Psalm 119:55

Psalm 119:55

“I remember your name in the night, O Lord, and keep your law.”

It’s not surprising that many vile things occur a night. Maybe it’s a practical issue because light makes things easier to see. It could also be that we all are made in God’s image and we want our shameful acts hidden. Either way, the Psalmist is reminding himself, in a prayer-like way, that he will remember the Lord and His ways even at night.

This is a great sign of spiritual vitality. Waking up with our mind on the Lord. Or even placing our thoughts on the Lord and obeying Him even when we can’t sleep. Some things to meditate on in the middle of the night, if you’re awake, would be:

-The greatness of the divine Being
-The perfections of his nature
-His wonderful works of creation, providence, and grace
-His word and ordinances, by which He was made known to us

Matthew 14-28

Matthew 14-28…Christ Will Return

The Father alone knows the time of Jesus’ return; thus, His people must always be ready for the end. Using illustrations and parables, our Savior begins to explain how to be prepared for His coming in the second half of Matthew.

The first few analogies tell us the second advent of Christ could occur at any moment. Signs may indicate the nearness of Jerusalem’s ruin (24:1–35), but there will be no way to know whether His final return is around the corner. Everyday life — eating, drinking, marrying — will go on until He comes (24:37–39). No remarkable difference in the basic, life-sustaining ways of humanity will herald His return; in fact, the lack of change will make many believe He is not coming back (2 Peter 3:4). We will be unable to discern the last moments before final judgment from the day people cease to form families or find a way to survive without consuming calories, for this day will never come. Mankind will do the most common tasks up until the end (Matthew 24:40–42).

Verses 40–44 stress the suddenness of Christ’s return. The taking of men and women from their tasks (vv. 40–42) is not a picture of a pretribulational rapture. Instead, Jesus is saying that the separation of the wicked and the righteous will be immediate. It is as if we will look up from our labor one seemingly ordinary day and find ourselves at the consummation of all things. Just as a thief might suddenly break in without warning, so too will our Lord return at a moment when we are not expecting Him (vv. 43–44). These illustrations encourage us not only to be ready for the Savior’s final advent, but also to be prepared to meet Him at any point should we die before He comes. Matthew Henry comments, “We cannot know that we have a long time to live; nor can we know how little a time we have to live, for it may prove less than we expect.” Putting off repentance and faith can lead to eternal damnation.

Therefore, we must be ready for Jesus’ return. Readiness, however, is not passive; rather, we are to serve our king actively, knowing that He could come at any minute. May we be wise, faithful servants who work for the kingdom, not those who lie down on the job and are fit only for destruction (vv. 45–51).

Ezekiel 24-32

Ezekiel 24-32…Ezekiel’s Wife

Of the titles that are used for Jesus in the New Testament, Son of Man is our Lord’s favorite designation for Himself. It appears on His lips more often than any other title, including Lord and Christ. Biblical scholars have long considered the significance of this in light of the Old Testament. We will see in the next few weeks that the main reason Jesus used this title was to identify Himself as the one to whom the Father would deliver an everlasting kingdom, namely, the cosmic ruler revealed in Daniel 7:13–14. However, that may not be the sole reason He preferred that title. Note that the Lord often addresses the prophet Ezekiel as “son of man.” In fact, God uses the title for him in today’s passage. Ezekiel was a prophet and a “son of man,” so it could be that Jesus also used Son of Man to reveal His prophetic office. After all, the incarnate Word of God preached God’s Word to His disciples just as Ezekiel preached God’s Word to his generation.

Those whom the Lord calls to ministry often must give up things that they would ordinarily hold dear. Jesus was called to lay down His life and suffer the divine curse on sin (Gal. 3:10–14). Ezekiel suffered the loss of his wife. God came to the prophet and told him his wife was going to die but that he should not engage in any of the customary mourning practices, which would have involved wearing sackcloth, lying on the ground, throwing ashes on one’s head, and so on. Instead, he was to don a turban, that is, wear the garments of celebration (Ezek. 24:15–18). This was a great loss indeed to the prophet, for the Lord refers to her as the delight of Ezekiel’s eyes. To not mourn for her would be a great sacrifice for him and cause great pain to his heart in addition to her death.

