BIBLE 2018 | Week 21

II Corinthians 11-13 | Sunday: Paul continues defending his own apostolic ministry and authority against the so-called ‘super apostles’ who were trying to discredit Paul in Corinth.

He ends the letter by asking the congregation to question, test, and examine their salvation.

Literally he says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (13:5).

Exodus 29-32 | Monday: Exodus 32 contains the tragic event of the golden calf. It has been compared to honey moon adultery. Here Israel is at the foot of Sinai and is just entering into essentially a marriage covenant with Yahweh. And here they are breaking their marriage vow within a matter of days.

For a David Platt message on Exodus 32 (and 1 Corinthians 10) see here.

II Samuel 20-24 | Tuesday: David takes census of the people of Israel and receives a judgment from God. Why? David apparently was beginning to trust in numbers. This temptation is so big in churches today! May the Lord deliver us from the worship of numbers.

Psalms 60-62 | Wednesday: Psalm 62:8 says: “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” 

John Calvin points out that the: “expression, at all times, means both in prosperity and adversity…” 

David in this Psalm calls us to pour out our hearts before God. John Calvin comments on this and says:

David could not have suggested a better expedient than that of disburdening our cares to God, and thus, as it were, pouring out our hearts before Him…Under trying circumstances, we must comfort ourselves by reflecting that God will extend relief, provided we just freely roll them over upon his consideration.” So, have we poured out our hearts before God this week? Have we run to the throne of grace casting our cares on him, knowing that he cares for us?

Job 41-42 | Thursday: D.A. Carson gives us a reflection on Job 41:11: 

One verse, Job 41:11, demands further reflection. God speaks: “Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.” Is God’s immunity from prosecution built on nothing more than raw power? 

We imagine the lowliest citizen in Nazi Germany trying to sue Hitler, and Hitler’s brutal response: “Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything in the Third Reich belongs to me.” Coming from Hitler, this would have seemed a distinctly immoral declaration. So why should God avail himself of its cosmic analog? 

First, if this were God’s only declaration about himself, it would not be a very good one. But this declaration comes within the context of the book of Job, and within the larger context of the canon of Scripture. Within the book of Job, there is common ground between Job and God: both acknowledge that in the last analysis God is just. Job is not a modern skeptic searching for reasons to dismiss God; God is not a Hitler. But if God and Job agree that God is just, at some point Job must also see that God is not a peer to drag into court. Trust in God is more important than trying to justify yourself before God—no matter how righteous you have been. 

Second, within the context of the entire canon, God has repeatedly shown his patience and forbearance toward the race of his image-bearers, who constantly challenge him and rebel against him. He is the God who with perfect holiness could have destroyed us all; he is the God who on occasion has demonstrated the terrifying potential for judgment (the Flood; Sodom and Gomorrah; the exile of his own covenant people). Above all, despite the Bible’s repeated insistence that God could rightly condemn all, he is the God who sends his own Son to die in place of a redeemed new humanity. 

Third, within such frameworks Job 41:11 is a salutary reminder that we are not independent. Even if God were not the supremely good God he is, we would have no comeback. He owns us; he owns the universe; all the authority is his, all the branches of divine government are his, the ultimate judiciary is his. There is no “outside” place from which to judge him. To pretend otherwise is futile; worse, it is part of our race’s rebellion against God—imagining he owes us something, imagining we are well placed to tell him off. Such wild fantasy is neither sensible nor good.” 

Jeremiah 42-46 | Friday: Jeremiah 44 is yet another strong reminder of the danger and evil of idolatry.

Luke 5-6 | Saturday: In Luke 6:21 Jesus says: “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” 

R.C. Sproul says that the emphasis in this passage is:

on the difference between now and later…Jesus is distinguishing between the way things are now and the way they will be when the kingdom of God is manifested and God’s justice reigns supreme…we live in a topsy-turvy world, a world where righteousness is devalued, and where unrighteousness is exalted.

The attitude of our day is: Get it now! Never mind the eternal consequences of your present actions, you only go around once.

According to this view the Sermon on the Mount is nonsense, but if this is truth from God, then he is telling us to be wise, to think in eternal categories, and not to be slaves to the present. What happens right now counts eternally, and this is the essence of the message that Jesus is giving here.

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BIBLE 2018 | Week 20

II Corinthians 9-10 | Sunday: 2 Corinthians 8-9 is Paul’s encouragement, motivated by the generosity of Jesus (8:9), the generosity of other Christians (8:1-8), for the Corinthians to give generously for the offering he is taking up for poor Christians in Jerusalem.

2 Corinthians 10 is the beginning of Paul’s defense of himself. Some false teachers had come into the church at Corinth and tried to convince them that Paul was a false teacher. This puts Paul in the awkward position of having to defend himself and his ministry. He isn’t bragging because he is proud; he is defending his ministry because the Corinthians’ lives depend on them believing Paul’s doctrine and gospel.

For a helpful meditation on what “God loves a cheerful giver” means in 2 Corinthians 9, see this episode of Look at the Book.

Exodus 25-28 | Monday: This part of Exodus does not always make for the most compelling reading for many of us. However, it is very important. We hear about the careful instructions for how to build the tabernacle.

For more on the importance of the tabernacle, watch this by R.C. Sproul.

Here is an article from Ligonier giving 6 reasons we should care about the tabernacle described in Exodus.

II Samuel 15-19 | Tuesday: Here we see the tragic end of Absolam’s life.

For a sermon by Paul Tripp on 2 Samuel 15 called “David and Absolam” see here.

Psalms 57-59 | Wednesday: D.A. Carson comments on Psalm 57, 60, and 108 in this reflection. I know only part of this reflection deals with one of our readings from the book of Psalms this week, but as we head into our 20th week of our reading plan I thought his last two paragraphs below were a wonderful reminder of how amazing the Bible is: 

“Both Psalms 57 and 60 find David under enormous pressure. In the former, the superscription places David in flight from King Saul, and hiding in a cave; in the latter, David and his troops have been defeated. In both cases, however, the psalm ends in praise and confidence—and the respective sections on praise and confidence from these two psalms are now joined together to make Psalm 108. 
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Although Psalm 108 still hints at a stressful situation that includes some chastening by God (108:11), the tone of the whole slips away from the dark moods of the early parts of the other two psalms, and in comparison is flooded with adoration and confidence. 
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That simple fact forces us to recognize something very important. The earlier two psalms (57 and 60) will doubtless seem especially appropriate to us when we face peril—individual or corporate—or suffer some kind of humiliating defeat.
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The present psalm will ring in our ears when we pause to look back on the manifold goodness of God, reminding ourselves of the sweep of his sovereignty and his utter worthiness to receive our praise. It might prove especially useful when we are about to venture on some new initiative for which our faith demands fresh grounding. This perspective of changed application occurs because the same words are now placed in a new context. And that is the point. 
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For although all of Scripture is true and important, deserving study, reflection, and carefully applied thought, the Lord God in his wisdom did not give us a Bible of abstract principles, but highly diverse texts woven into highly diverse situations.
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Despite the diversity, of course, there is still only one sweeping storyline, and only one Mind ultimately behind it. But the rich tapestry of varied human experience reflected in the different biblical books and passages—not least in the different psalms—enables the Bible to speak to us with peculiar force and power when the “fit” between the experience of the human author and our experience is especially intimate. 
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For this astonishing wealth, God deserves reverent praise. What mind but his, what compass of understanding but his, what providential oversight over the production of Scripture but his, could produce a work so unified yet so profoundly diverse? Here, too, is reason to join our “Amen” to the words of 108:5: “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth.” 

Job 39-40 | Thursday: D.A. Carson gives us some helpful thoughts on Job 40: 

“Halfway through his long speech to Job, God gives him an opportunity to respond. Following a rhetorical question (“Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?”), God says, “Let him who accuses God answer him!” (Job 40:2). 

