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.
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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.

BIBLE 2018 | Week 10

March 2, 2018 | Mark and Scott McAndrew

I Corinthians 3-4 | Sunday: Notice how you could almost skip from 1 Corinthians 1:17 to 1 Corinthians 3:1. Paul was speaking of divisions around favorite preachers (1:10-13) and he picks up where he left off (3:5-9).

Why does Paul take so much time in the middle of this discussion to talk about the cross and the wisdom of God (1:18-2:16)? It is worth some reading and meditation. What do you think?

In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul returns to division in the church. He says boasting in a particular pastor/author is foolish. Why? The Apostle Paul didn’t die on the cross for you. Simon Peter was not raised for your justification. You were not baptized into the name of Apollos or given the imputed righteousness of John the Baptist (thankfully!).

“So,” Paul concludes, “let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas [Peter] or the world or life or death or the present or the future – all are yours and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” (3:21-23).

If you are boasting in men, then you have failed to grasp the depths of the reality of the gospel. In Christ (and no other), all things exist for our good and will be worked out for our joy in Christ by the Father. This means that every heart beat is “ours” – every trial is “ours” – every event or circumstance we encounter, even death, is “ours.”

What does this mean?

Jonathan Edwards is helpful here.

If you are selfish, and make yourself and your own private interest your idol, God will leave you to yourself, and let you promote your own interest as well as you can. But if you do not seek your own but the things of Jesus Christ, the things of others, God will make your interest and happiness his charge; and he is infinitely more able to provide for it and to promote it than you are. So that not to seek your own, that is, not to seek your private worldly interest, is the best way of seeking your own in another sense. It is the most direct course you can take to obtain your truest happiness.

When you are required not to be selfish you are not required, as has been already observed, not to love and seek your own happiness. You are required not mainly to seek your private and confined interest. But if you place your happiness in God, and in glorifying him and serving him by doing good, in this way, above all others, will you promote your own wealth, and your own honor and pleasure, and durable riches, and obtain a crown of glory, and pleasures forevermore.

If you seek not your own, but seek the things that are Jesus Christ’s, and are of a spirit to seek the good of others, God himself will be yours. And Christ will be yours; he will make over himself to you in covenant, and all things shall be yours. Selfish men seek to engross all, and get all into their own possession; but instead of getting, they shall lose all, and be driven out of the world naked into everlasting poverty and misery.

But if you are of a contrary spirit you shall have all things in possession. “All things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours,” 1 Corinthians 3:21–22. And 2 Corinthians 6:10, “Having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”

Genesis 36-39 | Monday:  Joseph is a type of Christ. This is seen most clearly in Stephen’s great martyrdom message in Acts 7.

And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household.” (Acts 7:9-10)

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” (Acts 7:51-53)

See the parallel?

Joseph’s brothers betrayed him, yet later God made him “ruler” over all Egypt. Jesus was betrayed by his kinsmen, yet later God made Him ruler over all. I think Stephen is saying that Joseph’s life, betrayal, suffering, and exaltation as savior points forward to and foreshadows the events of the life of Jesus.

For a very helpful sermon on Genesis 37 about Joseph and his dreams, listen to this message from Jerry Ediger.

For a fantastic interview about the story of Joseph foreshadowing Jesus, please listen to this of Colin Smith by Nancy Guthrie.

Genesis 38-39 are fascinating and disturbing. I (Mark) had always found the structure of the narrative odd here. Why begin with the story of Joseph in 37, then switch back to a disturbing story of Judah and his sexual promiscuity, then return again to the story of Joseph in 39 which lasts virtually uninterrupted until the end of Genesis?

After receiving some help from Colin Smith, it became clear that we are intended to contrast the actions of one brother (Judah) and another (Joseph). Judah gives into gross sexual sin. Joseph resists sexual temptation. The contrast here makes for a great study on temptation.

Also, there is a slight shock introduced when we realize that Christ descended not from the tribe of Joseph, but the tribe of Judah. For more on this, see the sermon below.

For an NAC sermon on sexual temptation (Judah vs. Joseph), see here.

