Daily Bible Readings – Monday, January 6, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 46

Prayer Point. It is easy to despair over the evil in our world. We fear for our safety. The wicked prosper and the righteous suffer. The economy is uncertain. Psalm 46 calls us to fix our eyes on another reality, God’s reality. Pray that we might know that God truly is “our refuge and strength” so that “we will not fear, though the earth give way.”

Matthew 12:14-21

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

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

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? You can use the following background to guide you.

Background. The Pharisees, who were regarded by the people as the guardians of Jewish Law, were threatened by Jesus. Outwardly they were moral people, but most were motivated by a desire for power and to be loved by the people. Jesus exposed them by healing a man on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was the last day of the week, Saturday. Jewish Law prohibited work on the Sabbath. It was a day devoted to the worship of God. The Pharisee’s considered healing someone to be work and so they tried to prevent Jesus from healing a man with a crippled hand on the Sabbath. Jesus healed him anyway with the words, “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” The Pharisees were clearly embarrassed and they sought to get rid of Jesus.

The people have been won over by Jesus’ acts of power and kindness. They follow him and he heals many of their sick, but he warns them not to tell anyone who he was. Jesus was the Messiah, but if word got out prematurely, the people would attempt to make him king by force. Jesus will climb the throne, but only after he goes to the cross.

Pay close attention to …

  • Isaiah’s prophecy (see Isaiah 42:1-4) and what it tells us about Jesus and his ministry. God is the speaker and Jesus is the “servant” described in verses 18-20.

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.

Revelation 21:22-27

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?You can use the following background to guide you.

Background. The Apostle sees a vision of a new heaven and new earth that will come Jesus and God the Father returns to this world. This earth, the home of God’s people is symbolized as a city. One final note that will make this passage easier to understand: the Lord Almighty is God the Father and the Lamb is Jesus, the Son of God.

In the Old Testament, the temple was a place where the people went to meet God and offer sacrifies.

Pay close attention to …

  • What is not in the city and why.
  • What is never shut and why.
  • What will never be allowed to enter the city.

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.

Isaiah 49:1-7

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

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

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points?You can use the following background to guide you.

Background. Isaiah’s message is to spread hope to a people who are despondent. Throughout Chapters 51 and 52 Isaiah is exhorting the people to “Rise up”. “Woe” and judgment have been a prevailing theme in Isaiah thus far but now the message is turning.

Pay close attention to …

  • Those whose feet bring the good news and who bring glad tidings. who proclaim salvation (v. 7)
  • The watchmen (v. 8)
  • What the watchmen see with their own eyes (v. 8)

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 – Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 103

Prayer Point. Are looking for a reason to praise God? Psalm 103 gives you a number of options. Concentrate on two or three and offer your own prayer of praise.

Matthew 1:18-25

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

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

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? You can use the following background to guide you.

Background. The births of Isaac, Abraham’s son, and Samson were both miraculous and announced by an angel as Jesus’ was. What sets Jesus apart is that he is conceived by a virgin through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a critical part of Jesus’ identity and his mission.

The central dilemma of the Bible is that humanity, because of our sin, owes God a debt that not even eternity in hell could pay. No one but a human could pay the debt, but no human was capable of paying the debt. That is until Jesus came to earth. Because he is born of a virgin, Jesus is both fully God and fully man. As a man, Jesus has the right to pay humanity’s debt. As God, he has the capability of paying it.

This is who Jesus was, but God chose to set this plan in motion in partnership with an ordinary couple, Mary and Joseph. Put yourself in Joseph’s shoes for a moment. His fiance is pregnant and he is not the father. If he goes through with the marriage he will bring great shame upon himself.

Pay close attention to …

  • Joseph’s great faith and courage even before the angel appears to him.
  • The angel’s message to Joseph which confirms his faith.
  • The connection between Jesus’ name which means “the Lord saves” and his mission.

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.

Revelation 19:11-16

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 guide you.

Background. John sees a vision of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. The gospel of John refers to Jesus as the “Word of God” as he is in Revelation 19:13. What strikes you about this image of Jesus? In what ways is it reassuring? In what ways is it terrifying?

Why do you think we need to know Christ in this way?

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.

Isaiah 62:1-5, 10-12

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 to guide you.