It is vital for the understanding of this book that we do not misunderstand this challenge. God is not withdrawing his initial estimate of Job (1:1, 8). Even under the most horrible barrage from Satan and from the three “miserable comforters,” Job has not weakened his fundamental integrity nor lost his basic loyalty to the Almighty. He has not followed the advice of his suffering wife to curse God and die; he has not followed the advice of his friends and simply assumed he was suffering for sins hitherto unrecognized and therefore turned to repentance. But he has come within a whisker of blaming God for his sufferings; or, better put, he has certainly insisted that he wants his day in court, that he wants to justify himself to God.

Implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, Job has accused God of being unjust, or of being so removed that the just and the unjust seem to face the same ends. In his better moments Job steps back from the least restrained parts of his rhetoric, but he certainly feels, to say the least, that God owes him an explanation. 

But now God is saying, in effect, that the person who wants to “contend” with God—to argue out some matter—must not begin by assuming that God is wrong or by accusing the Almighty of not getting things right. That has been the thrust of the rhetorical questions (chaps. 38—39): Job has neither the knowledge nor the power to be able to stand in judgment of God. 

By this point Job has apparently absorbed the lesson: “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more” (40:4-5). But the question arises, Is Job really convinced that he was out of line? Does Job now really believe that, however righteous he may have been, he really does not have the right to talk to God that way? Or, devout man that he is, has he simply been cowed into quiescence?

God takes no chances: he presents Job with two more chapters (40—41) of unanswerable rhetorical questions. Once more Job is told to “brace [himself] like a man”—and then God begins: “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?” (40:8). It is as if God wants something more from Job, something that Job recognizes only in the last chapter of the drama.” 

Jeremiah 37-41 | Friday: 

For a helpful message on Jeremiah 37-39, feel free to listen to this from Don Carson.

Luke 3-4 | Saturday: These notes from the NIV Zondervan Study Bible on Luke 4:1-13 provide some helpful insight: 

“Jesus is tested in the wilderness. Jesus’ testing recalls Israel’s experience in the wilderness…Luke explicitly connects them by mentioning “wilderness” and “forty” (vv. 1-2; cf. Num 32:13; Deut 2:7; 29:5; Neh 9:21; Amos 2:10), since the “forty days” (v. 2) recalls Israel’s “forty years” in the wilderness (Num 14:34).

More important, all three OT passages that Jesus quotes in response to the devil come from Deut 6-8…a section that calls Israel to be faithful to God in the wilderness (Deut 6:16; 8:2). Moreover, the three specific temptations also parallel three significant instances in which Israel failed in the wilderness, and later traditions such as Ps 106 that recall Israel’s faithlessness often point to these three events:

(1) Israel failed to remember God in the way “they gave in to their craving” (Ps 106:14; cf. Exod 16:1-3; Num 11:1-6.)

(2) “They made a calf and worshiped an idol” (Ps 106:19; cf. Exod 32:1-15).

(3) They tested and “rebelled against the Spirit of God” (Ps 106:33; cf. Exod 17:1-7; Num 20:1-13). Unlike Israel of old, Jesus the Son of God faithfully resists the devil’s temptations.”  

BIBLE 2018 | Week 19

II Corinthians 6-8 | Sunday: 2 Corinthians 8-9 is all about giving generously to other Christians who are in need. 

For a message on 2 Corinthians 8 see here and skip to 7:09.

Exodus 21-24 | Monday: Here we read through some of the “case law” that follows the Ten Commandments.

For the difficult sections in Exodus 21 on bondservants/slaves, see this message by Peter Williams (especially starting at 25:00).

For more on these somewhat difficult chapters, see this series from Kevin DeYoung.

II Samuel 10-14 | Tuesday: We see David’s horrible sin with Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11-12 along with the rebuke he receives from the prophet Nathan.

For a well written and powerful article on David’s great sin, see this article by Jon Bloom.

Psalms 54-56 | Wednesday: Marshall Segal has written a helpful article on Psalm 55: 

“King David knew the bitter flavor of betrayal. 

It is not an enemy who taunts me — 
     then I could bear it; 
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me — 
     then I could hide from him. 
But it is you, a man, my equal, 
     my companion, my familiar friend. (Psalm 55:12–13) 

 
My companion. My familiar friend. My loved one. The one I trusted. I sailed out into stormy seas with them, filled with hope and affection and confidence, and then suddenly they fled to safety while they watched me drown alone. 

We can hide from faraway enemies — from dangerous strangers or foreign armies — but we can’t hide from loved ones. The memories creep in everywhere we might hide, but their sweetness has been poisoned by betrayal. 

David had his enemies — by the thousands — but the worst enemies had been his best friends. 

We don’t know who the familiar friend of Psalm 55 was, but we do know David was betrayed by the ones closest to him. Maybe the most painful betrayal of all was by his son Absalom. 

David’s son murdered his other son to avenge his sister’s rape. Read those words again slowly, and think about the awful weight of this father’s heartache. If you have children, think about trying to care for your family in the midst of that kind of relational hurricane, all while your own heart is being beaten up and drowned. 

Despite the evil Absalom had done, David brought the prodigal murderer home (2 Samuel 14:21). He established boundaries (2 Samuel 14:24), but he eventually welcomed his son with a kiss (2 Samuel 14:33). 
How did Absalom respond to his father’s kindness, patience, and forgiveness? 

He conspired to overthrow his father’s kingdom (2 Samuel 15:12). He slandered his father’s reputation (2 Samuel 15:3). He lied to his father’s face (2 Samuel 15:7–8). And he forced his father into hiding for fear of his life (2 Samuel 15:14). He not only betrayed his own flesh and blood, but he betrayed the father who had forgiven him for murdering his brother. And his betrayal cost twenty thousand men their lives (2 Samuel 18:7). 

David may not have written Psalm 55 about Absalom, but he certainly could have said this about his son: “We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng” (Psalm 55:14). He could have been thinking of his son’s deadly lies in 2 Samuel 15:7–8: 

My companion stretched out his hand against his friends; 
     he violated his covenant. 
His speech was smooth as butter, 
     yet war was in his heart; 
his words were softer than oil, 
     yet they were drawn swords. (Psalm 55:20–21) 

The soft words of a friend can be drawn swords in disguise — trading precious trust for selfish gain — convincingly promising precisely the affection and loyalty he or she surrenders so eagerly. David knew the most intimate kind of pain and opposition. Do you? 

If so, you feel far more alone than you really are. Let the “But” in verse 16 call you out of loneliness and despair into hope again: 

But I call to God, 
     and the Lord will save me. 
Evening and morning and at noon 
     I utter my complaint and moan, 
     and he hears my voice. 
He redeems my soul in safety 
     from the battle that I wage, 
     for many are arrayed against me. 
God will give ear and humble them, 
     he who is enthroned from of old, Selah 
because they do not change 
     and do not fear God. (Psalm 55:16–19) 

Take refuge in the friendship of God. When friends or family leave you or fail you, know that he never will. He remains faithful, strong, caring, and close by — evening, morning, and at noon. He is relentless, persistent, unfailing in his love for you, and his love for you is strong enough to overcome any love that has failed you. 

Take refuge in the friendship of God, and let God judge the betrayer. As difficult as it might be to run into the arms of God when we’ve been betrayed in love, it may be even more difficult to surrender our desire for vengeance — our innate longing to make the one who hurt us feel something of the pain we felt. 

But the same love that holds and heals us in the wake of betrayal also frees us from having to administer justice. God, in unparalleled love, not only promises never to leave or betray us, but he also promises to punish every sin committed against us — either in the horrors of hell or in the death of his Son. As you wait for him to act, remember that your Judge intimately knows your pain. Jesus was not only betrayed to death by one of the worst of his twelve closest friends, he was also denied three times by one of the best — and then abandoned by the rest. 

Instead of going after his betrayer, David went hard after God. He trusted him to bring justice. 

