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?”

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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.”

BIBLE 2018 | Week 14

March 30, 2018 | Mark and Scott McAndrew

I Corinthians 11-12 | Sunday: 1 Corinthians 11 is a very challenging passage. Should women wear head coverings today when they pray? What does it mean that “nature itself teaches” that its a disgrace for a man to have long hair?

The best single in-depth analysis of this passage I’ve seen is by Tom Schreiner, here.

1 Corinthians 12 is about unity in the gospel rather than disunity in pride. Paul writes,

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

The Corinthians were comparing themselves with one another. They would boast, “I can teach better than you!” “I can speak in tongues more than you!” “I can prophesy more than you!” etc. Paul essentially says, “Listen, there are all kinds of gifts, but only one Spirit who gives them. He didn’t give us spiritual gifts so we could make much of ourselves but to love others with our gifts.

This is why the next chapter is the “love chapter.”

For a very helpful lecture on 1 Corinthians 12 called “The Unity of the Body and the Diversity of Gifts”, see this by D.A. Carson.

Exodus 1-4 | Monday: Exodus reminds us of Genesis in many ways. God told Adam and Eve to be “fruit” and “multiply.” Now Israel is being fruitful in the land and increasing greatly.

In Exodus 1 we see God’s hatred of the equivalent of abortion. We also see how He honors the Hebrew midwives who help save the Israelite infants after birth. Scripture names them (Shiphrah and Puah), but never names Pharaoh.

In Exodus 2 we see the birth and early life of Moses, which in many ways gives us a preview of the early life of the “Prophet who is to come” who will mirror Moses in so many ways.

I Samuel 16-20 | Tuesday: In these chapters see Samuel anoint David in light of the fact that he will one day be king and his defeat of Goliath.

“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart‘” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Jerry Ediger helps us meditate on the above passage here.

For a video message on David and Goliath and how these events point toward Christ, see especially the second half of this message by Keller.

Psalms 39-41 | Wednesday: The Gospel Transformation Bible has some helpful notes on Psalm 39, 40, & 41. For Psalm 39 the notes tell us that this Psalm:

“is the cry of one who suddenly feels the futility and shortness of his own time on earth. Indeed, the fall in Genesis 3 did introduce a futility and frustration into our earthly lives. In the gospel, however, we are promised that this earthly life is not all we have. Rather, those united to Christ stand to inherit the entire world (Matt. 5:5; 25:34; 1 Cor. 3:21). Here and now, we are ‘sojourners,’ strangers (Ps. 39:12). But it will not always be so.” 

The notes for Psalm 40 point out that verses 12-17:
 
“poignantly anticipate Christ’s own Gethsemane experience and death on the cross. The Priest himself became sin on our behalf. That substitution must move our hearts to “love (his) salvation” and to “say continually, ‘Great is the LORD!'” (vv. 12-17). Believers should read through this psalm first with the effort to make it their own prayer. Then we should read it again with the comfort that, because Christ prayed it perfectly, he can enable his disciples where our faith is weak.” 
The notes for Psalm 41 tell us that David in this Psalm is voicing:
 
“every person’s need for redeeming grace. All are physically ‘poor’ (v. 1). If that realization does not dawn on us through the ‘sickbed’ (v. 3), it will certainly come whenever we face death (v. 2). Such experiences should drive us to David’s Greater Son, who came to provide holistic salvation. Jesus went about healing in his day to provide a foretaste for what life in his future kingdom would look like (Luke 4:17-19; James 5:15).”

Job 27-28 | Thursday: D.A. Carson again provides helpful insight on the book of Job. He says this about Job 27: 

“Here are all the tensions in Job’s position. Job puts himself under an oath (“As surely as God lives”) to make his point. He will never admit his opponents are right, for this would mean denying that he has lived his life with integrity:

‘Till I die, I will not deny my integrity. I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live’ (27:5-6).