Background. Take a look at Revelation 22:16 and compare that with “her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch” in verse 1. [“I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” Revelation 22:16] “The nations will see your _____________, and all kings your _____.” [v. 2 righteousness; glory] “You will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow.” We saw this earlier (actually later) in Chapter 65. Why are names so important? [Names are important because God’s name is supremely important. In the OT names also convey the character of the named. Examples: Hannah = gracious; Job = one persecuted; Samson = like the sun; Samuel = heard of God.] Refer to Revelation 2:17 for another reference to the name given by God. How are God’s people described in verse 3? [A crown of splendor, a royal diadem] According to verse 4 what shall we be called? [Hephzibah and Beulah – my delight is in her and married] It’s very nice that Isaiah tells us what these names mean (also in verse 4). What is the imagery in verse 5? [Married; marriage] Have we seen this before? [Hosea uses marriage throughout as a metaphor. Hosea was told to marry a harlot (Gomer) as an object lesson to Israel – a demonstration that Israel had given herself over to false gods (harlotry) but that God loved her anyway. Read all about it in Hosea. On many occasions Jesus referred to a bride and bridegroom, his first sign as reported by John in Chapter 2 was at the marriage in Cana. A coincidence?? And, of course, in Revelation we have the famous Marriage of the Lamb Chapter 21:2.] Verses 6 and 7 exhort us to do what? [Wait and watch, be vigilant] In verses 8-9 the Lord swears by his right hand to do what? [Never again will enemies, outsiders, and the nations conquer the LORD’s land and harvest it.]

Verses 8 and 9 speak of grain (bread) and wine. What do the grain and wine symbolize? [Bread and wine refer to life-giving substances. In the Old Testament the bread and wine were the principal ingredients in the Passover meal. In the New Testament they refer to the life-giving body and blood of Christ.]

The imagery in verse 10 is very similar to that of Isaiah Chapter 40:3-4 “A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.’” What is the only difference between these passages of Isaiah to those of Chapter 40? [Verse 10 refers to the people of God whereas in Chapter 40 verses 3-4 the preparation is for the coming of the LORD.] Which advent is Isaiah referring to in verses 11-12? [An argument could be made for both the one when Jesus was born and his second coming.]

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 – Sunday, December 22, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 24

Prayer Point. “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? “ He who has clean hands and a pure heart.” Who can make such a claim? Only Jesus can. Without Jesus we have no hope of entering God’s city. King Jesus entered the gates of Jerusalem and offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins. Thank God for opening the door to know and enjoy him through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

John 3:16-21

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. Here Jesus is having a conversation with Nicodemus a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews. Nicodemus came to Jesus by night as you would expect Nicodemus would not want to be caught with Jesus as he was a trusted ruler of the Jews. What follows is a discussion about spiritual rebirth.

John 3:16 and following is the most famous summary of the gospel in the Bible.

What is the purpose for God sending his Son into the world? What is the the reward for believing in the Son? What is the consequence for those that do not believe in the Son of God?

Who is the light that has come into the world? Who comes to the light? Who hates the light and why?

Do you believe in Jesus as the light of the world and the Son of God?

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.

Revelation 12:1-10

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. Revelation 12 is one of several visions in the 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 [the serpent – identified with the dragon in Revelation 12] offspring 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.

What does the dragon attempt to do to the child when he is born? What event in Jesus’ life do you think this is referring to? When was Jesus snatched up into heaven? What happens to 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 is God promising to do for his faithful people (Israel, the church) during this 3 ½ years of trouble (1260 days)? How would this give hope and courage to John and the seven churches receiving this revelation?

The name ‘Satan’ is actually a title meaning “prosecutor or accuser.” Before the coming of Christ where was Satan? 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 God explain the church’s present suffering? Why is there hope?

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.

Zechariah 8:9-17

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. In verse 9:“This is what the LORD almighty says: ‘… Let your hands be strong…” Why? Why could no one go about his business beforehand? [For I have turned every man against his neighbor.] What does the LORD promise to do now for the remnant of his people?

“As you have been an ______ __ _______ among the nations, O Judah and Israel, so will I save you and you will be a ________.” (v. 13)

Why had the LORD determined to bring disaster upon his people and to show them no mercy? [Because their fathers had angered the LORD by their earlier idolatry and sins.] Now since the Lord was determined to do good for his people, what changes does he expect of them? [“These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely.” (v. 16-17)]

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 – Saturday, December 21, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 55

Prayer Point. What are you afraid of in this world? What concerns do you carry with you every day? The opposite of living in perpetual fear is a life of continual prayer. Try praying throughout the day. Put this verse into practice: “Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.”