Cast your burden on the Lord, 

     and he will sustain you; 
he will never permit 
     the righteous to be moved. 
But you, O God, will cast them down 
     into the pit of destruction; 
men of blood and treachery 
     shall not live out half their days. 
But I will trust in you. (Psalm 55:22–23) 

“But I will trust in you.” Those six words are strong enough to carry you over the massive waves of betrayal. Resist the impulse to take things into your own hands (or words), and rest your heart, the relationship, and the future in his capable hands. You can trust him.” 

Job 37-38 | Thursday: D.A. Carson gives us his reflection on Job 38: 

As we approach the end of the drama, God addresses Job directly for the first time (Job 38); he will continue to address Job through chapter 41. Elsewhere God speaks to Elijah in a still, small, voice (1 Kings 19); here God speaks to Job out of a storm (38:1), for he wants even the form of his communication, or its venue, to substantiate the large points he wishes to make. 

God’s first words are terrifying: “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me” (38:2-3). This opening salvo might lead the unwary to think that Job is the one with whom God is primarily displeased, and that the three miserable comforters have got off rather lightly. But like a drama that teeters back and forth between this perspective and that, this book is not finished yet. After all, the opening chapter records God’s estimate of Job, and nothing in these chapters reverses that estimate. Further, I have already drawn attention to 42:7, where God says he is angry with the three friends (something he never says about Job), because they did not speak what was right about God (as God’s servant Job did). 

God’s terrifying challenge to Job in these four chapters must be placed within the larger framework of the book, if we are to make sense of the whole. Job has repeatedly said that he wishes to question God. Now God says that he will question Job (38:3). Yet the nature of the barrage of rhetorical questions God raises in these chapters is scarcely the kind of questions Job wants to address. Job wants to talk about his own sufferings, about the justice of them, about God’s role in sanctioning such sufferings, and the like. He wants to do this not least because he desires to maintain his justifiable reputation for integrity and righteousness. But God’s questions focus on a much bigger picture. God asks, in effect: “Job, were you present at the dawn of creation? Do you have intimate knowledge of the entire world, let alone of the heavens? Do you control the course of the constellations—Pleiades and Orion, let us say? Were you the one who constructed the human mind, so that you can explain how it works? Does your word exercise the kind of providential sway that grants food to hungry ravens or to a hunting lioness?” 

At one level, of course, this response does not at all answer the kind of questions Job was raising. At another level, it does. It warns Job that his capacity to understand is more limited than he thinks. It prepares us for the conclusion that God wants something more from us than mere understanding.” 

Jeremiah 32-36 | Friday: Jeremiah 32:36-44 is a pointer to the new covenant and promises that find their ultimate fulfillment in the New Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 33:14-26 contains multiple mentions of the offspring of David, which is Jesus.

Luke 1-2 | Saturday: In Luke 2 Jesus is presented in the temple. In Luke 2:25-35 we read about Simeon: 

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, 
    according to your word; 
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 
31     that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, 
    and for glory to your people Israel.” 

33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him.34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” 

R.C. Sproul writes about this event:

“There are many interesting characters in Luke’s gospel, one of my favorites is Simeon. Very little is known about him, but the sketchy profile that Luke gives us is loaded with significance. Simeon was righteous and devout. He was an old man, who had spent his life probably looking for the consolation of Israel…We are told that the Holy Spirit was upon him…the context of this statement indicates that the Holy Spirit was abiding on Simeon.

Simeon was especially singled out by God to be uniquely gifted by the Holy Spirit…We read in verse 26: “it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” 

Luke does not tell us how Simeon received that revelation. All we know is, God privately told Simeon that before he died he would see the Messiah with his own eyes…

When I think of Simeon, I think of this old saint, who spent his days in the temple. He would come into the temple each morning. He would look around and the priest in the temple would say, ‘What are you doing, Simeon? What are you looking for?’ Simeon would say, ‘Well, I just came today to check and see if the Messiah was here.’ He would be disappointed day after day after day.

But God had told him that he would see the Messiah and he had waited and waited, and gone time after time after time, presumably, to the temple, yet every time that he went, looking for the Messiah, the Messiah was nowhere to be seen. The promise was not fulfilled. 

But then, one day, as was his custom, he came to the temple, and we read that he came, ‘in the Spirit’. Luke tells us that when the parents brought in the child Jesus, ‘to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he (that is, Simeon) took him up in his arms and blessed God’.

He saw a poverty-stricken peasant couple, holding a baby which perhaps was still adorned with swaddling cloths, but instantly, because of the gift of the Holy Spirit, he recognized the Savior.”

BIBLE 2018 | Week 18

II Corinthians 4-5 | Sunday: In 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 we have a profound description of lostness and conversion. Lostness is described as being blind to the glory of Jesus in the gospel. Conversion is God “turning the lights on” in our hearts and allowing us to see the glory of God in the face of Christ.

Conversion is then described with a quotation from Genesis 1:3. God spoke into the primordial darkness and said, “Let there be light!” and there was light. So we were the walking dead, living in spiritual darkness, and God said, “Let there be light!” in our dark hearts and there was light.

Salvation is all of grace from first to last.

For a thoughtful exposition of this passage, see this episode of Look at the Book.

Exodus 17-20 | Monday: Exodus 17-18 show us the story of God’s provision in the wilderness despite Israel’s wicked (yet familiar in our own lives) complaining. The bread from heaven points to Jesus (see John 6:31-35) and the water from the rock also anticipates Christ’s work in a unique way. Read the story of the striking of the rock carefully, then compare it with 1 Corinthians 10:1-4.

Here we reach the middle point of Exodus. The book could be divided into chapters 1-19 and 20-40. Chapter 19 is really the center of the book. This is when Israel has escaped Egypt and now has finally arrived at Mount Sinai (also called Mount Horeb, where the burning bush event happened earlier).

From Exodus 20-40 Israel is camped at Sinai. In fact, they are there all the way through Leviticus and even through the first 10 chapters of Numbers.

Considering Israel was actually at Sinai for less than two full years, we see how important it was in that it dominates so much of the landscape of the Pentateuch.

Consider the fear and trembling that comes upon Israel in 19, then read Hebrews 12:18-29 and be thankful.

For a helpful message on Exodus 19 (when Israel approaches Mount Sinai), watch here.

Exodus 20 is one of the two complete occurrences of the Ten Commandments in the Bible (the other is Deuteronomy 5).

The Ten Commandments split into two parts. The first four commands are vertical, involving our relationship to and worship of God (Have no other gods; Worship no idols/images; Don’t take God’s name in vain; Honor the Lord’s Sabbath). The next six are horizontal, involving our relationship to our neighbors (Honor your parents; Don’t murder; Don’t commit adultery; Don’t steal; Don’t bear false witness in court; Don’t covet).

For a fantastic two part interview with Kevin DeYoung about the whole book of Exodus, listen to this on your commute.

II Samuel 5-9 | Tuesday: In 2 Samuel 5 David is anointed king for the third time. At this point, the capital is in the city of Hebron (see below). Later in this chapter, David takes the city of Jerusalem and makes it the capital of the nation (hence it is called the City of David). Then he decides to bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. Everything is going well until Uzzah is suddenly struck dead without warning for reaching out and touching the ark.

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2 Samuel 7 is one of the most important chapters in the Bible when it comes to understanding the story of redemptive history.

In this chapter God promises that the centuries old promise  to Abraham (that all the nations would be blessed through his offspring) will be fulfilled through the offspring of David.

For a careful and helpful lecture on this critical passage, listen to this by D.A. Carson.

Psalms 51-53 | Wednesday: Psalm 51 is probably one of the more well known Psalms. John Piper gives us a helpful outline of this Psalm. He points out how David begins by turning to God: 

“First, he turns to his only hope, the mercy and love of God. Verse 1: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.” Three times: “Have mercy,” “according to your steadfast love,” and “according to your abundant mercy.”  