Ruth | Tuesday: The story of Ruth begins with the words, “In the days when the judges ruled” (Ruth 1:1). After having finished the nightmare that is the book of Judges, here we see an oasis in the desert. Rut and Boaz are like a light shining in a dark place. Where were the true people of God during this dark time? Ruth shows us that God always has His righteous remnant.

Judges ends with the need Israel had for a righteous king. “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Ruth is the answer to this problem. The main point of the book of Ruth is that God was preparing a king to rule Israel from the line of Ruth and Boaz.

The book ends with these words. “Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David” (Ruth 4:21-22).

The main reason, it seems, that Ruth is in the Bible is to give us the backgrounds story on King David’s genealogy. The next book is appropriately about the beginning of the monarchy in Israel and David’s eventual rise to the throne (1 Samuel).

For a brief article giving seven reasons to love and study the book of Ruth, see here.

For a Mark Dever sermon that covers all of Ruth, see here.

Psalms 27-29 | Wednesday: Psalm 27 begins with this verse: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid.”

Marshall Segal comments on this verse by giveing us this reminder:

“Whom shall we fear? No one. God has become our light and salvation. The one who has redeemed us will most certaintly rescue and deliver us. What shall we fear. Nothing. We’ve been promised an everlasting life filled with ever-increasing happiness and purified from every sin and consequence of sin. We will endure awful things for a time in this broken workd, but it’s only for a time. And we would trade any amount of groaning and suffering here to experience the fullness of what’s waiting for us there with him.”

Psalm 28:6 says: “Blessed by the LORD! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.” Tim and Kathy Keller point out something rather obvious when commenting on this Psalm reminding us, “We can’t live without prayer.” We all know this and we know as Hebrews 4 reminds us that we should “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” However, how many of us get so busy in our lives that we press onto the next item on our agenda without pausing to pray?

Psalm 29 references the voice of the LORD numerous times. Tim and Kathy Keller comment on the voice of the Lord in this Psalm:
“God’s power is particularly evident in his voice (3-9). What God’s voice or Word does he does (verse 5 and 8). His divine power is active in his Word. Do not underestimate, then, how much the power of God can do in your life through the Bible. The voice of the Lord can break down ever our strongest defenses, defuse our despair, free us from guilt, and lead us to him.”

For sermon on Psalm 28 that Mark gave at WFBC, see here.

Job 19-20 | Thursday: In Job 20 we get yet another speech from Zophar. I think Christopher Ash gives us some helpful input on this chapter by saying:

“Why do we have to go on and on listening to these dreadful speeches? After all, God is going to tell us at then end of the book that they are wrong (42:7). So what is the point of listening to them? . . . One general answer is presumably to warn us not to be like them when our natural pharisaism causes grace to be leeched out of our conversation and we lapse into the religious certainties of grace-free…religion. These speeches stand as a warning to us to guard grace jealously.”

He continues to answer his question about why we need to go on listening to these dreadful speeches in the book of Job by saying that these sermons: “help us feel and experience through poetry just how dreadful it will ultimately be to fall under the wrath of God.”
He then gives some reasons why these speeches benefit us:
“First, they terrify us and move us to warn unbelievers that unless they repent, this will indeed be their destingy. Second, they help us grasp the depth of darkness and suffering that the Lord Jesus expreienced on the cross. On the cross he was indeed under the wrath of his Father as he became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21)…we are given these poetic insights, and they are enough to deepen our gratitude to “the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).”

For a great interview on the book of Job, listen to Nancy Guthrie’s interview with Christopher Ash.

Isaiah 51-55 | Friday: Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is one of the most important passages in the Bible.

For a masterful, rich message on Isaiah 53‘s Suffering Servant, watch this by Sinclair Ferguson.

Matthew 26-28 | Saturday: In Matthew 26 we read about Jesus in Gethsemane in verses 36-46. Jesus is “very sorrowful, even to death;” and Jesus prays: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Frederick Leahy writes about this cup that Jesus refers to in his prayer. Leahy says: “That cup was constantly in view as he prayed in Gethsemane. What cup? ‘This cup” – not some future cup. The cup that was symbolized in the feast was now actual: God was placing it in the Saviour’s hands and it carried the stench of hell.”

