragon with Rome and the power behind Rome, the Devil.

All battles on earth have a spiritual and heavenly dimension to them. As the story of Jesus and his church played out on earth, the battle also rages in heaven between the Archangel Michael and Satan the dragon. God’s people, flee to the desert where they are protected for 1,260 days, Revelation’s symbolic number for a period of trouble.

Pay close attention to …

  • What the dragon attempts to do to the child when he is born and how his plan is thwarted. Compare this to Matthew 2:13-23 and Luke 24:36-52.
  • What happens to the woman after the birth of the child.
  • Compare the 1260 days to the 42 months (1260 days) that the witnesses are protected in Revelation 11:2-3.
  • What God is promising to do for his faithful people (Israel, the church) during this 3 ½ years of trouble (1260 days).
  • What happens to Satan in the aftermath of the war. The name ‘Satan’ is actually a title meaning “prosecutor or accuser.” Where was Satan before the battle? Where is he now? Who has taken the prosecutor’s place (see Romans 8:31-34)?
  • The opponents of the early Christians would have attributed their suffering to the fact that they had abandoned the gods of their ancestors. How does Revelation 12 explain the church’s suffering?

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

Repent. How have I failed to obey and share 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?

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

Numbers 6:22-27

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? Use the “Background” below to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. What is the point of this priestly blessing?  (“So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” (Numbers 6:27 NIV))

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

Repent. How have I failed to obey and share 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?

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

Sirach 46:11-20 *Sirach is not considered to be Scripture, but is still worthwhile reading.

We have looked at the Judges before. These are the leaders of Israel who brought the Israelites out from their enemies during that period between Joshua and the establishment of the kingdom with the anointing of Saul as king. The prevailing thought in those days went something like this: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” (Judges 21:25 NIV)

This was not a sterling period in Israel’s history. There was no strong leader so everyone went his own way as echoed by Isaiah: “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way…” (Isaiah 53:6 KJV) In today’s world this attitude would represent anarchy and the result, as expected, is that the Hebrews would be overrun by their neighbors and enemies. The LORD would take it upon himself to send someone (usually reluctantly) to champion for Israel. Of the more notable judges Deborah stands out by virtue of the fact that she was a woman! Others include, Gideon (who sorely pressed his luck in demanding (or rather, asking) for signs from the LORD to prove himself. Jephthah, who foolishly gambled with his daughter’s life in an attempt to “pay” for the LORD’s victory over the Ammonites. (See Judges Chapter 11 for more.) Then there was Samson, who, as far as I’m concerned, tempted the Lord to the point of stupidity (with his business with Delilah), and finally the most famous Judge of them all was the last one: Samuel, who, as it turns out, will anoint Saul as King of Israel ushering in the Davidic kingdom.

This is Sirach’s summary of the Judges:

Sirach
Chapter 46
Verses 11-20
11 The judges also, with their respective names,
whose hearts did not fall into idolatry
and who did not turn away from the LORD —
may their memory be blessed!
12 May their bones send forth new life from where they lie,
and may the names of those who have been honored
live again in their children!
13 Samuel was beloved by his LORD;
a prophet of the LORD, he established the kingdom
and anointed rulers over his people.
14 By the law of the LORD he judged the congregation,
and the LORD watched over Jacob.
15 By his faithfulness he was proved to be a prophet,
and by his words he became known as a trustworthy seer.
16 He called upon the LORD, the Mighty One,
when his enemies pressed him on every side,
and he offered in sacrifice a suckling lamb.
17 Then he LORD thundered from heaven,
and made his voice heard with a mighty sound;
18 he subdued the leaders of the enemy
and all the rulers of the Philistines.
19 Before the time of his eternal sleep,
Samuel bore witness before he LORD his anointed:
“No property, not so much as a pair of shoes,
have I taken from anyone!”
And no one accused him.
20 Even after he had fallen asleep, he prophesied
and made known to the king his death,
and lifted up his voice from the ground
in prophesy, to blot out the wickedness of the people.

Just a reminder: all of this was in song for ease in remembering.

Pay close attention to …

  • “Even after he had fallen asleep he prophesied …”
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Daily Bible Readings – Saturday, June 8, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 139

Prayer Point.  Have you ever contemplated that the Creator of the universe knows you?  He was there when you were conceived. He will be there when your life come to an end.   He has been and will be there for every step of your journey. How would your life change if you believed this? Confess your unbelief to God and ask for the faith to believe this amazing promise.