Matthew 25:31-46

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. Matthew 25:31–46 Judgment at the End. Jesus’ disciples are to wait patiently in anticipation of reward at his return, when the unprepared and unrepentant will receive only judgment [ESV Study Bible Notes]

According to this passage both the sheep and the goats are surprised by the shepherd. They both did not know what was to come.

What is the difference between the sheep and the goats relating to the heart? Who are the sheep? Who are the goats? What is the sheep’s reward? Why do they receive this reward?

Matthew 25:40 In the context of the parable the least of these refers to those who are most needy among Jesus’ brothers—a reference most likely to Jesus’ disciples and by extension all believers. The “sheep” are commended for their great compassion for those in need—for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger; for those who are naked, sick, or in prison. The righteous will inherit the kingdom not because of the compassionate works that they have done but because their righteousness comes from their transformed hearts in response to Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom, as evidenced by their compassion for the “least of these.” In caring for those in need, the righteous discover that their acts of compassion for the needy are the same as if done for Jesus himself (you did it to me) [ESV Study Bible Notes].

What is the goat’s punishment? Why do they receive this punishment?

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.

Revelation 6:1-17

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. As all of God’s creation worships at the throne of God, Jesus, the lamb of God, sets God’s final plan of redemption into motion. He opens the first of seven seals of the book which represents God’s plan to redeem his people and restore Creation. Who are summoned by the living creatures as Jesus opens the first five seals? What do they do?

Who are the souls under God’s altar? What do they ask God? Can you imagine John, who was exiled because of his faith on the Isle of Patmos, asking the same question? How does God respond to the saints calling for an end to the violence and persecution of the church? Why does God wait?

With the opening of the sixth seal by Jesus, the lamb of God, God is ready to vindicate his people. Just as God rescued Noah by shielding his family from judgment with the ark leaving them in a new purified world, so God will rescue his people through bringing judgment on their oppressors. What will happen to the powerful of the earth? How is this message comforting to John and his churches, who were being persecuted by what appeared to be an invincible Roman Empire?

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.

Zechariah 8:9-17

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. In verse 9:“This is what the LORD almighty says: ‘… Let your hands be strong…” Why? Why could no one go about his business beforehand? [For I have turned every man against his neighbor.] What does the LORD promise to do now for the remnant of his people?

“As you have been an ______ __ _______ among the nations, O Judah and Israel, so will I save you and you will be a ________.” (v. 13)

Why had the LORD determined to bring disaster upon his people and to show them no mercy? [Because their fathers had angered the LORD by their earlier idolatry and sins.] Now since the Lord was determined to do good for his people, what changes does he expect of them? [“These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely.” (v. 16-17)]

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 – Friday, December 20, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 40

Prayer Point. How can we repay God for his kindness and salvation? We can do nothing but offer ourselves in gratitude. Think about the ways God has demonstrated grace in your life. Confess to him the areas of your life you are afraid to offer him. Tell him your troubles and ask him to save you once again.

Matthew 25:14-30

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? Using the following background as a guide.

Background. Jesus’ earthly ministry is coming to a close. Soon he will leave earth and journey to his Father in heaven. To prepare his disciples for his departure, he tells the story.

Who is the master in the story? Who are the servants? What are the talents that are given to the servants? Which servants are praised? Why? Which servant is condemned? Why? How did the servant who hid his talents view the master?

What will we have to believe about God in order to freely invest what he has given us in the work of building Jesus’ kingdom?

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.

Revelation 5:6-14

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. Who steps forward to open the scroll? What is interesting about this Lamb? Who must this Lamb be?

What do the four living creatures (representative of the reflection of God’s glory in creation) and the 24 elders (representative of God’s people, Israel and the church who have died and are in heaven) do once the Lamb opens the scroll? What do they sing about?

Throughout history God’s people sang “new songs” in response to a “new action” performed by God to save his people. We knew God as our Creator. Now through Jesus, we know God as our Savior.

Like ripples on the water, worship of Jesus, the lamb of God, begins at the throne and moves out to fill the whole universe. Who surrounds the 24 elders (God’s redeemed people – Israel and the church who have died) and the four living creatures (symbolic of the creation)? What do they sing? Remember that God’s plan of salvation goes beyond saving people, but also includes the restoration of all Creation. How do the creatures of the sky, the earth and the sea get in on the act?