Second David then prays for cleansing: 

“Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” Verse 7: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Piper tells us that: “Hyssop was the branch used by the priests to sprinkle blood on a house that had a disease in it to declare it clean (Leviticus 14:51). David is crying out to God as his ultimate priest that he would forgive him and count him clean from his sin. 

It is fitting that Christians ask God to do this (1 John 1:7–9). Christ has purchased our forgiveness. He has paid the full price for it. That does not replace our asking. It is the basis for our asking. It is the reason we are confident that the answer will be yes. So first David looks helplessly to the mercy of God. And second he prays that, in this mercy, God would forgive him and make him clean.” 

David then confesses the seriousness of his sin: 

“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.” Then verse 4: “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” Piper comments on this and says: “This doesn’t mean Bathsheba and Uriah and the baby weren’t hurt. It means that what makes sin to be sin is that it is against God. Hurting man is bad. It is horribly bad. But that’s not the horror of sin. Sin is an attack on God — a belittling of God. David admits this in striking terms: “Against you, you only, have I sinned.” 

Piper says that David vindicates God, not himself:

There is no self-justification. No defense. No escape. Verse 4: “. . . so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.” God is justified. God is blameless. If God casts David into hell, God will be innocent. This is radical God-centered repentance. This is the way saved people think and feel. God would be just to damn me. And that I am still breathing is sheer mercy. And that I am forgiven is sheer blood-bought mercy. David vindicates the righteousness of God, not himself.” 

Finally, David prays for renewal, as Piper points out: 

“after turning helpless to God’s mercy, and then praying for forgiveness and cleansing, and then confessing the depth and greatness of his sin and corruption, David pleads for more than forgiveness. He pleads for renewal. He is passionately committed to being changed by God. 

He pours out his heart for this change in at least six ways. I can only draw your attention to them. The main point is: Forgiven people are committed to being changed by God. The adulterer, the murderer, the liar, the child molester hate what they were and set their faces like flint to be changed by God… 

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalms 51:10). The “right spirit” here is the established, firm, unwavering spirit. He wants to be done with the kind of instability that he has just experienced… 

He prays for the joy of God’s salvation and for a spirit that is joyfully willing to follow God’s word and be generous with people rather than exploiting people. Verse 8: “Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.” Verse 12: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” 

For a sermon by Sinclair Ferguson on Psalm 51, listen here.

Job 35-36 | Thursday: In Job 35 & 36 we get to hear a little bit more from Elihu. In chapter 35, after his introduction Elihu begins to lay out his big points. Christopher Ash says that each of these main points focus:

“on the greatness of God; he defends God’s justice by expounding his greatness.” Ash points out how Elihu begins with these words “Behold, God…” Three different times in this chapter. “Behold, God is mighty…” (36:5); “Behold, God is exalted in his power (36:22); “Behold, God is great” (36:26.) He also says: “The Almighty…is great in power” (37:23).

Ash comments on this by telling us that:

“The logic of Elihu’s argument is that only cosmic power can guarantee cosmic justice. The response Elihu calls for is entirely consistent with this. Job, and we, should bow in humble submission before the grandeur of God’s cosmic power, trusting in his achievement of cosmic justice in the end.” 

Jeremiah 27-31 | Friday: Jeremiah 29 is famous mainly for verse 11. However, what is this chapter really about?

This chapter is about Israel being sent away into Babylon for 70 years. The overwhelming majority of people groups in history who experienced similar fates after losing a battle essentially evaporated. What normally happened was they would intermarry with their captors and eventually their culture and ethnic distinctiveness would essentially disappear.

Israel looks like they await the same fate. Surely there is no way Yahweh, their God, will bring them back to their land and help them rebuild and restart their temple and religion in Jerusalem. However, God says that He has a plan to prosper Israel and to give her a hope and a future. In 70 years, after the vast majority of the original hearers had passed away, their children and grandchildren would be brought home from captivity and help rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. (This is what Haggai, Zechariah, Ezra, and Nehemiah are all about!).

In Christ, this promise does ultimately find its fulfillment in the New Jerusalem in the New Creation. So it is not wrong to apply it to ourselves, as long as we see its fulfillment in eternity rather than being physically prospered in this life now.

D.A. Carson covers Jeremiah 30-31 in a lengthy message worth listening to here.

Mark 15-16 | Saturday: In Mark 15 we read of the crucifixion of Christ. The notes from The Gospel Transformation Bible comment on Mark 15:21-38 by telling us that:

“The crucifixion and death of Jesus are told in very terse terms. The death of Jesus (v. 37) and the tearing of the temple curtain (v. 38) are narrated in unison to indicate that the atoning death of Jesus gives his followers direct access to the Most Holy Place—that is, into the very presence of God (Heb. 9:24). Jesus is indeed the temple that is not made with human hands (Mark 14:58), for in him people of all nations are welcomed into restored fellowship with God—the very thing the temple was meant to facilitate. 

Followers of Christ must ponder Jesus’ substitutionary death as divine judgement for their sin. We are humbled. For the severity of sin—nothing less than the torture and murder of God’s own divine Son—exposes the seriousness of our intellectual, moral, and emotional sickness and the depth of our human rebellion against God.” 

The vast majority of conservative scholars don’t think Mark 16:9-20 was originally part of Mark’s gospel. We agree with this assessment. For more on this, listen to this helpful explanation by John MacArthur here.

BIBLE 2018 | Week 17

II Corinthians 1-3 | Sunday: 2 Corinthians 1 deals with discouragement and comfort. Paul says that he faced death and thought he was going to die. The Lord delivered him and comforted him. This was so that Paul could comfort others who are experiencing similar or lesser trials in this life.

This shows us that we should seek the comfort of the Lord in our trials so that we can then use those experiences to better comfort other struggling saints.

One of the clearest verses on sanctification (how we grow in Christlikeness) in all of Scripture is 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

We become what we behold. We imitate what we enjoy. We mirror what we worship.

The most essential fight of the Christian life is the fight to see! The battle is to behold! We must behold the glory of Jesus in Scripture. The more we behold it the more we become like it.

For a helpful sermon on the connection between love and Paul’s phrase “we work with you for your joy” (2 Corinthians 1:24-2:2) download this message John Piper preached at Southern Seminary’s chapel.

Exodus 13-16 | Monday: In these chapters we finish the section on Passover and witness the escape from Egypt along with the crossing of the Red Sea. This section of Scripture forms one of the most fundamental pictures of redemption and salvation in the Bible. When later biblical authors use these terms, this event seems to be shaping their very conception of these realities.

One wonders if this whole events is in the back of Paul’s mind even as he frames Romans 6-8. In Romans 6, the slaves are set free (think Pharaoh). In Romans 7, we talk about the law (think Sinai after the Red Sea). In Romans 8, we speak of traveling through a wilderness of suffering as we move toward the new creation (think Promised Land).

Paul understands the Christian life in light of the Exodus event. (For more on this, see 1 Corinthians 10:1-22).

The Exodus event is the archetypal salvation story in the Bible. We can’t fully understand the gospel without the Exodus.

When Moses and Elijah appear on the Mount of Transfiguration, what are they talking to Jesus about? Jesus’s “departure” (the Greek word is literally ‘exodus’). Jesus is presented in Matthew as the true and better Israel and Moses. He is the true son of God who gives His life as the Lamb of God who takes away our sins.

One of the most striking sections of this passage is Exodus 15. Here Israel praises God for the display of God’s glory in salvation through judgment. God’s salvation always comes through judgment…especially at the cross.

II Samuel 1-4 | Tuesday: One of the most remarkable parts of this section is David’s lament over the death of Saul and his sons. Think about how bitter David could have been against Saul. Think about how many ways David could have responded differently to the news of Saul’s death. Instead, what do we find? David sincerely mourns the loss of God’s anointed king. David even puts to death the man who boasted of helping kill Saul.