Luke 18:15-30

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” and “Pay close attention to …”  sections to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. Children were low on the social ladder in Jesus’ day and that attitude is reflected in their treatment by the disciples.

The ruler’s question, “what must I do to inherit eternal life” was on most peoples’ minds in Jesus day. Many believed that the Messiah’s coming was imminent and when he came he was going to establish God’s kingdom on earth. The righteous would be welcomed into this new kingdom and receive eternal life. The wicked would be cast out forever.

Jesus answers the rulers’ question by quoting the second half of the Ten Commandments which describes what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus leaves out commandments one through four which explain what it means to “love God with your heart, mind, and soul.”

Pay close attention to …

  • Jesus’ attitude towards children and their position in the kingdom of God.
  • How children are a model of what it means to receive the kingdom of God.
  • Jesus’ initial response to the ruler’s question in verse 19. If Jesus is good, who must he be.
  • The ruler’s confidence that he has kept the commandments and how Jesus deflates him.
  • Why salvation is still possible even if it is impossible for us to achieve.
  • What Jesus promises to those who leave everything for the sake of the kingdom of God; both in eternity and in this life.

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

Repent. How have I failed to obey and share 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?

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

2 Corinthians 9:1-15

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” and “Pay close attention to …”  sections to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. Paul has sent a delegation made up of Titus and a few other Christian brothers to collect the monies that was promised by the Corinthian church. The donations are going to the church in Jerusalem which was on the brink of starvation due to a severe famine.

Pay close attention to …

  • The principle of sowing and reaping.
  • How Paul connects generosity to faith in God.
  • How giving is both an expression of love for neighbor and love for God.

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

Repent. How have I failed to obey and share 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?

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

Numbers 3:1-13

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? Use the “Background” below to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. What tribe does Moses belong to? (Moses is a Levite. Since Aaron will be chosen as High Priest, and since only Levites can be priests, and since Moses was Aaron’s brother, that makes Moses a Levite.)

How many sons did Aaron have? (Aaron originally had four sons but two of them proved themselves worthless. Nadab, the firstborn, and Abihu after they were anointed priests had desecrated themselves by coming before the Lord in an unworthy fashion – they were drunk! See Leviticus Chapter 10 for more details.)

Since Nadab and Abihu were dead, who was left to serve Aaron the high priest. (Eleazar and Ithamar)

What function was the tribe of Levi to perform? (They are to do the work of the Tabernacle. (v. 7))

What grave warning does the Lord give in verse 10? (“Appoint Aaron and his sons to serve as priests; anyone else who approaches the sanctuary must be put to death.” (Numbers 3:10 NIV)

What do the Levites represent? (They represent the “first male offering of every Israelite woman” (Numbers 3:12 NIV))

Why are the first born (males) so important? (The first born (males) represent all of the first born of Egypt when the Lord went through the land and struck them dead.)

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

Repent. How have I failed to obey and share 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?

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

Sirach 46:1-10 *Sirach is not considered to be Scripture, but is still worthwhile reading.

We know much about Joshua: he was from the tribe of Ephraim [one of the two sons of Joseph]; he was chosen by God to be Moses’ successor; he was only one of two courageous men who wanted to invade Canaan when the Lord had planned it (about thirty-eight years earlier); and his name means “Jehovah [YHWH] is Salvation”.

While Joshua came from the tribe of Ephraim, Caleb was of the tribe of Judah [the same tribe Jesus comes from]. Of Caleb we know much less, but what we do know is that he was, like Joshua, a courageous man. He, alone with Joshua, stood against the ten spineless weasels who were sent to spy out Canaan. The ten came back with frightening reports of giants and well equipped armies who would easily overthrow the Hebrews. Caleb and Joshua lobbied to take on the inhabitants with their current force and have the LORD bring the victory. The weasels prevailed. These spineless (and faithless) men tried later to “repent” of their bad decision but by then the LORD had decided upon another course of action and the venture failed.