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.

Zechariah 7:8-8:8

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. Remember this?

Micah 6:8b: “And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

How does this apply to Chapter 7 verses 9 and 10? How does the LORD describe the response of the people? How is the heart of the people described? What is the result of this behavior? What happens when the people cry out to God? What was the LORD’s judgment? What happens to the land? [The land is made desolate. I think the LORD was purging the land of all its evil just as he did when he brought the Israelites into the promised land. j.t.] What is the Lord’s determination for Jerusalem in Chapter 8? [He will return and dwell there; Jerusalem will be called faithful; the mountain of the LORD – the holy mountain. Both the very old and the young will fill the streets.] What does the LORD promise to do? [He promises to bring his people back from the east and the west and to save them and as the prophet Jeremiah predicted: they shall be his people and he will be their God.]

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 – Thursday, December 19, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 50

Prayer Point. We’d like to think that God only judges “bad people,” but this psalm reminds us that “good people” (verses 7-15) and “bad people” (verses 16-23) alike stand in need of God’s mercy. Where do you see yourself in the descriptions of the wicked and the good? Confess those areas of your life to God and pray for the faith to take your cares to him and cultivate a heart of gratitude.

Matthew 25:1-13

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? Using the following background as a guide.

Background. Matt. 25:1 the kingdom of heaven will be like. ten virgins. Bridesmaids. bridegroom. As God referred to himself as the “husband” of Israel in the OT (e.g., Isa. 54:4–6), so Jesus pictures himself here as a bridegroom (cf. Matt. 9:14–15). It was the Jewish marriage custom (cf. 1:18) for the groom and his friends to leave his home and proceed to the home of the bride, where the marriage ceremony was conducted, often at night. After this, the entire wedding party returned to the groom’s home for a celebratory banquet [ESV Study Bible Notes].

Matt. 25:11–12 I do not know you. The OT speaks of God “knowing” his chosen people (Jer. 1:5; Hos. 13:5; Amos 3:2). The same theme continues in the NT, where it describes a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ (cf. Gal. 4:8–9; 2 Tim. 2:19) [ESV Study Bible Notes].

One again we see Jesus here bringing home the point that the disciples will know “neither the day nor the hour” of his return.What should the disciples of Christ do while they wait for Jesus to arrive?

Christ brought the kingdom of God, making it present in His church. He pointed to the future when he would bring the kingdom in its fullness. Believers must be alert, prepared to greet Christ when He returns. Other people cannot prepare us at the last moment [Disciple’s Study Bible Notes].

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.

Revelation 4:9-5:5

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. God is on the firmly on the throne in heaven, despite Rome’s appearance of power on earth. What are the four living creatures (symbolic of creation) and 24 elders (symbolic of God’s people who have died) doing as they stand in the presence of God? What do God’s people do with the crowns they received for remaining faithful to Jesus? What is about God that inspires his people and all of creation to worship him?

The vision from heaven’s perspective continues in chapter 5. God is seated on the throne, with a sealed scroll in his right hand. The scroll represents God’s plan to restore Creation, rescue his people, and rid the world of evil once and for all. Why does John begin to weep?

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.

Zechariah 4:1-14

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. The golden lampstand was an item of furniture in the tabernacle (temple) even when it was a tent. This lampstand was slightly different in that it had seven lights and seven channels for each light which would amount to 49 lights. (7 x 7) The two olive trees would be the source of all the oil needed to keep this lampstand lit forever (as it were). [The image here of the lampstand reminds me of the 7 golden lampstands recently discussed in Revelation. That image also provides for 49 separate lights. The sad reality is that Revelation does not specify that those lampstands have 7 flames – that is a supposition that I am making. j.t.] All of this is confusing to Zechariah. What is his question to the angel? And in typical Jewish tradition of answering a question with a question, what question does the angel address to Zechariah? Okay! How does the angel finally answer Zechariah? To whom is Zechariah to address this message? Who is Zerubbabel?  What is the task assigned to Zerubbabel and Joshua?

[Notes from The Life Application Bible (NKJV) p. 1637 “4:10 ‘Who despises the day of small things?’ Many of the older Jews were disheartened when they realized this new temple would not match the size and splendor of the previous temple built during King Solomon’s reign. But bigger and more beautiful is not always better. What you do for God may seem small and insignificant at the time, but God rejoices in what is right, nor necessarily in what is big. Be faithful in the small opportunities. Begin where you are and do what you can, and leave the results to God.”]