But ironically, the God by whom Job swears, whose greatness Job has praised in chapter 26, the God who provides the very breath in Job’s nostrils (27:3), is also, Job insists, the God “who has denied me justice, the Almighty, who has made me taste bitterness of soul” (27:2-3).

More irony: this does not mean that God is corrupt or unjust. Job recognizes that God calls unjust and wicked people to account (27:7-10)—often in this life (27:11-23), but finally in death. This is not Job’s final position, of course; the drama is not yet over.” 

Then he comments on Job 28 with these words: 

“People do not often understand just how rare real wisdom is. According to chapter 28, Job understands. The chapter is a poetic reflection on this very theme: ‘But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell?’ (28:12).
 
Job lists the places wisdom is not found and concludes, ‘It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing, concealed even from the birds of the air. Destruction and Death say, ‘Only a rumor of it has reached our ears’ (28:21-22). Where then is wisdom found? ‘God understands the way to it and he alone knows where it dwells, for he views the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens’ (28:23-24). And what is God’s own summary? ‘The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding” (28:28). Doubtless in the context of the book of Job this chapter accomplishes several things. It pricks the pretensions of the ‘comforters’ who think themselves so wise.  
 
It demonstrates that despite his protests, Job is still profoundly God-centered in all his thinking. Even while he publicly raises questions about God’s fairness in his own case, Job insists that all wisdom finally rests in God. Moreover, because such wisdom is irretrievably tied to shunning evil, Job demonstrates by his poetic utterance that not only does he retain humility of mind before the Almighty, but his commitment to righteous living is profoundly tied to his faith in God’s wisdom, to his own sheer God-centeredness.” 

Jeremiah 7-11 | Friday: These chapters of Jeremiah pick up the themes from last week’s reading. The prophet is lamenting the idolatry of his own people. He knows how dishonoring this is to the Lord and what the consequences of this will be; namely, the eventual destruction of Jerusalem under the hand of foreign armies who worship false gods themselves.

Mark 7-8 | Saturday: In Mark 7 Jesus responds to the Pharisee’s with these words: “ And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, 

“‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

Matthew Henry points out that the Pharisee’s:

“pretend it is for the glory of God that they impose those things…but really their heart is far from God, and is governed by nothing but ambition and covetousness. They would be thought hereby to appropriate themselves as a holy people to the Lord their God, when really it is the furthest thing in their thought.”  

How do we fight against honoring the Lord with our lips when our heart is far from Him, or how do we fight to keep our hearts close to Christ? John Piper is helpful when he says:

“And the answer would seem to be that we get up in the morning and we get our hearts fixed on Christ. We go to him and renew our satisfaction in him through his word. And then we enter the day seeking to express and increase that satisfaction in all that God is for us in Jesus.”  

John Piper points out something that is repeated in Mark 8, 9, & 10, when he says:
Three times in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus tells his disciples in detail that he is going to Jerusalem to be killed and to rise from the dead. I want you to feel the force of this. So let’s read all three. 
 
First, Mark 8:31: “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.” 
 
Second, Mark 9:31: “He was teaching his disciples, saying to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.’” 
 
Third, Mark 10:33–34: “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” 
 
One thing is clear. This is important to Mark and to Jesus. At least four things stand out in each foretelling of Jesus’ suffering. One is that he is going to die. Second, this death is intentional. He intends it. He means for it to happen. He is not running from it, but walking into it. Third, it will not be suicide; it will be murder. And the murderers are mentioned in each text. Fourth, he will rise from the dead. Not at some uncertain time in the future like us, but precisely in three days. His death is appointed and his resurrection is appointed. They will happen on schedule. 
 
What is not mentioned in each of those texts is why. Mark gives us the clearest statement of that after the three predictions. In Mark 10:45, Jesus says, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” This is the great central fact of history and of our lives. Jesus, the Son of Man, the exalted human, divine God-man, came—was sent by God the Father—to give his life as a ransom for many.
 