As it turns out, only Joshua and Caleb, of all those who left Egypt, survived to enter the Promised Land and take possession of their inheritance.
Sirach
Chapter 46
Verses 1-10

1 Joshua son of Nun was mighty in war,
and was the successor of Moses in the prophetic office.
He became, as his name implies,
a great savior of God’s elect,
to take vengeance on the enemies that rose against them,
so that he might give Israel its inheritance.
2 How glorious he was then he lifted his hands
and brandished his sword against the cities!
3 Who before him ever stood so firm?
For he waged the wars of the LORD.
4 Was it not through him that the sun stood still
and one day became as long as two?
5 He called upon the Most High, the Mighty One,
when enemies pressed him on every side,
and the great LORD answered him
with hailstones of mighty power.
6 He overwhelmed that nation in battle,
an on the slope he destroyed his opponents,
so that the nations might know his armament,
that he was fighting in the sight of the LORD;
for he was a devoted follower of the Mighty One.
7 And in the days of Moses he proved his loyalty,
he and Caleb son of Jephunneh:
they opposed the congregation,
restrained the people from sin,
and stilled their wicked grumbling.
8 And those two alone were spared
out of six hundred thousand infantry,
to lead the people into their inheritance;
the land flowing with milk and honey.
9 The LORD gave Caleb strength,
which remained with him in his old age,
so that he went up to the hill country,
and his children obtained it for an inheritance,
10 so that all the Israelites might see
how good it is to follow the LORD.

If these thumbnail sketches serve anything, it is to show that hindsight is always twenty-twenty. Their purpose, of course, is to encourage the people to have a deeper faith in the LORD. If only….

Daily Bible Readings – Tuesday July 10, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 6

Prayer Point: Psalm 6 is proof that you can pray when you suffer from the consequences of your own sin. We can appeal to God’s faithfulness and unfailing love to save us from ourselves. Don’t be afraid to bring your shame and your guilt to God. Use this psalm as a guide to your prayers today.

Matthew 23:13-26

Jesus served in three different capacities. He was a prophet, priest and a king. In this passage, Jesus is playing his prophetic role. Notice the language “woe to you …”

For whom does Jesus have words of condemnation and why?

The Pharisees and teachers of the Law had the responsibility of interpreting the Law of Moses and teaching the people to follow it. Clearly they have failed in their responsibility since they lacked the ability to interpret the Law for themselves.

Oaths. When it came to oaths, the Pharisees believed that it is all about what you swore by. If you swore by the gold of the temple you were legally bound to keep it, if you swore by the temple, you could break it. It was like keeping your fingers crossed. What is Jesus’ view of oaths and how is greater than the Pharisees?

Tithes. The Law of Moses required the people of Israel to give 10%  of their income to God, a law that the Pharisees kept fastidiously. What had they missed? What more was Jesus looking for?

What part of the person did the Pharisees concentrate on? What was God concerned about – the outside or the inside?

Romans 8:31-39

Paul has just explained that God has declared us to be innocent because of Christ (justification), he is changing us to be like Christ (sanctification) and he will make us perfect mirrors of the love of Christ (glorification). It is all God from start to finish. So he asks, “what shall we say in response to all this?” (verse 31)

If God has already done all this, what can we trust him to do in the future? Is there anyone to condemn us for our sin? Who has taken over the role of prosecutor and why shouldn’t we fear his judgments? Who or what will be able to separate us from the love of Christ? How does knowing all this empower you to endure hardship as you follow Jesus?

Numbers 35:1-5, 9-34         The Lands Consigned to the Levites

Since the Levites will receive no territory, what provision does the LORD make for them?  (I can tell you that a total of 48 cities were to be designated for the Levites.  “The towns you give the Levites from the land the Israelites possess are to be given in proportion to the inheritance of each tribe: Take many towns from a tribe that has many, but few from one that has few.” (Numbers 35:8 NIV)  Each was to have surrounding lands for the livestock of the Levites of 3,000 square feet.  The Levite city (or village) would, in essence, be in the center with the surrounding territory (of 3,000 square feet) for their cattle. (Numbers 35:1-5))

What is a “city of refuge”?  (You will have to refer to verse six: “Six of the towns you give the Levites will be cities of refuge, to which a person who has killed someone may flee.” (Numbers 35:6 NIV)  These six cities would be taken from among the 48 assigned to the Levites.  The “person who has killed someone” is further explained in verses 16-24.  In some cases the person is a murderer (who does not deserve protection) verses one who accidently kills another (such a one deserves to be protected from the “avenger of blood”.)