Leahy reminds us that: “The account of Christ’s sorrows in Gethsemane is to be read with wonder and awe.” He ends his chapter with this short prayer: “Lord, forgive us for the times we have read about Gethsemane with dry eyes.”
In Matthew 27 we read about the crucifixion of Christ. John Newton once wrote a letter to a woman who was troubled. She was dealing with depression and going through a trial and this is what Newton wrote to her:
“They who would always rejoice, must derive their joy from a source which is invariably the same; in other words, from Jesus. Oh, that name! What a person, what an office, what a love, what a life, what a death, does it recall to our minds! Come, madam, let us leave our troubles to themselves for a while, and let us walk to Golgotha, and there take a view of his.”
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Matthew 27 will help us “leave our troubles to themselves for a while, and…walk to Golgotha, and there take a view of his.”

Charles Spurgeon once said that: “The doctrine of Christ crucified is always with me.” May that be true of all of us as well!

Matthew 28 ends with the great commission where Jesus says:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
D.A. Carson comments on this by pointing out that:
“Matthew’s gospel ends with the expectation of continued mission and teaching. The five preceding sections always conclude with a block of Jesus’ teaching (3:1-26:5); but the passion and resurrection of Jesus ends with a commission to his disciples to carry on that same ministry in the light of the cross, the empty tomb, and the triumphant vindication and exaltation of the risen Lord.”
Carson highlights the wonderful promise that Jesus is with us always, to the end of the age with these words:
“the gospel [of Matthew] ends, not with command, but with the promise of Jesus’ comforting presence…He who is introduced to us in the prologue as Immanuel, ‘God with us’ (1:23), is still God with us, ‘to the very end of the age.’ The English adverb “always” renders an expression found in the NT only here—namely, . . . “the whole of every day.”
John Paton who was a missionary who took the gospel to cannibals loved this promise in Matthew 28, that Jesus was always with him. Paton said: “Precious promise! How often I adore Jesus for it, and rejoice in it! Blessed be his name.” May we also rejoice in this precious promise from the Lord Jesus.

For an NAC Easter sermon that covers much of Matthew 26-28, see here.

BIBLE 2018 | Week 9

February 23, 2018 | Mark and Scott McAndrew

I Corinthians 1-2 | Sunday: At least in terms of immoral conduct, Corinth has to be one of the worst situations Paul has to address. Some were divided into factions, finding their identity in their favorite pastor rather than the gospel; some were getting drunk on communion wine, some were doubting the entire doctrine of bodily resurrection, and some were guilty of sexual immorality.

With all this in view, if you were Paul, how would you have started your letter to this church?

I would have started by reprimanding them and calling out their errors. I would probably have shown irritation and frustration in subtle (or not so subtle) ways. While Paul does rightly call them to repentance in numerous areas, that is not how he begins.

In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul begins by giving thanks to God for the work of grace He has begun in their midst. This is amazing. It shows us that we should seek to identify evidences of grace in believing friends when we go to lovingly correct them. See especially 1:4-9.

In 1 Corinthians 2 Paul contrasts two forms of wisdom: the wisdom of God and the wisdom of the world. Worldly wisdom is drawn to a good outward show. In Corinth, people were drawn to great orators. They would identify with certain spokespersons and find their identity in them.

In some ways we may see this in the political sphere. While Christians should care about politics in a healthy way, there is a way to begin to identify ourselves with a particular politician or political spokesperson. We then begin to demonize those who oppose are specific views and we begin to feel anger, even hatred, toward those who oppose our ‘talking head’. This can also cause unnecessary division within the body of Christ. We must make sure the gospel is our identity rather than our views on education, economics, foreign policy, etc. — even though those things are not insignificant.

This carnal worldly wisdom can also worm its way into theology. Paul has mentions in chapters one and three that some members said, “I follow Paul,” others, “I follow Apollos,” others, “I follow Cephas [Peter],” and perhaps most pretentious of all, “I follow Christ” (meant in a divisive/self-righteous sense, rather than a humble/genuine one).

I have been guilty at times of finding my identity in a particular pastor or writer rather than in Christ and Him crucified. Have you?

Genesis 32-35 | Monday: Genesis 32-33 hold together as one powerful and emotional story. Essentially, after fleeing from Esau for his life years earlier, Jacob now supremely fears seeing Esau face-to-face. He believes his future is in the hands of his murderous brother.