See 2 Samuel 1:17-27.

Psalms 48-50 | Wednesday: As we read through Psalm 48 this reflection from D.A. Carson is helpful: 

One of the ways God talks about the future is. . . well, by simply talking about the future. There are places in the Bible where God predicts, in words, what will happen: he talks about the future. But he also provides pictures, patterns, types, and models. In these cases he establishes an institution, or a rite, or a pattern of relationships. Then he drops hints, pretty soon a cascade of hints, that these pictures or patterns or types or models are not ends in themselves, but are ways of anticipating something even better. In these cases, then, God talks about the future in pictures. 

Christians who read their Bibles a lot ponder the connections between the Davidic kingship and Jesus’ kingship, between the Passover lamb and Jesus as “Passover Lamb,” between Melchizedek and Jesus, between the Sabbath rest and the rest Jesus gives, between the high priest’s role and Jesus’ priestly role, between the temple the old covenant priest entered and the heavenly “holy of holies” that Jesus entered, and much more. Of course, for those who lived under the old covenant stipulations, covenantal fidelity meant adherence to the institutions and rites God laid down, even while those same institutions and rites, on the broader canonical scale, looked forward to something even better. Through these pictures, God talked about the future. Once a Christian grasps this point, parts of the Bible come alive in fresh ways. 

One of these picture-models is Jerusalem itself, sometimes referred to as Zion (the historic stronghold). Jerusalem was bound up not only with the fact that from David on, it was the capital city (even after the division into Israel and Judah, it was the capital of the southern kingdom), but also with the fact that from Solomon on it was the site of the temple, and therefore of the focus of God’s self-disclosure. 

So for the psalmist, “the city of our God, his holy mountain” is not only “beautiful” but “the joy of the whole earth” (Ps. 48:1-2). It is not only the center of armed security (48:4-8), but the locus where God’s people meditate on his unfailing love (48:9), the center of praise (48:10). Yet the psalmist looks beyond the city to God himself: he is the one who “makes her secure forever” (48:8), whose praise reaches to the end of the earth, for ever and ever (48:10, 14). 

As rooted as they are in historic Jerusalem, the writers of the new covenant look to a “Jerusalem that is above” (Gal. 4:26), to “Mount Zion,” to “the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God” (Heb. 12:22), to the “new Jerusalem” (Rev. 21:2). Reflect long and often on the connections.

Job 33-34 | Thursday: In Job 33 Elihu is once again speaking. He is speaking to Job and D.A. Carson says that he has two primary points to make which are: 

First, Elihu asserts that although Job has acknowledged God’s greatness—indeed, Job has insisted on God’s greatness—he has gone over the top by so insisting on his own righteousness that he has made God out to be some sort of ogre. “I tell you, in this you are not right” (33:12). Wisely, Elihu stops there. He does not go on to say, as did the three “comforters,” that Job should also admit to being thoroughly guilty. Job’s sole guilt, so far as Elihu is concerned, is in charging God with guilt. 

Second, Elihu asserts that God is not as distant and as inaccessible as Job makes him out to be (33:14ff.). God may come to a person in some strange dream of the night that warns him or her to abandon some evil path (33:15-18). Or—more to the point—God may actually speak in the language of pain, forestalling arrogance and independence (33:19-28). He may do these things more than once to someone, thereby turning back his soul from the grave (33:29-30). Elihu has thus opened up questions as to the purpose of suffering not entertained by either Job or his antagonists. He is certainly not saying that Job deserves all the suffering he is facing; indeed, Elihu insists that he wants Job to be cleared (33:32). 

Apart from the importance of the issue itself—that suffering may have for its purpose something other than deserved punishment—the entire discussion reminds us of an important pastoral lesson. Of course, it is not invariably so; but sometimes when two opponents square off and neither will give an inch, neither has adequately reflected on the full parameters of the topic.” 

In Job 34 Elihu continues his speech. As we read through this speech it seems similar to the speeches of the miserable comforters. D.A. Carson says that as we read this speech: 

it appears that Elihu will tumble into the same traps of reductionistic merit theology that devoured those he is rebuking. But then he adds an element that once again puts his speech in a framework a little different from theirs. Elihu leaves place for mystery. While he insists that God is utterly just, he does not conclude, as the three “comforters” do, that this means every case of suffering must be the direct result of God’s just punishment. Elihu can ask, “But if [God] remains silent, who can condemn him? If he hides his face, who can see him?”(34:29). While Job flirts with the idea that God’s silence opens him to a charge of unfairness, Elihu assumes God’s justice, even if he (Elihu) does not draw out the inferences followed by the three miserable comforters. Elihu allows room for mystery, for divine silence that is nevertheless just silence. 

Parts of Elihu’s speech are hard to take. But in the framework of the book of Job, two factors stand out. First, when God finally responds, Job is corrected (as we shall see), and the three “miserable comforters” are roundly rebuked because, God says, they “have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (42:7)—but no charge at all is laid against Elihu. That may reflect the fact that he is a bit player; but it also reflects the fact that his basic stance is right, even if the tone is a tad self-righteous. Second, in his hinted suggestions that there may be in God mysterious realties and hidden reasons to which we do not have access, Elihu anticipates some of God’s own arguments when he speaks out of the storm in the closing chapters of the book (chaps. 38—41).

Biblical revelation provides us with many things to understand, some of which will require a lifetime of learning. But it also reminds us that God has not disclosed everything (Deut. 29:29). At some point God demands our trust and obedience, not merely our evaluation and understanding.

Jeremiah 22-26 | Friday: Jeremiah 23 points forward to the better David, Jesus, and speaks about the false prophets in Israel. The false prophets message was essentially telling people what they wanted to hear, not what was true.

Jeremiah 25 explicitly tells us that Israel will go into Babylonian captivity for 70 years. Daniel spends most of his life in Babylon during these 70 years.

We also see in Jeremiah 25 the cup of God’s wrath. This helps give us further background on what Jesus is speaking of in Gethsemane.

Mark 13-14 | Saturday: In Mark 14 we read of Jesus in Gethsemane. This is holy ground that we are treading upon when we read about Gethsemane. In Mark 14:41 Jesus says: 

“The hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.” 

 
David Mathis comments on this verse: 

All Jesus’s human life had anticipated this hour. Every careful attempt at keeping the messianic secret. Every emotional investment poured gladly into his disciples. Every glimpse of the ocean of his kindness as he healed the blind, the mute, the lame, the demonized, and even raised the dead. 

Now the hour has come. All history hinges on this hour. And it is utterly terrifying. Jesus must decide: Will he protect his own skin, and soul, or will he embrace his Father’s perfect and painful will? 

His dying had begun long before this hour, but now in Gethsemane, he must face the death to self that comes before the death at Calvary. Never has a soul been in such anguish. Never has a human been so undeserving of divine wrath. Never has anyone else faced such horror, to be made sin on behalf of others — to put himself forward in our place.

Even as early as John 2, when Jesus turned water to wine, he knew, “My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4). But he acknowledged his hour would come. And it shaped him from the beginning.” 

Mathis continues by making brief comments about other passages from Mark and Luke’s gospel of Jesus in Gethsemane. Jesus was: 

“greatly distressed and troubled” (Mark 14:33). Fully human, he confesses, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death” (Mark 14:34). “Being in agony” (Luke 22:44), he falls to the ground and prays that, “if it were possible, the hour might pass from him” (Mark 14:35). 

So great is his torment that “his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). He offers “loud cries and tears” (Hebrews 5:7). As he hangs by a thread, “there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him” (Luke 22:43). 

With each passing moment, he is closer to the traitor arriving with his troops. He will be betrayed into the hands of sinners, and they will enact, for all the world to see, the very essence of sin itself: assault on God, with intent to kill. How could each minute in the garden not feel like a lifetime?

