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 – Friday, June 7, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 51

Prayer Point.  Doubt that God can forgive even the worst sins, then you need to read this psalm. David, the author, has just committed adultery and then murdered the husband to cover his crime and yet there is hope for him. How do we come clean when we sin? Use this psalm as your guide.

Luke 18:9-14

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

Background. Pharisees were highly regarded in Jesus’ day for their commitment to God and his Law. Tax-collectors were despised because they profited from the misery of their countrymen by serving the hated Roman occupiers and defrauding them in order to line their pockets.

Pay close attention to …
Why the Pharisee’s prayer is rejected and the tax collector’s prayer accepted?
What the tax collector’s prayer can teach us about repentance.

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 8:16-24

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. With the church in Jerusalem facing starvation, Paul is laboring to collect donations from the church in Corinth to aid their suffering brothers and sisters. Paul is sending a delegation of co-workers to encourage the church in Corinth and to handle the monies they will donate.

Pay close attention to …

  • The motivation behind the offering (collection of money) in verse 19.
  • How Paul works hard to do what is right in the eyes of God and of men with regards to the monies he is collecting for the church in Jerusalem.

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.

Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:14

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

Background. What is the fate of the young man who is told to be happy while he is young? (“ … but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment.” (Eccl. 11:9b NIV))

Why give up anxiety and the troubles of the body? (“…for youth and vigor are meaningless.” (Eccl. 11:10b NIV))

Verse 1 admonishes us to “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth…” Why? (I think it is that the older we get the more we try to find meaning in our lives. Solomon will spend much time reminding us how “meaningless” everything is, but there is something built in us which seeks hope.)

What is being described in verses 6 and 7? (How fragile life is. The silver cord is severed; the golden bowl is broken; the pitcher is shattered; the well-wheel be broken.)

Can you see the frustration in verse 8? (Meaningless! Meaningless! Meaningless… This is the culmination of the book.)

Find the bright note in the conclusion of this book! (“Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (Eccl. 12:13-14 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 45:6-16 *Sirach is not considered to be Scripture, but is still worthwhile reading.

Aaron, to begin with, was Moses’ older brother. While he had his failings, Aaron managed to rise above them to become the anchor of the Levitical priesthood which was conferred on him by God through Moses. It was an unfortunate day while Moses was busy atop Mount Sinai that Aaron was also busy down below making for the people of God a golden idol: the famous golden calf. This particular image will return hundreds of years later to haunt and lead the Israelites (Northern Kingdom) astray. Jeroboam (I) will set up two golden calves in the Northern Kingdom (Samaria) in order to keep the people from going to Jerusalem to worship the LORD.

Aaron had four sons. Two were good and two were evil. The evil sons got drunk one day and offered “strange fire” before the LORD and paid for it with their lives. It is believed that because of this incident the prohibition against drinking and serving the Lord was instituted. (That seems obvious to me. — j.t.) So poor Aaron was unable to impress upon his first born sons (they were in fact the older of the four) of the importance of all that Moses had done and said.

Aaron is regarded respectfully, as we will see in this section, throughout all of Israel’s history.

Sirach
Chapter 45
Verses 6-16

6 He exalted Aaron, a holy man like Moses
who was his brother, of the tribe of Levi.
7 He made and everlasting covenant with him,
and gave him the priesthood of the people.
He blessed him with stateliness,
and put a glorious robe on him.
8 He clothed him in perfect splendor,
and strengthened him with the symbols of authority,
the linen undergarments, the long robe, and the ephod.
9 And he encircled him with pomegranates,
with many golden bells all around,
to send forth a sound as he walked
to make their ringing heard in the temple
as a reminder to his people;
10 with the sacred vestment, of gold and violet
and purple, the work of an embroiderer;
with the oracle of judgment, Urim and Thummim;
11 with twisted crimson, the work of an artisan;
with precious stones engraved like seals,
in a setting of gold, the work of a jeweler,
to commemorate in engraved letters
each of the tribes of Israel;
12 with a gold crown upon his turban,
inscribed like a seal with “Holiness,”
a distinction to be prized, the work of an expert,
a delight to the eyes, richly adorned,
13 Before him such beautiful things did not exist.
No outsider ever put them on,
but only his sons
and his descendants in perpetuity.
14 His sacrifices shall be wholly burned
twice every day continually,
15 Moses ordained him,
an anointed him with holy oil;
it was an everlasting covenant for him
and for his descendants as long as the heavens endure,
to minister to the LORD and serve as priest
and bless his people in his name.
16 He chose him out of all the living
to offer sacrifice to the LORD,
incense and a pleasing odor as a memorial portion,
to make atonement for the people.