However, the Lord proves to Jacob that the One who controls his future is not Esau, but the Lord Himself. Jacob wrestles all night, not with Esau, but with God in the form of a man. When the sun rises he looks upon His face and is spared. Jacob obtains the blessing, but is wounded in the wrestling match and leaves with a limp. He is then enabled to face Esau with courage and is embraced and welcomed by him.

What can we learn from this?

The Lord shows Jacob that however much we fear human beings all this is like a shadow compared to how we should fear the Lord. In the end, Jacob looked up the face of God and was spared, leaving the wrestling match with only a limp.

How?

This points forward to Jesus, the true and better Jacob who wrestled with God on the cross and was crushed and abandoned. Jesus took the blows of justice we deserve so that now we can look upon the face of God and live.

However, the mark of those who have met the true God is that they leave His presence humbled over their sin. They leave with a limp.

For an NAC sermon on Jacob wrestling with God, see here.

Judges 17-21 | Tuesday: These chapters contain some of the most disturbing stories in the Old Testament.

Judges begins with a double introduction (1:1-2:5; 2:6-3:6) and concludes with a double ending (17-18; 19-21).

Tim Keller is helpful here:

“The passages in between [the double intro and conclusion] showed us how God rescued Israel, but here we are given two case studies of the kind of spiritual condition he rescued them from. That is why the final chapters barely mention the Lord. They are showing us what life was like when Israel was left to their own resources. This view of humanity without God is so bleak that these passages are almost never preached upon or even studied.”

Keller says regarding the ends of Judges 18:

“Evil does not usually make people incredibly wicked and violent – that would be interesting, and tends to wake people up. Rather, sin tends to make us hollow – externally proper and even nice, but underneath everyone is scraping and clutching for power, in order to get ahead.

Only by worshiping the real God can we escape this boring fate and know the blessing of coming to the house of God, the Lord Jesus, the One who has the words of eternal life.”

Judges 19 contains one of the most disturbing stories in the Bible. Why is it included at all?

Psalms 24-26 | Wednesday: Tim and Kathy Keller wrote this commenting on Psalm 24:

“God’s glory also means his inexpressible beauty and perfection. It does not glorify him then, if we only ever obey God simply out of duty. We must give him not only our will but also our heart, as we adore and enjoy him, as we find him infinitely attractive. And there is no greater beauty than to see the Son of God laying aside his glory and dying for us (Philippians 2:5-11).”

D.A. Carson gives a brief summary of Psalm 25.

“David is in danger of being overwhelmed by enemies and thereby put to shame (Ps. 25:2). He wishes to learn the ways and paths of God, to be taught God’s truth (25:4-5). He begs that God will forget the sins of his rebellious youth (25:7); moreover, he recognizes that there are times when his iniquity is great, and needs to be forgiven (25:11). David confesses that he is lonely and afflicted, full of anguish (25:16-17). He speaks afresh of his affliction and distress, alludes once again to his sins, and feels threatened by the increase of the enemies who hate him (25:18-19)…”

Carson then goes on to point out that these things that David mentions in this Psalm are:

“tied together in various ways. For example,…Because of the trouble he is suffering, he is not only afflicted but lonely (25:16)―anguish in one arena so often breeds a sense of desperate isolation, even alienation. Yet the final petitions of the psalm do not descend into a wallowing self-pity, but sum up the connections already made: David needs release from his enemies, forgiveness for his sins, relief from his affliction, and personal integrity and uprightness, all bound up with the protection of the Lord God himself.

Here is a wholesome self-awareness. Sometimes our prayers for relief from loneliness are steeped in self-love; sometimes our requests for justice fail to recognize how endemic sin really is, so that we remain unconcerned about our own iniquity. Yet here is a man who not only knew God and how to pray, but knew himself.”

Psalm 26:11 says: “But as for me, I shall walk in my intergrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me.” The Gospel Transformation Bible has this powerful reminder: “The ultimate way in which God secured this redemption and grace was in the sending of his own Son, to whom God was not gracious, so that grace could be extended to sinners such as David―and us.”