Such a death seems to be a drastic, almost “desperate” step for the Lord to take to get His point across. Of course, in reality, God never finds Himself in a desperate situation. But from a human perspective, the covenant community’s refusal to believe that the Lord would let Jerusalem fall was a desperate situation, and desperate times required desperate measures. The death of Ezekiel’s wife prefigured the loss of the temple, which was “the delight of [the Jews’] eyes.” God strove to make His intent clear so that the people would have no excuse. Despite the hardship in the loss of Ezekiel’s wife and temple, however, all would be for the good of Israel (vv. 19–27). Through the trouble, the people would come to know that He is the Lord.

Jeremiah 23-34

Jeremiah 23-34…A text out of context is a pre-text for a proof text (D.A. Carson).

This quote, attributed to Carson’s father by Carson himself, is essentially saying that when you take a passage from the Bible out of its context it leads the reader to come to false conclusions.  As we work through this bible reading plan, which takes us through all of scripture in one year, we see the context of all of scripture, which is helpful.  Taking a single verse and using it as a theological sword is extremely unhelpful, but unfortunately wildly popular today.  Jeremiah 29:11 is arguably the single verse most misused in the past few decades (interestingly it wasn’t misused prior to contemporary American prosperity).  It is often used to support the thinking that God’s purpose for us individually is one of blessing and not hardship and suffering.

Jer 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

We need to interpret the Bible correctly. Some interpret this verse by taking it out of context and then universalizing it. This is both a faulty and harmful way of reading scripture. That is not to say that it has no application for our lives today, but just that we need to be careful how we understand and apply the verse.

The bottom line is that this verse is not to be used as a cliché that for the believer, that we can expect God to always bless our lives and keep us from suffering. That is certainly not the case. Many examples could of course be given of faithful, loving Christians who have had to undergo suffering. To think that God will keep us from all suffering is just a naïve viewpoint. God of course uses suffering in our lives to test our mettle, which is clear throughout scripture.

In Jeremiah, we have a word of hope to his exiled people. Jeremiah’s point was not that God keeps pain away from his children, but that in the midst of suffering, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Suffering is temporary. We may have hope, because our God is a God of hope. We need not sink into despair or cynicism.

One other important point to note was that they were to occupy the land they were in. They may have been in exile, but they were to marry, have children and to pray for the welfare of Babylon. That’s right! Here it is in black and white:

(Jer. 29:4-7) “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

The very city that God would later punish for its pride in conquering Israel and other nations, God said that they were to pray for its welfare. I think the lesson here is clear. Whatever circumstance we find ourselves in, we need to be praying for the welfare of others. Jesus said himself that we are to love our enemies. The exiles in praying for the welfare of Babylon, would certainly have been praying for its enemies. There is no doubt there. The hope of verse 11, says to God’s people, that their exile is not permanent. After 70 years, they were to be brought back. God was faithful to his covenant. They were to occupy the land again.

 

 

Job 16-18

Job 16-18…Turning to God

Today’s passage contains part of Job’s fifth speech. In the opening section (16:1–17), Job expresses his exasperation with his friends. He questions what kind of comforters they really are (16:4–6). We also find another honest expression of Job’s anger with God when he falsely accuses the Lord of turning him over to wicked men (16:11).

In the first part of today’s passage (16:18–17:2), Job implores the earth to avenge his suffering. In the cosmic courtroom, Job recognizes that creation bears witness to human actions. More importantly, Job realizes that the only one who can defend his case is to be found in heaven. The Hebrew word that translates as witness (v. 19) refers to one who knows the innocence of the accused and who will see that justice is done.

There is considerable debate concerning the Hebrew text in verse 20, which could either refer positively to God or negatively to Job’s friends. Either way, we see Job’s confidence that he would ultimately find justice, if not in this life, then beyond it. Despite the fact that his friends misunderstand him (17:3–12), implicit in Job’s words is his understanding that God is the One to whom he must turn.

Nehemiah 8-10

Nehemiah 8-10…Preaching

Scripture commends the practice of expository preaching and teaching. In this section of Nehemiah, for example, the Levites explain the meaning of the Mosaic law to the people as Ezra leads them in repentance after the return from exile. Paul supports the practice when he exhorts Timothy to divide the Word of truth rightly (2 Tim. 2:15). In other words, Timothy must pay close attention to Scripture, seeking to drive “a straight path” through it, faithfully applying it to his flock.

Preaching is central in our worship of the Lord, and Paul’s word to Timothy noted above instructs us to judge the quality of our preachers based on their fidelity to the text and not their rhetorical skills. May we look for preachers who give us the Word.