Our sin had, as it were, kidnapped us and put us in a prison of our own making, far from God, in the chains of iniquity, under God’s holy wrath, and powerless to free ourselves. One of the images the Bible uses for our liberation is ransom. A ransom had to be paid. 
 
But listen to Psalm 49:7–8, “Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice.”
 
n other words, no mere man can ransom another man’s soul. And you can’t ransom your own. Then listen to verse 15 of that psalm: “But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol.” Man can’t. God will.

BIBLE 2018 | Week 13

March 23, 2018 | Mark and Scott McAndrew

I Corinthians 9-10 | Sunday: 1 Corinthians 9 speaks of Paul’s passionate evangelism. He is willing to bend his preferences toward the unbelievers he is around in order to open up a clear path for the gospel.

1 Corinthians 10 warns us to “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (v 12-13).

Paul uses the story of the nation of Israel in the wilderness wandering as an example of people who began well but ended poorly.

Genesis 48-50 | Monday: Genesis 50:20 is very significant. Joseph says to his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” For a great 30 second summary of the meaning of this verse in context, see here.

For an NAC sermon on Genesis 50, see here.

I Samuel 11-15 | Tuesday: 1 Samuel 11-15 tells the story of Saul’s downward spiral toward losing his dynasty. Instead of his son Jonathan becoming king in his place, he learns that the kingdom will be taken from his lineage and given to another – namely, David.

This shows us that, along with Sunday’s reading, that we can start off well and end poorly. Read Saul’s story as an example of what not to do ourselves.

Psalms 36-38 | Wednesday: Tim Keller comments on Psalm 36 by telling us that: 

“Fearing God (verse 1) is not mere belief in him. It is to be so filled with joyful awe before the magnificence of God that we tremble at the privilege of knowing, serving, and pleasing him. Sin shrugs at God. It’s essence is failing to believe not that he exists but that he matters. This attitude is deadly.

Fear of God and self-understanding grow or diminish together. Indifference toward God is a form of self-conceit (verse 2) and self-deception (verse 2). To feel no need for God is to be out of touch with reality—such people have ‘ceased to be wise’ (verse 3). What starts as mere overconfidence can grow into dishonesty and cruelty (verse 4). Sin is spiritual cancer.” 

Keller in one of his devotionals on Psalm 37 says:
“Fretting is a common activity of our age. It is composed of worry, resentment, jealousy, and self-pity. It is dominant online. It chews us up inside while accomplishing nothing. David gives three practical remedies. Look forward (verse 2)—those whose main happiness is found in this world are living on borrowed time. Look upward (verses 3-5)—neither repress nor vent your frustrations but redirect them to God. Leave your burdens in his hand (‘commit’) and learn to find your heart’s deepest desires in who he is and what he has done (‘delight’). Finally, get busy with the things that must be done—’do good’ (verse 3). 
This short prayer from John Newton goes well with Psalm 38. Newton writes:
“Approach, my soul, the mercy seat, where Jesus answers prayer; there humbly fall before His feet, for none can perish there. Bowed down beneath a load of sin, by Satan sorely pressed, by war without and fears within, I come to Thee for rest.” 
Job 25-26 | Thursday: D.A. Carson gives some brief comments on Job 25 and 26: 

“The last speech from Job’s ‘miserable comforters’ is that of Bildad (Job 25), and it is pathetically short because even he now recognizes that he has nothing new to say, and neither do his friends. Job’s answer is long and complex (chaps. 26—31), as if he is determined to drive his friends into silence. Some of it is mere review.

The opening chapter (Job 26) finds Job mocking these ‘comforters’ for their callousness, the sterility of their counsel in the face of suffering like Job’s. It also finds him agreeing with them regarding God’s unfathomable power.

After a breathtaking review of God’s powerful deeds, Job concludes, ‘And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power’ (26:14). While the ‘comforters’ charge Job with reducing God to impotence, Job so insists on God’s transcendent power that he entertains the view that God is distant.” 