The scripture is not clear exactly who the “avenger of blood” is.  It only states that he may kill the manslayer if the death occurred as a result of malice.  We are talking premeditated murder.  Intent also plays a large role in determining the nature of murder.  Someone who lies in wait for his victim to take him unawares displays malicious intent.  There were strict regulations regarding the determination of guilt or innocence in cases of wrongful death.  “[Cities of refuge] will be places of refuge from the avenger, so that a person accused of murder may not die before he stands trial before the assembly.  … Anyone who kills a person is to be put to death as a murderer only on the testimony of witnesses.  But no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness.” (Numbers 35:12, 30 NIV)

What is the responsibility of the assembly to the accused?  (If the assembly finds that the accused is not guilty of willful murder, it must “protect the one accused of murder from the avenger of blood and send him back to the city of refuge to which he fled.” (Numbers 35:25 NIV))

What is the responsibility of the accused to himself?  (“He must stay there [in the city of refuge] until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil.” (Numbers 35:25)

What will happen to the accused if he leaves the city of refuge?  (“But if the accused ever goes outside the limits of the city of refuge to which he has fled and the avenger of blood finds him outside the city, the avenger of blood may kill the accused without being guilty of murder. …  only after the death of the high priest may he return to his own property.” (Numbers 35:26-27, 28b NIV))

The rules concerning murder and murderers are rather stringent.  Ransoms are not permitted for anyone accused of murder (guilty or innocent).  So even the one found innocent by the assembly who must flee to a city of refuge may not come out even if a ransom is attempted.  What kind pollution is addressed in verse 33? (“Do not pollute the land where you are.  Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it.” (Numbers 35:33 NIV))

Daily Bible Readings – Monday July 9, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 3

Prayer Point:  King David wrote this prayer as he was running for his life from his son Absalom.  He was attempting to seize the throne by force and he nearly succeeded.  This psalm is a study of how to pray in the midst of fear. Notice how David describes God in this prayer. Notice what he asks for. Pray that God will give you the faith to trust him, not only for your safety, but also for justice, so that you will not pursue it yourself.

Matthew 23:1-12

‘Moses’ seat’ is a symbolic reference to the authority of Moses. The Pharisees act as interpreters of the law for the Jewish people and therefore were the successors of Moses.

Why should the Pharisees be obeyed? Why shouldn’t they be copied? What is the problem with the Pharisees’ practice of the law?

What is Jesus’ vision of leadership and how does it to contrast the Pharisees’ view of authority?

Romans 8:26-30

How does the Holy Spirit help us with prayer? What is the ‘good’ that God works all things for?  For whom does this promise belong?

Salvation, as Paul describes it, is a past event, an ongoing process and hope set in the future.

Past:  God foreknew us, called us and justified us.  ‘Justified’ is a legal term.  It means that we are declared innocent and righteous once and for all because of the death and resurrection of Christ.

Present:  God right now is changing sinful people into the likeness of Jesus.  God does this by working through all things including our failures, successes, tragedies, triumphs, joys and sorrows.

Future:  We will be glorified, that is we will be without sin and perfect mirror images of Jesus (although we will not be God as Jesus is).

Numbers 32:1-6, 16-27    The Land East of the Jordan

What is it that the Reubenites and the Gadites ask of Moses and why?   (The Reubenites and the Gadites are asking Moses for the land east of the Jordan because the land is suitable for livestock.)

What is Moses’ concern if the Reubenites and Gadites take possession of the land east of the Jordan?  (It is clear that the Israelites will have to go to war against the inhabitants of the land.  Moses does not want the remaining tribes to become discouraged (verse 7) as they had been when the spies came back from surveying the Promised Land with an “evil report”.)

What kind of understanding do the Reubenites and Gadites come to with Moses with regard to the land east of the Jordan and their brethren going across the river?  (The plan of the Reubenites and Gadites is that they would build pens for their livestock and fortified cities for their women and children to live in.  They will then accompany their brethren and not desert them until they have subdued all their enemies.  Finally, they disavow any inheritance in the land west of the Jordan (no double dipping here!).)

What is the fate of the Reubenites and Gadites if they do not perform their vow in this regard?  (“But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the LORD; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23 NIV))

Daily Bible Readings – Sunday July 8, 2012

Prayer Psalm

Prayer Point:  Psalm 111 provides us with a number of reasons to praise God. Pick one or two that resonate with you and use them to build your own prayer of thanksgiving.

