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.
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.