Jeremiah 1-6 | Friday: Jeremiah spends most of these first six chapters describing the sin of Israel as a kind of spiritual adultery. Sin is trying to find pleasure/satisfaction in anything other than God or in anything divorced from God. The prophet gives a classic definition of evil in 2:12-13:

“Be appalled, O heavens, at this;
    be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the Lord,
for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
    the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
    broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

How is this understanding of evil somewhat surprising? Think through the implications of this passage as it relates to evil in your life.

Mark 5-6 | Saturday: Mark 5 tells the story of Jesus casting out many demons from a man who: “lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had strength to subdue him.”

Toward the end of this story in Mark 5 the text says:

“As he (Jesus) was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’ And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.” 

Some questions to consider in light of God’s mercy and grace towards us as we think through this passage, would be these:

When was the last time that we told someone how much the Lord has done for us? When was the last time we told someone about God’s mercy to us? Charles Spurgeon would remind us:

“If Jesus has done great things for you do not keep it to yourself…be ever ready to speak of it, till all men shall know what Christ can do.” 

If we haven’t talked about God’s mercy and His grace towards us, it might be that in some sense we have lost the wonder and awe of God’s mercy and grace. I love this story that Barbara Hughes tells: 

“I will never forget the day fifteen years ago when a young woman named Carol who had received Christ as Savior only a few weeks earlier came to Bible study for the second time. She sat, with her borrowed Bible in her hand, in a circle of women who were well-versed in the Scriptures. Carol quietly listened as the study questions were answered. 

When there was a lull in the conversation, Carol said with great enthusiasm, “I found the most wonderful verse last night!” All those Christian women turned their attention to this baby believer.  

Slowly and reverently she began to read:

‘For God . . . so loved . . . the world . . . that He . . . gave . . . His one . . . and only . . . Son . . . that whoever . . . believes . . . in him . . . shall not perish . . . but have eternal life.’

The quiet in the room was palpable. She was reading John 3:16—a verse many believers memorize from childhood and can prattle off in seconds—but she was reading it as it should be read, as if each word were a holy treasure. Around the circle eyes began to glisten as Carol’s awe of the Gospel laid bare the shame of those of us whose senses had been dulled to its wonder. 

Never lose the wonder of the Gospel! Never imagine that you have outgrown it…It ought to be the true center of our living—defining, motivating, and satisfying us.” 

The Gospel Transformation Bible includes these notes on Mark 6:

“Through the cross and the empty tomb, toward which the entire Gospel of Mark is hurtling, Jesus decisively accomplishes the inauguration of the kingdom of God. The early manifestations of this kingdom, seen in healings, exorcisms, and miracles, anticipate the final and greatest “clinching” of the kingdom: Jesus’ death and resurrection. 

There the kingdom of darkness is dealt its deathblow. Victory is secured. The outcome is certain.”

BIBLE 2018 | Week 12

March 16, 2018 | Mark and Scott McAndrew

I Corinthians 7-8 | Sunday: 1 Corinthians 7 has fascinated me (Mark) for many years now. It is a long chapter with a whole lot of helpful insights on singleness, marriage and remarriage after the death of a spouse.

I think one of the important points to mention is that Paul is not demanding singleness in this chapter. Paul is speaking into a society where singleness was largely frowned upon and somewhat rare (with widowhood being the exception).

Paul may be encouraging believers to consider the single life because of present persecution they may have been facing (that is one way to understand 7:25-26).

Don’t forget Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 4:1-5.

Genesis 44-47 | Monday: Much like last week, we spent four Sundays on these four chapters. Critically important, yet often overlooked, is the transformation of Judah in chapter 44. It’s hard to overstate how important this is to the story of the Bible. Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. For more on this, see the first sermon listed below.

Genesis 45 shows is that God is sovereign even over the evil deeds of those who sin against us. In Joseph’s own words to his treacherous brothers, “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. . . . And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God.” (v. 5, 7-8).