Pay close attention to …

  • Read the passage and consider just how important the roll of the priest (high priest) was to the Israelite community.

Daily Bible Readings – Thursday, June 6, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 60

Prayer Point.  How do you pray when you feel defeated? Psalm 60 points the way. The enemies David speaks of are foreign nations, but in our walk with Christ, the enemy is most likely ourselves and the evil one who tempts us. Pray Psalm 60 either for yourself or someone you know who is discouraged.

Luke 18:1-8

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

Background. Jesus will use a parable (story) to urge us to pray with urgency and persistence.

Pay close attention to …

  • What Jesus is telling us about our approach to prayer in the parable of the widow and the unjust judge. Compare this to Luke 11:5-12.

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 8:1-16

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

Background. Grace normally is used to refer to the unmerited favor we receive from God but Paul, in today’s reading, uses it to refer to the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Each person who becomes a follower of Christ receives the Holy Spirit and with the Spirit comes spiritual gifts or “grace empowerments” that are to used for building up the church. The Spirit’s power enables us to do things that we could never do on our own.

The grace given by the Holy Spirit in today’s reading is needed to address a crisis. There is a famine in Judah and the “mother-church” in Jerusalem is on the brink of starvation. In a stroke of genius, God has turned the tables. Missionaries from the church in Jerusalem helped establish churches, such as the church in Corinth. Now it is the young churches who are called to rescue the church that had first given them the gospel.

Pay close attention to …

  • What grace enabled the church in Macedonia to do (verses 1-6).
  • What the church of Corinth excelled in and what they lack (verse 7).
  • How grace, not the demands of the law, motivates us to be generous (verses 8-9).
  • Paul’s view of Christian love and equality. What is the purpose of our plenty and why (verses 13-15).

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.

Ecclesiastes 11:1-8

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

Background. “Cast your bread upon the waters…” In keeping with the tenor of the Book of Ecclesiastes the ESV Study Bible writes on p. 1208: “11:1 To cast … bread up on the waters is a metaphor without any contemporary parallels [see what I mean?], so interpreters are uncertain about its meaning. Three suggestions are most common: (1) It refers to maritime commerce. (2) It refers to taking steps to spread out one’s financial resources in multiple directions [in today’s parlance: do put all your eggs in one basket]. (3) In older Jewish and Christian interpretation, it was taken to refer to giving to the poor, in which case finding it again represents others being kind in return [or in today’s parlance: what goes around comes around].”

Not satisfied with that I explored The Life Application Bible on page 1155 “11:1-5 In these verses Solomon summarizes that life involves both risk and opportunity. Because life has not guarantees, we must be prepared. “Cast your bread upon the waters” means that life has opportunities and we must seize them, not merely play it safe. Solomon does not support a despairing attitude. Just because life is uncertain does not mean we should do nothing. We need a spirit of trust and adventure, facing life’s risks and opportunities with God-directed enthusiasm and faith.”

Verse 2 suggests spreading the wealth around, to hedge your bets, as it were. Any investor will tell you the same thing, i.e. don’t put all your eggs in one basket [as indicated above].

What does verse 4 seem to be advising against? (Laziness)

What kind of imagery does Solomon use to drive home the point that we cannot understand the work of God? (“As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb…” (Eccl. 11:5a NIV))

What is the Teacher telling us in verse 6? (I think he is telling us that just because you plant, the work does not stop there. The fields will still need attention – they can’t take care of themselves.)

According to verse 8 why should a man remember “the days of darkness”? (Since “meaninglessness” is the running theme in this book, Solomon suggests that the dark days bring appreciation to a meaningless life. When things go well all the time, we begin to take the good times for granted. A rainy day, by contrast, enhances the splendor of a fair day.)

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 44:19-45:5 *Sirach is not considered to be Scripture, but is still worthwhile reading.