Again the two olive branches are discussed. What does the angel say this time? Unhappily we don’t know exactly to whom the two anointed ones refer. Some think they are the two most responsible for the current rebuilding project: Zerubbabel and Joshua. Others say Haggai and Zechariah who were the prophets assigned to exhort the people to action.

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, December 18, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 119:49-72

Prayer Point. Walking God’s path is not easy as this section of Psalm 119 reminds us. Scattered throughout the psalm are appeals to God for help. Pick one or two that resonate with you and make it your prayer this morning.

Matthew 24:45-51

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. Jesus is the Master in this story. He must leave for a time before he comes back. He does not let the servants know the hour of his return. His faithful servants are those who go about his business continually while he is away. The wicked servants are those who do not do his will. When he comes he will find them not doing his will.

What does the faithful servant do to prepare for the master’s coming? What is at the heart of the wicked servant’s actions? What does the wicked servant think of the master’s return? (it is delayed). Where will the wicked servant eventually end up?

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.

Revelation 4:1-8

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. As chapter 4 begins, John’s perspective will be changed from the earth’s to heaven’s point of view. What does John see in God’s heavenly throne room?

Numbers are highly symbolic in Jewish and Christian writing. In this case, seven means perfection.

John is describing a dream and in a dream images are symbols that refer to something else. How do you interpret these symbols? You look for other passages in the Scriptures that contain these same symbols.

From earth’s perspective it looks like Rome has all the power and Caesar will forever reign on the throne. Who is in on the throne from heaven’s perspective? How does this vision embolden John and the seven churches? Why are there seven lamps before God’s throne (remember that the number seven is symbolic of perfection? What do they represent (see verse 5)? Where have we seen rainbows in the Bible and what do they represent (see Genesis 9:12-15)?

The identity of the twenty four elders is a little tricky, but following our interpretive principles we can reasonably assume that the 24 elders represent God’s people who have died and are in heaven, made up of the nation of Israel (12 tribes) and the church (represented by the 12 apostles). (12+12=24). From earth’s perspective, God’s people look like a powerless and persecuted minority. What do God’s people look like from heaven’s perspective?

“The sea of glass, clear as crystal.” (verse 6). Do you remember the story where Jesus calmed the sea in Mark 4:37-41? The sea was the most feared force in the ancient world and it was associated with evil. A sea of glass, is a sea that has been calmed and an image of God’s power and future destruction of all that is evil. Imagine how that image encouraged John, who witnessed Jesus calming the sea.

Compare the description of the strange living creatures in Revelation 1 to the living creature Ezekiel sees in his vision of God (Ezekiel 1:1-28) and Isaiah’s vision of the seraphim (angels) in Isaiah 6:1-3. While interpreting visions in the book of Revelation is never an exact science, these creatures seem to represent creation and by extension the glory of the Creator.

In the perspective from below, the earth is cruel place where evil goes unchecked. But when we see the world from heaven’s perspective, we see our glorious future, where God’s people join with all creation worshiping around the throne of our God who made us, sustains us, and saves us. No wonder Jesus taught us to pray: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

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.

Zechariah 3:1-10

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 does Zechariah see in this vision? What role does Satan play? What does the LORD say to Satan? What do you think [“Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”] means? Who is Joshua? What does Joshua represent? [one may infer that Joshua represents the people of God as an intercessor.] Joshua is wearing filthy clothes. What do these filthy clothes represent? (refer to Isaiah 64:6 for filthy rags)What does the LORD do about the filthy clothes? How would you interpret what the LORD has done for Joshua? What charge does the LORD give to Joshua? What do you think of when you hear “If you walk in my ways and keep my requirements”? [Usually I think of trying to keep the commandments. I know this cannot be completely right because I can’t do that successfully. Check out Micah 6:8 “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.”] What promise does the Lord make to Joshua if he can meet the LORD’s requirements?

To whom does the “Branch” refer? You may remember from last’s week’s discussion of Revelation 2:17 “I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it,” (NIV) that we don’t know to what this stone refers. Here in verse 9 “‘See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua! There are seven eyes on that one stone and I will engrave an inscription on it,’ says the LORD almighty, ‘and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.’” We know as much about that stone as the one discussed in Revelation last week. What can we surmise about the removal of “the sin of this land in a single day”?

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.