Joseph’s statements are breathtaking and worthy of much thought and meditation. What does this mean about the evils that we endure in our own lives? For more on this, see the second sermon below.

Genesis 46 contains another fascinating parallel to Christ. Here the brothers are told to go tell the good news that the beloved son who was thought to be dead is now alive. For more, see sermon three below.

Genesis 46-48 is about when God interrupts our plans. “God puts us in desperate places in order to make us desperate for Him.” For more, see sermon four below.

1) For an NAC sermon on Genesis 44 (the transformation of Judah), see here.

2) For an NAC sermon on Genesis 45 (the total sovereignty of God over evil), see here.

3) For an NAC sermon on Genesis 45-46 (go and tell the good news!), see here.

4) For an NAC sermon on Genesis 46-48 (when God interrupts your plans), see here.

I Samuel 6-10 | Tuesday: Here we see the people of Israel ask for a king:

So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”

But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

-1 Samuel 8:4-9

If Judges ended showing how badly Israel needed a king, why was it wrong for Israel to ask God for a king?

The answer is surely their motive.

They did not want a human king who would righteously reflect God’s holy character. No, they wanted a human king so that they would look and be just like the other nations.

To quote Vaughan Roberts: “The problem is that Israel wanted a king instead of God rather than a king under God.”

The Lord responds by giving them exactly what they want. If Israel wants a king who will make them like the other nations, then a worldly king they will get.

Psalms 33-35 | Wednesday: Psalm 33 begins like this: 

“Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous! 
    Praise befits the upright. 
Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; 
    make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! 
Sing to him a new song; 
    play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.”

 

Tim Keller comments on this Psalm with these words:

“Praise is inner health made audible…. [W]e were created not for praise in general but to worship something supremely, to have our thoughts and hearts captivated. We need to draw our hearts from fixation on other things and become enraptured with the beauty of the Lord. One of the main ways to do this is to use skillful music in our worship and private devotion.” 

John Piper has written a short devotional on Psalm 34:8 (Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!), which you can read here.

 

The Gospel Transformation Bible contains some helpful notes on Psalm 35: 

“Surrendering all vengeance to Christ means that Christians are prepared even to suffer, if that is how Christ chooses to defeat their enemies. Their constant prayer must be that all of Chirst’s enemies would be conquered first by conversion….

Whatever difficulties imprecatory psalms such as this one raise, the ultimate truth they teach is that the curses David pronounces really should fall on us. Our sin deserves cursing. But such curses have fallen instead on the Savior.

He substituted himself in our place, so that the Father can truly say to our souls, ‘I am your salvation!'”

Job 23-24 | Thursday: In Job 22 we begin the final round of speeches between Job and his “miserable comforters.” D.A. Carson once again provides helpful insight.  

The comforters have nothing new to say, and are winding down. Job’s persistent defense of his integrity, though it does not convince them, grinds them into sullen silence. Eliphaz’s last speech (Job 22), though it extends the limits of his poetic imagery, does not extend the argument; it merely restates it... 

While he responds with some arguments he has used before, Job embarks on a new line of thought (Job 23). He does not now charge God with injustice but with absence, with inaccessibility: “If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling!” (23:3). This is not a longing to escape and go to heaven; it is a passionate and frustrated desire to present his case before the Almighty (23:4).

Job is not frightened that God will respond with terrifying power and crush him (23:6); he is frightened, rather, that God will simply ignore him. 

However, no geographical search Job can undertake will find God (23:8-9). Job’s words are quite unlike the modern literary protest that God is so absent that he must be dead. Job is not “waiting for Godot.” His faith in God is at one level unwavering. He is perfectly convinced that God knows where Job is, and knows all about the fundamental integrity of his life (23:9-11).

This integrity is not the bravado of a self-defined independent; Job has carefully followed the words of God, cherishing them more than his daily food (23:12). 