Chapter 44
Verses 19-23

19 Abraham was the great father of a multitude of nations,
and no one has been found like him in glory.
20 He kept the law of the Most High,
and entered into a covenant with him;
he certified the covenant in his flesh,
and when he was tested he proved faithful.
21 Therefore the LORD assured him with an oath
that the nations would be blessed through his offspring;
that he would make him as numerous as the dust of the earth,
and exalt is offspring like the stars,
and give them an inheritance from sea to sea
and from the Euphrates to the ends of the earth.

22 To Isaac also he gave the same assurance
for the sake of his father Abraham.
The blessing of all people and the covenant
23 he made to rest on the head of Jacob;
he acknowledged him with his blessings,
and gave him is inheritance;
he divided his portions,
and distributed them among twelve tribes.

From his descendants the LORD brought forth a godly man,
who found favor in the sight of all
Chapter 45
Verses 1-5
1 and was beloved by God and all people,
Moses, whose memory is blessed.
2 He made him equal in glory to the holy ones,
and made him great, to the terror of his enemies.
3 By his words he performed swift miracles;
the LORD glorified him in the presence of kings.
He gave him commandments for his people,
and revealed to him his glory.
4 For his faithfulness and meekness he consecrated him,
choosing him out of all mankind.
5 He allowed him to hear his voice,
and led him into the dark cloud,
and gave him the commandments face to face,
the law of life and knowledge,
so that he might teach Jacob the covenant,
and Israel his decrees.

Pay close attention to …

  • The people of faith in the early part of Israel’s journey
  • Who Abraham was (v. 44:19 )
  • What Abraham did (v. 44:20 )
  • The LORD’s response (v. 44:21 )
  • Where the covenant rests (vv. 44:22-23 )
  • How Moses is described (vv 44:23-45:1 )
  • What the LORD did for Moses and what he gave him (vv. 45:2-3 )
  • The reward for meekness (v. 45:4 )

Daily Bible Readings – Sunday, November 11, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 93

Prayer Point This past week we saw the destructive power of the sea as it brought the proudest and wealthiest city in the world to its knees. The ancients knew no greater power than the fury of a stormy sea, and yet God is greater still.  Imagine how we might live if we believed this.  Confess your fears to God and pray that the Holy Spirit will make real the power of God.

Matthew 20:1-16

Jesus often told stories or parables to describe the kingdom of God, the community where God’s will is followed and obeyed. This story speaks to how God rewards the subjects of his kingdom.

Considering that a denarius was the common wage for a day’s labor, is the landowner unfair in what he pays his workers? Why then do the workers who worked a full day get upset with this landowner? Can you think of a situation where God’s generosity to someone who doesn’t deserve it would anger you?

1 Corinthians 14:1-12

For Paul, love is paramount, not the spiritual gifts. The gifts are unique God-given abilities to be used to love and serve God’s church. What spiritual gift does Paul hold out as an example of a gift that benefits the church?

Prophecy is more than telling the future. It is a spiritual gift where one hears a “word” from God and passes that message on to the church. In some cases, the message was about the future, in other cases, it was a word of encouragement or warning (see Acts 21:10-11). Speaking in tongues is the ability to speak in a language that is unknown to the speaker. One example is Acts 2:1-9.

Why is prophecy considered to be a greater gift than speaking in tongues? What sort of gifts did Paul encourage the Corinthian Christians to pursue?

Ezra 10:1-17

How does Ezra’s repentance inspire the people around him? How does the repentant hearts of the people move them to take action?

Sirach 51:13-22

*Sirach is a Jewish holy book written about 100 years before the coming of Christ.  It is not considered to be Scripture by the Jewish faith nor our tradition, but the book is still worth reading.  We offer Sirach in addition to the Old Testament readings.

Chapter 51
Verses 13-22

13 While I was still young, before I went on my travels,
I sought wisdom openly in my prayer.
14 Before the temple I asked for her,
and I will search for her until the end.
15 From the first blossom to the ripening grape
my heart delighted in her;
my foot walked on the straight path;
from my youth I followed her steps.

16 I inclined my ear a little and received her,
and I found for myself much instruction.
17 I made progress in her;
to him who gives wisdom I will give glory.

18 For I resolved to live according to wisdom,
and I was zealous for the good,
and I shall never be disappointed.
19 My soul grappled with wisdom,
an in my conduct I was strict.