Job 17-18 | Thursday: In Job 17 we have what Christopher Ash calls a: “foreshadowing of the experience of the Lord Jesus Christ…Jesus too felt the longings both to be comforted and to comfort. He too knew in all its fullness what it was to be identified with sinners, from his baptism to his cross. He experienced in its unadulterated intensity the holy hatred of God against sinners. He too knew that he had a clear conscience, in fact that every moment of his life he did what pleased the Father (John 8:29), that his life and his death were the expression of a perfect obedience.”

In Job 18 we have Bildad coming back for round 2 of his arguments. D.A. Carson points out that Bildad has a note of desperation in his argument this time. Carson says: “When the argument is weak, some people just yell louder.” Christopher Ash says that Bildad’s: “sermon is so fundamentally misapplied that it needs to be consigned to the incinerator of failed sermons.”

Carson says that Bildad basically is saying that Job is not only wicked but ignorant of God. Then Carson continues with a reflection on this charge that Bildad lays against Job:

“At one level, what Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar keep saying is entirely in line with a repeated theme of the Scriptures: God is just, and justice will be done and will be seen to be done. Everyone will one day acknowledge that God is right―whether in the reverent submission of faith, or in the terror that cries for the rocks and the mountains to hide them from the wrath of the Lamb (Rev. 6). The theme recurs in virtually every major corpus of the Bible…Not to have judgement would be to deny the significance of evil.

But to apply this perspective too quickly, too mechanically, or as if we have access to all the facts, is to destroy the significance of evil from another angle. Innocent suffering (as we have seen) is ruled out. To call a good man evil in order to preserve the system is not only personally heartless, but relativizes good and evil; it impugns God as surely as saying there is no difference between good and evil.”

Isaiah 45-50 | Friday: If you would like to see perhaps the strongest statement in the Bible on why God does what He does in history, look no further than Isaiah 48:9-11.

For more on this passage and theme, see this article.

Matthew 23-25 | Saturday: After a long lists of woes that Jesus pronounces in Matthew 23, he says in verse 37: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”

Carson comments on this verse and says: “During it (Jesus’ ministry), he often longed to gather and shelter Jerusalem as a hen her chicks, for despite the woes, Jesus, like the “Sovereign LORD” in Ezekiel 18:32, took “no pleasure in the death of anyone.”

Matthew 24-25 have an emphasis on the coming judgement of God and we are reminded to “be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matt. 24:44). The Gospel Transformation Bible asks this question: “How can Jesus’ diciples be ready for his arrival?” Later in the notes they give this answer: “they are to make the most of the opportunities and resources God has given them.”

So, are we making the most of the opportunities and resources God has given us?

I am reminded of John Calvin who even towards the end of his life he kept making the most of the resources God had given him. When he was told he should rest when he was nearing the end of his life, Calvin famously responded: “What? Would you have the Lord find me idle when he comes?”

BIBLE 2018 | Week 8

February 16, 2018 | Mark and Scott McAndrew

Romans 15-16 | Sunday: Romans 15 shows us Paul’s desire. To paraphrase, Paul’s holy ambition was to “preach the gospel where Christ has not been named.”

What is it that you long to do with your life for the sake of the kingdom? Is your ambition holy? Is it in line with what Scripture teaches? Is it mainly about your own glory or about the glory of Jesus?

Our ambition may not sound as dramatic as Paul’s, but it is still wise to have one. What is your holy ambition?

Romans 16 gives us some insight on what false teachers often look like. Look carefully – they are often outwardly smooth and attractive. Paul writes that “by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive” (v. 18).

For a classic message by Piper on Romans 15 called ‘Paul’s Holy Ambition’, see here.

Click here for Piper’s free online book called ‘A Holy Ambition’.

For a helpful message by Piper on false teachers from Romans 16, see here.

Genesis 28-31 | Monday: God chooses the girl nobody wanted. Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, yet God showed special love to Leah for just that reason. God loves to favor those who are not favored the most in the world. This is why most of us are Christians. When we consider who we were when God called us to Himself, we have to conclude that we were nothing special.

Think of the Apostle Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians 1:26-31:

“26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.'”

Or think of the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 11:

“25 At that time Jesus declared, I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

God often chooses to bless those who are least impressive so that no one will think that God chooses us because of our brilliance, or moral accomplishments, or outward attractiveness, or our strength.