That is why God’s absence is not only puzzling, but terrifying (23:13-17). Job’s continued confidence in God’s sovereignty and knowledge are precisely what he finds so terrifying, for the empirical evidence is that, at least in this life, the just can be crushed and the wicked may escape. The “comforters” claim that Job should be afraid of God’s justice; Job himself is frightened by God’s absence. 

When such days come, it is vital to remember the end of the book—the end of the book of Job, and the end of the Bible.” 

Isaiah 62-66 | Friday: Isaiah 63:1-6 contains one of the most vivid pictures of the wrath of God coming down on the nations. As shocking and graphic as the language is here, we must remember that Revelation references this very passage and applies it to Jesus Himself at His return (see Revelation 19:15).

We must also remember that the wrath described in Isaiah 63 came down in a unique way on Jesus on the cross. The One who executes judgment on the last Day is the One who received our judgment on Good Friday.

We often are familiar with the language of the New Heavens and the New Earth from Revelation 21-22, and rightly so. However, we should remember that John is borrowing much of his language in Revelation from Isaiah 65-66.

Isaiah 66:1-2 shows us the premium God places on humility before His word.

Mark 3-4 | Saturday: The Gospel Transformation Bible contains these notes on the end of Mark 3:

“Jesus never calls his followers to sever ties with their natural families…He does, however, exhort each follower to place the call of Christ above all ties to the natural family.

The hyperbolic language of Matthew 10:35 and Luke 14:26 should not be interpreted as a call to family antipathy but as a clear reminder of the priority of Christ’s claim upon his discipleshis purposes must outweigh all other loyalties.” 

John Piper give us some helpful wisdom from this excerpt from his sermon on Mark 4:  

“[Mark 4:20] says that good soil is the key to a fruitful hearing of the Word. I have said it several times before and no doubt will again: devote some time Saturday night and Sunday morning to prepare your heart for hearing the Word of God. The more you take time to humble yourself and purify your heart in prayer and tune the receiver of your mind into the wavelength of Christ, the more powerfully you will hear the Word and the more deeply you will worship. 

Don’t play into the hands of Satan by staying up so late Saturday night that you can’t stay awake in worship or in Sunday School. He constantly lies to you telling you that what you’re doing at 10:00 Saturday night is more important than being rested to give your best ear to God’s Word on Sunday morning… 

I believe that if we as a church formed the habit of conscientiously preparing our hearts for hearing God’s Word, the Lord might speak with such power that amazing changes would come into our lives for God’s glory and for our joy.

So, let’s resolve to take time for meditation and prayer and solitude and quiet walks…so that the soil of our heart is plowed deep for the Word of God…. 

Be like rich…farmland, deeply plowed, free of thorns, free of rocks, moist from the rains of the Spirit, and then receive the power-packed seed of the Word of God. And this church will overflow with fruit—thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and a hundredfold.” 

BIBLE 2018 | Week 11

March 9, 2018 | Mark and Scott McAndrew

I Corinthians 5-6 | Sunday: 1 Corinthians 1-6 has been primarily Paul responding a report he had heard from “Chloe’s people” (see 1 Corinthians 1:11). The report is about the corruption of the Corinthian congregation.

1 Corinthians 7-16 is largely Paul responding to a letter he had received from the Corinthians themselves. This letter was apparently filled with questions for Paul along with some misguided statements and assertions. You can see where Paul is addressing these whenever he uses the phrase “now concerning” in 1 Corinthians 7:1, 25; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1, 12.

1 Corinthians 5 is one of the clearest passages in all of the Bible about church discipline. One of the good elements of this text is how easy much of it is to understand, even if it is challenging in its content.

In 1 Corinthians 6  listen to how often Paul uses the phrase “do you not know”. What does this teach us about doctrine? Also, watch for how Paul uses gospel doctrines to fight sin in the believers’ lives.

For a thought provoking message on 1 Corinthians 5-7, see Russell Moore here.

