Galatians 4-6 | Sunday: Galatians is an extremely important book. Paul’s point has been that justification (right standing before God) is obtained by faith in Jesus and not by works of the law. In chapter 5 Paul contrasts the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit.
For an overview of Galatians, listen to an NAC sermon here.
Exodus 37-40 | Monday: Exodus ends with the glory of the Lord filling the temple. Essentially the terrifying presence of God that caused the storm on Sinai has come off the mountain and is now in the very midst of God’s people (the tabernacle would be in the middle of the camp). This is the first time God has dwelt among His people in this kind of way really since Adam and Eve were in Eden.
This is a massive moment in redemptive history.
The reason God inspired so many detailed chapters about the blue prints for the tabernacle and then its construction (about 1/4 of Exodus is about this) is because the greatest blessing God can give His people is not freedom from Pharaoh or even the Red Sea crossing. Those are all vital, but they are means to this end: that God dwells among His people again.
The story ends with a surprise. Even Moses is not about to enter the tabernacle because of the glory of God shining in it. If Moses can’t enter, who can? Thus we are prepared for the book of Leviticus which picks up immediately following the last verses of Exodus. We need a blood sacrifice to make a ‘clean space’ for God’s presence to dwell safely among us.
See this video which beautifully and briefly (5 mins) shows the ending of Exodus.
I Kings 5-9 | Tuesday: 1 Kings 6 is a description of the temple that Solomon built. 1 Kings 8 is the dedication ceremony where Solomon speaks and prays as the glory of the Lord fills this temple.
A careful reading of chapter 8 will teach us much about Israel’s purpose in the Old Testament era and the purpose of the physical temple. Note carefully the connection of these things to the nations.
Psalms 66-68 | Wednesday: D.A. Carson gives a stirring reflection on Psalm 68. He starts by telling us that:
Psalm 68 is one of the most exuberant and boisterous psalms in the Psalter. The opening lines mingle praise and petition that focus on God’s justice and compassion (68:1-6). The next verses (68:7-18) picture the march of God from Sinai on—probably on to Jerusalem as the place where the tabernacle would be sited.
Some have argued that this psalm was composed to be sung for the joyous procession that brought the ark from the house of Obed-Edom to the city of David (2 Sam. 6:12). Probably verses 24-27 lay out the cavalcade of participants in the procession as they come into view, bringing the ark up to Jerusalem (compare the list with 1 Chron. 13:8; 15:16-28). So great is the glory of the Lord reigning in Jerusalem that all the other nations are envisaged as coming to do homage to him.
The psalm ends with an explosive fanfare of praise (68:32-35): “You are awesome, O God, in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people” (68:35).
But here I wish to reflect a little further on 68:11: “The Lord announced the word, and great was the company of those who proclaimed it.” In the context of this psalm, the “word” that the Lord announced is the word of victory. We are to envisage some such scene as 2 Samuel 18:19ff., where a victorious general announces his victory—only here the victory belongs to the Lord, and he is the One who announces the word.
The result is as in 1 Samuel 18:6-7: the streets fill with people who are dancing and singing for joy at the victory. When the Lord announced the word, “great was the company of those who proclaimed it”—and what they proclaimed is found in the following verses.
All of the Lord’s victories deserve our praise and our proclamation. That is why the victories envisaged here become a pattern for things to come. When the Lord announces that he will reverse the sanctions imposed on Israel, the good news is to be carried to the ends of the earth: the fleet messengers who convey such good news have beautiful feet (Isa. 52:7; see meditation for June 20).
Small wonder, then, that the apostle Paul quotes Isaiah 52:7 with respect to the Gospel (Rom. 10:15): the ultimate end of the exile, the ultimate triumph of God, lies in the Gospel itself. As in the case of the beautiful feet pounding across the mountains to bring the good news, and as in the case of the company of those who proclaimed the word the Lord announced, so also with us (and how much more so!): the only right response to the word of the glorious victory of God in the cross of Jesus Christ is that there be a great company to proclaim it.
Proverbs 2-3 | Thursday: D.A. Carson gives us a reflection on Proverbs 3:
Proverbs 3 includes several well-known passages. well-known passages. Many Christians have been told not to be wise in their own eyes (3:7). The passage that likens the Lord’s discipline of believers to a father’s discipline of the son he delights in (3:11-12) reappears in the New Testament (Heb. 12:5-6). Growing up in a Christian home, I was frequently told, “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding. . . . She [wisdom] is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her” (3:13, 15). Wisdom is either God’s plan or the personified means of establishing the entire created order (3:19-20).
But first place should go to 3:5-6, enshrined on many walls and learned by countless generations of Sunday school students: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Observe: (1) The first part of this familiar text attacks the independence at the root of all sin. Our own understanding is insufficient and frequently skewed. The only right path is to trust in the Lord. Such trust in the Lord is not an ethereal subjectivism; it is the kind of whole-life commitment (“with all your heart,” Solomon says) that abandons self-centered perspectives for the Lord’s perspectives. In the context of biblical religion, that means learning and knowing what the Lord’s will is, and obeying it regardless of whether or not it is the “in” thing to do. Far from being an appeal to subjective guidance, this trusting the Lord with your whole heart entails meditating on his word, hiding that word in your heart, learning to think God’s thoughts after him—precisely so that you do not lean on your own understanding.
Joshua was required to learn that lesson at the beginning of his leadership (Josh. 1:6-9). The kings of Israel were supposed to learn it (Deut. 17:18-20), but rarely did. (2) The second couplet, “in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight,” demands more than that we acknowledge that God exists and that he is in providential control, or some such thing. It means we must so acknowledge him that his ways and laws and character shape our choices and direct our lives. In all your ways, then, acknowledge him—not exclusively in some narrow religious sphere, but in all the dimensions of your life. The alternative is to disown him.
Thus the second couplet is essentially parallel to the first. The result is a straight course, directed by God himself.”
Lamentations | Friday: Lamentations was almost certainly written by Jeremiah, the weeping prophet. This is after Jerusalem’s destruction under Babylon in 586 BC. This is the greatest moment of judgment in Israel’s history.
The book is actually a carefully constructed acrostic poem. It shows us how to grieve in the midst of terrible loss and yet maintain hope (see chapter 3).
Lamentations consists of five distinct poems, corresponding to its five chapters. The first four are written as acrostics – chapters 1, 2, and 4 each have 22 verses, corresponding to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, the first lines beginning with the first letter of the alphabet, the second with the second letter, and so on. Chapter 3 has 66 verses, so that each letter begins three lines, and the fifth poem is not acrostic but still has 22 lines. The purpose or function of this form is unknown. One possibility is that the long center chapter is for emphasis, and although it remains a lament has the most references to hope in the midst of the tragedy.
(While it’s not normally the place to go for Bible info, the source of this quote is: Wikipedia)
Luke 9-10 | Saturday: Jesus says in Luke 9:62: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
What happens when a farmer, who is plowing a field, keeps turning around to look at what he has just plowed? Can you imagine what the furrows would look like? They would zig-zag across the field. It would be as if a drunken man was in charge of that plow…Jesus said, ‘If you want to plow, if you want to have a harvest, you have got to plow a straight line.’ And so it is with the kingdom of God.
All those who would have God, who would press on to that kingdom, must have their eyes fixed on Christ, on his kingdom and on his future.