Toward the end of his article Mathis says:  

Never before had a human heart, mind, and will faced what Jesus did in that garden. And never again will God require it. His Son’s trip into Gethsemane is utterly unique from any garden of anguish into which God might lead us… 

Never again will God walk one of his children through this garden of the shadow of death. We very well might give our own lives in this world to save others here, but we cannot choose God’s wrath in place of another’s sin. What Jesus did on that Thursday evening is utterly unique. 

And yet this is…the Command: “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” 

Jesus’s garden will not be ours. His hour will not fall to us. But having been loved like this, how can we not love one another? How can we not, as the beneficiaries of Christ’s irreplaceable sacrifice, ache to empty our own selves for another’s good? Having tasted such fullness from him, how can we not gladly pour out to meet the needs of others?”

BIBLE 2018 | Week 16

April 13th, 2018 | Mark and Scott McAndrew

I Corinthians 15-16 | Sunday: 1 Corinthians 15 is an incredibly essential chapter. Paul has been unable to talk long about any one subject in his letter to the Corinthians without soon relating that topic to the cross of Christ and His resurrection. However, now Paul pulls the car over and parks it in front of the matter “of first importance” – the gospel.

This chapter is a beautiful example of logic for the sake of love.

Some Corinthians were doubting that a physical, bodily resurrection would even be part of our future at all. They were calling the whole concept into question. They did not realize, however, that the implications of this belief are catastrophic to the Christian faith.

What a lesson this is for us today! It is possible for us to adopt beliefs that, like the Trojan horse, may look harmless upon initial inspection, but which contain deadly enemies inside them that could destroy our spiritual lives.

Paul says, “Ok listen. If there is no bodily resurrection of the dead, then that must mean that Jesus has not been resurrected. If that’s true, then the gospel falls apart. If Jesus is dead, Christianity itself has been buried with Him. If the dead are not raised, we have misrepresented God and have no hope beyond the grave. If there is no resurrection, our lives are pathetic and we are wasting out time.”

Then Paul goes on to brilliantly argue for the truth of Jesus’ resurrection, starting with the Old Testament Scriptures, moving through the eyewitness testimony of more than 500 of his contemporaries who saw Jesus after He rose, and on from there.

For a fantastic confessional by Scott on 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, see here.

For Scott’s recent Easter sermon on 1 Corinthians 15, listen here.

Exodus 9-12 | Monday: In these chapters we get the last few plagues along with the Passover event itself. We also get a key verse (Exodus 9:16) that Paul quotes on Romans 9:17 to answer the question, “Why? Lord, why did You raise up Pharaoh, harden his heart, and bring each plague against him leading to the death of the first born? Why did you ordain such a dramatic exit for the people of Israel from the land of Egypt?”

Here is the Lord’s answer (and this is one of the keys to the whole book) from Exodus 9:

13 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. 14 For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth. 15 For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. 16 But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.

Perhaps instead of questioning God for acting for the sake of His own glory, we should rather humbly cover our mouths . . . and let Him be God.

For an NAC sermon that overviews Exodus (especially the plagues and passover), see here.

For an NAC sermon that discusses why God does everything for His own glory, listen here.

I Samuel 26-31 | Tuesday: Today we finish 1 Samuel. The book ends with King Saul’s death in battle against the Philistines. 2 Samuel begins with David finally becoming king of Israel.

We see again see David sparing Saul’s life when he has the chance to kill him in his sleep. 1 Samuel 26:7-9 reads,

So David and Abishai went to the army by night. And there lay Saul sleeping within the encampment, with his spear stuck in the ground at his head, and Abner and the army lay around him. Then Abishai said to David, “God has given your enemy into your hand this day. Now please let me pin him to the earth with one stroke of the spear, and I will not strike him twice.” But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him, for who can put out his hand against the Lord‘s anointed and be guiltless?

What can we learn from this?

Often times we are very bad at misreading providence. In other words, we often see coincidences or strange things happen in our lives and misinterpret them. David could have easily seen this situation as a sign that he should kill Saul. That’s certainly the way his friend Abishai saw it.

Abishai says, “God has given your enemy into your hand this day!”

Yet what does David say? David interprets circumstances in the light of God’s word; he resists the massive temptations to tweak or reinterpret (misinterpret) God’s word in light of unusual circumstances.

A man may justify a divorce based on what he may call, “God’s clear direction in my life.” Someone may justify cutting corners at work based on a strange situation that occurs. “Surely God is telling me to do X!” they reason. However, we must be guided by the clear principles of God’s word regardless of how our flesh thinks God is guiding us.

This is especially relevant today when it has become increasingly popular to allow our personal experience to dictate what we believe God is telling us to do or how we are to interpret Scripture.

“Ok, maybe the Bible doesn’t teach this, but it worked out well for me!” is how we are tempted to reason.

Let us learn from David’s example here and hold fast to God’s word.

Psalms 45-47 | Wednesday: This note from the Gospel Transformation Bible is helpful to remember as we read through Psalm 45. The note reminds us that this Psalm was: “Initially descriptive of David’s throne,” However: “this psalm was perfectly fulfilled at Christ’s ascension according to Hebrews 1:5-9…” 

D.A. Carson comments on Psalm 46-47: 

A common theme of Psalms 46 and 47 is the sovereign authority of God over all the nations. He is not some mere tribal deity. He is the Most High (46:4). Nations may be in an uproar; kingdoms rise and fall. But God needs only to lift his voice, and the earth itself melts away (46:6). By his authority desolation works its catastrophic judgment; by his authority wars cease (46:8-9). The Lord Most High is “the great King over all the earth” (47:2, 7). “God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne” (47:8). 

This ensures the security of the covenant community. The surrounding pagan nations may threaten, but if God is in charge, the covenant people of God can testify, “The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (46:7). “He subdued nations under us, peoples under our feet” (47:3). Indeed, as for Jerusalem, the “place where the Most High dwells”: “God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day” (46:4-5). 

The psalmist sees at least two further entailments. First, sooner or later God “will be exalted among the nations” (46:10). “For God is the King of all the earth” (47:7).

These last two references could be understood as a threat rather than a promise of blessing: God will be exalted among these pagan nations in exactly the same way he was exalted by destroying the Egyptian army at the Red Sea.

But in the light of Psalm 47:9 we would probably be unwise to insist on so negative a reading: “The nobles of the nations assemble as the people of the God of Abraham, for the kings of the earth belong to God; he is greatly exalted.”

In other words, one of the entailments of monotheism is that God is the God of all, whether acknowledged as such or not. And one day he will be acknowledged by all; in many cases such acknowledgment will be accompanied by worship and adoration, as the nobles of the nations assemble before God exactly as do the people of the God of Abraham.

To use Paul’s categories, here is the inclusion of Gentiles as Abraham’s sons (cf. Rom. 4:11; Gal. 3:7-9). “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (46:10). 

The second entailment is praise. “Come and see the works of the LORD” (Ps. 46:8). “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. How awesome is the LORD Most High, the great King over all the earth!” (47:1-2). “Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises” (47:6). 

Job 31-32 | Thursday: D.A. Carson gives us a brief summary of Job 31. He says: 

Job 31 is the final chapter of Job’s last response to the three comforters. The closing three chapters of this address (chaps. 29—31) are dominated by two themes. First, Job now bemoans not so much his physical suffering as his loss of face and prestige in the community. He has been a man of dignity and honor; now he is treated with scorn, even by young men from contemptible families (e.g., 30:1).

Second, although all along Job has protested that he is suffering innocently, now he discloses the habits of his life that explain why the opening chapter describes him as “blameless and upright,” a man who “feared God and shunned evil” (1:1). 

Indeed, one of the reasons why Job had been so honored in the community was that his righteousness and generosity were well known: he rescued the poor and the fatherless, assisted the dying, and helped widows (29:12). So also in the present chapter: almost in desperation because of the charges brought against him, Job lays out the evidence of his innocence.