I spread out my hands to the heavens,
and lamented my ignorance of her.
20 I directed my soul to her,
and in purity I found her.

With her I gained understanding from the first;
therefore I will never be forsaken.
21 My heart was stirred to seek her;
therefore I have gained a prize possession.
22 The LORD gave me my tongue as a reward
and I will praise him with it.

What is Sirach looking for? (Our journey throughout this book has been a search for wisdom.)

What does he resolve to do after he finds wisdom? (“For I resolved to live according to wisdom, and I was zealous for the good.” (Sirach 51:18 NRSV))

He tells us that the Lord gave him his tongue as a reward. What does he plan to do with it (perhaps we should all do the same thing)? (“The Lord gave me my tongue as a reward, and I will praise him with it.” (Sirach 51:22NRSV))

Daily Bible Readings – Saturday, November 10, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 75

Prayer Point:It is difficult to be thankful to God when injustice seems to reign in our world. Psalm 75 reminds us that God is in control of all things including the weather and human governments despite what we see. Pray that God might give us the faith to believe this so that we might live bold and thankful lives in the midst of a broken world.

Luke 14:1-11

The Pharisees are seeking to get rid of Jesus. In yesterday’s reading (Luke 13:31-35), they attempted to scare him off. In today’s reading they try to discredit him as a law breaker. The issue is whether it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath. The Pharisees who were respected interpreters of Jewish Law regarded healing to be work and therefore unlawful on the Sabbath. They bait the trap by planting a man with dropsy in front of Jesus. They know that Jesus is a man of compassion and will not refuse to heal the man and when he does, they will brand him as a Sabbath-breaker.

How does Jesus discredit the idea that healing was unlawful on the Sabbath?

Jesus goes on the offensive in verses 7-11. What sin does he expose in his opponents?

Revelation 18:1-14

The lamb is the main symbol of Jesus in the book of Revelation. Jesus’ faithful people, true Israel and the church, are depicted as the bride of the lamb. These images have their evil counterparts. The beast, Satan, is a distortion of Jesus the lamb. The whore of Babylon, Satan’s world system, mocks the bride of the lamb.

The name Babylon is significant in Israel’s history, as it was the kingdom that destroyed Jerusalem, the temple of God, and carried God’s people into exile. Babylon represents the Satanic system that has oppressed God’s people through the ages.

What kind of a relationship did the kings of the earth have with the whore of Babylon? What benefit did the world’s merchants get out of their relationship with her?

What is God’s message to Babylon? What is God’s message to his faithful people? What is about to happen to the whore of Babylon?

This message has its roots in Israel’s history. Remember that God freed his people by sending plagues to bring their Egyptian oppressors to their knees. Just as Israel came out of Egypt, now the church is called to come out of “Babylon” for judgment is coming.

Ezra 9:1-15

“When the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you … and when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them and show no mercy to them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the LORD would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. (Deuteronomy 7:1-4 ESV emphasis added) [Well, maybe not so quickly. – j.t.]

From at least the time of Solomon, intermarriage with non-Israelites had been at the root of all of the evils that had pervaded the land. As indicated above in Deuteronomy, the infection results in idolatry. Because Ezra can read, he must have familiarized himself with the relative recent history of Israel (from the time of the tearing of the kingdom until the Babylonian Captivity). Prophet after prophet had proclaimed the word of the LORD regarding the national sin of idolatry which they linked to the intermarriage of the people with the heathen. Solomon, the wisest of the kings, was ensnared by idolatry.

Was nothing learned by the dispersion and the captivity? The Northern Tribes were dispersed and managed to lose their tribal identity. The prophets had continually warned both Israel and Judah that the LORD would cast them out of his sight because of idolatry. I wish I had Ezra’s sensitivity about my own sin as he had for his people.

Why does Ezra respond the way he does to the news of widespread intermarriage between the Jews and the neighboring peoples?

Romans 8:34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us?

How does Ezra the priest play the role of Jesus the High Priest for the remnant of Israel?

Sirach 51:1-12

*Sirach is a Jewish holy book written about 100 years before the coming of Christ.  It is not considered to be Scripture by the Jewish faith nor our tradition, but the book is still worth reading.  We offer Sirach in addition to the Old Testament readings.