Preaching can be a lonely and intimidating task. If you have a preacher who is faithful to Scripture as he preaches, make sure you take the time to thank him for feeding you the Word of God. Moreover, as we study the Bible individually, we can be tempted to read our opinions into the text and compromise its original meaning. That is why we must pray that we would be faithful to the text while we research a passage’s original setting and its immediate context.

2 Chronicles 19-21

2 Chronicles 19-21…Jehoshaphat.

If Ahab was wrong in defying the prophet Micaiah’s warning from God and going into battle, wasn’t Jehoshaphat guilty of disobeying God too? And what was this good king doing linking up with Ahab in the first place?

We find some answers in 2 Chronicles, where more details of Jehoshaphat’s reign are recorded. He had allied himself with Ahab through marriage (2 Chron.18:1)-a very common diplomatic tactic in that day. So the occasion at which Ahab persuaded Jehoshaphat to help him take back Ramoth was a visit to the “”in-laws”” (18:2).

However, God was not pleased with this alliance, and Jehoshaphat was rebuked by a prophet when he returned to Jerusalem after barely escaping from the battle with his life (2 Chron. 19:1-3).

Aside from this piece of bad judgment, Jehoshaphat was a religious reformer and a king who wanted his people to know and obey the Scriptures. He sent teachers with God’s Law in their hands to the various towns of Judah (2 Chron. 17:7-9), and God honored the king for his devotion.

And much like Joshua before him, Jehoshaphat once won a great battle without ever firing an arrow (2 Chron. 20:1-30). An invasion by the Moabites and Ammonites, two traditional enemies of God’s people, may have been part of the discipline God brought on Jehoshaphat for his alliance with Ahab.

But the king and people of Judah humbly sought the Lord. God promised that the battle would be His, and the people were told to take their positions and watch what God would do. As they sang and praised, God Himself wiped out their enemies. Jehoshaphat’s reign was largely a time of revival and peace (2 Chron. 20:30).

Judges 19-21

Judges 19-21…A Levite and his concubine, and Israel’s war with the tribe of Benjamin.

The horrific treatment of the Levite’s wife casts its shadow across the whole book; the crimes of Gideon, Jephthah and Samson, serious as they are, seem mere preparation for the moment when the Sodom of Genesis 19 is no longer somewhere out there but is to be found within the very people of God. In those days Israel had no king; she had functionally rejected God’s rules; and the result was a picture of God’s people which is far worse than anything the New Atheists have ever dreamed up. Atheism is not a polite option; just read Nietzsche’s Parable of the Madman to see a more intelligent account of the matter than you will ever find in Hitchens, Dawkins or Harris (they are more akin to those standing around in Nietzsche’s marketplace, whom he mocks as naive and smug). Yet the Bible, in Judges 19, puts it even more dramatically than does Nietzsche.

The Levite, by calling, was meant to represent the character of God to the people. Yet he was capable both of sacrificing his wife for himself and presumably sitting indoors as he heard her screams for help on that long, dark night, without ever moving to the door to help her. His callous `Get up, we need to be going’ to her as she lay blood stained and broken in the morning light, is merely the icing on the nauseating cake. So very different to the God who sacrificed himself for his bride and whose marriage is the archetype of all other marriages.

Joshua 7-9

Joshua 7-9…The sin of Achan, and Joshua renews the covenant.

Achan took some of the spoil of Jericho. In doing so, he clearly showed his love for the world was greater than his love for God. We grow bitter when we worship worldly gain, because it will never satisfy us. As Christians, we should know this because the Bible is clear that we were made to worship God, not idols. However, we are quick to become like the world, especially if we don’t have other believers around us, speaking truth into our lives. Discontent hearts don’t produce fruit, and are evidenced by isolation and bitterness. Sin is deceptive, and idol worship will own you unless you are transparent about your life with other believers in your church. Ever wonder why you don’t produce the kind of spiritual fruit that other Christians do? Maybe worship of the world is keeping you from loving God and others.

Joshua renews the covenant of the Lord with His people. As soon as he got to the mountains of Ebal and Gerizim, without delay, and without caring for the unsettled state of Israel, he confirmed the covenant of the Lord. We also should not wait to covenant with God. We don’t need to clean ourselves up before running to Him. In fact, our recognition that we aren’t OK, is what should drive us to Him. We need Him daily, and must see our utter dependence on Christ. It’s OK to know that you’re not OK, as long as you don’t stay there. This is what Christian maturity looks like.