Romans 3-4 | Sunday: These may be the two clearest and most important chapters in the Bible for understanding the core of the gospel message. In chapter 3, Paul explains the good news in vivid clarity. In chapter 4, Paul gives a powerful Old Testament argument to defend this message. You can almost hear Paul saying, “I didn’t invent this! It’s as old as Abraham and David!”
Genesis 4-7 | Monday: If Genesis 1-2 shows us the “very good” creation God made, then Genesis 3-11 shows us how quickly human sin creates a “very bad” downward spiral of corruption. First, God’s word is put in subordination to human reason (ch. 3); then the first person ever born becomes the first murderer (Cain, ch. 4); then the world’s first polygamist arrives who also is a boastful murderer like Cain (Lamech, ch. 4); since sin has brought death into the human race, watch for how the genealogy repeatedly uses the phrase “and then he died” (ch. 5); human depravity reaches its peak and so the flood is promised (ch. 6).
In Genesis 6:5-9, note that Noah “found favor (grace) in the eyes of the Lord” and is only afterward called a “righteous man.” Noah was not saved by works, but by grace. God’s grace/favor changed his life.
For a fantastic brief overview of Genesis 1-11, see the Bible Project here.
You can listen to an NAC sermon on Cain and Abel here.
Joshua 6-10 | Tuesday: These chapters really zoom in on the taking of two cities: Jericho and Ai. Jericho is taken successfully because the people trust fully in the Lord and obey His commands. However, Israel is defeated at Ai because of disobedience among the Israelites (Achan’s sin). This sets the stage for the rest of the book: Israel will succeed only in the strength of the Lord as they walk in obedience to His commands. Human strength and ingenuity are worthless on their own. How does this theme apply to your life this week?
QUESTION: What are we to make of the killing of the Canaanites?
My guess is this section leaves many readers today scratching their heads. Where is the all-encompassing love of God? Why so much violence and bloodshed by the Lord’s own command? We don’t claim to have a brief answer that will satisfy all questions. A few initial things can be said, however.
First, whenever an atheist objects and says, “It was immoral, wicked, and evil for the Israelites to kill the Canaanites!” just remember: they have no grounds, basis, or standard for their moral indictment.
“It was evil!” Says who?
“It was wrong!” By what standard?
A consistent atheist cannot speak of genuine evil. A universe without God has no intelligent design, no purpose, no meaning, and therefore no objective standard of right and wrong.
My favorite brief response to this was when Douglas Wilson (Christian pastor) was debating Christopher Hitchens (atheist writer). Doug essentially said, “I (as a Christian) have no problem with the killing of the Amalekites, because God told them to do it. You (as an atheist) have no problem with the killing of the Amalekites either, because the universe just doesn’t care. In a meaningless universe, who cares what happens to Amalekites?”
Second, much like the flood that destroyed the earth in Noah’s day and the fire that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah in Lot’s day, the destruction of the Canaanites points to the final judgment God will bring on all in this world who reject His rule and trust in false gods. (Apart from Jesus, this is all of us.)
Third, the Canaanites were guilty of great evil against the Lord. The wages of sin is death, and they certainly qualified for God’s judgment. However, the Lord gave them an additional 500 years to repent and they did not (see Genesis 15:13-16).
Tim Keller shares some thoughts on this:
“First, God alone has the right to judge people—only he knows what they deserve and what they will do if not stopped. He alone has the right to take a life.
“Second, in ‘holy war’ Israel did not seek to imperialistically expand its wealth and power but acted as an instrument of God’s judgment on a particular set of people.
“Third, if you believe in the authority of the Bible as the only infallible way to know God’s will for us—then holy war today is impossible. God gives no warrant for it. That’s what we see when reading the Bible is read as a whole, with the New Testament completing and fulfilling the Old. Jesus specifically forbids Christians to take up the sword in his name, to spread the Christian faith by force.”
Quote from here.
For a very helpful article on this whole issue, see Justin Taylor here.
Psalm 3-5 | Wednesday: Thoughts on Psalm 3. “David’s son Absalom was trying to kill him. The seeds of that family dysfunction are David’s own fault. He had wanted Absalom’s love so much he never corrected him, even when Absalom murdered one of his brothers. Now David is fleeing to save his own life. In this prayer he realizes that neither a son’s love nor popular acclaim can serve as a person’s worth or security. David relocates his glory and hope to God and finds peace despite danger. God is the only one who sustains you, whether an army is pursuing you or you are at home in your own bed. God sustains every breath you take” (The Songs of Jesus, p. 4).
Also, think about how Psalm 5:5 and John 3:16 can both be true.
Job 3-4 | Thursday: We are often tempted to skip from Job 2 to Job 38. However, chapters 3-37 are meant, in part, to teach us how to grieve. Chapter 3 is a wonderful example of pouring out our bitter complaint before the Lord. Job’s brutal honesty may startle us, but notice that all of his grief is spoken directly to the Lord.
Don’t waste your sorrows . . . pray them.
Isaiah 7-11 | Friday: This passage is important but confusing. With the exception of a few familiar verses (7:14; 9:6-7), we can feel pretty lost here. So what’s happening?
God tells Isaiah the prophet to speak to Ahaz the (not-so-great) king of Judah (the Southern Kingdom). Ahaz is terrified because he has heard that two kings are teaming up to defeat him. One is Pekah, the king of the Northern Kingdom (also called Israel, Samaria, Ephraim, Zebulun, and Naphtali in these chapters – which makes it confusing!). The other king is Rezin, king of Syria, which is just north east of the Northern Kingdom.
King Azah is a physical descendant of King David, yet does not trust in the Lord. He has already planned to find his security and protection in another massive nation – namely, Assyria. Isaiah asks King Azah to ask the Lord for a sign that the Lord will defend Judah. Azah refuses to ask for a sign because his heart is already set on disobeying God and trusting in the Assyrian super power instead. Isaiah says a sign is coming in the form of a child (7:1-16).
Chapter 8 begins by saying that Isaiah will have a son. Before this son is just a few years old, the two kings that are currently threatening Judah will be entirely defeated. How? God is going to turn Assyria against them and defeat them. However, Assyria is not just going to defeat the two northern kings from Israel and Syria. She is also going to become like an overflowing river and will flood the borders of Judah and eventually defeat most of the Southern Kingdom. Assyria is compared to a flood coming up to Ahaz’s neck (Isaiah 8:5-10). This is the major event we discussed so much in the Micah series which took place in 701 BC.
What does this have to do with Jesus?
Well, quite a bit actually. The destroyed region north of Judah (Samaria and Galilee) is put under God’s judgment and placed into spiritual and cultural darkness. What hope do they have? When will light ever dawn on them? To find out, read Isaiah 9:1-7, Isaiah 11:1-9, and then read next Saturday’s passage carefully, especially Matthew 7:12-25!
Matthew 3-4 | Saturday: Matthew’s literary genius is on full display in these chapters. Watch as he paints a picture of Jesus as the true and better Moses and Israel. Notice all the similarities: Jesus and Moses are hunted in infancy by a political tyrant; called out of Egypt by God; pass through the waters before spending 40 (days/years) in the wilderness being tempted. Compare the three ways Jesus is tempted (and succeeds!) with the three ways Israel was tempted (and failed).