Chapter 51
Verses 1-12

PRAYER OF JESUS SON OF SIRACH

1 I give you thanks, O LORD and King,
and praise you, O God my savior.
I give thanks to your name,
2 for you have been my protector and helper
and have delivered me from destruction
and from the trap laid by a slanderous tongue,
from lips that fabricate lies.
In the face of my adversaries
you have been my helper 3 and delivered me,
in the greatness of your mercy and of your name,
from grinding teeth about to devour me,
from the hand of those seeking my life,
from the many troubles I endured,
4 from choking fire on every side,
and from the midst of fire that I had not kindled,
5 from the deep belly of Hades,
from an unclean tongue and lying words —
6 the slander of an unrighteous tongue to the king.
My soul drew near to death,
and my life was on the brink of Hades below.
7 They surrounded me on every side,
and there was no one to help me;
I looked for human assistance,
and there was none.
8 Then I remembered your mercy, O LORD,
and your kindness from of old,
for you rescue those who wait for you
and save them from the hand of their enemies.
9 And I sent up my prayer from the earth,
and begged for rescue from death.
10 I cried out, ” LORD, you are my Father;
do not forsake me in the days of trouble,
when there is no help against the proud.
11 I will praise your name continually,
and will sing hymns of thanksgiving.”
My prayer was heard,
12 for you saved me from destruction
and rescued me in time of trouble.
For this reason I thank you and praise you,
and I will bless the name of the LORD.

After what does this prayer style itself? (This sounds very much like a psalm.)

How does the prayer open? (Sirach’s prayer opens with thanksgiving; an acknowledgment of gratitude and his reasons for his gratitude.)

What does Sirach remember? (In his prayer Sirach remembers God’s mercy: “Then I remembered your mercy, O LORD, and your kindness from of old.” (Sirach 51:8 NRSV))

What does Sirach cry out in his prayer? (“I cried out, ‘ LORD, you are my Father; do not forsake me in the days of trouble, when there is no help against the proud. … My prayer was heard, for you saved me from destruction and rescued me in time of trouble.” (Sirach 51:10, 11b) This actually sounds like something our friend Jonah might also pray. –j.t.)

“For this reason I thank you and praise you, and bless the name of the LORD.” (Sirach 51:12 NRSV)

Daily Bible Readings – Friday, November 9, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 69

Prayer Point:  We often wonder where God is when we are up to our necks in the waters of life’s troubles. I imagine David felt this way when he prayed this psalm. But, if you read the prayer, you hear someone else crying out to God. It voice of Jesus desperately calling out to God on the cross. This psalm is Jesus’ crucifixion psalm. If you feel down today, remember that God the Father heard this prayer. Jesus, the Son, entered our pain and suffered in our place and the Holy Spirit is willing to make this real to us today. Pray that God might give you the hope of the resurrection today.

Luke 13:31-35

The Pharisees are troubled by Jesus’ teaching and attempt to scare him off by warning that Herod is out to kill him. Why isn’t Jesus afraid of Herod? How does Jesus feel about Jerusalem, the city that will call for his crucifixion? What does he offer her? What will be consequences of Jerusalem’s rejection?

“Hen gathers her chicks under her wings” is a reference to a barnyard fire. A mother hen will sacrifice herself for the sake of her chicks by gathering them under herself to shield them from the flames. This, for me, is one of the most compelling images of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Revelation 17:1-18

JRR Tolkien’s stories (I am a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings) give us insight into a Biblical understanding of evil. Evil cannot create, it can only mock the beauty of God’s Creation. In chapter 14, we saw God’s people depicted as a woman. The woman in chapter 17, the whore of Babylon, is a mockery of the bride of Christ, the church. The beast, Satan, mocks the Lamb of God.

How does the life trajectory of the beast in verse 8 mock the life story of Jesus, the Lamb of God? What is the woman’s relationship with the kings of the earth and to the beast? What are the kings relationship to the beast? Is the woman wealthy or poor? What is she drunk on? Who is seduced by the beast?

Who will the kings of the earth, the woman, and the beast make war against?

John, who was exiled for his faith, and the persecuted churches he is writing to (see Revelation 2-3) are already feeling the effects of this war. The manifestation of the Beast’s Empire in their time was Rome. The Beast’s Empire takes on different forms today.