Mark 1:14-20

What event signals the beginning of Jesus’ ministry?

How does Mark summarize Jesus’ message (sometimes called the gospel or good news)  in verse 15?

The Kingdom of God is wherever God’s will is done, a world filled with people who love God and love their neighbor as themselves. Imagine what that world would look like. Jesus declares that this kingdom is now drawing near and breaking into our world through his coming.

How is each person called to respond to the good news in verse 15?

Immediately Jesus begins to his build his kingdom by calling disciples. Disciples and their teachers called rabbis were not an uncommon sight in Israel. To be a rabbi was a position of honor in Israel and to be a disciple was akin to going to Harvard. The privilege of being a disciple was an honor conferred only on those with the sharpest minds and the highest moral integrity. Those who were rejected by rabbis were encouraged to go home and work the family trade. Those who were accepted were told by the rabbi to “come and follow me.”

Disciples ordinarily applied to rabbis. Do the disciples come to Jesus or does Jesus go to them? What do you notice about the men Jesus called? What are they doing when Jesus meets them? What new purpose does Jesus give them?

For Jewish rabbis, and Jesus followed this tradition, all of life was a classroom. These disciples will spend the next three years of their lives following Jesus, watching him with the goal of learning to do what he did and most importantly becoming like him.

Acts 19:11-20

While Paul was devoted to preaching Jesus, what else accompanied his messages? What happens to the sons of Sceva when they attempted to perform miracles in Jesus’ name without a relationship with him? How did this event advance the gospel in Ephesus?

Numbers 27:12-23        Moses Sees the Future (the Promised Land)

Moses, was not permitted to enter the Promised Land but only allowed to see it.  He was directed by God to go to Mount Pisgah (Deuteronomy 3:26-29) there to view (alas, but not enter) the Promised Land.  Why was Moses forbidden to enter the Promised Land?  (Moses was forbidden from entering the Promised Land because when the people were in the “Wilderness of Zin” dying of thirst, the LORD told Moses to “speak” to the rock in order that the water would gush out.  Moses, because he was angry at the hard-heartedness of his people, struck the rock and then it gushed forth water.  It was while he was in this Wilderness of Zin that the LORD told Moses he would never enter the Promised Land.  Here Moses would be “gathered to his people” – a nice euphemism for “die”.)

What is Moses’ chief concern?  (Moses’ chief concern is that the LORD would appoint a ruler over the people to succeed him.  Jesus did a similar thing when he promised that once he ascended he would send the “Comforter” to lead his people.)

Whom does the LORD choose to follow Moses as leader of Israel?  (Joshua is called to become the leader of the people once Moses dies.)

How is this office conferred on Joshua?  (Joshua is to stand before the priest in front of the entire community and there Moses will impose his hands on Joshua’s head and commission him as the LORD had instructed. (Numbers 24:22-23)

Daily Bible Readings – Saturday July 7, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 104

Prayer Point: The evidence of God’s greatness is all around us. The question is whether we will take the time to notice. Psalm 104 worships the creativity and power of our God, who not only made the world, but sustains it. It is God who made the creatures of the world. It is God who provided them homes and food. It is God who placed rhythms in his world. It is God who provides us daily with the breath of life. Stop today, meditate on the world God has made and worship him.

Matthew 22:23-40

The Sadducees were a sect of Judaism that did not believe in “dangerous ideas” such as life after death and the resurrection. This helped them curry favor with the Romans and they rewarded them with positions of authority in Israel including controlling the temple. Although they were the bitter enemies of the Pharisees, they shared a common fear of Jesus.

How do the Sadducees attempt to discredit Jesus and the idea of resurrection? How does Jesus undo their question? What don’t they understand about marriage in our resurrected lives? How does Jesus prove the reality of the resurrection from the history of Israel (verses 32)?

Jesus has just silenced both the Pharisees (Matthew 22:15-22) and the Sadducees (Matthew 22:23-33), so the bitter rivals team up to discredit their common enemy.

What two commandments make up the greatest commandment?

“All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” All of the Old Testament, all that Jesus taught boils down to two simple commandments that are so tightly linked that cannot be mentioned apart from each other. Love God and love your neighbor for it is impossible to love God without loving your neighbor.

Romans 8:18-25

How does Paul view his present suffering in verse 18? What hope does he have for himself and all of  God’s creation?