For an NAC sermon on church discipline (including 1 Corinthians 5), see here.

Genesis 40-43 | Monday: We spent four sermons on these four chapters in 2016. For those messages (about 35-40 mins each) see below. They emphasize the many ways in which Jesus is the true and better Joseph.

For Genesis 40, see here. (Joseph – like Jesus – Between Two Criminals)

For Genesis 41, see here. (Joseph, Savior of the World)

For Genesis 42, see here. (Joseph’s Brothers)

For Genesis 43, see here. (Bread from Joseph’s Table)

I Samuel 1-5 | Tuesday: Don’t miss how 1 Samuel 1-2 parallel Luke 1-2.

In both cases you have a married woman who is unable to have children (Hannah and Elizabeth, respectively). In both stories the Lord answers the prayer of the barren women and grants her a boy (Samuel and John the Baptist). Both boys are lifelong Nazarites (for more on the Nazarite vow, see Numbers 6). Along with Samson, these are the only lifelong Nazarites we are told of in the Bible.

Samuel anoints David.

John anoints Jesus, the greater David.

Psalms 30-32 | Wednesday: Marshal Segall comments on Psalm 30 by reminding us that:

“David knew nights of intense terror and grief, and he knew the relentless, reliable, and irresistible power of our joy in God.

David looked in every direction and saw defeat. His opponents were bigger, stronger, and more in number. His circumstances suggested all was lost. But God. God rushes to offer help to the helpless, to bring healing to the broken, to restore life to the dying, despairing, and defeated.

In fact, God never left. For those who are his, he is never far off. His help, his healing, his life, and his joy are ever-present, however dark our days may be.”

Psalm 32 begins with these two powerful verses.”Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”

The Psalm then ends with verse 11 which says: “Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!”
John Piper comments on Psalm 32 with these words:

“Oh, that we might cherish our forgiveness more! But I am convinced that until we fear sin and its consequences more keenly, we will not prize our pardon very highly. The degree to which we feel sweet gratitude for being forgiven is directly proportionate to the degree that the alternative of being forgiven strikes dread into our heart. The horror of sin and the fearfulness of hell are the only backdrop that will let forgiveness shine for the infinite blessing it really is.

If we do not see the gigantic tidal wave of God’s wrath rushing toward the little raft of our sin, then we won’t kiss the feet of the helicopter pilot who plucks us out of the ocean just in time…

I want us to cherish our forgiveness and kiss the feet of Jesus unashamedly.”
For a helpful devotional by John Piper on Psalm 31:19, see here.

For an NAC sermon on Psalm 32, see here.

Job 21-22 | Thursday: In Job 21 we get another one of Job’s responses. D.A. Carson continues to provide helpful wisdom on this chapter by telling us that:

“The heart of Job’s response is thought-provoking to anyone concerned with morality and justice: “Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power?” (21:7). Not only is there no obvious pattern of temporal judment on the transparently wicked, but all too frequently the reverse is the case: the wicked may be the most prosperous of the lot…While they display total disinterest in God (21:14), they enjoy prosperity (21:13). It is rare that they are snuffed out (21:17).

As for popular proverbs such as “God stores up a man’s punishment for his sons” (21:19), Job is unimpressed; the truly wicked do not care if they leave their familes behind in misery, provided they are comfortable themselves (21:21). That is why the wicked need to “drink the wrath of the Almighty” (21:20) themselves—and that is not what usually happens. True, God knows everything; Job does not want to deny God’s knowledge and justice (21:22). But facts should not be suppressed. Once the rich and poor have died, they face the same decomposition (21:23-26). Where is the justice in that?

Even allowing for Job’s exaggerations—after all, some wicked peoople do suffer temporal judgments—his point should not be dismissed. If the tallies of blessing and punishment are calculated solely on the basis of what takes place in this life, this is a grossly unfair world. Millions of relatively good people die in suffering, pverty, and degradtation; millions of relatively evil people live full lives and die in their sleep. We can all tell stories that demonstrate God’s justice in this life, but what about the rest of the stories?

