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.”
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.”
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.”
“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?
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?”