As Jeremiah wrote,

“23 Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.'” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

Our boast should be in the Lord alone.

For an NAC sermon on Genesis 29 called The Girl Nobody Wanted, see here.

Here is a shorter video segment.

Judges 12-16 | Tuesday: Tim Keller shares some helpful thoughts on Judges 13:

“[W]e are told that, as usual, ‘the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord,’ with the familiar result that God gives them over to their enemies, in this case the Philistines (13:1).

The phrase ‘did evil in the eyes of the Lord’ has been a repeated refrain in Judges (2:11; 3:7, 12; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6) – this is the last time it appears. Although in fact, there is a phrase which appears twice in the double conclusion of the book, which says the same thing in a different way: ‘in those days … everyone did what was right in his own eyes’ (17:6; 21:25).

The writer is making the point that many of the things the Israelites did were not evil ‘in their eyes.’ In other words, by their perception, most or all of their behavior was perfectly acceptable. They did not go about thinking: I know this is evil, but I am going to do it anyway. Yet, ‘in God’s eyes,’ the behavior was wicked.

This teaches us two truths about sin. First, the definition of sin. This term ‘the eyes of the Lord,’ in contrast with our ‘ow eyes,’ teaches us that sin does not ultimately consist of violating our conscience or violating our personal standards or violating community standards, but rather consists of violating God’s will for us. . . .

Second, these phrases show us the deception of sin. They remind us how easily self-deceived we are. The Israelite had psychological and cultural rationalizations and supports for their sin, so they were in a kind of ‘group denial.’ In their own ‘eyes’ or perception, there was nothing wrong with what they were doing. There was a deep, suppressed knowledge that they were out of touch with God, rejecting his will (Romans 1:18); but at the conscious level, they had no over guilty and they had lots of explanations for their lifestyles.” (Judges for You, p. 124-5).

As we see Samson, and others, making obviously foolish and rash decisions, we should stop and think.

Where in my life am I doing things that might be obviously or subtly foolish from a biblical point of view but which I may be trying to rationalize as normal – even good?

At which points are our ‘eyes’ more important in judging our lives than God’s?

Psalms 21-23 | Wednesday: Psalm 21 is connected with Psalm 20 which we looked at for last weeks reading. As the ESV Study Bible points out, “These two Psalms form a pair of royal psalms. Psalm 20 is a prayer that God will give success to the Davidic king, particularly in battle. Psalm 21 gives thanks to God for answering the request of Psalm 20.”

A the the Gospel Transformation Bible points out, “David trains believers to pray for more than just everyday nusances. We must also pray ‘your kingdom come’ (Matt. 6:10), and this psalm assures us that these things will happen.”

Psalm 22 is almost impossible to read without seeing Jesus so powerfully potrayed. This is a great Psalm to meditate on during Good Friday.

“In an unparalleled way,” writes Jonathan Parnell, “Psalm 22 captures the suffering of the Messiah in the first person… ‘Why have you forsaken me?’ and, ‘I am a worm and not a man,’ and, ‘I am poured out like water.’ We step inside the mind of the afflicted man — of Jesus — to feel his pain and see his faith.”

What was to a lesser extent true of David became fully and literally true in the death of David’s greater Son. Of all the words Jesus could have chosen to express His anguish on the cross, He chose the opening words of Psalm 22. We stand on holy ground as we read these words which proceed from the midday darkness of Calvary.

Psalm 22:14-15 says: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.” Adrian Rogers powerfully said: “The One who made all the oceans and rivers and fountains of water was parched with thirst as He died for you and me.”

Psalm 23 is a wonderful and famous Psalm. Verse four says: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” This is such a comforting promise for us as believers. Adrian Rogers pointed out however that “Jesus walked that lonesome valley of death all by himself.”

Job 15-16 | Thursday: In Job 15-21 we have what D.A. Carson calls “a second cycle of arguments from Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, with responses in each case from Job. In many ways the arguments are repeated, but with deepened intensity. Almost as if they are aware of the repetition, the three friends say less this time than in the first round.”