Ezra 7:27-28, 8:21-36

How does Ezra explain the favor and blessings he has received from the king? Why does Ezra refuse the king’s offer of an armed escort for their journey to Jerusalem? How do they “provide” for their own defense? What do the exiles do upon arriving in Jerusalem?

It is not insignificant that the 12 bulls for all Israel are offered but yet only three tribes are represented here (Levites, Judah, and Benjamin). There was always a kinship among all the tribes of Israel particularly when it came to worship. (You may remember that the first king of the Northern Tribe [Israel] Jeroboam I set up the golden bulls – one in the north at Dan and the other in the south at Bethel – just so that the people would not have to go to Jerusalem to worship and thus limit defection to Judah.)

Verse 36 tells us that once Ezra delivered the edict to the king’s satraps (like governors) and governors in “the province Beyond the River, they aided the people and the house of God.” (Ezra 8:36 ESV)

Sirach 50:1, 11-24

*Sirach is a Jewish holy book written about 100 years before the coming of Christ.  It is not considered to be Scripture by the Jewish faith nor our tradition, but the book is still worth reading.  We offer Sirach in addition to the Old Testament readings.

Chapter 50
Verses 1, 11-24

1 The leader of his brothers and the pride of his people
was the high priest, Simon son of Onias,
who in his life repaired the house,
and in his time fortified the temple.

——————————————————————————————————————————————–

11 When he put on his glorious robe
and clothed himself in perfect splendor,
when he went up to the hole altar,
he made the court of the sanctuary glorious.

12 When he received the portions from the hands of the priests,
as he stood by the hearth of the altar
with a garland of brothers around him,,
he was like a young cedar on Lebanon
surrounded by the trunks of palm trees.
13 All the sons of Aaron in their splendor
held the LORD’s offering in their hands
before the whole congregation of Israel.
14 Finishing the service at the altars,
and arranging the offering to the Most High, the Almighty,
15 he held out his hand for the cup
and poured a drink offering of the blood of the grape;
he poured it out at the foot of the altar,
a pleasing odor to the Most High, the king of all.
16 Then the sons of Aaron shouted;
they blew their trumpets of hammered metal;
they sounded a mighty fanfare
as a reminder before the Most High.
17 Then all the people together quickly
fell to the ground on their faces
to worship their LORD,
the Almighty, God Most High.

18 Then the singers praised him with their voices
in sweet and full-toned melody [or in sweet melody throughout the house].
19 And the people of the LORD Most High offered
their prayers before the Merciful One,
until the order of worship of the LORD was ended,
and they completed his ritual.
20 Then Simon came down and raised his hands
over the whole congregation of Israelites,
to pronounce the blessing of the LORD with his lips,
and to glory in his name;
21 and they bowed down in worship a second time,
to receive the blessing from the Most High.

22 And now bless the God of all,
who everywhere works great wonders,
who fosters our growth from birth,
and deals with us according to his mercy.
23 May he give us gladness of heart,
and may there e peace in our days
in Israel, as in the days of old.
24 May he entrust to us his mercy
and may he deliver us in our days.

It is unfair of me to ask you just who Simon is because you will not glean all that much from the reading. So allow me to “lift” some information from The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (NRSV) pp. 1515-16:
“All of this history culminates in the celebration of Simon son of Onias, who served as high priest from 219-196 B.C. He probably held the office at the time of Ben Sira. 50:1-4 Like several of the heroes before him, Simon organized building projects that strengthened Jerusalem and the Temple within it. 50:5-11 The description of Simon as he participated in the temple liturgy consists of eleven metaphors taken from the natural world. His splendor was like that of the heavenly bodies: the morning star (Venus), the full moon (radiant and compete), and the sun (the consummate celestial body). He resembled the brilliant rainbow, the heavenly pledge of peace and harmony (see Genesis 9:13-15). When he puts on his vestments, he is like the flowers that manifest new life, or the incense that rises to heaven and the precious vessel that holds it, or the stately and fruitful trees that command respect. His very presence made the court of the sanctuary glorious. 50-21 The solemnity and grandeur of Simon’s participation in the temple liturgy is described He is surrounded by all of the priests and the entire assembly of Israel is present. The service concludes with the high priest’s blessing (see Numbers 6:4-26) and the people’s obeisance [deference, honor]. Ben Sira paints a spectacular scene.”