The tit-for-tat morality system of Job’s three interlocutors cannot handle the millions of tough cases. Moreover, like them, Job does not want to impugn God’s justice, but facts are facts: it is not a virtue, even in the cause of defending God’s justice, to distort the truth and twist reality.

In the course of time it would become clearer that ultimate justice is meted out after death—and that the God of justice knows injustice himself, not only out of his omniscience, but out of his experience on a cross.”

In Job 22 we get the final speech by Elipaz. Christopher Ash gives us some helpful insight on this chapter:
“What are we to make of this final speech by Eliphaz? It is a tour de force of logic and rhetorical power. As with all the comforters’ speeches, it does contain truth. God does see what happens on earth. God does want men and women to turn to him in humble repentance. God does bless the penitent with right relationship with him.

So what is the problem? The problem is that Job is already penitent. He is a believer walking morally in the light. And yet he is experiencing darkness. Just as the wicked often prosper in this age (Job 21), so the righteous sometimes suffer in this age, with a suffering they do not deserve.”

Ash basically says that Eliphaz is pressuring Job to repent of sins that Job has not committed. Ash then ends his commentary on this chapter with this powerful sentence:

“In an even greater way no one could convict the Lord Jesus of sin (John 8:46), and yet he suffered for sinners.”

Isaiah 56-61 | Friday: This is a helpful quote from Drew Hunter (edited by J.I. Packer):

“[Here] in Isaiah 56–59, Isaiah begins to speak of the time when some of the exiles return home—as well as subsequent generations. Here we see that God opposes religious hypocrisy and redefines his people, welcoming the humble from any nation. . . .

Although Isaiah 40–55 emphasized the promise of salvation for exiled Israel, we have already seen that the servant’s saving work issues forth a call to “everyone who thirsts” (Isa. 55:1). Now in Isa. 56:1–8, salvation is explicitly shown to extend to the nations. What does God promise to give the foreigners who trust in him (Isa. 6–8)? How does Isa. 56:8 expand the vision of Isa. 11:11–12? Does this shed light on what Jesus says in John 10:16? . . .

How does Isaiah 59:2 help us understand the consequences of our sin? . . .

FAITH AND WORKS. ‘They seek me daily,’ God says, ‘and delight to know my ways’ (Isa. 58:2). They ‘delight to draw near to God,’ but their obedience is merely external and their delight is insincere. Quarreling and oppression prove their religious devotion to be a farce (Isa. 58:3–5). Jesus speaks of people who call him ‘Lord’ and do many works in his name, yet whose disobedience demonstrates their lack of relationship with him (Matt. 7:21–23). Similarly, James reminds us that a non-working faith is a dead faith (James 2:17, 26). Throughout the Bible, we see that true faith always expresses itself in a life of love (Gal. 5:6). As Martin Luther put it, ‘we are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.'”

For more from where these quotes are from, see link below.

For an extremely helpful overview of these chapters, see this resource.

Mark 1-2 | Saturday: In Mark 1:15 Jesus says: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel.”

Tim Keller comments on this verse and says:

“Right there you can see the difference between Christianity and all other religions, including no religion. The essence of other religions is advice; Christianity is essentially news. Other religions say, ‘This is what you have to do in order to connect to God forever; this is how you have to live in order to earn your way to God.” But the gospel says, This is what has been done in history. This is how Jesus lived and died to earn the way to God for you.’ Christianity is completely different. It’s joyful news.”

Mark 2 begins with the story of Jesus healing the paralytic.

Tim Keller comments on this story and give us a helpful reminder when he says we need to: “realize that the main problem in a person’s life is never his suffering; it’s his sin.”

Alistair Begg provides some more helpful insight into this story in Mark 2 in this short 3 minute clip.

For a Mark Dever sermon on Jesus’ authority in Mark 1:21-28, see here.