As we read through the arguments from Job’s friends we should remember this warning from Carson: “There is a way of using theology and theological arguments that wounds rather than heals.”
“This is not the fault of theology and theological arguments; it is the fault of the ‘miserable comforter’ who fastens on an inappropriate fragment of truth, or whose timing is off, or whose attitude is condescending, or whose application is insensitive, or whose true theology is couched in such culture-laden clichés that they grate rather than comfort.”
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In times of suffering in his own life, Carson was on the receiving end of what he calls “extraordinary blows” from fellow believers. He then turns the tables on himself and says, “Such experiences, of course, drive me to wonder when I have wrongly handled the Word and caused similar pain.”

Isaiah 40-44 | Friday: This is the beginning of one of the most important portions of the Old Testament. Isaiah 40-66 is one of the most quoted and alluded to sections of the OT in the New Testament. It helps us better understand the four Gospels, Acts, and Revelation (not to mention numerous NT books).

The basic promises in Isaiah 40-66 at least include:

  1. the Lord will return to Zion (in the person of Jesus rather than a pillar of cloud);
  2. a messenger in the wildness will prepare the way (the Elijah-like figure of John the Baptist)
  3. Israel will become a light to the Gentiles (the nations!);
  4. Israel will be perfectly represented by a mysterious ‘Suffering Servant’ who will endure the ultimate exile away from God, suffering for the sins of others, though being innocent Himself. He will be buried after death and will yet have prolonged life (pointers to a resurrection).
  5. Upon the return of the Lord (Yahweh), the kingdom will come on earth as in heaven, including a New Jerusalem and a New Heavens and New Earth (new creation).
  6. Israel will finally be rescued out of exile.
  7. When all of these things occur, it will be evident to all that Yahweh, the God of Israel, is the only true God. He is the only God who predicted these events before each of them took place. He is sovereign over world history, unlike the mute and deaf idols that the nations worship.

These promises are all fulfilled in the New Testament era, but in ways that were hard to imagine by the Old Testament saints. This is why Paul calls fulfillment of the OT promises in Jesus a great “mystery.” It is something partially hidden that has now been revealed. These aspects of the gospel were partially known and yet not fully grasped before the resurrection of Jesus.

This is why the disciples were so shocked when Jesus said He was the Messiah/Christ and yet He was going to be betrayed and killed. They didn’t have a category for a suffering Messiah. This further explains why that first Easter morning was such a shock.

Matthew 20-22 | Saturday: Matthew 20 begins with a parable about the workers in the vineyard. D.A. Carson points out “that this parable is primarily not about the workers at all but about the amazing grace and compassion of the employer.”

“God’s grace makes some who are last first. The point of the parable,” Carson concludes, “is not that all in the kingdom will receive the same reward but that kingdom rewards depend on God’s sovereign grace.”

Matthew 20:28 is such a powerful verse that says: “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

“At this point,” writes Carson, “Jesus presents himself—the Son of Man—as the supreme example of service to others.” If we are finding it difficult to clothe ourselves in humility and if we are stuggling with various forms of pride, I think it would do us all good to dwell on verses like Matthew 20:28.

In Matthew 21:23-27 we have this powerful exchange between Jesus and the chief priests and the elders:

“And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?’ Jesus answered them, ‘I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?’ And they discussed it among themselves, saying, ‘If we say, “From heaven,” he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?” But if we say, “From man,” we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.’ So they answered Jesus, ‘We do not know.’ And he said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.’
Jesus’ reply in this passage is “masterful.” The question that Jesus responds with is “far more profound” than a “simple rebuke.” Carson continues:
“Far from avoiding the religous leaders’ question, Jesus answers it so that the honest seeker of truth, unswayed by public opinion, will not fail to see who he is, while those interested only in snaring him with a captious question are blocked by a hurdle their own shallow pragmatism forbids them to cross. At the same time Jesus’ question rather strongly hints to the rulers that their false step goes back to broader issues than Jesus’ authority, it is because their previous unbelief has blinded their minds to God’s revelation.”
Toward the end of Matthew 22, Jesus responds to the question about what the greatest commandment in the law is with these words:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (v. 38-39).
Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that we will never do the second command of loving our neighbors as ourselves until we have done the first, “so we must start with the love of God.”