He made a covenant with his eyes “not to look lustfully at a girl” (31:1). He constantly remembered God’s allseeing eye (31:4), and therefore spoke the truth and dealt honestly in business (31:5-8).

He avoided adultery; he dealt equitably with any grievance from his menservants and maidservants, knowing that he himself must one day face God’s justice, and that in any case they are as human as he (31:13-15). Out of the fear of God, he was especially generous with the poor (31:16-23). Despite great wealth, he never trusted it (31:24-28), nor allowed himself to gloat over the misfortunes of others (31:29-30). 

So the chapter ends with Job maintaining his reputation for integrity, and finding no comfort. 

Starting in Job 32 we hear from Elihu for the first time. D.A. Carson tells us that Elihu: 

is a young man who has not spoken until now because the etiquette of the day demanded that the older men speak first. Elihu comes across as a rather bumptious individual who up to this point has only just barely restrained himself from speaking. But now he pours forth words like a torrent (as he himself acknowledges, 32:18-21) and vows that he will treat no one with corrosive flattery (32:22).

Jeremiah 17-21 | Friday: So much of Jeremiah is about idolatry and its consequences. Jeremiah is essentially saying one thing, “If you had made Yahweh your God, then you would be faithful to the Mosaic covenant and would experience all the blessings that God promised there. However, if you turn to the false gods of the other nations, then you will reap all the consequences that come from that choice. All of the curses of the Mosaic covenant will come upon you (for a sampling of these blessings and curses, see Deuteronomy 27-28).

The curses are spoken of primarily as Israel being defeated by the very nations who worship false gods and being shipped off to their land – far from the promised land.

However, Jeremiah 31 makes it clear that God will make a New Covenant that was fulfilled in Jesus, who stood in our place, died in exile under the lash of a foreign army (the Romans), and offers us forgiveness.

Mark 11-12 | Saturday: “The exchange between Jesus and his opponents, reported in Mark 11:27-33,” writes Carson, “is one of the strangest in the four Gospels.”

He continues by telling us that in this passage: 

Jesus ducks their crucial question by asking one of his own, one that they cannot answer for political reasons. Why doesn’t Jesus respond in a straightforward manner? Doesn’t this sound a little like brinkmanship, or, worse, a petty jockeying for power and one-upmanship? At one level, the question of the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders was entirely legitimate.

By what authority does Jesus clear the temple courts, accept the accolades of countless thousands as he is ushered into Jerusalem on a donkey, and preach with robust confidence? His is not the authority of the rabbinic schools, nor of those who hold high ecclesiastical and political office. So what kind of authority is it? 

How might Jesus have responded? If he said he was simply doing these things on his own, he would sound presumptuous and arrogant. He could not name an adequate earthly authority. If he insisted that everything he said and did were the words and deeds of God, they could have had him up on a blasphemy charge.

It is not obvious what true answer he might have given them that would have simultaneously satisfied them and preserved his own safety. 

So Jesus tells them, in effect, that he will answer their question if they will answer one of his: “John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or from men? Tell me!” (11:30). His interlocutors weigh their possible answers on the basis of political expediency. If they say, “From heaven,” they reflect, he will condemn them for not becoming disciples of John. Worse, they cannot fail to see that this is also a setup for the answer to their question.

For after all, John the Baptist pointed to Jesus.

If they acknowledge that John’s ministry is anchored in heaven, and John pointed to Jesus, then Jesus has answered their question; his ministry, too, must have heaven’s sanction behind it.

But if they say, “From men,” they will lose face with the people who cherished John. So they say nothing, and forfeit their right to hear an answer from Jesus (11:31). 

A pair of pastoral implications flow from this exchange. The first is that some people cannot penetrate to Jesus’ true identity and ministry, even when they ask questions that seem to be penetrating, because in reality their minds are made up, and all they are really looking for is ammunition to destroy him.

The second is that sometimes a wise answer is an indirect one that avoids traps while exposing the two-faced perversity of the interlocutor. While Christians should normally be forthright, we should never be naive. 

In Mark 12:28 Jesus is asked: “Which commandment is the most important of all?”

Jesus then responds with these words: 

“The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'” 

Jason DeRouchie comments on this passage and says: 

So we are to love God with our passions, hungers, perceptions, and thoughts. But we are also to love him with how we talk, and what we do with our hands, and how we utilize our talents, and how we react to challenges — our entire being is to display that we love God…

This means that the covenant love we’re called to must be wholehearted, life-encompassing, community-impacting, exclusive commitment to our God. And this God is our God only because he has now revealed himself to us in the person of his Son. This kind of love we should have for him doesn’t exist apart from love for Jesus — for Jesus and the Father are one (John 10:30).

This truth means that every closet of our lives needs to be opened for cleaning, and every relationship in our lives must be influenced. This call to love God this way destroys any option of being one person at church and another person on a date. What you do on the internet needs to be just as pure as what you do in Bible-reading. The way we talk to our parents needs to be as wholesome as the way we talk to our pastors.

There needs to be an authentic love for God that starts with God-oriented affections, desires, and thoughts, that permeates our speaking and behavior, and then influences the way we spend our money and how we dress, and drive, and our forms of entertainment. Whether we’re eating or singing, jogging or blogging, texting or drawing, love for Yahweh — the one true triune God — is to be in action and seen.”

BIBLE 2018 | Week 15

I Corinthians 13-14 | Sunday: The Corinthians were greatly blessed with spiritual gifts. However, they were using these gifts in a fleshly way rather than spiritual. They were using their gifts to show off and to inflate their egos. They thought their gifts were for themselves. However, Paul says that our gifts are for others. We are to use our gifts to love others and serve them, not to show off.

This is why Paul inserts the ‘love chapter’ (1 Corinthians 13) in the middle of this discussion.

In light of this, read these familiar words:

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” (13:1-2)

1 Corinthians 14 is Paul’s attempt to work out the principles of love that he just laid out in actual practice in the Corinthian church. “This is how you are to use these specific gifts for the building up of the body of Christ.”

D.A. Carson has done some careful scholarship on these chapters. You can listen to his lengthy explanation of 1 Corinthians 14:1-15, here and 14:26-40, here.

Exodus 5-8 | Monday: We see Moses obeying God and confronting Pharaoh. However, Pharaoh responds by making the slavery and service of the people of Israel worse. This no doubt made Moses look bad in the eyes of Israel:

“The foremen of the people of Israel saw that they were in trouble. . . . They met Moses and Aaron, who were waiting for them, as they came out from Pharaoh; and they said to them, ‘The Lord look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.’ (Exodus 5:19-21)

What is Moses’ response?

Then Moses turned to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.” (5:22-23)

This is not hard to apply to our own lives. How often have we taken a step of obedience, perhaps even difficult obedience, and yet found that our circumstances actually grew worse as a direct result of our actions.

Moses is confused. Why are things getting worse? Why do I now stink in the eyes of the people I’ve been sent to deliver?

We must learn to trust God’s mysterious ways as we live our lives for Him.

This reminds us of the words of the great hymn by William Cowper called God Moves in a Mysterious Way:

  1. God moves in a mysterious way
    His wonders to perform;
    He plants His footsteps in the sea
    And rides upon the storm.
  2. Deep in unfathomable mines
    Of never failing skill
    He treasures up His bright designs
    And works His sov’reign will.
  3. Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
    The clouds ye so much dread
    Are big with mercy and shall break
    In blessings on your head.
  4. Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
    But trust Him for His grace;
    Behind a frowning providence
    He hides a smiling face.
  5. His purposes will ripen fast,
    Unfolding every hour;
    The bud may have a bitter taste,
    But sweet will be the flow’r.
  6. Blind unbelief is sure to err
    And scan His work in vain;
    God is His own interpreter,
    And He will make it plain.

For an NAC sermon that overviews Exodus and the plagues, see here.

I Samuel 21-25 | Tuesday: 1 Samuel 21-22 is the background to David’s brief yet powerful words in Psalm 142.