Paul calls the first signs of God’s restored creation the “firstfruits of the Spirit.”  In some sense this new world has already begun for us because we have these firstfruits. While the new world has already begun what do we look forward to? How does this hope impact us and the way we live today?

Numbers 24:15-25     Balaam’s Prophecy Concerning David

Balaam is dispatched without ceremony but before he leaves he imparts a warning to Balak concerning Israel.  The important prophecy goes like this: “I see him, but not now, I behold him, but not near.  A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.  He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the sons of Sheth.  Edom will be conquered; Seir, his enemy, will be conquered, but Israel will grow strong.  A ruler will come out of Jacob and destroy the survivors of the city.” (Numbers 24:17-19 NIV)

At this point in time the Israelites had yet to enter the Promised Land.  The fact is, they do not conquer all the peoples they were charged with conquering.  It is not until the time of David and Solomon when the kingdom actually achieves the borders which will be outlined to Moses and Joshua.  The king (scepter) spoken of by Balaam is King David.  Like all good prophecies, they are best read from a “rear-view mirror” i.e., after the event has occurred.
The remaining oracle of Balaam is probably more meaningful to his contemporaries than to us today.

Daily Bible Readings – Friday July 6, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 141

Prayer Point: This psalm is a prayer for protection, but while external threats exist, the most dangerous enemy is within. The psalmist prays that God will protect him from three in three vulnerable areas: his mouth, his heart and his pride. Pray today that God will guard what you say. That he will steer your heart from desiring what is evil. Finally, that he will give you the humility to allow others to point out your sin and encourage you to become more like Christ.

Matthew 22:15-22

The Pharisees and the religious leaders of Israel understood full well that Jesus’ actions in the temple (Matthew 21:12-17) and the three parables (Matthew 21:23-46) were spoken against them. Rather than humbly repent before their God, they attempt to discredit Jesus by asking a question about the most volatile issue of their time, paying taxes to the occupying Roman Empire.

Jesus knew they were putting him in an awful position. For if he answered yes, he would lose favor with the people. If he answered no, he could bring the wrath of the Romans down on his head.

How does Jesus answer their questions? Does he fall in the camp of those who want to cooperate with the Romans, or those who wish to overthrow them, or neither?

On one side of the silver denarius was a profile of Tiberius Caesar, with the Latin inscription “Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus” around the coin’s perimeter. On the opposite side was a picture of the Roman goddess of peace, Pax, with the Latin inscription “High Priest”[ESV Study Bible Notes].

As humans we are all created with the image of God stamped on us. To give God the things that are God’s would simply mean to give our lives to God.

What do you think Jesus would tell us today?

Romans 8:12-17

What is true about us now that we have the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead? In Christ there is now no obligation to __________________________________. (verse 12)

What will happen if we live according to the sinful nature (‘flesh’ in some translations)?  How do you put to death your sin?  How does God’s Holy Spirit go to war against fear, the core of our flesh and sinful nature?  How does God’s Holy Spirit help us in our present struggles with sin and the sufferings we experience in this world?

Numbers 24:1-14      Yet Another Oracle from Balaam

What detail in verse 1 gives some understanding about Balaam to all that has gone on before?  (“Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he did not resort to sorcery as at other times, but turned his face toward the desert.” (Numbers 24:1 NIV)  So it seems that Balaam was at odds with himself and was, in fact, trying to defeat the LORD’s purpose.  It is probable that resorting to sorcery was not uncommon among the nations (heathen) at that time. Balaam was just doing what he would normally do in this situation.)

What happens to Balaam which is totally unexpected (well, I don’t expect it anyway)?  (“… The Spirit of God came upon him.”  (Numbers 24:2 NIV)  I can’t recall anywhere else in scripture where the Spirit of God comes to rest on anyone other than an Israelite.  This puts Balaam in a class all by himself. – j.t.)

Balaam then launches into a praise of Israel unequalled until the time of David.  How does this wonderful oracle close?  (“May those who bless you be blessed and those who curse you be cursed!”  (Numbers 24:9b))

Of course Balak was thrilled with this turn of events.  How does he dismiss Balaam and whom does he blame for Balaam’s denial of wealth?  (“I summoned you to curse my enemies, but you have blessed hem these three times.  Now leave at once and go home!  I said I would reward you handsomely, but the LORD has kept you from being rewarded.”  (Numbers 24:11 NIV))