For an NAC sermon that gives some of the background of 1 Samuel 21-22 and explains how David’s prayer in Psalm 142 is transformative for him, see here.

Psalms 42-44 | Wednesday: D.A. Carson writes this helpful meditation on Psalm 42: 

“Millions of Christians have sung the words as a chorus. Millions more have meditated on them in their own quiet reading of Scripture: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God” (Ps. 42:1). It is a haunting image. One pictures the buck or the doe, descending through the forest’s perimeter in the half-light of dusk, to slake the thirst of a hot day in the cool waters of a crystal stream. When Christians have applied the image to themselves, they have conjured up a plethora of diverse personal circumstances: semi-mystical longings for a feeling of the transcendent, courageous God-centeredness that flies in the face of cultural opposition, a lonely longing for a sense of God’s presence when the heavens seem as bronze, a placid contentment with our own religious experience, and more. 

But whatever the possible applications of this haunting image, the situation of the deer—and of the psalmist, too, as we shall see—is full of enormous stress. The deer is not sidling up to the stream for the regular supply of refreshment; it is panting for water. The metrical psalter adds the words, “when heated by the chase”; but there is no hint of that here, and the application the psalmist makes would fit less well than another possibility. The psalmist is thinking of a deer panting for refreshing streams of water during a season of drought and famine (as in Joel 1:20). In the same way, he is hungry for the Lord, famished for the presence of God, and in particular hungry to be back in Jerusalem enjoying temple worship, “leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng” (42:4). Instead, he finds himself “downcast” (42:5) because he is way up the Jordan Valley, somewhere near the heights of Hermon, in the far north of the country. 

Here the psalmist must contend with foes who taunt him, not least regarding his faith. They sneer all day long, “Where is your God?” (42:10). The only thing that will satisfy the psalmist is not, finally, Jerusalem and the temple, but God himself. Wherever he finds himself, the psalmist can still declare, “By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life” (42:8). So he encourages himself with these reflections: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (42:11). Sing the chorus, repeat the ancient lines. And draw comfort when you are fighting the bleak bog of despair, and God seems far away.” 

The first part of Psalm 43:4 says: “Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy,” John Piper comments on this verse with these words: “The final goal of life is not forgiveness or any of God’s good gifts. The final goal of life is God himself, experienced as your exceeding joy. Or very literally from the Hebrew, “God, the gladness of my rejoicing.” That is, God, who in all my rejoicing over all the good things that he had made, is himself, in all my rejoicing, the heart of my joy, the gladness of my joy. Every joy that does not have God as the central gladness of the joy is a hollow joy and in the end will burst like a bubble. 

Isn’t this amazing! Here is man threatened by enemies and feeling danger from his adversaries, and yet he knows that the ultimate battle of his life is not the defeat of his enemies, it is not escaping natural catastrophe, it is not being healed from cancer. The ultimate battle is: Will God be his exceeding joy? Will God be the gladness at the heart of all his joys? 

The Gospel Transformation Bible points out that the first 8 verses of Psalm 44:
call believers to confidence because they summarize God’s eternal plan to rescue a people and empower them to “push down” all enemies who serve the Serpent (v. 5; Gen. 3:15). But it must be a humble confidence: the whole plan will be accomplished in such a way as to redound to the praise of the Lord’s “great might” through the “light” which came into darkness, and was the “delight” of his Father.

Job 29-30 | Thursday: Something to keep in mind as we read Job 29 are these words from Christopher Ash:

We too should long, as Job did, for the joy of intimate fellowship with our heavenly Father in Jesus and for the final joy of governing the cleansed and renewed creation in Christ. Such longings, experienced at best in this age, are the yearnings of Spirit-filled hearts. They will not be disappointed.

The experience described by Job in chapter 30 is what Christopher Ash calls:
being trapped in the present tense…The hope of that comes from the memory of the past and hope for the future is removed and replaced by the prison of now. This is what it is to undergo redemptive suffering. The experience of Job only makes ultimate sense when it is understood as a foreshadowing of the redemptive suffering of Jesus Christ.

Jeremiah 12-16 | Friday: Jeremiah 12 and 15 both show us a wonderful model of pouring out our complaint before the Lord. Jeremiah is obeying Yahweh and yet finding himself broken hearted over the apparent lack of success of his ministry and the ‘success’ of the false prophets who prophesy lies.

Let us learn from Jeremiah how to process our emotions before the Lord.

To get a better grasp on false teachers and false teaching, read these words carefully from Jeremiah 14:

13 Then I said: “Ah, Lord God, behold, the prophets say to them, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.’” 14 And the Lordsaid to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds. 15 Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who prophesy in my name although I did not send them, and who say, ‘Sword and famine shall not come upon this land’: By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed. 16 And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem, victims of famine and sword, with none to bury them—them, their wives, their sons, and their daughters. For I will pour out their evil upon them.

Notice how the false teachers are telling people exactly what they want to hear. “You shall not see the sword” but rather you’ll experience “peace in this place.”

What does this tell us about false teachers today? Think about Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

Mark 9-10 | Saturday: Paul Tripp provides some wisdom when he comments on Mark 9:14-29 with these words: 

At the bottom of the mountain Jesus walks into an argument and when he asks what the argument is about, the father of the boy with the unclean spirit says, “I asked your disciples to cast out this spirit and they were not able.”  Later in the passage Jesus tells us why; the disciples actually tried to deliver this poor little boy without praying.  Let it sink in.  They didn’t pray! You read it right, they didn’t pray!  They tried to defeat the powerfully destructive evil that had taken over this boy in their own strength.  Did they really think they the had that kind of independent power over evil?  It’s shocking! 

Jesus’ rebuke is brief, but stinging.  He is essentially saying, “When will you realize that you have no independent, self-sufficient ability to defeat evil on your own; none whatsoever?  This is exactly why you need the powerful grace and glory that was revealed on the mountain just a few hours ago.” 

Now, don’t be too quick to condemn the disciples.  I think there is a whole lot of prayerless Christianity in the church of Jesus Christ.  I think we often try to defeat, in our own strength, things that we have no capacity whatsoever to defeat.  We attempt to do, in our own power, things that we have no ability to do without empowering grace.  A husband and wife will attempt a difficult conversation without prayer.  A dad will attempt to have a constructive talk with his rebellious teenage son, but it never hits him that he should pray first.  A student tries to matriculate his way through a secular university without prayer.  When we face temptation we try to muster up the strength we need not to give in, instead of running in weakness to our gracious and powerful Savior. 

You see, if you had the ability to defeat evil on your own, Jesus would wouldn’t have had to come to live and die for your sake. So, prayer remembers the lesson of his coming and calls you to abandon your reliance on you and rest in the power of the One who invaded your weakness with his grace. And it is important to remember that the evil which most often troubles and defeats you is not the evil outside of you, but the evil inside of you.  If the evil inside is your biggest problem, then you need to pray for rescue again and again and again because you have no ability at all to escape you!  The rebuke for prayerless self-reliance is one each of us needs again and again. 

So, because we don’t always see evil as evil and because we try to defeat it again and again in our own strength, your Lord will come to you again and again with warning and rebuke.  His gracious warning and rebuke are for your protection and your rescue.  Anytime your Lord opens your eyes to see evil for what it is and anytime he exposes yourself sufficiency for what it is, he is wrapping arms of faithful redemptive love around you.  Love warns, love rebukes.  Each expresses the fatherly grace of your faithful and persistent Savior.” 

The note from the Gospel Transformation Bible for Mark 10:13-16 tells us that:

A follower of Christ must search his heart regarding human beings who are ill-regarded in the prevailing ethic, racial, or social environment. The kingdom of God opposes such “profiling.” Every human being is made in the image of God and therefore has innate dignity, and thus ought not to be undervalued; and every Christian is still a fallen person and therefore ought not to overvalue himself.”